EDUCATION: AS A RESULT, LARGER CLASSES AND MORE PROGRAM CUTS ARE EXPECTED.
By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Newspaper Group/Daily News
June 19, 2009 -- The Los Angeles Unified School District unveiled a financial blueprint for the next three years Thursday that projected a $1.1 billion deficit through 2012, likely causing more class size increases, program cuts and steep reductions to services.
District officials are weighing whether to propose a new parcel tax that could help support LAUSD's budget.
They said all federal stimulus dollars have been used to plug holes and fund required programs. They asked employee unions for concessions and community members for support of the potential tax that could be voted on as early as this fall.
LAUSD board members will vote on the proposal Tuesday.
Visibly exhausted, LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines choked up twice as he spoke to board members saying his final budget went against his "core beliefs and values."
"However it is the only alternative ... unless we all share responsibility for addressing this economic crisis," Cortines said.
The veteran schools chief had 10 protesters camp out in front of his Pasadena home Wednesday night until local police were called. They were denouncing the layoffs of about 2,500 teachers, 400 counselors and 2,800 nonteaching staff, steps the district took to close a $596 million budget gap for next year.
To address the three-year funding gap, district officials spelled out a plan that includes cutting more people from the district headquarters, shortening the work year for non-school-based employees to a 10-month calendar, and cutting special programs by about $40 million.
Without increased funding from Sacramento by 2010-11, district officials said they would have to cancel summer school again, increase the kindergarten class size ratio to 29:1 and cut arts and music programs in half.
The following year's cuts would include the elimination of full-day kindergarten and all arts and music programs, with a salary reduction for all employees of about 5 percent.
LAUSD chief financial officer Megan Reilly said many of the cuts could have been avoided if the district had reduced spending over the years in light of declining enrollment.
The district's projected enrollment for next year is about 630,000 students, down from a peak of 745,000 in 2002.
"If we had started to look at declining enrollment we could have done these reductions through attrition alone," Reilly said.
Board members continued to ask employee unions to share the sacrifice.
"We are asking again for all bargaining units to join us for shared solutions," board president Monica Garcia said.
"The window is upon us. ... We are interested in preserving more jobs and we're interested in doing this together."
Blanca Gallegos, spokeswoman for SEIU Local 99, said her union, as well as others, is interested in talking to the district to come up with a plan.
"We also want to save jobs and protect services, but we need the district to come forward with the information to make informed decisions," Gallegos said.
SEIU is preparing for an annual visit to Sacramento next week and Gallegos challenged the board to join her members.
"This is a bigger fight and we need to all come together to meet this crisis."
While no amounts or timelines were discussed for the parcel tax that school district officials included in their budget, Cortines said the tax would help save full day kindergarten, reinstate smaller class sizes in K-5 and save arts and music programs.
The board also said it would lobby Sacramento for more flexibility.
PRESSURE ON LAUSD
Specifically the district is seeking to eliminate the requirement to submit a three-year balanced budget to the state and more financial flexibility similar to that allotted to charters.
As district officials looked to finalize their budget plan, a group of local teachers who had been on a hunger strike also brought their action to an end promising to keep pressure on LAUSD until all teachers were saved.
"We began this fast with a message of conscience, sacrifice, dedication and purification," said English teacher Sean Leys, who has been fasting for 26 days. "We call on the conscience of every individual who shares a stake in educating our communities, too many of whom could not see this as a civil rights issue before now.