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LA Unified asks 'What do parents want?'

At a town hall in Hollywood, parents and school staff gave L.A. Unified a laundry list of spending priorities.
At a town hall in Hollywood, parents and school staff gave L.A. Unified a laundry list of spending priorities.
Annie Gilbertson/KPCC

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Los Angeles Unified School District is holding series of community meetings to hear from parents and others about how to spend an additional $188 a year in special funds the district will be receiving each year to help low-income, English-learner and other disadvantaged students.

And they're getting an earful.

"We want smaller classes," said Kim Kaufman of Laurel Canyon."We want nurses. We want counselors. We want bathrooms that work. I mean real basic stuff, and why don’t they have it?"

Like many California schools, the district cut deep during recessionary budget cuts, increasing class sizes and doing away with many non-classroom staff.

Under California’s new Local Control Funding law, districts with high numbers of disadvantaged students – like L.A. Unified - get extra money. The districts are also compelled to involve the community in coming up with plans on how to spend it.

L.A. Unified held five town hall meetings across the district. The last one was in South Los Angeles Wednesday night.

Kaufman called the Hollywood event a "dog and pony show."

"People came here because it was a town hall meeting they want to stand up and talk!” she said.

Kauffman doesn’t believe officials are listening. Neither does Saul Plasencia. He was one of several district employees advocating to restore staff to pre-recession levels.

"I feel like I’m sitting there and I feel like it’s not going to make a difference," said Plasencia, who works as a school counselor. "I’m just kind of beating a dead horse.”

District officials handed participants game-show style controllers – like you'd see on Who Wants to be a Millionaire - and asked them to select five priorities from a list of more than twenty items including limiting class sizes in certain grades, hiring library aides and expanding summer school.

One thing many parents at the Hollywood meeting agreed should not be a priority – increasing the $50 million campus police budget.

District officials said they’ll release a report on what they heard at the town hall meetings next month.