East Bay school districts struggle

March 11, 2008 5:21:41 AM PDT
This is really crunch time for school districts -- some are already laying off teachers and taking other drastic steps, in the face of such cutbacks.

How two cities in the East Bay are handling the budget crisis in very different ways.

In Lafayette, parents are offering to write checks to close out a $1.7 million dollar budget deficit.

"The cuts might have been as much as $4.5 million dollars had we not passed the parcel tax," said Lafayette School Board President Stephanie Teichman.

"You know what, I'm going to donate my time on a couple of the nights and I'm going to call families," said Lafayette Strings teacher Liz Broumell.

Education is a priority, here, where families of about $3,000 students contribute about a million dollars a year to the Lafayette arts and science foundation. Now the district only has shortfall of $372,000 dollars to worry about.

"Trying to cut back on freezing supplies, reducing energy bills," said Stephanie Teichmann.

Meanwhile, the Oakland Unified School District is contemplating a $23 million dollar shortfall.

On Wednesday the board will discuss job cuts, hiring freezes and spending $18 million dollars from its reserve fund -- leaving almost nothing left.

"Right now we have athletic teams competing in state championships. That's a big part of personal growth, so we're going to fight protect our entire curriculum," said Oakland USD Spokesperson Troy Flint.

Educators say Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposed $5 billion dollar cut in education will expose the disparity between rich and poor school districts, and school districts often support the local economy.

East Bay Restaurant Supply Company is one of hundreds of local companies that do business with the Oakland Unified school district.

"I think that my dept. alone is going to lose a million dollars in sales next year because of all of the cutbacks," said Carly Garland from East Bay Restaurant Supply Co.

"I would say that Lafayette is very fortunate that the people who live here prioritize education," said Teichmann.

Tonight, Lafayette parents pledged to write more checks to close the gap and there was even a surprise commitment from local merchants.

"All the 42,000 that's been verbally pledged was from local merchants in Lafayette,"

Oakland receives about $6,000 dollars per student, each year from the state. Lafayette gets about 5,500 per student, $500 dollars less.

But it helps when each family is regularly contributing about $320 dollars per child each year.