LA school board approves $ 20 billion budget for COVID recovery

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Los Angeles Board of Education approved a record Tuesday night Budget of 20 billion dollars for the upcoming academic year – a massive influx of funds made possible by two unprecedented events: pandemic relief money and record state tax revenues.

How this money is specifically spent at the school level will play out in the coming months, but the budget will include the planned hiring of thousands of new employees in a school system where students struggled during the COVID pandemic. 19, with their grades dropping and their mental health pains.

The budget has been increased by about $ 5.5 billion in state and federal pandemic relief, as well as the ongoing revenue increase, although this funding is spread over several years.

Details of the recovery plan were presented at a previous meeting, where officials presented a strategy to hire 930 psychologists and psychiatric social workers, an increase of over 80%; 2,190 teachers, an increase of 8%; and 770 goalies, a 25% increase. And those numbers don’t include the additional hires that are expected to take place in after-school and summer enrichment programs.

Actual numbers could change based on decisions made by school leaders, workforce availability, future board actions, and an ever-changing budget. But by all accounts, the influx of resources is impressive in a neighborhood where the number of students has been declining for years. New jobs may not be permanent.

“This is a situation we have never been in before as a school district,” said the LA superintendent of schools. Austin Beutner, who spoke only briefly at the meeting and is stepping down at the end of the month. “What you are seeing is the staff’s best reflection on how we provide more direct service to students in schools. “

The irony is that the district has sufficient funding – at least in the short term – due to a devastating pandemic. The impact has been particularly damaging for low-income families in the district – accounting for about 80% of enrollments – and its Black and Latino families – who make up about 82% of students. It is these students and families who have suffered disproportionately in deaths and job losses as students grapple with barriers to online learning, such as poor internet access and limited opportunities to learn online. complete their schoolwork.

“You have the power to repair the damage done during distance learning,” a parent, speaking in Spanish, told the Board of Education in a public hearing that took place via telephone testimony . “My son who graduated from grade 12 did not get the support he needed during the pandemic … And I’m afraid when he enters college this fall he will be frustrated with this lack of support. support that he lacked. during distance training. And I hope that doesn’t happen with my daughter, who is in grade 10, and other students like her.

The seven-member board accepted most of the proposed plan, but added changes, including $ 40 million to speed up the opening of new preschool programs. And more than $ 50 million in additional funding has been set aside to improve already expanded programs focused on black students.

One amendment was narrowly rejected: a proposal to cut an additional $ 4 million from the school police budget. Activists have called for the complete elimination of the school police, and their recent protests included a protest outside the school district headquarters on Tuesday.

But on Tuesday, they were disappointed when board members Nick Melvoin and Jackie Goldberg, who both voted last year for a 35% cut to the police budget totaling $ 25million. dollars, wanted to suspend further reductions for the time being. Goldberg abstained on the proposed cut, while Melvoin was joined in the no vote by George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson, two retired school administrators who vigorously opposed the first cuts to school policing last summer .

School board president Kelly Gonez, Monica Garcia and Tanya Ortiz Franklin, who had proposed the further reduction, voted in favor of the further reduction.

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