San Mateo Co. to discuss education cuts

April 24, 2008 7:24:59 AM PDT
Desperate times call for different measures. Very different, in the case of the San Mateo-Foster City school district. The district is holding a public meeting Thursday night to discuss controversial measures for coping with the state budget cuts looming over all California public schools.

The San Mateo-Foster City school district is looking at nearly $6 million in cuts, or revenue increases, or both - for the next school year. Under consideration are one principal for two schools, and for parents, more requests for payments if they keep their children home from school.

David Box is bringing his son Jordan to Foster City elementary school. David say if he keeps Jordan home for whatever reason, he won't be honoring the school district's request for about $30 per day in lost state money.

"Ridiculous - I don't think charging us money because our kids don't go to school, or because they are sick, or because we have a vacation day is something that we should already be covering with the taxes we are paying," said David Box, a Redwood City resident.

Over at district headquarters, Chief Business Official Micaela Ochoa says no one can be forced to pay, but also knows the district has a nearly $6 million shortfall for the upcoming school year.

"By increasing the average daily attendance from 96 percent to 97 percent, that would generate half a million dollars in unrestricted funds," said Micaela Ochoa, San Mateo/Foster City school district.

For Rhonda Moore and 7-year-old Ariana, there is no controversy for one simple reason:

"We don't take vacations during school time because it's too important to us and we can't get off due to family working habits," said Rhonda Moore, a San Mateo resident.

The district is stepping up its requests to parents for reimbursement, and increasing its awareness program. A principal recently reported a conversation she had with some parents.

"She would also explain to the parents how the districts are funded and then they'd say, 'oh, I didn't know that,'" said Ochoa.

The proposal to have one principal running two schools doesn't seem as controversial - certainly not to Kedan Lin, mother of Alice.

"That wouldn't be a bad idea, depends on what the principal does. If they're somewhat dispensable, then yeah, two principals for one school," said Kedan Lin, a Foster City resident.

To pay its way, the district may even get into the landlord business on a few acres it owns on India Avenue.

"We could build housing and rent them at lower than market rates and generate some revenue for the district," said Ochoa.

It wouldn't be a first for San Mateo County. Ochoa says Cañada College already has lower than market rate housing, bringing in money the state cannot provide.

The school district is not in favor of sending children to school if they are ill and it doesn't like one principal for two schools. The school board makes the final decisions next week. Thursday night's meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. at the school district headquarters on Chess Drive in Foster City.


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