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TUSD lays off 10 state preschool aides

POSTED May 17, 2011 10:16 p.m.

With an uncertain state budget picture and a potential reduction in funding looming, the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday voted to issue layoff notices to the 10 paraprofessionals employed in the district's state preschool program.

The layoffs were precipitated by state notice that the district would likely receive a 15 percent reduction in its allocation for state preschool. That translates into an approximately $75,000 year-over-year cut.

According to TUSD Director of Human Resources Heidi Lawler, reducing paraprofessionals seemed to be the only solution after reviewing staffing in the program, the budget and state requirements for the program.

“It was determined the most appropriate way to address this would be to look at a reduction in our classified staffing,” Lawler said.

The layoff notices follow those handed out to eight TUSD Head Start preschool teacher aides and four family service workers on May 6.

Like in that situation, Tuesday's layoff notices could yet be overturned.

A legal process requires the district to first layoff employees, then negotiate with their union – the California School Employees Association –  to bring those employees back in a reduced capacity, either in terms of salary, hours or employees.

The district will seek a $29,000 savings through negotiations. That's just 39 percent of the total $75,000 cut expected, board president Frank Lima noted, though the majority of the budget is directed to salary and benefits.

The remainder of cuts would come from other areas of the program, unidentified on Tuesday night.

Lawler met with the 10 effected individuals as a group on Friday to discuss the budget issue, layoffs and negotiation procedure. She expects to meet with the employees individually to ask questions and provide assistance in the coming week.

The 15 percent cut to state preschool may yet not happen, with the state budget in flux.

Gov. Jerry Brown's May Budget Revise, released Monday, indicated that K-12 schools statewide would receive an additional $3 billion beyond projected in his initial, January budget due to enhanced tax revenues. That money is likely to be used to reduce cash deferrals, a system whereby the state only pays schools 75 cents of every dollar owed in the current fiscal year, then pays the remaining amount in the next fiscal year.

Given the uncertain effects of this move – and pending cuts to other school funding for state mandated programs – TUSD's budget remains hazy.

“The answer is, I don't know yet,” said Lori Decker, district chief financial officer.

Should the final state budget reverse the proposed cuts to the district's state preschool program, trustees said they would reverse Tuesday's decision.

“If for some reason they do not occur, we would not ask for this reduction,” Lima said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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