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Palo Alto Weekly Online Edition
Publication Date: Friday, May 02, 2003

Budget cuts take a
back-seat to school work
Student apathetic, helpless, uninformed about reductions

by Rachel Metz

Heather Hoffman was one of 1,000 students who swarmed Sacramento in February protesting cuts to basic-aid school districts. Waving signs proclaiming "Education 1st, Not Prisons" and evoking memories of the '60s anti-war movement, Hoffman and her peers meant to make a difference.

But now that the picket signs have been packed away, the Gunn High School sophomore has found that concerns about the school budget crisis have taken a back seat to exams and end-of-the-year festivities.

Behind the numbers

Budget cuts take a
back-seat to school work

Budget crisis forces
new thoughts on school funding

List of budget cuts

Streetwise

"At the rally there were a lot of juniors there, but not a lot of people at Gunn went compared to other schools," Hoffman said. "Maybe after the pressure of the AP's and Star Testing is out of the way, then maybe somehow we can get a rally together and it can all come into place."

Lakshmi Eassey, a Palo Alto High School student, said the lack of ongoing budget information contributed to the drop in interest. Many students formed communication networks at the February rally, Eassey said, but since then a small percentage of students have actually worked on the budget issue.

"I think that a lot of awareness was promoted during the protests earlier in February, but I think a lot of students don't really feel the affect that the budget cuts could have or will have and so they just ... I don't think they know enough about it and since they don't know enough about it they're almost apathetic about it," said Eassey, who is also Paly's student body president.

Gunn junior Priscilla Mendoza said there is more campus talk on the war in Iraq and the SARS virus.

"I probably would be more involved if I knew more about it and if I knew more about the opportunities that are out there for us," said Mendoza.

Jimmy Meuel, a Paly junior, said a lot of students are unsure about how budget cuts will actually affect the school.

"It's just one of those things where until it would be set in, until the budget would be cut and we start feeling the affects of that, people might be taking stuff for granted," Meuel said.

At Gunn and Paly, student body presidents Freddy Flaxman and Eassey are working to keep students informed about the latest budget news. Gunn has distributed fliers on the topic around campus, while Paly's student council representatives report to their fourth-period classes with budget information.

Eassey wrote a few letters to local government officials to protest upcoming cuts, but said students don't think there is much they can do. She plans to encourage students to attend school board meetings and keep themselves informed about the crisis.

"I don't know if anything will help beyond what's already being done," Eassey said.

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Editor's note:
This is part of the final installment in a four-part series on how the school budget crisis is affecting various segments of the community.
As the biggest fiscal fiasco to hit education rocks schools across the state, the Palo Alto Unified School District and the surrounding community battle a state property-tax grab and formulate massive reductions to the district's 2003-2004 budget.
At a study session April 29, the district will reveal its plans to reduce the budget by more than $4 million for the 2003-2004 to address anticipated state cuts and a shortfall in revenue.
In the meantime, it is fighting to hold onto more than $23.1 million in property tax funding that Gov. Gray Davis threatens to take away.

First installment
Second installment
Third installment

 

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