WatchSonoma Watch

GUEST OPINION: Layoffs begin as schools prepare for the worst

Maria Peluso

Maria Peluso is a labor representative for Local 1021 of the Service Employees International Union. Frank Pugh is the immediate past president of the California School Boards Association. They both are members of the Sonoma County Education Coalition, which also includes representatives from the American Federation of Teachers, Association of California School Administrators, California School Employees Association, California Teachers Association, Parent Teacher Association and the Sonoma County Office of Education.

School boards throughout Sonoma County are facing a daunting task. By next Tuesday, all school districts must issue preliminary notices to each and every teacher and administrator whose position could be eliminated next school year.

Frank Pugh

This is an annual requirement, specified in our state education laws, but this year is like no other we have experienced. With the level of education funding now dependent on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to extend the temporary taxes put in place in 2009, our schools must meet their March 15 deadline anticipating the worst-case scenario. Failure to do so could place them in possible state receivership.

These preliminary layoff decisions must be made by districts as we wait to see if the state Legislature approves the governor’s request to put the extension of temporary taxes on the June ballot. Assuming that this does occur, the state of limbo for Sonoma County schools will continue as we await the results of the June vote.

What is the worst-case scenario for our schools? The nonpartisan legislative analyst has prepared a budget scenario showing that, without the tax extension, K-12 school funding could be cut an additional $4.8 billion statewide. As the governor recently explained, this could mean cutting four or five weeks out of the school year.

With this in mind, Sonoma County school districts will soon issue the largest number of preliminary layoff notices in our history. Based on a poll of local school districts, the Sonoma County Office of Education estimates that more than 200 notices will be sent to teachers and school administrators across the county. This wave of preliminary notices does not include a second group that will go out in April or May to classified staff. These school employees — instructional assistants, bus drivers, custodians, food service workers and clerical support staff — don’t hold teaching credentials, yet they comprise more than 45 percent of the public education workforce in our county.

The pressure on each school district is enormous. The Sonoma County Office of Education anticipates that our local schools could lose $23 million if the tax extension is not put on the ballot and approved by voters. And, remember, this is in addition to all the education funding cuts enacted since 2007.

If a $23 million cut is made in our county’s education budget, our schools will have lost 30 percent of their revenue. That’s more than the 27 percent loss that occurred during the Great Depression.

In response to the last three years of budget reductions, local districts have already eliminated summer school programs, increased class size, shortened the school calendar, closed campuses, eliminated or reduced bus services, reduced counseling and nursing services, closed school libraries, cut adult education programs, tabled the adoption of new instructional materials and reduced custodial and maintenance services.

Another round of budget slashing on top of all this will severely affect core education programs.

It is for this reason that the Sonoma County Education Coalition was formed, bringing together all facets of our K-12 public school community to speak with one voice. Members of the Education Coalition are working together to support the governor’s budget proposal, help secure the ballot measure that will mitigate further cuts to education and encourage the citizens of Sonoma County to support their local schools.

We urge you to call or write your legislators today and let them know that you support putting the tax extension on the June ballot. For the school in your neighborhood and the one across town, it is imperative that the governor’s budget — and the tax extension — be approved.

17 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: Layoffs begin as schools prepare for the worst”

  1. Michael Sheehan says:

    Education in America is primarily a state and local issue.

    If $70 Billion of the Federal Department of Education’s bloated budget was stripped and redirected, 70,000 schools could receive $1 million each to help offset reduced revenues. Or perhaps some schools could receive more than $1 million, based on need.

    Although it would be best to eliminate the useless Federal Department of Education, this plan still leaves Billions to fund its bureaucratic nonsense. At the same time, deal with the teacher’s unions and tenure, as others have suggested.

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  2. John Sakowicz says:

    The answert is simple.

    Break the stranglehold that teacher unions have over education.

    First, end tenure.

    Second, reward good teachers with performance bonuses.

    Third, fire the worst performing teachers.

    Bottom line: Only job performance matters.

    It’s simple, stupid!

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  3. Other person says:


    My apologies, I misread what you wrote, at the end you had stated that middle class families pay $1000 a month to send their kids to private schools.
    Would I pay an extra $1000 a year for the school. Yes, I would. However, we run into the issues I put at the end…labor unions, illegals, and those who are already receiving help from the schools in the form of ESL, Paid Lunches, etc.

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  4. Anderson says:

    @Other Person

    My plan indicated $1,000 per FAMILY per YEAR, not per child. So if you have 3 kids, you would still contribute $1,000, or about $83 per month. It was just an idea.

    Sorry you misunderstood my point.

    I agree that the unions and illegals are the problems.

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  5. Other person says:

    Ya, your $1000 a month sounds great and all. HOWEVER. I have three children, I pay my taxes (state and federal). So according to you, I should fork out an extra $3000 a month to pay for my kids to go to school? Correct. My income doesn’t even break the $3000 mark because I already pay out for all kinds of things, social security, medical insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, federal taxes, state taxes, oh wait, state disability. Oh, and before you even say “why did you have three kids”, I pay for my kids. I’m not on state benefits or anything. I don’t collect WIC, or what ever else their is. I work two jobs and my wife works as well. We donate to our local school as much as we can, my kids are doing well in school and we send them, regardless if they are sick or not, to school so that the school can benefit by getting the tax dollars. So please, before you start saying charge everyone $1000 a month for school…then we might as well as get rid of the school because there are a lot of us “lower-middle class” families that do make it without help but would not make it with such an aweful suggestion. Unions are the biggest problems, as well as other issues (illegal immigrations, etc) that has created a strain on our system.

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  6. Michael Sheehan says:

    RP citizen:

    You wrote “A free public education is a legal right to all American children and it is paid for by the taxpayers.”

    How many children of illegal immigrants (especially the kids who are not citizens) also are receiving a so-called free public education at the taxpayers expense?

    This ongoing problem for our schools, hospitals, law enforcement and border security is costing taxpayers billions.

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  7. GAJ says:

    Sorry, the taxpayer is tapped out.

    Why don’t all Unions in the County have a summit and come up with some meaningful reform to our budgets, which increasingly are going to an ever shrinking group of employees.

    But I’m guessing the top tier of Government Employees who are eating the lunch of the lower tiers of Employees, and the taxpayer, would not be amenable to that.

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  8. tdawg says:

    The fact that this is written by Frank Pugh, who works in the Education Industry AND is sponsored by the SEIU and other unions is an indication of the agenda which is “status quo”. Voters need to say “HELL NO” in June!

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  9. Anderson says:

    @RP citizen

    You missed my point. California citizens already DO contribute to public education through taxes. Everyone knows that. What I was suggesting is that when budget shortfalls occur, the families involved at the school should step up to the plate to fill the gap and help out their own children’s education. Nothing is “free.”

    The bigger question is why does it cost so much in the first place, are the results worth the cost, and are the unions more concerned about their members than the students?

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  10. Reality Check says:

    The time is long past to return control and funding of schools to the community. Then, Sonoma County voters can decide how much education they wish to pay for.

    The siren song of school budget cuts has become tiring. Lost is any examination of why education in America costs so much more in the U.S. than other Western countries. Or why other countries provide an equal (or better) education for significantly less money.

    It’s time for the education lobby to justify how it spends the money and justify why it should get more. The presumption that it is owed more “for our kids” is no longer credible.

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  11. Paul I says:

    The day of reckoning has arrived. How do guys like Pugh always trying to stay in the news and always getting PT jobs that give health benefits and looking for more all the time really matter.

    The politicians got us here, and they will not have a leader until the ship sinks. Then folks will say we must get rid of the status quo.

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  12. RPcitizen says:

    @Anderson- A free public education is a legal right to all American children and it is paid for by the taxpayers, that’s just the way it is. Whether people’s kids are all grown up or whether they never had kids, they have to help pay for it. Just like people who don’t drive cars still have tax money that goes towards roads, people who don’t break the law pay taxes for jails, and people who don’t need it still pay taxes for welfare, everyone realizes the benefits of education through an improved education, reduced crime, and increased property values. It isn’t a “pay to play” option that as soon as you don’t directly need it that it is no longer of any value or your responsibility to help support.

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  13. AMT says:

    I do not support putting the tax extension on the June ballot and hopefully the Republicans will not cave and let it get there! I would never vote for it anyway! There simply is not the money and tax extensions will only kick the problem down the road. Behind every bankrupt state & school you’ll find a union. This is not an attack on teachers. Start cutting at the administration level. It’s awfully fat up there!

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  14. Anderson says:

    Instead of once again confiscating more money from all taxpayers, including those on fixed incomes, why not enact a “use” tax that families who have students at a specific school pay? For example, if a school needs $1 million to maintain current teacher staffing and programs, and has 1,000 families, each would contribute $1,000. Is another $85 per month too much to ask to help fund their own children’s education? Fund raisers could be held to help out those families who absolutely cannot pay the monthly fee.

    Middle-class parents who send their kids to private schools often sacrifice greatly and pay up to $1,000 per MONTH (in addition to their taxes that pay for public schools).

    Perhaps this is unrealistic, but has it been discussed? Who’s willing to put up for their kids’ educations.

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  15. Common Sense says:

    Lay offs should not be limited to Teachers. It should cut into their admin also. And the County and state employees should lean out also. We cannot afford to keep taxing the poor to support everyone who does want to adapt to the new world order.

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  16. SRK says:

    Fire the administrators and give all the teachers a raise.

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  17. Bill Parkhurst says:

    we need to lay off the cops first….better deal for the money.

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