While millions of Americans are rubbing their palms in anticipation of a $600 rebate check, the school board in Santa Barbara — and many others across California — is sharpening its knives in sad preparation for major budget cuts.
For Bart Millar, a parent at Cesar Chavez Charter Elementary School, 1102 E. Yanonali St., the paradox is just too glaring to ignore.
Millar is on a campaign to persuade Santa Barbarans to donate their rebate checks to the cash-starved K-12 district, which is steeling itself for what could be the deepest round of cuts in memory. Already, 51 teachers have received layoff notices, largely due to a statewide budget crisis.
“It is kind of dumb for one hand of the government to be spending money, and the other hand of government to be taking it,” Millar said. “I’m going to shake the tree and see what fruit hits the ground.”
In addition to writing letters to the editors of local media, Millar has met with the K-12 Parent Advisory Committee, which is sort of like the PTA, but for the entire district. They liked the idea.
Next week, he’ll meet with a similar committee of parents who represent just the middle schools and high schools.
“I don’t know if it will get a groundswell of support, but I’m going to keep pushing on it,” said Millar, who sits on the board of directors at the bilingual Cesar Chavez school. (Public charter schools are commonly run by parent board members.)
Meanwhile, it’s worth asking: How many donations would it require — hypothetically — to wipe out the district’s deficit?
This spring, the school board plans to carve $4 million from its $93 million discretionary budget. Also this spring, as part of the federal government’s effort to reboot the sputtering economy, individuals who didn’t earn too little — less than $3,000 — or too much — more than $87,000 — will receive a check from Uncle Sam for between $300 and $600.
To balance the books in Santa Barbara, the schools — again, hypothetically — would need to receive 6,666 checks for $600.
However, even if by some miracle Millar was able to raise that much money, cuts would still need to be made.
“These kind of one-time approaches are very helpful, and can sometimes help us avoid things in the short term,” school board member Annette Cordero said. But “we have to continue on with our plan to stop our deficit-spending process.”
Millar, who runs a nationwide interior retail contract firm called M.A. Construction out of his home, says so far, the idea has caught peoples’ interest. But he isn’t kidding himself.
“There are some people, who, when they get the money in their hands, are not going to want to let go,” he said. “Hopefully, there will be some people like me who think it’s a little nuts — who think it should go to the school.”
To donate, contact the school principal nearest you.