The LA Unified school board on Tuesday unanimously approved a $7.6 billion balanced budget for 2016-17, with some of the most passionate objections devoted to the 14 percent increase for school police.
The passing of the budget became much simpler after the state notified the board last week that it would have an extra year to sort out an issue over the district’s spending of state funds designated for students who are in the foster care system, low-income or English language learners.
Before the notification from the state, the district had expected it would have had to change its funding for high-needs students and spend an additional $245 million, which could have resulted in the loss of 2,000 teacher and administrator jobs by next spring and increased class sizes.
The board found out last week it would have one year to work with the state. District officials disputed the state’s findings from the beginning and still plan to appeal the decision.
While this year’s budget — a $700 million increase over last year — was balanced, the district faces continued declining enrollment and increasing costs in retirement benefits. Next year, the district expects a decline of 13,728 traditional and affiliated charter students, while independent charter enrollment will increase by 5,984.
The district’s financial experts predict that next year’s budget will also be balanced, but a deficit is forecast for the 2018-19 budget year.
In crafting the budget, Superintendent Michelle King said her staff listened to comments from the community, as required under the new state funding formula, about what programs they would like to receive funding.
“Are we there? No, we’re not there, but we are on a path moving forward in the right direction,” King said.
Some budget highlights:
- a $4 million increase to arts programs
- a $9 million increase in resources for magnet schools
- a $6 million increase for dual-language immersion programs
- one extra teacher at each of the district’s high schools for elective courses and 55 elementary schools with high-needs students
- hiring additional restorative justice counselors in middle and elementary school sites
- more support for homeless students and foster youth
Some public speakers who addressed the board Tuesday called for more funding for restorative justice, the district’s new approach to discipline, and less funding for school police officers.
“Oppose is a mild term,” Zoe Rawson, a legal advocate with the Labor-Community Strategy Center, told the board. “We feel outraged. We feel demoralized that there is yet another increase to the school police budget.”