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LAUSD expects a 30% reduction in the number of entrants in the next decade

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LAUSD expects a 30% reduction in the number of entrants in the next decade

Los Angeles public school enrollment is expected to fall nearly 30 percent over the next decade, leading to tough choices over curricula, campus closures, vacancies and employee benefits – and forcing a dramatic overhaul of the country’s second. the largest school system.

The projected sharp drop, outlined in a presentation at the Education Council on Tuesday, comes as school officials reflect on the future of the Los Angeles Single School District on several important fronts – including contract talks with a teachers’ union seeking a 20% raise. for the next two years.

District leaders are also trying to plan for the best use of historically high funding for education, which, some experts warn, may be short-lived.

“There are a number of volatile trends,” Supt said. Alberto Carvalho, citing declining entrants and volatile funding. “The perfect storm is coming.

“Los Angeles Unified is facing an alarming convergence and accelerating decline in the number of entrants and the expiration of one-time state and federal dollars, as well as ongoing and growing financial commitments.”

Carvalho warned the board that difficult talks lie ahead and that there is a “difficult path to financial stability.”

The number of students at LA Unified has been gradually declining since there were about 737,000 students 21 years ago. That long-standing overcrowding degrades quality and even the amount of education – as campuses worked year-round with students on a schedule that provided 17 days less tuition per year and limited access to advanced classes.

About 430,000 people are currently enrolled in kindergarten up to the 12th grade, and it is expected to decline by about 3.6% per year to about 309,000 in nine years.

The rate of decline accelerated after the pandemic, a phenomenon that officials can hardly explain. At the beginning of the pandemic, many families held on preschoolers and kindergarten children go out distance learning – prefer not to put their children in front of computers for school. Still the pace the decline persisted even with the resumption of personal lessons.

Decreases are also expected over the next nine years in Los Angeles County (19%) and the state (9%), according to data presented at Tuesday’s meeting.

Experts have not offered a definitive explanation, but factors include relocating families to more accessible areas, declining birth rates, falling immigration and, until recently, the rapid growth of charter schools.

Problems related to the reduction of the number of entrants have already surfaced. Several campuses – despite their importance as an anchor community – have closed or scheduled to close. Either campuses were offered to charter schools – which are not run by the county and compete for students. Many statutes also face registration problems, and some have stopped.

Having fewer students creates financial difficulties because state and federation funding is based largely on enrollment. It is difficult to reduce fixed costs associated with buildings and operations as the funding base shrinks. Moreover, reduced funding makes it more difficult to manage the pension costs shared by all school systems, as well as individual lifelong health benefits for retirees that LA Unified provides to long-term employees.

In the coming years, the current structure of retirees and dependents of LA Unified who receive health care may be more than active employees, said CFO David Hart.

“It never occurred to me,” Hart said.

At the same time, the district struggled this year with Fr. lack of qualified staff in teaching, nursing, counseling and other fields. Attracting and retaining such workers would help the district pay higher wages – and continue to fund strong health.

It would seem that having enough money to spend should be the least of the problems for the district, given Governor Gavin Newsham’s announcement last week of the biggest budget surplus in the state’s history. A surplus is expected balloon to $ 97.5 billion by next summer, an estimate well above previous estimates, and included in the $ 300.6 billion budget. About 40% of the budget by law goes to primary schools and community colleges.

Including both state and federal sources, California would spend $ 22,850 per student in the next academic year, an amount that recently seemed above all expectations.

The state budget has improved since January, leading to an additional $ 60 million in LA Unified as a cost-of-living improvement. And LA Unified may also seek other new funding, such as grants to expand preschool education and “public schools” that provide school services to families.

Even before these new funds arrive, LA Unified expects to end the year with an “unspecified / unscheduled” final balance of more than $ 1.4 billion.

The Teachers Union is pushing for an increase in the same historical proportions, citing the high cost of living in Southern California. The union’s offer also includes additional salary increases for academic degrees and teaching roles and up to $ 2,000 as compensation for the cost of the certificate and classes conducted to increase salaries.

According to the proposal, nurses – represented by the teachers’ union – will receive an increase of $ 20,000 to make their salaries more competitive. Union leaders noted that the district tried but failed to meet a contractual obligation three years ago to provide a nurse on each campus.

Another significant item of expenditure in the union’s proposal is the reduction in class size and the ratio of students to counselors, positions that have also remained vacant this year due to shortages.

Trade union leaders are reluctant to hear talk of financial ruin.

“Historically, the district is underestimating its revenues, overestimating its costs,” Jeff Good, executive director of the teachers’ union, told a news conference last week. “The crisis we are experiencing … needs to be addressed now and we will push the area to go as far as they can.”

Some district officials called the previous union agreement unbearable, but it turned out not to be the case.

However, against the background of this unprecedented funding comes the warning of the independent state analytical bureau of the legislature. It reports that as a result of modeling 10,000 possible state revenue scenarios state budget deficit in 95% of cases in the coming years thanks in large part to the way the state allocates and spends money. In addition, fiscal warning signs that correctly predicted the economic downturn in the past almost evenly point to a recession in the relatively near future.

And at the local level, although LA Unified has had more jobs than it can fill in the past year, much of the funding – more than $ 5 billion – has come from a one-time COVID grant.

Officials said they would need to decide whether and how to maintain existing curricula, as well as make room for new ones. One such existing effort, Primary Promise, has put an additional teacher in classes in schools with difficulty – and has been heavily funded through COVID-19-related funding. This effort officials have said they want to continue.

Carvalho said the district will need to make many strategic adjustments, including eliminating surpluses in some areas outside the classroom.

The situation embodies a dizzying rift, said school board member Nick Melvoin: “It’s either a historic investment or the sky is falling, and I think we need to articulate why both can be true, perhaps at the same time, and live with that discomfort.”

Board member Jackie Goldberg said employees or parents should not feel panicked or hopeless.

“We’re not just saying the financial picture isn’t very good,” Goldberg said. “We are talking about doing something about it until the area has problems. We are not going to wait for this to come to us. And that’s good news, not bad news. “

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