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What Counts as Needy, LAUSD?

Tamar Galatzan: 'I am outraged, angry and demoralized.'

Note: This commentary comes from School Board Member Tamar Galatzan, District 3.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles School Board voted 6-1 to raise the threshold for what qualifies as a Title I school from 40 to 50% of the student body. I was the lone dissenting vote, and I am outraged, angry and demoralized.

This may sound like bureaucratic school district lingo, so let me translate: the school board voted that in order to qualify for federal Title I funds, at least half the students at a given school must qualify for free and reduced lunch. In other words, if 48% of your student body lives in poverty, you get no Title I money, but if 50% lives in poverty, you do. The effect will be immediate and devastating; schools that lose Title I funds can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. And in today’s already dire financial climate, that can spell the difference between a functioning school and a failing one.

A total of 23 schools across the district will lose Title I funding as a result of this decision; 8 of them—or one third—are in my district. [Editor's Note: Germain Street and Superior Street elementary shools are in Chatsworth.]

That money will be diverted to schools where at least 75% of students are impoverished.

A list of the schools that would be affected was not released until late last week. The schools themselves were not told. When my office called to let them know they were on the list, the principals were stunned. “I cannot run a school without that money,” said Bette Kaplan of Hamlin Elementary School in the West Valley. John Plevack, Principal of Millikan Middle School, an award-winning middle school in Sherman Oaks, told the Board yesterday, “This will devastate my school.”

Why should a poor student who attends a school that is 42% Title I not have access to intervention services, tutoring or after school programs, while a student who lives a few blocks away and attends a school that is 51% Title I can receive all of that? That is not equitable.  Are we telling students they should go to poorer schools to get better services, tutoring, and technology?

The federal government is cutting Title I funds to California, so LAUSD has fewer dollars to spend on students who live in poverty. What we should be doing is evaluating the programs we have, identifying the programs that work, and prioritizing spending on those. Only then can we decide how best to support the students with the greatest needs.

I am furious at this decision, and the message it sends to the students, parents and teachers in the San Fernando Valley and Westside.  We should be focusing on supporting every student in poverty by figuring out what personnel and programs help student succeed and funding those at as many schools as possible. Get ready for a wave of new charter schools. We have left many of our schools no choice but to leave the district to survive.

-- Tamar Galatzan
School Board Member, District 3

Helen S. Murphy December 16, 2011 at 03:30 PM
I agree with you.
30secondstomars December 16, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Thank you Mrs. Galatzan for your voice of reason..The LAUSD has dropped the ball for years in providing support to our local schools. We pay into the "system" and expect the school funds to be divided equally thru the school district. I am thankful that my children attend a GREAT charter school, but LAUSD has done everything in their power to see that other children are not given that benefit.
Malibu December 19, 2011 at 02:07 AM
Lets support great schools...regardless and asap
Martha Infante December 20, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Tamar Galatzan is right to be concerned for the welfare of her schools, and should absolutely be indignant at the upcoming cuts (in addition to previous cuts) that will impact L.A. schools. But can I take this a step further and ask the question, when did it become so acceptable to be complacent about cutting and culling society's future? These cuts didn't just happen. They started three years ago. And we were all ok, thinking it would be temporary. Three years later, I sweep and mop my own classroom that has a layer of filth unremovable by store-bought cleansers. Students in most schools are stuffed like sardines, because some billionaire tech guru pulled out a study that showed class size doesn't matter. Restrooms are closed for lack of supervision and kids pee in their pants. When did it become ok for the little people to eat cake? If I may suggest, the cuts to our schools remind me of the "First They Came" poem, but by the time the general populace realizes just how deeply we will be impacted by these devastating events...it might be too late. For these reasons and more, I support the OWS movement and I encourage all to get involved.
Jheri Heetland December 22, 2011 at 09:14 PM
I am having a hard time understanding why a budget is based on if a child can pay for lunch or not. As a parent whom has come back in to the school systems after 27 years, I see such a hugh problem with the system altogether. Even if we have children that are in a better school district, I find that even if we do not have over 50% of childern needing free lunches, we still do not have enough resources to help out with out needs in our school. I realize nutrition and education is improtant, but with the large increase of unemployment, many parents having to work to keep paying the bills, We are still in need of supplies for our teachers to keep the class running and keep up the the quality of teaching up to standards. If it were not for our PTA and other donations from the parents that are able to donate we are able to keep our school running, but even than some families are still struggling. By working as a volunteer at our school I find that our lower classes K - 1 need to have an full time aid in their class because of all the children that have learning issues and need a little one on one are not able to get that pleasure. My concern is that I feel that LAUSD needs to do an over all evaluation of the whole LAUSD systems in all areas. I hope to see that an over all evaluation be done with the entire system.
Ana Nana Mouse January 25, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Title One of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act passed in 1965 as part of the War on Poverty inspired by Michael Harrington's Book, The Other America. Harrington describes the abject poverty of Appalachia and inner city America. The schools who lost Title One by Superintendent Deasy's recommendation are nowhere near the abject poverty of the intent of the law passed and reauthorized numerous times by Congress. The Federal Government has not cut title one but cut the special extra title one contained in the couple of years of federal stimulus monies has run out and title one now returns to the rate roughly equal to what schools and kids in LAUSD received for the last 20 plus years. To help these schools and only 10,000 kids in LAUSD does not take much redistribution of revenue. In fact, this was the policy of LAUSD to have a two or three tier system where those in the highest poverty areas received a bit more than those in poverty but not as severe as 100% poverty..

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