Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Budget Crisis of Long Beach Education

For the past several years, the nation’s economy has been in a downward spiral. This has had a trickle-down effect on all of the states, requiring severe budget cuts as a result. Long Beach was no exception. These budget cuts have had an impact in business, law enforcement, poverty and more. However, the effects have been most apparent in the education system in Long Beach, particularly in the Long Beach Unified School District.

Within the district, schools are being forced to eliminate vital resources in order to remain operational. Teachers are being laid off, increasing the student to teacher ratio. Core classes in the curriculum, including college preparatory courses, are being cut as well. School counselors have also been let go, making it more difficult for students to receive proper guidance to attend universities.

Outside the classroom, cuts have been just as concerning. Public transportation has taken a significant hit to and from school. Safety officers have been laid off, resulting in much less supervision over the students after school hours. With danger in Long Beach as prevalent as it is, this has been a hot button controversial issue in the eyes of many. Afterschool sports programs, for both middle and high school, are being cut leaving students with less activities to engage in.

Community Leader in Long Beach Ricardo Linarez shared his concern over the ongoing issue within the city and gave his thoughts as to why it has not improved. “The economy, obviously, is feeding the problem. But, the city is not allocating the funds where they should” said Linarez. “Rather than keep our school programs and school officials, money is being contracted out and going to funding consultants.”

District Superintendent Chris Steinhauser expressed his concern over what has been a hotly contested issue. “It’s an unfortunate predicament. Budget cuts have hit us [Long Beach residents] hard and it looks like more are on the way.” However, these are not exclusive to education in the city.

A recent city council meeting revealed that these issues are not even at the top of the agenda for the time being. Fire academies are going to high schools to recruit because a shortage in the fire department. There is also an increased effort in hiring of police due to severe cutbacks and ongoing danger that is still significant in the city of Long Beach. City manager Patrick West summed it all up rather simply: “We need to make Long Beach safe. Period.”

As of now, there aren’t many programs being put into practice by the city to assist with the ongoing struggle for education. Five furlough days, where no class is held in schools, have been added to the annual school schedule as a cost saving measure. But a few days off of school will not solve this problem. The priorities are with that of the safety of the city, with the condition of city streets being a close second. But, without a proper education and nowhere for these students to go, data shows that the likelihood for them to fall into the cycle of crime and violence increases.

Students graduating from high school are still able to attend community colleges, but are being robbed of the opportunity to pursue higher learning at the university level where many more doors are opened for them. Until action is taken, the vicious cycle will continue to perpetuate these difficult education opportunities for the youth of Long Beach.

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