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Manteca schools cut $31M in 2009

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POSTED January 4, 2010 1:17 a.m.

Financially, 2009 was a tough year for school districts throughout California.

Needing to trim an estimated $31 million from its budget, Manteca Unified reduced services, staff, programs, and employee compensation.

The district had hoped to make the cuts as far away from the classroom. But to no avail.

Manteca Unified eliminated Class Size Reduction for kindergarten- through third-grade students, and freshmen English and math classes, in turn, leaving some educators concerned that such a move could hinder the academic development of those younger students down the road.

The district also cut back on staffing, reducing teachers by 19 percent (1,202 in 2008-09, to 1,103 in 2009-10), classified employees by 24 percent (797 to 641), supervisors by 24 percent (51 to 41) and administrators by 29 percent (89 to 69).

But thanks to unexpected growth at the start of the school year, Manteca Unified was able to reinstate several teachers who previously received pink slips.

Home-to-school transportation was another cost-cutting move.

Under the “no bus zone” – that’s the walking distance for students as established by the district (the radius of 1.25 miles from the campus for kindergarten- through eighth-grade students, and 2.5 miles for ninth- through 12th-grade students) – Manteca Unified cut back on its transportation services.

Included were 15 fewer bus routes and home-to-school transportation for some 1,700 general education students, with the district using 22 buses – 21 large and one small – to handle this service, according to Jason Osborn, director of transportation.

“Most of the stops that were eliminated were in town and of large capacity stops,” he recently said. “The remaining stops were generally in rural areas, serving single or small groups of homes.”

Furthermore, Manteca Unified did away with the school transportation service of First Student, handling the duties for those in special education in-house with the use of 21 small buses and one van.

The district, in addition, enticed those with years of service with early retirement incentives, closed the Sequoia Annex and Lathrop Annex, and moved those students to the main site of the respective campuses.

Manteca Unified also did some cost-cutting measures on energy use during the holidays, completely shutting down the administration building and each of the school sites.

Meanwhile, more financial cuts are expected down the road.

Jacqui Breitenbucher, the senior director of business service, recently said that the reductions by the State of California won’t be known until later this month.

“Education is 50 percent of the state budget,” she noted.

For now, the district showed the state that it can meet its financial obligations for the remainder of this fiscal year and subsequent two years.

Breitenbucher indicated that Manteca Unified is braced for double-digit declines for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years.

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