L.A. Schools OK 5,000 Job Cuts in Last Resort Budget

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The Los Angeles school board on Tuesday approved a plan to close a $470 million budget gap in the next academic year by cutting more than 5,000 jobs if unions do not agree to givebacks and voters do not approve a parcel tax.

As some 300 employees protested outside the board offices, district Superintendent Ramon Cortines outlined a preliminary series of options to make up the revenue shortfall, saying that layoffs of teachers and other employees would be a last resort for the nation's second-largest school district.

"As your superintendent, it is my responsibility to lead us through these difficult times," Cortines said. "It will not be easy."

The district will instead first ask voters to approve a limited parcel tax, which would raise $100 million-$200 million a year for schools over the next four to six years and cost property owners $2-$4 a week.

Administrators also are negotiating with the teachers union for four furlough days. The district's three other unions have already agreed to furlough days.

A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said the teachers' union is forming a task force to scrutinize the budget with a forensic accountant before committing to any givebacks.

Cortines said other cuts for next year could include slashing arts programs by 50 percent, downsizing the eight district administrative offices to four, making administrative employees pay for parking, consolidating schools with fewer than 400 students, increasing K-3 classes from 24 pupils per teacher to 29, and delaying adoption of new textbooks by a year.

"Every budget meeting we walk out of, it gets worse and worse and worse," said board member Nury Martinez.

Board member Tamar Galatzan added, "Everyone here is miserable."

The board approved the budget proposal 6-1, with board member Marguerite P. LaMotte as the lone dissenter.

Outside the board offices in downtown Los Angeles, a throng of teachers and supporters chanted "Fight back, cut back" and wore signs saying "enough is enough, stop underfunding our schools."

The proposed cuts for the 2010-11 school year come on the heels of 2,000 layoffs this academic year due to shrinking state revenue.

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