Thursday, October 02, 2008


By George B. Sánchez, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

October 2 - Expecting huge cuts in funding from the new state budget, Los Angeles Unified officials recently learned they will get back about $165 million more than they anticipated.

The district is still facing a cut of $188 million from the budget signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week. But officials last month had expected to lose $353 million.

Now they have to figure out what programs to restore with the additional funds.

Most of the money is for special programming, such as small classes, but it remains unclear how much will go back to the classroom and when.

"That's a major question for dealing with negotiations and the budget shortfall we have," said Senior Deputy Superintendent Ray Cortines.

The president of the district's teachers union has a suggestion:

"They should spend it on their teachers and health-and-human-services employees," said A.J. Duffy, head of United Teachers Los Angeles.

The district's original plan for $353 million in cuts included work furloughs by district teachers and $140.6 million taken from categorical funding, which includes adult education, after-school programs, class- size reduction, and more than a dozen other programs.

"Categorical programs are usually directed to schools for helping poor kids," said Stephen Rhoads, a lobbyist for the LAUSD.

Schwarzenegger's earlier budget proposal had included a cut of 6.5 percent to categorical funds, but that money was restored in the final budget.

Now Cortines said district Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly will look at how general funds can be redistributed.

Cortines is looking to relieve the unpaid days off expected of LAUSD staffers, which he called an unfair measure to balance the budget on the backs of employees.

The UTLA has assailed the district for its growth of administrator costs and the wage disparity between district bureaucrats and teachers.

"We're going to pursue an aggressive stance on how that money should be spent," Duffy said.

In a recent analysis, the Daily News found that the LAUSD's bureaucracy ballooned nearly 20 percent from 2001 to 2007. During that same period, 500 teaching positions were cut and enrollment dropped by 6 percent.

The district has approximately 4,000 administrators, managers and other nonschool-based employees, ex- cluding clerks and office workers, whose average salary is about $95,000.

About 2,400 administrators are among the 3,478 LAUSD employees who earn more than $100,000 annually. The average teacher salary is $63,000.

Though the unexpected funding provides some relief, Reilly said, it doesn't fully cover the cost of 20:1 class ratios in elementary and high schools.

Already, there are dire predictions for the next budget and Reilly said the small classes will not continue next year.

"In 2009, our classes are going from 20 to 29," she said, adding that no one expects a cost-of-living increase next year.

"The train wreck is in 2009-2010."

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