Guest post by Kim Kaufman, Los Angeles community member and public schools supporter. If you also attended these meetings or other LAUSD School Board meetings and would like to have your first person responses posted on K12NN, email here. This is how the story was reported on KPCC.
I attended the fourth (of five) “budget forums” that the LAUSD is holding in each of the districts around the city. This was at Burroughs Middle School in the Hancock Park area. From the school’s website, the full description:
John Burroughs Middle School hosts the LAUSD Budgets Priority Town Hall Meeting – October 15, 2013 at 6-7:30PM
As requested by the LAUSD Board of Education, this meeting will be held to increase transparency and understanding of the State of California and LAUSD budgets, and to gather community input and feedback on the priorities LAUSD should invest in.
The presentation tonight was made by LAUSD’s CFO, Megan Reilly. She explained some of the complicated formulas for their revenue and then went into the presentation of the choices the attendees could make for where they would like to see an increase in funding. Everyone was given a clicker to rate their five highest priorities as they were shown in the power point presentation. Among the twenty-two choices were reducing class sizes, more teachers, assistant principals, increases for maintenance workers and custodians, nurses, physical education, funding for arts, librarians, security personnel, etc. To see the budget and to see the full power point and list your own priorities, go to budgetrealities.lausd.net.
There were about 40 minutes given for one minute comments from the audience. About thirty people spoke.
I spoke early and said, “Everything that’s being discussed tonight – which are the Board’s priorities — are out of the budget and will cause a deficit if included and yet everything Mr. Deasy wants is in the budget. [to cheers from the crowd!] The public is not getting any kind of facts about what is actually in the budget — only choices of things that there isn’t enough money for.” This got an enthusiastic cheer from the audience.
I then pointed out that there is a $14.2 million increase in the police line item from this year to the proposed budget being discussed. The proposed budget is $5.2 million more than the 2008-2009 budget, which is the level of teacher/student ratios the Board wants to get back to (and the other things listed in the power point). The budget is also $25 million more than the budget was for 2009-2010.
I pointed out there is 100,000 less enrollment than 2008-2009 and asked why money for police is being increased instead of smaller classes and more teachers, nurses, and counselors, etc? Why isn’t the public getting a real choice on these issues? This got an enthusiastic cheer from the crowd. Ms. Reilly started her predictable answer about “We’re concerned with safety…”
I leaned close to the mike, and interrupted her, with “Nurses are safety, too.” Not sure if that got a cheer. But everyone got the point.
Everyone that mentioned the iPads said they did not want them. One black woman, who was there with her child, spoke powerfully that iPads are not a civil rights issue and saying so is an insult to those that fought for real civil rights.
One black woman said, “If you have good teachers and they inspire children, you will not need police.”
One counselor talked about the difficulty about helping a suicidal student and how he usually has to stay late at night to finish his work because he’s actually using the school time to help students with real and serious problems (such as being suicidal which is not uncommon in high school). There was a lot of applauding from the audience when people spoke. The speakers, mostly of color, all spoke movingly about what it’s like on the ground in the schools — and it’s not pretty. Parents and all the people working in the various capacities at the schools talked about being stressed because of overwork and not being able to cope with so many students and not enough resources and how, ultimately, it all results in stress on the children.
Everyone there wanted ALL the choices that fall outside of Deasy’s budget – smaller classes, more teachers, early ed, adult ed, better classrooms, working and clean bathrooms, books (not iPads). It’s interesting that when parents and the various school workers speak, they all refer their concerns back to their real goal which is educating children. I don’t hear the district voicing those same concerns.
Mr. Zimmer, Ms. Ratliff and LaMotte were there and I hope they were listening.