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Teachers, students, parents rally against state budget cuts

• City Hall rally in response to $4.8 billion cuts in education funding

Posted: May 14, 2008 2:18 a.m.
Updated: July 15, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Shelly Weinstein of the Sulphur Springs Union School District speaks to a large group of people outside of city hall protesting the budget cuts to education Tuesday afternoon.

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Parents and students joined teachers from six local school districts and College of the Canyons outside City Hall on Tuesday afternoon in response to a recent proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to slash $4.8 billion in education funding statewide.

The approximately 500 people who attended the after-school rally were concerned about the impact of the proposed cuts on local schools.

"We are here to let the California legislators know that the proposed budget cuts will not work," said Sabrina Utter, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Parent-Teacher Association. "Flunk the budget, not our kids."

It is anticipated by members of the Santa Clarita Valley Education Coalition that the proposed cuts would slash approximately $25 million from local schools, which may have significant impacts on local schools, such as increased class sizes, reduced per-student spending and cuts in class offerings at the community college level.

"We are losing more than $25 million in revenue in 2008-2009 alone," said Judy Fish, superintendent of the Saugus Union School District. "We urge our legislators to take a stand and push for fully funded education. Santa Clarita schools have stepped up to the plate. Will Sacramento do the same?"

Parents, students, teachers and employees who attended Tuesday's rally represented College of the Canyons and the Castaic Union, Newhall, Saugus Union, Sulphur Springs Union and William S. Hart Union High School districts.

The SCV Education Coalition, which organized the rally and represents each of the six school boards that attended, urged the state legislature on Tuesday to uphold Proposition 98, which guarantees minimum funding, and reject the proposed cuts to school and student services. They also urged the state to seek other remedies to help erase the state's deficit.

Also a major concern is how schools will be able to keep up with the state's rigorous academic standards without the proper funding.

"We came to the center of our community to lobby Sacramento," said Judy Umeck, a board member of the Saugus Union School District and chairwoman of the Coalition. "The proposed budget cuts are inconsistent with our goals of quality education."

Several speakers stated that while academic standards in California are among the best in the nation, its schools do not have the necessary funding to maintain those standards.

Jamie Merriweather, president of the Associated Student Government at College of the Canyons, said many students are struggling to finish their academic programs on time and delaying entry into the workforce as educated professionals.

"As a student, I am greatly concerned about these cuts to education," she said. "We already struggle to sign up for classes we need to graduate. These cuts will mean that even more classes that we need are taken away."

Merriweather then told a story of one of her friends who switched from nursing to a less-effected major, just so she could graduate on time and transfer to a four-year school.

"Now, there is one less potential nurse in an industry that is already short-staffed," Merriweather said.

She also stated that she had to prolong her own studies at College of the Canyons for another year, just so she could enroll in the classes she needed to move forward with her academic and career goals.

"Do not balance the state budget on the backs of students," she said.

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