OAKLAND, Calif. (Amber Lee/KTVU) - Oakland Unified School District is grappling with mid-year budget cuts to get its financial house in order and held a school board held a special meeting Thursday night where the superintendent laid out a plan to cut $9 million from the budget to a largely unhappy and vocal crowd.
From the start of the meeting, emotions ran high and there were disruptions.
"If you're cutting our program, you're cutting our future," said one 15-year-old student who addressed board members from the podium.
The meeting opened with testimony from dozens of students.
All fought for programs such as African American Male Achievement. They described the program as life changing.
"The chance to go to college, to get good grades, to want to go to school," says another high school student from the podium.
"We need to cut from the top. We need to cut police out of school budget," said one woman who stood up to speak not long after the meeting started. She says she wanted budget cuts that don't hurt students. She also called for the meeting to be moved downstairs to accommodate the overflow crowd that was watching from a monitor.
She lad others in the audience in a chant,"Go downstairs. Shut it down."
Outside, a crowd of teachers, parents and community members gathered to chant their demands. They say cuts should not be made to anything that affects students.
"I don't want us to have to struggle to find books, paper, and pencils. Our budget is down at our school. The principal is not allowed to buy anything," says Marisa Brown, a Howard Elementary School science teacher.
"There already isn't any art at the school. We just lost a P.E. teacher. We're about to lose another P.E. teacher. There is no extra curricular activities," Alana Corpuz, a parent.
School district officials say says years of changing leadership and financial missteps have led to the current budget crisis.
And that the cuts are needed to avoid state receivership.
The district says it has already limited hiring, overtime and spending, but that layoffs and program cuts may be necessary.
"Nobody wants to cut programs for kids. Nobody wants to cut people who help kids. But we are in a situation where we have budget realities that we have to deal with," John Sasaki, spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District.
The board is scheduled to vote on the budget plan Dec. 13.