The governor’s revised budget means that our schools still desperately need the help of our two state legislators, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and Sen. Sam Blakeslee.
Under the most optimistic prospect, schools will simply stop being battered by cuts. Although that feels better, it is dependent on extending revenue set to expire in June, and it does nothing to rebuild from the loss of $40 million over the last three years. Without revenue extensions, either our local schools will be cut even more or other services for families, children and youth will be devastated — or a combination of these results.
To be clear, reductions in state support for children and families also impacts the success of these children when they come to school.
It is essential for revenue extensions to be a part of the plan to stabilize school funding and start to rebuild. That’s where Achadjian and Blakeslee come in. From their visits and our meetings with them, they know the impact that cuts of more than $40 million local schools has had over the past three years. We believe that they are in a unique position to reverse the deplorable reduction in funding that has hurt the 34,000 public school students in our county.
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We have specifically outlined the increased class sizes of up to 35 students at the elementary school level; the reduction in assistance for individual students; the drastic reduction in administrative support; the loss of classroom instructional aides; the loss of specialists in the areas of art, music and physical education; the reduction in preschool classes at a time when we know the enormous value of quality preschool, particularly for English-language learners; the reduction of extra-curricular activities and athletic teams; the elimination of classes at Cuesta College, and on and on.
Surely our legislators do not think this is acceptable, but we are forced to take these actions to avoid insolvency. Six of our 10 school districts are already on notice of becoming insolvent over the next two years.
In January, Gov. Brown proposed a balanced plan to solve the state’s budget problem with a combination of additional cuts and extending some revenue sources. This is still his plan, and it not only stops the cuts to schools, but it also starts to address the long-term state budget deficit.
We see the devastating impact of the state’s budget on our schools every day. We also know that when a family faces a budget problem, everyone pitches in. Our school communities are doing their part by accepting increased workloads, working longer, extending administrative responsibilities, trying new ideas to cope with a lack of resources and keeping a positive attitude. Our parents and businesses are doing their parts by volunteering, paying for school bussing, donating money and organizing fundraisers.
It is now time for our local legislators to do their part. Part of their job is to provide the resources so that we, our staff and our parents, can do ours. We can’t do their job. The Legislature can stop this lunacy and begin to reinvest in California’s future: the students who are in our schools today.
We know that both of our representatives care for our students. We hope that they can transcend the narrow interests of party for the much broader good of our collective future.
Julian Crocker is county superintendent of schools. Jim Hogeboom is superintendent of the Lucia Mar Unified School District; Joe Koski, Templeton Unified School District; Kathy McNamara, Paso Robles Joint Unified School District; Eric Prater, San Luis Coastal Unified School District; John Rogers, Atascadero Unified School District and Rodney Wallace, Shandon Joint Unified School District.