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New Web tool illustrates extent of budget pain for schools

May 5, 2011 |  8:03 am

A new Web tool allows parents to see the effects of impending budget cuts on particular school districts.

The effort behind it is ostensibly nonpartisan, but one reason for the new reference tool is to increase pressure on a handful of Republican legislators to allow a statewide vote on tax extensions that, if approved, would ease budget shortfalls on school districts.

At the site, users can zero in on a school district with an address or a ZIP Code and see a summary of the financial pain for school districts in that area.

The site uses the estimated loss of $764 per student to calculate the loss for a classroom of 30 students as $22,920. (Classroom sizes will probably increase to well above 30 students per room in most places and in most grades.) An estimated loss for the entire school district also is listed, based on enrollment, as well as published information about layoff notices approved in that school system.

The state’s behemoth district, L.A. Unified, tops the list, with 7,302 layoff notices as of March 15, according to the database. Next Tuesday, L.A. Unified is schedule to send layoff notices to 98 early childhood education teachers. Meanwhile, parent activists in Beverly Hills Unified are conducting a $1-million-in-one-week fundraiser for their school system, which is better off than most but still facing staff and program reductions.

The list is mostly the work of two parents, Silicon Valley parent Sreeram Balakrishnan and Southland parent Cynthia Liu, with data and technical help from professionals who share their political aims. The supporting organizations include Parents For Great Education and the K12 News Network. 

Republicans opposing the tax extensions proposed by the governor have said tax reductions are needed to relieve pressure on taxpayers and protect a recovering economy.

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-- Howard Blume

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