These parents and activists are righteously outraged. This is aweful and shameful. -Angela
Education: Parents, teachers outraged at proposed $5 billion cut
Nanette Asimovand Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writers
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Parents, teachers and education advocates up and down California reacted with outrage Friday to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to cut nearly $5 billion from public schools over the next 18 months.
The news that millions of dollars could be cut from categories such as class-size reduction, textbooks, preschool programs, after-school tutoring and hot lunches led one father to ask why a state that ranks among the top 10 global economies educates its children in the manner of a Third World nation.
"By God, you're killing our children!" said Robert Studdiford, whose two sons attend Portola Junior High in El Cerrito. "With Arnold's cuts, we'll be at the bottom. We're educating our children like an underdeveloped nation."
Teachers, whose pay makes up the most expensive part of a school's budget, could receive layoff warnings for next year by this March.
"The governor's proposed budget is a giant step backward for our students," said David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, which represents 340,000 public school employees.
Schwarzenegger wants to cut $400 million from this year's budget for schools and community colleges. Next fiscal year, which starts July 1, he would cut another $4.4 billion by suspending Proposition 98, the voter-approved measure that guarantees a minimum level of funding for schools and community colleges, and by slashing other school funding.
The result: The state would spend $8,458 per pupil next year, down from $8,558 this year.
Education advocates say the governor's budget represents the deepest cuts to schools ever proposed in the state.
In San Francisco, for example, school officials estimate that it could force them to cut spending by $30 million - 6 percent - from their $485 million budget.
Studdiford, who sits on the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee for the West Contra Costa Unified School District and heads a council of 33 PTAs in Contra Costa County, said many parents are frustrated at Schwarzenegger's refusal to raise taxes.
"If you gut funding for public education, then poor families have to go deeper into their pockets to get the basic necessities to educate their kids," Studdiford said. "This is, essentially, taxation of the poor."
The governor's proposal lays down the gauntlet for months of negotiations with state lawmakers on a final 2008-09 budget.
But one influential Democratic lawmaker, state Sen. Jack Scott of Los Angeles County, said he is unsure what alternatives exist.
"I don't have a magic rabbit to pull out of the hat right now," said Scott, who heads the Senate Education Committee. "This is disastrous."
The impact of the governor's budget on basic educational services would be even deeper than it appears because of a proposal to cut $358 million from special education programs for students with disabilities.
The federal government mandates special education services, so by law they can't be reduced. So districts would actually have to siphon the $358 million from their regular education budgets to meet the federal requirements, the governor's finance experts acknowledge.
"We can't reduce special education services even if the governor says we should," said Joe Frantz, an assistant superintendent in the Emery Unified School District in Emeryville, which is struggling to raise test scores after years of bankruptcy.
Emery has already transferred about $650,000 to pay for special education. Under the proposal, that would jump to $750,000, Frantz said.
It all confounds Isabel Samaras, whose son is a first-grader at Cornell Elementary in Albany.
"I think it's catastrophic," she said. "It's ridiculous. I don't understand why everyone doesn't just stand up on top of their cars and throw rocks. It doesn't make any kind of sense."
California department of education
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This article appeared on page A - 8 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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