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Schools free up $2.4 mil. to keep teachers

CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad Unified School District board of trustees voted unanimously Oct. 28 to free up $2.43 million in its 2009-2010 fiscal budget from tier III program spending, so the money can be used at the district’s discretion.
The school board first discussed freeing up the monies from tier III programs in June after the state cut millions from the district budget and also suspended rules for tier III programs funds and allowed the funds to be more flexible, said Walter Freeman, assistant superintendent of business services.
“It allows a great deal of flexibility,” John Roach, school district superintendent, said. “The school board has the final decision on any allowable education purpose.”
The budget flexibility is welcome, but does mean that about a dozen tier III programs, which provide a variety of services, will see a reduction in funding. “They’re a mix,” Suzanne O’Connell, assistant superintendent of instructional services, said. “Safety, art, music, PE, intervention, counseling, training for teachers and administrators.”
If there is good news about a reduction in services, it’s that the programs facing cuts are furthest away from classroom services that impact students daily. “Tier III programs are the state’s lower priorities,” Freeman said. “They are less essential to instruction.” Freeman said most tier III services like the gifted and talented program and ROP regional occupational program will continue, but will be scaled back.
The district’s budget priority is to retain teachers. “Learning doesn’t happen without a teacher,” Freeman said.
In response to state budget cuts in June, class sizes in first, second and third grades were increased to a 22-to-1 student to teacher ratio, and three professional development days were cut, but no pink slips were handed out to teachers.
“We’re retaining as many qualified teachers as possible,” Freeman said. “If everything else has to go, everything else has to go. We’re scrambling to do whatever is necessary to keep teachers in place.”
Tier III funds will remain flexible through 2012-2013. The flexibility is good news because more state budget cuts are expected this June, Freeman said. “It’s bad now and it will get worse,” Freeman said. “It’s inescapable.”