Dozens of community members came to the high school district board meeting Monday night to let trustees know how they felt about deep cuts to the Adult School's funding.
Due to state budget cuts, the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District must slash $1.3 million from its Adult School through 2010. On Monday, about 75 people came to the meeting -- held at Mountain View High to accommodate the large crowd -- to talk about the burden these cuts will put on local residents. Trustees will make a final decision on May 11.
"Did you know there is no other place in the community that offers classes for adults with disabilities?" asked Ailene Genoff, who is being laid off after 18 years as coordinator of the school's Adults with Disabilities Program. She said the program possibly will not continue at all next year if, as is being proposed, it loses half of its budget.
In all, 32 speakers took the podium, talking about the Adult School's many benefits: how it has helped new immigrants assimilate into the community, taught adults with disabilities to live independently, helped new parents learn the ropes of parenting. They all called the Adult School unique, and said the cuts would hurt some of the community's most vulnerable people.
"I have learned a lot of things from our classes -- math, reading, money management," said Judy Parker, who participates in the Adults with Disabilities Program. "All of these things are helpful when you are learning. How can we learn when you take our classes away?"
The school took an unexpected hit in February after the state Legislature approved a new budget, significantly reducing funds to adult education. Locally, this means the Adult School must reduce its budget by 20 percent, and administrators have sent out pink slips to its full-time teachers, warning them they may not have a job in the fall.
Although the Adult School is part of the high school district, it is funded mostly by the state government, while the high schools are funded through local property taxes.
During the meeting, Adult School director Laura Stefanski presented the budget proposal, which would reduce programs for adults with disabilities by 45 percent, English as a Second Language classes by 44 percent and increase fees for some programs.
Stefanski said she tried to allocate the most funding in the budget to the school's core programs: career training, full integration into the community and basic education. But even these programs are facing major cut, with some losing over 50 percent of their budget.
Board members said it will be hard to make the cuts, but added that it will be necessary in this fiscal climate, especially since the state has fallen into more debt in the last couple months. California could face an additional $16 billion deficit depending on results from the May special election, according to Superintendent Barry Groves.
"It is unfortunate that our state is in a place that we have to talk about required programs," trustee Joe Mitchner said.
If the budget is passed, the district will convert all older adult classes into fee-based programs that are self supporting starting July 1 of this year. This will save the school an estimated $29,780.
The school is also proposing to terminate parent education classes to save $172,000. Previously, the school partnered with three local preschool programs -- Los Altos Parent Preschool, Mountain View Parent Nursery and Parent Observation. The students attended the preschools, while parents took classes through the Adult School and helped in their children's classes. Starting July 1, those programs also will be made self-sufficient through higher fees.
During the board meeting, dozens of parents told trustees how the classes had helped them become better parents. Without the district's support, they said, the programs would be less accessible for many local families.
"I have a lot of education and a lot of diplomas. And then I got married and had a child and didn't know anything," said parent Jessica Millar Peterson, whose son attends the Parent Observation Program. "It was with great relief my husband and I found Parent Observation."
Lucy Mahlmeister, a 7-year-old who attended Mountain View Parent Nursery, said it helped teach her and her siblings how to be good kids, and her mom and dad how to be good parents.
"When my sisters and I heard you might cancel it, my sisters and I decided to sell some of the jewelry from our jewelry shop," Lucy said. "We have made $100."