Schools Get Stuck In Middle of Budget Fight

September 11, 2008 7:43:26 PM PDT
The budget standoff in California has now reached its 73rd day and legislative leaders supposedly were negotiating a resolution in their offices on Thursday. The senate has scheduled a vote on a budget proposal for Friday and an end to the stalemate couldn't come fast enough for school children and teachers.

Without their state funding, California schools have been unable to hire enough teachers. The Association of California School Administrators estimates there are 40,000 to 50,000 vacancies statewide resulting in overcrowded classrooms.

High school senior Donte Mayer feels it and is afraid of falling behind because his teachers won't be able to help him as often.

"There's a lot of people doing different things. So, if it's one teacher, it's hard to pay attention to everybody," said Mayer.

While schools have enough money to run the basics, not knowing how much Sacramento will give them has put many expenses on hold. New, updated textbooks have not been bought. Some school bus routes have had to be cancelled or consolidated, forcing students to walk or ride on the bus longer. And after school tutorials have virtually shut down.

"I've had to be extremely conservative with my site budget because I don't know how much I'm going to get, so we just do the minimum with the money you have and then you hope for more," said Jackie Levy, a high school principal.

California School Superintendent Jack O'Connell says schools are supposed to get $2.5 billion on September 15th, and with lawmakers still fighting over the budget, it is likely the state will not make that payment either.

"We're setting our students up for failure. It's going to be more difficult for our kids to pass the High School Exit Exam, perform well on our standardized tests. They won't be prepared to enter college and universities," said Jack O'Connell (D) the Superintendent Public Instruction.

Administrators wonder if and when the state budget finally does get adopted, can their schools ever recover?

Many teaching applicants have already found jobs elsewhere and there may not be enough textbooks to fill their order in the middle of the school year. Most are just crossing their fingers.


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