School Police Budget Cut Is Back On The LAUSD Board Agenda After Months Of Delays
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A 35% funding cut to the LAUSD police budget was approved by the school board in a 4-3 vote last summer in the wake of a racial justice movement, but the details -- like exactly how to reduce spending and redistribute the money -- have taken a while to iron out.
Critics of the budget reduction, including some board members, accused proponents of too quickly bending to public opinion, without considering long-term ramifications, while activists decried administrators for leaving them out of negotiations. Stakeholders on all sides have given public comment throughout the process, but the board itself has only discussed the cut publicly a handful of times.
In the weeks after the motion was passed at the end of a 13-hour meeting on June 30, Superintendent Austin Beutner organized a task force of former school administrators, lawyers and public policy experts to work through those questions. To the dismay of some community groups, the team did not include any current students.
So in December, when Beutner released a proposal on how to cut the police budget, activist groups pushed back, calling for more community input. A vote was delayed by another two months, while the district and stakeholders negotiated.
During Tuesday's meeting, Beutner is expected to unveil a slightly modified proposal.
Isaac Bryan, Executive Director of the UCLA Black Policy Project and a member of the task force, says this plan would replace roving school police officers with community-centered advocates who would mediate incidents with students. In emergencies, school police could still respond on campus, but wouldn't be stationed there permanently, Bryan says.
"There's a lot of fear from some school administrators that LAPD ... won't be responsive if there ever is truly an emergency," Bryan said.
Bryan believes relationships with law enforcement and security can be established, but in the interim, advocates will mediate with students according to a "model centered in development," not in a "punitive system."
According to an update from the task force, $15 million spent on patrolling campuses could be cut from the school police budget.
The total $25 million cut -- however it breaks down -- will go towards funding those community advocates, Bryan said. And based on input from community groups, some of the funding is also supposed to go towards supporting LAUSD schools with the greatest number of Black students enrolled.
"The community is often boxed out of decision-making processes in giant institutions like this," Bryan said. "I've tried to be a voice from the task force to be inclusive to bring more folks to the table."
Still, Joseph Williams, Director of Operations and Campaigns with the student advocacy group Students Deserve, says LAUSD and his organization aren't on the same page yet.
"We weren't able to get to a 100% agreement with the folks we were meeting with in the district," Williams said.
A coalition of 19 community groups and unions, including Students Deserve, Black Lives Matter L.A., Community Coalition and United Teachers Los Angeles drafted a separate proposal, with a list of key demands:
- Schools shouldn't be allowed to opt-in to having school police stationed on campuses
- All of the $25 million should be spent on schools with the highest Black student enrollment
- The funding should be spent in part on hiring social workers, safety coaches, counselors and restorative justice coordinators
- Money should be reinvested in professional development focused on school climate reform, culturally affirming education and Black-centered courses
- LAUSD should form a School Climate and Black Student Achievement Steering Committee
"We're asking the board to adopt our proposal regardless of what is presented by the superintendent," Williams said.
Reconciling differences between Beutner's proposal and community groups will likely come down to the board. Members Jackie Goldberg, Nick Melvoin, Monica Garcia and Kelly Gonez approved the initial funding cut at the June 30 meeting. Williams from Students Deserve is hopeful those members will support their amendments.
Board Members Scott Schmerelson and George McKenna voted against the initial funding cut. During a board meeting in January, McKenna indicated he's still against the idea of removing school police officers from campuses.
"How do you build relationships with children walking around on the outside of the school?" McKenna asked. "They're our employees, they're our family, they're our colleagues, they're our protectors."