Pleasanton Weekly

News - August 19, 2011

No major changes in school funding expected -- for now

December state review could trigger late year cuts

by Glenn Wohltmann

It's too early to tell what will happen with the state's budget, but the Pleasanton school district is gearing up for some possible worst-case scenarios.

At its first official meeting of the 2011-12 school year, on Tuesday, the board heard that, for now, no major changes are anticipated in state funding for the district.

"The budget that was enacted was not significantly different than the one we saw at the May revise," Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services, told the board. "We don't have any major revisions."

In fact, there was even some good financial news. The district budgeted for $2.7 million in federal jobs money but in fact received nearly $3.1 million, adding about $351,000 to the budget.

There is, however, some potential impact to the budget that could come late in the year that Cazares described as "troubling."

She said the state included $4 billion in optimistic revenue projections that may never come to pass. The state's director of finance is to review tax receipts and if there's a shortfall as of Dec. 15, automatic spending reductions would be triggered.

Those reductions wouldn't affect school budgets unless there's a shortfall of $2 billion or more. Should that occur, more cuts to school funding would be likely.

"What this essentially does for school districts -- it puts us in a place of uncertainty," Cazares said.

Those cuts could mean another $3.1 million reduction to district financing, although Cazares said she's already working to come up with just-in-case reductions.

Also at the Tuesday night meeting, the board approved $5,000 for a healthy kids and school climate survey. The cost of the survey is less than 50 cents per child.

The district has done similar surveys in the past, paid for with state and federal funding that has since been cut. The confidential survey, conducted every two years, provides information on tobacco and drug use, sexual behavior, violence and mental health, among other things. The information is used to develop programs for each school.

Based on the information collected, the district is adding school counselors to its DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program and adding a discussion on cyber safety.

Kevin Johnson, senior director of pupil services, said the district is also adding drug and alcohol counseling and intervention at one middle school and both high schools in the hope of further cutting the expulsion rate, down to 14 in the 2010-11 school year from 31 in 2009-10.

Board members suggested that students be asked what works best for them and be given an opportunity to ask for help -- possibly though a text messaging system directly to school counselors -- as possible future steps.

The board also heard a report on its summer school program from Glen Sparks, director of adult education and summer programs.

Sparks told the board that despite large cuts, programs were held to help struggling students at all grade levels. Although academic support was eliminated for students in grades 1 to 5, 130 students at Valley View Elementary received English Language Development (ELD) classes. Another 37 students received ELD help at Pleasanton Middle School, and Special Day Classes for disabled students were held, drawing 233 at Harvest Park Middle School and 112 at Vintage Hills.

At the high school level, 731 students attended classes at Amador Valley High School covering a range of subjects for review and to help seniors who didn't have enough credits to graduate in June.

In all, 1,252 students attended summer classes; Sparks noted that at its peak, summer school included a wide range of classes for all students and drew more than 2,000 students.

Board members asked that academic support for elementary school students be restored if funding can be found.

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