Close call for electives

School trustees’ wish came true last week, as the passage of Propositions 57 and 58 meant they won’t have to cut as much from the budget as they had feared.

That meant a reprieve for junior-high elective classes, as the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees decided March 3 to forgo sending layoff notices to teachers, instead noticing only a grant-funded psychologist.

“The smart move is not to send preliminary notices,” said Brown, in a shift from his earlier urgings that the board should cover its bases.

But Brown also warned, “School districts in California are not out of the woods yet.”

The money freed up by the $15 billion bond, he said, “simply fills the holes of ‘03-'04. It consolidates debt. It doesn’t provide particular relief for ‘04-'05.” Brown also pointed out that cities and counties could still lobby for some of the schools’ share of the new money.

The CUSD will still have to cut $1.2 million from next year’s numbers by June, before it even sees the state’s final budget. But at least, Brown said, there will be no mid-year take-backs as there were the last two years.

The board majority had asked district staff to explore other ways of balancing the budget, holding out hope that the propositions would pass and help fill the gap.

The board will soon set dates for a series of three budget “study sessions” in which the public is welcome to participate.

Other items still under consideration for cuts include counselors, year-round education, athletics and health aides. School closures will not be considered until the 2005-06 academic year.