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L.A. Schools Budget Crisis

March 15, 1992

Blame for the Los Angeles Unified School District budget shortfall must start in Sacramento. Gov. Pete Wilson and the Legislature have consistently underfunded public education. Additionally, LAUSD budget priorities are skewed. Budgeting should have the classroom as its core instead of the administrative bureaucracy.

Outside auditors reported that the latest $130-million mistake was caused by LAUSD financial staff miscalculations, miscommunications and faulty spending projections. Teachers salaries have remained consistently 46% of the LAUSD general fund for the past 10 years. It has veered no more than one percentage point in all that time. Salaries are not the problem.

LAUSD Chief Business/Financial Officer Robert Booker has a bad case of selective memory. I was there last Dec. 12, when the 1991-92 UTLA/LAUSD tentative agreement was announced at a news conference. One reporter specifically asked Booker if the district could afford to fund the terms of the negotiated agreement. He answered an unequivocal "Yes." And now he's claiming to have warned the board members that the district couldn't afford it? Is Booker saying one thing to the public and another to the board behind closed doors or is he trying to place the blame anyplace but himself and his staff?

I only hope that the LAUSD financial wizards start cleaning up their act and start budgeting the right way--with the classroom the highest priority of all.

HELEN BERNSTEIN, President, United Teachers--Los Angeles

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