We need to plant a flag in the sand to protect public education
It’s time that someone plants a flag in the sand, and I guess it has to be us.
Public schools in California have been brutalized by a series of funding cuts since 2008 that are worse than anything since the Great Depression. In part, these cuts are completely understandable. The economy has been in a free fall, and it is only natural, then, that schools share in solving the budget problem. However, since 2008, public education has been disproportionally on the receiving end of the State’s budget problems, absorbing 59 percent of the reductions, though we account for about 43 percent of the budget.
This slash and burn approach to public education funding has resulted in schools across California gutting their programs for students. In many cases, students are being denied access to performing arts and athletics, having their instructional year shortened, losing out on the opportunity to attend school in buildings that are modern and well-maintained, and even losing high quality teachers due to lay-offs.
Well I say enough is enough. Our kids deserve better, and if it means we must plant a flag in the sand and fight to preserve their education, so be it. In Clovis Unified we aren’t going to make those kinds of sacrifices. We aren’t going to gut our programs and services to students, or give up on maintaining the world class facilities for which we are known, nor are we going to sacrifice the very people who have made our school district a wonderful place of learning.
Yes, our Governor’s proposed budget leaves us with a $28 million hole to fill before we can claim a balanced budget. And yes, this comes on top of the $21 million we already cut from our budget in the last year. However, if any school district is prepared for such a challenge, it is ours.
So far, we’ve identified almost $13 million in reductions to our 2010-2011 budget. These include slightly higher class sizes in grades K-3 and nine; reduction of our district office staffing, and creatively using flexibility given to us by the State in some previously restricted funding areas. In the coming months we must identify an additional $15 million in reductions, and we continue to be committed to making these reductions while preserving the core values that serve our students best.
As we make these difficult choices, I want our parents to see nothing different in their child’s education. Your children deserve our best, and that is what we are prepared to give. In Clovis Unified we have invested heavily in hiring high quality people. Whether they are a custodian, a bus driver, an accounting clerk or a teacher; if they work in Clovis Unified they do so because they care about kids and they are willing to work hard.
It’s for that very reason that we are also committed to protecting the jobs of our employees. We’ve been dealt the same hand that other school districts in California have been dealt. However, it is our people who ensure that we play our hand in a way that is best for our students. It’s going to be hard work. It’s going to mean sacrifices. And, it’s going to mean that we have to work together like never before.
I invite you to join us in this battle for our children’s future. Bear with us as we search for solutions to this monumental financial challenge before us. Be an advocate for your child’s education to your neighbors and to your legislators. I still believe in your child’s right to a quality education; I hope you do as well.