The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education is expected Thursday to vote to place a proposed parcel tax before voters in hopes of generating hundreds of millions of dollars for local schools.
The board's discussion comes on the heels of a teachers' strike that ended with the district committing to the hiring of more educators and school staff and reductions in class sizes. With Los Angeles County education officials already warning the district that its long-term financial picture was cloudy at best, the need for a new revenue source has become a top priority.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, who last year played down the immediate need for a local education tax, now stands firmly behind the idea.
"It is time for Los Angeles Unified to pursue a local measure to increase funding for schools," Beutner said in a statement this week. "A revenue measure, if approved by voters in June, could provide additional funding for schools during the upcoming school year. This will allow for the accelerated improvement in student learning, further reduction in class size and providing more support to students and educators in schools. It is time to build on the commitment the community has expressed and move forward together."
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All six school board members also expressed support for the idea of a tax during a meeting Tuesday.
With the teachers' strike still fresh in voters' minds, the board appears anxious to move ahead quickly with a proposed tax, likely on the June 4 ballot, although the board could potentially delay until the Nov. 5 election.
The proposal going before the board would impose a tax of 16 cents per square foot of building improvements on properties within the district. The parcel tax, which would remain in effect for 10 years, would raise an estimated $500 million a year.
Exemptions would be provided for parcels owned by people aged 65 or older and used as their primary residence. There would also be exemptions for people on disability or receive Social Security benefits, depending on their annual income.
A parcel tax would need to be approved by two-thirds of voters. A poll recently commissioned by the district found that more than 80 percent of voters believe schools need increased funding.
In anticipation of the board's discussion, the district held an event Wednesday dubbed "All in for Public Education" designed to rally support for the idea of a quality education for all children.
Beutner noted that while creating a new revenue source is critical for the district, operational changes will also have to be made "to reduce central bureaucracy." He said the district must "use all funding more efficiently, increase the ability of schools leaders and educators to make decisions to suit the unique needs of their students, build on its efforts to help students most in need and increase engagement with the families and communities it serves."