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  • Writer's pictureGeoff Albert

Public Comment - Are These Budget Cuts Equitable?

The following was presented by Collaborate's Executive Director, Geoff Albert, as a public comment to the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education at the February 22, 2024 meeting, as budget cuts forced the recommendation of laying off almost 200 certificated and classified employees.

Today, I stand before you with a heavy heart as you address the painful reality of staff layoffs due to budget shortfalls, as detailed in both agenda items L1 and L2. Let me begin by acknowledging the weight of the responsibility you bear. I don't envy anyone in your position. You have to rectify a budget shortfall over which you had no control.

As I look over the list of those facing cuts, what stands out is the heavy representation of those serving the social-emotional well-being of our youth - intervention specialists, social workers, psychologists, etc. These cuts will disproportionately affect those with the highest needs, often the same students who have been historically marginalized - BIPOC students, LGBTQ+ students, students in foster care, students with disabilities, and those experiencing homelessness.

We find ourselves at a critical juncture where these cuts could threaten the district's commitment to equitably serving all students. Schools are often tasked with mitigating the impacts of systemic and historical inequities, challenges that far exceed anything within your immediate control. Yet, you have shown your commitment to do just that. You took a stand three years ago, committing to undo these wrongs. I understand the urgency behind the need to vote on these cuts, ensuring compliance with March 15th notifications. However, I urge you to consider the broader implications.

I know that everyone here strives to ensure students continue being served. I know the staff is trying hard to mitigate the impact of the budget shortfall. I hope that cuts will not have to be as severe with the May revision. The PUSD equity litmus test is an important tool that you have developed. I ask that you please employ this tool in this case.

Ask yourselves: Does this action ensure avenues of success for BIPOC and marginalized students/employees? Is this action at the expense of harming BIPOC and marginalized groups? 

As you make the necessary cuts, I hope you remain steadfast in our shared commitment to equity, even in the face of financial challenges. We must always make decisions that reflect these commitments to equity and justice.

After a a thoughtful discussion, which did include a discussion of my equity concerns, the board of education approved the layoffs with a 4-3 vote. Public comments and the board discussion can be viewed here.

The following day, Interim Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Blanco released the following message to the community.

Dear Pasadena Unified Community,

Last night, the Board of Education made a very difficult decision to protect the quality of education and services that students receive while implementing a fiscal stability plan required by the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) to keep our district solvent.

The Board authorized district staff to issue preliminary layoff notices, formally known as Reduction in Force (RIF), for 224 positions by the statutory deadline of March 15, 2024. 91 – nearly half – of the positions are currently vacant.

Like many school districts in California, PUSD is facing major budget challenges over the next three years that must be addressed beginning with the 2024-2025 school year. As we have seen by California’s worsening fiscal conditions, the situation for education funding continues to change. PUSD will be adjusting to ongoing State budget developments in the coming months, and we will keep you informed. Our hope is that we can save some positions before the statutory deadline for final layoff notices in mid-May.

The reductions are necessary because of the lapsing of one-time COVID-19 funding (ESSER), expected reductions in state funding, a decline in enrollment, and the need to allocate our resources responsibly.

These decisions have not been made lightly, and come only after thoughtful and careful consideration. We have done our best to keep reductions away from students and schools, including making the biggest reduction of 30% to central offices. Since the central office exists to serve schools and provides services for students and their families at schools, we will need to redesign how we continue to support our students.

It is very painful for us to experience this kind of milestone. But it gives us renewed motivation to move forward with all our energy to continue solving our budget issues. I ask that you keep our valued employees who are receiving layoff notices in your thoughts and in your hearts. I also ask for your patience and understanding during this difficult time.


Elizabeth Blanco, Ed.D.Interim Superintendent

Dr. Blanco's message can be found here in its original form.

Geoff Albert is Collaborate's Executive Director. Dr Elizabeth Blanco is an ex officio member of Collaborate's Leadership Council.


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