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Lincoln High band marches to protest funding cuts

By: Cheri March The News Messenger
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Lincoln High School's drum line made its debut on the State Capitol steps Friday afternoon, though it wasn't by invitation. Their thundering beat echoed across the Capitol Mall in protest of the $4-plus billion in education cuts related to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget proposal, released in January. With the Western Placer Unified School District already in a financial squeeze, the board of trustees last month announced its intent to lay off 20.7 full-time positions for the 2008-09 school year. Though trustees have said the final budget could change before it is approved this summer, they are required to base fiscal projections on the current proposal. Marching band members organized their demonstration after learning the band director's job was at risk. Although band is not on the list of program reductions, the director received a notice of intent to lay off because of her lack of seniority within the district. She's done so much in the one year she's been here, said Collin Curry, 17, a two-year band student. I don't want to see our program go under. Ever since I started band, it's been one of the most morale-boosting things for me. At the high school level, layoffs would impact home economics, agriculture, physical education and art. They're not just going after band, but all electives, said Mahalia Amor, 16. Electives are what interest kids in the first place. Students want to go to school because that's what they look forward to “ things like music and drama. Lincoln, in particular, would suffer from the loss, she said. We don't think they should be cutting education, especially at a school like ours “ one of the fastest-growing in California, she said. Instead of giving us more stuff, they're taking stuff away. Protesters on Friday brandished signs with slogans like, Find other cuts and Please don't let the music die. A student with a guitar led the band through Don McLean's American Pie, known for its phrase, the day the music died. Now and then, band members spoke with curious passersby and even posed for pictures with tourists. At one point, parent Jennifer Pattison accompanied students into the Governor's office in an unsuccessful effort to meet with Schwarzenegger. Pattison, whose son Dakota, 14, took part in the protest, said she's distressed by the thought that cuts could affect Dakota's future. Colleges want a well-rounded student, she said. We only have one high school in Lincoln, and now they could be taking more away. Our principal told us nothing is set in stone and there's always a chance of revamping the budget, but we're just not completely confident. Though just the drum line showed up to play “ a far cry from the whole band initially on board “ Pattison was impressed by the small crowd's enthusiasm. They're usually a pretty apathetic group, she said. I didn't know they could get this revved up. I'm pretty surprised. Also impressive, Pattison said, was the band's strategy. They're not going to yell at the school “ they realize the district's hands are tied, she said. They feel like they had to appeal to the state first and then they might make a presentation before the school board. They want to seek solutions and not just be mad. I think the budget stinks, said Dakota Pattison. But this (playing music) is our way of expressing ourselves. His goal for the afternoon was simple. I want to come out here and have some fun, and hopefully persuade people to not cut marching band, he said.