Southern California -- this just in

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A parent sounds off over LAUSD budget cuts

January 15, 2009 |  2:35 pm

The Los Angeles school board voted this week to lay off up to 2,300 teachers, if no other options become available as the district struggles to close a $250-million gap in this year's budget. Supt. Ramon C. Cortines also recently wrote to parents of LAUSD students to explain some of the cutbacks.

Here's one parent's response, in an open letter to the superintendent:

Dear Superintendent Cortines,

Well, I see that your holiday break is over and that you wasted no time in addressing the families of LAUSD students about budget cuts. I received your letter in my kids' backpacks, along with a form for child ID cards, homework, Scholastic book orders, a thank-you note from a teacher for a holiday gift. I set it aside and helped my kids do their homework before hustling them to gymnastics (because one weekly session of parent-group-funded physical education per child does not go a long way toward providing lasting health benefits). Then I fielded phone calls from other members of our parent-directed nonprofit group (Parents for Riverside Drive, "PFRD"), which raises funds to help pay for "enrichment" programs like PE and drama, as well as classroom aides and a full-time copy room aide for our teachers' benefit -- things that LAUSD does not provide for our school or our kids.

This afternoon, while your letter sat on my kitchen counter unread, I also spoke to our principal about my role as the liaison between PFRD and our parent community. In the eyes of some school administrators, I have sometimes over-stepped my boundaries by using the forum of my parent-directed email blasts not just to keep our families up-to-date with reminders of school events, but also to alert them to various issues that affect our school.  Little things, you know: budget cuts, teacher walk-outs, construction delays.  We have had three principals since my oldest child arrived at this school in kindergarten a scant four years ago, and I'm gathering that administrators don't seem to appreciate the parent community's right to know what's going on -- and your letter seconded that thought without ever having to say it.

In the midst of your matter-of-fact speculation about LAUSD having already been forced to cut $427 million (you likened it to closing down eight high schools but without shutting their doors... only cutting all programs, supplies and salaries) and about the possibility of "at least $250 million" in deeper budget cuts, I got an eery sense that you were asking for my understanding in all of this.  A kind of "we're all in this together," sort of feeling.  Like, "Gee whiz, we're united in our belt-tightening, this being the recession and all."

And I'm not buying it for a second.