District presents grim budget scenarios to community

School board member John Walker expresses his concerns at Wednesdays meeting. Credit: Anaika Miller/The Foothill Dragon Press.

Anaika Miller

School board member John Walker expresses his concerns at Wednesday’s meeting. Credit: Anaika Miller/The Foothill Dragon Press.

“The public in general doesn’t realize we have a crisis,” said school board President Barbara J. Fitzgerald, “It is up to us to let the people know what the impact of this is going to be. We cannot absorb this anymore.”

Before March 10, representatives in Sacramento will vote on whether or not to place a tax extension measure on the June 2011 ballot.

If the bill receives a two-thirds vote from state assembly members and senators, it will be placed on the ballot and California voters could pass it with a simple majority. If they do, the school district will have to cut $2 million over the next two years. If not, the district will be forced to cut $13.5 million, $6.5 million of which will come from next year’s budget.

 

“That is a catastrophic number,” said Superintendent Trudy Tuttle Arriaga. 

Superintendent Trudy Tuttle Ariaga presents information on the current state of the school budget crisis. Credit: Anaika Miller/The Foothill Dragon Press.

“We need to get them [parents] out there to fight for these programs,” said Balboa cafeteria manager and mother of two Heather Basch, “If it were not for sports or music or art, where would some of these kids be?”

 This year the district also implemented two furlough days for teachers and three for classified staff. Without the tax extensions, the number of furlough days may be increased to 10 next year. Every furlough day generates $500,000 for the district.

 “We cannot hope to raise the millions being taken by the state,” said Kay Giles, who served as chair of the campaign for Measure H and whose son Ian graduated from Foothill last year.

 Though the national average of per student spending is $11,684, California spends an average of $9,118 per student annually. Vermont, ranked first in the nation, spends $20,369.

“In the ‘50s, California was third in education, and now we are in the bottom five,” said Arriaga.

 The crisis has also caused class sizes to soar. Since 2008, 9th grade math and English class sizes increased from an average of 20 studentsto 34, and the district predicts that the number will continue to grow.

 “We are at the point where we cannot do a good job with what we are being given,” said Assistant Superintendent of Business Services JosephRichards.

 School District Board Member John Walker urged audience members to express concern to their representatives before they vote.

 “The most important thing to do right now, is tomorrow, pick up the phone, and call Senator Strickland’s office,” said Walker.

Community members listen to Ventura Unified panel present information on budget scenarios. Credit: Anaika Miller/The Foothill Dragon Press.

Due to his Republican party affiliation, many believe state senator Tony Strickland will vote against placing the tax extension measure on the ballot, as the bill has been met with opposition from Republicans.

However, Walker, also Republican, noted that the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, which is predominantly a Republican committee, has endorsed the measure.

 

“If you want your voice heard, let your legislators know,” said Arriaga. “I believe we need to be acting with urgency and acting with fear for our children.”

 

Topromote the proposed ballot measure, parents have organized a rally for Friday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on the corner of Victoria Avenue and Telephone Road in front of the government center.

 

“We have to come together because that is the only way we can make a change,” said parent Nicole Gonzales during the meeting.

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