Education

Sacramento City Unified to lay off more than 170 staff members amid budget crisis

Sacramento City Unified school board grapples with massive budget shortfall

Parents and school officials discuss the Sacramento City Unified School District’s budget shortfall at a meeting Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. The district has until Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, to submit a revised budget to the county office of education.
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Parents and school officials discuss the Sacramento City Unified School District’s budget shortfall at a meeting Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. The district has until Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, to submit a revised budget to the county office of education.

Amid financial crisis, Sacramento City Unified School District confirmed Wednesday that it will lay off more than 170 staff members, after announcing the final layoff notices in a news release late Tuesday night.

District spokesman Alex Barrios on Wednesday said 178 certificated staff positions will be eliminated, including some vacant positions and jobs held by staff members who are retiring or leaving the district.

About half of the staffers losing their jobs are teachers, according to David Fisher, president of the teachers union.

“We were successful in getting several (teacher layoff notices) rescinded so the number of teachers is down to 102,” Fisher told The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday.

According to Fisher, an additional 31 child development staff members were also given layoff notices. “We are contesting those notices,” he said.

“Decisions that result in our district losing dedicated staff members are not easy,” Superintendent Jorge Aguilar said in the news release Tuesday. “Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to maintain our current staffing levels due to our fiscal crisis and declining enrollment.”

It is unclear how much money the district will save with the staff reductions, but officials said the layoffs were necessary. The district has a $35 million budget deficit, and if it doesn’t make cuts to close the gap by the end of June, it faces state takeover.

The district had decided at meetings in February and March to reduce the number of certificated staff for the upcoming school year, according to the news release. The Sacramento City Teachers Association challenged the layoffs, but on Tuesday, an administrative judge upheld them.

In its lawsuit filed in March, the teachers union had claimed the district unlawfully engaged in discussions regarding budget cuts in closed session meetings, and adopted resolutions for layoffs that relied on discussions around budgetary matters.

The union said the district violated California’s open meeting law, which details the provisions of when and how the public can be excluded from closed session meetings, and what can be discussed during those meetings.

The district denied those allegations.

“Each cut to our dedicated certificated, classified and administrative staff looms heavy on our hearts but is unfortunately necessary given our grave fiscal challenges,” said school board President Jessie Ryan in the news release Tuesday. “We remain committed to doing the difficult work necessary to avoid state takeover but recognize how deeply these actions impact our school communities.”

A special board meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. to authorize the final layoff notices.

The district said it would lay out the “specific fiscal impacts” of the job cuts when it makes its third interim budget report at its May 16 meeting.

Meanwhile, a second teachers strike is scheduled for May 22, calling on the district to honor its 2017 agreement with union, including directing health-plan savings strictly toward reducing class sizes and funding more health workers and counselors.

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Sawsan Morrar covers school accountability and culture for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She previously freelanced for various publications including The Washington Post, Vice, KQED and Capital Public Radio.
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