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MBUSD School Board Gives Official Approval to Layoffs for 2020/21

May 30, 2020 08:48AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The Manhattan Beach Unified School District on Friday gave its final approval to a round of layoffs for the 2020/21 school year. Altogether, 30 full- and part-time employees will be affected, across all levels and subject areas.

The layoffs are part of $3.6 million in budget cuts that the district needed to make due to budget shortfalls for the coming year.

"This is a tough day," said MBUSD Superintendent Mike Matthews. "I guarantee you there is not a single person on this panel or anywhere else who believes that these people aren’t a viable excellent and outstanding part of our school system. Most of us knew this pain when it started so it's been hurting us for a long time."

However, those layoffs might not be the end of the story. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, MBUSD is potentially facing another $3.3 million shortfall in the coming year. The school district is faced with the task of planning out a budget by the end of June to fill in those numbers - without even knowing for sure that those will be the final numbers.

Layoffs Finalized

Friday's action was to adopt a decision by a state administrative law judge, the last step in the state-required set of actions that can be taken before laying off employees.

Under California's education code, employees are subject to layoffs based on seniority, with additional "points" granted for credentials or special degrees or certifications.

The law requires that the school district hold a hearing before an administrative law judge to ensure that the layoffs are being distributed fairly according to education code. 

That hearing was held on May 15, and the results of the hearing came back to the district this week.

The board heard a variety of comments at the outset of the meeting showing support for those employees were on the list. 

Nevertheless, board members were unanimous in agreeing that their hands were tied as far as what they needed to do to make the budget whole for the coming year.

Board President Jennifer Cochran noted that other districts are all facing similar challenges right now. With the added challenge of COVID-19, she said, "Nobody knows what to plan for, and it is really, really frustrating."

"Every single one of us agrees with the public comments," said board member Jen Fenton. "It’s heart breaking to have this meeting, but it’s were we are. I hate it and it’s gut-wrenching. We all want to cry about this - this is not where we want to be."

MBUSD Structural Funding Problems

MBUSD has long been caught in a structural funding trap. The district is one of the lowest-funded in the state, based on property tax calculations made through Prop. 13 in the 1970s. Additionally, it receives the second lowest amount of funding in L.A. County through California's Local Control Funding Formula, which provides supplemental dollars for students who are English language learners, foster youth, or free and reduced lunch recipients. 

District officials have warned about upcoming budget problems, although no one could have foreseen the additional challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent recession.

Over the past five years, the district has reduced expenditures by over $2 million in professional development, instructional materials, technology, and other departments.

The Manhattan Beach Education Foundation's Manhattan Wine Auction is being held virtually tonight. This year's paddle raise will focus on "raising additional funding to support educators in our classrooms districtwide."

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