LA Unified Superintendent Proposes $18.5 Billion Budget to Close Learning Gaps

LA Unified Superintendent Proposes $18.5 Billion Budget to Close Learning Gaps
A Los Angeles Unified School District bus in Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Micaela Ricaforte

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is proposing an $18.5 billion budget for the upcoming school year, with $1.9 billion in targeted investments to close academic gaps.

Carvalho provided the district’s education board with an overview of the budget’s targeted investments June 14, calling the budget the “heart and fuel of our school system.”

“The 2022–23 budget addresses the district’s most pressing issues while reaffirming our longstanding commitment to providing communities throughout all 710 square miles with a nurturing environment,” Carvalho said in a statement.

This year’s proposed budget is about $4.1 billion higher than the previous year’s $14.7 billion proposed budget, but $1.5 billion less than the previous year’s final adopted $20 billion budget.

To boost academic achievement, the proposed budget allots $122 million for extended instruction days—such as summer school programs—$100 million to support high-needs students, $100 million to support special education programs, $13 million to support early education programs, $6 million to support English learners, and $4 million to support tutoring programs.

In addition, the district proposes $24 million for the district’s Black Student Achievement Plan—which began this school year to address disparities between black students and their peers—and $200,000 to support other programs for black and indigenous students.

To target student “wellness,” the budget recommends $822 million for the district’s Expanded Learning Opportunities Program, $58 million to support outdoor education programs, $50 million to support social-emotional learning, wellness, and mental health programs, $21 million to support arts programs, and $10 million to support dual-language programs.

As for school operations, the budget also proposes $50 million for safety and security after Carvalho announced plans last month to boost school safety operations considering the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

This comes after the board voted in 2020 to reduce the school’s security and safety budget by one-third following the Black Lives Matter movement.

Carvalho also proposed $50 million for added classroom technology and $5 million for parent engagement and outreach.

In addition to closing learning gaps, Carvalho is focused on transitioning LAUSD away from COVID-19 protocols in preparation for a time when the district loses its federal pandemic aid; last year, the district received about $5 billion in pandemic relief funds from the federal government

“We remain vigilant and will ensure we most effectively and efficiently allocate recurring and non-recurring resources,” Carvalho said.

The district also continues to face declining enrollment.

In May, the district projected a 30 percent drop in enrollment over the next decade; and because state funding is based on average attendance and enrollment, the district will likely see a drop in funding in the coming years.

Carvalho told the board during a May meeting that a “perfect storm” of declining enrollment and funding will brew future hardships for the district.

“Los Angeles Unified is facing an alarming convergence and acceleration of enrollment decline and the expiration of one-time state and federal dollars, as well as ongoing and increasing financial liabilities,” Carvalho said, adding that there is “not an easy path toward financial stability.”

The board is expected to vote on the budget’s initial adoption June 21 but will continue to revise the budget up until it is finalized August.