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LA Unified Board Finally Gives Deasy His Common Core Budget

Hillel Aron | September 17, 2013

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IMG_2665The LAUSD School Board today finally approved a $113 million budget for transitioning to the Common Core curriculum. The 6-1 vote marked the end of a tumultuous and seemingly directionless process that led to the resignation of Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Jaime Aquino, an LA Times editorial calling the Board “dysfunctional,” and finally to Mayor Eric Garcetti wading in to Board politics for the first time.

Aquino was conspicuously absent from the proceedings. As Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, he has been a chief architect of the Common Core transition. He said on Friday that he would resign at the end of the year because of what he sees as school board meddling.

“Due to the announcement of my resignation, I have decided not to do any public engagement during my transition period,” Aquino told LA School Report in an email, when asked why he wasn’t at today’s board meeting. “My focus will be to work behind the scenes to ensure a smooth transition.”

The budget, which passed with only Monica Ratliff dissenting, will give schools $70 per student, to be spent on technology, professional development or new materials to prepare students, teachers and administrators for the new Common Core curriculum and the standardized tests that will come with it. It also spends $24 million over the next two years on 122 math and English teacher advisors and another $8 million on 30 “content coordinators” for science, history, arts and English language development.

Like the teachers union, Ratliff is opposed to teacher advisors.

The absence of any discussion of the budget prior to its passage was particularly notable since the seven-member body had, just last week, postponed approval for the sake of additional discussion. That was already the second draft that Deasy and his team had put together. The slow speed with which the board was moving on the budget was cited as a key reason for Aquino’s resignation and was criticized in the LA Times editorial.

Prior to the vote, the board spent more than an hour discussing a proposed amendment by Steve Zimmer that was first handed to his colleagues as they took their seats, following  a closed-door session ran 90 minutes late. The amendment would have reduced the money to schools to pay for three district-wide Common Core planning days, including one that Zimmer called a “Common Core Convocation” to “bring our entire community together and signal and celebrate the transformation this represents.”

The plan was met with skepticism by Deasy and other Board members.

“I am particularly opposed to a ‘Common Core Convocation'” said Ratliff, who usually votes along with Zimmer. “I think the money should go to the schools.”

“I am trying to be aspirational,” said Zimmer, defending his amendment. “I just wanted to throw that idea out there.”

Board President Richard Vladovic supported the amendment, saying, “I see tremendous value in having everyone march to the same tune,” though he added of Common Core training: “This is not the end all be all. This will be an evolving process and take 10 to 15 years.”

Eventually, the Board rejected the change by a vote of 4 to 3, with Ratliff and, perhaps most surprisingly, Bennett Kayser joining with Monica Garcia and Tamar Galatzan in voting no. Like Ratliff, Kayser said he preferred more money be given directly to schools.

After the meeting, Zimmer told reporters he was disappointed his amendment didn’t pass, but added, “I introduced the amendment to guide the debate substantively, and I believe that happened… I feel that it’s important to have substantive direction and real clear choice.”

Previous posts: LA Unified Board Considers Common Core — Yet AgainAnalysis: Aquino’s Resignation Turns a Spotlight onto DeasyDeasy Deputy Jaime Aquino Resigns (Updated)Vladovic Leadership Style Suggests Slower Pace is Best

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