Education leaders from throughout Sacramento County held an Education Budget Forum at the State Capitol on April 24 to discuss the governor's proposed budget cuts and express concerns to area lawmakers.
Superintendents, administrators, parents and education advocates discussed with members of the legislature and legislative staff how the proposed budget cuts would negatively impact students, families and school employees throughout Sacramento County as well as the rest of the state.
The budget proposes cutting $4.8 billion in education funding statewide including $85 million in Sacramento County alone for the 2008-2009 school year.
"This forum was an opportunity for us to talk about the ramifications that a budget cut of this size could have on our children," said Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David W. Gordon. "Our students and schools didn't create this budget problem. Their progress should not be sabotaged because of it."
Natomas Superintendent Dr. Steve Farrar told the legislators that in recent years students have shown steady progress in classroom performance and that budget cutbacks would impede that progress.
"We're just getting our legs. Just let us do it. We can." Farrar said.
The forum was open to the public and included a discussion involving superintendents and Sacramento-area lawmakers State Senator Darrell Steinberg, State Senator Dave Cox and Assemblyman Roger Niello.
Niello told the superintendents and audience members that the state imposes too many restrictions on school districts and that districts need more flexibility in making funding decisions.
"I believe that the vast majority of what you struggle with is what we do to you," Niello said.
However, Sacramento City Unified Superintendent Magdalena Carrillo Mejia said that budgetary flexibility will not be helpful if the state imposes drastic cutbacks.
"Flexibility without adequate funding is not a solution for us," Mejia said.
Senator Cox offered to meet with the superintendents individually to discuss their budget concerns.
"I'd welcome the opportunity to hear your ideas about what should be done," Cox said.
For current students, drastic budget cutbacks could mean larger class sizes, fewer programs, fewer teachers, fewer essential employees, and a severe reduction in services to students and their families. Programs such as music, art, PE, healthy start, summer school, library services, and instructional support could either be greatly reduced or eliminated
Forum speakers included: David W. Gordon, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools; Dr. Steven M. Ladd, Superintendent, Elk Grove Unified School District; Dr. Magdalena Carrillo Mejia, Superintendent, Sacramento City Unified School District; Steven W. Enoch, Superintendent, San Juan Unified School District; Patrick Godwin, Superintendent Folsom Cordova School District; and Dr. Steven M. Farrar, Superintendent, Natomas Unified School District.
Other area Superintendents who attended the forum included: Kevin Jolly, Center Unified School District; Karen Schauer, Galt Joint Union Elementary School District: Tom Gemma, Galt Joint Union High School District: Alan Newell, River Delta Unified School District: Ralph Friend, Robla School District, and Frank Porter, Twin Rivers Unified School District.