CARLSBAD — Facing a budget shortfall, Carlsbad Unified School District trustees voted unanimously to send second layoff warnings to 74 teachers Wednesday night. Spilling out the doors, teachers, parents and students crammed into the meeting ahead of the vote. Several speakers objected to the layoffs, arguing funds for the new Sage Creek High School should be allocated to teachers to prevent pink slips.
Patricia Langen, a teacher with the Carlsbad Unified School District, said she voted for Proposition P in 2006, which allowed the district to borrow money for Sage Creek and other school construction projects. However, Langen said she changed her mind in light of the fiscal crisis, urging the trustees to follow suit.
“The sensible solution is to delay the opening of Sage Creek and the associated costs of operation until the budget outlook improves,” Langen said.
Several students spoke out against the pink slips and increased class sizes.
“In my biology class right now there are 36 kids,” one Carlsbad High School student said. “It’s so cramped we have four kids sitting in computer desks that are meant for three, which none, by the way, actually have working computers on them.”
Despite the layoffs being finalized, the teachers may not lose their jobs. Thirty-nine preliminary pink slips have been rescinded since March. However, Devin Vodicka, assistant superintendent of business services for the district, said layoffs could be necessary to close an estimated $2.2 million budget gap next year.
Some savings have been achieved through cutting programs, benefit restructuring and reducing the athletic budget, among other measures. But Vodicka said that the cuts weren’t enough to offset declines in revenue and state funding.
Trustees and district officials defended the pink slips, pushing back against claims that they’re putting school construction projects before teachers.
When asked, Vodicka said funding for school construction could not be redirected to staff salaries.
“We are not allowed to use facility funding for operational expenses,” Vodicka said.
“That’s not an area where we have flexibility,” he added.
Should teachers be laid off, class sizes are projected to increase, according to Vodicka. Fourth through eighth grade classes could have 36 students per teacher by 2014, up by about two students. For grades nine through 12, class sizes could be as large as 38 students by 2014.
Also, first through third grade classes are expected to increase from between 20 students to 32 starting this August, according to Vodicka. The spike is largely due to the district reducing the number of temporary teachers.
Vodicka said a tax increase for education funding on the state’s ballot in November is critical to the district’s health. If it doesn’t pass, further cuts and a loan with interest attached are possible next year, according to Vodicka.
“We don’t want to be paying for 20 years because we weren’t prudent with our resources at this particular point in time,” Vodicka said.