You Name It, LA Unified Community Wants it Funded
Vanessa Romo | October 11, 2013
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What would you do with a giant pile of new money?
That’s the question Superintendent John Deasy’s staff is asking parents, educators and union members in a series of town hall meetings this month. And last night at an LA Unified facility in east Los Angeles, their suggestions ran the gamut.
More teachers. Extra support for English Language Learners. Restore early education. Double the number of school librarians. Smaller class sizes. Better after school programs. An increase in Special Education services. Classroom aides. Suicide prevention specialists. Several speakers, some in broken English, made emotional pleas for expansion of Adult Education.
In all, more than 150 people showed up to offer an opinion and learn about the district’s budget making process. It was the third of these meetings, designed to gather community feedback on spending priorities for money coming in from Governor Jerry Brown’s new Local Control Funding Formula initiative. Two more are scheduled for next week.
The meetings are being held as part of the LA Unified board’s efforts to determine how to spend the new money and who gets to decide where it goes. The big question is whether decisions will be made in a centralized fashion by the board and senior district officials or by individual schools, whose needs vary.
The district’s chief strategy officer, Matt Hill, led the audience through a presentation that covered the state’s devastating cuts to LA Unified since 2008, the added cash for the district from Proposition 30 and the money on the way from LCFF.
Hill also urged everyone to respond to an online poll on the district’s budget priorities. He estimates about 1,000 people have participated since the poll went live on Tuesday.
“My eyes were opened tonight,” Beatriz Torres, a mother of five students at Roosevelt, told LA School Report. “You hear these huge numbers, and it’s so much money, and you wonder, ‘How is it that all of this money is not enough to teach our kids?’ ”
Board members Monica Ratliff and Bennett Kayser attended the meeting. Afterward Kayser, referring to the online poll, said, “I just wish it also included a yes or no vote on the iPads.”
Kayser says he supports the district’s iPad program but does not approve of the hastiness in which is has been rolled out.
The district will hold two more town hall meetings next week. In the meantime, anyone interested can answer a poll on budget priorities here. The results of the poll questions will be released in November.