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Board Considers Unusual Grant Veto Proposal

Jackie Mader | December 11, 2012



Later today, the LAUSD School Board will consider a resolution that would give the school board veto power over any grant application made by Superintendent John Deasy for amounts over $750,000.The proposal is expected to have the four votes needed to pass.

Differences about priorities and policies between boards and superintendents are not uncommon, according to an expert on school board-superintendent dynamics, but limits on attempts to win outside funding are relatively unheard of.

“The need for additional funds is so great,” wrote Thomas Alsbury, a professor at Seattle Pacific University in an e-mail to LA School Report, “that boards would not often take this position.”

The LAUSD item, sponsored by Dr. Richard Vladovic, Marguerite LaMotte and Bennett Kayser, seeks to curb grants that come with “strings attached” that they fear could drain staff time or require hiring of additional personnel.  Board member Zimmer has indicated he will support the measure.

Professor Alsbury said time requirements are a common objection to grants. “Many believe in looking only for grants that meet an existing need,” he said. “Grants bring program change requirements that may or may not be what the district needs to meet the most immediate problems.”

School boards generally hold approval power over the majority of decisions made within a school district. Some competitions, such as the federal Race To The Top grants, require not only school board approval but also union approval.  Private funders sometimes call for a broad range of stakeholders to sign onto a grant application, in order to ensure broad-based buy-in.

But many big-city school boards, such as New York City and Chicago, now operate under mayoral control, where the board is appointed by City Hall and disputes between boards and superintendents are rare.

“Generally, I doubt that [school boards] must approve grant applications,” said journalist Gene Maeroff, who wrote a 2010 book, School Boards in America. “However, it would be within the power of a school board to set policies regarding the right of the board to approve grant applications before they are submitted by the superintendent.”

The National School Boards Association, The National Association of State Boards of Education, and the California School Boards Association all declined to comment on what the NSBA referred to as a “local district issue.”

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