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After apathy comes... the cuts!

The Redwood City School Board held a meeting yesterday to vote on the coming budget cuts. The meeting was heavily attended and a large percentage of total time was taken by people addressing the Board. The Superintendent clarified the status of a few budget items, the Board approved the cuts and the meeting was adjourned.

The cuts as well as lots of other information is detailed in a document handed out at the meeting: RCSD MEMORANDUM #6.1, June 16, 2009. Since I cannot find this document in the district's website, here's a terse summary of the cuts, without editorial comments.

Out of a total budget around 65 million, the cuts required for this year alone were close to 10 million. This year, and this year only, the Federal Stimulus provided funds that reduced the required cuts by around 4 million. Because of this, it seems that we're only cutting slightly over 5 million but in reality, there are 5 million more in cuts that will happen 1 year from now. I'll list the cuts in two sets: cuts for next year and programs we can only save for one year, assuming no new sources of revenue materialize in the next 12 months.

The cuts reported are individual line items from Exhibit A in the document noted above. Between parenthesis you can see how much money we're saving with each cut. I list the cuts in the order in which they appear in Exhibit A, in million by million tranches as prioritized by the Financial Advisory Committee (more on this later).

Immediate Cuts

Note: in the lists below FTE means (Full Time Equivalent). Every time you see FTE, one or more district employees are loosing their jobs.

  • 0.5 FTE Videographer (50,000)

  • Staff Development Discretionary Funds (60,000)

  • 0.2 FTE Wellness Coordinator (20,000)

  • 0.2 FTE PE teacher-zero period @ Kennedy (16,000)

  • Staff Development Discretionary Funds (130,000)

  • 1.0 FTE District administrator-Director of Response to Intervention/Pupil Personnel Services (140,000)

  • 0.5 FTE BTSA clerical support (18,000)

  • 0.5 FTE Visual & Performing Arts Coordinator (50,000)

  • Visual and Performing Arts Committee Stipends (16,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Teacher on special assignment-SPED (80,000)

  • Targeted Instructional Grouping (TIG) allocation to Orion (14,000)

  • 0.5 FTE District administrator-Director of Communications (66,000)

  • 1.0 FTP Clerical at district office (50,000)

  • Reconfiguration of K-3 class size to operate at break even (700,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Library Aides (50,000)

  • Computer equipment (168,000)

  • TIIBG Allocation to Sites (50,000)

  • Pullout GATE Program (49,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Technology Resource Teacher (75,000)

  • TIIBG Allocation to Sites (205,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Counselors (100,000)

  • 7.0 FTE Teachers - 7th Period at Kennedy & MIT (600,000)

  • 5.2 FTE PE Teachers for K-8 (400,000)

  • School improvement program (SIP) allocation to sites (190,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Inclusion Specialist (100,000)

  • 2.0 FTE Attendance Specialist (90,000)

  • 1.5 FTE Library Aide (75,000)

  • Cut all administrator's pay by 5 days (163,000)

  • Summer School (260,000)

  • Increase class sizes at grades K-3 (1,236,000)

  • Facilities Maintenance and Operation (165,000)

  • Tier III Visual & Performing arts funds - unallocated (44,000)

  • Tier III School Safety & Violence Prevention Funds - unallocated (11,000)

  • Tier III Peer Assistance Review (PAR) funds - unallocated (19,000)

  • Tier III BTSA funds - unallocated (19,000)

  • Cancellation of additional help for summer cleaning at school sites (100,000)

Future Cuts

Here's the list of budget items that are "saved" for this year and this year only due to funding from the Federal Stimulus package. This time the numbers between parentheses are the amounts paid for by the stimulus package.

But let me repeat this one more time: barring the appearance of a new source of revenue, these items will most probably be cut in one year:

  • 0.5 FTE District administrator - Director of Communication (66,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Instructional Material Center (IMC) specialist (22,000)

  • 1.0 FTE District administrator - position Business Office (125,000)

  • Negotiate 8 hours CSEA employees to 7.5 hours (180,000)

  • TIIBG allocation to sites (245,000)

  • 4.0 FTE instrumental music program (311,000)

  • International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Selby Lane (254,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Outreeach Specialist (100,000)

  • 0.5 FTE Counselors (50,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Inclusion specialist (100,000)

  • School Improvement Program (SIP) allocation to sites (203,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Outreach Specialist (100,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Nurse (100,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Psychologist (120,000)

  • 1.0 FTP Staff Development Teacher (110,000)

  • 3.5 FTE Library Aides (175,000)

  • Mitigate class sizes increase at K-3 classes: K-22, 1st-24, 2nd-26, 3rd-28 (561,000)

  • Facilities Maintenance and Operation (230,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Psychologist (120,000)

  • Allowable indirect cost charges to special education (720,000)

  • Allowable indirect cost charges to federal stimulus funds (275,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Special Education Administrator (137,000)

  • 1.0 FTE Counselor (100,000)

  • Outdoor Education - District's Share (20,000)

An important note: Federal Stimulus money comes in three different piles, with different requirements: Title I funds are used mostly to fund outreach specialists, Special Education funds can only be used for Special Ed items and finally, the State Stabilization Fund which could be used as the district saw fit.

Notable Items

A few budget items were discussed during the Board meeting and here are the pertinent notes:

Communications Director: the Board noted repeatedly that this is a position that brings revenue to the district by improving communication with parents, enrollment in our schools and attendance in general. The position is being reduced to 50% this year and could be gone the following year.

Administrator Reductions: a common request from people addressing the Board is to reduce positions in the administrative office and not in the schools. The Board noted that our administration is extremely lean, that we've been cutting here every year and that the Federal Stimulus money and the funding we get from the State requires onerous reporting that needs to be done by someone. Also that out of the 1000 employees in the district, only 27 are administrators, a much lower ratio than in surrounding districts.

Class Size Reduction: the board acted to reduce the increase in class size for K-3, which originally was going to be K-24, 1st-26, 2nd and 3rd-28.

GATE Program: the Board decided to maintain the funding for GATE we get from the State and remove the district contribution. The reduction means we can no longer fund the original "pull out" program. The plan is to use TIG time at each site to provide enrichment activities to the GATE participants.

The IB at Selby: the Superintendent noted that we have a contractual requirement to maintain the IB program for 3 years and that, therefore it could not be cut right now. She also warned the Selby Lane community that this program will most probably be cut next year unless they secure their own source of funding through their foundation.

Outdoor Education: the Board put Outdoor Education back for next year, hoping that RCEF can cover the portion it had been funding in the past.

Instrumental Music Program: this was not discussed in the meeting, but just in case you were not paying attention, this program is on the chopping block one year from now, unless we get new sources of revenue.

The Criteria and the Process

The Superintendent outlined the criteria used to choose what to keep and what to cut. The idea was to use our resources for best possible advantages, being as strategic as possible when saving positions. The criteria:

  • Educate every child for success in high school

  • Do the best with limited resources, pick the highest impact programs touching the most students across all sites

  • Run the district efficiently

  • Take into account the difficulty in restarting a program that's eliminated

  • Maximize revenue to increase fiscal outlook

To come up with these cuts, the Financial Advisory Committee was formed many months ago. It's made up of members of the community. The District's Financial Officer supplied a list of items that could get cut and discussed each one with the committee in detail. Then each member of the committee separately prioritized the cuts, ordering them by million (the first million would be the least harmful cuts, and so on). Finally the committee came together, reconciled their priorities and recommended cuts to the Board. The Superintendent did the same and Board ended up acting on these recommendations.

Everybody noted, over and over again, that none of these cuts are cuts anyone would make, but we don't have a choice. We need to supply a balanced budget to the State by July 1st.

The Outlook

It's not good. Dire. Senator Simitian held an Education Summit in Palo Alto last weekend and reports from that indicate that we cannot expect good news from the State, at least in the next few years. The State seems to be consistently decreasing the level of funding for public education. At the summit we heard that State revenue is down by 27% this year. For next year we're projecting cuts due to the lack of the Federal Stimulus package and further cuts due to the State's continuing financial difficulties.

Other districts shield themselves from this instability by passing parcel taxes, much larger ones than the 2.3 million per year Measure E was going to bring in. It's not clear whether Redwood City can wait for Simitian's SCA 6 to pass and allow local parcel taxes to be approved with 55% of the vote. The list of items we "saved" for next year speaks for itself.

In the meantime we need to do everything we can to make sure everyone we know in the city knows the extent of the cuts and how they're really hurting our kids.


  1. Hernan: thanks for the summary. I am pleased to see that they listened to us at the meeting. Terri


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