Thursday, January 26, 2012

2012-01-26 "Vallejo schools preparing for a possible new round of state budget cuts" by Lanz Christian Bañes
School board members on Wednesday condemned the potential for millions more in cuts to the Vallejo City Unified School District.
"I hope I'm not the only one who feels angry about this. It's developing a terrible pattern," board member Raymond Victor Mommsen said about a potential loss of $5.6 million.
The deep cuts, representing $370 per student, is the alternative Gov. Jerry Brown recently proposed if voters fail to approve new taxes -- the new "trigger cuts" for this fiscal year.
"We can't lose $370 (per student) every couple of years and expect to continue being progressive," said Lisa Grant-Dawson, the district's chief business officer.
Brown's budget also includes a complete cut of district transportation budgets. The district also lost nearly $550,000 last month when last year's trigger cuts were pulled after the state failed to meet revenue predictions.
"These trigger cuts are exactly that. ... This is a gun to education's head," board member Ward "Ace" Stewart said.
The governor's proposal last year also relied on voters extending taxes to preserve education funding. However, Brown failed to win Legislature backing to put the tax measures on the ballot.
"The state is running out of options. Can you imagine if we were running out of options? ... We have to come up with options because we have to have schools that are open," Grant-Dawson told the board.
Next week, the board will adopt a calendar that will include giving the public a chance to comment on budget proposals.
In addition to budget issues, the board received an update on the district's anti-bullying campaign.
The district hopes to have an age-appropriate, Vallejo-specific anti-bullying video ready by July, said LaTonya Derbigny, director of school and student accountability.
"We looked for opportunities to infuse anti-bullying into the regular curriculum," Derbigny added about the work she and a diverse anti-bullying committee have been doing since last summer.
The district must provide anti-bullying training to both staff and students as the result of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU represented a former Jesse Bethel High School student who accused teachers and school staff of harassing her because she is a lesbian.
Earlier "Respect For All" curriculum offended some parents, who felt its videos and teachings were not age-appropriate or too focused on anti-gay bullying.
As part of the campaign, the district is also looking to partner with businesses and community groups to create T-shirts featuring logos designed by Vallejo students. T-shirt sales would support the video's production, Superintendent Ramona Bishop said.

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