Ralliers Today: Quit Cutting Our Kids’ Educations

REDDING – Enough is enough.

So says the Shasta County Education Coalition, a grassroots collection of educators, administrators and elected officials fighting to stop state budget cuts to education here.

Shasta County schools have seen $36.5 million in funding cuts since 2008 and face nearly $6 million in additional budget cuts in the coming fiscal year, said Cork McGowan, a spokesman for the coalition.

The coalition will hold a rally near Redding City Hall today at 3:30 p.m.

The rally is part of a statewide effort calling attention to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2010-11 fiscal year budget that would cut education spending by $5.9 million in Shasta County next year.

The Redding rally will take place today in a vacant lot outside City Hall south of Cypress Avenue.

Shasta College President Gary Lewis will be among the speakers.

Shasta College is facing a $1.3 million budget shortfall at the end of this fiscal year.

“We’ve reduced our budget as much as we can,” Lewis said. “We’ve reduced every nook and cranny we possibly can.”

More than 160 education employees have been laid off countywide this year, including several last week at the Shasta Union High School District. The Shasta Union board will meet March 9 to consider finalizing more layoffs to take affect next school year.

“These are people that teach our kids and will prepare them to compete in the job market for the 21st century,” McGowen said in a prepared release.

The federal government stepped in last year with nearly $20 million in stimulus spending to offset the state budget shortfall, but that was a one-time get, McGowan said.

“We don’t get that again this year,” he said.

The most recent rounds of cuts are likely to reduce or eliminate music, sports, electives, library, physical education, custodial and transportation programs countywide, McGowan said.

The protests come amid a statewide movement intended to draw attention to education funding cuts statewide. Although the coalition expects the event to draw attention to the issue, officials say they don’t expect many changes in the near future.

“We don’t have any great expectations that this will help immediately,” said Cork McGowan of the California Teachers Association in Redding.

The rally marks the latest in a series of events intended to draw attention to cuts in education funding from kindergarten to university level education.

Last fall, protests erupted on UC campuses as regents debated fee hikes. Thousands of students rallied at UC Berkeley, while hundreds walked out at Davis, Santa Cruz and other campuses. Activists occupied UC campus buildings throughout the state. Students and employees on CSU campuses began holding protests, too.

Whether the protests are paying off remains to be seen. However, on the heels of similar protests last fall, Schwarzenegger said higher education must take a higher priority. He proposed a budget that increases funding to the universities by 12 percent and a constitutional amendment that would give them more money by shifting some away from prisons.

Reporter Brian Hazle is a Shasta County freelance journalist. He can be reached at 619-822-6868 or brianhazle@yahoo.com

Brian Hazle

Reporter Brian Hazle is a Shasta County freelance journalist.