By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | from Whittier Daily News | Election 2010 - Election Special Section
6/6/2010 -- Suffering from its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Los Angeles Unified School District is asking L.A. voters to approve a new $100 parcel tax Tuesday.
Measure E would generate $92 million a year over the next four years to help save arts and music teachers, school librarians, campus police and custodians, and keep class sizes down at the high school level.
The money comes as the district continues to struggle with massive budget deficits that have forced $1.5 billion in cuts since 2008.
"We have to face the facts: The state is in serious trouble, there is less revenue coming in and there simply isn't one area left in this district that I haven't cut," said LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
Despite the school district's pressing need for the funds, the measure has failed to garner widespread support from voters who have questioned the district's transparency and its ability to properly manage its money.
"I honestly wish I could believe that the district will do with this money what it says it plans to do," said longtime parent advocate Bill Ring.
"Establishing a fiscal oversight committee over the (district's) general fund, including the revenues of the parcel tax, would go a long way to re-establishing the trust that parent and taxpayers desperately want to place in their school district."
Scott Folsom, a longtime parent leader at LAUSD, supports Measure E, but acknowledges having qualms about it. He noted that it charges the same amount to homeowners whether they are wealthy or poor.
Folsom, who is also the vice president of the Tenth District Parent Teacher Student Association, said his organization decided to not take a position on the measure.
"Personally I voted yes and I'm recommending to anyone who wants to listen to me that they do the same ... but parcel taxes are never fair and a homeowner in Beverly Hills and one in South Los Angeles are forced to pay the same," Folsom said.
At the same time, parents and educators have also launched grass-roots campaigns to gain last-minute support from voters leading up to the Tuesday election.
School librarians have produced web videos to illustrate what the closure of school libraries will do to schools and arts and music teachers have also stressed how much help the parcel tax would be for visual and performing arts programs.
Cortines said he knows he's been criticized for not putting together a strong, professional campaign for the measure. But ultimately he hopes voters will forget about some of the problems the district has had in the past and look to the future.
"People need to set aside their issues with the district and some of its history," Cortines said. "They need to invest in the children of this city."