-- Theresa Watanabe | LA Times/LA NOW | http://lat.ms/vFpSfa
Photo: State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times
December 14, 2011 | 12:14 pm :: A statewide coalition of educational leaders decried massive new budget cuts to public schools Wednesday, saying they would consider legal action and pursue new school-funding initiatives.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that $79.6 million would be cut from public schools, including all funding for student bus service. The reductions come on top of $18 billion slashed from schools in the last few years, which has eliminated 20,000 teaching jobs and sharply pared summer school, art and music programs and other services.
"Enough is enough," State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a teleconference Wednesday with representatives of teachers, parents and administrators, classified employees and school boards. "This is on the back of four years of chaos and cutting ... the financial emergency we've been in is only getting worse."
Torlakson and others said the elimination of school bus funding was unprecedented and would particularly hurt rural, low-income and special education students. However, it was not clear how many school districts would actually end transportation services. Federal law requires transportation for certain low-income and special education students, and several districts contacted Tuesday said they would continue to fund their programs by digging into their reserves.
But Dennis Meyers of the California School Boards Assn. said the transportation cuts were so inequitable that his organization would consider joining a lawsuit that the Los Angeles Unified School District planned to file against the state.
The organizations said they planned to focus on efforts to promote a school-funding ballot initiative for next fall. Torlakson said at least three and possibly five initiatives could be circulated for signatures but that efforts would be made to analyze them and narrow the field so as not to split the vote among them. The leaders said a statewide tax was necessary but were currently polling to see what kind of tax would be supported by voters.
"We'll take whatever tax increase the voters prefer," said Bob Wells of the Assn. of California School Administrators.
smf adds: Los Angeles Tenth District PTA, representing PTA in LA, voted this morning to join or support the LAUSD lawsuit, citing the threat to the LAUSD Magnet and PWT programs and Special Education.