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Illustration by Sarah Evans,
L.A. Youth archives

This summer students will start to see the impact of the $24 billion deficit in the state budget. To save money, summer school classes have been cancelled in some school districts, the Los Angeles Community College District cut its second summer session and Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting the Cal Grants program, which provides money to low-income students going to two- and four-year colleges. Here, some of our staff writers share how the budget cuts are affecting them.

I had just begun to realize how bad the state budget deficit is when I got an e-mail from my school saying that all the summer classes at Harbor Community College were canceled. I then decided to interview my principal, Kelly Johnson, to see how bad the budget situation is at my school, Palos Verdes Peninsula High School.
    He told me that last year our district Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District faced a budget cut of $1 million but was able to raise enough money through an education foundation called Save the Teachers to fill that gap. Now, the district faces a cut of $6 million and there is no way a foundation can save us this upcoming school year. My principal said that program cuts are inevitable; these include choir, Model United Nations and academic decathlon.
    Additionally, 22 teachers and administrators were laid off district-wide to meet the budget in our 16-school district. What angers me the most about this, though, is that these cuts were based on seniority, not on performance, since that is what the teacher contracts require. It basically came down to the question of which teachers had tenure—a status that protects long-term teachers from being fired. I am concerned about this, because there are too many teachers protected by the tenure system in my school who are incapable of teaching a class properly and unable to control the students in the class.
    By cutting extracurricular activities and laying off good teachers who lack seniority, I’m afraid we are seriously degrading the quality of our school and our district. Even worse, no one knows what the final budget will be by the next school year. The district may have to cut an additional $6 to $10 million by mid-August if it doesn’t get money from the federal stimulus package.
    After I had interviewed Principal Johnson about the dismal outlook of our school budget, I walked down the stairs past the statue of a panther, our school mascot. On its pedestal hung the words “Academic Superiority” and I couldn’t help but wonder if we’ll be able to continue displaying these bold words so proudly in the upcoming years.
Elliot Kwon, 16, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS

This summer I had planned on taking another modern dance class at Los Angeles Valley College. I wanted to take a fun class and my favorite teacher Carla was teaching it. I signed up for the second session at LAVC, because both of the dance classes they offer during the summer were during the second session. Then two days later I found out that the second sessions at all Los Angeles community colleges have been cancelled due to budget cuts.
     Even though I do not need this class to graduate high school, I wanted to take it because this is a class I am interested in and my school does not offer it. I know I could just take the dance class at a studio, but I would have to pay either by the hour of by the session, which either way would cost a lot of money. My parents already have to help both of my brothers pay for college, so I cannot really ask them for a whole lot right now. That’s why LAVC was such good option. The classes cost $20 per unit and all the dance classes are only one unit so it would be cheap. But the advantage of taking the class now would have cost me nothing because I am still a high school student. As long as I have an enrollment form signed by a counselor, I can take classes for free, which also counts towards my final GPA.
Caitlin Bryan, 16, Valley Alternative Magnet HS (Van Nuys)

I recently had a meeting with my counselor about the classes I wanted to take next year. I really wanted to take photography, but she said that she wasn’t sure that I could because there is a possibility that the class isn’t going to be available next year. I was really disappointed because I love photography, and it would have counted as a visual and performing arts credit.
     I also wanted to take health in summer school. However, my school had made the announcement that only students going into 12th grade and 12th graders can take summer school. Not even failing students in other grades can take summer school. Once again I was disappointed. I wanted to get that class out of the way so that I can take other classes during the school year that will help me get into a good college.
Jacky Garcia, 16, Lynwood HS

As I get ready to start my freshman year of college, I am worried about my financial aid. My tuition is pretty much covered with aid from the federal government and my university. But the loss of my state aid would mean I’d have a debt of about $40,000 after college graduation.
     Eliminating Cal Grants will be a huge mistake. If students are prevented from affording higher education (especially in a tight job market), communities and the economy will suffer. I’ve contacted State Assembly members and the Governor to encourage them to rethink the plan to cut Cal Grants. I understand that there is a huge deficit, but an educated population is vital for a society to be successful.
Sylvana Insua-Rieger, 17, Beverly Hills HS