Decreased funding will result in larger classes, fewer teachers

By Brandon HENSLEY

Teachers within the Glendale Unified School District might have to prepare for some spring-cleaning, and not in a good way.

The ongoing speculation has been confirmed by both the district’s side and the Glendale Teachers Association that changes will be coming at the start of the next school year, including 112 projected layoffs and increased class sizes in kindergarten to third grade.

“It is an unfortunate reality based on the dire economic circumstances that we’re in and the fact that the state of California continues to take money away from funding public education,” said John Garcia, assistant superintendent of human resources for the district.

Garcia said that the district is projecting to lose $50 million by the end of the 2012-13 school year, in large part because of the continued lack of funds coming from Sacramento.

To alleviate some of the problems, the district has been working with the Teachers Association to put together a retirement package for certain teachers, including those in secondary schools.  Union Vice President Alicia Harris, also a Crescenta Valley High School teacher, said the district first denied the union’s retirement proposal, and instead proposed a deal that wasn’t as expensive.

Regardless, Harris and Garcia said the number of teachers that had applied for the plan was around 65, which is lower than what they had hoped for.

“It didn’t really get close to doing what the goal was,” said Harris. Garcia said the district could formalize who receives the package in its meeting on Tuesday. Harris said because of that small number, the union has projected the amount of teachers to be laid off at 112.

Garcia said he could not quantify the layoffs, but added, “At this point, it’s looking like [layoffs are] going to be the unfortunate reality.”

The idea has been to have teachers retire and others fill their spots at a reduced salary. But that’s difficult to get exactly right because someone teaching physics and making a large salary can be harder to replace, for example.

March 15 is the date that teachers could be given their RIF (Reduction In Force) notice, although Harris said the district has already been sending surveys to teachers who might be laid off. She added that the association had not been notified sooner.

“Anytime you’re talking about layoffs or giving anything out that’s going to lead someone to believe they might be laid off, the association should be informed as well so it can be there to back up its members,” Harris said.

At the elementary school level, Harris said only 25 teachers applied for retirement. This creates an almost certainty that a number of teachers will lose their jobs and class sizes will increase. Currently, the ratio of students to teachers at that level is 20 to1, but that will change.

“We calculated … instead of one teacher for every 20 students, we calculated one teacher for every 30 students,” Garcia said.

Garcia said at this time there are no plans to change the status of secondary schools.

Harris said she understood the economic reasoning for the changes, but complained of the district going out of its way to make the situation worse. She cited incidents when district officials came into classes to survey the size and concluded that the teacher’s desk and file cabinets were not necessary.

“Elementary teachers would argue that it’s so beneficial at these pivotal grades to keep the class sizes low, so it’s a big concern,” Harris said.