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Never heard of a teacher coach? LA Unified Common Core budget buys 122

The board deliberated for two hours before approving Superintendent John Deasy's Common Core budget with no changes.
The board deliberated for two hours before approving Superintendent John Deasy's Common Core budget with no changes. Annie Gilbertson/KPCC

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s board on Tuesday approved a $113 million plan to jump-start the switch to new Common Core learning standards — a big chunk of which will go to hiring an army of teacher coaches.

In a 6-1 vote, the Board of Education approved 122 new teacher coaching positions — a plan that keeps training in-house by training coaches to train teachers.  The coaches are likely to be pulled from the top of L.A. Unified's current teacher roster.

The district is also hiring 30 "content coordinators" — administrative positions to help manage this massive switch in the nation's second-largest school district.

School principals will also get $70 per student in flexible cash to aid in the transition.

The vote came after hours of debate Tuesday — and after months of putting it off. The administration first sent the proposed budget to the board two months ago. A scheduled vote as last week's regular board meeting was put off to Tuesday.

Many board members expressed disapproval of how the funds, which were provided by the state for the transition, were being spent.

Some board members were concerned the action plan lacked evidence-based practices; others thought the money would be better spent if individual schools could get the entire $200 per-student allocation and make their own plans.

The debate heated up on the issue of whether to mandate a specific portion of the budget be spent on parent training and involvement. An earlier version of the budget set aside $750,000 for the purpose, but was removed to give more flexible money to schools. 

When several competing ideas were floated to alter the budget, board member Tamar Galatzan intervened.

"It seems like there is this never ending supply of money that folks think is out there and board members keep prioritizing all sorts of things and directing the superintendent and staff to go figure out a way to fund it," she said.

In the end, only one amendment was offered and it didn’t pass. The board voted in favor of Superintendent John Deasy’s plan untouched.

Now, the L.A. Unified faces a second challenge: board president Richard Vladovic wants teacher coaches hired by Christmas.

And board member Steve Zimmer said he may still ask schools to set aside some money for the purpose when school guidelines for Common Core spending are issued.

"We aren't just giving the money to schools and say - hey - anything you want," he said. "This is about accountable Common Core implementation."

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