By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer, LA Daily News [from the Contra Costa Times] | http://bit.ly/pvH8yj
Posted: 09/21/2011 01:00:00 AM PDT - Despite facing a potential backlash from City Hall, Los Angeles Unified officials Tuesday voted to side with Gov. Jerry Brown on his plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies throughout the state.
The LAUSD school board approved filing a legal brief in support of the governor's plan, which is currently being fought in court by a coalition of city leaders and redevelopment agencies.
This spring Brown proposed to close more than 400 community redevelopment agencies which he said would funnel an estimated $1.7 billion back to California's coffers by 2012-13.
State officials believe about $1 billion of that would be allocated to schools, money desperately needed by cash-strapped districts like LAUSD.
"In July of this year I swore to `faithfully discharge the duties upon which I was about to enter' not as city council member, not as redevelopment agency employee but as a board member of the Los Angeles Unified School District," said school board member Bennett Kayser, who proposed the board measure.
"My loyalty is to the youth we are here to serve. Let the lobbyists, developers, millionaires and billionaires fight for their gravy, but my job is to represent our kids."
Some independent experts estimate the governor's plan could give school districts an additional $170 per student annually, which could mean about $114 million for LAUSD with its enrollment of 670,000.
Until Tuesday though, district officials had avoided taking a position on the governor's proposal, citing concerns about the vague language and whether it would actually result in increased funding for education.
Many also believed that the silence was connected to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's vocal opposition to the governor's plan.
Villaraigosa, who was also involved in supporting five of the seven current board members, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
City officials have said, however, that they believe the governor and the Legislature should find other ways to raise state revenues without pitting schools against organizations, like the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, that are creating local jobs.
With school board members Tamar Galatzan and Nury Martinez absent, four board member approved the decision in closed session with Monica Garcia abstaining.
Garcia said she felt the board's decision was more a sign of desperate times than a statement against the value of redevelopment agencies.
"At the end of the day we have just been cut beyond any reasonable place," Garcia said.
"This is about us lending our voices to try and find a solution ... but I am still concerned about unknown outcomes."