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Adult School cuts made, but more trouble ahead

As expected, high school district trustees approved $1.3 million in cuts to the Adult School on Monday night. But administrators say it is only the beginning, and the district could soon see additional cuts now that the state is falling further into debt.

The budget passed by the state Legislature in February cut about $2 million from the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District. Most of the reductions hit the Adult School, and trustees slashed 20 percent of the school's funding on May 11 to help balance its budget for the next academic year.

But administrators say the district, and Mountain View and Los Altos high schools in particular, will be more affected by reductions next year. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Monday that California's deficit had compounded to nearly $15 billion in the three months since the Legislature passed the budget, forcing the state to make more cuts. The amount of these reductions will depend on next week's May 19 special election, the governor said, when residents vote on six propositions to help right California's faltering finances.

Two of those propositions are aimed at providing more money for schools. High school Superintendent Barry Groves said that if Propositions 1A and 1B do not pass, the trustees may have to cut up to $600 in funding per student.

"For us that is $2 million," Groves said. "But you never know."

The governor's announcement about additional cuts comes just after the high school district ended three months of community forums and number crunching regarding the Adult School budget. Although the Adult School is part of the high school district, it receives most of its funding from the state, while the high schools are funded primarily from local property taxes.

High school administrators had been surprised that the Adult School took such a big hit. They originally planned to cut from Los Altos and Mountain View high schools, and had not expected the Adult School to suffer such big cuts.

Among the cuts trustees approved on Monday, up to 50 percent was slashed from the Adult School's English as a Second Language classes and its programs for adults with disabilities. Trustees also reduced funding for classes that help adults receive their high school diploma. Although all three programs are considered "core" services, the school can no longer afford to fund them at full capacity, director Laura Stefanski said at a community forum late last month.

The trustees also agreed to eliminate funding for classes for older adults and parent education programs. These programs will still continue, but will be self-sufficient -- paid for by user fees -- and the district will not provide any funding for them.

Administrators say they will continue discussing additional cuts after the May 19 election, when the state has a more precise budget.

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