City News Service

The Los Angeles Board of Education has approved a $7.8 billion budget that envisions the layoffs of hundreds of staff members but also provides the first salary hikes in nearly a decade, including 10 percent for teachers and administrators over the next 18 months.

The budget adopted Tuesday reflects an $850 million increase over last year. But adult education was hit hard, losing 261 teacher positions, along with 94 teachers in elementary and secondary schools.

School Superintendent Ramon Cortines expressed the hope that additional state funds might become available and allow the district to rehire many employees. He said if additional Adult Education funding materializes, the district would restore classes serving approximately 12,000 people currently on the waiting list.

Former school board member David Tokofsky, a consultant for the administrators union, accused the district of being shortsighted, noting that the layoffs included math teachers, a subject that needs teachers, the Los Angeles Times reported. He predicted that those instructors would ultimately be offered jobs again. In the meantime, he added, they’d be without health benefits for the summer and tempted to take positions with other school systems.

The spending plan reflects the infusion of an additional $170 million in what an LAUSD statement called Local Control Funding Formula new supplemental and concentration money to support programs for targeted students.

“The $170 million to further support targeted programs is an important investment and will help our students,” Cortines said.

“We will increase the Foster Youth Achievement Program, the A to G requirements, Zero Dropout Rate, the School Climate and Restorative Justice Program, extra counseling services, attendance and enrollment support for school registration, parent engagement, the dual language program, the Magnet Expansion Program, the athletics program and the arts plan.”

Cortines also surprised board members by announcing that he would retire from his position in six months.

“I commit to continue to work for the good of this district for the next six months and target the instructional technology issues that has been so bad for the last several years,” Cortines said Tuesday during a discussion on a new budget, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. “So many issues, so little time, but together we can make progress.”

The unexpected announcement was made several weeks after the school board unanimously voted to extend Cortines’ contract through the end of the upcoming school year. Cortines came out of retirement in October to replace former Superintendent John Deasy.

Cortines, who turns 83 in July, has twice before served as LAUSD’s superintendent. He also served as superintendent of schools in Pasadena, San Francisco, San Jose and as chancellor in New York City from 1993 to 1995.

Additionally, he previously worked as an adviser to former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley.