guest column: Children must be protected from budget fiasco

All that needs to be done to balance the state budget according to those who rule the quagmire of inaptitude in the governor's office is to reduce the number of days that students attend school and slash a billion dollars here and there from what schools expect to receive from the state to teach children.

The proposed “brilliant” solution to the state budgetary problem is to keep children home, lay off teachers and staff, shut down the utilities, empty the halls and classrooms, and stop the teaching. And voila, the state will save a few dollars and survive its financial debacle. Something is drastically wrong with this proposal!

There is another side to this picture. The victims of the state budget paralysis and fiasco are the students, teachers, and parents who are facing a new year of uncertainty, confusion, and real pain. The present Sacramento stalemate and the lack of courageous leadership, respectful cooperation, sensible negotiations, and realistic solutions to the state's budget crisis have added to the budgetary woes and uncertainties facing local school districts. And as the legislative paralysis and impasse drag on in Sacramento, the real victims and the potential damage is to children and to the economic vitality and productivity of the state. Our children must be protected!

One need not look too far to understand the gravity of the financial crisis and its impact on the Glendale schools. Two months ago, Glendale Superintendent Mike Escalante estimated that the proposed mid year state reduction to the schools will mean a shortfall of $8.8 million dollars. This reduction is not chump change. Now, the state gurus have upped the ante and are calling for both a reduction in mid year funds as well as a reduction in the number of days for the school year. These proposals are unsound and pose a serious disruption to the education of students and the instructional programs, and to the lives of teachers, staff and families.

California school districts are funded by the state legislature. Local school boards have the legal responsibility to develop a balanced budget that provides for academic and career programs for students; pay teacher and staff salaries and benefits; reimburse merchants for instructional materials and supplies; pay for utilities; maintain safe and healthy classrooms, and fund maintenance, renovations and upgrades. School boards develop their budget based on the expectation and good faith that the state will meet its legal obligation to fund the schools.

What is disturbing and troubling these days are the uncertainties that school districts are facing in the middle of the school year. The funds which were expected are being drastically reduced or frozen! We have legal contracts and obligations to teachers and staff, and to contractors, plumbers, electricians, painters, and other trades whose members are working in good faith throughout the district. All deserve and expect to be paid. Very fortunately, those working for the Glendale schools will be paid on time because of prudent and responsible financial planning, budgeting, and reserves.

As troubling, frustrating, and challenging the financial picture is, we are not giving up on Sacramento and we will not hurt our students and staff. Our school district is well represented by capable and caring elected state officials who have had experience and knowledge with public education and who share our concern and frustration with what is going on in Sacramento. We have faith in their commitment to do all in their power to work and cooperate with colleagues to develop a reasonable and responsible state budget that will not inflict undue pain and suffering on children, teachers, and parents.


CHUCK SAMBAR is a member of the Glendale Board of Education and president of the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association. He resides in the portion of La Cañada that is served by the Glendale Unified School District. His e-mail is chucksambar@sbcglobal.net.

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