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L.A. Unified scrambling to decode effect of budget deal

July 21, 2009 | 12:24 pm

The state budget deal unleashed an epidemic of worry and head scratching among school officials statewide this morning. A spokeswoman for the nation’s second-largest school system said district number crunchers were still tracking down specifics.

“Right now, we just don’t know,” said Gayle Pollard-Terry of the Los Angeles Unified School District. “There are so few details.”

Calls from the media for this information have already come in to L.A. Unified from across the country and abroad.

Pollard-Terry said the school system of 688,000 students thought it had made sufficient — and painful — cuts to get through the next school year. But some conflicting media reports have put the size of the education reductions at levels that could require another round of tough budgeting decisions, she said. And getting a clear answer from officials in Sacramento has been difficult.

Budget actions in L.A. Unified have slashed about $1.29 billion starting with the 2008-09 school year, which ended June 30. On that date, the district laid off about 2,000 teachers; it has since been trying to determine which non-teachers to lay off and how many. The district's general fund, before the wave of cuts, was about $5.9 billion.

The district also is engaged in intense negotiations with its teachers union over compensation concessions that would, if successful, result in hiring back some laid-off teachers. District officials also have talked of placing a parcel tax on the ballot to fund ongoing operations. Until now, the district has asked voters only to approve school-construction bonds, which have to be reserved for building, repairing and upgrading school facilities.

The district’s budget plan, which includes many future reductions, was supposed to take the district through June 2012.

-- Howard Blume

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