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5 things you should know about LA schools' budget debate

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Los Angeles Unified school board will debate Tuesday how to spend next year's $6.8 billion dollar budget. It includes an estimated $332 million bump from Sacramento, a portion of which is meant to help disadvantaged kids.

Superintendent John Deasy put out a proposed budget last month. Already, some parents have complained that money for English Learner students isn't enough. And one coalition of neighborhood groups wants officials to funnel more of that extra money to high needs schools.

They don't have much time to argue about it. California has asked school districts to produce spending plans by July 1.

If you have a child in L.A. Unified, here are five things you should know about the debate around Deasy's budget proposal:

  1. Mystery spending – Deasy's budget doesn't itemize about 40 percent of funds coming from Sacramento. It lists $2.9 billion for "other base programs." Staff said some of that goes to teacher salaries, but Deasy has not yet said what else. The district also gets separate funds from the U.S. Department of Education, but Deasy has not outlined a spending plan for those funds either - he hasn't even disclosed how much they add up to be.
  2. iPad program – Deasy earmarked $16.4 million for new technology staff. Board member Monica Ratliff pointed out the staffing uptick is based on full rollout of the iPad program - but the board has yet to approve that (only about 15 percent students and teachers currently have iPads). She recommends redistributing all the funds, using $6.5 million of it to hire more custodians and putting most of the rest in a "rainy day" fund.
  3. High needs schools – A coalition of community groups said they've figured out the 242 schools in the district that have the highest needs and should get more money. Board members Monica García, Richard Vladovic and Steve Zimmer have filed a motion asking the superintendent to "construct and adopt an equity-based student need index," but the resolution may prove to be toothless.  It asks that the schools be identified, not expressly funded.
  4. English learner services – California's new Local Control Funding law targets more funds to needy students, those in foster care, in poverty or learning English. Despite more cash coming in, Deasy's proposed budget keeps services for English learners at level funding from this past school year. And because a grant is drying up, the district is losing its family literacy program, which teaches parents English reading skills to jump start language acquisition in young children.
  5. Psychologists, aides – Deasy is proposing spending the funds for high needs students on a variety of programs. Board member Monica Ratliff said it comes out to 26.4 percent of the school psychologist budget, 22.8 percent of the budget for campus aides, 22.6 percent of school police budget and 30.7 percent of special education budget. She wants the allocations to more closely represent the number of high needs students served in each. She also requested the board consider funding other programs, such at the gifted student program, based on high need student participation.

2014-2015 budget proposal