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L.A. Unified reinstates full academic year

By Aaron Blevins, 11/29/2012

More changes could be coming with approval of Prop. 30

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The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school year is back up to 180 days this year, after the school board voted to restore five furlough days to the calendar on Nov. 13 — thanks to the passage to Prop. 30 earlier this month.

Students at Fairfax High School attended a college fair earlier in the school year due to budget cuts claiming its college counselor position. LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer hopes the district can add more counselors with the approval of Prop. 30. (photo by Aaron Blevins)

LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer, 4th District, said the announcement’s effects are two-fold: staff members will receive compensation for a full school year, and students will now experience a “semi-normal” year of instruction.

Prop. 30 imposed a 1 to 3 percent tax on incomes of $250,000 or more for the next seven years, and is expected to stop $6 billion in state budget cuts. More than 55 percent of voters approved the state ballot measure, which has left the LAUSD extremely pleased.

“I feel like I want to thank every voter that I talk to,” Zimmer said, adding that he almost did just that in the supermarket the other day. “I just thought of randomly thanking people. I don’t think people understand what this means.”

For the last several years, LAUSD employees have taken salary cuts at a rate of approximately 10 percent each year, he said. Generally, those salary reductions were done through furlough days.

“The only thing that’s prevented this district from falling into complete financial disarray is our employees’ sacrifice,” Zimmer said. “Now, that sacrifice meant something, and it means a lot to be able to make them whole for one year.”

Furthermore, the additional funding has allowed the district to restore its full calendar, allowing students additional instructional days. Zimmer said the additional days are “critical” for students, especially in the city’s less affluent areas.

“We’re not making a calendar whole,” he said. “We’re making children whole, or at least taking the steps to do that.”

While the district would like to continue restoring various elements of its services, “Prop. 30 is a threshold issue, not a watershed,” Zimmer said. He said that in the first couple years, the Prop. 30 funding won’t allow the district to open its coffers and accomplish everything the district wants to — and should — do.

Zimmer said the restoration of the furlough days was an obvious first step, though the district and its board have more in mind. In making adjustments, LAUSD should move quickly, but responsibly, he said.

“We have to be responsible,” Zimmer said. “We have to be thoughtful, prudent, but there are things right now that are still crimes against children. …And I think about those issues every day.”

He said the district must get its high school counselor-to-student ratios at less than 800 to 1. Furthermore, elementary schools with 600 students should have more than one administrator, Zimmer said. He also wants to lower class sizes.

“We know that this is wrong,” Zimmer added. “If we have a pathway to do it, we absolutely should be correcting it in a short time.”

Although the board voted to rescind the furlough days on Nov. 13, students and staff at LAUSD schools still observed the scheduled furlough days for the week of Thanksgiving.

Third Street Elementary School principal Suzie Oh said many staff members and students had made holiday plans, so the district added days to the end of the year. She said the last day was scheduled to be May 31, but now students’ summer break will begin on June 7.

“More instructional days mean more learning and teaching,” Oh said. “So it’s good for learning for all students.”

She said the state requires 180 days per school year, and LAUSD schools were slated to have 175 days this school year. Had Prop. 30 not passed, the district may have had to drop that figure to approximately 160 days, Oh said.

“Thank God for the passage of Prop. 30, at least for this year,” she added. “It’s good news for children and family members too. Parents are working, so that means they have to make arrangements for childcare. …It’s good news for the whole school community.”

Students and staff will enjoy another holiday break from Dec. 17 to Jan. 4.

 

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