California schools face $12B in cuts

July 21, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Education spending will be hurt by California's new budget as school funding is being cut by more than $12 billion over two years. Cutting that much money will no doubt affect what happens inside California classrooms.

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This is the third round of cuts for education over two years so the numbers are really adding up. Most educators want the budget agreement to be approved in order to limit further damage to students and schools.

Dennis Kelly with United Educators of San Francisco told ABC7, "Elementary classes that were at 20 or so are creeping up in some places, 22, 23..."

San Francisco schools got some money from the City's rainy day fund and were able to keep class sizes smaller than in most other districts. Mt. Diablo Unified had to make bigger cuts.

"In grades one through three, instead of having 20 to 1, we will have about 30 to 1 next year," said

Darcie Chan is a first-grade teacher in San Francisco.

"It really is less time with the teacher. We are, in kindergarten and first-grade, expected to teach the children to read. Really, the only way to successfully do that is to work in small groups," she explained.

The cuts to education also mean fewer teachers. The California Teachers Association reports 17,000 teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors lost their jobs.

At the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, 400 teachers were laid off in May. Most have been rehired but there are still about 100 who may not come back. Courses and programs were also cut.

"Unfortunately, we had to reduce fourth-grade instrumental music this coming year," said one teacher.

But, education lobbyists won a major battle in Sacramento. The legislature agreed to begin restoring the $12 billion taken from education once the economy improves. The union says it is a bittersweet victory.

"The repayment doesn't do a single thing for the kid who's in class today and loses that. It's the child down the road, the child who has not necessarily been affected by this yet. They're the ones who will benefit from it," said Kelly.

The money that will eventually be returned will also go to community colleges, which are included in the K-12 system.

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