Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/15/2011 03:17:35 PM PST

COLTON – Students need every one of these programs, school board members said as they studied a list of popular services set to have their funding reduced or eliminated.

Then they voted to make all but three of those cuts, which will save $3 million in the budget for the 2011-2012 academic year and every year afterward until “fiscal recovery.”

Thursday’s vote represented just a taste of $10.5 million in permanent cuts the Colton Joint Unified School District must make by June to avoid financial disaster, officials said.

“There’s a cliff out there, and we are getting perilously close to that point,” said Jaime R. Ayala, assistant superintendent of business services.

Every year, reduced state funding makes that cliff steeper and closer to districts statewide, Trustee Frank Ibarra said.

“Each district is at this particular point in time receiving less and less revenue, and that makes it difficult to meet our obligations,” Ibarra said. “It’s a difficult process. It’s something no one wants to do.”

Thursday’s 5-2 vote eliminated crossing guards and some or all of the funding for 10 programs, including summer school, substitute teachers and Gifted And Talented Education (GATE). A separate 6-1 vote added furlough days for 65 administrators and 49 other employees.

The guiding principle is minimizing pain to students while remaining solvent, board members said.

To that end, they temporarily spared adult education and the Cal-Safe program for pregnant minors, and kept junior varsity sports fully funded until they could meet with coaches to see if reducing freshman sports budgets made more sense.

Those cuts would have amounted to another $753,000 in savings, Ayala said.

Cal-Safe might cost $241,292 per year, but axing it could prove more expensive if many of the 94 students using the infant daycare program drop out to care for their children, according to April Hodges, who is in charge of the program. Schools receive funding based on the number of students enrolled.

And several students said the program was about more than dollars and cents.

“I didn’t have anybody else to help me,” said Reve Ramos, a Colton High School senior who said she learned how to care for her 1-year-old son and was able to stay in school because of the program. “I didn’t know what to do until I met Miss April.”

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