March 15, 2011 — The California Constitution provides all students grades 1 through 12 with the right to free and equal public education. On the surface that is the way it should be. No child should be denied a public school education because of his or her socioeconomic status, creed or race. We think the intent was clear and pure when the legislature penned the provision in the state’s Constitution.
But, as with many things the long-reaching arms of lawsuits has infiltrated the public education system and before he left office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that a settlement was reached between the state and American Civil Liberties Union concerning fees charged by school agencies. Charging of fees to students is now a violation of the free and equal education provision.
Lassen Union High School’s Board of Trustees addressed the new ruling at its March board meeting and no one seems to know how this will affect the high school from providing extra-curricular enhancements for students.
Budgets are at starvation levels. There is not much more any school can cut. Teacher layoffs have to be noticed by this Tuesday, March 15 to be effective in the 2011-2012 school year. Schools are dipping into reserve funds with no idea if they will ever be replaced. School districts such as LUHSD are cutting community day school programs, and looking at ways to fundraise to keep sports, FFA and FBLA. Westwood high has a successful agriculture program that had to be cut last year. Deferments are being made at the state level on the hopes taxpayers will vote to keep tax extensions in place another five years.
Now, the state is telling schools they can’t charge student fees for educational activities such as college visits, SkillsUSA competitions, FBLA contests, FFA competitions, music contests, etc. Unless the school superintendents come up with legal, ingenious ways to raise funds rural students such as those living in our county will suffer the most. Our students don’t have the luxury of getting on a city bus or carpooling a few miles to a competing school to participate in an extracurricular event as city school students do.
We have already seen a decline in music and arts and therefore can assume drama, leadership opportunities, vocational studies will be the next to go followed by sports.
Our concern is once these programs are eliminated how will our children become the well-rounded students colleges seek and desire. Grades are not enough anymore for college admittance. Extra curricular programs teach the valuable life skills necessary for young people to be good citizens.
Do we have a solution? We have ideas and the first is that the communities of Lassen County need to rally together to figure out how they can still provide for all students in Lassen County. Whether on an individual basis or as a business, some how we need to form a cohesive group that will legally fund students to continue to have educational activities. We salute Dr. Cutler, LUHSD superintendent, for working on plan now and seeking a long-term vision for sustaining the extras all students need to have available to be successful. We encourage the rest of the school administrators to get on board now and not wait for the voters to decide on tax extensions in June, which if passes may be a little too late.
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