School policing controversy resurfaces at annual LAUSD budget talks – Daily News
Despite a dwindling student population, the looming end of COVID-19 relief dollars, and increased responsibilities such as paying retiree benefits, the Los Angeles Unified School Board is considering an $18.5 billion budget to the 2022-23 fiscal year which officials say has $1.9 billion in new spending aimed at student success, social-emotional well-being and other priorities.
As headteachers grapple with the budget, which the school board is due to vote on next Tuesday and which would take effect July 1, a political issue simmers that impacts spending: parent support for the police school, compared to groups whose capital campaign the LAUSD Police Department led to cuts and the removal of officers from campuses in 2020.
Some parents argue that, particularly in the wake of recent mass shootings, including at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, the Los Angeles School Police Department should not be further reduced and that in fact, they should be brought back to the campuses. .
Meanwhile, in addressing the larger budget situation last month, Carvalho provided a sobering reminder that while the district received an unprecedented cash injection from COVID-19 relief aid, those one-time dollars will disappear. soon. He warned that the district must prepare for dwindling public funds due to declining enrollment — even as LAUSD faces pressure to meet its obligation to pay its share of benefits costs.
He called the combination of impacts on the school’s finances a “perfect storm”. In this context, the superintendent proposed a 2022-2023 budget which he described as “student-focused”.
“Budget 2022-23 addresses the District’s most pressing issues while reaffirming our long-standing commitment to providing communities across all 710 square miles with a nurturing environment,” he said. “We remain vigilant and will ensure that we allocate recurring and non-recurring resources in the most effective and efficient way.”
Among the investments it would add to existing efforts are:
- $106 million to improve community engagement, collaboration and district operations, including $50 million to help bridge the digital divide for families without reliable internet, and up to $50 million to improve safety of the campus thanks to actions such as the securing of school perimeters. But none of those dollars would pay more school agents.
- $346 million more to support school success, including $100 million more for schools most in need, as well as additional funds for tutoring and early learning; and $122 million to add four additional days of training and three days of professional development.
- $961 million to support what Carvalho called “joy and well-being.” Most of it would go to “expanded learning opportunities” such as after-school and summer enrichment programs. Additional funds would pay for social-emotional learning, which teaches students skills such as how to regulate their emotions, relate to others, and set goals, as well as provide well-being services. and mental health, campus green spaces, outdoor education, and bilingual arts and programs.
- $516 million for staff-related expenses, including an additional $211 million for retiree health benefits on top of the usual contribution, and an additional $256 million for pensions.
The proposed budget of $18.5 billion for the new fiscal year is $1.5 billion lower than the current year’s budget, mainly due to a reduction in bond repayments and several hundred million dollars less in pandemic-related expenses, according to district staff.
For example, the district ended its weekly COVID-19 testing of all students and staff on campus except those in early learning and child care programs. Weekly testing for these programs will end on June 30.
The school board held a public hearing on the proposed budget this week, which for the most part turned into an ongoing debate about school policing.
The school police debate continues
During the meeting, students and members of the Students Deserve grassroots group urged the board to divest from the LAUSD Police Department. Some have called for a complete defunding and elimination of the department. Others have called on the school board to eliminate about 60 vacancies within the police department and reallocate the millions of dollars to a plan supporting black student success.
Lawyers took a similar step last year, asking the council to eliminate 32 vacant police posts. This effort failed.
However, in 2020 the board slashed more than a third of the police department’s budget and fired officers from school grounds at the urging of students of color who said they felt overly policed.
Two years later, a debate is brewing among parents, students and school police advocates. A Crenshaw High School graduate who addressed the council this week said he felt nervous seeing officers on campus.
“For me, school and the police don’t mix,” said the speaker, who identified himself only as “Ace.” He added: “Schools are for learning; the police are for jails and jails.
Another student urged board members to divest from “a system that has historically hurt black and brown students,” telling them “don’t fail our students.”
Black and Latino students in particular say they feel targeted by school police. But in a fall 2020 survey, the district found that a majority of parents believe having an officer on campus makes their school safe, including 67% of Latino parents. Fifty percent of black parents also agreed. Among students, 54% of Latino students and 35% of Black students felt safe with officers in schools.
Tiffany Morrison, a South Los Angeles parent, said in an interview that she was supportive of officers on campus, especially after the Uvalde Elementary School massacre last month. She said no child should feel criminalized at school, however, and if some students feel that way, it needs to be addressed.
“Kids shouldn’t feel like a police state, especially if black and brown kids are being targeted or made to feel a certain way. I’m not cool with it,” she said. But, she said, “As a black parent of a black child at LAUSD, at the end of the day, I want a police presence there. We have to settle some things, but at the end of the day, I want my child to be protected.
Several LAUSD parents from Our Voice, a group of predominantly immigrant Latino parents, said in interviews that they support the presence of officers as a deterrent not only against gun violence, but also to prevent fights, bullying and illicit activities on campuses.
“Many students who feel that their rights are being violated by the presence of police on campus are unaware of the fact that there are a lot of drugs brought and used in schools,” said mother Gloria Acosta, whose eldest just graduated from a school in the San Fernando Valley, said through a translator.
“They don’t want the police, but I (felt) safer when the police presence was there…and my kids also told me they were worried too,” she added.
School board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin, who sides with Students Deserve and had tried — unsuccessfully — to persuade other board members to permanently eliminate vacant police positions before passing the budget the year last, said Friday that it would not make the same offer this year.
“I don’t think people have changed their minds since last year,” she said in a text message.
She acknowledged there is likely less public appetite to cut police funding in light of recent mass shootings across the country as well as less political will in an election year.
School board president Kelly Gonez, whose term ends this year, falls short of the votes she needs to win the June 8 primary election and could be forced into a runoff once all ballots are cast. will have been counted by the Los Angeles County Clerk. .
Two unions representing LASPD employees have backed one of Gonez’s opponents, a retired police department sergeant who criticized Gonez for voting for cuts to the school police department in 2020 and his stance to remove them. campuses.
Drop in registrations
Another issue that district officials are paying attention to in the budget is the impact of the dwindling student population.
Enrollment in the district has followed a downward trajectory over the past two decades.
At its peak in 2002, LA Unified served 737,000 students, then enrollment declined about 2.8% per year thereafter, school officials said. Its K-12 enrollment will likely fall below 413,000 students this school year and continue to decline about 3.6% per year this decade. If projections are accurate, LAUSD would have lost more than half of its children, rising to 309,000 students by the 2030-31 school year.
LA Unified stands to lose about $55 million for every 1% drop in enrollment, according to district staff.
Although LAUnified’s financial situation is not dire, the superintendent cautioned that the district must take steps to ensure its continued viability.
“We are in a strong position right now,” he said. “However, conditions could continue to deteriorate rapidly if appropriate action is not taken in a timely manner.”
His warning comes amid contract negotiations with the teachers’ union, which is demanding a 20% pay rise for its members over the next two years.