THE BLOG
03/11/2011 03:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Put Our Children First This June

Public education in Los Angeles is hanging in the balance, and our leaders in Sacramento will decide on which bank it lands.

To one side lies the tremendous promise of our students -- accelerating student achievement, reform-driven innovation, a culture of accountability, and classrooms equipped to prepare all our kids for college and career. On the other lies the threat of a $408 million budget deficit -- more than 5,000 teacher layoff notices, counselor ratios of 1,000 to 1, eviscerated support services, and overflowing classrooms housing too many kids but preparing far too few.

Over 670,000 K-12 students in Los Angeles are dangling over that precipice. We write today because our students need their state representatives to give you, the voter, an opportunity to support their success.

If state legislators agree, in June you would have the chance to vote to extend temporary tax increases that would otherwise expire. The school district's budget gap could be reduced by $183 million. The difference equates to thousands of teacher jobs; classes in the elementary grades of 24 students instead of 29; and hundreds more counselors to help prepare our kids for their futures.

After three years of state budget cuts, totaling $1.5 billion already carved from our public schools' budgets, core classroom services are the only thing left to cut.

You may be asking yourself, as you read this: why should state legislators -- or Los Angeles voters for that matter -- continue to invest in public education? The question is fair, and the answer is this: in those same three lean years, as this school district weathered the worst financial crisis in recent memory, our schools were renewed by the fresh thinking and bold leadership of our courageous Superintendent, Ramon Cortines, and a Board of Education committed to ending business as usual.

The school district has eliminated waste, dramatically downsized administrative offices, and put thousands of out-of-classroom employees back in the classroom teaching kids. We have invited teams of teachers, universities and charter schools to submit their best plans for turning around our lowest performing schools and for opening our newest schools. We have broken many of our vast overcrowded campuses into smaller, personalized schools and signed groundbreaking reformed teacher contracts. We have cut red tape, empowered school sites, and unleashed a new culture of innovation and accountability.

Now, as Superintendent Cortines prepares to hand the reins to a new, incoming superintendent, our leadership team remains united in our commitment to accelerating these reforms and dramatically lifting student achievement.

This is not the complacent, bureaucratic LAUSD of old, and the results are already starting to show. Test scores are up. So are graduation rates. Many middle class families are opting back in to public education. This school district have never been so cash-starved. At the same time, this school district has never had so much new life.

We have a winning team, and we invite you to join it. Choose to support a school district that, as so many independent commentators have stated, is in the midst of a rebirth. Choose to help land public education safely on the side of student achievement, where there are enough teachers in our classrooms, enough counselors to prepare kids for college, and the chance for every child to reach graduation.

Knock on your legislator's door and let him or her know you want to invest in the students of Los Angeles.