Education

Modesto City Schools to cut teacher jobs, but no layoffs expected

Modesto City Schools went through the motions of laying off three elementary teachers and cutting a popular high school program for students hoping to be the first in their families to go to college, but most were simply funding changes, district officials said.

On Monday night, the board unanimously approved cutting the equivalent of 12 teaching jobs for next year after staff explained special funding for those positions was going to end. Associate Superintendent Craig Rydquist said retirements and other attrition opened other teaching positions for those affected.

State law requires school districts to inform individual teachers by March 15 if they could lose their jobs the following year. The rule applies even if different jobs will be opening, as is expected here.

Wright Elementary in the airport district will lose three elementary teachers as a special program to reduce class size at low-income schools ends. Robertson Road Elementary in west Modesto will lose two teacher instructional coaches as its three-year grant for low-performing schools ends.

Also cut were one French class and a sports medicine class that did not have enough students. The program for first-generation college-goers will remain but be funded out of a different area, Rydquist said.

The loss of those extra program funds, plus salary increases granted this year, will cause the district to take $25 million from reserves to get through this school year, according to a budget update heard by the board. Increased revenue over the next two years should fill that funding gap for 2015-16 and give the district an $8 million surplus the next year, according to the report.

Under the state’s new funding formula, Modesto schools will receive about $28 million more this year than last, Chief Financial Officer Julie Betschart told the board.

The district’s spending priorities need to reflect community input under the state’s new funding formula, which gives Modesto City Schools additional money for the high number of poor students, foster children and English learners it serves.

That funding is tied to the number of students attending district schools. Next year the district expects to have 152 fewer young students. It lost 126 this year. High school counts are rising, but not by as much. Total district enrollment is about 28,000 students.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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