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Local schools feel effects of sequester, issue pink slips to classified staff

At their Thursday, April 4 meeting, the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education approved a resolution to issue pink slips to 5 classified employees who, come June 14, may not have jobs.

“It is with a sad heart that I bring forth this resolution,” said Kevin Ward, assistant superintendent of human services, emphasizing that the district’s recommendation stems from continuing financial uncertainty.

The positions that stand to be eliminated include 2 adult school aides, 2 computer instructional assistants, one from Condit Elementary School and one from Mountain View, and a paraeducator (formerly classified as an educational assistant) at Condit. Should these employees be laid-off, they will be eligible for reemployment for a period of 39 months, with their reemployment taking precedence over new applicants.

The passage of Prop 30—for which CUSD classified employees notably campaigned, according to Rosie Bister, president of the Claremont chapter of the California School Employees Association (CSEA)—has helped to forestall further pink slips for CUSD teachers. The salaries for classified personnel, however, come from a different source: categorical funding.

According to the EdSource website, “generally, categorical aid is meant to provide services for students with special needs, to improve instruction and curriculum, or to support social and health programs.” Categorical funding, which comes from the federal government, is awarded directly to districts per qualifying student or through grants or reimbursements.

The district has tried to protect as many classified personnel as possible in recent years, but employee costs like healthcare have steadily grown while categorical funding has remained flat, Mr. Ward noted.

The problem of shrinking funding reached a tipping point with the March 1 enactment of across-the-board cuts to federal funding known as sequestration. In the coming year, these cuts will amount to some $85 million slashed through the end of September.

While the 2013-2014 budget has not yet been finalized, it is estimated that US schools will shoulder 6 percent of these cuts. For Claremont schools, this adds up to some $134,000 per year, according to CUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Lisa Shoemaker.

Education has been granted a short grace period; the first of these cuts will go into effect in July 1, 2013, the start of the new fiscal year. The areas affected include Title I, Title II and Title III programs as well as funding for programs related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

As an example of the local impact of sequestration, CUSD regularly uses Title I funding, which is aimed at supporting academic success for socio-economically disadvantaged students, to pay for additional classroom aids.

Ms. Bister took to appeal for the continued employment of classified staff.

“When you hear ‘reduction in force’ it hurts to the core,” Ms. Bister. “We truly ask that [the district] reconsider and that, if it does happen, we can look at any way these jobs can come back.”

A full report on Thursday night's school board meeting will appear in the Friday, April 12 edition of the COURIER.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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