…these offices have also secured money for the district, created innovative teaching programs and tracked their progress.
By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Newspaper Group/Daily News
04/08/2009 -- Just when Los Angeles Unified officials need their advice the most, the men and women who help the district secure funding from Sacramento and Washington, D.C., are being laid off to cut costs.
LAUSD's Government Relations Office - staffers with expert knowledge on government funding for schools - is being cut to three people from 11.
The office has been busy reading through federal documents ensuring that district staff understands how much federal stimulus money they should be receiving, how they can properly distribute it, and how they can compete for future pots of cash.
"We don't like the cuts," said LAUSD's director of government relations, Santiago Jackson, who will be retiring this year.
"But the decision has been made... Now we have to figure out where we go from here."
Since the 1960s, the Government Relations Office has lobbied Sacramento to get money for special programs - like magnet schools, busing and year-round schools - and helped pass laws favoring the district.
The cuts are among the more than 1,200 jobs that are set to be eliminated at district headquarters. Other departments that could be shaved by as much as 90 percent include the offices of instruction and research and planning.
For decades these offices have also secured money for the district, created innovative teaching programs and tracked their progress.
District Superintendent Ramon Cortines said the reductions are part of a plan to "right-size" the nation's second-largest school district.
"What's gotten us into trouble is having declining enrollment and resources while continuing to add personnel," Cortines said.
The district has been under pressure to reduce its bureaucracy in the face of a $718 million deficit that is expected to grow.
Parent advocates have been among those rallying for a leaner district but they wonder if cutting departments like government relations is short-sighted.
"Yes, the government relations office is far from the classroom, but it routinely brings in millions," said Scott Folsom, a longtime parent advocate. "It's a return on a investment."
Cortines said he will hire a new government relations director and wants to partner with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office to strengthen the district's presence in Washington.
Legislative office worker Peggy Barber said for now the office is preparing a how-to guide on the stimulus money for the district staff who won't be able to come to them with questions after July 1.