By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News
LA Unified School District contract workers picket in front of LAUSD headquarters before the school board approved a new budget cutting workers, Tuesday, June 22, 2010. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer)
06/23/2010 -- Despite the pleas and protests of hundreds of employees, Los Angeles Unified officials Tuesday approved a 2010-11 budget that includes thousands of layoffs of teachers, custodians, office workers and other staff.
The school board also approved hiring John Deasy as the district's new deputy superintendent, seen as a potential successor to Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who is rumored to be eyeing early retirement. For now, Deasy, currently a deputy director at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would advise Cortines and stand in for him in his absence.
LAUSD faced a deficit of some $640 million for the 2010-11 school year and officials had initially looked at raising class sizes at grade levels through middle school and cutting some 6,300 jobs.
Tuesday, district officials said that attendance increases, spending cuts and some additional state funding helped save some district jobs and programs.
District officials estimate about 2,700 employees are expected to be laid off starting July 1.
However, some district employee unions dispute that figure and estimate that the final layoff figure will be closer to 4,000.
Many of the employees who in March had been notified they would lose their jobs were later saved under a deal with the local teachers and administrators unions that reduced the school calendar by 12 days over the next two years through furloughs by teachers and administrators.
During a protest before the school board meeting, hundreds of district employees who expect to lose their jobs marched and chanted "enough is enough" as they hoisted signs that read "save our schools."
Susan Gosman, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the California School Employee Association, said her union is expected to lose some 1,500 members while another 1,000 have been placed on a 10-month work calendar, reducing their salaries by about 15 percent.
"We are the infrastructure of this district. We keep student records, track students, administer special education services," Gosman said.
"Without us, schools will fall apart."
'A lot of pain in this room'
While many school board members expressed their sympathy for school workers who said they could lose their cars and homes if they lost their jobs, the board voted 6-1 to approve the final budget, with board member Marguerite LaMotte voting no.
"There is a lot of pain in this room, I want to acknowledge that," said LAUSD board president Monica Garcia.
"I can understand the anger and despair ... this is not fun for anyone."
District officials are also ignoring state law, which requires school districts to file balanced budgets for three years, and instead are only submitting a one-year budget. It remains uncertain whether the district would face any consequences.
District officials said the district still faces a deficit of at least $260 million for the 2011-12 school year.
Deasy's hiring approved
Deasy was hired Tuesday under a 5-0 vote during closed session, with board member Tamar Galatzan absent and Yolie Flores abstaining. He was given an 11-month contract starting Aug. 1, and at $25,000 per month will make more than Cortines' annual salary of $250,000.
Deasy said he was "honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve the youth of Los Angeles, this school board and Ray Cortines."
"I want to help build on the work launched by this board and I want to advance that work very rapidly," he added.
The re-opening of the deputy superintendent position comes amid rumors that Cortines could leave the district before his contract expires Jan. 1, 2012.
Cortines himself was the last person to hold the deputy superintendent position, months before becoming superintendent after former schools chief David Brewer was offered a buyout.
Deasy said he is looking forward to working as Cortines' right-hand man, but is not looking beyond that post.
"It is important that we provide a seamless leadership team for stability, but I am focused on the work at hand. ... I want to get to that work right away," he said.
Part of that work will likely include juggling more difficult budget decisions, possibly cutting more jobs and eliminating more programs, as the district continues to face declining enrollment and shrinking state funding.