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Superintendent pushes, LAUSD approves $100 tax

February 16, 2010 12:27:54 AM PST
The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education agreed Tuesday to put a $100 parcel tax on the June 8 ballot in hopes of raising funds for the district. The tax, which needs the support of two-thirds of voters, is projected to raise approximately $92.5 million per year for four years. The funds would be used to help save jobs, stop future class size increases, keep schools and classrooms clean and safe, and promote student achievement.

After about an hour of discussion, the board voted 5-1 to place the item on the ballot. Board member Marguerite LaMotte was absent.

Ramon Cortines said his first year as LAUSD superintendent was not easy, and it was only going to get more challenging as he faces a $640 million budget deficit for the next school year. But he remained focused on the students.

"I will never accept low expectations for students or adults in this district," Ramon Cortines said Tuesday.

In his first State of the District address, Cortines highlighted the district's accomplishments. Graduation rates are up, while dropout rates are down. But the bulk of his speech focused on the financial challenges.

It was a candid and emotional speech from the superintendent, as he told the crowd that the cuts he's proposing are taking the district to a dangerously low level.

"I will recommend to the board that we aggressively pursue a limited parcel tax to ensure we can save our employees," he said.

Cortines said the proposed parcel tax is vital to students' education.

"This is desperate. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, classified should be a part of passing this parcel tax," Cortines said.

Low-income seniors would be exempt from the tax, and none of the money would fund administrators' salaries.

From the parcel tax to shortening the school year, Cortines said he is exploring all options to minimize the number of expected layoffs.

"It's a no-brainer. I think if everybody realized that we have to sacrifice five days in order to save jobs, then it can be done," said teacher Walter Pineda.

The superintendent said the only way the district can succeed is if everyone works together.

Cortines concluded his speech fighting back tears, saying, "Those challenges have a lining of hope."