The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District’s budget has dominated the airwaves over the last two weeks. First Superintendent Cuneo held four, extremely well-attended and thoughtful Budget Workshops in late January. On January 30th, the Board of Education held their own Budget Workshop in which it became clear that, while the district cut $4.5 million dollars from its budget last year to address State funding cuts to our schools, those cuts are so severe that the district is now facing an addition $10.4 million dollar reduction for next year. On February 1, the Board of Education took the step to place a $195/year school funding measure on a special May 25 ballot. This amount won’t close the entire gap, but it will protect core programs and staffing levels so that our schools would not suffer a serious, and perhaps irreparable decline in quality. Finally, at tomorrow’s February 18th meeting, the Santa Monica Malibu Board of Education will have to vote on issuing pink slips to 92.2 teacher positions. Again, many of these positions would be saved if the school funding measure passes in May.
Focus on Quality
The story of cuts, for me, both at a long-time public school advocate and as a parent in our wonderful schools, is always one which must be told in concert with the story of the many and varied success that occur in our schools every day. Our local Santa Monica and Malibu schools defy the odds every day by not only sending graduates to some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the nation (it must be in the water because this early-acceptance season seemed to be particularly stellar), but by providing intensive intervention services, which some have called lifesaving, for struggling students.
Our excellent public schools are rare gems worth protecting. They not only give our kids the tools they need to tackle the complex future that awaits them, but they provide tremendous benefit to our cities. They help maintain property values, attract talented people to our communities, keep kids in schools, and keep our communities safe. The value of our schools is felt throughout our community. Preserving and protecting the quality of our local public schools has been affirmed repeatedly by voters as one of their top priorities.
Says Harry Keiley, President of Santa Monica Malibu Classroom Teachers Association, “Students are the ultimate losers. This year (09-10), we have 23 fewer classroom teachers – resulting in larger class sizes (Class sizes in California are already some of the largest in nation). The proposed 92 layoffs (does not include the non renewals of Temporary or Probationary teachers) will be catastrophic! Class sizes will be even larger and some classrooms will be so over crowded that student/staff safety will be compromised. Add five furlough days in 2009-10 and 2010-11 and it adds up to fewer teachers, paid less money, working in over crowded classrooms…………Like I said —– our students will be the real losers ———- Thanks to all in the community for all of your work!”
Indeed, thank you to all in the community for all of the hard work to preserve and protect our local public schools in the face of these devastating State budget cuts.