Letters: Legislators abandon Gilroy’s public school system

This is an open letter to state Sen. Sam Blakeslee and the
community: I am a resident of your senate district and am currently
serving as president of the Gilroy Unified School District Board of
Education.
Dear Editor,

This is an open letter to state Sen. Sam Blakeslee and the community:

I am a resident of your senate district and am currently serving as president of the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education. I followed your last election closely and recall that in your acceptance statement, you promised to protect schools and provide more money to teach our children. I am in the trenches fighting the battle for improving academic achievement in our public schools. I can state with great certainty that our schools are not being protected, and there is considerably less money available for students than there was on the day you took office.

I find it unacceptable that you and other members of the legislature are blocking the ability of the residents of California to have a say in addressing these issues. Over the past few months, I have had the difficult task of presiding over budget cut decisions. Our class sizes are increasing, our school year is shrinking, administration has been cut to the bare bones, and opportunities for students are being eliminated. In addition to the more than $6 million we have cut in the district’s operating budget over the past three years, we approved an additional $6.7 million in cuts for the 2011-12 school year. Our district has lost 20 percent of its operating revenues.

At the Gilroy School Board meeting on April 21, board members began contemplating an additional $5 million in cuts now that tax extensions will not be on the June ballot. We are drowning, and my representative in the California Senate – you – have it within your power to save us and must do so. There are simply no more places to cut. Gilroy Unified has experienced significant academic growth over the past few years, but this cannot be maintained with our quickly diminishing resources

We are considering the unthinkable: cancellation of home-to-school transportation, closing of schools, decreasing school counseling hours, the elimination of important programs such as intervention classes for our neediest students, sports, and music, and more. In other words, we are slowly and painfully dismantling all that we have worked so hard to build.

Your lack of responsiveness to our critical needs has been duly noted at our School Board meetings and at a joint meeting between the School Board and Gilroy City Council. I will not forget that you have abandoned us in our hour of need.

Rhoda Bress, president, GUSD Board of Education

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