As a school leader, I follow the state's budget situation each year, often with great interest and sometimes with great dread.

We all knew that this year California would be facing a huge budget deficit. But nothing prepared me for Governor Schwarzenegger's initial solution: solving the fiscal emergency strictly through budget cuts, including reducing educational funding by a whopping $4.8 billion.

All too often when the state faces a budget shortage, it seems that politicians immediately want to solve the problem by attacking Proposition 98, the minimum funding guarantee for education. The fact is that Proposition 98 exists to protect funding for students' education.

I appreciate the Governor's tough challenge in balancing the budget, but I strongly oppose his 2008/2009 budget proposal and plan to undermine the intent of Proposition 98. Our students and schools did not create this budget problem, and their education and future progress shouldn't be undermined because of it.

These budget reductions would be disastrous to public schools in the State of California. A $4.8 billion cut to schools would mean laying off tens of thousands of teachers, statewide increases in class sizes, and further erosion of the support that classified and paraprofessional staff provide to our students. This would threaten the progress that our students are beginning to make. Across the state, reading scores are up 25 percent and math scores have increased 17 percent in the last four years. This progress cannot continue with these proposed cuts to our public schools.

From a local standpoint, this would mean cutting the Hesperia Unified School District budget by about $600,000 in the remainder of this school year and an astounding $5.5 million dollars for the 08/09 school year. As we negotiate this attack on our budget, there is a very real possibility that we will be forced to lay off staff, eliminate successful programs, and do away with valuable services we currently provide to students and the community. As a district committed to the education and safety of our students, we will consider any options for cutting costs that do not negatively impact the education of our children.

Employees have been encouraged to work with us to find collaborative solutions to this district-wide budget crisis. Our own "State Budget Crisis Task Force" will review all the cost-saving ideas we receive. As part of our ongoing partnership with the community, we also welcome suggestions from the citizens of Hesperia. If you have thoughtful, considered ideas for budget reductions, please feel free to call my office at 244-4411, x7215 or to email deb.baker@hesperia.org. Contacting your legislators and asking them to "fix" the state budget without devastating the funding for education is also a way in which you can make a difference. (Contact information is included at the end of this article.)

Working together, I am confident that we will find creative ways to serve our students effectively, in spite of this devastating problem created by our state government. This is a fight we must wage for the sake of our children.