By CORRIE PELC, Valley Community Newspapers writer
During the Board of Education meeting for the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) on Feb. 2, 2012, the Board approved $28 million in cuts to the 2012-2013 year budget.
According to SCUSD’s Chief Communications Officer Gabe Ross, the proposed cuts are an attempt for the district to provide a balanced budget to the County Office of Education by March 15 based on Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed state budget for California.
“At this point there’s just so much unknown about the budget, we have to prepare for the possibility of these types of cuts,” Ross said.
Ross said the proposed $28 million in cuts includes cutting staff, increasing class size, eliminating adult education, and removing stipend support for co-curriculars such as yearbooks and sports.
“After years of cuts to our schools, there are no more ‘easy’ solutions,” said Superintendent Jonathan P. Raymond. “This list of cuts we are forced to consider for the 2012-13 school year is truly awful. Librarians, counselors, music programs, sports and extra-curriculars, maintenance and custodial staff – these are not ‘extras’ or ‘frills.’ Yet, because of the consistent under-funding of public education in this state, these are the cuts our community is facing.”
How did we get here?
So what got SCUSD to this state? One factor is the rising costs related to employees, such as health benefits.
“Ninety percent of our budget is people, so those are hard costs to us that continue to rise,” Ross said.
Another reason is the district’s steadily declining enrollment. Ross said they receive funding from the government based on their enrollment numbers, so as that declines so does the aid.
“We’re an aging urban school district – this is common throughout the state,” he added. Reasons he cites for the declining enrollment are the economy and other education alternatives. “Families are selecting other options, whether they be charter schools or private schools or other options for their kids,” he said.
The Sacramento Council of PTAs is doing what it can to help families continue to place their children in public schools, according to President Lily Williams.
“I think what’s happening is because so many of the programs are cut at the public schools now, I think a lot of people are looking to take their kids to private school,” she said.
Helping the situation
Williams’ group is doing what it can to help keep the programs that families want going by offering supplemental arts education programs at area schools. Additionally, the Sacramento Council of PTAs works with individual school sites to access their needs and how they can help.
Two initiatives that may help the situation are vying to be placed on the voter ballot this November. The first is Governor Brown’s proposed tax increase initiative. According to Wikipedia, if the initiative is voted into place, state income tax will be increased on those making $250,000 or more for five years and the state’s sales and use tax will be increased by a half-cent for four years. Of the revenues generated, 89 percent would go to K-12 schools and 11 percent to community colleges.
The second, “Our Children, Our Future,” is an initiative sponsored by the nonprofit Advancement Project that aims to generate between $1,100-1,700 per student in additional funding each year.
“At California PTA, we realize that we’re 47th in the nation in terms of per-student funding, so what we try to do is restore adequate funding for our schools,” Williams explained. “California State PTA has decided to endorse and support this initiative.”
How to help
So how can the surrounding community help the situation? Ross said it’s important to remember they are just at the beginning stages of this process and much can change.
“This is a long process and we won’t finalize our budget until June, so between now and June there’s a lot of moving parts and the goal is to restore as many of these programs and people as possible,” he said.
Williams suggests parents get involved at their childrens’ school sites and advocate for public education by writing their representatives.
“You know, we’re right here at the capitol, so we have better access to our representatives right here,” she said.
Ross urges parents and community members to stay up-to-date by accessing the Budget News section of SCUSD’s Website, www.scusd.edu.