Berkeley Adult School faces cuts under proposed budget

Dozens of teachers and staff from Berkeley schools are planning to leaflet local BART stations Tuesday afternoon to get out the word that planned state budget cuts will decimate the school system.

The 4 pm leafleting, and a planned march in San Francisco on Friday, are part of a week-long effort called “State of Emergency” to pressure lawmakers into extending expiring taxes. Governor Jerry Brown wanted to place tax extensions on the June ballot to close a $26 billion budget gap, but couldn’t get the Republican support he needed to do so.

“If you believe the funding is inadequate for public education, the practical way is to extend the taxes we have in place,” Bill Huyett, the superintendent of Berkeley schools, told a group assembled Monday for a hearing on the BUSD budget. “Your job is to talk to your legislator or if you know a legislator who is in a Republican district, talk to them.”

“We need to get the word out,” said Josh Daniels, a school board member. “I can’t urge you enough. Don’t just walk away. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, your fellow staff. Get them involved.”

Without the tax extension, BUSD is facing a $3.7 million deficit for fiscal year 2012. That translates to a drop of at least $330 each student, although the numbers might get even worse. There is a chance the state will slash $700 from each student, according to Javetta Cleveland, the deputy superintendent for business.

“This has been a roller-coaster ride in terms of what is in the state budget,” she said.

Brown will release a revised proposed budget on May 16, and the district will base its own $120 million budget on those numbers, said Huyett. The district must adopt a final budget by June 30.

The district is considering a number of ways to close the $3.7 million budget gap. It is looking at increasing class sizes in middle and high school from 28 students per class to either 29 or 30 students. This would allow the district to lay off a number of teachers.

It is also considering mandatory furlough days for all staff. One proposed scenario calls for four days off, and another calls for one day off for the district’s 1,500-person staff. The district is also considering cutting some clerical and mechanical positions.

The district is also looking at only keeping the Adult School open four days a week rather than five, reducing the length of the Adult School calendar, and reducing the number of hours it teaches  English as a Second Language, among other proposals.

The district also hopes to charge more for school rentals, increase ticket prices for high school graduation, and to stop subsidizing the cost of graduation ceremonies for the small schools at Berkeley High.

In addition to these cuts, the district is also planning to cut after-school programming for preschools. Its afternoon programs for elementary schools are also facing deficits that need to be addressed, said Huyett.

The district will be holding three budget workshops to gather community input on May 17, 26, and 31. The school board will talk about the budget on June 8, 22, and 29.

The situation would be worse if Berkeley voters hadn’t adopted a number of parcel tax measures which help keep class sizes down and pay for school maintenance, said Huyett.

The Berkeley Federation of Teachers and other unions will be leafleting Berkeley’s three BART stations at 4 pm today. A group will also be traveling to San Francisco for a 4 pm rally at Civic Center Plaza on Friday.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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36 Comments

  1. That’s insane. As a Berkeley resident and taxpayer I am quite angry that the school apparently doesn’t care about this issue. How can this be changed?

  2. @ Berkeley School Parent

    If you are going quote me, do it accurately. I wrote: “…No, those costs are embedded under so many layers of ADMINISTRATIVE POLICY and program design, BUSD considers them ‘routine.’…” I did not write “so many layers of administrators”.

    The difference? It’s doesn’t take many “competitively salaried” administrators making policy to run up the price of public education. Examples:

    We needed more classrooms, the administration gave us a bus barn. So back to the trough with Measure H. Another parcel tax.

    The policy creating our “convicted criminals on campus” program in turn requires sixteen security staff and one full time police officer. Plus the multi-degreed support staff. Not cheap.

    BUSD asking for a lawsuit instead of firing a counselor who the courts grant a restraining order against for harassing a female student.

    And of course the policy that changed (without voter approval) BHS into EBHS (East Bay High School).

    It goes on…The “hoary “devils” of waste, unions, contractors and administrators.” need to get in line behind the consultants and grant writers who’ve helped BHS administrators build big resumes, smaller schools and even smaller tests scores (but require more staff.)

    “…waste, unions, contractors and administrators.”?

    As I said “The “community” has no clue where to find the epic waste…If we did, we’d be whistle blowing our brains out.” We don’t have the access. Let’s commision an outside audit and find out. That would be the best bargain us under-served taxpayers will ever get.

    Unions exists to promote the fortunes of their members. Members of a union doing its job are as numerous and highly paid (including the best benefits) as possible. The unions active in BUSD are doing a superb job. But none of that has anything to do with educating our kids. In this job market, total compensation and benefits of $86K seems high for a four year degree. If a teacher has a more marketable degree, they’ve made their trade offs (three month vacations, etc.)

    Contractors live and breath client “relationships”. Being a big budget government agency; If BUSD isn’t being bilked big time somewhere, it’s first time in human history.

    Finally you say: “…”In my kids’ schools I have seen many talented caring people, from the custodians to the teachers to the after-school staff to the principal.” Considering their workload and what they’re being paid, I should hope so. It’s also know as ‘doing their job’.

    In the school my kids attend, BHS, I see an unbelievable level of disorganization. Trying to resolve your kid’s issues begins with: a) days of unanswered voice mails and emails. b) when you finally do make contact, whoever responds isn’t the right person and doesn’t know who to refer you to, or c) isn’t the right person, but does refer you to someone else, d) repeat step a., e) when you finally make contact with the “right” person, their often empathetic but tell they can’t make that decision, only the principal or vice principal can. And you begin again. After awhile most give up.

  3. Prek-Parent, I don’t dispute that BUSD has the highest achievement gap in the state, however, I would like to compare statistics for demographically similar schools. Also, I suggest you read up a bit more on the so-called achievement gap, because one thing that folks often don’t understand or don’t mention is that, in fact minority students’ scores have improved from 2000-2009 as have white students’, so the gap may be maintained, but minority kids in general, at least according to nationally gathered statistics, are making progress (my source:
    http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh090110.shtml#DATA
    ). In other words, minorities and whites are both making progress, so this problem may never be entirely solved and it is not as dire as it is portrayed. In my mind the “achievement gap” is much misunderstood and should not be used as a “trump all” card in the discussion.

  4. How about they close the Berkeley Adult School, except for the GED classes. That’s about $3mm is savings right there. Why are we cheating our kids so people can take photography or Excel classes. Isn’t that the role of the community college program?

  5. I know of one class at an elementary school where easily 1/3
    of the kids don’t live in Berkeley, have no connection to Berkeley and faked
    addresses in Berkeley to get admission into the coveted English Speaker side of
    the TWI program.

    I asked the Admissions Office how to rat out an out of district student. There is no punishment for getting caught, so if you’re a cheater parent, go right ahead.
    Here’s the reply:

    from Admissions
    Office admissions@berkeley.k12.ca.us

    to REDACTED

    date Mon, Jan 7,
    2008 at 11:40 AM

    subject Re: Out of
    District Student

    mailed-by
    berkeley.k12.ca.us

    hide
    details 1/7/08

    Hello,

    If you would like to report the student you can give us the
    name of the

    student and your reason for believing that they do not live
    in Berkeley.

    We will investigate but we are not able to keep you informed
    of the

    results of the investigation. Please be aware that we cannot use

    anonymous information regarding out of Berkeley addresses
    and that if the

    student is found to be living outside of Berkeley they will
    not be asked

    to leave unless they are having problems with grades,
    attendance or

    behavior.

    Thank you,

    Admissions

    Admissions Office

    Berkeley Unified School District

    1835 Allston Way

    Berkeley CA 94703

  6. Your assumptions that I do not question the football stadium redevelopment costs is inaccurate.

    What I wrote about was this week’s board packet QUESTIONABLE expenses. I also alluded to whether it was cultural competency or indoctrination programming. There are real distinctions by the way. Berkeley has a unique capacity to twist competency into political leveraging, as you are attempting to do.

    I am solely interested in EVIDENCED based programming that puts all kids in a position of educational opportunities and does so in a fiscally responsible manner promoting economic diversity for homeowners invested in this community’s sustainability, and spends the $$$ in classroom first.

    And as for the usual Berkeley race baiting that paints whites as generic, privileged, affluent , college educated etc. Please drop it.

    It is well known the UIA/PCAD/BOCA have the most power in BUSD for years. And in doing so, wasted huge resources and critical time dismantling an excellent start towards multi-agency supportive services, BIRI. The focus on early childhood programming was delayed because of UIA had to politically redo BIRI and call it 2020. 6 years and how much $$$ wasted.

    Don’t get me started, Berkeley politics pits communities against each other, so that no one benefits.

    Until you walk in my shoes, you don’t know about the discrimination my family experienced as tax paying residents. And what sacrifices I made to save them from further harm. Have you home school your kid because that was the only solution BUSD offered?

    Did you hear at the same board meeting preschool parents fought for their program that Independent Studies was being drastically cut. Teens who are being harassed at BHS are often sent to Independent studies. Is that fair?

  7. I can’t speak to all of this, but I would guess that people are angry about out-of-district students because BUSD keeps asking for more and more funding in the way of parcel taxes, which are something that the families of out-of-district students do not pay for. I would also guess that people are angry about “cultural competency” because the money spent on it seems to be going down the toilet since there seems to be absolutely no improvement as a result of it.

    It’s also unfair to say that people aren’t angry about the dropping of the pre-K after school programs. There was a lot of outrage about that issue, but unfortunately nothing changed.

    I don’t know why people aren’t angry about the baseball fields. Personally I think sports should be cut entirely from public school, and that if students want to play competitive sports they can join inter-mural teams. But most Americans love sports too much for that to ever happen.

  8. Admin salaries are worth looking at. But I am amazed that everyone is so up in arms about the fact that some relative handful of students may not be from the district. Never mind that we still get ADA funds for them. And people are up in arms about the relative pennies spent on cultural competency, never mind that we have the highest racial achievement gap in the state and this is a pathetic expenditure of funds toward addressing it compared to what it would actually take to put a dent in it. However no one is up in arms that we are building Baseball fields in the midst of all this. No one is up in arms that at the same time that we can’t find money to float the remaining extended day 3 hours of care for four pre-K classrooms we do have twenty times the amount of money that would take to pay architects and such to plan and work toward actually expanding the number of Pre-K classrooms. These contradictions are why some of those insults described below emerge. When you ignore the major budget items and focus on the most vulnerable populations to complain about budget problems you seem opportunistic, racist and classist. Because you are blaming the poorest, often families of color who have the least power in the system when those getting the biggest free lunch, often affluent, often white get none of your serious attention.

  9. lifelongberkeleyan:
    Your post is full of unsubstantiated allegations. The school district budget is posted online at http://www.berkeley.net/business-services/
    The current year budget is the one that says Second Interim 2010-11.
    The previous years actual spending are the links “Unaudited Actuals 2009-10” etc

    Please take a look. Something like 85-90% of the budget is employee compensation. The average teacher total compensation is $86,000 (that includes health care, the district’s part of there pension (and by the way the cost is shared with the employee, etc).

    The district office does not include “so many layers of administrators”. There is a Sperintendent, 3 assistants superintendents (HR, Finance, Instruction), and on the instructional side just a Director of Curriculum, of Special Ed, of Evaluation, and of Student Services. All this can be gleaned from the website.

    In my kids’ schools I have seen many talented caring people, from the custodians to the teachers to the after-school staff to the principal.

    I urge you to take the time to volunteer in the schools (the Berkeley Public Education foundation at bpef-online.org trains and organizes volunteers) and then you will have a better basis to make your criticisms, rather than blaming the hoary “devils” of waste, unions, contractors and administrators.

    The state of California is being held hostage by Republican legislators who evoke those four “devils” and refuse to pay for education for all Californians. The end result will be a generation of citizens who will be ill-eqipped to work in California businesses, which will lead our business to go elsewhere, thus creating more havoc.

  10. We live in the proverbial Age of Information, but the BUSD continues to stonewall the media by refusing to divulge the salary and other compensation figures of its employees so that we, the taxpaying public, can reach better informed conclusions about how are tax funds are being doled out.
    http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_17916681?source=rss

    Four years after the California Supreme Court ruled that the pay of government employees is public record, some cities, school boards and special districts still make it difficult to obtain and display data showing how much taxpayer money they spend on workers. […] In Alameda County, the Berkeley Unified and Oakland Unified school districts have yet to comply with multiple requests.

  11. “…The district will be holding three budget workshops to gather community input…”

    What a cruel sense of humor the district must have.

    The “community” has no clue where to find the epic waste among the so called “competitive” salaries, staffing redundancy, private crusades, perks, sweetheart deals, sole provider contracts and consulting costs which make $120M plus parcel taxes not quite enough. If we did, we’d be whistle blowing our brains out.

    No, those costs are embedded under so many layers of administrative policy and program design, BUSD considers them ‘routine.’

    The “budget workshops to gather community input” are really just an opportunity for us to blow off steam, while the admin staff explains how our cup is still more than half full (even though the one thing we saw as important – science labs, athletics, after care etc. – has got to go.)

    I won’t buy their ‘sky is falling’ act. I’d rather hold BUSD’s feet to fire; Purge the residency frauds, bounce the felons and their expensive oversight and get an outside efficiency audit of the whole operation, vendors, contractors, consultants, labor policies, everything.

    The powers that be have had this $120M sweet thing a long. They aren’t giving it up because someone raises their hand in a workshop.

  12. I have quantified the Berkeley Board meeting data and determined that there are 4 “OD’s” — likely meaning Out of District this school year. There isn’t any expulsion data to determine when they were booted in the first place, so I don’t know what that means at the moment. And, I could be totally wrong about what OD means, but I don’t think so. Seems like the district only started this OD coding this year.

  13. State+local revenue is larger now, in per capita constant dollars, is significantly larger now than pre-prop-13.

    The problem is not taxes, it’s spending. More taxes won’t fix that.

  14. This was pretty much my fear…affirmative action and white guilt taken to ridiculous extremes. lauramenard’s evidence makes it sound so egregious that they go out of their way to protect people that are not only are out of district but known to be violent.

  15. This was pretty much my fear…affirmative action and white guilt taken to ridiculous extremes. lauramenard’s evidence makes it sound so egregious that they go out of their way to protect people that are not only are out of district but known to be violent.

  16. Deciphering the expulsion codes in the board packet appears to suggest that several students were likely out of district, there is an OD added to their ID #. In the past two years several were recommended as readmit. This is troubling, since any of the offenses that would require an expulsion hearing are clearly violations of the BUSD inter-district policy.

  17. Could anyone in the know confirm that students are every actually expelled for illegal enrollment from the BUSD, including those inplicated in formenting violence on or near school grounds?

    BTW, your analysis is masterful and spot on!

  18. If you complain about it, you’re either

    a) a racist, because you secretly want only AA students expelled
    b) a classist, because you secretly want only poorer students expelled
    c) an elitist, because you secretly want “high risk” (probation, homeless, previously expelled) students expelled, even though that’s not an outcome of better enforcement
    c) a fool, because you want the school to lose out on the generous charitable contributions that Oakland hill dwellers supposedly shower on BUSD in expiation for their sins
    d) a scab, because reduced enrollments could result in fewer jobs in BUSD
    e) a dolt, because some of the “best” students/athletes/musicians don’t live here.

    That’s the litany of insults. For my part, I’d like robust residency checks — Piedmont and Albany are the models — applied across the board. At this point, I think we have to join SF and Fremont in adding tip lines so citizens can report abuses. We also need an amnesty period like the one in Albany, so people can exit in an orderly way by disclosing their status and finishing out the year.

    I’d like this applied across the board — black, white, rich, poor, smart, dumb. If you live here, go to school and make the most of it. If you live somewhere else, either enroll there and devote your energies to making that place better; or move to Berkeley.

    Interestingly, I have recently learned that some of the supposedly “engaged” affluent white families won’t put pressure on BUSD over the security problems because they’re afraid that by raising their profile, their illegal enrollment will become known and their child expelled.

  19. The wages for college-educated professionals vary greatly from state to state for a variety of reasons. I got my data from a report commissioned by the state. It includes an excellent explanation of the use of the wage index.

  20. BUSD is a growing district, which brings more money from grants and more jobs. The high enrollment at Berkeley High is probably needed for economies-of-scales reasons to run the six small learning communities effectively, especially the newest ones BIHS and Green Academy. Of course, the high enrollment makes for a very crowded high school facility, and the parcel tax money would probably go further with lower enrollment (i.e., unlike ADA, that income is not based on student population). So yes, it’s a mixed bag, but my guess on the main reason no one wants to talk about “illegal” enrollment is money and jobs. I’ve also heard that it is feared that a crackdown would land more heavily on students of color, though that notion is contrary to anecdotal observations that most non-Berkeley resident students come from affluent white families (who often do contribute more money to BPEF and BHSDG).

  21. I’m not disagreeing with you, but why would comparable wage matter? I know we need to pay our teachers a little more than they get paid in cheaper States (or at least we should), but other than that what are some reasons why educating a student in California should cost more than educating a student in Oregon?

    Personally I think that the way we spend money on education is more of a problem than how much we spend on it, but I’m really curious about what you’re saying.

  22. K-12 is nowhere near 50% of the California budget; as proposed, it would be just under 30%. Even if you throw in higher education you only get to 38%

    After applying a comparable wage index, California’s per pupil spending is 14% below the national average; even without indexing, CA still spends 5.7% less than the national average. California may be spending too much on certain things, but I would argue that education is not one of them.

  23. Our son started kindergarten in BUSD this year although I’ve lived in Berkeley a long time. Can an old timer explain why administrators aren’t willing to talk about this? It seems obvious to me and I know other districts like Albany are very aggressive about confirming residency.

  24. Let’s beef up the registration requirements so illegal enrollment becomes as hard as it is surrounding communities. I pay those parcel taxes for Berkeley residents, not for Oakland/Richmond residents who’ve figured out how to game the Berkeley system.

  25. Amen to that! The administrator-to-teacher ratio is way out of whack. They need to cut from the top, get rid of nonessential positions, and focus more on teaching kids the basics in the lower levels so that they don’t have to do so much damn remedial work when they get to Middle & High School.

  26. Well, the real problem is that Prop 13 applies to business properties.

    It was sold to voters as “keeping grandma in her home” and many voted in favor of it without realizing that it would also apply to business properties.

    Voters will never approve totally getting rid of Prop 13, but I think they could be convinced to vote to change the way it works. What we need is for some brave legislators to propose changing Prop 13 so that it no longer applies to businesses, and then for enthusiastic citizens who are passionate about politics to get the word out about how important the change will be.

  27. Why does this week’s board packet include several new positions for approval. These new positions are poorly defined, some under the guise of Culturally Competent staff training. Teachers can access CLAD certificate online, maybe the district should provide its unique indoctrination programming online instead of hiring more staff as consultants with a job descriptions soft on deliverables.

  28. Doesn’t K-12 educational already take up something like 50% of the California state budget? And property taxes in Berkeley are sky high.

    There will be less money in lean years and more money in flush years. All public institutions will have less to work with in 2011.

  29. I think at this point the district needs to just start firming up its plans to cut staff and find ways to plug the deficit. Even if the governor manages to get this on the ballot, does anyone seriously think that California voters will pass it?

    Let’s talk about the real problem here: Proposition 13. The voters caused this mess (through that proposition and all the others) and they’re not going to get us out of this mess.