From the PTA to the baseball field to the Girl Scout cookie booth, parents of Modesto City Schools students are talking about one thing: budget cuts.
District officials are looking at ways to slash at least $25 million from their $250 million budget for the next school year, and parents are worried. The district already has cut about $21 million from its budget in the past two years.
What will go? Will it be art? Music? Sports? Librarians? Counselors? Small class sizes?
"I don't see how they can cut anything," said Karen Briseno of Mo- desto, an out-of-work mom whose 8-year-old is in second grade at Enslen Elementary School. "Schools are already down to the bones."
If pressed, parents -- many of whom have trimmed their household budgets in these tough times -- can come up with ideas.
Ken Morey of Modesto, a college student whose 6-year-old is in kindergarten at Wilson Elementary, says cuts should be made in administration. Administrative cuts also were favored by people who attended budget workshops the district held, as well as by those who filled out an online survey.
Travel and office expenses should be trimmed first, Morey said.
"I'm sorry, but people don't need money to take trips," he said. "I'd look at all that kind of spending."
If forced to make salary cuts, Morey said district officials should first look at slashing their paychecks, not those of teachers. Teacher furloughs should be avoided, he said.
"Asking someone to work without pay is just wrong," he said.
Administrators under fire
Anthony Rodriguez, a custodian whose two children also attend Wilson, said that if someone has to lose his or her job, vice principals should be among the first to go.
"I don't see the purpose," he said. "You have a principal already."
For Richard Sklar of Modesto, a teacher and father of four, cuts to the administration are a no-brainer, although he wouldn't slash assistant principal jobs, at least not yet.
"Principals and assistant principals, they directly impact kids," he said. "I'd start in the district office and work down."
But what should be next?
Officials should look at the Gifted and Talented Education program, Sklar said, as well as at sports. Arts programs should remain intact.
"If it's a choice between sports and arts and music, you should keep arts and music," he said. "Art and music are much more transferrable skills in life."
Obviously, others don't agree. Adam Lucero, a refrigeration technician, is a father of five and a baseball coach. Sports were a highlight of high school for him.
"That was the reason I went to school most of the time," he said.
Counselors should remain, according to Sandra Car- denas, a 20-year-old Downey High graduate whose three siblings attend Modesto City Schools.
"My counselor helped me get into college," she said. "Also, nowadays most parents are busy working. Kids need that one mentor on their side."
Harmony on class sizes
There's one thing parents seem to agree on: keeping class sizes small in primary grades. Class sizes in kindergarten through third grade are capped at 20 students.
Any more would be too many, parents said.
"Twenty-eight to one? Thirty to one? It's going to be a difficult job for the teacher," said Denise Olsen, a physical therapist from Modesto whose 4-year-old is to start kindergarten in August.
"I'm scared to death," she said. "I think some of the things that make school special are going to be gone."
Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2358.