Hundreds of parents, students and faculty packed the San Gabriel High auditorium on Tuesday night to learn the latest information on the California budget crisis and how it will affect Alhambra schools. The crowd, many of whom were dressed in red in support of teachers, spontaneously broke out in chants of “No more cuts.” Many were forced to stand in the back of the auditorium when chairs ran out. They listened attentively as city officials and teachers reported the challenging future prospects in a message that was simultaneous translated into four languages — Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Vietnamese.
The President of the Alhambra Teachers Association, Roz Collier, said the objective was to make the community aware of the dire straits of education. “When we go out to our parents and say to them that Alhambra will have a huge multi-million dollar budget cut and lose teachers – they are astounded,” Collier said. “Our school district has lost $50 million over the last three years, but the policy of the district was to keep those cuts as far away from the classroom as possible.”
With the threat of a $6 to $17 million cut looming for the upcoming school year, the classrooms are likely next. The district has already cut its adult education program, laid off 20 percent of its support staff and reduced graduation requirements. If cuts go through, the district may be forced to increase class size, reduce support staff, shorten the school year and eliminate some academic programs such as AP options and arts courses.
“Today everything is on the table for cuts,” Board of Education member Adele Andrade-Stadler told the boisterous crowd. “We are in an emergency room and we can’t stop this bleeding. What would you do? Where would you cut?”
At the meeting, district staff encouraged the crowd to contact their state legislators in support of a more balanced budget. The Secretary-Treasurer of the California Teachers Association, Gail Mendes, compared the budget crisis to the civil rights movements, urging the students in the crowd to stand up and be the voice of their generation.
“Tomorrow when you go to class you are going to tell the kids that weren’t here today that you were making history,” Mendes told the crowd. “Your grandparents and your parents were active in civil rights and women’s rights and now we’re standing up for student rights. Across the state of California, we are going to let people know that it is time we start taking pride in our schools again and giving students the education they need.”
According to Alhambra Superintendent Donna Perez, the Alhambra school district currently receives $5,368 per student from the state, but needs $7,096 per student to properly operate. With additional cuts expected in July, the Alhambra school district could lose an additional $1,300 to $3,400 per student.
“If steps are not taken by the state to adopt a more balanced budget the next round of cuts will be extremely difficult,” Perez said. “We don’t want to be remembered as the generation that took education away.”