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Opinion

Commentary: On becoming a world-class city and a world-class school district

Burbank Unified School District headquarters.
Armond Aghakhanian, president of the Burbank school board, writes to ask voters to support Measure I, a parcel tax measure on the March ballot that, if approved, is expected to generate approximately $9.1 million annually for the district.
(File Photo )

On Oct. 23, 2019, during the Burbank State of City Address and Luncheon, then-Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy stated, “I would like people to redouble their pride in the city of Burbank, which is a world-class city. We have really lifted ourselves up in a way that has us at the head of any city in this country.”

In a separate video, she emphasized defining “world-class” characteristics where businesses are booming in Burbank thanks to innovative high-tech jobs, imaginative studios and more. These high-tech jobs require innovative, evolving, high-tech education and curricula, and that is the responsibility of our schools to prepare the future workforce but that involves money Burbank Unified School District does not have.

Very often, I hear from Burbank parents that one of the main reasons they live or work in Burbank is because of our schools. This choice is not only beneficial to our schools but also to Burbank businesses and to the overall health of our city’s economy.

Unfortunately, many of our current/future teachers and staff are leaving Burbank or will not move to Burbank because of the rising cost of living. Still, the reality of the matter is that we are losing many current and future great teachers and staff at alarming rates to neighboring cities and districts, causing a devastating impact on the overall health of our schools and, ultimately, our city.

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Our current school district’s fiscal woes are not due to the district’s lack of frugality. The district has pinched and stretched every dollar, and it continues to do so. The reality is that state and federal funding does not provide enough to maintain a high-quality education.

Burbank Unified School District receives the lowest amount of local funding per student of the local districts. When you combine local and state funding, BUSD is second to last. The $574 less per student it receives (when compared to Glendale Unified) equates to $8,861,986 based on enrollment as of Aug. 26, 2019.

Our parents, teachers and community’s valiant efforts to support our schools are commendable, going as far as saving several teaching positions, even only if for a year, through fundraising efforts. Since we can no longer rely on state and federal funding alone, our community has determined that to continue meeting all the educational needs of all the district’s students we need our Measure I to pass.

Yes, in the wise words of our mayor, “We have really lifted ourselves up,” but I hope that we do not forget that despite all the challenges, one of the reasons Burbank has and continues to “lift itself” is because of the all the support and sacrifices our teachers, parents and residents have made — and continue to make — for our children. They support our schools and choose to work/live in Burbank, despite all the challenges and changes, while donating their time and hard-earned money to support our schools, sometimes having to work two or more jobs.

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To maintain and grow a world-class city, we need a world-class school district! I am confident that all Burbank residents will stand united behind Measure I. For the sake of our children, our schools, our beloved city and our 8-year-old son. To learn more about the measure, please visit yesforburbankschools.com.

Dr. Armond Aghakhanian is the president of the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education.

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