ATWATER -- Hova Xiong, an Atwater High School senior, told Merced Union High School District board members Wednesday that if it weren't for the help of English learner paraprofessionals she wouldn't be in advanced placement English.
These paraprofessionals help students classified as English learners understand instruction.
Paraprofessionals are just one more group of district employees facing possible layoffs next year because of budget constraints.
School officials did not state how many paraprofessionals they proposed to cut, but a report prepared by the district said funding for the program would decrease by $393,049. Over three years that number would be $1,179,147.
The district said the reason behind the potential cuts is that English learner students are being integrated into all-English speaking classrooms. Also, there are fewer English language learning students this year than in past years, officials said in a report.
Xiong, who is in the top 2 percent of her class, said she had speech issues when she was younger and without the support of the paraprofessionals she might not have understood English well enough to also take high level math classes.
Aurora Castillo, a paraprofessional at Golden Valley High School, told board members at Wednesday's board meeting she helps students inside and outside the classroom.
"We are helping students (who haven't had) even a basic education," she said. "We are the eyes and ears outside of the classroom."
Castillo and Xiong were just two of the several community members who addressed the board Wednesday about cuts.
On Feb. 1, the high school district announced that if cuts weren't made, it could face a $12 million budget deficit in 2012-2013.
Another major proposed cut included nearly eliminating the high school district's library program, accept for one position.
Currently, there are five librarians/media specialists for five high schools. The proposed cuts would make one media specialist responsible for all five high school libraries.
Susan Walsh, a library advocate, questioned board members about why cuts couldn't be made somewhere else in the district's budget.
"You have one position you are actively recruiting for," she said.
The school district's Web site posted a vacancy for an administrative assistant position on Jan. 29.
School board members and district officials have made efforts to cut spending such as placing an expenditure freeze until the end of the school year.
Wednesday night the school board approved another potential savings, an early retirement incentive program. This program could encourage top-salaried employees to retire this year.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.