Layoffs loom for teachers, school staff members

ENCINITAS — School officials handed out preliminary layoff notices to 22 teachers and one administrator March 11 citing the budget deficit.
Encinitas Union School District Superintendent Tim Baird said the move was necessary but difficult. “We hate to be put in the position that we have to lay off good teachers,” he said. “You have to be conservative at this point.”
The district serves approximately 5,900 students at nine elementary schools in Encinitas and south Carlsbad. It employs approximately 310 teachers.
As a so-called basic aid district, Encinitas, along with neighboring Rancho Santa Fe, Solana Beach and Del Mar, receives 67 percent of its budget from local property tax revenues. The housing economy in particular is tied to the education budget. While coastal communities haven’t been the hardest hit by the housing crisis, the district is now receiving less money from housing revenues.
Baird was hopeful that the economic situation would improve. “We’re starting to see some national recovery indicators,” he said. However, because the district budget relies heavily on property tax dollars the positive impact is not immediately felt. “We’re about two years behind in realizing an economic recovery,” he said.
While the district said it was prepared to weather financials storms last February in a letter from then-Superintendent Lean King, it estimates a deficit of $5.9 million next year. King retired in June.
Because of state regulations, preliminary notices are required by March 15 if a district decides to issue final layoffs in May of the same year. Baird said he expects most of the “pink slips” to be rescinded.
“We don’t believe that we need to lay off 22 teachers,” he said. “We know that we’re going to have higher than average retirement this year and that might take care of the number that would be otherwise laid off.”
Other measures are being taken to fill in the budget short-fall but the lack of a state budget makes planning difficult. Baird said the district will not purchase textbooks, there will be no summer school, and it will divert maintenance dollars to the general fund. “Once we know the state’s budget we can make adjustments,” he said.
The district is also losing intervention funds from the state that pay for such activities as after-school tutoring to at-risk students.
“We’re looking at all budgets,” he said. “Our parents have been great,” he said, noting the support that individual classes and schools receive. “Our goal has been to try to keep the impacts as far from the classroom as possible.”
However, class sizes will increase in second and third grades from a student to teacher ratio of 20-to-1 to 22-to-1. “I’m not sure there is anything else left to cut but putting more students into one class is never a good option, said Jean Saunders, a parent in the district.

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