The L.A. Unified school board voted Tuesday to restore five instructional days to the district's calendar and to rescind 10 unpaid days off teachers had agreed to earlier this year. These actions didn't surprise observers. L.A. Unified and ever other district in the state avoided mid-year state funding cuts after last week’s ballot box victory of Proposition 30.
Prop. 30 hikes state sales and income taxes to raise about $6 billion in revenue for public education. Its failure would have triggered about the same amount in cuts to public schools in the middle of this school year. L.A. Unified, and many other school districts, had approved cuts just in case.
“To say that people held their breath last week is an understatement,” L.A. Unified Superintendent Deasy said during Tuesday's school board meeting as he briefed administrators.
About 70 students marched out of Compton High School shortly before lunch Tuesday. They protested recent budget cuts that have led to a failing school system that graduates students who can barely read and write.
Topping their list of demands: hire more teachers and reduce class size. Some students report that the teacher student ratio is 60-to-1.
Patricia Ryan, a retired teacher and a Compton High School graduate who works at the Compton teacher’s union office, said students organized the demonstration on Facebook Monday night.
Compton Unified School District officials declined to comment; they could not disclose whether Superintendent Darin Brawley plans to meet with students or address their concerns.
Another march from the high school to the district’s office is planned for later Tuesday around 5 p.m.
A student boards a bus maintained by the Inglewood Unified School District on February 28, 2012.
It’s official. California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction sent a letter Thursday to Ingelwood’s elected school board members telling them the state’s taking over the school district.
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson addressed the one-page letter to Trina Williams, the school board president. It says the state law that authorized the bailout loan for the district also requires the state superintendent to assume the legal rights, duties, and powers of Inglewood Unified’s school board.
The union that represents classified workers said it hoped state receivership would mean a rollback of a 15 percent employee pay cut approved by board members days before the state takeover.
Inglewood education activist D’Artagnan Scorza says people he’s spoken with are looking beyond the state takeover. “Regardless of whoever is here, regardless of whether or not it’s the board, regardless of whether or not it’s the state, we ultimately have a responsibility to our children and to their future,” Scorza says.
Members of the California Faculty Association at a protest last year. The California State University trustees want to warn students that enrollment and other cuts are likely if voters do not approve an education tax increase on November's ballot.
People fired off a lot of gun analogies at the California State University board of trustees meeting on Tuesday.
Cal State system chancellor Charles Reed told members of CSU’s finance committee that the university needs to raise undergraduate tuition by 5% in case Proposition 30 – a tax increase for education measure – fails at the polls in November.
“There is an automatic trigger and nobody has to do anything. It gets pulled midnight November 6th. The Department of Finance will notify the CSU that we will need to cut our budget an additional $250 million,” Reed said.
To dodge that bullet, Reed said, the university needs to raise revenue with tuition increases.
“I figure, if they can have a trigger, we can have a trigger.”
If Prop. 30 wins, Cal State roll back a nine percent tuition increase that hundreds of thousands of students have had to pay starting this semester. But the 15 Cal State Trustees and the presidents of the 23 campuses - a ready force of high caliber campaign workers – must adhere to limits on how strongly they can advocate for the ballot measure.
Inglewood Unified aide Trina Hubbard was one of many district employees who urged the school board not to cut employee pay.
A lot of Inglewood Unified School District employees showed up to Wednesday night’s school board meeting. Some made lots of noise. Others were quiet. All were upset at the latest proposal to cut their pay in order to help close a $7 million budget deficit and keep the district from running out of money early next year.
Maria Lopez, a teacher at Inglewood High School, joined protesters with whistles and cow bells outside her campus auditorium where the board met. She complained that teachers already shoulder five unpaid days off this school year.
“We are taking a big pay cut in benefits and salary. We can’t afford any of these cuts,” Lopez said. By the end of the night the school board had approved the pay cut.
The stakes are high for Lopez and other employees as they grapple with shrinking paychecks to meet their living expenses. The stakes for the school district are arguably higher. The district’s solvency hangs in the balance. Inglewood Unified may run out of money to meet its expenses as soon as March.
School districts can’t declare bankruptcy. Instead, California legislators issue a bailout loan with a high price for the school district: its independence. The locally elected school board and the appointed superintendent would be stripped of their authority and a state overseer would make decisions about the district.
Inglewood Unified board member Arnold Butler says the pay cut proposal would go a long way toward preventing a state take over.
“The district is involved in a number of activities. This happens to be one of the many strategies we’re going to utilize to avoid that and to forestall any kind of takeover by the state. The state is not interested in taking us over,” Butler said.
The trouble is, many of the key steps toward insolvency have been set in motion. In July the district’s school board requested a state loan while saying that it could still avoid bankruptcy.
Earlier in the day Butler and his fellow board members met to discuss the details of state takeover.
The president of the Inglewood Teachers Association has welcomed a state takeover as a way to start from a clean slate. Others have said that stripping local control of the school district could make matters worse because the decision-makers wouldn’t know what the district needs.