LAUSD Approves Largest School Bond for November Ballot

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Voters in L.A. Unified's boundaries will decide in November on the largest bond measure in district history. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez says the Board of Education voted yesterday to put it on the ballot.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Board president Monica Garcia proposed the bond to build and repair schools, improve safety, upgrade classroom technology, and overhaul energy conservation on campuses. Before the school board debate, 15 members of the public voiced their opinions, including parent advocate Bill Ring.

Bill Ring: If you're going to be in the kitchen watching LAUSD put a bond together, you better develop a pretty strong stomach. I'm appalled at the process.

Guzman-Lopez: Ring said the board should have given the public more time to weigh in on the school district's biggest bond ever. More than a third of the bond would go toward breaking up large schools into smaller learning communities and updating classroom technology and science labs. Mary Najera of the charter schools group L.A. Parents Union said that's why she's supporting the bond.

Mary Najera: Please support the bond for all children across Los Angeles so that they can all have that same chance for success as the high performing schools are doing.

Guzman-Lopez: Voters have approved four construction bonds for L.A. Unified schools in the last dozen years. But they were each under $4 billion. Superintendent David Brewer told the school board those bonds haven't come close to meeting L.A. Unified's immense facilities needs... everything from building magnet and charter schools, to improving cafeterias and replacing old water pipes. The strongest voice in the debate was that of its main backer, board president Monica Garcia.

Monica Garcia: But we have a lot of work that we have to do so that voters will support this district's leadership role in this city and in this state. And it does require so much more than just money.

Guzman-Lopez: It's going to require, Garcia said, leadership from Superintendent Brewer to come up with innovative curriculum for the new and upgraded classrooms that voters are being asked to approve. Board of education members debated the bond proposal for about an hour, much less than anticipated by observers. In the end Monica Garcia called for the final vote.

Garcia: So, board members, on the motion as amended, are there any objections? Seeing none, so ordered. Very well done. [applause]

Guzman-Lopez: The final bond set aside $450 million for charter school construction. Not enough, said California Charter Schools Association President Caprice Young. She said her group won't campaign for the ballot measure.

Caprice Young: We have 10 percent of the public school students now in charter schools, and 450 million is not 10 percent of the bond.

Guzman-Lopez: Leaders of L.A. Unified's teachers union were also dissatisfied. They complained the proposed bond projects would require too many consultants. School district administrators may face the prospect of campaigning for L.A. Unified's largest bond ever without help from some of the strongest voices in L.A. education.