February 21, 2003


Community getting squeezed out in school budget talks

School Districts are in the midst of an agonizing process of planning where and how to slash millions of dollars from their budgets. This process takes the whole community, administrators, teachers, parents, and the Board of Trustees, to come to a meeting of the minds on what is, or is not, most important to each school and district.

Toward this end, the various school districts established Community Budget Committees, made up of dedicated individuals, who have in the past demonstrated that they have the best interest of their school and district at heart. The purpose of these Budget Committees was stated so as to provide input and community perspective on what and where the budget cuts are best served.

As the date draws closer to finalizing the coming year’s budget more and more members of these Budget Committees are expressing frustration with the process. These members are complaining that their suggestions and advice are falling on deaf ears and that school administrators have already determined where the budget cuts will be made. And this frustration is not limited to one particular district but is being expressed across the board.

This frustration can be found in the South Bay Union District, where committee members have expressed extreme frustration about the lack of information being made available to the parents and that the district has determined where the cuts will be made. An example of this can be found in that the district has determined that all school vice-principals will be fired, while the parents have expressed the keen desire to keep their vice-principals.

In the Chula Vista Elementary District, the administration circulated their official list of areas where the cuts could/should be made, yet none of community budget committee’s suggestions were listed. Evidently it didn’t matter what they thought.

The San Diego Unified, which is faced with the task of slashing the most money from their budget, is drawing its fair share of criticism, partly because it has the unsavory task of firing the largest number of employees. Yet at the same time Superintendent Alan Bersin has the unique opportunity to mend some bridges with the community by embracing them in this process.

What is disheartening with the school boards and administrators ignoring the community budget committees is that it flies in the face of the Shared Goverence policies that all these school district have embraced. If the school boards and administrators don’t get the community on board with the budget cuts then they will be saddled with a community that will be fighting them at every turn instead of supporting them during this time.

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