Story by Noah Kuhn
Associate News Editor
Photo by Oscar Walsh
South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) Superintendent Geoff Yantz is leading the district’s response to anticipated budget cuts to California’s education funding due to the economic downturn spurred by the coronavirus outbreak. Yantz is collaborating with other districts in Los Angeles County to collectively advocate for the schools in meetings with state representatives.
In an email sent out Wednesday, Apr. 15, School Board President Dr. Michele Kipke notified the community of the state’s plans to implement sizable reductions for school funding across California. These budget cuts are planned to affect both the 2019-2020 fiscal year and next year’s 2020-2021 budget. Further reductions will likely occur in August 2020 due to the state tax filing deadline.
“This is a rare and dramatic change in the budget development process for public education,” Kipke wrote. “Severe cuts to our state funding will present a very challenging road ahead for South Pasadena Unified, as well as all other school districts across California.”
The state government communicated with the Los Angeles County Office of Education who reached out to SPUSD three weeks ago about the impending budget cuts. Since then, the district has been in constant communication with the county office and other superintendents, who have joined together in advocacy with elected officials.
Yantz conversed with State Senator Anthony Portantino on Thursday, Apr. 16 and will be joining a group of superintendents next week to meet with state representatives responsible for providing recommendations on the California budget.
SPUSD has already dealt with a decline in state funding since 2012 and is funded in the bottom 10 percent of districts according to the Local Control Funding Formula. Thus, the district has already made adjustments to “stay solvent” with funds: reducing energy and water consumption, filming, more grants, local bonds measures, and sourcing 10 percent of its total budget locally using the South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF), Booster Club, and PTAs.
Still, the anticipated education budget cuts for the current and next fiscal year are unprecedented and will require SPUSD to further cut back on certain funds. District administrators will discuss and analyze the budget before the superintendent makes the final decisions to be passed by the school board. Community members may comment at School Board public hearings that will occur when adopting the district budget.
Yantz has emphasized the district’s commitment to prioritize students and staff when deciding what to cut.
“What we’re really trying to do is to find areas in the budget that won’t affect programs or people. That’s what our primary objective is. It just depends on how much the state decides to reduce our revenue.”
Local bonds like Measure SP, which can only be used to fund construction projects such as the SPHS gym renovation, will not be affected by the state budget cuts. Additionally, SPUSD’s meal program, which is federally funded, will remain unchanged.
Teacher and staff salaries, as well as class size and the school year, must be negotiated with the South Pasadena Teachers Union, so their future status is unknown. Elective classes and sports are always in jeopardy when discussing budget cuts because the district is not obligated to provide them, unlike core, academic classes.
“[We] try to make decisions that will have the least amount of impact on classrooms as possible,” Yantz said. “But ultimately everything that we do is about our educational program and supports the classrooms. Everything is connected in some way.”
SPUSD will continue to update the community and its employees on the budget amendment process. Yantz will send out an email next week about the district’s advocacy efforts, but much of the details will remain uncertain until state legislators pass the budget cuts in May.