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Parents sound off over proposed music program cuts

CHULA VISTA, Calif. --Some Chula Vista parents are upset that their children’s school music programs could be at risk and their donated dollars lost.

About 50 parents and students attended a school board meeting at Sweetwater Union High School District Monday night to express their support for their children's music program and Southwest Middle School music teacher Keith Ballard.

“We’ve seen inadequate funding available, so the teacher has funded some of the events out of his own pocket and we have also provided parent donations that are always unsolicited,” said concerned parent Laura Arana.

Ballard reportedly collects about $10,000 a year in parent donations for instruments and an assistant music teacher.

“We’ve been doing it through voluntary parent donations, no more, no less,” said Ballard.

The music teacher said his principal told him Friday the donations are illegal. He said he was told the school didn’t know about the donations going on for years and he must stop immediately.

“They know how we’ve been doing fundraising all along, with the principal at the meetings,” Ballard added.

That principal wasn’t at Monday night’s meeting and the district wouldn’t speak directly about the case.

“It’s obviously legal for folks to donate. We couldn’t do what we do without the generous support of community members. But I can’t get into specifics because there is a personnel matter involved,” said the school's director of communications.

Unlike some districts that have cut music altogether, Ballard said Sweetwater has given him a budget, but it hasn't been enough.