Wednesday, December 28, 2011


By Stephanie Minasian | Staff Writer Gazette Newspapers - The Grunion Gazette/The Downtown Gazette/The Uptown Gazette |

test4Buffum Elementary School

WALKING TO CLASS. Buffum Elementary School students head to their classrooms after recess, before the school’s closure at the end of 2010-11 school year. —Gazette file photo

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 1:21 pm ::   California’s major reductions to its public education institutions took another devastating toll on schools across the state in 2011, including the three Long Beach branches of education, which faced another year of heavy budget cuts.

    The state’s midyear trigger cut also deeply impacted the schools and left them reaching into their pockets to pay the differences with their own reserve monies.

Long Beach Unified

    At the start of the school year, LBUSD proposed to operate with $60 million less than it did the previous year. The total budget was adopted at $660 million and illustrated the continued decline in state funding.

    The cuts also needed to be made because of the limited federal stimulus money that had previously helped to offset some of the effects of the recession, according to LBUSD spokesman Chris Eftychiou.

    To meet its strict budget, the district sent nearly 800 pink slips to teachers and certificated staff, and officially let 749 of those employees go. The other major hits to the district were made in art programs, transportation and school closures.

    When December rolled around, revenue levels had not been met and Gov. Jerry Brown pulled a $1 billion trigger cut on all three levels of education. At the K-12 level, $328 million was taken from schools across the state, with Long Beach Unified School District absorbing $4.2 million of that.

    “LBUSD could have lost as much as $24 million under the plan,” Eftychiou said.

    He added that the district is able to absorb the cuts by using its reserves to get through the rest of the year. Out of the $4.2 million, $3.3 million will be taken from transportation funds, but school busing will continue through the end of the 2011-12 school year.

    When the state’s 2010-11 Accountability Progress Report was released in August by the California Department of Education, it showed that while the Long Beach Unified School District is making gains in achievement, the district is still failing to meet the standards of the No Child Left Behind Act.

    The accountability systems are gathered from student performance on the Standardized Testing and Reporting program (STAR) and the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). The results are calculated into the state Academic Performance Index (API) and the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

    If districts are unable to make the AYP criteria for two consecutive years, they will be identified for Program Improvement (PI). LBUSD was placed for PI when it failed to meet the AYP requirement in 2007-08. The district did not meet requirements in 2008-09, either. According to the state’s release, the federal No Child Left Behind target increased 11 points this year, and will continue to rise until 100% of students will be expected to be proficient in 2013-14.

    The district’s base API for 2011 was measured at 766 — up from 2010’s base score of 759 — which amounts to a 7-point growth for the district.

    During the summer, it was announced that LBUSD had surpassed California’s graduation rate for the 2009-2010 school year. The data released by California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, used a new calculation method called the cohort dropout rate, which shows LBUSD ’s rate is at 14.1%, and graduation rate at 78.8%, compared to the state’s overall dropout and graduation rates at 18.2% and 74.4%.

    In November, the district announced its plans to completely rebuild Newcomb Academy, a K-8 school at 3351 Val Verde Ave., and Roosevelt Elementary School at 1574 Linden Ave.

    The money for these rebuilds will come from the Measure K bond, which is money that can only be spent on infrastructure repairs or new construction.

    The Newcomb project will take three years, and school district staff has recommended that the 930 students currently enrolled there move to the Keller Elementary School at 7020 E. Brittain St. That school currently has 360 students, far less than capacity, and it lost 100 students in the last year, according to Eftychiou.

    Keller closed at the end of 2011, and the students who lived in Keller boundary will continue attending that campus as part of the Newcomb Academy next year, while those who attend Keller but live outside its boundaries will need to move to Burcham K-8 School, located at 5610 Monlaco Road. In order to rebuild the aging Roosevelt Elementary School campus on Linden the school district decided to transfer the more than 1,000 students there to the Butler Middle School campus. The district said the 625 middle school students at Butler will be moved to the brand new Nelson Middle School, which is close to completion, located at 20th Street and Cherry Avenue in Signal Hill.

City College

    It was another tough year for LBCC, which needed to cut staff, classes and programs to fit the state’s tight budget for 2011-2012.

    LBCC President Eloy Ortiz Oakley said in March that the 2011-2012 academic year cuts included administrative reorganization and the elimination of eight full-time management positions; eight furlough days for the entire management team; benefit modifications and increased contributions from employees; the eliminations of more than 25 classified staff positions; salary reductions of 5% for part-time faculty; suspension of four sports programs (tennis and golf for men and women); and the eradication of 222 course sections, which is the equivalent of 1,000 full-time students.

    The community college continued to brace for the budget cuts from the state, and Brown’s budget called for a minimum of $290 million in reductions to community colleges statewide. LBCC has sustained $9 million in cuts during the last two years, and took a hit when a $2 million trigger cut took effect this month.

    Officials said LBCC planned ahead for the cut, and will not remove any programs or services from its campus this year, although the 2012-13 school year remains uncertain.

    “We are disappointed that the state will impose further cuts to Long Beach City College. Fortunately, the college has anticipated these reductions and will be able to absorb them in our budget,” Oakley said.

    In November, LBCC was the recipient of a national grant and partnership to enhance the education of Latino students. Long Beach City College is aiming to improve retention rates and services offered to its students of that ethnicity.

    The Lumina Foundation supplied $7.2 million over a four-year period to 12 educational partnerships in 10 states. LBCC was one of two institutions in California to receive its $600,000 share to launch the program, according to LBCC officials.

    The grant money will help LBCC partner with 31 community leaders and organizations in the area and across the state to increase the services and programs for students. These collaborations also include community engagement in the cities of Lakewood, Avalon and Signal Hill.

California State University

    Despite drastic cuts and tuition hikes, California State University, Long Beach, saw a 10% increase in freshman applications for the fall 2012 semester. The 54,086 applications from first-time freshmen — an increase of 4,848 — piled in as the filing period ended in late November.

    The grand total of CSULB applications from freshman and transfer students interested in starting their academic careers in the fall 2012 semester reached 75,132 — up from last year’s 69,317. Of that number, about 8,000 (an increase over this year) will be admitted.

    In 2011, students saw their tuition rise by 23%, and enrollment was reduced by 10,000, according to officials. In November, tuition was raised by 9% as a precaution if the state rejects the university system’s request for additional funding in its upcoming budget. The CSU board of trustees asked the state for $333 million in additional “buy out” money for the university system, which includes around $138 million for the cost of tuition and $190 million for enrollment growth to prevent the raise in undergraduate tuition.

    The recent tuition increase means a jump to $498, or $249 per semester for its students, bringing the yearly tuition bill to $5,970.        “We won’t have to increase tuition for the fall of 2012 if the state provides adequate funding in next year’s budget,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed.

    This summer, the CSU system faced deep cuts when the state slashed $650 million from the budget, and took a $7.7 million hit when the Brown pulled the midyear trigger cut earlier this month.

    “For the current fiscal year 2011-12, this repayment to the state will come from limited reserves that we have carefully set aside in anticipation of a mid-year reduction,” said CSULB President F. King Alexander. “This means that there are no further planned reductions to division operating budgets for the remainder of 2011-12.”

    While the year was filled with budget woes, CSULB did celebrate the grand opening of its new Hall of Science in October.

    The $105 million, 165,000-square-foot science building is the largest and most expensive structure built in the university’s history. The Hall of Science opened to a crowd to show off its state-of-the-art features and construction history.

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