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Deasy warns that looming budget cuts threaten classroom gains

October 8, 2012 | 11:25 pm

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy warned Monday of “catastrophic” consequences for local schools if California voters fail to approve tax measures on the November ballot.

In a speech billed as a state-of-the-schools address, Deasy took two distinctly different paths.

In the first part, he listed recent district accomplishments and insisted that the nation’s second-largest school system had never performed better, even though considerable improvement remains necessary. In part two, he laid out the argument that all this progress faces immediate risk if voters reject both Proposition 30 and Proposition 38.

Deasy spoke before an audience of educators, dignitaries and media at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in Koreatown. If he was trying to enlist soldiers in a political cause, there were plenty of troops missing -- somewhat more than half the seats were occupied. His passion for the topic was unabated.

“I’m concerned about the rights of students,” Deasy said. If the tax measures fail, all the progress, “everything as we know it will stop and go backward.

“I don’t have new cuts. We’ve already decimated the system,” he added, referring to more than 10,000 layoffs, slashed programs and a shorter school year that have resulted from past budget cuts.

Deasy acknowledged that, as a public schools official, he is not allowed under state law to advocate for or against a ballot measure. But he said he has a right and responsibility to let the public know what is at stake. The L.A. Board of Education has endorsed both propositions.

Proposition 30 is a product of this year’s budget deal in the state Legislature. It combines a four-year bump in the sales tax with a seven-year tax increase on high wage earners. Proposition 38 is a broader based, 12-year income tax increase, with higher earners facing a larger rate increase. If both propositions pass, the one with the most votes prevails.

In recent days, Deasy has tweeted information supportive of both propositions. On Monday, his presentation appeared to lean toward Proposition 30. He noted, for example, that Proposition 38 would not prevent so-called trigger cuts to education that go into effect if Proposition 30 fails. The likely result would be a school year of 160 days rather than the normal 180 days.

Proposition 38 supporters insist that these cuts could be avoided and that, in the long run, schools benefit more under their initiative.

Deasy’s remarks came on the day that Proposition 30’s backers, who are allied with Gov. Jerry Brown, accused Proposition 38 proponents of preparing to air negative ads against the competing initiative that could, in effect, drive both measures to defeat.

So far, Proposition 30 has fared much better in the polls, although it’s hardly a sure bet to pass, experts have said.

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-- Howard Blume

 

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