neighborhood of $35 billion over the next 18 months, much more
ominous even than the $21 billion reported last month. At that
time, the scissors – or the ax – were being pointed in the
direction of public education, public health and services to the
poor. Legislators convened Monday in Sacramento with budget woes at
the top of the agenda. The final decisions won
’t be made for for a while.
The latest information puts the state budget deficit in the neighborhood of $35 billion over the next 18 months, much more ominous even than the $21 billion reported last month. At that time, the scissors – or the ax – were being pointed in the direction of public education, public health and services to the poor. Legislators convened Monday in Sacramento with budget woes at the top of the agenda. The final decisions won’t be made for for a while.
Assuredly, the students in the Morgan Hill School District will feel the impact, in one way or another. The proposal from Gov. Gray Davis earlier was to cut 4 percent across the board from the $46 billion education budget, which equals roughly $1.9 million or $300 less per student. How to minimize the number of cuts that reach the classroom is something that should be on the minds of the community. Not only the educational community, but also the parents of these students, local business owners and community leaders.
Our district is already stretched so tight financially that a snap is not improbable. Granted, last year’s performance-based budget committee in the district spent long hours over many meetings and managed to shave the necessary $2.6 million from the budget.
However, the situation is likely to become so onerous that extraordinary measures must be taken. The district needs to move now on holding down expenses in order to preserve as many options as possible for the next 18 months. The board should institute a hiring freeze, eliminate all out-of-district travel, postpone all but the very most essential expenditures, and decide if a report from a consultant is really necessary.
Last year’s budget committee consisted almost entirely of district administrators. A representative from the teacher’s union – its president, Mary Alice Callahan – and a representative from the classified employees union were a part of the committee, but there were no participants not on the district payroll.
Considering what the district is facing, both in terms of mid-year cuts and cuts for next year, the board and the administration need to consider broadening the composition of the committee. Much was said in presentations to the School Board about the hours spent by the committee in producing the current budget, and perhaps the concern is that no one outside of the district would be willing or able to commit that time to the committee.
If the board and administration would consider the so-called “vocal minority” that attend the board meetings, which in actual fact represent the opinions of a good number of parents and community members who cannot attend the meetings or are too intimidated to address the board, they might discover that there are indeed members of the community willing and able to be a part of this important process.
Our neighbors to the south have recognized that creative solutions must be found and that more heads are better than a select few. Gilroy School District Superintendent Edwin Diaz announced the creation of a strategic planning committee in November to assist the district in finding a way to manage the money to the benefit of the students. Perhaps what we need in Morgan Hill is to recruit committee members from the community, as is currently being done for the boundary committee for the new high school. The budget committee has an equal or possibly greater impact on the community than the boundary committee and as such deserves the same diversification.
Let your school trustees know where cuts should be made. Offer to serve on a district budget committee. Here’s how: President Tom Kinoshita, [email protected] or 778-6289; Trustee Del Foster, [email protected] or 778-9084; Jan Masuda, 778-1732; George Panos, [email protected] or 778-7715; Shellé Thomas, [email protected] or 779-7717; Amina Khemici, [email protected] or 782-7992; Mike Hickey, [email protected] or 778-5696.