The Del Norte County Unified School District Board opted Thursday to lay off four part-time early childhood education assistants in the state preschool programs due to funding cuts.
This means fewer preschoolers will be enrolled at the preschools at Mary Peacock, Bess Maxwell, Joe Hamilton and Pine Grove Elementary Schools.
There have been 24 students in each preschool with a teacher and two early childhood education assistants. The district is mandated to staff preschools at a ratio of one adult to eight children.
With one less teaching assistant in each preschool, only 16 students can be enrolled with a teacher and assistant. There are six classes of morning or afternoon preschool classes at the four schools.
Entry to a state preschool program is based on the parents’ income and size of the household.
The district’s budget for state preschool has been cut by about $75,000 and it is looking to save close to that amount with the layoffs and not filling one vacant position.
Brooke Davis, the director of the state preschools in Del Norte, said the program was unexpectedly cut this school year by about $73,000, so the budget is currently in the red.
She recommended that enrollment in the preschools be decreased to a total of 96 students.
The majority of preschoolers are moving on to kindergarten, Davis said. Students who are enrolled and will still be in preschool next year will remain enrolled — no current preschooler will be displaced, she said.
If the funding is reinstated, more kids will be enrolled, she said.
This is the most significant budget cut the school district has dealt with in preparation for the 2012/2013 budget.
But the budget is built on the assumption the state will fund education at the same level as this year, Deputy Superintendent Rodney Jahn said Thursday. That will happen if Gov. Jerry Brown’s ballot measure to increase the sales tax and income tax (for some Californians), or a similar tax initiative, passes in November.
If neither passes, the district could be cut by about $441 per student, Jahn said. That’s about $1.4 million.
In addition, because the district is using the remainder of its reserves, it could face a deficit of about $2.5 million in the 2013/2014 fiscal year, he said.
Jahn presented a list of brainstorming ideas for potential cuts later this year if voters reject increasing taxes and the following year. They include:
• Furlough days: Five to 10 this coming school year and up to 15 next year (which the state is allowing).
• Eliminating the school resource officer.
• Increase class sizes
• Eliminate in-house suspension at Crescent Elk Middle School.
• Defer pay raises for employees.
• Eliminate some sports or teams.
• Lower graduation requirements.
• Cut music and PE.
• Reduce staff size.
The School Board is expected to pass its 2012/2013 budget June 21.