Calling Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget "the most significant reduction in school funding in our state's history," County Superintendent of Schools Randy Ward called for parents, teachers, and business and community leaders to speak-up and tell their legislators to reject the Governor's proposal and protect school funding.
Speaking to reporters, school board members, and school superintendents at a press conference at the County Office of Education, Ward was joined at the podium by newly-named San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Terry Grier, Ramona Unified School District Superintendent Pete Schiff, and San Dieguito Union High School District Superintendent Peggy Lynch.
"San Diego County schools will lose $360 million under the proposed budget," Ward said. "The Governor has proposed across-the-board cuts of 10% for all state programs. But voters have said time and again that educating children is more important than other state programs. The Governor and legislature need to show they're listening."
Grier, who has yet to officially begin his duties as Superintendent of the state's second-largest school district, said the Governor's proposed spending plan would force $78-80 million in cuts for San Diego Unified. He said it would be impossible to make cuts of that magnitude with having a drastic effect on programs for students.
Schiff pointed out the "devastating" impact the Governor's proposed cuts would have on the future of the state's teaching force. Teacher lay-offs will hit the newest teachers, he said, and prospective teachers in colleges of education could very well look at other career fields as a result.
Lynch, co-chair of the county's association of school district superintendents, said program cuts will vary from one district to the next, but in every case the cuts will reduce services to students. She referred specifically to high school counselors who were hired just 18 months ago, after school districts received assurance from Sacramento that the positions would be funded. Now those counselors will lose those jobs, and the services they provided for students would end, she said.
Said Ward, "If the Governor and legislature prevail with this budget and these devastating cuts for children and public schools, they better be ready to do a few more things…Like increase the budget for welfare. And for social services. And for mental health services. And especially for prisons.
"Because if we don't educate our children," he continued, "if we don't make good on our state's pledge to provide the best possible education, we'll be putting more young people on welfare. More young people in need of social services and mental health services. And more young people in prison.
"It's not rocket science. It's a direct line, from one action to the next," he said.