Special Series: Creative approaches to education in crisis

In the face of untenable deficits, increasing class-sizes, and 5,500 pending teacher lay-offs in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Hear in the City spends time listening to students, teachers, administrators, and parents talk about how we are all dealing with a serious problem in public education in the city of Los Angeles.

In March, school superintendents from all over California went to the State Capitol to press legislators to put tax extensions a June ballot in order to avoid a $4.6 billion cut in public school funding. Public school officials have been furiously balancing their budgets in the past months. The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest in the country, after New York, and is now operating at a $408 million deficit.

Every month, the LAUSD sends out a a sort of newsletter to parents filled with PTA information, upcoming events, new programs, etc. This March, the entire packet was filled with the budget plan for reductions. In it, incoming superintendent John Deasy includes a plan of action to the board of education and outgoing LAUSD chief Ramón Cortínez. In the cover letter on the plan, Dr. Deasy writes, “Nobody wants this plan or endorses it, but we must adopt this plan in order to proceed in finding a path toward restoration.”

By restoration, the superintendent means bringing back teachers and programs that are slated to be cut come September. The plan sets out four scenarios to close the $400 million gap. The first three all depend on Governor Brown’s June ballot proposal to extend tax increases. The fourth scenario takes up the rest of this month’s newsletter to parent and community and is called Plan B and stamped with “full crisis” on several pages.

Unless Governor Gerry Brown and the state legislature succeed in increasing taxes by the July 1st end of the fiscal year, there is every reason to believe that Plan B is what LAUSD can expect. And administrators are planning for it, for the full crisis.

So what can we do? Look at what is working now, and learn from it.

Listen to the full series:

3/22/2011: The HeArt Project at the Hollywood Media Arts Academy

03/29/2011: National Conference on Bilingual Education 2011

03/29/2011: LAUSD School Number 13

4/5/2011:  UCLA Impact: Urban Teacher Residency Program

4/19/2011: Holding Council



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