Recently, the San Francisco School District announced it is facing a $113 million budget shortfall. Because of this deficit, the district is planning to make major cuts to education, on top of previous cuts of the past few years.
In San Francisco, an estimated 400 teachers may be laid off. Teachers and staff may have to take four furlough days (forced, unpaid days off) per month. Teachers’ salaries will be cut or frozen where they are. Summer schools will be cut. The number of school busses and routes will be cut. Class sizes will increase causing even worse overcrowding. District staff, counseling staff, teacher training courses, text books, and health services will all be cut.
The San Francisco School District is ranked among the top 20 performing districts in the state. It is ranked among the top five wealthiest counties in California. This is a wealthy county that has so far been able to minimize the scale of the budget cuts through tapping into private funding from parents and local businesses and rainy day funds. But now these funds have run out and can’t make up for the cuts coming from the state.
The reality is, there is no escape from the state budget cuts at this point. The state has cut education by 42 percent in the last five years. And what is happening in California has either begun to happen or has already been happening all across the state.
A recent UCLA study shows that over 66 percent of schools in poorer districts have reported major education cuts. In the wealthier districts, only about 16 percent of schools reported as severe cuts. Again, this is because wealthy parents can afford to chip in funding out of their own paychecks.
But now what is happening in San Francisco shows that even the wealthier districts can only hang on for so long. The cuts from Sacramento are too severe to escape by donations from wealthy parents. No district or school, wealthy or poor will be left unscathed by these cuts.
The message from the districts is that these cuts are unavoidable. School administrations are telling teachers and staff and parents that it is time to do more with less. With less teachers, less counselors, less textbooks, less librarians, less summer school, less programs, less classes, less space in the classrooms – we are supposed to do more?
The only thing we can get with less is less. Destroying public education, at every level, is like slamming the door to the futures of younger generations, of students, of our sisters and brothers, our sons and daughters, our families, ourselves.
The budget cuts are hitting every school across the state, at every level of education. These cuts are impacting the lives of millions of people. But these cuts have also created an opportunity for millions of people to come together and do more with more, not less. These are our lives and we deserve more. If we want to do more with more, we will have to get more funding from the state. But to do this, we will all have to come together, to organize, to make our voices heard, and to demand fully funded education. The more people who decide to take up this fight, the more powerful this fight becomes. We have the chance to come together in a way we haven’t in a long time, to come together in the way people have been waiting for.
The state of California has more than enough wealth to fully fund education. The billionaires in California have enough money to fully fund education. The federal government has the money to fully fund education. Just one of the bailouts to one of the dozens of banks would be enough money to fully fund education. Just one month of spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be enough money for education.
What is allowing these cuts to take place is not a lack of wealth in the state or in the country. These cuts are happening because not enough people have been willing to join the fight to stop them. We know these cuts are wrong but knowing that isn’t enough. We have the choice to begin organizing our families, our coworkers, our classmates, our friends, ourselves to fight back. If we don’t want to do less with less – we have to make the choice to do more.