Friday, 29 of August of 2014

LAUSD has $700+ Million in Reserves, but Still Plans to Close Adult Schools?

—A guest blog article in the discussion series on Cut the Excuses, Not Education! How SaveAdultEd.org Is Fighting the Proposal to Eliminate Adult Education in L.A.

By Sean Abajian

On Tuesday, March 13, and for the second time this year, the LAUSD presented an Interim Financial Report stating that the District will end the 2011-2012 school year with reserves of over $700 Million (pg. 51 of 92 in the Scribbd.com document linked above). $707 million represents almost 12% of the $6 Billion budget.

That same Tuesday the Los Angeles Unified School District voted 6-1 to approve a worst-case scenario budget that closes all the adult schools and essentially leaves only credit recovery classes for high school students.

The same week on Thursday March 15, pink slips went out to all the teachers, administrators and staff in Adult Education, which is unprecedented, and has a demoralizing effect on an entire division of employees, 350,000 students, and their families, spread across Los Angeles County.

School Board members, such as Board  President Monica Garcia, continue the mantra that “there just isn’t any money for adult education”.  Superintendent John Deasy also joins that chorus, but then keeps signing off on Interim Financial Reports stating there is more than enough money.

In our SaveAdultEd Campaign, we have, among other things:

  • Collected 220,000 petition signatures  (In just two weeks)
  • Made over 20,000 constituent calls to elected officials
  • Sent thousands of hand written letters to elected officials

And yet why is it that the School Board refuses to budge?

It would appear that the Board is operating in “crisis mode”, so they can engage in what Naomi Klein refers to as the “Shock Doctrine”.  Under the guise of “budget crisis” the Board is exerting authoritarian-like power, and committing disastrous actions against our communities.

Is it because they are thinking, “How dare these communities rise up and demand things from us,” that they are acting with impunity against their own constituents who have spoken up so loud and clear?

It’s no secret that the new Superintendent is a proponent of privatization of public education.  John Deasy, after all, graduated from the Eli Broad Superintendents Academy (Class of 2006), and before LAUSD he was deputy director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Already there are reports of Charter schools sizing up office space used by Adult Schools. For example, see this post on Twitter from Public Education Social Justice Advocacy (PESJA, a group that advocates for public education, social justice solutions, authentic reform, and liberation pedagogy) and reply from a practitioner at a local program:

And who wouldn’t want these prime properties?  Take, for example, Evans Adult School, which was founded during the Great Depression.  As one of our largest adult schools, it has an amazing location on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Figueroa.

Whatever the reason(s) may be we have a message for those Board Members who won’t support us: We know the money is there.  We are looking at ballot initiatives to re-direct funds from the $19.5 Billion LAUSD school construction bond fund (the largest in US history) to LAUSD’s general fund.  Serious discussions are underway as to which School Board members are most vulnerable to recalls.  Furthermore, we have already begun preparing for the March 2013 School Board Elections and we will vote out and replace candidates who don’t come through for us.

Jose Lara has organized a Voter Registration and Community Walks training session, which is attracting leaders citywide.

“Last week, when we heard that the School Board voted to continue with cuts to education that would eliminate Adult, Early Ed and Elementary Arts education, we began the chant, ‘You don’t vote for us, we won’t vote for you!’ We were not kidding.” (Jose Lara)

In response to the pink slips, Adult Education teachers have taken the attitude “Fired? No we’re Fired Up.”  To quote Julie Carson of the Adult Education Committee (UTLA),

“Take one day to cry….Then pull yourselves together and get ready to kick some ***.  We have just begun to fight.”

Next week we are having a new kind of action for the SaveAdultEd Campaign as we will be protesting right in the heart of Monica Garcia’s District in Boyle Heights, at Mariachi Plaza.  We’re inviting all public education advocates to join us on March 29 from 1:30-4:30pm.

Finally, we reach out and appeal to President Barack Obama, in this current election year, and ask that he intervene.   In this current national election, the one thing on everyone’s mind is the economy, and as we continue to organize at the grassroots level and push from below, we call on the President to use his influence to save our Adult Education program which is preparing 350,000 students and their families for better economic opportunities, here in the second largest city of the nation.

As Diane Ravitch rhetorically asked after the March 13 vote: “Why were we able to afford Adult Education in 1912, but not 2012?”  The answer is that we can, we must, and with our communities united we will.

Sean C. Abajian, Organizer, SaveAdultEd Campaign

Sean C. Abajian is a campaign organizer and digital strategist with the SaveAdultEd.org  Campaign. He is a guest blogger in the discussion series “Cut the Excuses, Not Education! How SaveAdultEd.org Is Fighting the Proposal to Eliminate Adult Education in L.A.” See the full discussion schedule online. Participate by posting your comments and questions in the box below and signing SaveAdultEd.org’s petition.

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Get Involved in Advocating and Organizing for Adult Education Nationally.

Join the National Coalition for Literacy. Sign up today for our free e-newsletter. Get email alerts on how you can impact adult education issues at the federal level. Or sign up to get text alerts sent directly to your phone.

Save the Date for these Webinars. Sean Abajian will be a panelist in Advocacy Strategies for Challenging Times:

  • Advocacy Strategies for Challenging Times: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 4:00 pm ET

Going to COABE? Join us at these sessions.

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