Guest Column: Maintaining school standards

With the breakdown of the budget negotiations in Sacramento, it seems more and more likely that public education will not be spared the further cuts that are necessary to balance the state budget. The La Cañada Unified School District is bracing for the worst-case scenario from which we had all hoped to be spared.

Without the extension of the temporary taxes that Governor Brown had sought, our schools have begun to take the necessary steps to cut an estimated $2.4 million from next year’s operating budget.

By school level, here is what we can expect if we fail to raise sufficient funds to offset the estimated loss of $2.4 million in school funding:

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS. Current School Family Contribution Rate: 80%

• Further erosion of K-3 Class Size Reduction (CSR) to between 30:1 and 33:1.

• No restoration of kindergarten aides.

• Elimination of the elementary Spanish program.

• Reduction in counseling staff.

• Grades 4-6 will top out at the teachers’ contractual maximum of 33:1.

LCHS 7/8. Current School Family Contribution Rate: 58%

• Class sizes will increase up to the teachers’ contractual maximum of 36:1.

• Reduction in the number of electives available to students.

• Reduction in counseling staff.

LCHS 9/12. Current School Family Contribution Rate: 40%

• Loss of up to 10 teaching positions.

• Further erosion of 9th-grade Math and English CSR to between 30:1 and 36:1.

• Class sizes will increase to the teachers’ contractual maximum of 36:1, including AP and Honors classes.

• Reduction in the number of electives available to students.

• Reduction in counseling staff.

The Task Force currently is conducting an aggressive campaign to educate school families about the grim reality of our budget cutbacks and to solicit their financial support. Right now, parent volunteers at every level have begun reaching out to families at all schools in all grades.

We are also reaching out to our community leaders to secure their ongoing support of our district. The Task Force will be distributing “contribution report cards” every two weeks.

We are planning a major phone-bank drive in late May/early June and we are reaching out to major donors in an effort to get us where we need to be.

The good news is that right now, we are tracking to raise about $2 million this year, about twice what the Foundation contributed to the district last year. If we can raise an additional $1 million, we can keep class sizes and programs at this year’s standards. To restore class sizes and program offerings to the ideal standard that we established just three years ago, we would need to raise a total of $6 million.

All students in our district benefit from contributions made through the Foundation. If you have not yet made your donation, we urge you to do so today at lcfef.org/donate. If the recommended amount of $2,500 per family is not manageable for you at this time, please contribute whatever you can.

The full participation of our school families sends a critical message to our community and its leaders that the integrity of our school programs and the success of our current and future students are of vital importance to the quality of life within La Cañada Flintridge. We urge you to get involved and lend your full support.

JOEL PETERSON and SCOTT TRACY are members of the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board, with Tracy serving this year as its vice president. They are also members of the LCUSD’s task force to raise funds to help meet a multi-million dollar budget shortfall created by the state’s ongoing budget problems. They can be reached at jpeterson@lcusd.net and stracy@lcusd.net.
 
 

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