Additional reporting by Gareth Howell
Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Unified School District board voted in favor of Superintendent Ramon Cortines' budget cuts. The new budget, accepted by a 5-2 vote at the district headquarters, will cut $132 million from funds for teaching and transportation. As a result, up to 2,500 teachers now face unemployment. Cortines claims that the cuts were forced upon him by the broader economic climate. Critics have suggested the cuts are too short sighted and will disproportionately affect children in lower income areas. At a press conference this past Thursday, it is said Cortines was close to tears - perhaps a signal of the pressure and scrutiny he has faced since proposing the cuts. When Youth Radio's Mayra Jimenez met him the next day, he seemed more buoyant. He happily reflected upon his decision to become a teacher. He soon sobered, however, when discussion turned to the budget crisis.
Despite having not been a full time teacher for some time, Cortines suggested that there is very little difference between running a school district and running a classroom.
Mr Cortines acknowledged that the cuts will have a detrimental affect on education in the county. Although he has been criticized for suggesting the cuts he says he is yet to receive a viable alternative solution.
The superintendent was particularly frustrated by having to release teachers from duty. As the criteria for teacher cuts was years of experience, newer teachers now face unemployment.
One of the major criticisms from teachers and union members has been over the use of the stimulus money. Whilst Cortines has opted to spend the money over two years, his critics have suggested more should have been spent now. The superintendent asserts that stimulus money was used at the school level. To further aide funding, he has also recommended introducing a parcel tax.