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March 24th, 2009 by Temple City Tribune
On Wednesday, March 14th, teachers, parents and other interested parties filed into the Media Center at Temple City High School for a special district board of education town hall budget meeting. By now, most in attendance knew that the district was in dire straits, and schools were slated to experience funding cuts that would almost certainly mean layoffs for staff and diminished resources for students. Still, they crowded into the spacious library and settled into their smooth wooden chairs to listen to Superintendent Chelsea Kang-Smith dish out the facts about the new budget for them to digest and then comment on at will.
Education makes up about 42 percent of the current state budget, and is set to experience $9.3 billion in cuts this year—that makes up 63 percent of the total state cuts, an obviously disproportionate amount. Ms. Kang-Smith also pointed out that, like the rest of the California budget, school funding is currently in a state of limbo that will not be resolved until at least after the May 19th special election called by Governor Schwarzenegger. While the actual budget figures may soon go up or down, the district nevertheless must form a budget for next year in order to meet its own deadline requirements.
The only good news of the meeting was that the district has enough in reserves to avoid any layoffs or reductions in the 2008/09 school year. However, any relief this news may have brought was overshadowed by the fact that 36 certificated staff members have already received layoff notices in order to meet the legal notification deadline of March 15th for the next school year. There still remains a possibility that these teachers, administrators, and one vice-principal will still have a job come fall, as happened last year when 50 employees had their notices rescinded.
The layoffs continue with classified staff, whose numbers are slated to decrease by 13.5 percent via 22 layoffs. This includes clerks and aides, who will not receive their notices until 60 days prior to termination. Maintenance, operations, grounds and custodial services will be reduced to 75 percent, but no layoffs will occur in this area due to current unfilled positions.
How will all of these proposed cuts affect students? First, summer school will be reduced, available only to students who are falling seriously behind. Said Kang-Smith, “Some districts are doing away with summer programs altogether. We will have intervention programs…they will be smaller than previous years.” Special needs students and gifted students are set to be hit the hardest as English specialists, classroom aides and the GATE program will all see reductions.
While listeners were clearly unhappy with the cuts, an air of defeat in the room replaced the heated, defiant backlash of budget meetings past, as the community seemed to resign themselves to the critical fiscal state of the district. Still, a wide disconnect could be felt between the teachers and parents and the superintendent that at times bloomed into what could be described as distrust at best, animosity at worst.
Regardless of the feelings of the educational community, one thing is clear: like the rest of the United States, the Temple City school district is in a time of fiscal crisis, and while no budget has yet been set in stone, the harsh reality of the situation is that jobs will be lost and services will be cut.
It will take the focused and collaborative efforts of the district, school board, parents and teachers to get our students successfully through these tough times successfully.
By Nina Kathryn Hauptman