Placer High braces for cutbacks

Student interviews school officials, teachers on budget impact
By: Tierra Schroeder, Special to the Journal
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Editor’s note: This story is republished from the Placer High School newspaper, The Hillmen Messenger. When the California budget came up with a $40 billion dollar shortfall in January, state legislators had to find a way to make up for that money. One key decision was to cut education funds by over $8 billion dollars. Schools have never faced a budget cut this bad, and its effects will be very apparent. “The budget will impact every employee of every school district in California. The cuts to schools are huge. They amount to 15 percent this year and 5 percent more for next year,” said Bart O’Brien, superintendent of the Placer Union High School District. Since California ranks 37th in the U.S. on percentage of taxes dedicated to education funding and has the second worst student-teacher ratio, our schools and teachers have experienced hard times before. But with a budget cut this big, even students will start to feel the impact. “In the past, cuts were absorbed by teachers or site administrators or district administrators,” said Mark Faulkner, government teacher at Placer. “Students never really feel anything. The programs, the sports, the clubs, the students see them there ever year.” Faulkner added, “They don’t see the principal scrambling, trying to cut costs for mailing four grade reports a year, or teachers buying tissues because the school can’t afford them.” This time, however, since cuts are so big, students will definitely see a change around Placer, as well as at other schools across the state. It’s uncertain what exact changes will ensue at Placer, but we can generate an idea of what to expect. “There could be an increase of students in classrooms, a decrease of teachers ... and extra things: aides that are in classes, special programs for kids,” said Greg Robinson, history teacher at Placer. “(Students) will also have fewer programs and opportunities that might differ from school to school, but will range from fewer sports teams to reductions in the number of competitions,” O’Brien said. “There will be fewer resources for students, like a reduction in the number of counselors.” We will see changes not only in our school routine, but also our school itself. “Placer will not be maintained as well … The campus lighting will not be fixed for a bit and some other maintenance and landscape improvements will not occur,” O’Brien said. “We will also not be able to upgrade the campus communication system which we planned for this spring.” Although students will feel more of an impact this time, the weight still falls mostly on teachers, much more than students might realize. “Teachers may be asked to take a reduction in pay to protect other staff from losing their jobs; teachers will have larger classes, fewer resources—books and supplies—and less support from the office and custodians,” O’Brien said. Should we be expecting irritated teachers to strike? Probably not. “Teachers are always resilient; do more for less, but it’s frustrating to hear that the largest cut will come from education, which in our eyes is an essential service,” Robinson said. So we students should try to be more understanding and appreciative of teachers, who have even more on their plate at this time. As students and community members, is there any other way to help? “The average person can turn off their computer every day, not litter, respect equipment and facilities in general, be kind to everyone who is working in a more stressful environment, think of others as well as themselves, see the big picture cause and impact of a national economy in crisis,” suggested O’Brien. “It’s not going away; next year is going to be just as bad, and the year after that will be just as bad,” stated Faulkner. So, we all need to “appreciate that schools, teachers and students will continue to work hard in an effort to create a better future,” said O’Brien. And for now we also need to put up with “a dysfunctional state budget that puts prisons as a higher priority than schools.” Though these are troubling times, remember to work hard in class, appreciate your teachers, and know that they are doing all they can to give you the best possible education. And though you might see changes at Placer, understand it’s not the school’s fault — they’re doing everything they can to make the best of this tough situation.