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LA Unified board has second thoughts on ethnic studies

Vanessa Romo | June 10, 2015



Students protest outside LAUSD headquarters

Students protest outside LAUSD headquarters

There are no easy take-backsies within the second largest school district in the country but it appears that at least some LA Unified school board members are hoping for a time-out before moving ahead with the Ethnic Studies resolution adopted in the fall.

An analysis of the initiative by the district budget office estimated it would cost $72 million over four years to establish the course as a high school graduation requirement by 2019. An amount that has left many board members questioning the expense and timeline of the program.

Although, the board did not include a complete budget when passing the resolution, it did allocate $4 million to launch a pilot program in a handful of schools.

“I think this is really problematic,” Board Member Monica Ratliff, told her colleagues at a school board meeting Tuesday. “A shift happened somewhere from what we voted on and what we were trying to do and what we actually had presented to us,” she said.

Board Member Monica Garcia, one of the resolution’s most vocal advocates, also appeared discouraged from pursuing the ambitious four-year timeline and suggested a “phasing” approach.

“Our district has to do things in a thoughtful, process way,” she said, warning against rushing the roll-out. 

“We need to ask [Superintendent Ramon Cortines] to bring us a solution that mitigates our purpose from the actual function of next year’s class having the requirement available,” she added.

Board Member Bennett Kayser disputed the district’s calculations defending the original budget projections that he said were based on building on existing programs and trained teachers at high schools throughout the district.

“There were a lot of suppositions in the report that made it seem like we were going to have to start shopping to fill empty pantries rather than an infrastructure that’s already in place,” Kayser said.

District officials, however, argue that the decision to add the course to list of graduation requirements is what drives up the price tag.

“When you do implement something like that, you obviously have to provide the teachers, the books, and the resources in order to make that happen,” Ruth Perez, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, told the board.

But the California Department of Education may do a lot of the heavy lifting for the district, she added. It is developing curriculum and instruction guidelines for an ethnic studies course, which could bring down the cost.

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