Miller is exploring how to give Foschetti and others the flexibility they desire and hopes to report to the school board by December 14 on how to restore funds for this year.
Foschetti had planned to use her surplus to purchase a bungalow classroom, so that her school’s tutoring programs would have a location to operate. “Everyone in the district is working hard, but sometimes the vision is a little blurry if you‘re not working directly at the schools for the kids,” she said.
But for district budget analysts, the picture looks clear enough, and none too rosy in the long term. The centrally funded mandates are expected to have a higher price tag next year. There’s also the matter of expiring employee contracts, with all the bargaining units clamoring for raises. And soon, every school will operate using LEARN-style budgets -- this makes it harder to shield the surplus at a subset of schools by taking money from elsewhere.
Part of the problem has been that local discretionary money is the last thing funded. Schools get whatever is left over. Thus, a supposed centerpiece of school reform -- local control with local money -- is last in line, paid for with the dregs.
The priorities need to be reordered, said former school-board member Mark Slavkin, an official with the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project, which provides school-reform grants. LEARN school budgets have “been a yo-yo experience without much rational stability,” he said. “This episode unmasked it publicly.”