March 12, 2010
I just wanted to acknowledge what a difficult week it’s been for so many of you. With great sadness, we began distributing notices of potential layoffs to 1,019 certificated employees. Our state’s continuing, multi-billion-dollar cuts to public schools have left us little choice.
We are not alone. More than 20,000 educators statewide have been affected by layoff notices. Clearly we’re witnessing a statewide crisis that’s unrelated to anything our employees or school board members have done. We’re one of the most efficient school systems in the U.S., having been funded for years among the lowest in the nation on a per pupil basis yet somehow outperforming almost all other large, urban school districts in America. But now we’ve reached a point, after cutting our budgets for seven of the last eight years, where we can no longer protect our classrooms as much as we’d like to.
We are working through every avenue possible to mitigate layoffs and to reduce the final number of certificated notices that will be issued by May 15. Unfortunately, many unknowns will affect the number of final notices, including how many teachers return from leaves of absence, how many retire or resign, and what agreements are reached in bargaining. We’ve sought and been granted waivers providing additional flexibility from the state as to how we spend our limited funding. We’re now sponsoring state legislation that would grant us even broader flexibility and help us to save jobs here. We’re seeking similar flexibility at the federal level, and we’ll vigorously pursue anticipated future rounds of federal funding, such as those provided through the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top program.
By necessity, the number of notices we’re issuing this week exceeds the number of final notices that will be distributed. That’s because the layoff process is complex, and we need to ensure that a sufficient number of notices are issued to cover the school district’s budget shortfall and any technical issues that may arise during layoff hearings. Long Beach was not among the first large California school districts to issue layoff notices during this statewide crisis. We instead tried to put this process off as long as possible. We don’t take this action lightly. We haven’t issued such notices to teachers since 1978.
To my colleagues who are receiving notices, please know that we continue to do all we can to reduce the impact of state budget cuts. And despite Sacramento’s signals to the contrary, your amazing professionalism in the face of such great challenges is appreciated now more than ever.