Huge L.A. School Budget Cuts Announced; Students Will Suffer

The Los Angeles Unified School District board grudgingly approved its budget for the next three years Tuesday, with a parcel
tax measure still a possibility for the spring ballot.
The budget calls for almost $132 million in cuts for the 2009-2010 fiscal year and about $143 million for the following year.
"Passing this kind of budget makes me sick to my stomach," said board member Yolie Flores.
Board members warned during a contentious 2 1/2 hours spent on the subject that the budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year could include the elimination of full-day kindergarten and laying off half of the district's elementary art and music teachers, as well as half of the school nurses.
The board room was packed with teachers, parents, district staff and union representatives who frequently interrupted the hearing with applause and loud heckling.
One audience member called the board members "predators," accusing the panel of "ripping us off one more time."
The seven board members and Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines were clearly unsettled by the budget, which was approved by a 5-2 vote, with Julie Korenstein and Marguerite LaMotte dissenting.
"We're down to the marrow right now," Korenstein said. "This is an absolute tragedy. I cannot in good conscience vote for this."
LaMotte told the audience that she voted against the budget "for all of you who have been victimized by this process."
The budget includes $75.2 million in program cuts and $28 million in deferred maintenance costs to resolve the current year deficit. About 2,500 teachers and employees are expected to be laid off at the end of the month.
Cortines said today the cuts could also result in a reduction in school transport, a consolidation of schools, fewer textbooks and far larger class sizes.
Classroom size "is the most urgent issue to face LAUSD in a dozen years," United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy said.
"The quality of the education in this school district will most assuredly go down," Duffy told the board. "Anybody who's spent any time in a classroom knows how difficult it is to educate children when your rooms are jam-packed."
Cortines said a parcel tax, a property tax increase which must be voted on by the public, might offer a partial solution to the slashing cuts.
"It would be difficult for the community to support (a parcel tax), but we need to share commitments to raise more funds," Cortines said.
Board member Tamar Galatzan indicated she was lukewarm, suggesting that "we could make deeper cuts to the bureaucracy" first.
Board members also raised the hope of receiving additional federal stimulus funds.
"Whether it's successful or not, it should be pursued," Korenstein said.
As the economic crisis worsens for the state and district, Cortines is also asking state lawmakers to eliminate the requirement to submit a three-year budget, and allow greater flexibility in how funds can be spent.

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