Though eyes have been focused on Wisconsin in recent days, other states are facing similar budget woes. In California, the crisis is so severe that some counties are looking to parents to begin to foot the bill for public schools.
In La Cañada Flintridge, town and school officials are calling on parents to donate $2,500 per family to meet the La Cañada Unified School District’s $5 million annual loss due to state level spending reductions.
“Nothing is coming from Washington, the state is bankrupt … This has to be a community solution,’’ Scott Tracy, a member of the La Cañada Unified School District Board of Education, said at a recent town hall meeting.
La Cañada is not the first school district in California to call on parents to pony up. In San Marino, parents are asked to give $1,000 per student per year, and Manhattan Beach calls for $2,000 per student per year. According to the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation Task Force, these unified districts have raised $5 million and $4.1 million respectively.
Teacher salaries in La Cañada reportedly make up an estimated 83 percent of the district’s budget. Despite concluding contract negotiations with the California Teacher’s Association on the Feb. 16 — with provisions to save money — if parents do not donate, the district will have to eliminate 15 positions (including teachers and classroom aides), the district’s elementary Spanish program and reduce counseling services.
When asked at the town hall meeting if the era of free public schooling in the state was over, La Cañada superintendent Jim Stratton had bad news.
“I don’t mean to be flippant, but I think it’s been over for a long time,” he said.