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L.A. Unified can't afford $1-billion budget wish list, official says

October 01, 2013|By Teresa Watanabe

L.A. Unified will need more than $1 billion to pay for additional teachers, a longer school year and other items favored by Board of Education members -- but the chance of acquiring such funds is zero, the district’s financial chief said Tuesday.

Board members had passed a measure in June asking the district to present a three-year strategy to pay for their priorities: a return to 2007-08 staffing ratios for teachers, counselors, administrators and other school employees; expanded arts, adult and early childhood education; and higher employee pay, among other things.

But when board member Monica Ratliff asked how likely it would be to find the money to pay for all of it, Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly replied: “Not at all.”

Some board members seemed annoyed that officials presented a cost analysis of their wish list rather than a blueprint for how to move toward their goals over time. 

“We asked for a design, a three-year plan of what it might look like,” board member Steve Zimmer said. “If that's not possible, we get that. But this is not a design.”

Reilly said the district faced $341 million in reductions to close a projected deficit for next year despite more state dollars headed to Los Angeles from Proposition 30, the school tax measure passed in November, and a new state school funding formula. She said declining enrollment was a key cause, noting that half of the decline was due to students switching to independent charter schools.

Debate over budget priorities was postponed when Zimmer moved his measure to increase staffing, among other things, to next month’s meeting.

L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy has said his top funding choices are closing the budget deficit, increasing staff pay and giving additional state dollars to students who are low-income, non-fluent in English and in foster care. The new state funding formula gives districts extra money for such students.

The district will hold several meetings with students, employees and community members on their budget priorities beginning this month. The first public hearings are scheduled at Daniel Pearl Magnet on Oct. 8 and King-Drew Medical Magnet on Oct. 9.


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