California Public School Crisis

California teachers are protesting across the state to try and stop thousands of layoffs and deep cuts to the educational program. Schools have taken quite a toll from the state’s budget shortfall. Hamilton High in Los Angeles is renown for its music program. Its jazz band is known as its crown jewel and is one of the best in the state. The jazz band has won copious awards, and the Hamilton jazz combo has been invited to the Monterey Jazz Festival this year. Jazz band director James Foschia, who recently replaced Dan Taguchi, has been teaching at Hamilton for six years. Foschia also teaches other various musical classes at Hamilton, on top of the jazz band.

On March 11th, he received a pink slip, which was only four days after winning Western States Jazz Festival. Unless principal Garry Garcia can find a replacement, which is very unlikely, because of Foschia’s unique teaching styles, he says that he will have to stop offering the class. With the state already cutting two million dollars from his budget, Garcia is at risk of losing 23 of 140 staff positions. The cuts have already been seen affect sanitation of the school. Last year, Hamilton High had a 17-person janitorial team; it’s now been cut down to four. The restrooms in school are filthy, and trash litters the food court. Textbooks are practically falling apart, and the food served for lunch is severely unhealthy, and almost impossible to ingest. The library at Hamilton is now running the risk to be completely shut down.

Garcia states that since 2005, dollar cuts have been around 70%; drastically decreasing the amount of money he’s able to spend in the classroom. Other schools north of Hamilton are forced to become semi-private. Residents near those schools voted twice in order to raise property taxes, to try to keep their schools running. These schools get 30% of their money from fundraisers and bake sales that the parents from the school organize.

The polls reveal that the voting public highly value public education and doesn’t want any more harm to come to it. But the state budget simply can’t handle it, and has been shrinking since the worst recession since the Great Depression hammered the state, despite the temporary tax increases put into place last year. A budget analysis says that per-pupil spending would shrink by over $1,000 over the three years under Schwarzenegger’s budget plan. Governor Jerry Brown has just released a revised budget plan with 6.6 billion windfall. A windfall that Gov. Brown wants to use to stabilize education and help repair California’s battered finances. Brown’s revised budget plan increased revenue from taxes on the wealthy that would be used for schools and business tax credits.

This new plan may be the savior of public education in California. Spirits are certainly better at Hamilton, now that this new budget plan has been released. Hamilton is no longer worried about having shutting down the Music Magnet next year, which was a very legitimate risk.