With the specter of a $350 million funding shortfall looming, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), Board of Education, Tuesday passed a provisional budget that slices $80 million from the central office (which represents 18 percent of the entire budget); requires most employees to take furlough days; defers the purchase of textbooks, and delays program improvements like future class-size reduction.

At the same time, the approved budget preserves current class size reductions; avoids most teacher jobs losses; provides small learning communities with the same level of resources as in prior years; and retains funding for the district’s police department.

But A.J. Duffy, president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, is skeptical about the promises not to cut teachers and increase class size and to generally keep cuts away from classroom and school sites.

“We’re hearing a lot of pretty words about cuts in bureaucracy,” said Duffy after Tuesday’s meeting where board members approved the budget on a 6-0-1 vote (Marguerite LaMotte abstained). “I don’t believe a thing the district tells me until I see it for real. They keep talking, but we’ve seen a 129 percent increase in administrative and supervisory personnel in classified (category) in the last couple of years, and a rise in administrative (staff) from last year to this by 16 percent. This is all at a time when the student population is going down. As far as I’m concerned they lie, they lie, they lie.”

In addition to the approved budget cuts, the school district intends to give more fiscal control to the local district offices, coupled with an increased accountability for budgeting wisely and leveraging resources to boost academic achievement.

“These budget cuts are agonizing,” said LAUSD Superintended David L. Brewer III. “We were able to minimize the impact on classroom programs and preserve teachers’ jobs for the upcoming school year.”

Brewer added that the district will continue to work with the governor and the state legislature to seek new revenue for future district programs.