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The emotional roller coaster kicks up again

California is bracing itself for a new set of budget cuts. This time, the proposal is to cut 10% across the board, including the education budget. In Redwood City, this means about $700 less per student per year, a huge amount in a state that already is at the bottom of the rankings for amount spent per student in the US. As parents, we've seen this before. Another set of cuts, another set of meetings, another set of bad choices to make. Every few years this happens and it's an emotional roller coaster. No wonder public school enrollment is declining. People can only take so much of this abuse and I assume that the ones that are not devoted to public education and have the means end up leaving the public system altogether...

The reasons for the funding woes of public schools in California are complex and historical. For a great overview check out First To Worst, a great documentary that explains the whole funding mess and how we got here.

Given that we cannot expect much from the State or Federal levels, there are only two ways to improve funding for public schools in your district: by raising money through an Education Foundation and/or passing a parcel tax. Unfortunately, a parcel tax requires a super majority (66.6%) to pass, as dictated by the infamous Prop 13. Interestingly, Prop 13 which established this requirement did NOT pass with a super majority itself. Talk about an insanely stupid law. But I digress...

In Redwood City we do have an Education Foundation, the Redwood City Education Foundation (RCEF). I was a member of the Board for 2 years and continue to volunteer with them. Unfortunately again, the way our district works, parents feel it's more effective to give to their own schools than it is to give to the Foundation and thus benefit the whole community. While the RCEF has done better every year, its fund raising cannot make up for the lack of appropriate funds from the State.

So, we're bracing ourselves for more cuts, and there's a meeting at the district office on March 5th to talk about it. These cuts are in addition to all the cuts we've already made in the past. Except that it's hard to see what else could be cut at this point.

My daughters attend Orion Elementary School, a great public school in the Redwood City school district. Orion is based on parent participation and each family is expected to volunteer 72 hours a year helping with school related activities (more hours if you have more than 1 child in the school). Obviously, parent participation makes up for a lot that the school district can't offer, but if we take out of the equation what's currently provided by parents, is there anything left to cut at our school?

K5 Schools in Redwood City don't have art, music or PE. There's instrumental music in 5th grade but nothing before that. And no PE! At all! Really.

Cuts of this magnitude can only be done by cutting staff, but what do you do when there's nothing to cut? At our school there's a teacher per classroom, a principal, one administrator and a janitor. That's all. Frankly, I don't see how any of these positions could be removed without resulting in a serious security hazard for the school.

So, this is where we find ourselves once again. On Wednesday March 5th there's a meeting at the School Board where they'll discuss options. We'll know more then.


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