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Press Enterprise's Sarah Hofmann discusses reporting on school job layoffs

Moreno Valley Unified School District

Several school districts in Riverside County have voted in favor of job layoffs. What is the reason behind these cuts and should educators and the public be alarmed?

Press Enterprise reporter Sarah Hofmann talks with KVCR News about what she’s learned through her reporting.

Which school districts in Riverside County are seeing layoffs and why has there been so many?

HOFMANN: So most, if not all of the districts are going to have some services they want to reduce. That said, certain districts in Riverside County are seeing more layoffs. And the reasons for that are going to differ -- some based on the districts. So for example, in Moreno Valley Unified School District, they have some fairly large settlements from lawsuits that are going to have to be paid out in the next few years.

And with staff taking up 80 some or 90 some even percent of the district's budget, cutting staff is one of the things that may need to happen in order to make those funds available to start to pay off those settlements. And that obviously is not the case for every district…declining enrollment, things like that are also going to have an impact on how many people a district lays off.

Do you think layoffs are a common occurrence every year? 

HOFMANN: So…they can be, yeah. Most, if not all, districts are going through this process right now. Ahead of each school year, districts will look at what services they think they'll need to provide students for the upcoming school year, as well as what funds they think they'll have to pay for those services. And with reductions in the services they decide they no longer need, comes this reduction in employees that we're seeing. So for example, if a district has declining enrollment, maybe they now have more bus drivers that they need for the number of students that they're picking up.

How are teachers and district employees responding to these layoffs? 

HOFMANN: There's been mixed responses. In some districts, the mood seems to be that this is business as usual, even if it's unfortunate. And to be fair, it is. In other districts, there has been some criticism and some pushback at board meetings. Whether it's because people feel the district didn’t offer adequate opportunities for feedback or because they feel the district's reasoning about which positions to cut and why they don't add up.

And then you start to see what we've seen in a few districts, which are these accusations of mismanaging funds or prioritizing certain other things over student's education in terms of what gets paid for. So, one criticism that's come up a couple of times at least this year is that too many employees working directly with students at the school level are being cut while too many district employees are being kept.

Anthony Victoria is a UC Berkeley Local News Fellow reporting for KVCR News.