By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
The signs students were holding during a forum on state education budget cuts at Southwestern College sums up the overall feeling at the community college in Chula Vista:
“SWC supports education.” “No cuts to education.” “Education cuts never heal.”
The purpose of the forum, which took place on Friday, April 23, was to raise awareness about the current state fiscal situation and its impact to education, especially at the community college level.
Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny, who represents the local 40th. District and is chair of the Legislative Budget Committee, was present at the forum to address the state education budget cuts that will largely affect Californians.
“This is a difficult year for California,” said Ducheny, who has remained actively involved in educational issues that largely affect the citizens who reside in the 40th District.
“Not only will it affect public education, but also health care, foster care, welfare, and senior services,” she said.
More than 300 students, faculty, and employees attended the forum. They readily made their voice heard, a voice that was saying “No” to the budget cuts.
“Educational cuts today will cost us much more tomorrow,” said Dr. Jean Roesch, Southwestern Community College District Governing Board Vice President. “I don’t think California can afford that.”
The cuts to education are part of a 12 to 16 million deficit that the state faces this year. The governor has proposed cutting funds from education and other services to face the deficit. These cuts have received great criticism from educators, public officials, parents, and community leaders.
“When you have cuts of this magnitude, most likely they will reach students,” said Dr. Raj K. Chopra, SWC superintendent and president. “We really don’t want students to be affected.”
Most likely, SWC will have to cut classes, reduce enrollment in classes that are offered, and stop hiring more adjunct faculty.
Chopra did say that, although other school districts will lay off teachers, “Southwestern has not yet issued a single layoff notice due to budget.”
Other areas that might be affected are public programs such as financial aid and Educational Opportunity Program and Services.
“Next year will be very challenging,” Roesch said.
In a recent column published in La Prensa San Diego, Chopra said that in order to face the budget crisis, SWC had to start reducing expenses.
“How did we do it? We took the harder road less traveled, starting with a reorganization plan that may not have been popular but certainly got the job done,” he wrote. “Responsibilities were shifted. Positions eliminated. Vacancies left unfilled. But, ultimately, nobody lost their job or saw a decrease in their pay, and the District saw savings in the hundreds of thousands.”
During the forum, SWC student Melissa Cervantes encouraged her classmates to be proactive and not reactive to this situation. She said students are the most affected by these cuts and are the ones who should seek a solution.
“We’re the future of the state, we’re the future of the country,” Cervantes said, while the crowd was cheering her comments. “We must not stay quiet. We should take action.”
Cervantes said that students should write to elected officials, demanding them to not cut funds from public education.
Senator Ducheny said she will take SWC students comments and share them with the state senate in Sacramento.