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First published in Dissident Voice on March 24, 2012

Excerpt: Using State of California budget shortfalls as an excuse, Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy presented the LAUSD Board of Education (BOE) with a draconian budget that effectively cut some of the most crucial programs in the District...

First published in Dissident Voice on March 24, 2012

Using State of California budget shortfalls as an excuse, Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy presented the LAUSD Board of Education (BOE) with a draconian budget that effectively cut some of the most crucial programs in the District. With enthusiastic collaboration from LAUSD BOE President Monica Garcia, Deasy’s chopping block included the District’s Student Readiness Language Development Program (SRLDP), Early Education Programs, District-wide Elementary School Arts Programs, and the entire Division of Adult and Career Education (DACE). Deasy, a former executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a graduate of the [Eli] Broad Superintendent Academy, was brought into LAUSD to implement a stark program of neoliberalism. The Superintendent’s proposed cuts are intended to hasten the privatization of the school district, much like his fellow Broad Academy Graduates (or Broadytes), Deborah Gist, Michelle Rhee, and Jean-Claude Brizard have in other cities.

Superintendent Deasy and the like-minded neoliberal BOE members — Monica Garcia, Tamar Galatsan, Dr. Richard Vladovic, and Nury Martinez — didn’t expect much resistance to their cuts, and had planned to vote on their education massacre on Valentines’s Day. Fortunately political pressure emanating from a broad and dynamic movement spearheaded by Adult Education students, allowed BOE member Steve Zimmer to move not only to delay the vote, but to instruct the Superintendent to provide a budget with different options. The BOE, some of them quite reluctantly, voted yes on Zimmer’s motion, temporarily saving not only adult education, but the other programs slated for elimination.

Within days of learning that the District intended to cut the entire program, students and teachers began organizing a coordinated response that was unprecedented in its scale and scope. Since the DACE program serves some 347,000 students, there was a sizable pool of individuals willing to get involved and save their schools. One of the first actions was a citywide petition drive. Students, activists, and teachers worked frantically to collect signatures supporting DACE. By Valentines’s Day Adult Education was able to provide the BOE with petitions containing 220,000 signatures of support. Reaching out to the business community, as a sector which benefits greatly from an educated workforce, activists were able to get large numbers of business to display signs stating their support. These were photographed and sent as evidence of broader community support.

Websites were set up for both the student organization — United Adult Students (UAS), but also a general website for the campaign. Activists set up a phone system that allowed callers to dial in and just by entering a code for their school, would connect them to the appropriate BOE member to make their feelings known. As the campaign progressed, phone calls started being routed to other public officials. In addition, letter writing campaigns were launched. In many cases local politicians were asked to write the BOE expressing their support for DACE.

Activities weren’t limited to lobbying style, however. Large rallys and pickets held at individual schoolsites brought excellent media coverage, particularly in the Korean and Spanish media, and more public exposure in general. Since large numbers of Korean and Spanish speakers are enrolled in DACE English Language Learner programs, the media coverage mobilized large numbers of community members who otherwise might not have known that Garcia and Deasy had Adult Education on the chopping block. The individual rallys culminated in a large 3,500 person protest at LAUSD headquarters on the Thursday before the BOE vote.

Adult Education supporters again showed up on Valentines’s Day to join supporters of the other threatened programs, closing down Beaudry Avenue. While thousands thronged the streets with banners and signs condemning the cuts, the LAUSD Board Room was packed with DACE supporters and speakers. All of the outreach to local politicians paid off. Among the speakers supporting Adult Education were Los Angeles City Council Members, representatives from other local politicians, and the Mayor of the City of Huntington Park. Other speakers included graduates of DACE, currently enrolled students, and educators. One of the most moving speeches was by social justice educator José Lara, who finished his presentation with a scathing indictment of the cuts by saying “ladies and gentlemen, this is an educational injustice.”

The campaign has also received national attention, with the Washington D.C. based National Coalition for Literacy publishing a series of articles from students, educators, and activists on the ground, each highlighting various aspects of the struggle. The series, entitled, Cut the Excuses, not education, is an excellent resource both in terms of the documenting the struggle, but also providing ideas for other struggles.

Despite the massive outpouring of community support and widespread political support, the BOE Members supporting the neoliberal agenda of the Coalition for School Reform — a right-wing organization funded by the likes of Philip Anschutz, Eli Broad, Jerry Perenchio, and others — are intractable, as evidenced by Tamar Galatsan’s March 10, 2012 Op-Ed in the Daily News, where she insisted that there’s no money and the cuts have to be made. This simply isn’t true, as there are literally hundreds of millions of dollars that could be cut in other areas:



… More sickening is that LAUSD actually has money as evidenced by massive spending on useless assessments and consultants, highly discredited value added methodologies, and nine figure real estate giveaways to lucrative charter corporations …

On March 13, 2013, the Superintendent presented a budget that still zeroed out many programs including DACE, but explained that the District would revise the budget based on two conditions: first that the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) take yet another pay cut (most likely in the form of furlough days), and second, that the state somehow is able to bolster the District’s budget. The BOE voted six to one in favor of the demoralizing budget. While many see this as a hardball negotiating tactic against the union, the effect on student morale has been severe.

Fortunately, neither the students, nor the educators that serve them are considering giving up the fight. Preparations for future actions are underway, and the continual outreach to organizations like Neighborhood Councils hasn’t stopped. There’s a great deal of work to do, but the stakes are too high for the community to give up.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    "Problem posing education does not and cannot serve the interests of the oppressor" -- Paulo Freire

    by rdsathene on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 09:57:06 PM PDT

  •  I am not an expert on LAUSD finances (3+ / 0-)

    which are enormous and possibly too elaborate for any one person to put into his or her head. Truly, I think it is too large.

    BUT. Be aware that the state budget cuts are draconian cuts on top of draconian cuts. To say that the budget is being used as an 'excuse' is like saying gravity is an excuse for falling. It may be possible to avoid, but it's going to take some doing.

    Schools are getting 20% less per student than they are supposed to receive. They are getting 10% less in actual dollars than in 2008. In addition, the state is a year behind on 30% of the money they owe schools, making cash flow a problem.

    The adult education programs are important and in many cases make a positive difference. LAUSD is not the only district looking at cutting them to the extent the law allows... which at the moment is completely, because that money is "flexed" into the district general fund until 2013.

    I believe Brown's proposal to realign funding would effectively make this permanent - districts would not be funded for adult education. And community colleges are losing funding as well.

    There may well be poor spending choices in the LAUSD budget. But, districts with finances under tight control are making some of the same decisions about cuts.

    I applaud the protests and I hope they are effective in saving the program.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 10:13:29 PM PDT

  •  On consultants (0+ / 0-)

    LAUSD may well be top-heavy with expensive consultants; I don't know.

    In our local district, I was concerned about a big lump of money in a bucket labeled consultants, and I asked about it. In this case, it happens that many people that appear to be permanent staff for the school are paid through the county office of education, especially special ed, psychologists, etc. Their fully burdened pay (including benefits) is therefore in the consultant bucket, which also has the effect of making the amount per person appear larger (because when you say a teacher makes $65k, say, you're not counting the contribution to pensions and insurance and other benefits).

    Certain staff are hired that way because it's an easier way to share them between districts or to have then in a vaguely temporary fashion. (IT workers are also frequently in this group.)

    But in any case, I had imagined wonks sitting at desks writing useless reports, when the truth was that these were all people who were spending the majority of their time working directly with kids.

    To know if this is the case in your district, you'll have to ask.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 10:24:43 PM PDT

    •  Decidedly not those working with students (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elwior

      Here's some more evidence that Broad's wrecking crew aren't spending on instruction: https://saveadulted.wordpress.com/...

      "Problem posing education does not and cannot serve the interests of the oppressor" -- Paulo Freire

      by rdsathene on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 10:43:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Don't rely on percentages: you need headcount (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Meteor Blades

        You can't compare percentages of populations of wildly different orders of magnitude and expect they will tell you the whole truth.

        A 400% increase in a department may be that a department of 1 is now 5. It can also mean one person hired on 20% time is now full time. Schools are curious places in that because of the way funding is done, often "1 FTE"  (a full time equivalent) is made up of many fractional parts. Thus, you also can't be certain that percentage increases or decreases indicate whole positions.

        You need to know more about how many FTE are involved, the budget for each of these departments, and their actual duties if you want to actually know.

        It's sexy to say 25% of teachers got layoff notices while an admin office increased by 50%... but if what that means is that the admin office got one new person and 2500 teachers got pink slips (an absolutely appalling number, no question), it's just not the case that you can save the teachers by cutting the human resources group.

        The good news is, if you're willing to dig for it, most of that information does need to be disclosed.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 11:24:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  On the pink slips (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Meteor Blades

          Most districts are electing to over-notify teachers, because the deadline to do so was March 15 and the state has given districts pretty much no idea what the funding will be. The best case scenario would be that funding will be flat - and that requires that one of the tax measures pass on the ballot and probably some amount of economic recovery. The state could impose another round of hideous cuts in January. I think the number floating around is an extra $350 a student, but frankly it could also be worse.

          Districts are looking at the worst case, and then pink-slipping based on that, while hoping upon hope that by July they'll be able to hire some and in some cases all of those teachers back.

          Other districts are hoping for the best and not issuing pink slips. Some are fortunate to have either increasing enrollment or enough retirements such that they don't have to issue any.

          It's a horrible way to operate. The system was not designed for this level of budget uncertainty.

          The problem for the financial people is that while you could maybe avoid those cuts this year, you'd have to double the cuts next year to get the same financial result. This is a hard tightrope to walk even for the most savvy and ethical business managers. These kids only get one 6th grade, only one freshman year, only one senior year. It needs to be the best that can be delivered. But next year needs to be the best it can be too.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 11:33:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I think you're being far to charitable... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elwior

          ...to the neoliberal cabal running LAUSD. We know they (ie. Deasy and Hill) just spent millions on adding DIBEL in September. We know they are spending hundreds of millions on the highly discredited VAM/AGT system favored by the neoliberal faction. They just dropped 18 million on SAP consultants (http://j.mp/...). I could go on and on, but it's pointless.

          If you are operating under the assumption that these cuts are being made out of necessity rather than a very cynical plan to implement what reactionary Andy Smarick outline in an EducationNext piece entitled "Wave of the Future," then you will try to attribute the cuts to budget issues, complicated accounting, and so forth. If, on the other hand, you understand that Eli Broad and Bill Gates brought Deasy to the district for a reason, the same reason that Philip Anschutz's Coalition for School Reform spent millions on Monica Garcia, Tamar Galatzan, Richard Vladovic, and Nury Martinez's campaigns, then you'll see this neoliberal privatization project for what it is.

          "Problem posing education does not and cannot serve the interests of the oppressor" -- Paulo Freire

          by rdsathene on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 11:53:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually, I think both can be true (0+ / 0-)

            and both need to be dealt with as the separate causes that they are.

            Fighting within the district budget is a zero-sum game. That is, every cut is coming from somewhere important. I am in complete agreement about the importance of adult education, both the K-12 component and the community college component. But it's a lot easier to say that when you're not trading it off against bus service or increasing kindergarten class sizes.

            There is no question in my mind that LAUSD has substantial governance problems.

            My comments here aren't meant to make you stop fighting. Rather, I'm trying to help you build your case better and to the right places to ensure the program is saved, statewide.  Right now, the funding situation is difficult enough that even if the BOE believes in your cause, they may still vote against you because they are thinking of other programs that they value even more highly. Getting the community interested in and excited about the importance of Adult ed in particular and about funding schools in general is critically important.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Thu Mar 29, 2012 at 09:02:42 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Understood (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              elfling

              And to the extent that the board members that aren't in the privatization camp what you say about difficult decisions between which cuts to make is true. Understand that activists like myself and the groups I work with (CEJ, PESJA, etc.) aren't just struggling to preserve Adult Ed, but SRLDP, Early Education, Elementary Arts, etc.

              That said, four members of the BOE aren't operating under the assumptions you outline, and they are the same ones that recently gave hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate away to private charter corporations. These trustees have an agenda to break the district, and open the door to district-wide privatization.

              A district that has more than twice in reserve than the budget of all the programs it is cutting, clearing isn't making cuts out of budget concerns, but out of the "logic" of neoliberalism. Freire called this a false logic. Heck the supposed budget shortfall amounts to two days of the occupation of Afghanistan.

              "Problem posing education does not and cannot serve the interests of the oppressor" -- Paulo Freire

              by rdsathene on Thu Mar 29, 2012 at 09:34:32 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Remember that the state is in arrears (0+ / 0-)

                by I would guess over $1 billion in what is owed to the district this year. So even though the state has pledged it, that cash has to be covered out of reserves.

                LAUSD is just far too large an entity, IMHO. It is too hard to follow the money and too easy to lose some along the way. If you take how many schools LAUSD has (730) and figured a person could visit two schools a day during the 180 day school year, it would take four years to visit them all if that was the only thing you did. How can you make good policy for a school you've never seen?

                Would that schools could have access to the budget monies for Afghanistan!

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Thu Mar 29, 2012 at 11:17:19 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  You may find this document interesting (0+ / 0-)

                You've likely already seen it, but it's the Superintendent's memo to the BOE on budget:

                http://www.scribd.com/...

                In it, the Superintendent specifically asks for authority to work on a parcel tax and also to work out strategies to retain the Adult Ed program. The breakdown of layoff notices includes that over 2000 administrators also received the March 15 RIF notices.

                Note that LAUSD's budget for this year is "qualified." For those unfamiliar with school finance, that sounds great but it actually means that the district projects that it will have a negative balance at the end of the third year. LAUSD appears to expect to file as Qualified again for the 2012-2013 budget... which again by definition means that they have insufficient reserves.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Fri Mar 30, 2012 at 09:46:41 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  My ex-wife is in charge of one of the... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, sillia, elfling

    ...largest segments of adult education for LAUSD: ESL and citizenship, about 160,000 students.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Mar 29, 2012 at 02:02:59 AM PDT

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