Cuts May Slow L.A. Year-Round Schools Plan

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Unified School District may have to slow down its move toward year-round schooling because of a $43-million cut in funding by Gov. George Deukmejian for such programs, officials said Thursday.

The action as part of budget vetoes earlier this week will lead to fewer 12-month schools, more crowded classrooms and possibly even to double sessions across the state, California educators also said.

But the biggest impact will be in the Los Angeles district, which will lose $26 million in state support

"The governor has supported year-round in the past but now he's reneging on it," said Henry Jones, budget director for the Los Angeles district.

Cindy Katz, assistant state director of finance, said that Deukmejian has not changed his mind about saving money on new school construction by having schools operate 12 months instead of nine or 10.

"The governor supports the idea of year-round but we have to find a better way to structure that program," Katz said.

She referred to a system that has provided incentive payments of up to $125 per pupil to school districts that change to a year-round calendar. Last year the state spent $27 million for this program and another $43.1 million was included in the 1990-91 budget approved by the Legislature.

Katz pointed out that Deukmejian retained a second, smaller year-round incentive program that pays $25 per pupil to districts that switch to year-round.

But Robert Harris, who is in charge of educational programs in the state Department of Finance, said the Administration wants to change the more expensive incentive program because it isn't working.

"We found that people weren't enticed into year-round operations," Harris said. "At least 80% of the time, they went on year-round because they had to."

Harris also said the incentive grants, when added to regular financial support, meant that "we were putting up 127% of the cost of what it would have cost us to build an entirely new school."

However, some school officials have said they are not impressed by that argument because the state has fallen at least $6 billion behind in school construction needs.

Harris said the Administration has set aside $27 million for a possible new year-round incentive plan, if one can be worked out with the Legislature during the August session.

Jackie Goldberg, president of the Los Angeles Board of Education, said she hopes agreement can be reached on a new approach because "we really need that money--we have no other source of support" for the district's ambitious year-round plans.

Los Angeles has committed itself to transforming all of its schools to a 12-month calendar by next July. One hundred and seventy schools, enrolling about one-third of the district's 625,000 pupils, now are on the year-round calendar.

Jones said if Los Angeles loses the $26 million in incentive payments it would be difficult to keep to the year-round transition schedule.

Thomas Payne, year-round consultant for the state Department of Education, said loss of the incentive program means fewer districts will change to year-round and, as a consequence, overcrowding will be worse.

Payne also said some districts might be forced to have double sessions, which generally have not been seen in the state for more than 20 years.

The governor also eliminated $2.4 million for Indian education centers from the budget, a move that was decried by Assemblyman Robert J. Campbell (D-Richmond).

Campbell said these community-based centers have been successful in reducing high school drop-out rates, and increasing college attendance, among American Indians.

"They're really outstanding programs," said Campbell, who visited 10 of the centers two years ago. "I'm terribly miffed at the blast the American Indians got with these cuts."

Katz agreed that the centers were worthwhile but said, "it would be wonderful if we could fund everything but it just wasn't possible this year."

Meanwhile, at a Sacramento news conference, a coalition of educational groups led by State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig announced plans to ask the Legislature to override the governor's budget reduction in the cost-of-living allowance for school personnel from 4.7% to 3% and the elimination of the state's highly-regarded pupil testing program, CAP (California Assessment Program).

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