Instead of More Music and Arts Like Voters


The governor’s budget revisions announced last week caused some heartburn among school officials in Fresno and across the state. With a huge looming deficit, Gov. Gavin Newsom is looking to make some trims, but he didn’t stop at just trimming next year’s proposed budget.

Newsom wants to whack out one-time funding already in this year’s budget that for Fresno Unified would total almost $60 million — not a huge part of the district’s nearly $2 billion budget, but nothing to sneeze at either. The district could lose about $18 million in the arts and music block grant and $41 million in the “learning recovery” block grant.

“Some of the things that are being discussed in the May revise is super-problematic because it’s A. either programmed or B., already spent, because we’re in May of 2023 already,” Superintendent Bob Nelson told School Zone.

Patrick Jensen, the district’s interim chief financial officer and budget guru, says the district will be able to shift funds because it has a sufficient cash reserve. He adds that smaller districts with less cash on hand would have less wiggle room.

And the budget reductions would mean less money for arts and music education instead of boosting spending, California voters approved Proposition 28 in November with the understanding that it would expand, not replace, funding for the arts. Proposition 28  requires the state to designate 1% of the education budget specifically for music and arts education.

If the arts and music funding is cut, it means the Fresno School Board, which has been getting budget presentations for the past couple of months and had expressed concerns about whether there would be enough classroom space for new music teachers who could be coming on board due to the increased funding, can cross that worry off their list.

The district is projecting to receive about $12 million from Prop. 28 revenues, Jensen said.

The state’s new budget numbers come as the district is engaged in negotiations with the Fresno Teachers Association for a new contract. Thus far, based on their public statements, the two sides appear fairly far apart.

State officials are aware that the state’s biggest districts are already contending with labor unrest — Oakland teachers conducted a short strike recently, and Los Angeles teachers walked picket lines in support of another union.

Nelson said that he’s hopeful that state legislators, who will need to give final approval to Newsom’s budget, might convince him to dip into the rainy-day fund to make the funding cuts less severe.

Also in School Zone: 

  • New Fresno State program will “breed” more bulldogs.
  • More dual enrollment opportunities to open for rural higher schoolers.
  • Drug abuse counselor students get a boost from a new state program.
  • Clovis students were sweating, and not because of their finals.
  • Westlands announces scholarship winners.

Fresno State Launches ‘Bulldog Bound’

A guaranteed admission to college? Yes, says Fresno State, which is working with area school districts on a program that will help prepare high schoolers for the rigors of college as well as the steps they’ll need to take (applications, etc.) to get there.

Fresno State cautioned that guaranteed admission does not guarantee entry into the college’s “impacted” programs that have limited slots.

Students from the participating school districts — Fresno, Visalia, Fowler, Sanger, Parlier, and Central — and University High School can sign a guaranteed admission agreement with Fresno State as early as their freshman year in high school (with their parents’ or guardians’ consent). The agreement isn’t iron-clad — students will still be able to choose other colleges and universities if they so desire, but it commits Fresno State to their admission.

By becoming a “Bulldog Bound” student, the high schoolers will have access to admissions and recruitment staff, receive a Fresno State ID card, which gives them email and library access, get help with academic major and career exploration, assistance with applications, scholarship opportunities, and early financial aid estimates. Other perks include summer student leadership opportunities and resources for their parents or guardians.

Fresno State is also looking at expanding the program to include dual enrollment opportunities for participating students, who could start earning college credits while in high school.

‘Math Bridge’ to Boost STEM Options

And, while we’re on the topic of dual enrollment, the Central Valley Math Bridge launched Thursday with agreements between school districts and community colleges to provide dual enrollment courses that allow students in rural high schools to take college-level math courses. The goal is to prepare students for careers in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology that require a thorough grounding in mathematics.

Area participating schools and colleges are: Liberty, Madera, Madera South, Matilda Torres, and Yosemite, partnering with Madera Community College; Dinuba, Orosi, Parlier, and Reedley, partnering with Reedley College; and Firebaugh and Tranquillity, partnering with West Hills Coalinga College.

The Central Valley Math Bridge project was initially funded by a five-year, $4 million federal grant. Dr. Benjamin Duran, executive director of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, said in a news release that the program is designed to create a model for “meaningful” dual enrollment pathways and expansion that can be applied across the state in regions serving underprepared students, while also supporting the consortium’s mission to increase the rates of college graduates.

State Program Funds Drug Abuse Counselor Training

California is bankrolling the training of new substance use disorder counselors to the tune of $23.3 million in grants, which are designed to support the students with on-the-job training.

Some of them will train in Fresno through Youth Recovery Connections, which is receiving $2.7 million. Youth Recovery Connections was one of six organizations winning funding.

Through the program, students will be provided with specialized education in addiction treatment and counseling and also will get hands-on experience working with clients, in a supervised setting.

The goal of the program is to lower the financial barriers that many students face when seeking certification.

In addition to paying the students, the providers will be able to offer paid time for schooling activities and offer career placement bonuses.

AC Quits at 2 Clovis Schools

The sizzling daytime temperatures, somewhat unusual for this time of year, have been especially hard on students at a Clovis Unified middle and high school this week.

The district reported Wednesday afternoon that students in Clovis East and Reyburn Intermediate, both on the Reagan Educational Center campus, started sweating after the campus AC broke down.

While workers rushed to get the equipment back up and running, the district set out free-standing indoor fans and large outdoor fans, relocated some classes to the West Gym, which has a separate AC system, and provided ice and water stations around the campus.

The district later reported that the main system was repaired Wednesday evening and would remain up and running overnight so classrooms would be cool in time for Thursday’s lessons.

Westlands Water District Awards Scholarships

Seventeen Valley seniors will have an extra $1,000 to apply to their college expenses after winning a scholarship from Westlands Water District. The recipients were selected based on their academic achievement, leadership, contributions to the local community, and future career goals.

They are: Hafeeza Fofana, Hanford West, UCLA; Luis Orozco, Coalinga High, UC Santa Barbara; Jenna Nickell, Lemoore Middle College, Mississippi State; Claudio Silva, Sierra Pacific, Fresno State; Agustin Lopez, Firebaugh, Grand Canyon University; Chloe Cota, Lemoore Online College Preparatory, UC Davis; Sophia Reyes Moreno, Coalinga, UC Berkeley; Hailey Couch, Lemoore High, Brigham Young; Manuel Bautista, Firebaugh, Fresno State; Brayan Cortes, Mendota High, Fresno State; Fernanda Natividad Porras, Coalinga, West Hills Community College; Ramon Gonzalez, Coalinga High/West Hills College, UC Santa Barbara; Alexandra Nunez, Mendota, UCLA; Estefania Ibarra, Riverdale, UC Merced; Evelyn Duran Vega, Tranquillity, Fresno State; Elio Ruis, Mendota, Reedley Community College; and Landon Cardoza, Hanford, College of the Sequoias.

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