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L.A. Superintendent Proposes Shortening School Year

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The head of the Los Angeles Unified School District proposed shortening the school year by six days in an effort to minimize layoffs as part of a looming budget deficit.

The move would save the nation's second-largest school system a projected $90 million and an estimated 5,000 jobs, Superintendent Ramon Cortines said Friday in a news release.

The state budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year allowed districts to reduce the school year by five days. The proposed sixth day would be a student-free workday.

Cortines conceded the move would be drastic but said the alternative could be bankruptcy for the district.

"Do I think (this) is good education policy? No," he said. "But we are in a real crisis."

The district is facing a projected $640 million deficit for the 2010-2011 school year.

Cortines had repeatedly said that he did not want to shorten the school year. This is the first time in recent history that a Los Angeles school superintendent has made such a suggestion.

Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles would have to agree to the move. Nonunion employees, including senior district staff, have been ordered to take four furlough days by May, and Cortines criticized groups that have not been willing to make concessions.

In December, Cortines said other budget cuts for the next school year could come from 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.

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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