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February 28, 2012 > New Haven Unified School Board update

New Haven Unified School Board update

Submitted By Rick La Plante

The Board of Education on Tuesday night called for a measure to be placed on the June 5 ballot that would raise approximately $3 million to help offset the ongoing cuts being forced on the District as the state continues to reduce support for public education.

"To support high-quality local elementary, middle and high school education to prepare students for college and careers with outstanding core academic programs in reading, writing, math and science and highly qualified teachers and classified staff," voters will be asked to approve a parcel tax of $180 per year. Exemptions would be available for senior citizens and the disabled, a citizens' oversight committee would review spending, and no money from the tax could be used to pay administrators' salaries. All funds would stay in local schools, and the measure - which requires a two-thirds majority to pass - would expire after four years.

The need for new revenue was highlighted later in the evening when Chief Business Officer Akur Varadarajan offered an update on the fiscal status of the District. With the state having proven to be an unreliable financial partner during the past four years, the District has been forced to reduce its annual budget by more than $15 million, forcing increases in class sizes, reductions to the instructional year, the elimination of transportation and the dozens of layoffs.

More cuts will be necessary for the 2012-13 school year, regardless of whether Gov. Brown's proposed revenue measure passes in November, Mr. Varadarajan said, making it even more important for the District to raise revenues locally. Pending negotiations with the New Haven Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association, the District may be forced to adopt a total of nine non-student, budget-cut days in 2012-13, increase class-size ratios to 30:1 in kindergarten, first and second grades, and reduce elementary specialists and middle school electives.

Despite the financial hardships, the District is making progress in improving student achievement, Chief Academic Officer Wendy Gudalewicz noted in an update on action plans implemented by the Division of Teaching & Learning.

Most exciting, as the District strives to close the achievement gap, English Language Learners at all grade levels are outpacing their fellow students in meeting growth targets in reading. Meanwhile, 95 percent of House 3 students receiving intervention at James Logan High School no longer are earning Ds or Fs, along with 84 percent of House 2 students and 74 percent of House 1 students. And, District-wide, expulsions are down for a seventh consecutive year, from 103 in the first semester in 2005-06 to just seven in the first semester this year.

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