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Unclaimed tech funds won't bail out L.A. Unified, Deasy says

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy on Tuesday said that $10 million in unused technology funds reserved for L.A. Unified will be claimed but would do nothing to ease the district’s current budget woes.

As reported in the Times on Monday, the district has not yet received millions of dollars from a sweeping settlement of an antitrust lawsuit with the Microsoft Corp. The deadline for applying for one tranche of funds is April; for the second, it’s in September.

Even though L.A. Unified has not yet filed for the money, all of it had already been accounted for in district plans, and there was never any risk that the money would not be obtained, Deasy said.

Statewide, $66 million in Microsoft settlement money has yet to be paid out. The funds can cover a broad range of equipment and services; it does not have to be used for Microsoft products.

Deasy has expansive plans for purchasing technology as the district gets ready to comply with new learning standards that California and most other states recently adopted. The next generation of state tests, starting in 2014-15, will be given on computer. Deasy also envisions a greater and more effective role for computers in daily instruction.

He has suggested using school construction bonds to buy computers—which some critics have characterized as improper.

At a Board of Education meeting, Deasy also reviewed the district’s diminished financial situation should voters reject two tax measures—Proposition 30 and Proposition 38—in the November election. Deasy was reiterating a presentation in his “state of the district” address on Monday, but Tuesday he added a new, positive talking point. He said that if Proposition 30 passes, it’s possible that the district could restore a full 180-day school year. The current academic year has been shortened to 175 days because of budget issues. Without Prop. 30, he repeated, the school year would drop to 160 days.

In dollar terms, the estimated impact of a Prop. 30 loss is $255 million this year and $700 million next year.

Deasy added that free transportation provided to magnet schools would end if Prop. 30 fails. In the past, potential cuts to the popular magnet programs have engendered substantial outcry from parents.

District officials on Tuesday approved a bid for one new source of federal funding—a Race to the Top grant. Previously, these funds had to be won by states—and California has never received one. Now the process is open to school districts, and the Board of Education on Tuesday authorized an application for a $40-million grant.

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-- Howard Blume

 

 
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