Los Angeles Board of Education Votes for a ‘Budget of Hope’

LOS ANGELES (June 24, 2014) - The Board of Education today unanimously approved a budget for the Los Angeles Unified School District that grew 7 percent from a year earlier, shifting more funds to schools that educate students with the greatest needs while taking the first steps toward restoring programs and staff.

It is, described by one speaker as, a “budget of hope.”

The 2014-15 budget of $6.64 billion is brighter, mostly from voters approving a larger sales tax as well as an improving state and national economy. These changes helped reverse a nearly seven-year period of declining revenues in state education funding that forced the nation’s second-largest school district into cleaving staff and programs.

But even veteran board members were relieved Tuesday to avoid in recent years of what many described as “devastating” budget cuts. While debate still existed between board members over spending priorities, there was consensus that the latest budget was the best they’ve seen in a while, or since being on the board.     

“What a difference a year makes,” said Board President Dr. Richard Vladovic. “Now, we’re looking at adding and doing things that will help children.” Later, he added, “I support this budget 100 percent.”

Board Vice President Steve Zimmer said the unity shown among board members in approving the budget indicates a desire to show fundamental change for students most in need.
"The board’s unanimous vote was a ringing affirmation of our intent to meaningfully change school conditions for students in the most need.
“It also ensures that all communities will have their education budgets stabilized and can begin the process of building the schools all students deserve. I’m especially proud of hte investments we have made in foster youth, English learners and the principles of restorative justice. I look forward to developing plans that invest in arts educations and early childhood education with the same resolve. I know this board can meet the challenges ahead with the same spirit of unity and collaboration that progress requires.”   

Another key reason for an improved budget outlook is the biggest change in school finance in the past 30 years. The state earlier adopted a new plan for funding schools now in its second year, called the Local Control Funding Formula, which is the main funding source in California for public education.
This model provides school districts more money to help students with the highest-needs, including those who are English learners, are in foster care or live in poverty. Roughly, 84% of the District’s total enrollment falls into more than one of these three categories. This also led to the District to receive more funding for the coming year.

“I’m very proud of this budget, which provides justice for our students,” said Superintendent John Deasy. “I’m also profoundly grateful that the budget received the unanimous support of the board.”

Board Member Mónica García added: "I am proud to support a historic budget. For the first time in seven years, we are investing in schools, services and support for students, families and employees. For the first time ever, we are beginning to invest first where we have the greatest needs. We are a changing district.”
This is the best budget since being first elected to the board in 2007, said Board Member Tamar Galatzan. Of the new planned spending next school year, she said, “Every school in the District received more money than it did last year. This is the first step in a path toward restoring valuable people and programs to all our students.

"This budget strikes the right balance in setting a funding floor beneath which no school can fall and supporting schools with specific needs," she said. This budget is a model for how the Local Control Funding Formula should be implemented in California."
Board Member Mónica Ratliff added the budget makes progress toward providing more services requested by those in her district.
"I am glad that we passed a budget tonight that includes many promising investments for our students - investments that the parents, students, and constituents in my district have been requesting. We're lowering class size, reopening our libraries, and supporting summer school. I look forward to discussing over the next year how to meet another constituent priority – security at our campuses. 
“I applaud the superintendent for agreeing to revisit the Arts Education distribution of funds when Executive Director Rory Pullens joins us. In particular, I am looking forward to receiving the requested budget showing what would be required to expand the proposed Arts rotations from nine weeks to a semester or a full year."
Though acknowledging change in the budget, board members also felt more ground needed to be gained and that the level of funding for the state’s public schools remains inadequate.
“As pleased as I am not to be enduring another year of layoffs and cuts, I remain far from happy with public education funding in California,” said Board Member Bennett Kayser.
“At 49th in the nation in per-pupil funding, our students, employees and communities are left fighting over pitifully small budgets while the high needs of our students and high expectations of our communities remain. Closing the funding gap between California and the rest of the nation must become a priority for our leaders.”
Contact: Tom Waldman (213) 241-6766

Learn more about the District’s budget online by clicking on http://lausd.schoolwires.net/budget.