Special Report: Budget cuts gaining students' attention

The economy. Politics. Budget cuts.

When most teens hear these words, they instantly check out, thinking there is no way they can have any say in these ongoing issues in American society.

Think again.

Countless high school students in the Modesto City Schools district are speaking up in regard to the budget discussions that are affecting all schools and teachers. Whether it's by writing a teacher a simple thank-you card or speaking at board meetings, students are determined to let their voices and opinions be heard.

In March, high school students received word that more than 140 more teaching positions were to be cut in Modesto. The teens rallied and decided to take action to show adults that students have a stake in what's taking place and want to do something about it.

On March 22, Enochs High School students rallied in the main courtyard in the middle of the campus in support of their teachers. Students sported pink clothing, and some even volunteered to speak in front of the crowd to inspire their peers to let their voices be heard.

That evening, students from several high schools gathered at Modesto Centre Plaza and began a high-energy march to the school board meeting. Several students volunteered to speak at the meeting to make sure people know that teens sincerely care about what is happening at their schools involving budget cuts.

The Associated Student Body president at Enochs, junior Joseph Andrade, said, "I had my voice heard through the ability to speak the board meeting in March. I realize everything I want will not happen. Fortunately, the board listens with an open mind to your opinion."

Joseph believes students should take advantage of their ability to speak at board meetings and share their opinions. At the meeting, he shared his that "we wouldn't get a diploma in every hand without teachers."

While some students spoke out at board meetings, others spread awareness about the ongoing budget cuts by talking with parents and friends. Enochs senior Jissel Poblete said, "I wore pink in honor of the teachers that received pink slips and I've had discussions with my family about it to get the word out on the subject."

Jissel, like many other students, believes in the importance of sharing opinions and discussing the subject with family and other classmates.

Kaitlyn Ednave, a junior at Modesto High School, realizes the impact budget cuts are having on the student body.

"In my school in particular, our students have been pushed to do well on our CST tests in order to keep Modesto High at the top and running next year," she said. "This puts our teachers and students in a difficult position because if we fail to meet the state standards, we might receive extra school hours and lose half our staff."

One aspect of the budget cuts that is really bothering students is the fact that some of their most beloved and respected teachers are receiving pink slips. This is hitting home with most students and making them realize the seriousness of what is going on.

Said Beyer High School junior Erica Lee, "One thing that really bugs me about the budget cuts is seeing really devoted teachers being laid off, even teachers who have their tenure. Not only teachers who teach core classes, but teachers in the music and art department especially."

Erica is involved in the music program at Beyer, so she is witnessing firsthand the drastic effects budget cuts are having on art programs.

"Our music and art programs in schools are facing the most effects from these budget cuts and that's just so sad because music can change people's lives," Erica said.

Teachers and staff at area high schools have made an effort to show students they appreciate all their support and the actions they have been taking recently to be heard.

Enochs English teacher Corinne Jolliff has taped pink posters in her room and on her classroom door to raise awareness about the continuing budget crisis and to encourage students to get involved in some way.

"It's the kids who are affected the most by mistakes made by adults," she said.

Jolliff advises students to "be aware of what's happening and what you can do. Write thank-you's to teachers, let them know you appreciate them, attend board meetings, raise awareness for what's important, talk to your families."

Every little bit of encouragement matters to the teachers during this rough time, Jolliff believes. "Teachers are doing it for the students and we want to know you care."

Emily Kay Shrader is a senior at Enochs High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom journalism program.

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