I Saw It In the Headlines - Why Does PUSD Have to Make Budget Cuts?

PUSD has, and will continue to see, large increases in the cost of pensions & retirement, health care, and special education costs. These three increases combined with a decline in enrollment, and stagnant or decreased funding from the federal and state governments have created this untenable financial situation for PUSD. The state of California has mandated increases to retirement contributions, and health benefits are likely to increase over the next three years above and beyond the district’s projections due to the repeal of the ACA mandate. Additionally, the total contribution taken from PUSD’s general unrestricted budget for needed special education services over the last five years was $147 million, and that number is likely to increase without an increase in funding from the federal government.

Why is enrollment declining in PUSD?

There are three main reasons for the decline in student enrollment in PUSD schools. Like LA, and all of our surrounding communities, affordability is a big issue. As homes become more expensive, young families and lower income families look for more affordable housing farther from urban centers. Birthrates have declined so even the families who can afford to buy a home here, have fewer children. Older residents whose children are out of house are staying in their homes, making home inventory low and contributing to the rising housing costs. The good news is that PUSD enrollment hasn’t dropped as much as the demographers had predicted, and if PEN membership and program attendance is any indication, more families are considering their public school options. Data also shows that fewer students are leaving PUSD at 6th grade, reversing a decade-old trend.

Why does it seem like all of a sudden the district is in a financial crisis?

It might seem that way to many people, but for those involved with PUSD, this isn’t a surprise. Costs have increased while revenue from the state and federal governments have remained flat or declined. Since districts are funded predominantly based on the number of students in the schools, PUSD knew at the beginning of the school year that they would need to make reductions. The superintendent convened a budget advisory committee for input on where to make those reductions, staff provided budget reduction recommendations, and a plan was created.

So, what is PUSD doing about this?

Pasadena Unified has approved $6,936,572 in budgetary cuts in the 2017-2018 school year, and $11,732,185 in the 2018-2019 school year to meet the state’s requirements. The PUSD board of education approved a Fiscal Stabilization Plan at a special board meeting on February 8. That plan will be submitted to the Los Angeles County of Education by February 26. Although the plan has been approved by the board, it can be altered if the district identifies better options for reductions, or if not all the cuts need to be made. Also, a school consolidation committee will make recommendations for how to right-size the district at the February 22 Board of Education meeting.

PUSD has also proposed to offer a PARS Early Retirement/Resignation Incentive Plan for all eligible UTP (teachers union) unit members. The District articulated the purpose and timing of the PARS offer is to realize both a savings during the budget crisis, and to reduce the number of final layoffs. Hopefully, the school district and UTP will come to agreement on the plan so that some layoff notices can be rescinded.

How will this impact the schools and our children?

PUSD leadership’s intention is to keep the cuts away from the classroom as much as possible. In addition to the fiscal stabilization plan, it is our understanding that staff is looking at a central office re-organization, and realigning how they create their budget.

We’ve attended meetings of the Finance Committee, Budget Advisory Committee, School Board meetings, and participated on the School Consolidation Committee, so PEN is well aware of the challenges and tough decisions that will need to be made. But, we also believe it creates some opportunities to re-evaluate priorities and right size the district, which will consolidate resources that support robust programs for all students.

Is there anything we, as parents, can do?

Stay informed and involved. Join or attend a meeting of your school site council or one of the other parent organizations. Volunteer. Speak up when you hear people spreading false information about our schools. Encourage, your neighbors and friends to go on a school tour. Better yet, take them on a tour of your school! Use your social media to share the positive stories that you see every day at your school, and tag them with #WEarePUSD.

For more information:

PUSD’s Budget Development, and link to Fiscal Stabilization Plan: https://www.pusd.us/Page/5704

Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Committee: https://www.pusd.us/Page/6675

Who Pays: Where California’s public school funds come from: https://ed100.org/lessons/whopays

nancy dufford