Pittsburg schools face deep budget cuts

February 28, 2008 12:15:20 AM PST
The governor's proposed budget cuts to education are moving from the abstract-- to the all-too real.

Every school district in the state could have to slash expenses by seven-percent. In Pittsburg that's more than $5 million dollars.

"And I was surprised to see my name at the top of the list," said science prep teacher Steve Longley.

The termination policy is last hired, first fired.

"Any and all budget cuts must be made as far from the students as possible," said teacher William Pilietti.

Under governor Schwarzenegger's proposed $14 billion dollar budget cuts, Pittsburg Unified School District will have to slash 74 educators, and most class sizes will increase from 20 to 30 students. There may also be a participation fee for sports.

"We have a district with 80 percent of our kids are on free lunch and free breakfast," said Superintendent Barbara Wilson, Ph.D.

Pittsburg Unified School Superintendent, Dr. Barbara Wilson, says the budget cuts could expose a huge disparity between rich and poor school districts.

"Barbara Wilson: We don't have a parcel tax, here, like many districts around us have. We don't have foundations and PTAs that are contributing in some cases million of dollars to district budgets," said Superintendent Barbara Wilson, Ph.D.

So she says more affluent schools will not have the major cuts in staff like Pittsburg is facing.

All California schools must notify teachers who "could" be laid off, before March 15th, even though the legislature will not debate the proposed cuts until June.

"The governor only announced and proposed these cuts. I think your jumping the gun a little bit with your layoff notices," said labor union representative Donna Vanita.

Before tonight's meeting, most of the school board members were prepared to vote for the termination plan.

"If there are 32 kids I will have a hard time learning. I want my teachers to remember as Mariah and not number 32," said Mariah Gonzales a student.

The public comment portion of tonight's meeting made it that much harder to cast their votes. Still, the board voted, 4 to 1, to send out the pink slips.

West Contra Costa County schools is looking at a $10 to $14 million dollar budget cut and possibly hundreds of lost jobs. That decision will be made on March 5th.