A version of this story originally appeared in the Alhambra High School "The Moor."
As the California budget crisis continues to deepen, the potential for massive changes to the 2011-2012 Alhambra school year are emerging: increases in class sizes, unpaid furlough days, reduced salaries and cuts to health benefits. These are all part of the current discussion within the Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD). In an effort to prevent the worst possible cuts from occurring, the Alhambra Teachers Association (ATA) is taking action.
“The cuts will be extremely severe because it is not just going to affect one academic school year,” Alhambra High School English teacher Nancy Padilla said. “As bad as cuts have been over the last few years, the federal government had given stimulus or other type of funding that at least helped reduce layoffs and maintain teacher staffing.”
To spread awareness about the concerns, ATA is organizing local and county-wide actions. They will sponsor a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, May 3rd, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at San Gabriel High School’s auditorium. Ten days later they will join teachers from districts around Los Angeles gathering at Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles to protest the downsizing of the state education budget. Headed by ATA’s parent organization, the California Teachers Association, this rally is expected to draw thousands of educators to march for adequate funding for public education and promote awareness about the state’s budget shortfall.
“Currently there are over 18,000 teachers in California who have received notices that they will be [laid] off,” ATA president Rosalyn Collier said. “This will seriously affect any school district’s ability to provide education. Classes will be cut, class sizes will soar, and the children will suffer.”
AUSD has scheduled to hold salary negotiations in May. There, teachers and administrators will discuss the possibility of furlough days and the likelihood of reductions in benefits. With the cuts being made to the budget at the state level, there is a small feasibility of help coming from California’s Department of Education.
“What we don’t have this year is any kind of a ‘rescue’ from the state, and the district’s reserves are as low as they are allowed to go,” Alhambra High School ATA director and English teacher Kathleen Tarr said. This may translate to additional increases in classroom sizes, an issue that is already a problem on campus.
“I began teaching Drama with a class size of 17 to 20 students,” Tarr said. “[AHS Drama teacher] Ms. Coalson now has 50. When I moved over into English, our class sizes were 27. Now they are 36.”
Because these cuts will greatly affect education in California, the public needs to encourage legislators to grant the tax extension proposed by Brown in order to save public schools. This is necessary to prevent cuts that will affect the district for many years to come.
“Our country needs to get its priorities straight,” Tarr said. “We seem to be able to bail out corporations but we can’t offer our most valuable asset, our children, a top-quality public education without fighting tooth and nail for it year after year after year.”