LAUSD Superintendent Tells BizFed Advocacy About Challenges, Gains
With significant challenges facing Los Angeles Unified School District, BizFed’s Advocacy recently met with Superintendent John Deasy. Here are highlights of some of the successes outlined in the candid and thoughtful dialogue – as well as some of the recent news on the district.
• LAUSD serves 750,000 youth pre-K-12; 100,000 young adults and adult education. Has 110,000 employees, FT, PT and substitute; $7B annual operating budget; 9 labor unions
• 80% of LAUSD students live in circumstances of poverty; about 38% have no form of healthcare; 60% will be first-time graduates in their families
Key LAUSD GAINS outlined by the Superintendent since his appointment last April:
- Transformational Autonomy: Recently signed “landmark” 460+-page teacher contract that allows individual school’s faculties to create their own transformation plans to reach performance targets. Belief that schools build relationships with parents, teachers build relationships with students (not Beaudry administrators). “Faculties are now free to create transformation plans and say that we want waivers from any or all aspects of the contract….There’s far greater degrees of freedom than ever before.” Essentially, the message is: “You get paid and you get retirement (if you perform) – but HOW you deliver is up to you.” Schools now are scrambling to write plans. “They need a lot of support around that.”
- Increased emphasis on teacher quality: Premise that students have right to be taught by highly qualified, highly effective teachers every day at schools with highly qualified principals. Redesigned how hire/fire, retain, promote, compensate teachers. “Enormous strides around that and there has been the absolute appropriate amount of pushback on all of those.” New performance appraisal system (being challenged in court); sets targets and holds people accountable. Taken a culture of “permanent employment” to “employment IF performance.”
- Reduced administrative costs: 94% of every dollar at LAUSD is now AT the schools; Beaudry administration is run on 6 cents for every dollar. “That’s a big accomplishment.” In 3 years, there are 56% fewer people in administration. Next year, LAUSD will reduce from 8 districts to 4.
- Easing overcrowding: Opening 29 new schools by this August; 3 more after that for a total of 131 new schools opened over the past 9 years. About 1,014 schools in operation. “At that point, there will never be another student in the district that has a shortened school year because of overcrowded schools,” Deasy said.
The BAD News
Of course, there also is news of the budget crisis facing the nation’s second-largest school district:
• LAUSD is facing its 5th consecutive year of budget deficits, now dealing with a $390.2M deficit in 2012-13. Taken together, over the past five years, LAUSD has had to manage a combined deficit of over $2.6B. With
• The L.A. Unified school board recently approved a “Fiscal Stabilization Plan” budget that would save most programs, but only if labor unions agree to sacrifices and voters approve a $298 parcel tax.
• About 11,700 pink slips have been sent to teachers and other employees (ahead of a state-mandated March 15th deadline). The budget proposal also calls for eliminating the district's 24 adult education campuses; 1,500 jobs and saving about $134 million for the 2012-13 school year. Early education programs, the GATE program for gifted students and the district's Academic Decathalon program were also targeted for cuts.
• Deasy is hopeful two-thirds of those pink slips could be rescinded, a good portion of the adult education programs, and much of the other programs could be kept afloat if the district can reach furlough and salary agreements with labor unions. As a more long-term budget fix, the board voted to put a parcel tax for properties within district boundaries on the Nov. 2012 ballot.
• The measure would institute a five-year, $298 parcel tax. It would raise revenue from $200 million to $300 million. The tax would affect the owners of homes, apartments, businesses and even vacant lots. Special adjustments would be made for seniors and others living on fixed incomes.
• Still, even if the parcel tax and the Governor’s proposed budget plans (and its education funding) succeed, LAUSD estimates it will have to make $173M in cuts (as a result of reductions in state and federal categorical funds, expiring grants and other limited funding, as well as continuing decline in enrollment)
Clearly, there are many GAINS happening in LAUSD – as well as very serious challenges. With so much at stake for business, we ALL need to stay engaged on this issue. Stay informed and alert your members – what happens at LAUSD shapes our very economic future.