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L.A. officials weigh local school tax on top of state measure

January 10, 2012 |  6:11 pm

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy on Tuesday outlined what he termed a “risky” strategy to balance next year’s budget that would include asking local voters to approve a parcel tax and voters statewide to favor a separate tax increase.

Barring the success of both measures, the district faces hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts -- the latest installment of a multi-year budget crisis that has seen the loss of thousands of jobs in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

After several years of cuts, “there is not a single, solitary thing in this budget that can and should be reduced,” Deasy said at the Board of Education meeting. “The rights of youth are completely imperiled if not outright violated” by the level of public support of education.

Next year’s projected deficit is $543 million for a general fund of about $7 billion. A state tax initiative backed by Gov. Jerry Brown would, if successful, close about half that deficit. A local parcel tax has the potential to cover the rest, but there is no guarantee voters would approve either.

“There are several pretty serious unknowns at the moment,” Deasy said.

The governor’s office has encouraged school districts to budget based on the optimistic scenario, said district lobbyist Edgar Zazueta.

School board members also heard from parents upset over recent and pending cutbacks. A contingent of about 50 parents and others from at least three highly regarded schools urged officials to reverse their vote to remove funding that had served students from low-income families. About two dozens schools are affected in all.

In that earlier, controversial decision, the school board had decided to divide the money instead among schools that serve a higher percentage of low-income families.

“It’s unconscionable to take these funds away from us,” said Loretta Slonim, the parent of an eighth-grader at the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, where more than 1,000 students qualify for the aid.

Under new guidelines, at least 50% of students at a school have to qualify for the aid for the school to receive the funding. At Slonim’s school, the money had paid for a nurse, a librarian, a psychologist, an office worker and tutors, among other things, according to parents.

“Our schools have done an exceptional job” at bridging the achievement gap separating high- and low-income students, said parent Alex Wald, adding, “Many of the gains that they have achieved will be lost.”

And the school also could lose its ability to attract middle-class enrollment as its services decline, she said.

Other parents spoke out for early childhood education programs, which are at risk of further cuts in next year’s budget.

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-- Howard Blume

 

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