LAUSD Delays Budget Cuts, Requests Options for Arts Ed
The Los Angeles Unified School District School Board has amended the budget-balancing plan for the 2012/2013 school year, postponing its adoption until March 13th. They have requested alternatives and additional options regarding funding for arts education, adult education and early childhood education, all slated for elimination in one of the scenarios originally proposed. School Board Member Steve Zimmer proposed the amendment; all were in favor.
The delay will allow leadership to gather more information regarding state and federal contributions to public education, and explore cost-cutting solutions that would prevent total program elimination.
The School Board and Superintendent expressed support for a complete public education that includes the arts. Board Member Zimmer There is no public education without arts education." Board Member Bennett Kayser added, "When arts are incorporated in school, not just through art classes but also into the daily lessons, those kids’ brains develop better and faster."
Superintendent Deasy clarified the School Board's proposed amendment: they are authorizing a reduction in force (i.e., teacher and administrator layoffs), but will wait to send the reduction-in-force notifications until March 8th in the hope that additional revenue can be found and at least some of the positions saved.
Furthermore, the School Board requests that the Superintendent’s office propose alternatives to the elimination of arts education, early childhood education and adult education, acknowledging that all three are essential components to the vitality of Los Angeles.
The LAUSD School Board plans to put forward a local parcel tax to help mitigate the major state and federal cuts that have decreased LAUSD's budget by more than $3 billion over the past four years. Each School Board member and the Superintendent urged advocates to support the parcel tax, which would cost local property owners approximately $298 per year, or less than $1/day.
Said Deasy, "Today, the battle to save public education shifts from the board room to the ballot box. Only together, we are able to keep hope alive."
Deasy noted that even in the best-case scenario, there will be a $127 million shortfall for the upcoming school year, requiring significant cuts even if the parcel tax and state-level education funding initiatives are successful.
School Board Member Nury Martinez spoke to the crippling effects of the state-level budget crisis on local school district funding: "Right now, the state of California owes us [LAUSD] $1 billion. They have given us IOUs and said 'Sorry, can't pay this right now.' The state has not made education funding a priority. We can only work with the money that we have... It is a crime against children for California to be 49th in the nation in education."
Award-winning dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen (left) spoke to the School Board in support of arts education, early childhood education and adult education.
Allen described the importance of arts education to her development and well-being as she was growing up in Texas in the 60s. "The arts helped me overcome racial segregation," she said. "The arts are central. They are crucial."
Matt Sorum (right) former drummer for Guns N’Roses and currently a member of Velvet Revolver, spoke to the School Board and Superintendent about the necessity of arts education in a city built around the entertainment industry.
“To me, you’re a rock star because we can save the world together,” Sorum told Superintendent Deasy.
“You have to go to the state and the federal government and say, ‘We can’t do this without revenue.” – LaMotte “This is my fight. The arts save lives. You need to know that. People don’t just come here when we have a problem—we don’t want to be on the other side of the line. You have to do it every day. You have to do it every week. They need to fight with us. It’s not joke having to fight this battle every day. It gets worse and worse and worse. Be realistic. Be true with us."
Tamar Galatzan echoed these sentiments: "This budget is in your hands right now. Tell everyone what this means to our community. Help us make sure public education is a priority in California."
Board Member Nury Martinez spoke directly to the public officials who provided public testimony at the meeting, including Los Angeles City Councilmen Richard Alarcon and Eric Garcetti as well as several local mayors. "None of you mentioned support for the Parcel Tax. We need you to come on board with this. Are we going to step up together to support the Parcel Tax?"
"This is only the beginning," added School Board President Monica Garcia, urging all those in attendance to return to their communities and fight for increased revenues for public schools at the local, state and federal level. "We need shared solutions, loud voices and an organized Los Angeles when it comes to supporting public education."
Arts for LA will continue providing updates on the LAUSD budget process as they become available. Over 2,500 letters were sent in support of arts education through Arts for LA's online system between February 2nd and 14th.
Arts Education advocates were joined by many Adult Education advocates, yellow-shirted Early Childhood Education advocates and others expressing concern over the proposed cuts.
LA Weekly coverage of the meeting: "Matt Sorum of Guns N' Roses Stands Up for Arts Education"
LAist coverage: "Arts, Adult, and Early Childhood Education Get Temporary Reprieve"
LA Times coverage: "L.A. School Board Delays Vote On Massive Budget Cuts"
Highland Park Patch coverage: "LAUSD Delays Budget Cut Vote, Seeks Alternatives"
Below: Matt Sorum's testimony, posted by Village Voice Media:
Below: Debbie Allen speaking with reporters, posted by Arts for LA: