Reeling from cuts, teachers fire back in protest |

Reeling from cuts, teachers fire back in protest

Some wore pink, to protest pink slips. Others wore red, perhaps to symbolize the carnage of budget cuts caused by California’s red ink.

Whatever color they wore, Nevada County teachers were out before the school bell rang, urging parents dropping off their children to call legislators and voice concern about massive reductions in public education funding.

“Even a 12-year-old is aware and can feel the trickle-down effects that cuts are making in his school,” said Lyman Gilmore teacher Bruce Grininger, who was out handing pamphlets to parents. “The situation is beyond urgent. We need everyone aware and prepared to stand together and stand up for our schools.”

Throughout western Nevada County, schools face budget shortfalls of at least $5.6 million, and the loss of at least 59 full-time-equivalent jobs. The deficits come partly through declining enrollment for most, but California’s budget crisis has slashed state spending on public schools, causing crises in nearly every local district.

Teachers at Lyman Gilmore School and in the Nevada City School District were part of Thursday’s larger movement, dubbed the National Day of Action for Public Education.

“It was powerful and uniting for teachers, support staff, aids, parents and administrators,” said Deer Creek teacher Kimberly Ewing. “Our message was well-received in our community.”

While the effort in Nevada County was limited to passing out flyers and wearing matching T-shirts, events elsewhere turned ugly.

At the University of California, Santa Cruz, rowdy protesters blocked major gates at two entrances and smashed the windows of a car, though the driver was not injured. Earlier, demonstrators blocked entryways.

Education cuts have been particularly devastating in California, which has been grappling with budget shortfalls in the tens of billions of dollars for the past two years.

In response to a 20 percent reduction in state funding for higher learning, the University of California and California State University systems have imposed furloughs on faculty and staff, sharply reduced course offerings, turned away thousands of qualified students and raised tuition by more than 30 percent.

The local campaign came a day after Nevada City school trustees approved preliminary layoff notices for about 20 full-time-equivalent positions, affecting 25 employees; approved more than $930,000 in budget cuts; and voted to increase class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. All three measure are attempts to reduce a $1 million deficit in their $9 million budget; in addition, they are talking to labor leaders about taking five furlough days.

Late Wednesday, board members agreed to hike the number of full-time-equivalent positions targeted for notices from 16.9 to 20.

On Monday, district officials also laid off their chief business officer, a plan that will save upwards of $70,000 this year, even after the district hires an outside contractor for business services.

Board members also established an 11-member committee Wednesday to investigate closing either Nevada City Elementary or Gold Run Elementary school. That emotionally charged move would save at least $217,000 – and could bring income.

The district has been approached by four unnamed entities interested in leasing the Gold Run campus, officials have said.

In addition to parents, teachers and staff, the committee will include a member of the business community who has or has had children at schools in the district, board members decided.

Setting up the committee is the first step in the process of deciding which of the schools would close.

The district embraces four schools with about 1,200 students in pre-school through eighth grade.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

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