Deasy, Board Plunging Back into Turbulent Budget Waters
Hillel Aron | September 9, 2013
Meeting tomorrow for thesecond time in the new school year, the LA Unified school board will plunge back into a thorny debate over how to spend millions of new dollars flowing into the district from the state.
It might not be pretty.
Superintendent John Deasy is expected to respond to the board’s June directive to draw up a spending plan that focuses on rehiring, specifically to return the district to pre-recession school staffing levels. But Deasy’s recommendations (see powerpoint here) may not be what the board is looking for.
He is expected argue that new money should be used, instead, to close a sizable budget gap, with any leftovers going to schools with high concentrations of low-income and English learning students, and that the board’s demand to add staff and lengthen the school year could cost more than $1 billion.
By Deasy’s accounting, the district still faces a $30.7 million budget gap in the current school year, pending an accounting update later in the month, and could face a deeper hole in 2014-15, thanks in part to federal sequestration.
Prior to the June meeting, Deasy had pressed for raises for current LAUSD employees, deficit reduction and what he called “student support and safety nets.” The board effectively ignored him, directing him by a 5-2 vote to present a spending plan that includes hiring new teachers, counselors, librarians and other employees, with the goal of bringing employee-to-student ratios back to pre-recession ratios.
The presentation Deasy is expected to make tomorrow satisfies the June request with an itemized account of the board’s spending wish list — click here. But it shows that the cost of new hires (more than $365 million), pay raises for current personnel (up to $240 million) and an expanded school year beyond its current 180 days (as much as $300 million) may be too expensive. Total cost for what the board wants? $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion.
The new money for LAUSD flows from the passage of Proposition 30, which is a temporary sales tax, and from Governor Jerry Brown‘s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which gives more money to school districts with higher concentrations of low-income, special education and English learning students.
A resolution from board members Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia that appears to support Deasy’s position and was postponed in June and last week was postponed again, until January. It would require LCFF money to “follow the child to the school site.”
Deasy has incorporated the idea into his recommendations, anyway, as reflected in points 2, 3 and 4 of his presentation:
The Board could vote on Deasy’s recommendation right away or postpone a decision until after the district holds a series of community meetings to seek feedback on what the district’s budget priorities should be. Plans for such meetings are already in place.
“I would love them to vote on something,” said Deasy. “It would be good if they give us some direction.”
A final decision could reflect several other influences. Gov. Brown might issue district guidelines for spending new LCFF money. Board member Steve Zimmer has proposed a resolution that directs Deasy to be “guided” by various “principles” as he develops re-hiring plans, such as “bringing LAUSD in line with national averages for class size, counselor ratios, administrator ratios and clerical and classified ratios” and “returning severed employees working in temporary status to permanent status.”
A resolution by Zimmer and Bennett Kayser, a chief critic of Deasy, aims to restore funding to the district’s physical education program.
Two other resolutions direct the Superintendent to seek more funding for arts education and adult education.
Also on Tuesday, the Superintendent will ask the board to approve the district’s $30 million Race to the Top application. The Board approved last year’s application, but UTLA, the teachers union, refused to sign off. Deasy sent the application in anyway, although it was rejected, largely because of the union’s non-participation.
Deasy said that this year’s application is largely the same as last year’s, though “some of the focus has changed.” The union did not respond to a message seeking to learn if would approve the application this time.
The Board will also vote on the district’s $113 million budget for the much heralded Common Core transition. Most of the money, which will be spent over two years, is earmarked for teacher development and training. The Common Core budget was introduced at last month’s Board meeting, where UTLA President Warren Fletcher denounced it.
Previous posts: Board Members Seeking to Ease Requirements for Volunteers; School Board Meeting Wrap Up: More Discussion Than Votes*; Deasy to Board: Your Wish List Could Cost $1.4 Billion; LA Unified Getting $113 Million for Common Core Transition*