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Lawmakers: Pledge to back funds for public schools

Local Commentary

Posted: April 6, 2008 2:28 a.m.
Updated: June 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.
No one can question that what draws so many families to Santa Clarita is our wonderful schools. I have an undying respect for the teachers, staff and administrators of our local school districts.

Both of my children attend school at Pinetree Elementary School in the Sulphur Springs School District. On numerous occasions as I have walked through the school campus to pick up my kids from Sunshine Day Care at 5 p.m., I have observed the principal, assistant principal and teachers still at work, although school lets out at 2:30 p.m.

Our school administrators, staff and especially the teachers need to be commended for their unwavering devotion to their students.

Back in 1988, voters passed Proposition 98, which guaranteed a minimum amount of funding for our public schools from elementary through community colleges. Now, however, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed suspending the requirement of Proposition 98 and cutting the education budget by $4.8 billion.

No fat to cut
I know many people feel that government is bloated and there is rampant waste and fraud. However, Schwarzenegger himself has switched his position about cutting waste from stage government and now says there's no fat to cut.

But does anyone truly believe that our local school districts are rampant with waste and fraud? I, for one, don't. For the most part I think the school boards and the school superintendents do an excellent job of running their districts.

We are blessed to have wonderful PTA associations. The PTA at Pinetree School has done an excellent job in raising funds to pay for a P.E., music and computer lab teacher and for working with the school in addressing its other needs.

How do Schwarzenegger's proposed budget cuts affect us in Santa Clarita? Let me offer a couple of examples:
* The William S. Hart Union High School District will have to cut approximately $10.3 million from its budget. The teachers of the school district have agreed to defer salary increases, which will save the district approximately $5 million. In addition, the district will be increasing class sizes, reducing its financial reserve to 3 percent, reducing staff and placing on hold the ROTC expansion to Golden Valley High School.
* The Newhall School District will be reducing the hours of library, office and custodial staff. In addition, it will lose a yard duty supervisor at each school. If the governor gets his way, it may have to look at additional cuts for next year.

The question is: How much do we truly value our education system in Santa Clarita? Where is the outrage from our community leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, City Council, our county supervisor and state and federal representatives?

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, state Sens. George Runner and Tom McClintock and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner have signed a no-tax pledge. In other words, under no circumstances would they ever vote to raise taxes.

Protect our schools
I respect their position. However, I am asking them to take a new pledge: a promise not to support a budget that reduces the education budget below the requirements of Proposition 98. In other words, a pledge to protect our schools from budget cuts.

How about it, Assemblyman Smyth, Assemblywoman Runner and Sens. Runner and McClintock? Can the children and teachers in Santa Clarita count on your support to oppose any reductions to the school budget? Will your promise to honor the voters by preserving the funding guaranteed by Proposition 98?

Will you draw a line in the sand similar to your position on the no-new-tax pledge to protect our children and teachers?

Michael Cruz is a resident of Santa Clarita. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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