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Playing Games With L.A.'s Students?

August 02, 1992

Harry Bernstein's column, "Schools Need Daring Experiment" (July 7), suggests that schools "should simply shut down" when they run out of money.

Bernstein believes that would send the "powerful message to Sacramento and taxpayers that it takes more money to run a decent school system properly, and (those who operate the system) won't tolerate the current mess any more."

Bernstein's suggestions reflect a complete ignorance of the constitutional obligation of school trustees to develop a balanced budget and what would happen in the event they failed to fulfill that obligation.

The Los Angeles city Board of Education has fulfilled its obligation by developing a balanced budget in accordance with all legal requirements.

Should the board fail to exercise its constitutional responsibilities by not developing a balanced budget, the county superintendent of schools would be empowered to immediately take the necessary steps to balance the budget.

The simplest route to achieve that result would be an across-the-board salary cut for all employees (for a $400-million deficit, this would constitute an approximate 20% reduction for all employees).

Bernstein's suggestion carries with it the unconscionable premise that the children of this community, who already face considerable obstacles, should be cynically used as cannon fodder by those ostensibly acting on their behalf.

Has Bernstein really considered the destructive consequences for the students? Or is he simply playing educational brinkmanship with their future, assuming that additional funds will be forthcoming if we play such a high-stakes game?

This is not a game. Students should not be put at greater risk and Bernstein ought to know better.


Los Angeles

The writer is chief business and financial officer of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

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