Disadvantaged students in L.A. Unified stand to benefit from a multimillion-dollar infusion for more tutoring, counselors, English language coaches, nurses, librarians and other support under a budget plan presented Tuesday.
In the opening salvo in a two-month process under the state's new school finance system, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy presented the district's first detailed blueprint for spending $837 million specifically aimed at boosting services for students who are low-income, learning English and in foster care.
"These are really investments in justice … in the places where students have historically struggled," Deasy said at the Board of Education meeting. "Those who've had the least receive the most."
The plan also laid out specific goals for the students, including higher rates of English fluency, a 5% decline in suspensions and a 2% increase in elementary and middle school test scores in three years.
The extra money for disadvantaged students makes up just a fraction of the district's overall $6.8-billion budget. It is also a small share of the $4.47 billion in state funding overall for L.A. Unified's general education programs for the coming school year.
Many community activists have hailed the plan as a good first step but have pressed for greater detail on which schools would receive the extra funding. Deasy gave assurances Tuesday that the most needy would be first in line.
"Schools of least need, it's going to be some years before there are new investments," Deasy said. "It's not just an even distribution across the system."
The proposals include:
• More tutoring, greater access to counselors and other services for 11,600 foster youth.
• More instructional coaches and training materials for teachers of 154,110 students learning English.
• More assistant principals, counselors, social workers, special education workers and other support for students at 37 schools with low-performing students and high teacher turnover.
• 192 library aides and 15 middle school librarians.
• 130 new teachers to reduce the size of middle and high school math and English classes.
The spending plan presented Tuesday did not address teacher pay increases, which generally cannot be funded by money for disadvantaged students. Deasy indicated that he would be inclined to provide raises to employees who have gone years without one.
The district will hold public hearings on the plan and vote on it in June.
Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley professor, said one issue will be whether the district or the schools and community will make the spending decisions. But he praised Deasy's initial plan.
"The superintendent, in a robust fashion, is carrying out the intent of the new reforms, which is to mount an all-out effort to narrow the achievement gap," Fuller said.
In other action Tuesday, the board directed district staff to check the legality of a student petition that would create a high school position on the board and then establish a process to do so.
An initial proposal by board member Steve Zimmer to simply add a student advisory member failed.
"Who better than students, who go through the education system every day, to address these issues?" said Bryant Villegas, a senior at Maya Angelou Community High School. "Our feedback on what we go through should be valuable to you."
Under Zimmer's proposal, the student member would have been elected by peers but would not have had voting power or been allowed in closed-session meetings. Instead, the student would have weighed in on issues and cast advisory votes, which would have been recorded in the meeting's minutes.
"This is our chance to demonstrate and model leadership," Zimmer said before the vote. "We are here not only for our students, but with our students."
Board President Richard Vladovic told students they would eventually win representation. "It's going to happen," he said. "I'd just prefer that it's very thoughtful," he said.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times