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LAUSD Candidate Forum: The Budget

One of the most important jobs of an LAUSD Board Member is overseeing the $18.8 billion budget. What are the priorities of these candidates?

By Carl J. PetersenPublished 3 months ago 3 min read
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Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

“Internal controls within the district's financial department are essential to prevent future misuse. This includes establishing clear budget guidelines for one-time funding sources, strengthening accounting procedures for accurate tracking, and implementing regular reviews and audits with transparent reporting mechanisms.”

– LAUSD BD3 Candidate Andreas Farmakalidis

Over the past five months, candidates for the LAUSD School Board District 3 have tackled important issues facing the district including PROP-39 Co-Locations, Special Education, Governance, and Student Safety. In this last edition of the Forum before the primary election on March 5, 2024, the five questions revolved around the budget of the country's largest school district with an elected school board.

It is the responsibility of the Superintendent's office to present a budget that conforms to the law, including meeting the requirement that it must be balanced over three years. The Board of Education must then review the document to ensure that it meets the priorities that they have set and then vote to approve it.

The budget to run the LAUSD is massive, totaling $18.8 billion. By comparison, the city of Los Angeles' budget is $13 billion. This leaves a lot of room for political maneuvering:

  • Manipulating projections can provide cover for popular programs that the Superintendent wants to end.
  • The process can be politicized as Austin Beutner, Monica Garcia, and Nick Melvoin did in the run-up to the 2019 teachers’ strike where they orchestrated having the Los Angeles County Office of Education threaten to take over the District over a projected deficit that did not exist.
  • Stakeholders have repeatedly complained about a budgeting system that lacks transparency and does not reflect the values of the electorate.

How would the candidates for the LAUSD School Board address these issues? These five questions are designed to give voters some insight.

Would you have a financial professional independently evaluate the budget presented by the Superintendent before voting on its approval?

At a board meeting on September 26, 2023, Chief Business Officer (CBO) David Hart stated that the Superintendent's budget overestimates expenditures and underestimates revenues. Do you agree with his claims that this is a best practice?

At the September board meeting, Hart also stated that expenditures in 2022-23 that should have come from the general fund had come from COVID-restricted funds. Will you take the steps necessary to ensure that in the future LAUSD complies with rules regarding one-time funding?

The ending balance projected for 2023-24 reported in the first interim financial report is nearly $5.6 billion. This effectively reduces the total amount of funds spent on schools. Should the ending balance be allowed to reach this level?

Year after year, past and present Superintendents have warned of an impending “fiscal cliff,” where the current and following year’s budgets are in balance but the third year’s budget is dangerously close to running a deficit. In no case has this deficit shown up when the next year’s budget was presented. Would you commit to being more transparent with the public in how the budget is presented?

The candidates were asked to reply with a “Yes” or a “No.” The following charts summarize their answers:

The candidates were also allowed to clarify their answers. These are available in the following articles:

Board District 3:

Board District 5:

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Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for public education, particularly for students with special education needs, who serves as the Education Chair for the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him “a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.

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About the Creator

Carl J. Petersen

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with SpEd needs and public education. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Opinions are his own.

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