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School Board Approves Tablets, Nixes Layoffs

Hillel Aron | February 13, 2013

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The tablet protest inspired some pretty good t-shirts, but it couldn’t stop the vote

On the grounds that wireless internet radiation “causes cancer,” six people showed up to Tuesday’s School Board meeting to protest a $500 million plan that will give all students and teachers portable computing devices by 2014.

But it was all to no avail.

In a strangely contention-less meeting — the last before the March 5 elections — the LAUSD School Board voted 6-0 to approve phase one of the technology plan.

During the meeting, the Board also voted to save the 208 employees that were threatened with layoffs; to approve 24th St. Elementary’s parent trigger petition; and to approve 12 new pilot schools.

Tablets Approved

The Board vote on tablets means that students at 47 schools will get computing devices, at a cost of $50 million, paid for out of leftover bond money (see District statement here; see Daily News story here).

“We’re closing the digital divide,” said School Board President Monica Garcia after the vote. “We’re closing the opportunity gap.”

The one abstention came from Board Member Bennett Kayser. “I want to see that this half billion dollar effort be done right, with oversight and transparency,” he said in a statement. “I believe we should take computer project to the voters and seek ongoing financial support for this important endeavor.”

Layoffs Averted

The most anticipated item of the day (and the one the TV crews were there to report on) — a proposal to lay off 208 counselors, social workers and librarians funded by local schools and grant money — was dispensed with almost immediately.The Board voted quickly and unanimously to fund the positions centrally, thus saving them. (See also KPCC.) No reason was given for the abrupt about-face.

The teachers union had been vocal in their opposition to the proposal, perhaps oddly considering that most of the positions are not part of their union.

“We are gratified the District is finally taking a first step toward keeping the promise to voters,” said UTLA President Warren Fletcher in a statement, alluding to Prop 30. The statement also said that UTLA would be asking for “salary increases to make up for four years of furloughs and six years without a raise.”

School board member Nury Martinez, who was mysteriously absent for the first couple of hours of the meeting, showed up right after the vote, although she later added her abstention retroactively.

Parent Trigger

Another of day’s biggest stories flew completely under the radar: Twenty-fourth Street Elementary’s parent trigger petition passed unanimously and without any comment — a  stark contrast to the previous two trigger petitions, which were opposed by by Compton Unified and Adelanto Unified school boards.

“With their unanimous vote, the LAUSD Board has given its full support to transform our school — and give our children the opportunity for a better education,” said Amabilia Villeda, one of the lead parent organizers, in a statement.

Parents at the school are currently interviewing operators for their school, some of which are charters.

Left: Parent Revolution’s Ben Austin and school board member Dr. Richard Vladovic tell parents outside the meeting about the vote; Right: The parents cheer

Term Limits, Recusals, and Dual Language Votes Postponed

A number of anticipated votes were postponed: Board Member Margeurite LaMotte’s term-limits proposal, Board Member Bennett Kayser’s motion to bar board members from voting on charter schools they’ve taken donations from, and Board Member Steve Zimmer‘s proposal to expand dual language learning.

Board member Tamar Galatzan voiced opposition to Zimmer’s motion, saying that the programs weren’t ready for expansion. “I don’t know how the board could call for the programs’ expansions,” she said. “We don’t have assessment tests written yet. We don’t know if the kids are learning.”

A parent outside the meeting holds up a sign in support of Green Dot’s Locke

Charter and Pilot Approvals

The Board voted unanimously to approve 12 new pilot schools, and voted to approve and renew a number of charter schools, including Green Dot’s Ánimo Locke College Preparatory Academy.

Metro Charter School was approved, 5-1 with Zimmer casting the sole vote against its creation.

No charter approval was rejected, although Renaissance Arts Academy’s request to expand from a 6th to 12th grade school to a K-12 school was rejected by a 3-3 vote, Dr. Vladovic having left the meeting.

Corri Ravare of the California Charter School Association told LA School Report that the vote would most likely result in the school moving its operating jurisdiction to LA County.

Budget Outlook

During the meeting, Superintendent John Deasy reiterated his support for Governor Jerry Brown’s “weighted funding” proposal, which would reconfigure how state funds are passed down to school districts.

Deasy said the proposal would mean more money for LAUSD.

“K-12 funding is rebuilding,” thanks to Prop. 30 money and the state “paying down its deferrals,” said Megan Reilly, Chief Financial Officer of LAUSD.

Deasy called it “the best news on the budget in the last six years.”

This was the last Board meeting until after the March 5 municipal elections. The next Board meeting will take place on March 19th.

Previous posts: Board Preview: Tablets, Layoffs, & Dual LanguageCrenshaw Reconstituted, Aspire Squeaks By*Controversial Grant Approval Measure Passes, 4-3School Board Round-UpBoard Restores 10 Days, Rejects Charter Proposal

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