School districts across the state are sending so-called “March 15” letters to their certificated employees (i.e. teachers, nurses) informing them that the state budget crisis may necessitate layoffs.

The letters are required by the state education code to be sent on or before that date. The code also mandates that districts send out similar letters to classified employees (clerks, janitors etc.) 45 days prior to any expected layoff action, unless something else has been agreed upon in collective bargaining.

In the budget he submitted to the state legislature in January, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed keeping the funding of K-12 schools at its current level while reducing spending at the higher education levels–$1.1 billion for the UC/CSU systems and $400 million in unallocated reductions for community colleges. Additionally, the budget includes a $10-per-unit fee increase for students at public, two-year colleges, which increases the tuition cost to $36 per unit.

According to the governor’s proposal, this will generate $110 million in revenue.

While the proposed K-12 allocation for the 2011-12 fiscal year remains the same as the 2010-11, a spokesperson for the California School Boards Association (CSBA) pointed out that there are additional funding deferrals totaling $9.4 billion, plus the federal stimulus money schools had been able to take advantage of for the last couple of years is now gone. The elimination of a total of $7.1 billion in one-time fed funds–which was allocated in two rounds–on top of $18 billion in cuts and deferrals that school districts have taken from the state in the last two years, leaves them facing deficits that may necessitate additional cuts in personnel and programs.

Additionally, according to Debra Brown, a legislative advocate with the CSBA, schools are not receiving cost-of-living increases in the proposed 2011-12 budget, which is in essence a cut, as prices for fuel and other items continue to increase.

The CSBA’s Brown also notes that the governor’s proposal presupposes that voters will approve the retention of a number of taxes that were enacted to help balance prior-year budgets. If this assumption proves false, she said schools would lose $2.3 billion immediately, and then have to figure out how to cut about an additional $10 billion from their budgets.

California residents are expected to get the opportunity to vote on the tax extensions during a special June election.

That scenario is behind the issuance of the March 15 letters.

Locally, school district boards have voted to send out potential layoff letters to meet their expected budget shortfalls because of state economic woes.

* The Los Angeles Unified School District sent out 7,302 notices to certificated employees. These included teachers, counselors, and administrators.

* Inglewood Unified School District Board of Education approved sending out letters to about 350 full-time equivalent (FTE) certificated personnel in a series of meetings.

* Compton Unified School District is proposing to cut about 200 full-time equivalent FTE positions, including eliminating its entire adult education program, which is 126 FTEs.

* The Los Angeles Community College District sent layoff notices to about 200 certificated personnel, while classified employees may receive notices 45-60 days before any proposed action depending on what was negotiated with their union.

* In the Antelope Valley, Palmdale School District (PSD) has sent out 125 notices to certified and classified employees. However, Superintendent Roger Gallizzi hopes things will change.

“We don’t know how this will impact the district, but we are planning on the worse-case scenario that the bill does not pass,” he said. “If it does not pass, all assistant principals will be laid off as well as intervention teachers.”

Gallizzi also commented that if the state decides to work with the education department, PSD is prepared to make the necessary modifications, but keep all teachers.

* The Antelope Union Valley High School District sent at 100 notices to certificated and classified employees, but in its board resolution identified only 65 positions for layoff. If cuts have to be made, officials say, administrators such as principals may be bumped down to assistants or even teachers.