LAUSD Budget Proposal Fails to Put Classrooms and Communities First

With the recent Los Angeles Unified School District/United Teachers Los Angeles agreement to stabilize schools, LAUSD officials embraced a renewed commitment to fixing schools rather than continuing to abdicate that responsibility to outside interests.

Then, they took four steps back by creating a devastating “fiscal stabilization” budget that would decimate communities and educational opportunities. In a small spot of good news, School Board members voted unanimously to delay approving this budget, but they will take the issue back up on March 13.

As currently written, the budget would:

gut the Early Childhood Education program, despite research over the past 20 years that has shown that the first five years are vital to healthy child development;

* eliminate the Division of Adult and Career Education, even though providing educational opportunities is the pathway to a better life and leads to increased revenue for our city and for our state;

* defund elementary arts programs, regardless of the fact that the arts reach students and inspire a desire for increased involvement in school, fueling growth and positive educational outcomes;

* increase class sizes from 24 to 30 in K-3, and three students per class in grades 4-5, despite overwhelming research that Bill Gates and his billionaire friends have it all wrong and, in fact, class size matters; and

*  issue layoff warning notices to more than 5,000 certificated employees and make devastating cuts to classified employees.

LAUSD officials claim they have no choice and that classrooms were the last to be cut. Yet consider the following:

* According to the four-year budget LAUSD officials submitted to the county and the state, they’re increasing the number of administrators by 27 percent.

* LAUSD is keeping $200 million locked away in a drawer, accounting for it as a “deferral.” This is money that could be used to maintain services today to preserve an estimated 2,325 teaching positions (at roughly a cost of $85,000 each for pay and benefits) for our communities.

* Citywide implementation of the Early Start Calendar will cost $2 to $4 million. Schools that have it and want to keep it should be able to keep it, and schools that want it should be able to have it, but this is a decision that each individual school community should be allowed to make. Moreover, how can an instructional calendar ever possibly be more important than the 40 to 80 employees that this money could be used for so that teachers could provide educational opportunities to our communities?

* They spend tens of millions of dollars on periodic assessments—testing that is not required by law. Governor Jerry Brown has repeatedly called for a reduction in the number of tests; he says we focus too heavily on testing, and he’s right.

During the furlough day campaign to protest unauthorized deductions, more than 17,000 members submitted Payroll Service Request Forms, causing LAUSD to commit to restoring the one day of pay on March 5 that was taken February 5. With this proposed budget, members and parents once again mobilized.

Community members flooded the School Board with calls, emails, and a petition to save adult ed with more than 220,000 signatures on it. On February 14, Board Member Steve Zimmer authored a motion, seconded by Dr. Richard Vladovic, delaying the issuance of RIF notices until March 8 to allow for more negotiating sessions and wait for more budget numbers from the state. That is a good development, but we expect that an inflated number of RIFs will still be issued, as LAUSD has done for the past three years, only to magically find a pot of money to restore positions at the eleventh hour.

Why do they wreak such havoc on our communities?

They want us to turn against each other, and they want you to be mad at your union. They want older teachers to retire, and they want younger teachers to question seniority. They want to eliminate seniority and due process protections.

They don’t want you to do what we all need to continue to do: follow the money trail and spread the word about how our tax dollars are really being spent.