Mixed Reactions to Board-Passed Hiring Proposal
Brianna Sacks | July 8, 2013
The Los Angeles Unified School Board recently passed a motion to return the district to the pre-recession school staffing ratios and class size ratios of 2007-2008.
UTLA President Warren Fletcher praised the resolution, arguing that Board member Bennett Kayser’s proposal would remedy the “current degraded levels of funding, staffing and the ballooning class sizes.”
However, some education experts and community leaders are questioning if Kayser’s plan is necessary or even realistic for a school district with declining enrollment and a host of other problems that might take precedence over re-hiring, such as giving struggling students more instructional time and paying teachers for extra days.
The district says it has about a $1 billion less per year and 15 percent fewer students enrolled than five years ago
Though Supt. John Deasy opposed the idea of hiring more staff and said the new funding should be used to give raises to current staff, most of whom have not had a raise since 2007, the Board passed the “Creating Equitable and Enriching Learning Environments for all Los Angeles Unified School District Students” motion 5-2.
Kayser said he wanted to return the district to 2007-08 “ratios and norms,” and said that critics shouldn’t focus on the differences in “hard numbers.” Kayser called the 900:1 student-to-counselor ratio at some schools “just ridiculous.”
Reducing class size is extremely popular among parents and teachers, though research has shown weak effects from modest class size reductions and schools sometimes struggle to find qualified teachers and classroom space to create new classes.
Reactions to the proposed staffing increases were mixed among nonprofits who work with schools in Los Angeles:
Inner City Struggle Director Maria Brenes said the proposal could benefit the district so long as it rehired staff members that students truly need.
“We have 600 nurses in the district, that’s a nurse-to-student ratio of 1:100,” said Brenes, who advocates for the social and educational justice of Eastside youth and their families.
“For many families the school nurse plays a critical role in pediatric health and some schools have to share nurses on the same day,” she added.
There are actually about 450-500 nurses spread across LAUSD, not 600, according to District Nursing Services, 25 percent less than there were two years ago.
“I was around in 2007 and people were still not happy with the budget and how things were run,” said Community Coalition President Marqueece Harris-Dawson, whose organization works to change public policy to better the health, education and environment in South L.A. “I don’t think we should look back and hold that time up as the best circumstance.”
Instead, Harris-Dawson hopes Board members will “do a vigorous analysis” and use the rare new funding to redesign the district by expanding smaller successes and pilot programs across the district.
“When money comes back, we shouldn’t apply it the way it was applied before,” he said. “This is a teachable moment for our society. Let’s try something different.”
No details or estimates as to how the district could feasibly re-staff all schools to pre-recession levels, along with other large-scale proposals, have surfaced. Kayser’s office did not respond when contacted to elaborate on the plan, nor did the Los Angeles County Office of Education want to comment on how the proposal could be financially sustained.
The district has 60 days to figure it out, according to the office of Budget Services and Financial Planning.