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Report: California Budget Cuts Hit Poor Schools Harder

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 SACRAMENTO (AP) – Three years of state budget cuts have widened the gap between schools in poor and wealthy communities while diminishing the quality of education in California overall, according to a report released Monday by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“In 2011, California public schools struggle to provide all students with a quality education amidst economic crisis and deep cuts to education spending,” said the report from UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access.

The report, based on a survey last summer of 277 high school principals throughout the state, said while $18 billion in budget cuts have hit all school districts, wealthier schools have been able to weather the financial crunch better.

Those schools have tapped parents to pay for items such as athletics and field trips, as well as for donations to preserve arts and music electives, while schools in low-income communities have not.

For every dollar a low-income school raises, a high-income school raises $20, said the study titled “Free Fall: Educational Opportunities in 2011.”

But across the board, class sizes of 40 and more are increasingly common, summer school and after-school programs are becoming a thing of the past, and outdated textbooks and instructional materials are being used longer, the study said.

“We’ve cut as much at my school as we can, quite frankly, without giving blood,” Paula Hanzel, principal of Sacramento New Technology High School, told reporters on a conference call.

Todd Ullah, principal of 2,500-student Washington Preparatory Academy in South Los Angeles, said 21 teachers are slated for layoff June 30 out of a faculty of 130. His school has already laid off roughly 60 percent of its maintenance and clerical staffs, and has had its textbook and supply allotment slashed by 70 percent, he said.

The study said schools are also coping with a rise in hungry and homeless students, which impacts their learning. “You see it on the kids’ faces,” Ullah said. “They feel it.”

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