A Closer Look at Beutner’s Goal to Increase Funding for LA Schools and to Reduce Central Bureaucracy

This week Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner issued a statement indicating that he will pursue a local measure to increase funding for Los Angeles schools. He noted that the recent strike has made education a top priority for people in the city and that now is the time to seize the opportunity to secure more funds. In essence, the district is relying on the goodwill of local property owners in Los Angeles to help pay for the contract that was just negotiated with the teachers union, UTLA since the district doesn’t have the money to cover its end of the agreement.

In the statement issued on Tuesday, Beutner said the following:

“It is time for Los Angeles Unified to pursue a local measure to increase funding for Los Angeles schools. A measure, if approved by voters could provide additional funding for schools during the upcoming school year. This will allow for the accelerated improvement in student learning, continued progress in reducing class size and providing more support to students and educators in schools. It is time to build on the commitment the community has expressed and move forward together.

“All but one contract with our labor partners, including UTLA, are now resolved. This is an opportunity to take stock of where we are and move forward. The strike had real consequences—two million days of instruction missed by students, $100 million lost by District which could have been invested in schools, families’ lives disrupted and seven days of pay lost by educators. But the strike has made public education top of mind in every household in Los Angeles. And many more understand the need to provide more funding to our schools.

“Funding alone, however, will not close the opportunity gaps our students face.  And funding alone will not address the even larger gaps faced by students in our highest need communities.

“Los Angeles Unified will need to implement plans to reduce central bureaucracy and operate more efficiently, increase the ability of schools leaders and educators to make decisions to suit the unique needs of their students, build on its efforts to help students most in need and increase engagement with the families and communities it serves.

“Additional information will be provided to the Board for discussion on February 26 and possible Board Action on March 5.”

We at La Comadre agree that this will be positive for our students. We have no doubt that there needs to be more investment in our schools. However, we hope that the district comes up with a clear plan to make sure that the schools in the highest need areas are prioritized in terms of new funds coming in. In the preface to Superintendent Beutner’s statement, the district noted, “Superintendent Austin Beutner and the Board noted that Los Angeles Unified will need to engage all of Los Angeles to get more local support for schools as well as go to Sacramento to get a better deal for students.”

The Superintendent is taking a multi-pronged approach by proposing to raise money for schools with a local measure, going to Sacramento to get more funds from the state, and by reducing the size of the central bureaucracy so that more money can go to students. You can’t simply throw money at the machine (in this case district) without making sure that the funds are going to the students who are most in need. These actions will help rid people of the ‘scarcity mentality’ that there isn’t enough resources to invest in our students, while addressing the massive bureaucracy that employs people who don’t actually interact with the children. However, we should note that LAUSD gets the exact per pupil amount that other districts receive and often produce better results with. We are cautiously optimistic that the district comes up with some accountability and oversight measures to make sure that another tax on property owners (which includes LAUSD parents) will yield better student outcomes.

We are hopeful that education advocates and people in LA who care about quality schools and creating better opportunities for our youth can come together in advocating for more funding and for trimming a bloated bureaucracy that often makes it more difficult for principals and teachers to take action at their local schools.

What do you think?

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