The Burbank Unified School District kicked off an awareness campaign on Saturday, April 27, about current budget cuts the District faces. Volunteers showed up at Burbank High School in the morning to pick up stacks of informational flyers, with the goal to deliver one to every household in Burbank.
Most flyers were handed out or left at residences throughout the city last weekend, with the rest of the flyers being distributed this coming weekend, May 4-5.
BUSD faces a 3.5 million dollar structural deficit for the 2019-20 school year. Officials have been working to address the problem for the upcoming budget, which meant eliminating and reducing a few positions, along with other cuts.
“We are not receiving enough revenue to cover rising costs (utilities, retirement, healthcare),” Burbank Unified Superintendent Matt Hill explained. “Also, we were not collecting enough fees to cover the rising cost of Horace Mann (part of our budget balancing solution is to raise fees at Horace Mann.)”
This structural deficit looks to continue indefinitely.
“It is going to increase as we try to keep up with Cost of Living increases and the State is pushing more pension costs down on us,” continued Hill. “We are forecasting that we will need to cut $2-3 million per year if we want to give any sort of Cost of Living Adjustment to our employees.”
Burbank Unified’s budget awareness campaign aims to explain this situation to City and community stakeholders. People can learn about California’s education system and how its schools are funded at this link.
Despite having the fifth-largest economy in the world, California ranks in the bottom 10 states for per pupil funding. The California School Boards Association has set up a website at this link for more information on ways California could increase per pupil funding.
After adjusting for inflation, public schools in California are receiving the same amount of funds per student that they were getting in 2008 before the recession.
Burbank Unified officials have been advocating for increased State funding for education.
“We have been meeting with elected officials to discuss our needs,” said Hill. “We will also join the California School Board Association and California Teacher Association when they meet with elected officials in Sacramento and have a joint rally on May 22.”
While every Burbank public school has received a California Distinguished School award, the rising costs are forcing the District to make cuts in order to comply with the directive for a balanced budget. Concern is mounting over the effect these cuts will have on the quality of Burbank public school education.
Burbank Unified officials note that one-time funds are not a fix for their ongoing budget problems. They see a parcel tax measure as the only way to get needed ongoing funds for the Burbank school district.
From the BUSD budget awareness flyer: “While the State of California continues to look for ways to get more money to schools that will get us to 2019 levels, the only way the school district can get needed ongoing funds is through a local measure for neighborhood schools. The City of Burbank is a supportive partner to the Burbank Unified School District. However, our schools are not funded by the City of Burbank. We do not receive any of the sales tax revenue the city collects. 100% of the funds collected through a local measure would go directly to the Burbank Unified School District. These funds will significantly reduce the burden to the school district and allow BUSD to keep providing equity and excellence for our students.”
School officials are currently polling the community and school stakeholders via phone call and email about the idea of another parcel tax measure for the 2020 ballot. The most recent parcel tax, Measure QS, narrowly failed to pass the required 2/3 approval.
Hill encourages people to contact him with questions at MattHill@BurbankUSD.org.
Whether the 2019-20 State budget will boost spending per pupil in public schools is not yet clear.
The Governor releases his revisions to the State budget on May 10 and then the California State Legislature has until June 15 to submit a final budget to the Governor.
People may wish to contact their State representatives Anthony Portantino, Laura Friedman and Robert Hertzberg, in addition to Governor Gavin Newsom, to advocate for increased per pupil funding for public schools.
More information on California’s public education spending can be found on this webpage authored by the California Budget and Policy Center.
More information on the Burbank Unified School District budget can be found here.