Budget cuts inequitable to National City and Southwest Middle schools

June 3, 2011


Budget talks typically center around cuts: where to cut, how much to cut, who to cut. The intent is to balance a budget which appears impossible to balance. As with all cuts they hurt a bit, but if they are fair and equitable they can be tolerated.

   For parents of students at National City Middle School and Southwest Middle School, fair and equitable would not be terms they would use to describe the proposed cuts to their school libraries for the 2011-12 school year. Proposed changes would mean going from an open library five days a week to just two days a week with every other Friday open. To National City and Southwest Middle School parents, these changes seem unfair because ALL of the other schools in their district are allowed to have a librarian and/or technician available to keep library doors open five days a week.

   What makes even less sense is that these two schools, National City and Southwest Middle, serve the lowest socio-economic communities in the district. Students at those schools need all the tools available to them to improve their reading and writing skills, as their parents may not have the resources to purchase computers or take them to the library.

   School libraries provide more services than simply checking out books. They provide computers and tools for teachers to take their students for reading programs, writing programs, English as a Second language programs, computer skills, test practice, studying. The local school library takes on even greater importance these days as cities cut back on public library hours and inventories.

    National City and Southwest Middle School parents have been protesting proposed library cuts most of the week. They hold up signs before the start of the school day and attend board meetings. Their hope is that the Sweetwater Unified High School District will not limit library hours at their schools, but if they do then there should be an equitable cut across the board, at all schools.

   We agree with the parents, if cuts are to be made, make them fair and equitable and do not cater to the higher income schools, where the students have many more options and opportunities for learning. The school board needs to raise their expectations for these schools and these students and provide them with the tools and opportunities for a quality education, not a second class chance.

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