Long Beach Unified's Budget & the Arts
Another year of decline in state funds to school districts, the uncertainty of future revenue and a state law that prohibits school fees has given Long Beach Unified School District’s (LBUSD) elementary arts programs an uncertain future.
On Tuesday March 6, the LBUSD Board of Education approved two fiscal stabilization plans that assume a best-case and worst-case scenario. Under the best-case fiscal plan the district (with an operating budget of $700 million) assumes it will only lose approximately $19 million in state funds if the November statewide tax initiative included in Governor Brown’s Budget Proposal is successful. The worst-case scenario assumes the failure of the November tax initiative, which will result in an additional $29 million in cuts.
"It's just a handful of terrible ideas," Board member John Meyer, quoted in the Long Beach Press Telegram, says of the worst-case scenario.
If the November tax initiative fails the following ideas may be considered to close the budget gap: Elimination of the music and visual arts programs at the elementary level; Reduction of the school year from 180 days to 160 days; The closure of multiple small schools. To read the complete list of proposed ideas under the worst-case scenario dowload the March 6th meeting agenda here.
In the previous Board meeting on February 21st, the board approved $9.6 million in cuts that included 82 full time equivalent teaching positions, closure of an elementary school and a reduction in transportation services, of the teacher reductions approximately 11 were full time equivalent arts teachers. The board will consider further proposed reductions in the following months with a goal of $15 to $20 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
This school year LBUSD's elementary music program saw the suspension of third grade strings, beginning woodwinds and brass in fourth and fifth grades and the introduction of a lottery system for elementary students wanting to participate in the program.This was due to statewide legislation that prohibits schools from charging students educational fees like instrument rentals or purchases. Due to limited resources the district was faced with instrument shortages (click here to read more). With the latest budget reductions 5.5 full time equivelant music teachers may be laid off. At this point the exact effects to the elementary music program are uncertain. The budget will be completed in May.
Arts for LA is seeking individuals to provide public comment in support of the arts programs to the Board of Education on Tuesday, March 20th. The meeting begins at 5pm but speakers will need to be at the district at least one hour before. Please contact me if you are available at aflores(at)artsforla.org.