Statement by School Board President Mónica García and Superintendent Austin Beutner on L.A. Unified Advisory Task Force ‘Hard Choices’ Report

June 5, 2018

We want to thank Laphonza Butler, Wendy Greuel and the rest of the L.A. Unified Advisory Task Force for their efforts. Their commitment to public education is a reminder that everyone in Los Angeles has a stake in making sure children in our community receive the best possible education.

The Task Force was started more than a year ago in collaboration with then-Superintendent Michelle King, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Task Force in the months ahead. L.A. Unified needs “critical friends” like these to help the District find solutions to issues and to see that they are implemented.

The Task Force’s report today, which happens to coincide with the release of a report by

the CLASS Coalition and the United Way of Greater Los Angeles on the Local Control Funding Formula, identifies clearly the challenges that L.A. Unified must address.

  • More progress needs to be made to help students most in need. Significant opportunity gaps continue to exist between students of color and their peers. The state of California adopted the Local Control Funding Formula approach about four years ago, and the digestion phase should be over. Yet the CLASS Coalition-United Way of Greater Los Angeles report notes a lack of transparency in how L.A. Unified is using these incremental resources, there is not sufficient evidence to support some of the programs, and the efficacy of the overall implementation is not clear.
  • L.A. Unified’s structural budget deficit is large and growing. Unless something changes, the District will exhaust its savings and, as a consequence, students, employees and the community will all be harmed.
  • The budget challenge reflects a few areas, all of which have existed for some time. They now must be dealt with.
    • L.A. Unified is currently a top-down organization designed to serve the needs of a district of a decade or two ago. The District needs to develop a plan that starts with providing the appropriate resources to schools and an organization to support these schools.
    • The state of California increased pension benefits to public sector employees, including much of the staff at L.A. Unified, almost 20 years ago, yet no additional money was set aside to pay for this. The “Sacramento fix” will cause every school district in the state to roughly double the amount it pays in pension costs over the next few years. The state must be part of the solution.
    • The rate of increase in health benefit costs in L.A. Unified has exceeded the increase in revenue for almost 20 years. This is not new information.
      • 2004 – MGT of America report to the L.A. Unified School Board shows that from 2000-05, revenue increased 2 percent while health benefit costs increased 50 percent.
        • “Structural budget imbalances can only be addressed by structural changes.”
      • 2015 – Report by the Independent Financial Review Panel of the L.A. Unified School Board.
        • LAUSD is facing a significant structural deficit in its operating budget that threatens the District’s long-term financial viability.”
        • “The District still needs to look at reducing the rate of growth in costs relating to providing health-care benefits.”
      • 2017 – State of California Legislative Analyst Update on School District Retiree Health Benefits.
        • “Rising cost of retiree health-care benefits placing added pressure on district budgets.”
        • “Los Angeles Unified accounts for 9 percent of statewide student attendance but 56 percent of the statewide unfunded liability.”
  • Other school districts in California have taken steps to address this issue. L.A. Unified must, as well.

Today, the Task Force has again made clear L.A. Unified must address these issues or the needs of our students and all stakeholders will suffer. The debate should no longer be whether or not these challenges exist, but how we can work together to solve them. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on how best to solve these problems, but we all need to start with the same set of facts.

Any reasonable observer would agree the current level of funding of approximately $15,000 per student is not sufficient. However, today we must do the best we can with the resources we have.

The solutions will require some choices be made, and these must reflect the values of all stakeholders – students, parents and the community. And the answers must put students first.

 

 Contact: Shannon Haber (213) 241-6766

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