Public school officials said they will protect academic advances even as they warned of a looming financial crisis at the annual State of the Schools address on Friday at Blair Middle School.
Pasadena Board of Education President Renatta Cooper and Supt. Jon Gundry told a crowd of more than 50 parents and educators that cash-strapped public schools will be dealt a heavy blow if voters fail to pass a state tax increase in November.
Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 and Pasadena attorney Molly Munger’s Proposition 38 fail, officials said.
“There’s no way [to make cuts] without causing a great deal of pain in the district,” said Cooper, who predicted larger class sizes and a shortened school year if voters reject both proposed tax increases.
Despite financial pressures, the school district must stay the course in modernizing its curriculum and fostering special initiatives such as college and career academies, Spanish- and Chinese-language immersion programs and Blair’s International Baccalaureate program, Gundry said.
“No matter what happens with the budget, we need to continue to build and maintain these signature programs,” Gundry said. “We are in a state of crisis in terms of providing sufficient and appropriate resources for students in public schools, but every year the expectations for student performance get higher and higher.”
The school board has issued statements of support for both tax measures, but Cooper signaled a preference for Munger’s.
Proposition 38 would direct more than $19 million to Pasadena public schools next year, according to proponents.
Brown’s plan would preserve current levels of funding for schools, but that would still leave Pasadena grappling with a budget shortfall of up to $10 million next year, said district spokesman Adam Wolfson.
The gap is generated by expiration of one-time savings measures used to balance this year’s budget and anticipated decreases in state funding due to declining enrollment, he said.
“It’s like we’re selling off our future to deal with the present,” Cooper said. “We need smaller classes, not larger ones, and don’t believe anyone who tells you any different.”
Kevin Strotz, a parent leader at Hamilton Elementary School in Altadena, said Cooper’s call for increased school funding doesn’t add up because Hamilton students have improved their performance on state exams despite shrinking budgets.
“You get a lot more creative with less money,” Strotz said.
But Carla Bluestone, who has two children in the Spanish-immersion program at San Rafael Elementary School, said Cooper and Gundry made it clear that students would suffer if schools are hit with additional cuts.
“Amidst this grim funding picture, [the district] is making remarkable strides,” Bluestone said. “But you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.”