June 06, 2019 

By City News Service 


 Following voters’ defeat of a tax measure designed to raise millions of dollars for Los Angeles schools, district officials and Mayor Eric Garcetti today vowed to continue fighting for more education funding while calling on those who opposed the measure to join the battle.


“Life has taught me the value of persistence,” Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “When you get knocked down, you get back up and you keep moving forward.”


Beutner insisted the district made the right decision by taking Measure EE to voters in a special election on Tuesday instead of waiting for a likely higher-turnout regional or statewide ballot. Beutner also insisted that despite the defeat of the parcel tax proposal – which officials said would have raised $500 million a year for 12 years – the district will find a way to meet its financial obligations over the next three years.


“We’ll continue to reduce the bureaucracy and make sure every nickel of the taxpayers’ (money) goes to schools,” he said. “We’re going to ask to those in Sacramento to make it possible to raise money to hire a teacher in the same way we can build a school. We're going to continue to work with the governor and the Legislature for additional funding for our schools, and we'll continue to inform the communities we serve about the need for additional funding. Now what’s next? It’s time to take the fight to Sacramento.”


It was unclear if the district might consider another ballot measure in the next two years.


Measure EE was seen as a critical funding tool for a district that has been on notice from the county Office of Education about its dicey financial picture – exacerbated by a new contract reached with the teachers' union that called for reductions in class size, increased salaries and hirings of nurses, counselors and librarians.


Debra Duardo, superintendent of the county Office of Education, issued a statement Wednesday ex­pressing disappointment at Measure EE’s defeat and continuing to voice concern about LAUSD’s “distressed financial condition.”


“While progress has been made and actions have been taken to improve the district's fiscal condition, the county Office of Education remains concerned with the continued use of one-time funding to cover ongoing expenditures,” she said. “Put simply, LAUSD needs to stop spending more than it receives from the state and federal government, which it does every year.”


Garcetti, who campaigned heavily in favor of Measure EE, got choked up Wednesday as he discussed the need for additional education ­funding, saying many societal woes can be traced to shortcomings in the classroom.


“When they say what are we going to do to end homelessness, I say homelessness starts in a classroom,” Garcetti said, pausing his remarks to regain his composure. “... When you complain there's too many people in prison, where does that begin? It begins when we fail a child in the classroom. When we're worried about the safety on our streets, that starts when we fail to fund our children.”


Measure EE needed a two-thirds majority to be approved, but it wasn't even able to receive a majority of yes votes, losing 54.32 percent-45.68 percent, according to semiofficial results released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Registrar- Recorder/County Clerk.


The measure would have imposed a parcel tax of 16 cents per square foot of building improvements on properties within the district.


The measure was opposed heavily by business groups, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which sued in an attempt to block the election, accusing the district of illegally doctoring the ballot language of the measure.


A hearing on that lawsuit had been set for Thursday, but was scrubbed given the defeat of the measure.


Garcetti said he would “leave it up to the analysts, the political professionals to analyze” what led to the proposal’s defeat. But he said many voters may be blind to the troubles in schools – unless they have children in them.


“Voters stepped up and voted not just once but twice to try to end homelessness in Los Angeles, because it’s something you can see every single day,” he said. “They voted for the largest measure in American history to build 15 rapid transit lines and create 700,000 middle class jobs because we’re stuck in traffic every day, all of us. But unless you’re a student in a school or a parent who picks your son or daughter up at a school, you might not see this quiet crisis, this burning that’s going on in Los Angeles in our schools.”


Garcetti said the LAUSD will make progress on its commitments to reduce class sizes and increase the ranks of nurses and counselors, at least initially, but without more funding, such progress will end in two years.


“The urgency of this moment calls on all of us, especially those who opposed this measure ... to step up and determine how they will own this issue, because this is the defining civil rights issue of our city and our time,” the mayor said.


Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles teachers’ union, said Measure EE proponents knew it would be an uphill climb, but it was worth the fight. He said he and other education proponents “are going to punch back” at opponents of the measure.


“We are not going to give up,” he said. “The people Los Angeles support public education. ... We will win this long-term fight. We’re just going to keep at it.”

Category: Education