Hundreds of Arcadia parents and students showed their solidarity Tuesday by wearing pink at several area schools to raise awareness for the 104 Arcadia Unified School District (AUSD) staff members who received official pink slip notices last Thursday.
The participants hoped to raise money for the Arcadia Educational Foundation (AEF), an organization that has donated millions of dollars over the years to AUSD.
About two dozen of the parents and students who attended Tuesday’s rallies continued their efforts at last night’s City Council meeting. Jonathan Ma, student body president at Arcadia High School, and Michelle Kim, the student representative of the Board of Education, took to the podium to let council members, and more importantly Arcadia residents watching at home, know about the precarious situation the district faces.
The district is looking at a $349 per student reduction, roughly $3.1 million overall, in funding unless the public passes an extension of temporary sales tax and temporary vehicle license fees that Governor Jerry Brown has proposed. If Brown's extension passes--at this point it's not even on the June ballot--AUSD would face a much more manageable $19 reduction per student. If Brown's extension fails, AUSD will be cut at least an additional $3 million dollars which is the equivalent of 44 teachers, according to AUSD Superintendent Joel Shawn.
Lisa Lucas, the vice-president of AEF, attended several of the rallies Tuesday and was happy with the results.
"One of the greatest obstacles is getting the message out," Lucas said. And to that end, it appeared the rally was a success.
As an example of the rally's impact, Lucas cited Arcadia High School students who had handed out around 4,000 bracelets to raise awareness for the budget cuts.
Lan Nguyen, the PTA president at Foothills Middle School and wife to Board of Education member Cung Nguyen, said the main reason for the rally was to inform.
"We want to let people know it's a real situation. We don't have the funds for 64 positions next year," Nguyen said.
Lucas, who has two kids currently attending Arcadia High and another who graduated from the school, said at that AEF would be delivering a check for $210,000 to the district this week, which is money that will be used to save three teachers' jobs. AEF has already raised nearly enough to save a fourth teacher’s job as well, according to Lucas.
Superintendent Shawn said the district would need about an additional $5 million a year to offset the budget reductions.
"For next year specifically, AEF would need to raise about $4.2 million dollars to "save" every teacher who potentially will lose their job next year," Dr. Shawn said in an e-mail to Patch. Shawn noted that this amount would save jobs for one year only.
“It’s going to be a hill to climb to come up with those numbers,” Lucas admitted.
According to Lucas, in the past, a “good” year for the AEF meant raising $300,000-400,000.
But it's not just donations that AEF and AUSD need.
"We will also need help from parents in contacting legislators down the road," said Vicky Stiles, a First Avenue Middle School parent.
Despite the tough task at hand, Lucas is hopeful that the community will come through. And that hopefulness isn't born out of naivety: Already in just under two weeks, , led by , has raised just north of $20,000.
“We have a lot of new donors,” Lucas said.
Shawn said he was especially pleased with the collaboration among PTA, AEF, and the district. He saved special praise for another group though.
"I think our students deserve special recognition. And I feel we are getting the word out to our community that while we've been able to protect their students from the horrible budget cuts we've been experiencing since 2007-8 that we will not be able to continue to do that which means that teachers and other staff will be laid off."