School District Avoids Pink Slips

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The Berkeley Unified School District did not distribute pink slips to its permanent classroom teachers for the upcoming school year, despite a projected $2.6 million cut to its budget.

By Monday, school districts across California had delivered pink slips to more than 20,000 teachers, but district spokesperson Mark Coplan said that Berkeley is able to keep all permanent teachers for the 2010-11 school year due to funding from a local parcel tax and federal stimulus leftovers.

"Not to lose any teachers is just a phenomenon," said Mark van Krieken, vice president of the Berkeley High School Parent Teacher Student Association. "No matter what else the district is doing, the biggest thing is the number of teachers you have."

The local parcel tax-approved by voters in 2006 under Measure A-brings in over $20 million per year in funding for the district, according to Coplan.

"We're very appreciative of it," said District Superintendent William Huyett. "To have that level of support in these hard times is a vital necessity."

The Berkeley Schools Excellence Program Planning and Oversight Committee manages the parcel tax funds, which go in part to fund a third of the district's teachers, according to Coplan.

Huyett said budget cuts are not as deep this year as they have been in the recent past.

The district received $8 million in federal stimulus money in 2008, according to Coplan, and decided to evenly divide the funds between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, which many other districts were unable to do.

Coplan added that the remaining $4 million in stimulus funds has largely contributed to the district's ability to retain its teachers.

Pink slips are given to teachers as a notification that their services may not be required for the next year, according to Karen Hemphill, president of the Berkeley Board of Education, who said pink slips may return after the stimulus money is used up next school year.

"Given the reductions we've already received from the state, the federal stimulus money that cushioned us from full impact of reductions will be gone, and we'll have no way of making that up," Hemphill said.

Coplan said the district does not feel that state legislators can be relied on for funding support.

"We can't let these setbacks affect how we serve our students here in Berkeley," he said. "We're going to have to continue without Sacramento's support."


Contact Hailey Parish at [email protected]

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