The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday voted 4-3 against a proposal to allow a charter school to build and operate a facility on the Walgrove Elementary School campus and also addressed major issues ranging from a $390 million budget deficit to placing a parcel tax on the November ballot that calls for a $298 per year tax on property owners for five years.
The Board of Education's actions occurred while a raucous crowd of thousands of demonstrators protested on the streets against threatened cuts to adult education, early education and arts education for elementary school students. The protesters prompted the block-long closure of Beaudry Avenue in front of the school board's main entrance as they held up signs urging drivers to honk in support of schools and students; chanted slogans in English and Spanish and marched and danced to songs ranging from Bob Marley's civil rights anthem "Get Up, Stand Up," to "We Will Rock You" by Queen to "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO.
Board presient Monica Garcia and board members Nury Martinez, Richard Vladovic and Marguerite LaMotte voted against allowing Ocean Charter School to build a permanent facility on a portion of the Walgrove campus. The school district in January announced that its staff had chosen Ocean Charter School over a competing bid by Green Dot School's Animo Venice Middle School, but the proposal still required approval of the LAUSD's Board of Education.
The proposal was brought forth under Proposition 39, which requires school districts in the state to prove space to charter schools. The school board's decision marked an end to months of heated debates and meetings among Walgrove parents, advocates for both charter schools and neighbors who opposed any new construction on the campus.
“I’m very aware of the competing priorities of honoring choice and respecting the priorities of our neighboring public schools," said board member Steven Zimmer during the debate over the proposal.
Zimmer, whose 4th Board District includes Venice and Mar Vista, voted in favor of the proposal by the district's Facilities Services Division to endorse Ocean Charter School at Walgrove.
The school board in June 2011 announced its intention to lease out two acres of space at Walgrove to a charter school and Ocean Charter and Green Dot in November submitted their proposals.
Since the proposal was not approved, Ocean Charter School can continue to request district facilities through the annual Proposition 39 process.
The school board in mid-February released dire figures showing a $557 budget deficit for the 2012-13 fiscal year, but Superintendent John Deasy announced that it has since dropped to $390 million due to unexpectedly high state revenues, primarily from the lottery, restored transportation funding from the state and lower benefit costs. The lower deficit numbers are dependent on Gov. Jerry Brown's revision in May of the state budget, Deasy said, so the board in February had to continue sending out 11,713 preliminary "reduction-in-force," or layoff, notices to teachers, administrators and other employees.
Deasy said the district in March 2011 sent out 7,302 preliminary layoff notices, but nearly half, or 3,433 of those layoff notices, were rescinded in June when the budget picture improved.
The Board of Education voted Tuesday to restore adult education, early education and arts education for elementary school students contingent on state revenues and labor concessions from United Teachers Los Angeles, which has been negotiating with the district over the number of furlough days union workers will have to take next year.
Board member Bennett Kayser lamented the link between the district's financial crisis and charter schools.
"LAUSD, along with hundreds of districts across the state, are in dire financial straits. This situation is compounded by the exodus of students into charter schools. LAUSD has granted charters to over 200 such schools, far more than any other district in the nation," Kayser said.
The board also voted 6-1 to place a parcel tax on the November ballot that will generate $255 million per year for the nation's second-largest district beginning in 2013-14 for five years. The measure will be put before voters living within the LAUSD boundaries and it requires two-third of the vote for passage. It required approval of five of the seven board members to be placed on the ballot. LaMotte was the only one to vote against it.
Deasy urged the board to support the parcel tax on property owners saying that the district has endured $2.3 billion in funding cuts over the past five years and has lost "brilliant teachers" and educational programs "in order to satisfy the cruel, punitive decisions of Sacramento politicians."
“We cannot continue to deny the children of this district the same opportunity at a quality education as their parents and grandparents,” he added.