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

LA school board passes $7.3 billion budget

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The Los Angeles Unified school board unanimously approved a $7.3 billion operating budget at its meeting Tuesday.

The funds reflect a $332 million bump in state funding for the 2014-15 school year, but strings are attached. Every school district in California had to create a "local control accountability plan", outlining how the new money would improve education for foster youth, low-income students and those learning English as a second language.

"I could not be more proud of this," said Superintendent John Deasy. "I think it is the model for the state of California."

Here's some of the changes high-need students can expect:

  • Foster students will be get the most significant change: 60 new psychiatric social workers will be dedicated to their care and nearly $9 million will go to a foster youth support plan. 
  • More students at 37 low-income schools will see psychologists, nurses and campus aides. The staffing boost settles a lawsuit. Other low-income schools won't see a similar uptick in services.
  • Spending on English learners will grow by $5 million over last year, boosting the program's budget to $28 million.

The new California school budgeting law also requires school districts to get parent and community input. L.A. Unified staff visited schools across Los Angeles to hear from parents, created an online survey, and established two groups of parent representatives.

"Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people were able to give feed back, and I feel good about that," said board president Dr. Richard Vladovic.

But, in the end, the school board asked Deasy to make few changes to his plans. Parent groups didn't appear to have much of an effect either. 

The preliminary budget kept English learner funding level from last year. After advocates complained, Deasy added a small increase. And $500,000 was dedicated to the Family Literacy program, which was slated for closure.

Most board members commended the superintendent on the transparency of the process, but board member Monica Ratliff took a different view.

"I am concerned about voting for a budget when I have not received information about what it would take to increase our arts," Ratliff said. 

She had been asking for details since April. Deasy promised the information would be made available sometime this summer and Ratliff ultimately voted to pass his spending plan. 

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