Mt. Diablo Unified on the brink of financial crisis

December 14, 2010 6:58:14 PM PST
School districts all over the Bay Area and the state are strapped for cash. In the East Bay, Mount Diablo Unified is teetering on the brink of a financial crisis.

It's gone from bad to worse in the Mt. Diablo School District. The district is facing declining enrollment and might have to cut as much as $13 million from its $300 million budget.

"What we need is the state of California to come forward and say they care about the children of the state and to fund education at a level that allows us to fairly compensate our teachers and keep programs in place that help our children learn," Mt. Diablo Superintendent Steven Lawrence said.

Last month, the district learned it would have to make up $2.5 million in funding for student mental health services, a program mandated by the state, but one Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed funding for at the last minute.

"By blue-lining that, county mental health as of Dec. 31 will no longer be providing those services and so those services become incumbent on the school district," Lawrence said.

The district is also negotiating with its employee unions trying to save about $9 million. But so far, there's been no agreement on proposals to increase employees' share of medical expenses and institute furlough days.

"Our teachers are willing to take furlough days, but we want to make sure we're taking furlough days to solve a short-term problem and not taking more furlough days than the district needs to keep its books balanced," Michael Langley from the Mt. Diablo Educational Association said.

Beyond that, a committee has come up with a list of possible school closures that would save the district about $1.5 million per year. The most likely scenario would involve closing Concord's Glenbrook Middle School and Silverwood Elementary.

Jason Schulz's son is a third grader at Monte Gardens Elementary, another campus on the list of possibilities.

"I think it's absurd to consider closing your best-performing schools," he said.

The committee will present its recommendations to the school board after the first of the year and that is also when we will have a new governor and some new lawmakers in Sacramento.


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