Proposed cuts may hurt South Bay schools

March 12, 2008 7:54:46 PM PDT
Santa Clara County schools would be hit hard by the governor's proposed budget cuts. There are 33 school districts there, but one of them has some cushion to soften the blow.

Fortunately, San Jose Unified School District has a rainy day fund, a reserve worth $21 million dollars. Without it, the district says it would probably go bankrupt.

In the South Bay, educators rolled up their sleeves.

"I want you to get a clear message from the very beginning that we're here to fight the governor's cuts," says Interim Santa Clara County Superintendent Joe Fimiani.

Proposed cuts will have a dramatic impact on the 33 school districts in Santa Clara County. One of them is the Cupertino Union School District. It expects to cut more than $3.5 million dollars.

"When you look at the cuts, compared to cuts I've been through in my career, these are the worst I've ever seen," says Phil Quon with the Cupertino Union School District.

On the possible cutting block is their class size reduction program. There would also be less specialized teachers, and their current contract negotiations with the teachers' union could be in jeopardy.

The San Jose Unified School District is the largest district in the county, with 32,000 students. Their proposed budget cuts add up to $17 million dollars for the next school year. But San Jose has a rainy day fund which will help soften the blow.

"When the state economy was better, and the state paid us for money they owed us, we stuck it away into that reserve," says Ann Jones of the San Jose Unified School District.

There's $21 million dollars in that reserve. They won't spend the money right away. The district will use it over the next three years.

"We are lucky in the sense that we don't have just the minimum reserve. Our minimum reserve would not sustain us. In fact, statewide, more than 50 percent of the school districts will be bankrupt with the budget as it is proposed," says Jones.

San Jose Unified will still have to make some cuts. The district is in the process of coming up with that list.

"Everything is on the table, absolutely everything. Every job, every program that we have," says Superintendent Don Iglesias.

You've probably heard this before, but California ranked 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending. That's a little more than 7,000 in the nation per student. Educators say, given the governor's budget cuts, California could end up last in the nation.