Galatzan’s Task Force meeting on LAUSD budget woes

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With the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) facing uncertain funds from state and the federal stimulus package, transportation cuts, and increasing class sizes, San Fernando Valley parents, teachers, and principals gathered June 27 at the West Valley Special Education Center in Van Nuys for a Valley Schools Task Force meeting in order to strategize for solutions.

According to Tamar Galatzan, LAUSD board member who represents San Fernando Valley schools and who organized the meeting, the gathering was meant to discuss with her constituents about LAUSD’s cuts to certain programs. She also designed the meeting to help her constituents lobby for education solutions from their national and state elected officials.

“I’ve found a lot more helpful is if you can come up with other ideas to solve the problem,” Galtzan said.

Tamar Galatzan speaks to parents at an early morning Saturday meeting.

Tamar Galatzan speaks to parents at an early morning Saturday meeting. Photo: Erika Oblea

Attendees at the morning meeting did just that. Sitting in a circle with Galatzan leading the discussion, those frustrated with LAUSD confronted each other and their district representative about possible solutions to the financial decisions that were made to alleviate the projected $143.3 million budget deficit for 2009-2010.

Among many of the cuts that were made for 2009-2010 that many felt needed to be solved included the increasing class sizes and the limited transportation means for students.

Galatzan admitted that only providing busing for students who live more than three miles away from school rather than the previous two mile requirement has affected student and parent schedules.

A more difficult issue she mentioned was the increased student to teacher ratio of 24:1. Galatzan recalled a time she visited a Millikan Middle School classroom and witnessed students having to get out of their seats in order to simply open and close the door.

Nobel Middle school parent Lori Yalem, also voiced her concern that the high student to teacher ratio not only affects her children’s comfort but also the quality of her children’s education.

“If they group just four more kids in a class, it makes a difference from having 25 minutes for reading to having 15 minutes for reading,” Yalem said. “That’s a lot.”

Some solutions Galatzan suggested was for the state to implement a parcel tax, money from which will go towards keeping class sizes smaller.

Parents also discussed the possibility of the state giving the school district more flexibility on how it manages the categorical grants it receives from the state. With flexibility, the parents hope that local school districts will not have to cut programs in order to meet the state’s requirements to receive funds.

“We’re trying to figure out a way the keep budget cuts from school sites,” said Suzanne Snowden whose children attend Nobel Middle School and Castlebay Lane Elementary School.

With this goal in mind, Yalam volunteered to set up an appointment with Congressman Brad Sherman who represents the San Fernando Valley to discuss such solutions with the representative.

Nevertheless, all those at the meeting realized that it was the students’ voices that would be the most important when persuading the government.

After holding a contest that asked students to create a one minute video that explained how budget cuts have affected their education, Galatzan said she plans to send the winning video entries to state officials.

“Maybe hearing the message from the kids directly – it will sink in,” she said.

Screened at the meeting, the grand prize winning video from El Camino Real High School seems to have made that message clear.

While the camera from the winning video slowly scans across an overcrowded classroom, these words gradually fill the screen: “It’s about growing class sizes…It’s about priorities. It’s about time.”

Erika  Oblea is a rising sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley where she is studying Political Science and Statistics. When she’s not cramming for exams at the library, she’s reporting on businesses in Berkeley for The Daily Californian. She is a graduate of Chaminade and has lived in the Valley ever since she  could remember –and could probably recite the exits off the 101 backwards and forwards.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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