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– SCCS Board of Trustees to review draft program cuts December 9, 2009
The state budget crisis is once again impacting our local schools. Santa Cruz has a well-known reputation for local control and innovation in our public schools. Through parcel taxes, key programs like small class sizes, credentialed librarians and counselors, life lab, art, music and science have been protected by voters. But as the red ink from Sacramento continues to flow, the need for local innovation grows.
Hardworking teachers, staff and administrators have pinched just about every penny they possibly can—often pinching the same penny twice. They need our help and we need your ideas. To get up to speed, consider the recent comments made by Santa Cruz City Schools’ new superintendent, Gary Bloom in an interview with the Mid-County Post last month when he summed up the public education budget crisis bluntly, “The sky is falling”. Superintendent Bloom went on to frame the dilemma for Santa Cruz schools in stark terms:
“We’ve done a good job of protecting programs. From the point of view of students and parents, there aren’t many noticeable differences over the last three years,” he said. That will have to change. “Every program has passionate advocates. We’re not going to get through next year without reductions to programs that people are passionate about,” he said, be they arts, class sizes or libraries. With 90 percent of the budget going to salaries and benefits, cuts mean lost jobs or union concessions.
In his comments to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Superintendent Bloom got more specific about the recommendations his staff will present to the School Board to address the required cuts of $3.4 million from the District’s $60 million operating budget. Likely to be proposed is a shift of $1.3 million from deferred maintenance funds into the general fund, a move recently authorized by the Legislature. That leaves over $2 million in targeted cuts remaining. Superintendent Bloom is likely to propose that those cuts be accomplished through reducing the teachers’ work year by five days and increasing class sizes (which translates into fewer classroom teachers). Superintendent Bloom also hinted at the role the district’s teacher and classified unions might play:
“One thing that is important that public understand is that bulk of our costs are in personnel,” Bloom said. “Much of what we are able to do is tied into collective bargaining. If we are unable to reach an agreement with the bargaining units, the only thing we can do is reduce positions and services not protected by contract, like librarians and nurses.”
It’s not clear which programs are most vulnerable, but trustees are likely to have some tough decisions in the weeks and months ahead. The Eddy will follow news about the district’s budget closely and keep our readers apprised through updates here and on our In Related News page. We encourage you to point your feed readers to this page to capture daily updates.
The Santa Cruz Education Foundation exists to protect and enhance excellence in our schools. In our recent fundraising appeal, we raised the flag that cuts may be looming. The good news is that collectively we can have a positive impact as school leaders weigh painful reductions. As we learn more about the impact of reductions on our schools, we must come together to preserve the educational experience for all of our children. We hope you will join us to step up, speak out and fund our core educational values. We would like to hear from you about your core educational values.
Given the clues in recent news stories about potential reductions in our school district budget, what do you value most highly? Please take our poll today. And stay tuned for future polls and surveys as we learn more about – and seek your input into – the future of funding for our neighborhood schools.
SCCS Board of Trustees Meeting Wednesday, December 9, 6:30 p.m. County Office of Education, 400 Encinal Street.