When it came time to make cuts for the 2012-13 LAUSD budget, Superintendent John Deasy passed on the scalpel, opting for a chainsaw to hack away at a $557 million deficit.
LAUSD's youngest and oldest students are targeted in the wide-ranging cuts that aim to protect the most vital organs: K-12 education.
If adopted by the Board of Education today, the budget eliminates the adult education programs and the School Readiness Language Development Program, which prepares the smallest and most needful students for kindergarten, to save $134.5 million and $45.4 million. Grade school arts education would also be wiped out, saving $18.6 million.
The wholesale elimination of adult education has been particularly contentious. The program is one of the district's most popular and successful, serving close to 300,000 students annually.
The radical chopping of adult ed, the arts, and help for the furthest behind of L.A.'s kindergartners seems especially bizarre in a district that critics say is still filled with bloat -- its pricey spending on consultants and luxury items by upper management, its me-first unions whose demands drained money from classrooms to spend on non-educators.
Pulling the plug on adult ed will disproportionately effect immigrant and low-income communities served by its curriculum, which include English as a second language classes and citizenship programs, plus basic education and career training.
"We've been cut to the bone already--we were cut by 40% last year." Planaria Price, who has taught English in LAUSD adult education program for 39 years.
"If they cut us all now, we'll be forced to retire. I don't want to. I'm 68. I want to teach until I drop."
Adult education makes up a scant two percent of LAUSD's entire budget.
Is it effective? Extremely. Some 255,697 students--or 27 percent of the district's total enrollment--are enrolled in its programs.
Not only does adult education program account for a mere fraction of LAUSD's total operating cost, the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles says that last year adult education underspent its budget by 16.1%, returning $26,670,239 to the district in June of 2011.
Maybe the adult ed employees and managers shouldn't have underspent, giving Deasy and the school board a lot of dangerous ideas about what can give and what can't.
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There has been speculation that "zeroing out" the programs was a highly risky strategic move on the school district's part to attract grants from either the state or federal government.
But Patricia Terry, executive administrator for adult education program at the California Department of Education, says it could actually have the opposite effect.
"The loss of the LAUSD adult education program could mean a reduction in WIA--Workforce Investment Act--funds," Terry says. The state receives WIA funds from the federal government and disburses it to local districts. "LAUSD, as one of the largest districts in the state, has received a significant piece of that allocation."
Meanwhile, adult education proponents have recruited support for their cause--the City Council also adopted a resolution opposing the cuts, and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson wrote an open letter calling adult education "a vital and integral part of the entire educational spectrum," and urging officials to consider the long-term effects eliminating programs would have on their communities.