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LAUSD passes budget plan to save school programs

March 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles Unified School District board approved a budget plan Tuesday that would preserve most programs like adult and early education, on the condition that furlough and salary agreements can be reached with labor unions and if voters back a $298 parcel tax.

The board was facing a $390 million deficit and programs like adult education, preschool, elementary arts, busing and tutoring programs were on the chopping block.

"I can say that this budget, even with its clear and present dangers, remains a budget of hope," board member Steven Zimmer said.

The district's ability to maintain programs into future years will rely on a proposed five-year, $298 parcel tax on the November ballot that would raise revenue from $200 million to $300 million. Two years ago, voters rejected a $100 parcel tax.

Hanging in the balance are not only educational programs, but the jobs of thousands of district employees. LAUSD has already sent out 11,713 layoff notices to teachers and staff. By law, the notices had to be mailed before March 15. Depending on Governor Jerry Brown's May revise of the state budget, Superintendent John Deasy is hopeful 2/3 of the layoff notices that have gone out can be rescinded.

Deasy said the passing of the budget plan is only a short-term solution.

"Everything I've just said is only for a year," he said. "None of it is ongoing. They're all Band-Aids, and that is not the way to run a system."

A throng of teachers and other LAUSD employees showed up at district headquarters near downtown Los Angeles to protest the cuts. Extra security was called for the meeting. The line to get into the boardroom started forming eight hours before the meeting began at 1 p.m.

"It does impact my family, I have to look for another source of income," said Raul Gonzalez, who is a parent resource coordinator. "We are married, my wife also works. It's not enough money. Pretty soon I will be in the same lines as some of the parents I am helping currently."

Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said that despite the reinstatement of educational programs, the union's members are still facing thousands of layoffs.

"What has been reinstated is just a portion of adult ed, and even then the people who would provide that reinstated portion adult education, their pink slips are still in place," Fletcher said. "The district cannot restore a program without restoring the people who actually teach in it."

The district's budget shortfall went from $557 million to $390 one month ago. The deficit shrunk because of higher-than-expected state revenues, restoration of state funding for student transportation and lower-than-anticipated benefit costs.

It is the fifth consecutive year the district has been faced with making drastic cuts.