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Uncertainty on Cuts Troubles Local Schools : Education: Three Westside districts will decide what jobs or programs have to be eliminated after they learn about funding.


REGION — For the three smaller Westside school districts, the immediate ramifications of the state budget crisis are somewhat less severe than for the Los Angeles Unified School district, but uncertainty lies ahead nonetheless.

The Beverly Hills, Santa Monica-Malibu and Culver City school districts adopted so-called final budgets in June that in reality were anything but. Last week, business managers from all three districts journeyed to Sacramento to attend seminars on what changes the belated state budget will probably bring.

The June budgets assumed the same level of funding as last year--and that assumption will probably be more or less borne out, school officials say. If it turns out in the coming weeks that the funding falls somewhat below last year's level, the districts will then have to decide what jobs or what programs will have to go.

The Beverly Hills Unified School District is poised to lay off some or all of the two dozen teachers it employs on a day-to-day basis, if need be.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified district plans to dip into emergency reserves if necessary, but such a move would only put off cuts until next year, when a full reserve will be needed to pass the new budget.

In the Culver City Unified School District, the board and administration compiled a priority list of services last spring to see what to pare next. Looming possibilities: squeezing teacher's salaries and creating larger classes.

Although teachers in the Los Angeles district are anticipating salary cuts of as much as 17.5%, none of the districts have yet had to cut or freeze teacher salaries. Across-the-board raises were denied, but teachers can still move up within their salary ranges according to years served and how many units of higher education they have earned.

Over the last three years, teachers at the three smaller districts have gotten smaller raises than Los Angeles Unified teachers. Los Angeles teachers received an 8% pay raise in the 1988-89 school year, while raises in the smaller districts averaged less than half that. The top teachers in Santa Monica are paid about the same as those in Los Angeles--$54,000 a year--but the average Santa Monica teacher makes considerably less--about $35,000 with 10 years of service, said Ronne Fonfa, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Assn.

"We didn't follow Los Angeles up the salary schedule, and we're not following them down," she said.

In lieu of salary cuts, the three districts this year have taken the budget knife to jobs and department budgets. Educational programs, class size, facility maintenance and staff training have all been targets. So far, the cuts include:

Santa Monica-Malibu: About $1.5 million in cuts, including two teaching posts, all physical education teachers at elementary schools and a $275,000 reduction in the English-as-a-Second-Language program. Also cut were half a high school counselor's position, a half-time nurse and 3 1/2 assistant principal positions. Free bus passes were revoked for most students, and administrators are required to take three unpaid days off.

Beverly Hills: Five teaching positions and $510,658 worth of cuts were outlined in an "austerity budget" approved Tuesday by the school board. The list of cuts avoided educational programs. The cuts affected funding for substitute teachers, clerical help, custodial services, school supplies, equipment repair and staff training. In addition, the two dozen teachers who received layoff notices last spring were called back to teach on a per diem basis.

Culver City: About $275,000 in cuts, including two teaching posts. Other cuts were a high school counselor, a groundskeeper and a clerical worker, and cuts in the supplies and purchasing budgets.

Administrators are optimistic that they have seen the worst for this year.

Beverly Hills Schools Supt. Sol Levine warily predicts he will restore per diem teachers to their original status.

"I'm anticipating that we'll be able to keep our teachers that we brought back per diem. But that's all conjecture. This whole situation is just unbelievable."

Culver City Schools Supt. Curtis I. Rethmeyer believes that the budget will stand as is with only minor adjustments.

"We are not anticipating that we will need to make any further cuts," he said.

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