The following email was sent to all of the Poway Unified School District Supervisors by Dr. Don Phillips Superintendent of Poway Unified Schools, February 4, 2010. If you go back to my December 11, 2009 post you can see how the problem has increased in size from his previous letter (3 months ago). I might add that Dr. Phillips has announced his intensions to retire in the coming months. I left his letter unedited. It doesn't imply great times for our childrens' future education or for the teachers who educate them.
I wish I had some good news for once. Over my past nine years as superintendent, we have made cuts in five of those years totaling over $48 million and now face additional cuts. As you know, we have made every effort to keep cuts away from the classroom by finding efficiencies in our system, narrowing our focus, and soliciting parent and community support. Through our collective efforts we have been successful, to date, in minimizing the negative impact of budget cuts on our students’ education.
As one measure of success, our Academic Performance Index ranks among the top 3 school districts in the state with 20,000 or more students, along with Irvine Unified and San Ramon Unified. Our students also excel in everything from robotics to theater and in all extracurricular and co-curricular programs, including athletics. At the heart of this success is you – our staff – who are dedicated and highly professional, working daily with our students, supporting the overall district operation, and seeking ways to make the system work, even with all of the reductions. I see evidence of this in our custodians, library clerks, administrative assistants, food service workers, instructional aides, administrators, classroom teachers, and others. Much like hospitals that cannot run with doctors only, schools need support systems to help teachers be effective and to provide a safe and orderly environment. I’m very proud and appreciative of your extra efforts during these most difficult financial times.
However, as you already know, we are facing yet another challenging financial year in 2010-11. Our initial budget projections for next year included a $17 million funding reduction due to the continuing state economic problems and the depletion of one-time federal funds, which provided some budget relief this year. Although the Governor publicly committed to “protect education funding,” his proposal actually results in over $2 billion in additional cuts to K-12 education, or an additional $7-plus million in reductions to Poway Unified. This means that instead of a $17 million shortfall for next year, we now anticipate a $24 million shortfall. As we scan the horizon, we fear there may be additional state cuts which would further impact our district.
A $24 million reduction, on top of the major funding cuts we have already made over the past two years, is almost unfathomable. We are committed to maintaining our core educational efforts, but as we keep cutting, this commitment becomes more and more difficult. We will all feel the weight of these additional reductions, both individually and collectively. We will be presenting our initial negotiations proposals to the Board of Education for all three bargaining units on Monday, February 8. We will obviously continue to look for additional solutions in order to meet our budgeting constraints. Nevertheless, most class sizes will increase and we will enter into negotiations around possible further concessions in total compensation. Additionally, we are exploring the potential of a shortened student school year from 180 to 175 days. I could never have imagined we would face such a dire picture in California and K-12 public education.
As we enter into the 2010-11 budget development process, we will be using the following criteria to help us prioritize our resources:
· Support college readiness initiatives and high expectations for all students
· Focus on student learning and student support systems
· Provide a safe and orderly environment
· Continue to seek ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness in operations
· Support and, wherever possible, minimize staff losses
On the legislative front, I am seeking state budget relief in the form of greater categorical program flexibility, elimination of class size reduction penalties, and attendance relief from H1N1 absences. We are also pushing to hold the line on additional cuts beyond the Governor’s January proposal, as the state will likely need to make additional budget cuts next year. It is essential that each of you, individually and collectively, reach out to our legislators and help them understand the impact of these cuts on our collective work and, most importantly, on our students.
I have written a letter to our community that provides more detail regarding the budget, my appreciation for your support in keeping student learning at the forefront, the fact that these cuts will impact our work, and the need for their voice in Sacramento to avoid even deeper cuts for next year.
While next year will be even more challenging than this year, great people and great organizations rise to great challenges. I know you are dedicated to doing your very best with the constraints we face from such deep budget reductions over multiple years. We will work collectively to best address these additional cuts because of our belief in the importance of the education of our students. Poway Unified is a very special school district, and we are committed to help keep it that way
(Dr. Don Phillips, Superintendent, Poway Unified School District)