While top officials of public school districts in Long Beach and Compton dangle doomsday letters over the mailbox, the Downey Unified School District has reached a three-year contract with its teachers union that avoids layoffs, furloughs, salary reductions or loss of medical benefits. Instead, class sizes will increase slightly.

 Meanwhile, Long Beach Unified’s Board of Education in February approved layoff notices for 755 positions, including K-12 teachers, counselors, social workers, assistant or vice principals and adult school educators. In March, LBUSD approved 28 more, and ordered most managers to take three unpaid furlough days next academic year. Ultimately, 1019 notices were mailed, but about 175 were later rescinded, and the latest count for prospective employee layoffs in the LBUSD is 849, mostly teachers. This after the LBUSD voted in January to enlarge some elementary school classes from 20 to 30 students.

In the Compton Unified School District, 161 teachers and certificated employees have been notified that they could lose their jobs next school year. They’ll learn their fate May 15. Last year, 114 such letters were sent out by the CUSD, but only 10 people were laid off.

According to the Compton Bulletin, 91 of the prospective teacher layoffs would be in kindergarten through third grade, where class sizes will be increased from 20 to 25 students per teacher. In grades seven through 12, layoffs will affect five multiple-subject teachers—10 in math, nine in English, five in life science, four in social science, six in physical education, one in teen living, two in music, one in graphic arts, three in art, three in Spanish and eight counselors. The remaining potential layoffs are of administrative employees.

The deal between the Downey district and its teachers’ union (the Downey Education Association) orchestrates graduated class-size increases in three categories over the course of an agreement that retroactively begins on Sept. 1, 2009 and continues through Aug. 31, 2012.

The teacher-student ratios: in grades 1-3, they go from 1:20 to 1:26 (2010-2011) and then to 1:27 (2011-2012); in grades 4-5, they go from 1:32 to 1:34. Other cuts have included voluntary retirement and the suspension of middle-school sports programs.

DUSD Superintendent Wendy Doty is trying to put the best possible spin on the agreement.

“There has been no known study signifying that increased class size has deleterious effects on students,” Doty told the Downey Patriot. “Besides, this is the best we could do, under the [tight] circumstances.”

Most people seem to think it’s pretty good.

“We worked hard and made sacrifices, but we had a very good round of negotiations,” teachers union president Jeff Orlinsky told the Patriot. “In the end I think we came up with one of the best agreements in the state of California.”

On the other hand, Downey only had to cut $5.5 million from its budget. Long Beach’s deficit is something like $32 million, depending on what day you ask for the estimate.

  1. For a better Long Beach
    April 23, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Just curious, what’s the voter participation rate in Downey school board elections compared to LB?

  2. jv
    April 23, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I don’t think the Downey school district is anywhere near the size of the LBUSD. I am not sure how they are avoiding pay reductions etc. But we already have 34 or 35 in upper elementary so I don’t think that kind of strategy would work in LB. LBUSD may not be the most efficient organization in the world, but they do a pretty good jobcompared to many districts across the country. Let’s lay the blame where it belongs–the Long Beach community, as well as the greater California community, has chosen to under-fund education. Last year we could have all put $92 in the pot for a few years and much if this could have been mitigated.

  3. LBUSD Alum
    April 23, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Maybe Downey is doing better because they have been planning and preparing for this budget crisis for some time. Anyone who is paying attention, and you would have hoped that would have been the LBUSD administration, could have seen this coming. But instead of making smaller cuts along the way they kicked the can down the road and now have a huge crisis. The top administrators keep their jobs and perks but the kids, teachers, and custodians all pay the price.

  4. Diana Bosetti
    April 23, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Here’s where I’m truly stumped: For the last several years enrollment has declined rapidly, yet teachers have not been laid off.

    Don’t get me wrong — I hate to see teachers lose their jobs. I just truly don’t understand the messages we have received from the LBUSD over the last few years.

    First, we were told (starting about five years ago) that there was a budget crisis because enrollment was rapidly declining — thus impacting the financial dividends the state sends on a per-pupil basis.

    But, I don’t recall there having been any teacher lay-offs, and I definitely don’t remember there having been any administrative lay-offs.

    So, wouldn’t that have meant, then, that classrooms have been sitting half-empty?

    Now there’s talk by the LBUSD about massive teacher lay-offs, and that class sizes are going to swell to almost unmanageable sizes because of it.

    Maybe I’m being too simplistic here. But, if you have five pickle jars with five pickles each, and 10 pickles are eaten, that leaves two empty jars. When you throw away those two empty jars, how do the other three jars become more crowded?

    • DWR
      May 5, 2010 at 12:25 pm

      Classrooms sitting “half-empty” would seem like a good thing. Wouldn’t a higher teacher/student ratio be more desirable and beneficial for both teachers and students?

  5. Don Wood
    April 24, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I’ll defer the pickle question to my friends at the deli, but I applaud any district that can manage their budget and provide quality education. I do think the priority is backwards. Grades 4-6, or 4-5 if you have three year middle school, are the most important in terms of class size. Too much is made of the pre-wonder years. Parental assts can help with crowd control. I still remember things I learned in grades 4-5. The wonder years are the key.

  6. April 25, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Figures. Nobody ever wants to take on the pickle question.

  7. Diana Bosetti
    April 25, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I got the pickle question from last year’s SAT….

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