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heron elementary school.JPGOne of the most visible "trigger" cuts in the Democratic budget package is an additional seven-day school year reduction next spring should revenues fall short of optimistic projections.

But that potential $1.5 billion reduction won't be as easy as flipping a switch in December. The education budget bill, Assembly Bill 114, would require districts to bargain further reductions in the school year with unions representing teachers and non-classroom staff.

Some districts may seek to negotiate in advance for a "trigger" clause in their contracts, but they have less leverage because the bill also blocks them from laying off more teachers.

The state already has allowed districts to reduce the school year from 180 days to 175 days. According to a survey by the Legislative Analyst's Office, 30 percent of districts dropped the full five days this past school year, while another 28 percent cut between one and four days. Typically, teachers and staff have agreed to such furloughs to reduce other potential reductions such as benefit cuts or layoffs.

Some district officials previously complained that the state was quick to reduce the school year but not override collective bargaining protections. In essence, the state cut the money and told districts and staff to negotiate the best way to absorb it.

That appears to be what would happen again if the seven-day "trigger" cut takes effect. Some districts may cut the year, but others would find it difficult to bargain and have to search for other ways to save money.

PHOTO CREDIT: Tanishq Abraham, 7, is the last to join the line after recess to head inside for lunch at Heron Elementary School in Sacramento on May 4, 2011. Sacramento Bee / Renée C. Byer


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