The Los Angeles Unified School District board today delayed a vote on proposed massive cuts to adult and early childhood education programs, instead instructing the superintendent to negotiate cost-saving measures with unions and monitor state budget developments in hopes of reducing the magnitude of the cuts.
The board also authorized Superintendent John Deasy to begin preparing a parcel tax to put before voters in hopes of reducing the district's estimated $557 million deficit in 2012-13.
Despite the delay in cuts, however, the board still authorized the issuance of layoff-warning notices for thousands of teachers and LAUSD employees, although those notices will not be sent until at least March 8 to allow time for labor negotiations and potential improvements in state funding for the district.
"There will be cuts," board member Steven Zimmer warned the hundreds of union members, parents and teachers who attended the board's meeting to oppose the proposed cuts. "And until our leaders in Sacramento understand that it's a crime against children to be 49th in the nation in funding of education ... we will be here together. We have heard your voices. We are trying everything that we can."
Zimmer, who proposed the delay in the cuts, said the postponement means the district will "not implement what we are preparing for until the last possible conceivable moment on March 8 to allow the maximum time for all of our bargaining units to avoid the chaos of mass layoffs."
Deasy presented the board with a laundry list of proposed cuts aimed at slashing the district's $557 million budget deficit for the coming school year. Most notable among the cuts was the elimination of adult-education, arts and early childhood education programs. Cafeteria workers, librarians and counselors were also on the cutting block.
The superintendent's cost-cutting plan included layoff-warning notices for all permanent and non-permanent adult, career-education and early education teachers, 3,516 permanent teachers, 589 support-services personnel and 100 non- permanent teachers.
Zimmer said he wanted Deasy to come back to the board in two weeks with alternatives to eliminating programs wholesale, although he acknowledged that the district was definitely going to have to make cuts.
"There's a difference between drastic cuts and catastrophic cuts," he said.
Board member Marguerite LaMotte agreed, saying, "Something's gonna have to be cut, we just don't want to cut it all."
Deasy said he would begin the process of drafting a proposed parcel tax - - a levy on every property on the tax rolls within the district. The tax would have to brought back to the board for final approval, and a decision would still have to be made on whether to put it on the ballot in June, November or next March.
Among those speaking to the board in opposition to the cuts in arts programs were actress/dancer/choreographer Debbie Allen and Velvet Revolver/Guns 'n' Roses drummer Matt Sorum.
"If this proposal does not get changed, we are dropping a nuclear bomb on our kids," Allen told the kids.
Also making pleas to the board were City Council members Eric Garcetti and Richard Alarcon.
"As we aim to bring high-quality businesses into the city it makes it more and more difficult to argue that there is a long and deep workforce that is skilled and can provide them the workforce they need to build a healthy economy for the future," Alarcon said. "If we reduce those opportunities in education we will reduce our capacity to lure those companies into our neighborhoods, and it will diminish the economic opportunity for those neighborhoods and reduce the overall tax base for the city of Los Angeles. I don't know how that helps the educational system."
- City News Service