Classrooms willfeel budget pinch | SierraSun.com

Classrooms willfeel budget pinch

Renee Shadforth

The state budget cuts in education begin in a highly bureaucratic fashion, passed on from the governor to the legislature in mounds of paperwork and hours of discussion, but ultimately the effects will be felt most in the classroom.

The 20002/2003 budget for Tahoe Truckee Unified School District should be slashed about $1.4 million, for the rest of the school year, according to Ralph Johnson, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Business Manager.

The proposed cuts have led to district-wide spending and hiring freezes, while staff and faculty sit back and wait for the final word from state legislature on exactly what they will lose.

“[The students] are well aware that cuts are coming and that they’re coming in education, but I don’t think they understand how much it will affect them,” said Jason Estabrook, an economy and government teacher at Tahoe Truckee High School.

“And $1.4 million is a substantial amount of money. It’s going to be difficult.”

Estabrook, who also coaches baseball and junior varsity football teams, said he fears what will happen to extracurricular programs.

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“It would be sad to see any of these programs cut, whether it be the arts or sports,” he said.

As it is, coaches have to raise funds to sustain their teams for the year, and Estabrook doesn’t look forward to the prospect of asking the parents for more money.

“Truckee High School parents are incredibly supportive. I would dread having to ask them to step up to the plate again,” he said.

As far as the immediate issues – the holds on spending and hiring – teachers and administrators are slightly more optimistic. Many refuse to speculate on what the effects may be until the final cuts have been made.

“The effect of [the spending freeze] hasn’t been tremendous – it’s only temporary,” said Sierra Mountain Middle School Principal Don Beno. “If they keep the spending freeze, the effect will be profound.”

“We’ll still be able to offer a quality education, we just won’t be able to make the improvements we were hoping to make.”

One such “improvement,” albeit relatively minor, was lost at Tahoe Truckee High School when Principal Mike Finney decided to cut an extra spot in the spring schedule, which would have been used for overflow or an elective.

For teachers, the biggest hurdle thus far has been the consumable items, like pencils and paper.

Kathee Hansen, a teacher at Donner Trail Elementary School, said the freeze offers faculty the opportunity to be more creative and make do with what they do have.

“We have to rethink the way we do things and prioritize,” she said. “For example, should we look at writing nursery rhymes on the board? Should we make copies for the older classes, or have them copy from the board?”

Teachers at Glenshire Elementary were asked to make a list of necessary and not-so-necessary items to plan for the rest of the school year.

Sierra High School Principal Jane Loomis has a fairly calm outlook on the budget situation, which she chalks up to experience.

“Everybody is running out of pencils and paper, but no one is panicking,” she said. “We’ve all been through this before.”