Thursday, January 15, 2009


L.A. Now Blog | LA Times

Southern California -- this just in

2:35 PM, January 15, 2009 -- The Los Angeles school board voted this week to lay off up to 2,300 teachers, if no other options become available as the district struggles to close a $250-million gap in this year's budget. Supt. Ramon C. Cortines also recently wrote to parents of LAUSD students to explain some of the cutbacks.The Los Angeles school board voted this week to lay off up to 2,300 teachers, if no other options become available as the district struggles to close a $250-million gap in this year's budget.

Here's one parent's response, in an open letter to the superintendent:

Dear Superintendent Cortines,

Well, I see that your holiday break is over and that you wasted no time in addressing the  families of LAUSD students about budget cuts. I received your letter in my kids' backpacks, along with a form for child ID cards, homework, Scholastic book orders, a thank-you note from a teacher for a holiday gift. I set it aside and helped my kids do their homework before hustling them to gymnastics (because one weekly session of parent-group-funded physical education per child does not go a long way toward providing lasting health benefits). Then I fielded phone calls from other members of our parent-directed nonprofit group (Parents for Riverside Drive, "PFRD"), which raises funds to help pay for "enrichment" programs like PE and drama, as well as classroom aides and a full-time copy room aide for our teachers' benefit -- things that LAUSD does not provide for our school or our kids.

This afternoon, while your letter sat on my kitchen counter unread, I also spoke to our principal about my role as the liaison between PFRD and our parent community.  In the eyes of some school administrators, I have sometimes over-stepped my boundaries by using the forum of my parent-directed email blasts not just to keep our families up-to-date with reminders of school events, but also to alert them to various issues that affect our school.  Little things, you know: budget cuts, teacher walk-outs, construction delays.  We have had three principals since my oldest child arrived at this school in kindergarten a scant four years ago, and I'm gathering that administrators don't seem to appreciate the parent community's right to know what's going on -- and your letter seconded that thought without ever having to say it.

In the midst of your matter-of-fact speculation about LAUSD having already been forced to cut $427 million (you likened it to closing down eight high schools but without shutting their doors... only cutting all programs, supplies and salaries) and about the possibility of "at least $250 million" in deeper budget cuts, I got an eerie sense that you were asking for my understanding in all of this.  A kind of "we're all in this together," sort of feeling.  Like, "Gee whiz, we're united in our belt-tightening, this being the recession and all."

And I'm not buying it for a second. 


Photo: LAUSD School Board members listen as (then) Superintendent David L. Brewer, III speaks at a press conference. School board members, left to right, President Monica Garcia, Marlene Canter, Julie Korenstein and at far right, Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times)


A well written letter by a concerned stakeholder in the education process. If more parents took such an interest in where their children spend most of every day, perhaps the education system would not be so shabbily run. I wonder why schools are providing gym towels? In my day, kids brought their own from home and that is where they were laundered. Think of how many other millions of dollars are likely being wasted on similar types of programs. How about putting the schools on a zero based budget approach where every expenditure and program is evaluated for the pros and cons of it's value? Keep the critical expenditures and get rid of the waste. What do you want to bet that Los Angeles could balance their school budget without cutting a single teacher?

Posted by: P. Rodgers | January 15, 2009 at 03:26 PM

Superintendent Cortines is faced with an unenviable task. Undoubtedly there is waste in LAUSD, it is not possible in such a large bureaucracy to totally eliminate it. Two parents think that LAUSD need not provide gym towels for students. I guarantee that there will be an equal number of parents who disagree. Although I agree with the sentiments in this letter, it is directed at the wrong person. Send it to Sacramento. Better yet try convincing all those who want to see taxes decrease and services, such as education improve. If we want a world class public education system, if we want health care for all, we have to be willing to pay for it. Superintendent Cortines cannot provide us with a public education system we can be proud of when he is told to cut costs by $200 Million this year and another $200 Million next year. The reality is you cannot have your cake and eat it too!

Posted by: Ian Rees | January 15, 2009 at 04:39 PM

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