177 Murrieta Teachers Get Pink Slips

The California public education system continues to reel from the effects of budget cuts. The latest example of damage is in the grade schools and high schools of Murrieta Valley Unified School District in Riverside County where the district sent pink slips to 177 teachers.

The notices were sent to meet the state law requiring notification by March 15 for permanent employees who may not be brought back the next year. However, 32 temporary teachers have already been terminated as the district tries to deal with a $14 million budget deficit for next school year. If no solutions are found many of the pink-slipped teachers could join them on the unemployment line.

"We are hoping that we won't have to lay any of them off," said Karen Parris, a spokesperson for the school district. "We are hoping through negotiations other solutions will be found."

Several of those solutions are already in place. Aside from the layoffs of temporary teachers, the district has agreed to early retirement for 49 full-time teachers and staff members. Those positions will not be filled or will be filled by existing employees within the district, said Parris. The board also approved a five percent reduction in pay for administrators and non-union employees, including counselors and principals.

However, according to Parris, those cuts add up to about $6.3 million in savings for the district. That still leaves a $7.7 million gap. And that means more cuts.

"Several options were put forth about a month ago including salary reduction and furlough days and those are being negotiated by our union groups," said Parris.

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If those 177 teachers are not brought back, the consequences could be felt in the classroom where class sizes could jump by as much as 10 students in first through third grades.

"It's our children, our children are suffering from this," said Mary Kelley, executive vice president of the Murrieta Valley Council PTA.

Kelley said the problems aren't local ones and that they begin at the state level.

"Depending on the legislator you speak to we are ranked 47th, 48th, or 49th in per-pupal spending and this is a very rich state, so it's disappointing," said Kelley.

Much like the March 4th rallies at college campuses around the state, the Murrieta Valley Council PTA and nearby Temecula Valley Council PTA are co-sponsoring a "California - Fund Our Schools Rally" on March 18 to try and reach out to families in the local community.

"We hope to raise awareness that the budget cuts are on the state level and it's important for our parents to become involved and contact their legislators," said Kelley. "Sometimes parents may think it's just our local school district that is having financial issues, but in reality it is all of our school districts all over the state of California and it starts at the state level."

The rally will stress the influence the budget cuts could have on the students if class sizes are raised drastically because of teacher layoffs.

"Our goal is to come together as parents, educators, administrators, and community members to tell Sacramento we have 51,000 good reasons to fund education," said Stacia Saaler, advocacy committee chair and executive vice president for Temecula Valley Council PTA, in a press release.

No timetable has been set for when the 177 teachers receiving pink slips would be notified of their status for next school year.

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