Lamorinda Weekly issue 24 volume 8

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Deficit Spending Continues for Local
High Schools
By Cathy Tyson
t a recent Acalanes Union High
School District governing
board meeting in Lafayette the budget
update for the 2015-16 school year included a “budget adjustment target of
(negative) $3,103,000 to maintain a
positive fiscal outlook and balanced
budget in the district.” What’s not immediately clear is that “budget adjustment target” is a euphemism for
anticipated deficit.
The total projected spending for
the next school year is slated to be
$62.783 million to provide an education for students at Acalanes, Campolindo, Miramonte and Las Lomas
high schools as well as the Acalanes
Center for Independent Study.
This will be the second year in a
row of red ink for the district, after
logging a $5.5 million deficit for the
2014-15 school year. To address the
current shortfall, the district has a hiring and spending freeze in place to reduce the size of the deficit.
Overall it’s been a rough transition to the Local Control Funding
Formula, or LCFF, which started with
the 2013-14 school year. LCFF is a
new statewide funding formula that
replaces the old system of general
purpose funding from the state based
on complex historical formulas. Districts receive more money for highneeds students based on counts of
low-income, English learner and foster youth students. The problem is
that the AUHSD has very few students who fall into those categories
and the base funding level is inadequate.
In this first step of many to craft a
budget for 2015-16, the district is actively looking at local and state revenue options to fill the gap, including
Parent Club and foundation resources,
community support, facility use fees
and adult education consortia. In addition, there’s an assumption that
LCFF revenue will grow due to pro-
jected increased tax revenue from the
state and projected enrollment
“This district is not going to be
fully funded by the LCFF,” said
AUHSD Superintendent John Nickerson. In March and in May of 2015
the district anticipates getting more
complete financial information to further refine the budget.
While noting the uptick in state
revenue due to a robust economy is a
“pleasant surprise,” according to the
superintendent, even with an anticipated bump in LCFF funding, that still
leaves a projected $3.1 million problem for the 2015-16 school year.
On the table for consideration to
address the shortfall is reduction in
maintenance and operations, possible
anticipated retirements, and potential
cuts or elimination of adult education
In addition, Associate Superintendent of Administrative Services
Kevin French was looking at master
scheduling options and outlined a
new framework for electives. Typically, students get their first choice of
elective; he proposed a shift in how
the master schedule is built so that
students may have to go with their
second choice elective. It is possible
there will be 10 fewer elective sections in 2015-16, said French.
He also said he thinks it’s possible
to make slight classified instructional
assistant reductions at each school site
for the next school year. There’s a
specific multi-step protocol, if need
be, to make reductions in certified
employees or teachers.
“We have to do everything we
can,” said board member Nancy
Kendzierski on the belt tightening.
“This is distressing for a lot of people,” said new board member Bob
Hockett, a former teacher. “I didn’t
think we’d be talking about this at my
second meeting.” The governing
board is legally required to adopt the
annual budget on or before July 1.
Complaints About Sex Ed Instruction
Although there’s usually an element of drama when discussing district
budgetary concerns, during the public comment portion of the AUHSD
board meeting quite a number of opponents and supporters came out
once again to share their opinions about the district using Planned Parenthood instructors to teach a comprehensive sex education course
that includes discussing HIV/AIDS prevention. The district has used
Planned Parenthood as a consultant for over a decade. Parents are
given notice of the course and can request their students opt-out.
A group of passionate citizens, including representatives from NOISE
(No to Irresponsible Sex Education) urged the school board to remove
Planned Parenthood as the provider of sex education instruction, claiming the organization “promotes certain behaviors and promiscuity.” Another person commented that “it comes down to prayer; sins exist in the
world, sins of the flesh.”
Another commented, “Religion has no place in school. Whatever happened to separation of church and state?” Citing a marked drop in teen
pregnancy, a parent of two teenagers called improvements in comprehensive sex education including contraceptive use “incredible news.”
The topic will be on the governing board’s agenda in April or May; in the
meantime, if the item is not on the agenda, governing board members
are prohibited from addressing the issue.
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