School district feels budget squeeze
March 6, 2009
The Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board held a special meeting Tuesday to address next year’s budget, which will lose $820,000 in state funding, plus a 15 percent reduction in certain programs.
For the 2009-10 budget, the state will reduce per-pupil funding by $205, totaling $820,000 for the 2009-10 school year, Yates said.
Some of the programs affected include the Transitional Learning Center, a support program for high school students, and summer school.
A public hearing will take place next week at the board meeting before a final decision is made.
When the state passed its budget, it divided school programs into three tiers: Tier I programs received no funding reduction and no flexibility for transferring funds; Tier II programs will receive a 15 percent reduction with no flexibility; and Tier III programs will receive a 15 percent reduction with flexibility.
By using all the flexible program funds, the district can prioritize program funding, such as class-size reduction and maintaining staff. The state is allowing school districts to do this until 2012-13.
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“This is the tightest belt I’ve seen in school history,” Super-intendent Jim Tarwater said.
To make adjustments, funding for the Transitional Learning Center could be reduced, resulting in the loss of one full-time position and a one-third position.
About 53 students are in the Transitional Learning Center, Tarwater said. The center provides support for students who are struggling in high school. These students take one or two TLC classes while still taking classes at the high school.
STHS Principal Ivone Larson said the biggest issue for the high school is to maintain the ninth-grade class-size reduction and find ways to meet the needs of TLC students.
“You can’t pit one against the other,” Larson said.
Keeping class sizes small is crucial for teaching students basic skills in a critical transition year, Larson said.
The other positions that fall under the flexible programs are a part-time school safety coordinator and a part-time counselor at the middle school.
Board President Wendy David said counseling is a needed service in the district, especially since other organizations in the area have experienced their own set of budget cuts, such as the El Dorado County Mental Health Department.
South Tahoe Middle School Principal Beth Delacour said the middle school needs a part-time counselor because some students aren’t getting counseling services outside of school.
All the board members agreed that counseling and safety should be priorities, and asked if the numbers could be reworked to keep positions associated with those areas.
Summer school was also on the list of programs that could lose funds. Larson said about 25 students attend summer school.
The 4-by-4 class schedule now in place provides remedial options for students in the school year, Larson said. The schedule offers students eight classes during the year ” four in the first half, and another four in the second half.
Also, Larson and Bijou Community School Principal Karen Gillis-Tinlin said the overhead for summer school could be reduced. Instead of having to sites, all the K-12 summer school classes could be at the high school, and last for four hours.
Gillis-Tinlin said it’s important for English learners to have summer school, otherwise they might not speak English for most of the summer.
The state also provided flexibility with the professional development block, which is collaboration days for teachers. The district can’t use the funds because they’re tied to previous negotiations with the teachers union.
Board member Angela Swanson said she was sad that no teachers’ union leaders attended the meeting.
“We need to hold on to people, and I want to talk about these collaboration days,” Swanson said.
She added that collaboration is important for teachers, and staff would lose three work days each school year.