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Jerry Brown hears about effects of state budget cuts in Stockton school visit

April 14, 2011 |  6:49 pm

Gov. Jerry Brown came to Stockton to discuss his budget plan Thursday and got an earful from local teachers, administrators and elected officials about the effect of state budget cuts on local schools.

Brown summoned education leaders from the region to the cafeteria of Van Buren Elementary School in south Stockton for a two-hour community town hall, with the governor doing most of the listening.

Principals, teachers and parents told of years of school budgets being slashed, programs like school athletics being eliminated and ballooning class sizes. Most in the crowd said they favored Brown’s plan to extend billions in certain taxes to offset deeper education cuts.

Ripon, Calif., teacher Kate Salcedo, who received a layoff notice this year, said things are only going to get worse unless Sacramento intervenes. “As a teacher, I’m going to be OK ... but the students will not,” she said. “It saddens me both as an educator and as a parent.”

Unlike Brown’s appearances in Riverside and Orange County last week, this latest foray out of the Capitol was to an area of the state represented by Democrats. He said he will continue to host events like the one in Stockton on Thursday because “I want to see for myself what the effect of state policies are.”

The problems in Stockton are emblematic of many of the difficulties throughout the Central Valley, which has been hit hard by the downturn in the state economy and years of budget cuts from Sacramento. Unemployment in the region is higher than in other parts of the state.

The school Brown visited Thursday, next to a housing project, is a low-performing school with test scores more than 120% below the state average; 43% of the students speak a language other than English at home, and 21 of the school’s 34 teachers have received layoff notices from the school district.

The district’s assistant superintendent, Dan Wright, said those layoffs could be avoided if Brown’s plan to extend billions in income, sales and vehicle taxes is approved by voters. Brown said stories like the ones told Thursday needed to be heard in Sacramento and around the state. “Together we give voice towards our collective challenge,” Brown told the crowd. “That is really what we need here.”

--Anthony York in Stockton