THE LA BOARD’S ACTION IS A MAJOR STEP
TOWARD CLOSING A $500 MILLION GAP. BUT
$61.3 MILLION STILL NEEDS TO BE CHOPPED.
By Jean Merl - LA Times Staff Writer
March 12, 2004
The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of
Education took a big first step Thursday toward
erasing a budget deficit of nearly $500 million, in part
by eliminating about 480 jobs in central administration
and in the 11 subdistricts that provide services to
Board members still need to find $61.3 million to slice
from the LAUSD's $5.7-billion operating budget
before the 2004-2005 fiscal year starts July 1. They
gave Supt. Roy Romer until April 9 to recommend
further cuts, including more from administration and
In voting on Romer's budget proposal, board members
stuck with their goal of keeping cuts as far away from
classrooms as possible, although they acknowledged
that many of the jobs cut, such as in special education
and environmental health and safety, would reduce
services to students. They postponed action on some
proposed cuts in nursing and other health services.
"It preserves our instructional program … and
continues to build on the gains we've made" in
academic achievement, Board President Jose Huizar
said, noting that the budget called for no layoffs of
regular teachers and no increase in class sizes.
The 750,000-student district employs about 75,000
people, nearly 50,000 of them teachers.
Board member David Tokofsky urged his colleagues
to hold off on many of the cuts so that "we don't slip
on the banana peel of unintended consequences." By
law, the district does not have to adopt its budget until
June and it can revise the budget in August or
But he got no support from the other six board
"We need to let everyone know as soon as possible
what the situation is, so they can make decisions,"
board member Mike Lansing said after the vote.
Referring to the two previous, highly contentious years
of budget-cutting, Lansing said, "We've taken our time
in the past and it has forced everybody into a big, mad
scramble at the end."
And Huizar said it was important to "send a message"
— to county fiscal watchdogs and to others — that
"this district is taking control of its finances…. It's
making the tough decisions."
During a special meeting Wednesday, the board's
private budget advisor, school finance expert John
Mockler, had urged the board to act as soon as
"The earlier you make the cuts, the more you save,"
said Mockler, a former state secretary of education,
adding that he did not expect the fiscal situation to
Reeling from several years of cuts from the financially
strapped state, which provides much of local districts'
funding, Los Angeles Unified has made about $1
billion in spending reductions over the last three
budget years. Those reductions made this year's gap of
nearly $500 million especially difficult to close.
The board voted to send 171 layoff notices to
psychiatric social workers, attendance counselors and
others who could lose their jobs. State law requires
certain groups of employees to get such notices by
March 15; if the notices aren't received by then, the
board cannot cut the positions for the coming fiscal
year, although it can rescind notices that have been
received by the deadline. Other groups of employees
require much shorter notice or no notice for layoffs.
The district is trying to figure out how many positions
in various categories may be empty because of
Romer had proposed cuts that would have solved all
but $56 million of the budget problem, but board
members added back — for the time being, at least —
$1.8 million in nursing and other health and human
services jobs. And they added $3.5 million to put more
school police officers at middle schools and high
"Safety is a top priority for this board," said board
member Marlene Canter, who pushed for more police
with Huizar and board member Julie Korenstein.
Romer said he was pleased with the board's resolve to
make the cuts in a timely fashion. "They took a very
large step in solving the problem," Romer said after
the vote. "It's going to be very difficult to find that
next $61 million, but we've got to do it."
But John Perez, president of United Teachers-Los
Angeles, repeated the union's position that the board
ought to eliminate all 11 subdistricts. "You must do
more to curb the LAUSD bureaucracy," Perez told the
Other steps the board approved Thursday included
saving $144 million by refinancing debt and using
other one-time money sources, cutting $61 million
worth of employee work hours, and eliminating $71
million from campus maintenance and from support
programs for new teachers. The proposed budget also
assumes that the district will be successful in its
current negotiations with employee unions to save $25
million in benefit costs.
• smf notes: It's interesting that the amount LAUSD needs to cut from its budget exceeds the total the Bush administration proposes to add to the national education budget. (see: Math Class vs. Sex Class below)
The tragedy is that the district is intending to
eliminate student psychological services and programs in a time when the county health department and the state is doing the same. LAUSD nursing services are already
at one nurse-day-a-month at some schools! School
nurses and psychologists are often the only medical
and mental health professionals many LAUSD
students ever see.
• I'm a parent and a PTA president at a middle school – I'm for school police on every secondary school campus! But student safety is more than school police on campus and metal detectors in the doorways. Remember Columbine? How exactly do school psychologists and counsellors identify at-risk students from the unemployment line?
• Refinancing debt always ends up costing more; the
district is using one credit-card to pay off another. By
delaying the payment of debt long enough the District
can effectively get today’s schoolchildren to pay for
their own education!
• Putting off maintenance? We can repair it now ...or
replace it later!
• Reducing support for new teachers? I guess
supporting new teachers was last week’s flavor of
• And of course the mother of all assumptions is “the
district will be successful in its current negotiations
with employee unions to save $25 million in benefit
costs” – this borders on delusional Pollyannaism.
Hopefully the superintendent and board will consult
with one of those psychologists they are handing pink
• COST SAVING SUGGESTIONS TO SAVE THE
LAUSD MILLIONS by UTLA President John Perez
From the United Teacher - March 5, 2004
The 2004-2005 LAUSD budget will be the third in a
row to carry a deficit, and District officials claim the
funding gap is more than $530 million. This after the
two previous budgets were cut by a combined $700
million! How has the District gotten itself into this
mess? History, inertia, and just plain bad planning are
First the history: Since the passage of Proposition 13
in 1978, California has underfunded its schools, so our
District—like all districts—does not have enough
money to adequately educate our students.
Now the inertia: More than 20 years ago, John
Mockler, the guru of school finance in our state and
the District’s first independent analyst, told the District
it did not have a rational budget process, and it still
And finally the bad planning: District officials have
refused since the last budget crisis in 1992, even
though we have asked them to, to look seriously every
year at every program to see if it adds value to the
education of our students. Instead, they have
continuously pumped up the bureaucracy, with the
number of nonclassroom personnel ballooning by 22
percent—which is double the rate of increase of
students and teachers combined! So the budget has a
lot of bells and whistles that cost millions of dollars but
add nothing to the education of the kids.
What’s to be done? As we have since last July, we
continue to offer a few practical, concrete suggestions.
• The superintendent is said to want a 20 percent cut in
central office administration. That would be a good
start, and it would save the LAUSD something like
• Cut all 11 mini-Districts. This could save tens of
millions. (Hard to tell on this one because every time
we ask how much the LAUSD spends on mini-
Districts, we get different answers. Also, we hear from
downtown “insiders” that one high-up bureaucrat
wants the superintendent to make phony cuts by laying
off school psychologists and school nurses who are
paid out of the mini-District budgets and count these
as cuts in mini- District “bureaucracy.” What they’d
actually be cutting is direct student services.)
• Cut out conferences and conventions at expensive
hotels. This could save $20 million.
• Cut back on the number of lawyers the District uses.
Our District hires more law firms than the school
districts in New York City, Chicago, Houston, and
San Diego combined. In 2003 the District spent $29
million on lawyers. When I started as a teacher in
1969, the LAUSD had 650,000 students and two
lawyers. They could probably save another $20 million
in this category.
• Cut every consultant contract that is paid for out of
the general fund. How much this will save is anyone’s
guess, because no matter how many times we ask, we
never get the answer to the question: How much
general fund money goes for consultants?
In the third year of a severe budget crisis—partly the
fault of the District and partly the fault of the
state—the classroom must be held harmless as we face
massive budget cuts.
The only reason the LAUSD exists is to educate the
children of this community. The District must not lose
sight of a simple fact: Our kids are educated in
classrooms, not boardrooms.
• FROM COMMENTS ON BUDGET PROCESS BY
ADMINISTRATOR’S UNION PRESIDENT: Good
evening distinguished Board members, Mr.
Superintendent and members of the audience. My
name is Mike O'Sullivan, and I have the honor to serve
as President of the Associated Administrators of Los
Angeles, which represents approximately 2700 active
middle managers, and over 1000 retirees.
You are to be commended for your tenacity and
thoroughness during the past three days of hearings
where virtually every division and department in the
District has gone through their proposed cuts in
sometimes excruciating detail. I am sure you realize,
however, that that was the easy part. Now the
difficulty of the Board of Education Members making
the decisions that impact the lives of students and staff
will soon begin.
I wish to make a few general observations.
Do you honestly feel that you have received all the
information you need to make these cuts? For
example, there is the question of reducing the IMA
allocation for each of the Early Education sites totaling
a staggering $1,000,000. You heard from the Assistant
Superintendent of that unit but do you really know
how that would impact the students, teachers and
principals in the schools? AALA believes that a cut of
that magnitude would make day to day operations at
these sites almost impossible. Why not request a set of
comparison figures from a few school site principals?
As Board members you need accurate information
from the Superintendent's staff, and individual division
heads should seek accurate input from their principals.
We note that many departments have suggested cuts of
unfilled positions. Are these really cuts? One could
argue that any positions unfilled prior to the current
freeze on hiring which went into effect on January 4,
2004 should have been taken off the top before any
discussion of reducing actual personnel is considered.
Certainly no department or division should now be
allowed to retain authority to staff any remaining
unfilled positions while the District is contemplating
the release of current employees.
Are we possibly working at cross-purposes? On the
one hand, Board members have appropriately noted
the extra income which could accrue to the District for
even the smallest of increases in our ADA, yet at the
same time, significant cuts are contemplated to school
counseling allocations, PSA counseling, EBIC
Programs and other support services units which
actually provide an impetus to improved attendance
and as some would suggest actually end up paying for
themselves. Counselors are not members of our
bargaining unit, but we recognize their value to
students, teachers and school administrators, as well as
to District ADA finances.
We are likewise pleased that the Superintendent and
Board are still committed to maintaining employee
health benefits at a level which does not betray the
commitment first made over thirty years ago by former
Superintendent Bill Johnston with the concurrence of
the then Board. All Boards and Superintendents
thereafter have held fast to this commitment. Retention
of the current health benefits program is crucial to the
morale of all District employees.
Lastly, our Association has a sense that the Board
believes student and staff safety on school site
campuses comes before any other consideration. We
look forward to an early Board directive to fund the
assignment of school police officers at a minimum of
one to every secondary and span school campus.
Thank you for listening and for your willingness to
tackle this painful but necessary budget process. Please
know that AALA leadership will continue to monitor
Board and Senior Staff actions as they impact our
membership and the students we serve.
[link to LA Times Education News]
The Budget Fiasco II: SCHOOL DISTRICT SHUTS OUT SPORTS
Facing a budget crisis, officials slash programs in the
eastern Bay Area. Students and parents protest the
By Erika Hayasaki and Patrick Dillon
Special to The LA Times - March 11, 2004
RICHMOND, Calif. — Parents and students are
crying foul over the West Contra Costa school
district's decision this week to eliminate all sports,
libraries and counselors from its six high schools after
voters failed to approve a special parcel tax.
"What's Friday night without a football game?" asked
Ed Hammer, baseball coach at the Northern California
district's De Anza High School, near Berkeley. "You
go have pizza, go out with girlfriends and buddies….
It is something kids are going to miss out on. It's
• smf notes: The New Yorker has a feature: “Stories
we never finished reading.” This one goes in that
category! ALL libraries and counselors are being
eliminated from a district’s high schools and the news
lead is about sports? Missed opportunities with
girlfriends and buddies? No pizza? Fershame!
[Newslink] To finish the article
THE API SCORES ARE OUT!
What’s the fun of all this testing if we can't complain about the scores?
I spent a couple of hours Thursday having the importance of all this explained to me and I’m afraid I
still don’t really care. The exciting news, I’m told, is
that test scores are going up and that low performing
schools are doing better! The bad news is that though
many schools in the lowest rank of API scoring have
gone up – and some a lot – they are still in the lowest
(see LA Times: SCHOOL RANKINGS RANKLE SOME
- The telling truth to me is this:
Education spent a long anguished meeting Wednesday
deciding how to identify which entire school districts would
be listed as needing improvement under No Child Left
Behind – the so called “Program Improvement
The formula the board had previously agreed to
identified 300+ districts in California (including
LAUSD) for PI status under NCLB. Three hundred is
an awful lot ....so the state school board redid the
formula so only 30+ districts were identified! Guess
which district passed under the new rubric?
Find your School's API Scores
LA Times Editorial: MATH CLASS vs. SEX CLASS
March 8, 2004
President Bush proposes some important new
expenditures for education — $100 million for reading
programs to help middle and high schoolers who still
struggle to sound out Seuss-simple words; $40 million
to help professionals in math and science make the
transition to teaching; $52 million to bring Advanced
Placement classes to more high schools.
Yet all these added together would be eclipsed by the
$270 million the president would devote to a school
program promoting sexual abstinence — despite there
being little evidence that such programs reduce teen
sex or pregnancies.
Credit the president's budget for putting new money
toward older students. Most educational reforms have
focused on primary grades while slighting a generation
of high school kids. The worst-off, many in
impoverished schools, must learn basic literacy before
heading to the work world; the most promising
deserve the same chance at college admissions that
Advanced Placement classes provide to students at
more affluent schools. They all deserve qualified math
and science teachers.
Bush's proposal to create a corps of adjunct teachers in
math and science shows real innovation. These are the
two subjects in which teachers are least likely to have
expertise. The money would be used to set up school
and business partnerships that would bring
professionals in math and science to the schools,
teaching part time while working at their regular jobs,
or full time during work leaves. Their knowledge and
fresh perspective could invigorate teaching in these
In fact, the idea deserves more funding if it's to have
any real effect. Instead, Bush wants to double the
amount of money for sex education programs that
promote only abstinence; the $270-million figure is
more than six times what he would spend on the math
and science initiative.
This administration has vocally advocated spending
money only where research shows it to be effective.
Studies show that students learn math and science
better when their teachers have expertise in the
subjects. Numerous studies also show that arts
education — a target for cuts under Bush's budget —
help children achieve academically in a whole range of
An independent evaluation commissioned by the
Department of Health and Human Services two years
ago found no reliable evidence that abstinence-only
education reduced teen sex or pregnancies. Congress
will have to help the president get his educational
priorities in order: The schools need math teachers a
lot more than abstinence teachers.
• Letters to the Editor: A SCHOOL CURRICULUM
THAT’S GOOD FOR SOCIETY
March 10, 2004
Re "Math Class vs. Sex Class," editorial, March 8: As
usual, President Bush's proposal to spend $270 million
solely for the purpose of promoting sexual abstinence
misses the point and panders only to his right-wing
base. Imagine if that kind of money were used to
launch a required family relations/parenting class for
every high school student. Imagine if they were taught
how to resolve relational conflicts, how to discipline
children without violence, how domestic violence
breeds criminality, sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, etc.
Such a curriculum would do far more to strengthen the
fiber of our society than some moralistic agenda that
kids would inevitably ridicule and reject.
This conundrum, weighing the importance of
educating and informing young people about health
and sex against "standards-based" requirements such
as English, history, math and science, is complicated
enough — driven as it is by testing, testing, testing —
without injecting the politically driven agenda of
"abstinence only." There is no exit exam for health and
family education. Consequently, with a shortage of
both money and instructional time, these are easy
programs for cash-strapped school districts to cut or
Currently, LAUSD Supt. Roy Romer is proposing to
eliminate middle-school health classes, where
reproductive health is taught to kids most in need of
the information, in favor of "hard" science classes,
purely to drive up test scores. Though it is true that
there is no testing in health, there's plenty of room for
The young person who becomes infected with a
sexually transmitted disease or becomes pregnant fails.
The student who becomes overweight, asthmatic or
diabetic because he or she doesn't know about proper
nutrition and exercise fails. It is the school district and,
ultimately, society that flunks the test.
Vice President for Education
L.A. 10th District, Parent
Teacher Student Assn.
Daily News Editorial: HARD ISSUES AHEAD: Schools chief must get control of the bureaucracy
Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - While Los Angeles schools continued to make slight gains this year in the statewide ranking program, troubling questions remain to be answered about whether the poorest-performing schools are progressing fast enough and whether gains made in elementary schools are showing up in junior and senior high schools.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Roy Romer has gotten the district back on track building new schools after 30 years of abandoning the children to year-round calendars and overcrowded campuses.
But much of the bureaucracy remains locked in the chokehold of a can't-do attitude, where friendships and connections are more important to advancement than performance and the blame for classroom failure is too often put at the feet of the children.
LAUSD, with all its resources and money, should have some of the best education in the country. That it doesn't, and continues to lag behind, shows that Romer has a lot of work to do besides building schools where children will still get an inferior education.
Whittling away the bureaucracy, empowering teachers and principals and holding them accountable for results are a large part of the answer.
Romer and the school board have a responsibility, as they make massive budget cuts, to be sure they are being made for the best advantage of the children -- and not the staff.
[link to article]