By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer | Daily News/Daily Breeze | http://bit.ly/uB2YwJ
12/07/2011 07:20:09 PM PST :: Facing the loss of $38 million to transport students to magnet and special-education schools, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said Wednesday he will ask the school board to file suit to block the looming cuts.
The California Department of Finance is expected next week to slash up to $1.8 billion from the state's school districts, including $248 million for home-to-school transportation, because of a revenue shortfall.
That means Los Angeles Unified would have to chop $38 million from the fund that pays to bus 35,000 students to magnet schools - the backbone of the district's court-ordered desegregation program - and to transport 13,000 pupils with physical, behavioral and development handicaps.
"This is the core of our deseg and special-ed programs. These are things we have to do," Deasy said in a phone interview. "I would consider asking the school board for the authority to go to the courts to seek injunctive relief."
Deasy noted that cuts - which will be triggered if the state revenue falls short of a $4 billion target - also would also result in a $113 million hit to the district's general fund, which pays for instructional programs.
"Historically, the district has cut $2 billion from its budget," he said. "We can't cut one more thing."
Deasy hopes to marshal parents in his fight to avert what he calls the "catastrophic" loss of transportation funding. He sent a letter last month to the parents of the 48,000 bus-riding students, pleading with them to call or write state lawmakers to make their objections known.
"A midyear, $38 million cut to home-to-school transportation is simply unconscionable," Deasy wrote in his letter. "Our education programs must remain a priority and this cut to critical services must not occur."
Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, empathized with the district's dilemma, but said there is little lawmakers can do at this point.
"Advocating in those kinds of letters is an important thing to do. The Legislature and governor need to understand the impacts," said Brownley, D-Santa Monica. "However, it's the way the trigger was created. The trigger is being pulled, and it's the governor's decision. It's out of the Legislature's hands."
The potential effects of the $38 million cut are outlined in a Dec. 1 memo written by Donald Wilkes, interim director of the district's Transportation Services Division, to Deasy and the school board. In addition to eliminating bus service to magnet and special-education students, they include:
- Eliminating half of the 1,640 bus routes for the rest of the school year.
- Offering public transit passes rather than school bus service for about 25,000 secondary students.
- Canceling buses for athletic practices and events.
- Canceling all field trips.
Campus administrators and students themselves explained how vital the school-bus service is to magnet and special-ed programs.