Even after the Governor’s plea to solve the budget crisis during his State of the State Address last week, the State has not made progress in finalizing its budget for the remainder of this year. Unlike our elected officials in Sacramento, we do not have the luxury of halting our decisions without suffering dire consequences. Our fiscal timeline requires that our decisions match our instructional calendar, especially for those of our schools that have started the second semester and schools that are about to start the second semester in February. Additionally, to date, over 2,000 certificated employees have indicated their interest in early retirement by participating in the District survey. A decision to offer the early retirement incentive will be made in the near future. Furthermore, all classified employees who are eligible for early retirement will be surveyed during the first week of February.
It is our responsibility to make the best decisions for our students based on the information that is available to us. Due to the lack of clear information from Sacramento, the need for stability at schools in the second semester, and the high level of interest in a retirement incentive program, there will be no mid-year teacher layoffs. Based on these factors, I do not feel that it would be appropriate to negatively impact our students and teachers without definitive information from the State.
Last week, the Los Angeles Board of Education granted me the authority to do mid-year teacher layoffs as a precautionary measure for a State budget scenario with no flexibility provided to school districts. Since we have not received any additional information from the State, we feel that we must make our decisions based on the Governor’s latest proposal that has included more flexibility for school districts to deal with these difficult economic hardships. Based on this anticipated flexibility, we can avoid teacher layoffs and still meet our financial obligations for this school year. To be clear, we will still need to make extremely difficult cuts, but at least we can ensure that the critical connection between our teachers and students will not be disrupted this school year.
As I have mentioned in the past, we will continue to be prudent and balance our budget to ensure we meet our financial obligations for next year as well. This will require us to fundamentally change the way we operate. If the State’s budget proposals remain the same, we will only be able to provide basic core services to our schools. Many important programs and services that we have had in the past will no longer be offered. To guide us in our difficult decision making, we will have a plan to present to the Board of Education and community by the end of February 2009. I want to be clear that this plan will not be comfortable and will result in layoffs at every level of the District in July. Once again, I want to clearly communicate that the priority for cuts will be on central offices, and local districts and finally, the schools.
I will continue to keep you updated on our financial condition as new information becomes available and I welcome your continued comments as we head down this difficult path together. We will all need to work together to reach out to our state representatives to communicate the need for a State budget that reflects the importance of education and services to our children and their families.