Earlier this year, the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) school board was forced to implement a string of budget cuts in order to comply with California’s then $26.3 billion deficit. California’s deteriorating economy now requires that FUSD’s budget for the 2010-11 school year be reduced by $16 million. MSJ has lost a counselor, faced larger class sizes, and has had less accessibility to the library due to similar budget reductions in the past. “It is true that almost regardless of how you decide to make the necessary FUSD budget cuts, someone would be unhappy…Please spread and share the burdens as much as possible,” said Parent Hiu Ng in an email to the board.
Many of the cuts, however, have not been spread out equally, as district officials try to look for areas that are deemed less than necessary. Recently, these have included sports, custodial services, and libraries. In the past year, library budgets throughout the district have been reduced by 50 percent. According to District Librarian Maile Ferreira, there has been a 40 to 45 percent decrease in the number of books checked out throughout the district as a whole, largely due to the decrease in hours that school libraries are open. Here at MSJ, the library is usually closed during fourth or fifth period because of understaffing, and is not open as long as it used to be before and after school. In addition, the cuts have widened the gap between students with and without computer access.
“Although we don’t see underprivileged children as often in Mission, it’s the children without access to technology that are hurt the most,” said Ferreira.
Along with the library budget cuts, a plan to let go of eight counselors was proposed. However, strong parent protest as well as the already high student to counselor ratio helped turn board members away from counselor cuts. Instead, they eliminated the 20:1 student to teacher ratio in freshman math and English classes.
Teachers reacted to the cuts immediately. US History Teacher Bill Jeffers expressed disappointment in California’s government: “You get what you pay for—if you’re not willing to pay for an educated society, then…[shrugs].” When asked for a comment about the elimination of the 20 student cap, Freshman English Teacher John Boegman said, “Freshman year is an adjustment year, especially at Mission, with students under so much pressure…It’s much more difficult for a teacher to establish a good relationship and rapport in a class with 35 or so students, and it’s much easier for students to blend in and be forgotten.” The repercussions of cuts in the classroom aren’t limited to displaced freshmen; while many students currently rely on their teachers for outside help, that may not be a possibility in the future.
At the Parent Representative Advisory Assembly (PRAA) meeting on February 16, Superintendent Dr. Milt Werner said that before the district cut down at the classroom level, they did all they could to prevent this by decreasing the district office administration staff. All that remains to be cut now are the expenditures at the individual school level. The cycle of budget cuts will not end soon, although it has already affected our libraries, extra-curriculars, classrooms, and counselors.
Written by Gurleen Chadha & Sonia Dhawan
Mar 19, 2010 at 12:32 PM