With a financial catastrophe averted by the passage of Proposition 30, Los Angeles Unified officials said Wednesday they'll begin looking for ways to restore some of the personnel and programs lost during five years of budget cuts.
LAUSD would have had to cut $255 million from this year's budget, and upwards of $650 million next year if the state ballot measure had failed. To cope with the cuts, officials debated shrinking the school calendar by 15 days, canceling student transportation and consolidating or killing programs.
Those contingency plans won't be necessary with voter approval of Proposition 30, which will raise the sales tax a quarter-percent for the next four years and the tax rate on incomes of more than $250,000 for seven years.
The revenue will help repay education funding withheld during the recession and keep district budgets intact.
"Voters were very aware what the cuts would have meant to our schools," said Superintendent John Deasy. "They said, `Enough is enough."'
The passage of Prop. 30 also means the district may be able to cancel some of the 10 unpaid furlough days facing teachers and other district employees, he said. Moving forward, some of the thousands of lost jobs may be restored.
LAUSD board members also looked forward to the chance to review the budget without a sense of trepidation.
"While the victory wasn't a landslide, the fact that voters approved a tax increase during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is very significant," said Steve Zimmer, whose district stretches from the San Fernando Valley to Hollywood and the Westside.
"Funding from Prop. 30 won't turn everything around and is not a magic pill, but it is the beginning of the end of the decimation of our system," he continued. "It is now the responsibility of this board and our administration to have a strategic plan for reinvesting, re-resourcing and restabilizing our schools."
Board member Tamar Galatzan cautioned, however, that revenue will repay the state's debt, but it will not leave schools flush with cash.
"Now that we don't have a giant ax hanging over our head, we can get a real look at our budget for the remaining school year and know what we're looking at," said Galatzan, who represents the west San Fernando Valley. "This doesn't mean new money for the district. It means that the cuts we sustained are not going to get any worse."
Still, the board will be reviewing the district's financial plan with an eye toward restoring personnel and programs.
Proposition 30 had the support of of teachers and labor unions, which poured tens of millions of dollars into getting the measure passed.
Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, noted that Prop. 30 will restore constitutionally guaranteed funding levels to students for the first time since 2008.
"We recognize that Proposition 30 will not fix all our schools' fiscal problems, but it is a tremendous step that is expected to cancel teacher furlough days and bring back the 180-day school year for LAUSD," he said. "If voters had rejected Prop. 30, $6 billion in cuts to K-12 education would have kicked in statewide."