More than 100 people gathered outside Torrance High School this morning to protest cuts in public school funding. Their rally was part of the larger statewide “day of action” to defend education.
After a few Torrance Unified school officials and a student representative spoke to the crowd, parents, teachers and administrators lined up to announce their support for education and to sign a petition against state cuts that have hit schools.
Torrance Unified this week approved cutting up to 125 teachers to close a $24 million budget gap.
Torrance Unified Superintendent George Mannon says it’s frustrating to cut teachers each year as the state slashes its education funding.
"Public education is 40 percent of the budget," says Mannon. "We recognize that fact – that we’re a big ticket item in the state. However, the cuts have been over 60 percent of the total cuts made in the state of California, have come from education dollars."
Mannon says if the state cut proportionately, it would make more sense. He says the Sacramento lawmakers should cut other areas, first.
"I don’t see the people in Sacramento cutting staff," says Mannon. "I don’t see those kinds of things happening, even within the governor’s own staff. He can make proclamations about cutting OTHER people’s staff. He can make proclamations about cutting public schools. But let’s look at his OWN staff and how many reductions have been made there."
For Torrance Unified parents like Christine Spellacy, the cuts are frustrating. She has a kindergartener and a first grader. In the K-3, cutting teachers means Torrance has to push up the student-to-teacher ratio to 30-to-1 - the maximum under state law.
"Both of mine are already a little behind," Spallacy says. "They go to the Learning Center and there are just so many kids in each class that they come home frustrated and they’re only five and seven, you know. 'I didn’t know how to do anything today, mom. There’s no one there.' You know, there’s just too much."
Spellacy wishes Sacramento would make cuts elsewhere. But she also suggests that schools should think out-of-the-box and try things like public-private partnerships. She points out that people gave millions to Haiti’s recovery. She wonders if they’d be willing to do the same thing for schools.