Mass student walkout over budget cuts

March 5, 2008 6:35:33 PM PST
Students drop their books and walk out of class, protesting budget cuts that eliminate school sports and increase class size.

The surprise walk-out took place at two Alameda high schools on Tuesday. Students were protesting the school board's decision last night, to cut or reduce several programs.

People from as far as Massachusetts heard about the walkouts and protests. The governor of California certainly heard about it this afternoon, and through his Secretary of Education.

In an e-mail, Governor Schwarzenegger said: "This school district, in this county, and others will have to make cuts. Not just because of my budget proposals, but also because of declining enrollment."

Students of Encinal High School in Alameda walked several miles to school district headquarters. They are outraged over Sacramento's proposed budget cuts that will affect programs here.

Four million dollars will have to be cut from this district's budget. That means no more class size reduction K through third and in the ninth grade.

Drastic cuts will also be made to sports programs and the two swim centers will be closed.

"Sports motivate people to do well in the classroom so I think a cut will worsen the problem," said student Ross Gustavson.

"Basically if you cut the sports what are we going to do now? Basically that's the only thing that we got," said student Tony Nix.

Football was supposed to be Joshua Robinson's ticket to college.

"They are killing our plans for school because most of us play football, and are trying to get scholarships," said student Joshua Robinson.

Kevin Gorham is the school's athletic director.

"These kids want to be heard. They are mad, they are sick of being cut every single year. They want somebody to hear them and they want to be loud," said Encinal High School Athletic Director Kevin Gorham.

On Tuesday night, the school board said it had no other option but to make these cuts. Hundreds of parents and students protested.

On Wednesday, Encinal students walked out class. As they walked to the district, students from alameda high joined them.

"This is a state issue and we're not the only school facing this, we're not the only district facing losing class size reduction and having to let teachers go," said Encinal High School Principal Tony Kuns.

Forty-six teachers will be laid off.

Students from both high schools later attended a rally. The district and student leaders promised they would begin looking for solutions among them a proposed parcel tax.

If it passes, home owners would have to pay $120 dollars a year over four years.

"This community does actually care and unfortunately once again since our government has done this to us, we are going to ask them one more time. But these kids deserve sports and all the other things other kids have," said Barbara Mooney from Keep Alameda Schools Excellent.

This is all very new. The parcel tax was proposed on Tuesday night and if they want to get it on the June ballot and they will have to, they have until this Friday to register the measure.


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