Contact: Robin Swanson at 916-204-6890
Governor Schwarzenegger addressed the California State Legislature today in an attempt to garner support for his plan to make further devastating cuts to our public schools, but education advocates yesterday spelled out the disastrous consequences of those cuts to our students. Hundreds of concerned parents, teachers, bus drivers, custodians, administrators, school board members and other concerned citizens lined up to give testimony for hours at the legislative committee hearing on the budget.
Douglas Bell, a San Mateo student, who graduated only three days ago, asked the Governor not to take away the resources students need to succeed. “Students are the future of California – please don’t undermine our education,” he said.
Representatives from the PTA also expressed their concerns. Laura Kieffer, a council president of the PTA from South Pasadena PTA schools have lost class size reduction programs, librarians, art and music classes, summer school classes and many other programs that help student achievement.
“The cut-backs in transportation mean that students in rural areas can’t get to school,” said Rebecca Scheel, a school bus driver from Gilroy. Richard Romero, a custodian from Fresno, said he’s worried about student health as cleaning crew cutbacks leave more germs and bugs circulating in classrooms for longer periods of time. Norma Pyle, a school employee from Sacramento, also expressed concern that adult supervision on school campuses is at an all-time low, including cutbacks in the campus safety monitors who prevent intruders from gaining access to school campuses.
Mike Bustos, a math teacher from Sacramento, said that with increasing class sizes, it is increasingly difficult to help students struggling to learn basic skills. “We simply can’t keep depleting resources from our students and expect them to learn. It’s time to make an investment in our future.”
“The entire music program in my school has been terminated,” said Art McGaw, a music teacher from Millbrae. “That means 400 music students no longer have the option of music education. These are the very classes that promote creative and abstract thinking – how can our leaders be so shortsighted?”
Representatives from community colleges also talked about the fact that the increasing cost of higher education is placing a college degree out of reach for many students. School board members and administrators spoke about the terrible decisions they must face as school budgets are obliterated by the lack of state funding.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s May Revision proposal includes more than $6 billion in additional cuts. These devastating cuts come on top of the $11.6 billion in cuts already enacted. That means that California’s students, who already live in a state that ranks 47th in the nation in per-pupil spending, will be subjected to cuts totaling $3,000 per student, wiping out programs that help student achievement and robbing an entire generation of the quality education they deserve. (Not to mention moving California toward the dubious ranking of dead- last in the nation in per-pupil funding.)
The Education Coalition remains committed to finding long-term solutions to the chronic underfunding of our public schools, and to addressing the needs of all students. Increased revenues must be part of the solution, including majority-vote fee increases and local revenue raising authority. In addition to looking at program reductions, the Legislature needs to review and reduce tax expenditures including the new tax breaks that were approved just this past year.
We strive to create a public school system where students can thrive in small class sizes with up-to-date textbooks and state-of-the-art technology, in schools with updated facilities. We want them to work with educators who have access to ongoing training and mentoring to ensure that they are able to do the best job possible of motivating our students to learn. We hope to create a prevailing and contagious outlook that all students deserve a chance to succeed, with the financial resources to make it happen.
The Education Coalition represents more than 2.5 million teachers, parents, administrators, school board members, school employees and other education advocates in California. For more information, please visit our website at: www.protectourstudents.org.