Up to $57 million in funds controlled by Los Angeles Unified schools that were expected to save the jobs of hundreds of teachers, nurses and counselors have not been spent, according to district officials.
The district placed the funds under the authority of schools in an effort to promote local decision-making, but now Superintendent John Deasy faces a dilemma: He supports local control, but he wants schools to spend their money to help reduce the roughly 1,900 layoffs of teachers, nurses and counselors planned in the new fiscal year that begins Friday.
After negotiating furlough deals with district unions earlier this year to help reduce layoffs, officials had estimated that local schools would help out by choosing to use their own funds to buy back about 700 to 1,000 positions.
But as of Friday they had only bought 82 positions.
In a memo, Deasy gave principals and local district superintendents until Monday to explain why they have unused money in their school accounts.
"I believe in autonomy, but I also believe that if you have the means to provide support to students - and we've been hearing lots of concerns about students not getting what they need - you have a responsibility to do that," Deasy said.
Judy Perez, president of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, offered several potential explanations why the funds have not been spent.
For one, she said, principals and other administrators were asked to go back and look at their campus budgets at the end of the school year, when many are overwhelmed with end-of-year responsibilities.
Also, some schools have only a few thousand dollars in those local school accounts.
The average cost of buying back a teacher is about $80,000, district officials said.