School District Budget Cuts Discussed

This evening, the Menifee Union School District discussed budget cuts, and talked about which services will be getting axed in the coming ye...

This evening, the Menifee Union School District discussed budget cuts, and talked about which services will be getting axed in the coming years.

Parents are going to want to read this.

It was a well-attended meeting, but mostly attended by teachers and faculty.

Among those services discussed: busing, counseling, music, class size reduction, and even shutting down one of the schools entirely.

Some decisions were made by the Board of Trustees at this meeting, but overall, no final decision will be made until next week's meeting.

Included in the presentation, were recommendations from the district administration on what services could be cut, and how much money could be saved by making those cuts.

Eliminating "class size reduction" for grades K, 1, 2, and 3, could result in savings of $1.7 million during the 2008/09 and 2009/10 school years. Class size reduction refers to attempts made by the district in previous years to reduce class sizes, resulting in better education for kids, and making teachers' jobs more easier. By undoing these attempts, class sizes would grow larger, but would result in cost savings for the district.

Many teachers in the audience walked up to the podium to voice their displeasure for eliminating class size reduction, and urged the Board to not make budget cuts in the classrooms. The Board made a decision not to eliminate class size reduction for all grades K, 1, 2, and 3 combined, but left the possibility to eliminate it for just K or 3, or both.

Also discussed quite seriously was to completely eliminate school busing, either for elementary, middle school, or both. Cutting elementary busing would result in a savings of $1.5 million over the 2008/09 and 2009/10 school years, while cutting middle school busing would result in $1.6 million. Dan Wood, assistant superintendent, said that eliminating both would result in only $1.8 million savings, because buses and staffing are shared between the two school levels.

It's also worth noting that the district administration said that eliminating school busing has the adverse effect of lowering school attendance. This was an interesting point because it would lower the district's "average daily attendance", and would result in lower state contributions.

Trustee Irey asked Dan Wood if they could find more money by raising the school bus fees. Wood answered that he already studied it, and raising the fee from $190 a year to $220 a year would result in extra income of $40,000 a year tops.

Closing down Menifee Elementary School for the 2008/09 school year was also seriously considered, and would result in a savings of $590,557. Students and teachers would be absorbed into other schools. The Board decided they would leave this option open, and won't make a decision until next week.

Another serious budget cutting move was to delay the opening of the new Quail Valley and Southshore Elementary Schools for one year, resulting in a savings of $1.1 million. The teachers in the audience were very supportive of this option, giving applause every time it was mentioned. However, Trustee Giardinelli made a case for taking this option off the table, citing the fact that they already promised the parents new school boundaries for the 2008/09 school year. However, it's still being left open as an option.

Eliminating music from the school curriculum was discussed, and a few teachers voiced their displeasure for cutting it out. Cutting it out would result in a savings of $600,000. However, the Board decided it would not cut music.

It was also decided not to cut counseling at all. A proposal called for cutting out counseling completely from elementary, and reducing it 50% from middle schools, would result in a combined savings of $730,000. However, both teachers and counselors made emotional pleas to leave it alone. The Board agreed.

One teacher addressed the Board by suggesting that they delay the adoption of new text books, and that this could save the district some money. However, assistant superintendent, Karen Valdes responded that the State has certain laws in effect that require school districts to maintain certain standards in textbooks, and that where the district is at right now, there simply is no way they can delay new adoptions.

One parent addressed the Board by saying that the presentation didn't include salary