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Rare Gems needing Protection

Tonight Superintendent Tim Cuneo makes the first of four addresses to school community members about the difficult SMMUSD must make in order to grapple with a $12 – $15 million dollar deficit over the next 18 months.  All of these budget meetings take place at 7pm.  Tonight’s takes place at Samohi.  Tomorrow’s will be at Malibu High School.  On Tuesday, January 26th he’ll speak at John Adams Middle School and on Wednesday, January 27th, he’ll be at Lincoln Middle School.

I applaud the Superintendent for taking this difficult news out to the public.  With Sacramento hacking off 15% of its funding for schools in the last two years, districts up and down the state have had to increase class sizes, fire employees, close schools and eliminate programs and student support.  While SMMUSD reduced its budget by $4.5 million dollars last year, it seems inevitable that more cuts are in our future. 

I’m sure that we’ll hear more news at these budget meetings.  However, I also hope the Superintendent and the community will take a moment in these difficult times to celebrate some of the many incredible successes in our schools. 

There’s a reason that our local schools outperform state and country schools by a wide margin.  That reason is commitment and passion for providing each student in our schools with a public education that will prepare him or her for a complicated future.  A commitment from educators, staff and administration – and just as powerful a commitment from parents, community leaders and even residents who don’t have children in our schools.  Santa Monica and Malibu community members appreciate the powerful contribution to their lives that comes from maintaining the excellence of our local public schools.

Last June I completed a two-year term as President of the Santa Monica Malibu Council of PTAs, and during my tenure, I had the opportunity meet with other PTA Council Presidents throughout the state.  Almost immediately I came to understand that our community is special.  Its commitment toward protecting our schools is special.  I was shocked to meet Presidents in districts whose leadership had responded to state cuts by cutting music and arts programs so long ago that those programs weren’t even a distant memory.  Here in Santa Monica and Malibu schools, music and arts is alive and well.  Rigorous college-bound education is available for all, as well as intervention services – and many more programs.

I believe it’s important during this current funding crisis to remind ourselves and our friends — at every opportunity — of the minor miracles that are still possible every day in SMMUSD schools.  It would be a shame for any of us to think of any of the many extraordinary programs at Santa Monica and Malibu schools as anything other than very rare gems requiring fierce protection from the ravages of relentless state budget cuts.

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