News Column

LAUSD Board Approves $6.3 B Budget; After-school Program Saved

June 29, 2012

Barbara Jones

LAUSD

After scrounging up $6.7 million to preserve free after-school care, the Los Angeles Unified board on Thursday approved a $6.3 billion budget that shortens the 2012-13 school year, eliminates thousands of jobs and reshapes some of the district's most iconic programs.

The board's 6-1 vote, with South Bay representative Richard Vladovic dissenting, capped an 11th-hour scramble to salvage the Beyond the Bell after-school program. It operates from 3-6 p.m. weekdays at every elementary and middle school in the district.

About $4 million will come from money the district had set aside to put a parcel tax on the 2013 ballot -- although district officials are still considering that plan -- and the balance from an unexpected surplus in preschool revenue in the state budget that Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Wednesday.

Prior to the vote, Superintendent John Deasy discussed highlights of the district's "dramatically tight budget" and what was saved -- and lost -- in closing a $169 million deficit. He also noted that the budget is based on the assumption that voters will pass a state sales and income tax increase on the November ballot and that even deeper cuts will result if it fails.

"We are good until Election Day -- everything depends on passage of that," he said. "We simply have to get that (tax hike) passed so we can have a school year."

As it is, the school year that begins Aug. 14 will shorter than usual, thanks to agreements by LAUSD's unions

to take five furlough days and five additional unpaid days. There also will be about 5,000 fewer teachers, classified workers and skilled tradesmen on the district's payroll, the result of declining enrollment and state budget cuts.

And as bad as the district's financial picture is, officials said, it could have been much worse.

After projections in February showed LAUSD with a $557 million deficit, officials proposed eliminating adult and early-childhood education programs, along with elementary arts programs, expanding class sizes and laying off thousands of teachers and support staff.

An infusion of unexpected revenue from the state helped narrow the shortfall, allowing the district to keep class sizes at existing levels and retain librarians, nurses and high school counselors.

On the school board's orders, Deasy saved the Adult Ed Division, although its budget will be about $47 million instead of the $200 million allocated this year. The focus will be on credit-recovery and English-language classes, with limited job-training and older-adult courses offered on a fee basis.

The district will offer early-childhood classes to the same number of students, but will save money by operating fewer centers. There also are cuts to the program that teaches English to preschool students.

That left the Beyond the Bell Division, which had a $7.3 million budget to operate after-school drop-in centers, and other popular extracurricular activities.

Early on, the district saved Academic Decathlon and the Honor Marching Band, but said it must close two outdoor classrooms and dissolve the Jazz Band and district orchestra. And after a concerted lobbying effort by parents, employees and board members, Deasy found the money for the after-school programs.

Board member Tamar Galatzan, whose children participate in the drop-in program, said she'd explored whether the district could charge a fee to help offset the operating

costs, but learned that state law prohibits it. She said she wants to pursue legislation next year to change the rules so the program is never again threatened.

"To be successful academically, children need many things, including healthy food, exercise, and a safe, supervised place to be after school until their parents can pick them up," she said in a statement. "We are putting back in place a tiny but critical piece of a larger system we have built over time to help our children succeed."

The six-hour meeting was the last of the school year. The board will reconvene on Monday, when it will elect its president -- a titular post that has been filled for the last four years by Monica Garcia.

Her tenure at the head of the horseshoe-shaped dias prompted a move by board members Vladovic, Bennett Kayser and Marguerite LaMotte -- who frequently join together as a minority voting bloc on controversial issues -- to rotate the position on an annual basis. It failed 4-3.

The meeting was also briefly disrupted by a demonstration by a few dozen students from Roosevelt High, who were protesting the presence of Planned Parenthood on campus. District police had to clear the meeting room.

The board also heard from Mark Bryant, the partner of Scot Graham, the former facilities employee who leveled sexual harassment allegations against former Superintendent Ramon Cortines. A proposed settlement with Graham fell apart when the district prematurely released details of the deal.



Source: (c)2012 the Daily News (Los Angeles)