March 16, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – Massive state budget cuts to education have squeezed many local school district budgets to the bone, forcing teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, program cuts, and elimination of counselors and nurses at some schools.
Now the California Parent-Teachers Association (PTA) and concerned parents are fighting back, seeking to place an initiative on the ballot to make it easier for local school districts to win passage of proposed parcel tax increases for school funding. The Local Control of Local Classrooms Funding Act would let communities raise operating funds for their local schools with a 55% vote, instead of the current two-thirds requirement.
“California’s schools have endured years of budget cuts,” Jay Steiger, vice president of legislation for the Mt. Helix Council of PTAs, told East County Magazine. “The La Mesa Spring Valley School District last year laid off over 50 teachers, some staff, and cut programs districtwide. This month, 98 district teachers, some with the district for a decade, will receive provisional layoff notices,” he said, adding that while teachers hope the district won’t have to issue final layoff in spring, “the funding situation is increasingly desperate.”
The LMSV district is far from alone. Lemon Grove School District voted last week to issue lay-off notices to at least 51 full-time and part-time employees, including at least 45 teachers.
Alpine’s school district has announced plans to send lay-off notices to 17 teachers, unless the teacher’s union will agree to a 5% cut in pay and health benefits. If teachers are laid off, class sizes will swell from 20 to 28 students in grades kindergarten through third grade.
The Grossmont Union High School District also seeks pay cuts, a tough sell in a district where some wages have already been reduced.
Countywide, teachers, students, faculty and administrators picketed on March 4th in a “Day of Action” to defend public education, protesting latest cuts in education funding. Nearly half (48%) of the state’s recent budget cuts came from K-12 education.
A new website, www.savealpineschools.com, urges parents to join with teachers and school employees to wear red every Thursday as a call to action. “The California state budget crisis is being resolved on the backs of your children,” the website states. “Our schools are suffering as funding to schools is slashed.”
According to the California Legislative Analyst, school and community college districts may currently adopt a parcel tax approved by two-thirds of voters for assessment on each parcel of land in the district. The parcel tax may not exceed $250 per parcel/ Beginning July 2011, the maximum amount would be adjusted annually for inflation, however. Parcels owned and occupied by a person over the age of 65 would be exempt from the tax.
Supporters of the proposed initiative to reduce that threshold to 55% are now seeking signatures in hopes of placing the measure on the November 2010 ballot.
For more information, or to sign the petition, visit www.improvedschoolfunding.com .