There’s a lot going on in the world right now so it’s easy to miss important things going on in our own backyards. Our own 2020-2021 school budgets, for example.
Right now, there is a lot of speculation about what the next school year will look like in the COVID-19 era. Parents are worried about their kids having to wear masks all day. Will the kids be able to attend full-time or will they partake in distant learning? And, if they don’t go to school every day, who’s going to watch them and how will parents be able to pay for that? Good questions all.
What’s not getting much attention, though, are the budget shortfalls due to COVID-19. We went into COVID-19 with a state budget surplus in California. Now, just a few short months later, we are facing a deficit. There were some great things that were in the original budget, now the state has cut many planned healthcare expansions and slashed funding for schools.
The timing could not be worse. The Middletown Unified School District alone is being asked to find ways to cut over one million dollars from an already sparse budget. They are contemplating doing away with bus services for all except Special Ed for an estimated savings of $427,000. They are seriously considering cutting athletics, drama, choir, and band. All of these choices, by the way, would result in the loss of jobs. And, there are long term consequences to making these cuts that go well beyond just this year.
School boards are also looking at reducing teacher hours (which is a reduction in pay) and asking them to take a pay cut while asking them to do more work. I’ve heard people say more than once, and in fact, my own 5th-grade son uttered words to the same effect just the other day when I was discussing the issue with him, “Why don’t the teachers take a cut in pay? It’s for the kids.” Teachers have been taking one for the kids for decades now. During the Great Recession in 2008 teachers in this county, and most likely all around the country, took a pay cut. A big one. Only just last year, a full 11 years later, they finally got their pay back to where it was before the cuts. Now they are going to get hit with an education budget crisis that eclipses the damage of the Great Recession.
Cutting teachers’ pay is especially troubling for a rural community like ours where retention of quality teachers is difficult. Good teachers can find work over the hill for more pay. We can’t afford to cut their salaries again.
So, what’s the answer? What can we do? Well, for starters…Please call your school boards, your news organizations, your local representatives and legislators and then contact everyone you know and ask them to do the same.
Get informed. Ask questions. Give your input on your priorities and the impact they have on you and your family. Call 1-855-977-1770 to speak to your legislator. You will be connected to your member of Congress. Tell them:
► Your name
► Where you live
► Ask them to support the HEROES Act or something similar that will get money to schools.
► Ask them to support a budget with no cuts, no educator or school employee layoffs, and to prioritize equity by repealing corporate tax cuts.
Go to http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/ to get contact information for your California Congress representatives and tell them the same.
It’s also extremely important to get your friends and family in other states to contact their representatives in the House and Senate. We need bills to pass both houses and that takes representatives from all the states.
Be a hero. Heroes act.