LAUSD Board Watch: Outgoing Board Makes Its Final Mark Tuesday

This is a preview of Speak UP’s regular new feature called LAUSD Board Watch. We’ll bring you the important issues coming before the LAUSD Board before each meeting so you can stay informed and take action on behalf of a kids-first agenda.

UPDATED

In its final meeting before newly elected members are seated, the LAUSD Board approved a $7.5 billion budget Tuesday that will result in layoffs for more than 100 library aides, clerks and financial support staff next year as a result of declining enrollment.

Many school libraries will close as a result of the move, unless the district finds a way to allow parents and community members to volunteer to keep them open -- something newly elected board member Nick Melvoin has said he’d like to see happen.

The new budget will reassign some employees and cut more than 100 administrators, coordinators and managers next year as part of a 30 percent reduction of the district’s downtown bureaucracy. However, many of these employees have tenure and can return at lower salaries, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In 2015, an Independent Financial Review Panel recommended cutting about 10,000 staff members. If LAUSD does not trim its bureaucracy, it faces a $24 million penalty for having a too-high administrator-to-teacher ratio, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Cost pressures on LAUSD include retiree health and pension benefits, which will eat up 8 percent of the general fund next year as the workforce ages, and special education services.

Superintendent Michelle King’s proposals to reduce a pending deficit include increases in class sizes, stopping payments to a trust fund to cover retiree health costs or seizing the rainy day funds at individual schools.

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In a move that many saw as an attempt by recently defeated LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer to cling to power beyond his elected term, the outgoing LAUSD board extended Superintendent Michelle King’s contract until 2020 last week, even though it wasn’t up for renewal for another year. The late-night, backroom board action was made without any public notice or comment and without considering the will of voters or the affect this would have on our kids.

Speak UP parents protested the action in an open letter to the LAUSD board: “Parents and voters spoke loudly and clearly in the recent election. We voted for change, not more of the same. We voted for transparency, not backroom deals that attempt to force the status quo on the newly elected board just weeks before it is seated.”

Nick Melvoin, who defeated Zimmer by double digits in the May election, told Speak UP that the move “unfortunately, politicizes things. This isn’t about [King’s] performance. This is about process. Any time the ability of the new board to do its job is hampered, we should be skeptical, and that’s what this move was.”

BUDGET VOTE TUESDAY

The lengthy backroom session on King’s contract delayed and ultimately derailed public comment at a hearing on King’s proposed $7.5 billion budget for 2017-2018. The outgoing board will vote on the budget this Tuesday, June 20.

King’s proposed budget fails to address the $13.6 billion unfunded health benefit crisis, according the Los Angeles Times article Five things to know about LA’s school budget.

“That was a big campaign issue, bringing down these liabilities,” Melvoin tells Speak UP. “We’re going to handicap future generations of kids if we don’t do this. One of the first things I want to do is set up a commission and bring in experts to start looking at this.”

CLASS SIZE INCREASES MAY BE COMING

King also released a plan for coming years to reduce LAUSD’s looming budget deficits. One proposal would increase class sizes by four kids in grades four through 12.

Even though class size increases are on the table, King’s budget for next year does not include significant cuts to administrative staff, according to LA School Report. That’s despite the fact that enrollment is still declining, and LAUSD may actually be penalized for a too-high administrator-to-teacher ratio.

The newly elected board, to be seated in July, will have to live with this new budget for its first year but is expected to tackle some of the tough decisions needed to address LAUSD’s fiscal crisis.

“People have to get ready,” Melvoin said. “Righting a ship that has been wrong for so long is not going to happen overnight.”

The meeting agendas can be read here, here and here. To watch the board meeting live on Tuesday, click here.