LAUSD set to vote on major budget cuts

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At its regular meeting tomorrow L.A. Unified's board of education is faced with a decision whether to close a $700 million budget gap by eliminating 7,300 positions at its schools and more than 1,200 from the school district's central office. Some of L.A. Unified's labor unions say the cuts are unnecessary. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Mike O'Sullivan, president of L.A. Unified's principals and administrators union, says the district doesn't have to trim its budget this way.

Mike O'Sullivan: We know there have to be some cuts. We certainly know there are budgetary issues that are going to affect the school district, but this is like taking a meat cleaver to process.

Guzman-Lopez: He says federal economic stimulus money on the way will be enough help to close L.A. Unified's expected budget deficit. Not so, responds L.A. Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines. He's urging school board members to approve the staff reductions.

Ramon Cortines: The district is in a very difficult place because we have declining enrollment. We've had declining resources and we have had the increase or the status quo of adults in this district for over the last five years.

Guzman-Lopez: O'Sullivan questions whether Ramon Cortines is using the recession as an excuse to radically reshape the second largest school district in the country. O'Sullivan says these cuts will result in...

O'Sullivan: Destabilizing the district to the point where, one, it can either be broken up, which people have been talking about forever because it's too large. Or turning the management of the school district over to political influences.

Guzman-Lopez: Cortines, a supporter of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's efforts to gain a role in school district administration, has denied similar charges in the past.

Even if the board votes to eliminate more than 8,400 positions, Cortines says, most of those employees may still be with L.A. Unified in the fall. Administrators will be allowed to bump teachers out of their jobs. Individual campuses could use stimulus money to retain teachers and counselors.