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Illustration by Sarah Evans,
L.A. Youth archives

This year the state cut money to schools to close a $24 billion budget deficit. To save money, schools laid off teachers, resulting in larger class sizes, and canceled programs and activities. Here, some of our writers share the changes they saw when they returned for the new school year.

My favorite English teacher was laid off because she had been working at my school for only a few years compared to the other English teachers, who had at least seven years of experience. I learned a lot from her. I’ve always had a problem with using the same words in my writing and she taught me how to expand my writing and be more descriptive. She was my favorite because she made the class fun. We would watch her (and my) favorite Lord of the Rings series or order pizza and have a party for the class. Going to her class was always exciting! She taught freshmen through juniors and since I’m a senior, I wasn’t going to have her this year. But I’m still upset because it’s the principle that counts. My teacher shouldn’t have been laid off; it should have been someone else instead. It doesn’t matter that she had been teaching for only a few years, she was the best! The principal made a mistake.
Charmaine Peggese, 16, Cerritos HS

The teachers who were given pink slips last spring, such as almost all the art and computer teachers, were still at school on the first day. I thought maybe they were only picking up their stuff until I saw on my schedule that I had photography. I thought, “It might be a mistake on my schedule,” since my counselor had told me last spring that there wouldn’t be dance or photography. I went to the photography class and my teacher (who got pink slipped) told me that they were able to hire him back but he had to take a 3 percent pay cut.
Luisa Mendoza, 15, Lynwood HS

The budget cuts this year have definitely affected my school for the worse. The biggest change is the larger class sizes. All my classes are full this year. There are 60 students in my PE class! Last year, there were about 30 students in my PE class. Also, I was denied when I wanted move from period 4 study hall to English honors. My counselor said the English class was full, so unfortunately, I couldn’t switch so I had to stay in period 7 English honors.
AVID, a class that helps students prepare for college, was also cut which angered a lot of students and parents. While I was never in the class, many of my friends were, and they were disappointed when AVID was cut.
Freddy Tsao, 15, South Pasadena HS

Every year, my school proposes to make the best of the poor economic conditions. From my freshman to junior year, the school did this by encouraging students and teachers to use less paper and hold more fundraisers because the school could not provide as many resources as it previously could. So this year, when my calculus teacher told us that we would have to print everything from home instead of using the school printer, I wasn’t surprised. However, as senior year is just beginning, I have noticed some new changes at my high school.
Last year, the Associated Student Body (ASB) tried to help students pay for winter formal tickets by holding a fundraiser, in which a certain amount of the money made by each student would fund the student’s ticket. This year, however, the school decided to cancel the dance altogether. I was disappointed because it’s my senior year. Although the school will still hold other dances, like homecoming and prom, I was looking forward to winter formal.
Another change is that many of the school organizations are hanging by a thread. For many years, the school funded our mock trial team’s expenses, mostly transportation to and from competitions. Because of the budget cuts, our adviser wasn’t sure that the school would be able to support the team anymore. As a member of mock trial, I was shocked that it might be cancelled. However, the administration decided to support mock trial. Although we were lucky to keep our team, I know that mock trial, along with other activities, needs to be careful. The team needs to work harder than ever to prove that mock trial is an important contribution to our school.
Allison Ko, 17, Wilson HS (Hacienda Heights)

My trigonometry teacher said that there were eight custodians last year, but now there are three. So now during lunch and nutrition all the buildings must be closed so no trash has to be picked up. Also, teachers must keep their classrooms clean so the custodians will only have to clean the outside and around the school.
Taylor Moore, 15, Westchester HS

In the magnet program, AP classes like English and art history usually have a little more than 20 people, but this year they have more than 40. People have to sit in extra chairs without desks. My teachers are trying to convince people not to take their classes instead of encouraging them to sign up. We also have about 300 more students and large parts of the school are closed off because of construction projects, which makes it almost impossible to get from class to class.
Sam Landsberg, 16, Hamilton HS

At my school, our film teacher was laid off, so there’s no more film department. I was very excited to take another film class this year because I’d really enjoyed it last year. We got to make our own films, and I got to show my first movie to my classmates at our student film festival. Now the cameras, computers and other equipment are locked in the media center, unused.
Our school has been divided into three tracks for years because of overcrowding, so at any one time, two tracks of students are at school and one is always off. Now, we only have two academic counselors per track, instead of three like we did last year. There are about 1,300 students per track. We didn’t receive much individual attention before, but now I think it might be worse for the freshmen because the counselors will be even more stretched and will have less time to help them choose classes.
I was expecting class sizes to be bigger this year because I heard about 20 teachers had been laid off last year, but when I got to school, classes were about the same size. My economics teacher told me that class sizes would have been a lot bigger this year, but the school used the federal stimulus money to hire back teachers who had been laid off. The school still isn’t sure if it will be able to keep those teachers next year, though, because they might not have the money.
Lia Dun, 16, Marshall HS

I am not able to study as much as other schools for Academic Decathlon because my school won’t dedicate a class to it this year. Why should my Academic Decathlon team be put at a disadvantage? After many meetings with the class coordinator at my school, the final decision was that Academic Decathlon wouldn’t be a class and my teacher wouldn’t get paid for teaching it. Thankfully, I have a considerate Academic Decathlon coach who is willing to sacrifice her personal time after school so my team can succeed.
Dane Wells, 16, University HS

The budget cuts are starting to affect Fairfax High School. Classes are so overcrowded that my friends have to sit on the floor. One of my friends actually brought a chair from home to sit on. Many custodians have been fired, so the main building has been locked up before school, during nutrition and lunch. This makes it hard for me and my girlfriend, who I share a locker with, to get our books for our classes. I understand why they’re closing it, but students should be allowed to put books in their lockers and not have to carry heavy books for most, if not all, of their classes. I know we are in a recession, but I hope things get better.
Aaron Sayago, 18, Fairfax HS

There have been a lot of changes at my school since last year. We’re a private school, but we’ve still been affected by the economy. We lost about 150 students, although 80 new students enrolled. Teachers who have worked at my school for over a decade didn’t have their contracts renewed. I’d say we lost 20 staff members, including 10 teachers.
Also, we’ve gone paperless. The two-week schedules, which outline our class plans and assignments, are no longer handed out to students. They’re available on the school website. However students still have to print the assignments at home and hand them in.
Serli Polatoglu, 16, AGBU-MDS

This year, the honors geometry class has around 44 people. My teacher said that the school is trying to find another teacher who could teach a second honors geometry class. But right now, my class is still big. I sit in the back of the room at a long table that has computers on it and I face the back of the classroom. And on Friday, Sept. 11, three more people were added to the class and they got squished into the corner of the table I sit at.
On the first day of school, my Chinese teacher announced that we may not have workbooks because of the budget cuts. So she asked each student to donate $20 to $30. About a week later we got workbooks, but they’re not new. Inside there are red marks and pages are bent. When I’m working on an exercise in the workbook, I get distracted by the marks from a previous student. My mom and her brother, since they are Sonora alumni, are willing to donate, but they haven’t yet.
Sydney Chou, 13, Sonora HS (La Habra)