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LAUSD board to approve final budget, vote on term-limit change

Vanessa Romo | June 22, 2015

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lucy-footballThe LA Unified School Board will approve a final budget for 2015-16 and an accompanying Local Control Accountability Plan that is supposed to outline the district’s goals in spending of nearly $7.1 billion during tomorrow’s last meeting of the school year.

It is also the last time with this configuration of the board. Tamar Galatzan and Bennett Kayser, who lost their seats in the March election, will be stepping down at the end of the month, replaced by their victors, members Scott Schmerelson and Ref Rodriguez, who will be sworn in July 1, the first day of the fiscal year.

But before then, a bit of palace intrigue has reached tomorrow’s agenda: A vote on Mónica Ratliff’s resolution to extend the term limits of the presidency to three consecutive years from two, a move that would allow Richard Vladovic to remain in office through June 30, 2016.

The timing of the resolution is unusual since the board only implemented the idea of term-limits two years ago, just before Vladovic followed six years of Mónica Garcia as the board president.

What’s the reasoning behind such an effort? Only Ratliff knows, and she’s not sharing. There is no explanation in the language of the resolution, and repeated efforts to get an answer from her office were ignored.

So, one is left to speculate.

It is possible that she feels two years at the helm isn’t long enough to set the right tone and direction for district policies. After all, Ratliff was not yet on the board when her colleagues passed the term-limits measure.

It is also possible she is motivated by other political factors. Here are a few scenarios that would explain her action.

Scenario One: This is the most obvious. She does not want to see Steve Zimmer, the board vice president, ascend to the office. If that’s the case, it would appear to reflect personal or stylistic differences more than than policy disagreements. She and Zimmer often vote on the same side of issues.

Zimmer is in an ideal position to rise to the top spot but only if Vladovic is termed out. With Galatzan and Kayser gone and Ratliff and George McKenna still fairly new, that leaves Zimmer as the member with the most time and experience on the board next to Garcia, who is unlikely to rise to the presidency again.

But it could be that Ratliff believes Zimmer might turn his passionate advocacy for issues he cares strongly about into an assertiveness that does not play well against her passion for the issues she cares strongly about. Vladovic, by contrast, ruled in a far more languid style.

Scenario Two: There’s a deal in the works. If Ratliff can add two votes to hers and Vladovic’s, guaranteeing that her measure passes, Vladovic rewards her by naming her board vice president or by bringing back a technology committee and returning Ratliff to its chair. It was her work on the now-defunct Common Core Technology Project Committee, after all, that led to the disintegration of the iPads-for-all program.

Scenario Three: Ratliff wants to be board president but she’d get it sooner after one more year with Vladovic than waiting out two years with Zimmer, the logical successor if the rules remain as they are.

Political maneuverings aside, the board will also vote on approving changes to benefits contracts with UTLAAALA, and SEIU Local 99 among others. And it wouldn’t be a board meeting without at least one charter related issue. Equitas Academy 4 is petitioning for a charter that will be located in the Pico Union area of Los Angeles.

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