District officials begin the year $140 million in the hole - and that's after $869 million in cost-cutting measures. Already, students can expect crowded classrooms, fewer teachers and limited services. The latest money woe involves not getting enough federal stimulus dollars to offset the losses from a grant program. Emergency legislation has been introduced that would prevent the cuts. From the Daily News:
"We are glad that this problem may be fixed," said Megan Reilly, LAUSD's chief financial officer. "However, we won't believe it's fixed until it's really fixed." Already listed as potential cuts in the coming years are the complete elimination of arts and music programs and full-day kindergarten. Also, student teacher ratios in K-3 classes, which have already grown from 20-to-1 to 24-to-1, could grow to 29-to-1. More cuts could mean fewer nurses, psychologists, counselors and librarians - who have already been severely cut back.
This week, the WSJ profiled LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines, focusing on his novel strategy of being open and honest about how awful the schools are. How awful? At some schools, as few as 1 percent of the students were able to do math work at their grade level or above.
By shining a spotlight on some of the most egregious failings of the city's schools, Mr. Cortines said he hopes to create enough transparency, embarrassment and even outrage to break a logjam among the school board, city leadership and local teachers union that has stymied past attempts at change. Mr. Cortines also wants to break a taboo against evaluating teachers' performance and has threatened to reorganize the city's worst schools. "I want this district to be data-driven and transparent about everything," he said. "That means that sometimes we're not going to look so good. But let me tell you, if we're going to improve, we need to know where we are."