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Amid LAUSD teachers’ strike, L.A. County supervisors vow more funding for schools

Los Angeles County supervisors inserted themselves into the LAUSD teachers’ strike on Tuesday, approving a vague, nonbinding plan to provide $10 million for healthcare at schools and to create programs for the thousands of students who are missing class during the impasse.

The Board of Supervisors, which doesn’t have control over the Los Angeles Unified School District, but does fund some student health centers, approved a measure to seek the additional funds to help pay for more nurses — one sticking point in the negotiations between the school district and striking teachers.

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The county already provides some funding for school-based wellness centers in middle and high schools. The new plan would expand that to elementary schools, county officials said.

Proposed by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis, the measure instructs the county’s Department of Mental Health to find $10 million for enhanced mental health care and other wellness programs at LAUSD. It also directs county officials to work with schools to hire more health professionals.

“What we hope to do is give help to students and teachers,” Ridley-Thomas said during the meeting Tuesday. “The consciousness that emerges here, now, is that we have a responsibility to the well-being of the residents of the county of Los Angeles — and surely that includes young people, students and, particularly, the schools. To the extent we can collaborate, I think it’s highly appropriate.”

The measure doesn’t identify specific sources for funding and it doesn’t bind the county to spending a specific amount.

However, county staff said they will report back to the Board of Supervisors by spring with a detailed plan, which could include opening as many as 50 more student wellness centers across LAUSD and some other school districts — an effort that began well before the strike.

“It’s not just to help for the school district,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “It’s not only an extension of our mission, but another way to accomplish our mission.”

All five members of the board, who voted unanimously for the measure, seemed to embrace the concept of the county spending more on mental health care in schools, which, historically, have had financial autonomy from the county.

“They can’t do it on their own,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “We may have to reinvent the wheel in terms of how we go about providing comprehensive services to our students.”

Separately, the board adopted a plan calling on county agencies to identify programs to occupy students during the strike, which has disrupted family schedules across Los Angeles as teachers forgo the classroom to push for higher pay, smaller class sizes and other demands.

Solis, a former U.S. secretary of Labor who proposed the measure, called the strike a “crisis.” She urged officials to publicize kid-friendly programs and places, such as the county’s recreation centers, parks and libraries — as well as other services offered in partnership with the county, such as Metro transit and regional museums, which are already offering free or discounted tickets during the strikes.

Both measures, proposed Friday, weren’t crafted entirely as a direct response to the LAUSD teachers’ strike, some officials said. But they do allow the five-member board — each of whom represents roughly 2 million Los Angeles County residents — a chance to weigh in politically on an event that is affecting thousands of families across the region with no end in sight.

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