Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., met with local law enforcement and educators at Hart High School in Newhall Thursday in an effort to discuss California’s budget crisis and how it affects schools and public safety.
For the past three weeks, Brown has traveled city to city setting out plans for a five-year tax extension. He claims that if the plan is not put into effect, California’s schools and public safety agencies would be forced to cut a significant amount of their budgets.
“If we don’t get the tax extensions, you’re looking at another four or five billion,” Brown said.
Brown insists the cuts are necessary and that past failed reduction-only budgets are to blame.
“These [were] short-term, one time only deals. It’s what we call ‘kicking the can down the road’ gimmicks, or smoking mirrors. You choose. But it’s not solving the problem.”
During his three hour conference, Brown, along with Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita and California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson toured two of the campus’ newly modernized classrooms to find one room overcrowded and a neighboring one completely empty due to increased class sizes and the reduction of instructors.
Hart High School’s modernization project, paid for by Measure V, necessitated the overhaul of six of the campus’ 66-year-old buildings and the construction of an additional one.
“Before the modernization, when I wanted to do a lab, I’d have to plan it out with the other teachers and switch rooms, which made it a little difficult,” said Hart High School chemistry teacher Brandon Duran, “but we do what we’ve got to do to get the kids educated.”
The Newhall school is one of several local schools threatened by the state’s fund reduction. Cuts at College of the Canyons are projected to run as deep as $11 million while student fees are set to increase 72 percent to $36 per unit, thanks to legislation Brown signed last month.
With increased class sizes and less section offerings, the more than 20,000-student community college is feeling the pinch. COC students who registered for classes were plagued with wait lists and fewer sections offered.
“Of the 8,018 students who applied to COC, less than half, only 42 percent, were able to get into classes. The number of new students who could get in dropped to 27 percent. That is a very tragic thing at a time when people are trying to get their kids to go to a quality institution to be able to transfer,” said COC Chancellor Dr. Dianne Van Hook.
“In order for our children to continue to receiving the best in education, our teachers have taken early retirement and a shortened school year,” said Hart High Parent Organization President and parent Amy Daniels. “If we are already at bare bones, what comes next?”