CONCORD — Nearly $20 million in stimulus money is unlikely to prevent the Mt. Diablo school district from sending final layoff notices to more than 400 teachers.
"We're happy to get the federal funds, of course," Interim Superintendent Dick Nicoll said Monday. "We just know it's not a panacea for the long-term funding gap in California public education."
Trustees on Tuesday will consider sending final layoff notices to about 413 teachers and librarians, 10 vice principals and two psychologists, based on the proposed decision of an administrative law judge who heard seniority and credential disputes last month. Because of state funding reductions, the district sent out more than 600 preliminary pink slips in March. Final notices will be mailed by Thursday.
The district has recently learned it will receive nearly $9 million in stabilization funds, in addition to almost $11 million in federal stimulus money for special education and low-income Title 1 schools. But Nicoll said the district must follow through with layoff notices, because it may need to use the one-time stimulus money to fill gaps that could emerge if state propositions and the Measure D parcel tax do not pass.
Even if the May 19 state ballot measures are successful, Nicoll said the state is predicting it could have an $8 billion deficit, which would mean more education cuts in June. Teachers were hoping the stimulus money would prompt the district to rescind some of the layoffs.
"We can't tell the district what to do with that money," said Mark York, executive director of the Mt. Diablo Education Association teachers' union. "But, President Obama has said very clearly that he expects that the money that comes to the states for education is going to be used to preserve positions at least in the short term and hopefully the economy is going to turn around. The most important relationship that exists in teaching is the relationship between the teacher and the student. Any time we cut back on the number of teachers, that hurts students."
The district did rescind a few layoff notices for teachers who had acquired enough seniority that their jobs were not in jeopardy, Nicoll said. Rebecca Machado, who teaches seventh-grade English and social studies at El Dorado Middle School in Concord, was one of the lucky teachers, with five years of experience.
"It was bittersweet," Machado said. "On one hand, I felt relieved that my job was safe. But on the other hand, I was still feeling like I had to fight for the people who are still pink-slipped."