Mt. Diablo Unified to cut $10M, including some music programs

Another Bay Area school district is looking to save millions of dollars in the upcoming academic year.

Because of declining enrollment, Mt. Diablo Unified – one of the largest districts in the Bay Area with 50 schools and 36,000 students – is trying to dig itself out of a financial hole. The district also said it is suffering from expensive maintenance and higher utility bills.

So to close the gap, the school board on Wednesday night voted to cut $10 million from the budget, which includes the 4th grade band and orchestra classes.

"When we have to reduce out budget, we have to reduce people and services. Although that is a painful process for us, it is necessary, said Dr. Adam Clark, Superintendent, Mt. Diablo Unified School District.

Before the vote, parents held a rally over some of these cuts – especially to the music program. 

"It teaches them time management, and they get good grades, and they're engaged in class and the friendships they create through these programs will last a lifetime," one father said. "And on top of that, they're learning music."

Young students and even their older siblings who had once taken the music classes played for the crowd before the meeting.

They had signs saying music is a language that everyone can understand and also focuses on teamwork just like sports.

Also at issue, the district has discussed eliminating 60 positions. And then there's the also the issue of teacher pay. 

"Currently we have a 10% raise on the table for the next three years," Clark said.

But some teachers have said they could strike if they don't get a better offer than the one currently on the table.

"We are proposing 12 ½% over that six-year period to deal with the loss of competitiveness that the district has experience because they haven’t increased the salary schedule in so long. Said Anita Johnson, President of the Mt. Diablo Education Association.

And Mt. Diablo Unified is not alone.

In San Francisco, the district recently sent over 400 preliminary layoff notices to teachers, paraeducators, social workers, family liaisons, and community school coordinators despite community pleas to keep everyone employed.

And in Oakland, the school board voted to close and merge some schools, over hunger strikes and protests, to close a budget shortfall.