LA Unified board to Deasy on budget: ‘go further, faster’
Vanessa Romo | April 8, 2014
Months in the making, LA Unified’s $6.8 billion budget, along with an extra $332 million through the Local Control Funding Formula, finally reached the school board today, as Superintendent John Deasy walked the members through its highlights, pointing to dozens of areas where the new money is going.
His presentation was the featured attraction at a monthly meeting that included Sylvia Rousseau addressing the six members for the first time in her capacity as temporary, non-voting representative for the board’s District 1. She gave an overview of the needs of her district as guidance for the budget negotiations ahead.
Overall, the board members appeared reasonably receptive to Deasy’s approach to using the new money for three specific groups of students, as required by California law — those from low-income families, foster youth and English learners.
The budget, he said, “will restore and improve targeted resources for the youth who need the resources the most,” he said.
But members’ questions, although laden with compliments for such a massive undertaking, reflected a consensus that they want to see him go further faster.
Board member Monica Garcia asked why only a fraction of district’s 1,000-plus schools — 71 pilot and network schools — have been directly awarded their respective LCFF revenues generated by students while the rest of the district is still under central control.
“Why don’t we put it all into a per-pupil strategy?” she asked.
That’s the plan, Deasy explained, pointing out that over the next two years every elementary and middle school will have fiscal autonomy over a per-pupil budget, a key objective of the spending plan. High schools will adopt the new funding plan at the end of three years.
A concern raised by board member Steve Zimmer was how the district identifies low-income and high poverty schools that are at the top of the list for receiving resources from new budget.
“When we consider level of risk and peril our student are living in, should we just consider the free and reduced lunch application or other indicators of poverty?” he wanted to know.
Deasy assured Zimmer the district is constructing a formula that takes factors outside of school into account, including neighborhood crime levels and access to public libraries, a a way to assure that the money follows need.
“You should expect iterations of that to take place over time,” Deasy said. But he added, the district will not wait to help the schools already identified as the most needy.
The superintendent also went out of his way to highlight how many people are going to get hired over the next three years, a key point for the district’s labor partners who have weathered layoffs since the 2008 recession began. More than 1,200 new jobs will be created in the next academic year with the surplus created by LCFF, but new positions will also be paid for by the district’s base budget.
On the subject of raises, which the teachers union has been clamoring for, he told the board they are on the horizon.
“Many employees have not had raises in six to seven years and it’s important to address that,” he said.