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L.A. schools leader considers shortened school year to balance budget

October 29, 2009 | 11:39 am

Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines has asked his chief financial officer to study the possibility of shortening the school year to offset part of an expected shortfall of at least $500 million, The Times has learned. 

The strategy, if adopted for the 2010-11 school year, would run counter both to the direction of national reform efforts and to the wishes of Cortines, who agrees with research touting the benefits of an extended academic calendar.

"You know I fought fiercely for a longer school year and a longer school day," Cortines said.

At this week's school board meeting, Cortines said he had no alternative  but to consider all options. He added that some strategies had to remain off the table. He’s unwilling, for example, to make class sizes larger in middle and high schools. Classes are too large already, he said. Nor would employee furlough days be sufficient to make up the dollar shortfall. Cortines also stipulated that he would not shorten the school year for overcrowded, year-round schools, which operate on overlapping schedules that reduce each student's school year by 17 days.

Furlough days and shortening the school year would have to be negotiated with employee unions, said district spokeswoman Lydia Ramos. Cortines will review the internal analysis from Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly when he returns from a weeklong trip to China, which began today, Ramos said.

-- Howard Blume

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