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Public education and the economy
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According to the experts charged with deciding such things, the U.S. economy entered the "Great Recession" in December 2007. These same experts declared that the recession was over in the summer of 2009. This determination was based on the premise that the U.S. economy started to grow at that time. The problem with that logic is that, while we may be experiencing growth, our economic situation remains far worse than it was prior to entering the downturn.

A better measure of economic recovery might be defined as when conditions return to previous levels of prosperity. From a school district perspective, it is now estimated that California state revenues will not return to their 2007 levels until 2016 or 2017. By this measure, the current economic downturn will last a decade. While it may not be as severe as the Depression of the 1930s, it appears that this economic event will be every bit as enduring.

When state revenues are down, school districts inevitably experience reduced revenues. How we deal with the reality of budget cuts can have profound impacts upon our students. Given that this period of budget cutting will last a decade, and knowing that students spend thirteen of their formative years with us, an entire generation of students is currently going through the school system knowing of nothing but budgetary tough times.

Schools provide a common core set of experiences for our citizenry upon which the foundation of our democracy rests. Students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to excel academically and participate in activities such as sports and music. To deny an appropriate education is to deprive students of hope for their individual and for our collective futures. Again, how we choose to handle this period of lean budgets will have serious ramifications for the future of this state.

In the Ceres Unified School District, we are proud that our School Board and our employees came together to make sacrifices, in the form of reduced employee wages and salaries, to protect our students from the worst of this budget crisis. Sadly, we may not be done weathering the storm. As we look to the coming years, our actions and choices will have a role in determining the future of an entire generation of youth. We must weigh long and hard the consequences of limiting educational opportunity to our children, the future of our state.