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Statement by Superintendent Austin Beutner On Path to Recovery Funding for Schools (05-25-21)

CONTACT:                                                                FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Shannon Haber, 213-393-1289                              May 25, 2021

Statement by Superintendent Austin Beutner
On Path to Recovery Funding for Schools

LOS ANGELES (May 25, 2021) – Since this crisis began, we have advocated for what we have called a “Marshall Plan” for schools – to make sure schools have adequate funding to help the students and families they serve. Thanks to actions at both the state and federal levels, this has become a reality. Schools in Los Angeles Unified will have record amounts of funding for each of the next several school years.  

All of this funding can be used to keep students on the path to recovery.  

The additional funds will allow schools to add reading and math teachers in elementary schools to help students build a foundation in literacy, math and critical-thinking skills. Secondary schools can add more teachers to provide more individualized instruction. Children in schools will benefit from additional mental health services while students with learning differences and disabilities will receive more direct supports. Schools will be cleaner and safer with an increase in custodial staff. For the first time in decades, there is sufficient funding to do all of this.  

The proposed action staff will present to the Board today is just one part of the investments Los Angeles Unified will make as part of the Path to Recovery.  

The foundation was put in place many months ago when we brought together health and science experts from Stanford, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net and Cedars-Sinai to help us create the nation’s most comprehensive school-based COVID safety program. We teamed with Microsoft to build the software to coordinate daily health checks, schedule COVID tests and vaccinations and share the information with the school community and health authorities. 

The spending on the safety measures in schools will continue during the summer and into the new school year. 

Plans are already underway to provide the opportunity for all students to participate in summer school. 

And the Board has already directed $700 million of discretionary funds be allocated to schools for the next school year. Per the Board direction, these funds will be provided to schools based on relative school need and there are no restrictions on how schools may use these funds. 

All of these pieces, as well as what the Board will consider today, will be incorporated into the school district’s overall budget which will be acted on by the Board in June. The Path to Recovery is not simple and the Board may need to revise the budget several times over the course of the school year as more information becomes available,  circumstances change and more is known about what students need in their schools. 

The focus today is on 5 areas:

  • Reading and Math teachers and aides to help build a foundation in literacy, math and critical-thinking skills in grades K-3. Primary Promise is working and schools need to expand the program to help more students.
  • More teachers and professional development time will help teachers in grades 4-12 provide more individualized and small-group instruction. While this will have the practical effect of reducing average class sizes, the intent is not to provide an across-the-board reduction but rather focus the dollars where need is greatest. 

One example is Algebra where more than half of students don’t pass on their first attempt and average class sizes are about 35 students. Merely reducing 35 to 32 won’t allow the individualized help the 5 or 10 students who are struggling may need. Instead, a second teacher can spend time working one-on-one or with a small group, effectively reducing class size but not for all students.

  • The next part is mental health. Many of the communities served by our schools have been hard hit during this crisis. Families have suffered disproportionate job losses, high levels of illness and death due to the virus and they continue to deal with housing and food insecurity. Students will bring trauma and anxiety, along with feelings of isolation and loneliness, back to school with them. Schools need more mental health professionals to help students.
  • Students with learning differences and disabilities were impacted by the closure of schools and are in need of more direct services and supports. 
  • And, finally, we have made a commitment to clean and safe schools and that must continue. We’re proposing to maintain the additional custodial staff in schools as an important piece of the Path to Recovery. 

All of the dollars will be allocated based on need – elementary students who need help in reading will receive it, secondary school students will get more individualized instruction with greater funding provided to high-needs schools, all students will have more access to mental health resources and over and above this, additional support will be provided to schools in communities hardest hit by the crisis. Students with differences and disabilities will receive the individualized support they need. And all school campuses will be kept clean and safe. 

This is a momentous step – it is the largest increase in the number of teachers, counselors and custodians in schools in more than a generation. This increase will help improve the education all students receive. 

Out of crisis comes the opportunity to do what was once unimaginable. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make things meaningfully better for the children we serve.  

But only if we go about it the right way, which adds a note of caution to the conversation. Almost all of the money provided to schools is used to pay people who work directly with students. The additional people schools will need don’t grow on trees. To stay with the metaphor, the orchard will need to be nurtured and grow quite a bit to be able to provide the people schools will need, not just in Los Angeles but across the state. Yes, more money would allow schools to hire more reading teachers … if there were more to be hired. While it’s great that schools will have adequate funding for the first time in a generation, money alone won’t solve the problem. It’s how the money is used, the people who are hired and how they are trained that will make the difference.  

Today’s proposed action focuses precisely on that – how people can be added to schools to provide more direct services to students.