Ethnic studies projected costs pegged at $73 million for LAUSD

105814 full
105814 full

The Los Angeles Unified School District is looking at a bill of $73 million to cover course development, textbooks and teacher training in ethnic studies, a new high school graduation requirement approved last year.

LAUSD's school board ushered in the mandatory coursework in November, believing the rollout would cost an estimated $4 million.  

Officials later clarified that the original figure was the cost to pull together a pilot program of 30 schools. A draft report from an advisory Ethnic Studies Committee released this week concludes that sum wouldn't even cover textbooks for the trial run. 

A major portion of the latest $73 million estimate is needed for teaching staff.

“We figured we are going to have to add at least one teacher per school site, and that’s an ongoing cost," said Angel Barrett, the district's executive director of curriculum and instruction and among the committee's members.

The committee, which includes administrators, teachers and scholars, recommended postponing the ethnic studies requirement so that it takes effect for the Class of 2022 rather than the Class of 2019. The delay would give high schools three more years to train and recruit the 250 teachers needed to implement the new requirement.

The ethnic studies report, released Thursday, comes out as the school board takes up a looming problem with the college preparation graduation requirements known as A-G coursework. Starting with the Class of 2017, students must pass the slate of college prep courses that are required to qualify for entry into the University of California and Cal State University systems.

The district estimates about 45 percent of sophomores are still not on track to meet the A-G mandate.

The A-G requirement is criticized by some who say it will hold back students who otherwise would meet the state's graduation qualifications. The ethnic studies requirement got the green light before the latest district estimate that many students may fail to graduate on time.

Ethnic studies explores race and racism as "powerful social and cultural forces," according to a University of California at Berkeley definition adopted by LAUSD. Students can meet the graduation requirement by taking African-American history, Mexican American literature or similar classes.

"We think this builds a young person's sense of self and empathy in others," said Manuel Criollo with Community Rights Campaign who advocated for the new course requirement at the school board's November meeting.

EL Rancho Unified in Pico Rivera was the first district in the state to require students to take classes in ethnic studies, catching the attention of ethnic studies advocates and school administrators around California.

San Francisco Unified pledged to offer ethnic studies at every high school less than a month after LAUSD required it for graduation.

Tamar Galatzan was the only LAUSD board member to oppose the ethnic studies requirement, voicing concerns at the November meeting about its financial impact and whether the added requirement would pack students' schedules too tightly.

“I believe we should work these issues out first," Galatzan said last fall. Galatzan lost her bid for re-election in Tuesday's runoff.

blog comments powered by Disqus