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TUSD reduces teaching staff, increases class size
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As Turlock Unified School District prepares for its first year under the new Local Control Funding Formula, 17 temporarily contracted teachers will be released from their positions at schools across the District.

“These are not layoffs, these are merely releases of those employees who have agreed to a temporary contract for that school year,” said Heidi Lawler, assistant superintendent of human resources. “In preparing for the new school year and in seeking some recommendations from legal counsel it has been determined that it would be appropriate to go forward with a formal release of 17 of these temporary teachers through this resolution.”

While layoffs are not anticipated as pink slips have not been issued by the Education Code mandated date of March 15, the District is aiming to reduce staff as it must cut its certificated personnel by 10 full time equivalents. The release of temporarily contracted teachers is one way that the District aims to make a dent in the necessary reductions because it does not anticipate enough teachers to retire in the next school year to compensate for the necessary decrease in FTEs.

The reduction in 10 FTEs is one component of the District’s 2014-2015 budget assumption that marks the first non-transition year of implementation of the new state funding known as the Local Control Funding Formula. Under the LCFF, districts receive the bulk of their funding based on Average Daily Attendance and are not to exceed 24 students per class in kindergarten through third grade or 32 students per class in fourth through 12th grade. The average class size in kindergarten through third grade classes for the 2013-2014 is 21 students.

While dynamics shift in classrooms across the District, school districts across the state are preparing to implement the LCFF which is radically different than the categorized funding, a highly structured way of using funds mandated by the state, which was the basis of educational funding for years.

“This is nothing like we’ve ever experience in education,” said Superintendent Dr. Sonny DaMarto at the board meeting Tuesday night.

The LCFF centers on districts’ ability to meet their own goals as designated by the Local Control Accountability Plan, which outlines the goals that districts’ have set for themselves largely in part created by the LCAP steering committee, composed of community members and District employees . The new sense of autonomy, while a refreshing in the fiscal sense as school districts have more agency in how to spend their funds, is also alarming.

“It is not about setting aside money and showing how you have spent it. You have to show that you have met your goals,” said Lori Decker, assistant superintendent of financial services during her second interim report to the Board on Tuesday.

The District’s general fund revenues is composed of 79.9 percent from LCFF, 5.5 percent from federal revenue, 5.5 percent from other state revenue and 9.6 percent from other local revenue.  Over the next two years, TUSD’s revenues will increase significantly partly due to the District’s high level of eligible students, which includes English language learners, foster children, and low socioeconomic students, which compose 66.5 percent of total students.

 Funding for LCFF is based upon each districts funding gap, or the difference between the prior-year funding level and its target LCFF funding level, which is directed toward the funds for eligible students. For the 2013-2014 year, TUSD has $4.6 million available for eligible students based on the 11.78 percent gap funding rate. For the 2014-2015 school year, that rate is anticipated to increase to 28 percent, according to Governor Brown’s budget.