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

LAUSD Budget forecast is getting brighter

Students bus Loyola Village Elementary School

Tami Abdollah / KPCC

Students leaving Loyola Village Elementary School by bus.

LA Unified’s Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee is convening Tuesday morning. The proposed agenda shows financial improvement at the district after five years of devastating cuts — due to a boost from Prop. 30 funds.
According to the district, the Governor’s proposed budget would provide $1.6 billion to begin implementation of a new funding model that benefits district with large numbers of poor and English-learning students, like LAUSD. L.A. Unified is also expecting the state to pay the district $1.8 billion in "deferrals" — money it already owed the district from past budgets. It also stands to gain $400.5 million in Prop 39 energy efficiency projects 

However, LAUSD funding won’t get back to 2007-08 levels until the start of the 2014-2015 school year. And, despite revenues generated by Prop 30, the impact of the federal sequester remains an issue.

Another bright spot: the partnership between LAUSD and FilmLA, a nonprofit group that coordinates filming permits, has expanded to inlcude 347 “film friendly” schools which are available for filming. The project brought in more than $1.9 million last fiscal year.


Lost in budget cuts: Army Tuition Assistance program dating to 1940s

President Obama Attends Memorial Service At Ft. Hood For Shooting Victims

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

U.S. Army soldiers stand together in Fort Hood, Texas. On Friday, the Army suspended its Tuition Assistance program for soldiers due to budget cuts.

Soldiers across the country received some bad news in their email inboxes: due in part to sequestration, the Tuition Assistance Program has been suspended -- cutting out $4,500 a year  in tuition assistance for military personnel.

The Secretary of the Army approved the suspension on Friday and notified soldiers via email.

The suspension will not affect soldiers who are currently enrolled in courses using the program, but soldiers will no longer be able to submit requests for future assistance.

"Reducing their access to education isn't really well thought out," said Patricia D'Orange-Martin, coordinator of Veterans Services at Pasadena City College. She said Tuition Assistance is a crucial component to helping veterans earn college level diplomas since the GI Bill often doesn't cover a full four year degree. 


UPDATE: 2 incumbent LA Unified School Board members keep seats in costly races

Monica Garcia on Election Night March 2013

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Board President Monica Garcia awaits election results with supporters at her Boyle Heights campaign headquarters on Tuesday night.

Los Angeles Unified School Board incumbents Steve Zimmer and Monica Garcia kept their seats in a hotly contested election that attracted nearly $6 million, putting it on track to be the most costly school board election in the district’s history. Zimmer won with 52 percent of the vote and Garcia with 56 percent. A third race for district 6 is headed for a runoff.

“Everyone knows that the School Board of Los Angeles is not for sale,” Zimmer told more than 100 cheering supporters Tuesday night at a campaign party at the Next Door Lounge, a 1920s themed speakeasy in Hollywood.

RELATED: LAUSD's John Deasy speaks Wednesday on Take Two about the school board election and future of LA's schools

Zimmer was supported by United Teachers Los Angeles in his battle to fend off a challenge by lawyer and parent Kate Anderson, who was backed by the Coalition for School Reform, a well-heeled political action committee endorsed by outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. More than $1.6 million was spent to elect Anderson – about a third more than the roughly $1.2 million spent on Zimmer, a swing vote who supports both the union’s policies and its nemesis, Supt. John Deasy.

Anderson got 48 percent of the vote in the head-to-head race. She said if the results hold, she just might try again in four years – after she gets some rest.


Assembly gives $10m to fund child care for low-income families

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Boy in a preschool classroom.

Finally some good news for parents working minimum wage jobs and struggling to pay for childcare. On Monday, the California State Assembly said it is giving $10 million to the CalWORKs Stage 3 program to fund more childcare seats.

The money will go to help parents who are working full time but who don't make enough to cover childcare costs and rely on the state’s Stage 3 welfare program.

"Thousands of families across the state face a Catch-22--go to work to support their children who have to then fend for themselves or lose their jobs so they can take care of their children," Assembly speaker John A. Pérez said in a statement announcing the grant.

As we have reported on this blog, budget cuts to early childhood programs have greatly reduced the number of infant and toddler seats available for children in low-income families who cannot afford to pay for private preschool. While the Governor’s proposed budget for next year does not include further cuts, it doesn't restore years of cuts to a program advocates call critical to the education of the state’s poorest children.


Fewer California school districts going broke; But So. Cal. tops the list

Inglewood Unified School District

Grant Slater/KPCC

The Inglewood Unified School District has again made the list of the state's financially-troubled school systems.

California’s biannual report of schools in financial trouble shows an improvement in the number of districts at risk of running out of money over the next few years.

“I can say with growing confidence that the worst of California’s school funding crisis is behind us,” state Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a written statement Monday.

The number of districts with a  “negative certification” – meaning they’re unable to meet financial obligations for this year and the next two -- declined from 12 to seven. But four of them  are in southern California:

  • Inglewood Unified (Los Angeles County)
  • Walnut Valley Unified (South Diamond Bar and Walnut)
  • Wilsona Elementary (Palmdale, Lancaster, Wilsona Gardens and Lake Los Angeles)
  • Victor Valley Union High (San Bernadino)

Inglewood has already been taken over by the state. As for the others, state officials cautioned that a lot has changed since the data for the report was gathered in October of last year--namely, Proposition 30, which increased taxes to benefit schools. Governor Brown's proposed budget for next fiscal year bumps up school funding based on those revenues.