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    Parcel tax idea postponed

    The Albany schools superintendent and board decided to delay an attempt to put a parcel tax measure before Albany voters until at least November. They reasoned that a June ballot measure would be too rushed. However, by November, the district as well as voters will have a precise picture of what education programs are being lost to budget woes and what can be saved with new revenues.

    At a school budget brainstorming session Monday night, the board of education debated the issues before about 50 parents, teachers, coaches and others concerned about what will happen to Albany schools now that the state has slashed $8.4 billion from education spending for the next year and a half.

    The state’s cut is $380 per student. For a typical classroom of 30 students, that means $11,400 less will be spent to educate that class – money taken either from teachers’ salaries by retaining fewer teachers to teach larger classes or from salaries of classroom aides, reading specialists, counselors, janitors, vice principals and the like.

    For Albany, the state’s cuts equal about $2.2 million dollars.

    The Albany Unified School District is weighing a long list of items to cut, but each of them would mean some loss to education, board members noted, and each item seemed to have advocates among parents or teachers who argued Monday that students can’t live without them.

    An item once on the list of possibilities but now removed from consideration is class size reduction in kindergarten through third grade. Classes will remain about 20 students in each kindergarten, first, second and third grade class. That relieved many parents.

    But still under consideration is eliminating a 7th period at the high school and middle school. That is the period students take electives and music – the kind of courses, several parents noted, that keep many students excited about school. In the middle school, that is the period some students take a foreign language.

    “The music program would not survive if you cut 7th period out of the day,” said parent Elizabeth Allen who also chairs the Albany Music Fund. She noted that Albany’s award winning jazz bands and vocal groups would lose the ability to cultivate talent if they became after school activities. Musical performance is not only the link that keeps some kids interested in school but it also helps many of them get into college, she said.

    Other speakers noted the importance of reading specialists in allowing all young readers to learn how to read. And the AUSD Athletic Director, whose job is on the chopping block, noted that Albany’s student athletes would be subject to unsafe playing fields and conditions if there was no one to regularly check fields, equipment, and students’ health records.

    Parents asked how they can donate to the schools. Board members noted that several parent-led fundraising groups exist to help the schools, including Albany SchoolCARE, the Albany Music Fund, the Albany Athletic Boosters and the Albany Education Foundation.

    “They are working very closely with the district at this point,” Superintendent Marla Stephenson said.

    Article by Barbara Grady.

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    To see a complete list of school programs that could be cut go to the AUSD site. That site will also list dates for future budget study sessions and forums.

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