The Los Angeles Unified School District has been awarded a small portion of $2 billion in state bond money earmarked for elementary and secondary schools, and district administrators said Monday their hopes of reaching a $250-million goal have all but evaporated.
School board member David Tokofsky, who has described district handling of the bond bid as sloppy, reacted angrily to news that of more than $1.3 billion doled out by the State Allocations Board last week, only about $16 million is to come to Los Angeles--or just over 1% of the total, although 12% of the state's students are educated here.
"Somebody should be fired," Tokofsky said. "Somebody ought to be responsible."
Top administrators, however, said the low allocation underlines the need for a local bond issue, which the district is considering for the November ballot.
"There's a possibility we will get some more from the state, but it doesn't look promising," Supt. Sid Thompson said of the more than $600 million remaining in state bond funds. "We can't meet their requirements. . . . That is precisely why we need our own bond."
Outside critics have accused Los Angeles Unified of cooling its heels during the years when there was no state bond money, only to charge up its application machine last fall when it became clear that Proposition 203 would appear on the spring ballot.
The measure won by a wide margin, providing $3 billion to schools--a third of it set aside for construction and technology at state colleges and universities, the rest for kindergarten through 12th grade.
However, Thompson and other district officials say such arguments fail to acknowledge the outcome of this and past state school construction bond allocations, which have strongly favored districts that can provide matching funds--which Los Angeles Unified maintains never has been possible here. Under that bias, filing applications earlier, Thompson reasons, would not have ensured a larger share.
"Knowing our budget situation, we knew we couldn't play in that ballgame," he said. "It costs money to prepare those applications, and we were very reticent about spending that money when the chances were so slim."
Facilities manager Beth Louargand said several Los Angeles Unified projects are on the verge of approval by the state architect, narrowly missing the May 1 cutoff for consideration in the first round of allocations.
Others, however, pointed out that missing the cutoff meant those projects could not be considered, leaving the district in the unenviable position of fighting over a much-shrunken pool.
"The thing they're whining about now is that they've got a dozen almost ready to come out [of the approval process]," said Amy Dean, principal consultant for the Legislature's Joint Committee on School Facilities. "But the board had to pick a date, and they picked May 1. That's the way it is."
Dominic Shambra , the district's planning and development director, acknowledged that a bid for the remaining state bond money is "a crapshoot."
Shambra said the newly conservative domination of the State
Allocations Board was tangible at the May 1 meeting, which he attended. In their discussions about various projects, he said, the board reiterated preferences to give priority to districts that can at least show that they have attempted or are attempting a local bond measure.
"If we decide to go for the local bond, I think we have the Republican vote" on the allocations board, Shambra said. "If we don't, I think we'll have a very difficult time."
The Board of Education has agreed to consider asking voters to float up to $3 billion in local bonds in November, but only if a public opinion poll at the end of this month shows community support. Depending on the amount sought, such a bond could cost homeowners in the district more than $100 a year for debt service and other costs.
Shambra also said the district remains optimistic that it may receive state bond support for a future high school near Belmont High. The allocations board is scheduled to consider in June recent state legislation that permits the use of school bond money for the kind of public-private venture envisioned for the Belmont Learning Center.