Coronavirus school budget cuts will hit Selma teachers the hardest

The school district's staff has been told to expect budget cuts of 10% for the next school year.
SELMA, Calif. (KFSN) -- California school budgets could take a hit because of the coronavirus, but one school district in the Central Valley seems poised to get hit harder than all the rest.

Schools closed, but staff skipped the first wave of financial damage from coronavirus.

But at Selma Unified, they're bracing for a brutal second wave.

"We're devastated because now education is beginning to see that economic fallout," said Selma Unified superintendent Dr. Tanya Fisher. "And it's heart-wrenching because we know schools should be the basis of the economy."

Dr. Fisher says they've been told to expect budget cuts of 10% for the next school year. And since most of their money goes to payroll, that's where they're looking to cut.

But teachers say the coronavirus isn't causing the district's money problems. The budget was already such a mess they had to accept cuts in February.

"Some of our teachers were being pink slipped at the end of the year," said Rachel Starbuck, an English teacher and Selma Unified union rep. "We are now being presented with a second emergency budget and our superintendents are suggesting a 10% permanent pay cut."

State teachers' unions say that would be at least twice as big as any proposed teacher pay cuts in the Central Valley, with most districts planning just to freeze pay.

They point to statistics showing that since 2004, the Selma student body population has stayed about the same.

The number of teachers climbed 8% and the number of people in management went up more than 40%.

But now the district wants to cut more than 50 teachers since the start of the school year ending right now.

"When you're looking to make cuts to positions, you've got to look further up the ladder," Starbuck said. "Don't mess with the people that work with our students. Those services are needed. Those teachers are needed."

Teachers say the administration has rejected their offers to help brainstorm as the district makes its plans.

But Dr. Fisher says teachers won't stand alone. Administrators will take cuts too.

"If we're looking at reductions, we have to consider what are the base programs and what are the things we can keep to make sure students get what they need," the superintendent said.

Right now, it's hard to know what they'll need.

School districts don't even know if all their students will come back in the fall.

They expect to have to adopt social distancing on buses.

And class sizes might need to shrink, which could require more teachers.

But the district has until June 30 to submit a balanced budget to the state.

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