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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

Parents at Mountain Elementary School in Soquel have had it with cuts to education, and now they're fighting back.

It's Elementary

As meetings at Mountain Elementary School, a 160-student public school in Soquel, forecast darker and darker financial weather for the upcoming year, second grade teacher Kim Dudley became increasingly upset. And when the latest projected budget numbers showed that one teacher would be laid off, and that either out-of-district students would be shuffled to other schools or the entire independent study program would be scrapped, she decided enough was enough. "One choice is to yell at our school board, who really have no choice," she says. "The other is to start a movement."

The week-old movement, Save Our California Schools, began after Dudley called a meeting of all the Mountain School parents who were feeling as frustrated as she was. About 40 parents have begun drumming up support in the other school districts. "We kept getting more and more wound up, so this gives us an outlet for those feelings," says parent coordinator Suzanne Schmidt. "We're hoping to get other Santa Cruz schools involved, because we're a drop in the bucket." It shouldn't be too difficult--the Pajaro Valley Unified School District will be losing about 200 jobs, Santa Cruz Schools is shedding 40 and Scotts Valley is losing about 21 positions.

Dudley says the group is protesting the attitude in Sacramento that has devalued the importance of education spending, creating the perfect climate for this kind of frenzied firing. "The reality is, even during good times California public schools weren't funded," she says, citing a figure that ranked California 47th out of the 50 states in terms of per-pupil funding. The group's core mission is to make education a top priority for legislators so these cuts will never happen again.

Save Our California Schools will hold its first rally this Friday, March 13, in conjunction with the statewide California Teachers Association Pink Friday. Attendees will wear pink and march in protest of the estimated 17,800 pink slips that will be issued to teachers as a result of state budget cuts. Former Assemblyman Fred Keeley is slated to make an appearance; other dignitaries may too.

Mountain Elementary School District superintendent Ken Miller says he's confident the group will get noticed. "It's like the pebble that became a boulder," he says. "I think the parents have a tremendous amount of power. They just needed to get organized."

The Save Our California Schools rally is Friday, March 13, at 4pm at Anna Jean Cummings Park, 461 Old San Jose Road, Soquel. To get involved, call Suzanne Schmidt at 831.479.7696 or log on to

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