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UTLA, LAUSD Prep for Prop. 30 Budget Battle

Samantha Oltman | February 6, 2013

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Conflicting priorities over how to spend an influx of $6 billion in statewide Prop. 30 funds are causing tensions between LAUSD and the teachers union, UTLA.

As a recent UTLA newletter reveals, concerns about how the money will be spent are one of the reasons that the union is so focused on the outcome of the March 5 election. In the newsletter, UTLA President Warren Fletcher notes that the union’s ability to achieve its budget goals “will be immeasurably helped or hindered depending on the outcome of the March 5 School Board election.”

When it passed in November, Prop. 30 was lauded by just about everyone as a victory for education. For the first time in years, Prop. 30 offered financial relief for LAUSD’s cash-strapped schools, which have weathered a budget crisis, teacher layoffs, and dismally low per-pupil funding. In 2012, LAUSD’s per-pupil funding was $5,221, and California’s per-pupil spending ranked 47th out of 50 states.

And, at least initially, UTLA and the Board were in agreement. Once Prop. 30 passed, the Board immediately moved to restore the full, 180-day academic year and rescinded past teacher furloughs.

But the promise of this much-needed money now has LAUSD and UTLA preparing for a battle over how it will be spent, a process that begins now and happens for real next year.

The teachers union has proclaimed three main spending priorities for Prop. 30 revenue: It wants to protect and restore teacher jobs, to lower class sizes (which will also protect teacher jobs threatened by declining student enrollment in district schools), and to implement pay raises.

In the newsletter, Fletcher highlights the differences between what the union wants and what the district prioritizes. “[In the past,] Board members could always claim that budgetary necessity was driving their decisions,” writes Fletcher. “Now that Prop. 30 is the law, they no longer have that excuse.”

LAUSD teachers have experienced four years of furloughs, and there has been a six-year freeze on pay raises in the district.

However, the district, along with at least a part of the Board, is looking to spend Prop. 30 funds more directly on students, including by bringing more technology into classrooms.

The rift between UTLA and LAUSD on technology is nothing new (see: Union Head Opposes Tablet Initiative), and there have already been tense debates among Board members over Deasy’s push to give each LAUSD student a tablet computer (see: Technology or Salaries?). In a January interview with CBS LA, Deasy said preventing teacher layoffs was a possibility next year, but far from a certainty.

However, few of these decisions will be made before the Board election on March 5th. It will be a new Board — possibly with new members — that sifts through the different claims and priorities and determines how Prop. 30 funds are used.

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