Following the announcement that the Bakersfield City School District is canceling summer school classes this year, hundreds protested outside the District’s board meeting Tuesday night.
Summer school used to be a six-week program. Last year, it was cut to 13 days. In December, the District canceled the program entirely.
“We have to consider the fact that summer school serves only a small portion of our district,” said BCSD board president, Lillian Tafoya. “The dollars might be better utilized when we’re looking at the more global picture and addressing the needs of all students.”
The program for at-risk students used to average an enrollment of 7,000. Now, it serves about 3,000.
‘They said it was all the way down to 3000 students–that’s more than a high school in Bakersfield, California. that’s 10 percent of our student population,” said Steve Comstock of the Bakersfield Elementary Teachers’ Union.
The budget is a big concern for the District. Summer school costs $1.8 million, which is not covered by state grants. The amount accounts for about one percent of the District’s annual budget.
However, protesters say the cost is worth it to support lower performing students–especially students of color, those who are low-income, and those for whom English is not their first language.
“We need to make education accessible to all of our students, especially English-learning students,” said Mary Helen Barro, a teacher.
The protesters urged the board of elected officials to reconsider their decision to better serve them, the taxpayers.
The District countered, “we can find creative and innovative ways to still deliver the services while not becoming fiscally irresponsible.”
Summer school wasn’t the only cause of protest. Salary negotiations between the District and the teacher’s union have been at a standstill.
Many teachers argue the two-percent raise they were offered was a fraction of the 8.5-percent raise given to administrators.
According to BCSD, the starting salary for a certified teacher with a bachelor’s degree in the district is about $48,000.
A two-percent raise would be an increase of $960.
“We did bring competitive salaries to the assistant superintendents. if you’re not competitive, especially a district of this size, then you’re not going to be able to attain the best employees,” Tafoya said.
With so many protesters, hundreds were forced to sit outside the board room.
Many wondered why the District didn’t hold the meeting in the building’s auditorium. The District said the auditorium is being set up for a student play.
Other protesters were angry that the time limit for speakers will soon be reduced to three minutes.
“They’re gonna tell you that you have less time to talk,” Comstock said. “This is the last time they want you to be able to talk for five minutes.”
Many pointed out the board is made up of elected officials–people that should serve them, the taxpayers.
“We know that the magic happens in the classroom, but unless you have administrators and board members that help to drive that mission, and offer the support and resources, it’s not going to happen,” Tafoya said.
The district told us there’s a possibility it’ll bring back summer school in 2020.
In the meantime, they say the summer meals program will continue this year even without classes.