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So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Facing its first budget increase in years, LA Unified board members set to debate how to spend it

A meeting of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. The board is scheduled to vote on a new budget on Tuesday
A meeting of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. The board is scheduled to vote on a new budget on Tuesday David McNew/Getty Images

Los Angeles Unified School District’s board of education is set to vote Tuesday on next fiscal year’s budget. For the first time in years, members will not be faced with figuring out where to make drastic cuts.

The budget proposed by Superintendent John Deasy for the 2013-14 school year has $266 million more than last year’s budget - due in part to an improving economy and last year’s voter-approved state tax increase for schools.

The state is requiring the district to spend some of that extra money to help students in poverty, in foster care, or whose first language isn't English.

But the district can decide how to spend other funds  -- and that may create some tension among board members at Tuesday’s board meeting. Board member Monica Garcia wants to continue the district’s focus on low performing schools.

“I think it is a call to now do more than just survive and move on smaller projects,” she said. She also wants to see employee raises. Zimmer wants to rehire teachers to reduce class sizes.

Similar debates are raging in smaller districts, too, said Alex Cherniss of the LA County Office of Education.

“Many school districts are going to look to apply their new funds to reducing class size, to negotiating with their unions,” he said.

It’s a good problem to have, Cherniss said.

Board member Steve Zimmer said budget votes the previous five years have been painful. He’s had to OK employee layoffs, unpaid days off for workers and cuts to the school calendar to make up for hundreds of millions of dollars in reductions from Sacramento.

“I don’t know how much folks realize how close we were to losing public education as we know it,” he said. 

There will still be some small trims in a few programs, board members said. But overall it will be good news.

Governor Jerry Brown is calling for increases to funding for students in poverty and English learners for the next eight years.

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