Proposed FUSD Budget Reductions posted on the web

On Friday Fremont Unified School District posted a list of potential reductions here:  2008-2009 Proposed Budget Reductions. This list is being used to get feedback from everyone (teachers, staff, parents, community).  These will be discussed at the public forums. You can get more background on the process at

Looking at them it reminds me yet again how important it is we change the conversation from cuts to how to do the best for our students.

Budget Crisis Page / Potential Budget Cuts in Fremont

Budget Crisis 2008-09 Web Page

I have added a web page of resources to my site. It's a good starting point for finding more information about the state budget and it's impact on our Fremont schools. There's also a lot of good information in my blog post - A Coward's Budget.

Potential Budget Cuts in Fremont Schools

Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) has posted a web page on the potential budget cuts. Already the school board has increased class size in our Jr. and Sr. High Schools, and the district has implemented other mid-year cuts to save $5 million. But we still have over $4 million more to cut to meet the Governor's budget.  The Potential Fremont Budget Cuts Presentation is the best way to learn how the state budget has and potentially will impact our students.

Community Public Forum Meetings

FUSD is holding two public forums with the community to get input on the
potential budget cuts. The date/time/locations are:

Date: 4-21-08
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Centerville Jr. High School Gym

Date: 4-28-08
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Irvington High School Gym

Please attend! We all need to work together on this.

A Coward's Budget

I apologize for the dearth of blog postings lately. I've been very busy meeting with people and preparing for the election. I attended the excellent ABC's of Campaigning workshop that the League of Women Voters put on at the end of March. I also met with every school district labor organization (FUDTA, SEIA, CSEA, and FSMA). Communication is so critical to the success of a school district, and I work hard to keep the lines of communication open.

But what I want you to focus on is the severe budget cuts that the Governor proposed in January. This is truly ...

A Coward's Budget

Let me remind you the definition of a coward.

Coward - a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.

Governor Schwarzenegger made no attempt with his budget to set any priorities. He simply slashed spending across the board. Contrast his budget proposal with the one from the California Legislative Analyst's office (LAO). It contains much more targeted reductions that better reflect Californians' priorities. I encourage you to read it for yourself - LAO 2008 Budget Analysis: Alternative Budget Overview. If we were to adopt the LAO's proposed budget our schools would still face cuts in services, but would get $2 billion more than the Governor's budget.

Here are just some of the recommendations I've seen that would target cuts and generate revenue for our schools.
  • Roll back Prop 49 after school program spending saving almost $400 million. We lived without these programs in 2005-06 and can live without them again.
  • Suspend or reverse the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA), which settled the billions borrowed form schools in 2004-05 but only provided it to low performing schools. We can all live without this money in tough budget times. Suspending it for the 2008-09 year would save approximately $450 million.
  • Combine the state’s 43 categorical programs into fewer programs (as the Legislative Analyst recommends) freeing districts to spend the money most efficiently. (LAO 2008 Budget Analysis: K–12 Categorical Reform)
  • Last year schools were given an Art, music and PE discretionary funds. As important as these are, they are the easiest to give back to help avoid cuts in other areas.
  • Raise new state revenues through eliminating tax credits and/or raising taxes. For example, the Legislative Analyst estimates $1.3 billion in new revenue from reducing the child tax credit. I would gladly give back my child tax credit if I knew it was going to our schools.
Our schools can and will do there part to tighten our belts during these tough times. But our Governor has to try harder for our kids.

What can you do?

To start with you can write the Governor and your legislator. (Example letters can be found here.) Attend rally's being put on throughout the state.

In Fremont, I recently joined a group of concerned parents, teachers, and citizens that are trying to mobilize Fremont. The Fremont School Budget Task Force meets every Sunday and is looking to join with other groups though out the city. In addition to making sure our legislators understand the cost these cuts will have to our kids, we are just as focused on helping put better to the budget crisis. Email me to find out how to get involved.

I truly believe education is the bedrock of our society and our democracy. That’s why I have devoted so much of myself to public schools. And that's why we must stand up to this cowardly budget.

Other resources:

Other state budget-related items and links

  • WHY THIS YEAR IS DIFFERENT by Jean Ross (the executive director of the California Budget Project (CBP), a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research group based in Sacramento). I heard Ms. Ross speak at a town hall meeting put on by our Assemblyman Alberto Torrico in March. This is one of the best explanation I've seen of the budget mess we're in.
  • The Argus recently posted an interesting editorial entitled California schools can survive budget cuts. I don't completely agree with this editorial. Yes our schools may survive, but at what costs to students that only get one education. Still I am glad that they reference the Legislative Analyst's recommendations. They are very sensible.
  • For more Fremont-specific background refer to my posting from February. It is still mostly correct. I will post more as I learn about it.
  • Next week I am going to the 2008 EdSource Forum on California Education Policy where the subject will include budget and education reform.  This has been an informative conference in the past. I hope all our legislators pay close attention to the recommendations coming from this and other sources.
  • For those of you who like details, this Analysis of Governor's 2008-09 Budget does a good job of explaining how school funding is calculated and what funds the Governor's budget cuts.

Tri-City Beat: Meet Milt

The Argus Tri-City Beat blog has posted a nice little entry about Milt, the new interim superintendent of FUSD replacing Doug Gephart.

I think having a leader with strong instructional background is crucial, especially with the focus by the state and federal government on testing and accountability. It takes a lot of work and experience to meet the accountability requirements without losing sight of the students.

I first met Milt several years ago when he was principal at Washington High School. I was also on the board when we hired him into his previous role as Assistant Superintendent of Instruction. He was a great choice then and is a great interim choice now.

UPDATE: I wanted to expand on my thoughts a little. Milt is a great interim choice. Stepping into that interim role give the board time to carefully consider how to select the next superintendent and at the same time provides stability and continuity for the district. However, selecting a permanent superintendent requires much more careful evaluation. The board will need to consider how he or she matches the board's vision and goals for the district as well as his or her fit with the staff, parents, community, and students. I talked about this a bit more in my previous post - Superintendent Doug Gephart retires.

Superintendent Doug Gephart retires

As reported in the Argus (Inside Bay Area - NEW: Fremont schools superintendent to retire), today Fremont Unified School District announced that Superintendent Doug Gephart will be retiring at the end of this school year (June 30, 2008). They also named Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Milt Werner the Interim Superintendent for the 2008-09 school year. I want to wish Doug all the best in retirement.

Finding a superintendent is a time consuming and difficult process. The board made the right decision to name Milt as interim superintendent giving them plenty of time to carefully decide how to select the right one. The superintendent is the most important position in a school district and for Fremont is like the CEO of a $270+ million corporation. His or her leadership is crucial. Selecting a superintendent is the most important decision a school board will ever make.

To find the best superintendent you want the best pool of applicants possible. Generally, the best talent will be taken first, so the earlier you start the better. I'm sure the school board will start this process by September if not earlier. Anyone newly elected next fall will have to come up to speed extremely quickly.

I know. I was in that situation when I was appointed to the board in 2006, I got first hand experience negotiating the superintendent's contract and setting his goals. It's not something many people have experience with. At that time I took advantage of the California School Boards Association's resources to help inform me. I also sought advice from two former school district superintendents. WIthout a doubt that information was critical to my decisions, and I would not have been effective without those relationships.

You also must not underestimate the ripple effect a change in leadership has throughout an organization. Milt is an excellent choice and will be a great leader through this changeover. I know the board and the team Doug assembled I know will do a fantastic job guiding FUSD through this transition.

One final note: While we share a similar last name, Doug Gephart and I are not related.

FUSD Boundary Maps

I recently stumbled across great attendance area maps on the Fremont Unified School District web site. The Parent Resource Information - Attendance Area contains a list of which schools are in which attendance area along with easy to print maps.
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