Rally addresses budget woes

On Tuesday morning on the front lawn of Glenoaks Elementary School in Glendale, parents, community members, educators and children gathered to raise awareness of how the decisions made, or not made, in Sacramento will affect the education of the state’s children.

State Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell stood with state PTA President Pam Brady and representatives from the Glendale district school board and administration to show solidarity in their fight to protect public education.

California’s state deficit is estimated at $42 billion. On Wednesday night, media reports began to surface that a bipartisan plan hammered out by legislative leaders had been agreed upon. According to a spokesman for Assemblymember Anthony Portantino, there is a session scheduled for Saturday morning where it is believed the budget will be discussed and perhaps voted on. Portantino’s spokesman had not seen the proposed plan and could not comment on the specifics; however, according to media reports, the cuts to schools and community colleges statewide would be about $8 billion.

This week’s rally was sponsored by the PTA. It emphasized the only way lawmakers in Sacramento will know that parents and educators are concerned is if they call their representatives and tell them.

Glendale Council PTA President Lynn Miyamoto said it is important for every parent to call their legislators to let them know that deep cuts to an educational system will have consequences that will last for years.

“We want parents to call their legislators. We have a script available if they want to follow that or they can just talk to them, leave a message, let them know what you think,” she said. Brady said she understands that the deficit is real and that there must be cuts.

“The economic truth is we have never seen it this bad in California,” she said. “But if you cut too deeply, you will be worse for it.”

“We have been at a budget impasse,” said Miyamoto. She referred to the 2008-’09 budget’s record-setting delay in Sacramento and to this year’s budget that, perhaps, will be voted on over the weekend. “There are going to be some tough decisions that have to be made. In Glendale, we have our reserves that have helped us, but at what point will we not be able to depend on that?”

While many districts throughout the state have been laying off teachers and cutting several programs, those types of cuts have been kept away from local classrooms thus far.

Glendale Superintendent Michael Escalante attributes this to the board’s fiscally conservative approach to the budgets of the past. The goal of the district was to keep the cuts as far away from the classroom as long as possible, he said. Sixty positions have been eliminated on the administrative side since Escalante took the helm five years ago. When he arrived, the district was struggling with an $8 million cut, so losing education money from Sacramento is not a new situation. But because it has been consistent, Glendale and other districts are now concerned about how deep they will be forced to dig down.

Cuts could reach $20 million over the next two years in Glendale, Escalante said.

And the cuts are not just at the beginning of the fiscal year but mid-year as well; funds that the districts were told would be available no longer exist.

“California is really in a crisis,” O’Connell said. “And mid-year cuts are the toughest of all. It breaks a promise made by the state.”

O’Connell said there must be protection from mid-year cuts and deep cuts affecting public education for many years.

“It is simple: If you want to invest in the future, invest in public education. If you want to short-change the future, then you short-change education,” he said. He added that it is unfair that a district must decide between purchasing math books or hiring a math teacher, or whether to cut art or athletic programs.

For information on representatives in the assembly and senate, visit the Crescenta Valley Sun website at www.crescentavalleyonline.com. Click on ‘Community Links’ on the left of the page.

Information can also be found at the PTA website at www.glendalecouncilpta.net.

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