San Luis Coastal faces some painful cuts

Expecting the largest budget shortfall in 10 years, San Luis Coastal school leaders will consider more than $9.8 million in cuts Tuesday night.

Proposed cuts could result in at least 15 fewer teachers and larger class sizes, and could mean that new equipment and textbook purchases would be put off.

The district must cut 12 percent from its $74 million budget. The school board is expected to make a final decision by June 15.

Superintendent Ed Valentine is recommending a step-by-step approach to the cuts, which would be made as needed after Sacramento lawmakers approve a state budget, possibly during the summer.

Valentine said that the cuts would not result in layoffs of permanent staff — a goal of the school board. The 15 positions proposed to be eliminated would be those of employees who are retiring.

“Our goal is to continue the district’s mission of educating students with an emphasis on closing the achievement gap while sustaining the workforce that delivers that mission to the extent possible,” Valentine said. “We also need to maintain sufficient reserves to adjust to future difficult times.”

The most noticeable effect to students and parents would be larger class sizes, he said.

Primary classrooms could increase, on average, to 23 pupils per class, and high school classes could have up to 32 students from the current 31.

Class sizes are growing in most school districts countywide.

Last week, Paso Robles Public Schools announced that its kindergarten-to-third-grade classes could have up to 30 students in the next academic year.

Valentine said that the decision not to replace retirees is a maneuver to prevent eliminating jobs of current employees.

San Luis Coastal’s expected shortfall includes a $3.4 million deficit that would carry over to the next school year and $1.5 million in one-time federal bailout money that the district won’t receive next year.

District leaders also expect $2.5 million less funding from the state in the next year, while program costs are projected to rise $1.8 million.

The district, which has 6,900 students, is the third largest in the county, with nine elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools.

In March, the school board did not renew 70 temporary contracts, mostly held by teachers. Valentine said the goal is to hire back as many of these employees as possible.

More than 100 people helped draft the budget cut recommendations — including teachers, parents, advocates for Spanish-speaking students, non-teaching employees and management.