Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Ramon Cortines suggested that he might have stepped down if the Board of Education did not approve the financial blueprint that he laid out to bring the district back to the brink of solvency at its board meeting Tuesday, March 31st.

LAUSD spokeswoman Lydia Ramos confirmed that Cortines told local television outlets hours before the meeting that resigning was a possibility if the board did not vote in favor of his budget plan.

ìHe believes that the vote today is a vote on the budget and on his leadership,î Ramos told The Argonaut the day of the school board meeting.

The board passed the superintendentís budget reduction strategy plan and board member Marguite LaMotte Poindexter made a motion to postpone an agenda item that called for action on staffing reductions throughout the school district.

LAUSD faces a $718 million shortfall and district leaders are grappling with a variety of methods to reduce the deficit.

Under Cortinesí proposal, 1,940 elementary school teachers would be laid off, along with 1,541 secondary school teachers, 90 special education teachers and 115 elementary and secondary administrators. One hundred and seventy-seven school counselors and 217 instructional specialists would be eliminated.

Teachers are not the only LAUSD employees that will feel the sting of the budget whip. The districtís central office, under Cortinesí recommendation, would have 1,028 positions eliminated and the local school districts would lose 212.

ìAdults in this building will suffer; over 1,000 of them,î the superintendent told the board, referring to the district headquartersí personnel. ìPeople in the local districts will suffer. Indeed, schools will suffer.î

Ramos said that Cortines hopes to transition to allowing local schools to have a larger say in how to manage their budgets.

ìThe superintendent is trying to handle the budget deficit as well as decentralize the decisions for how schools can manage their own budgets,î she said.

Ramos said that schools could be allowed to buy back teacher positions that they have lost by using Title I discretionary funds, under Cortinesí proposal.

Bill Ring, whose son recently graduated from Venice High School, likes the idea of having more local control, but is wary that some schools may not be equipped to make the best decisions for their students.

ìIíve been around long enough to know that in many schools in LAUSD, the leadership skills and the capacity to match resources with student needs do not exist,î asserted Ring, the public relations officer for the Local District Three Parent Community Advisory Council.

Local District Three includes Playa del Rey, Venice, Mar Vista, Del Rey and Westchester.

Ramos noted that not all schools would be able to make creative use of the discretionary money.

ìThey can use the Title I funds assuming that they have enough Title I qualifications,î Ramos pointed out.

Title I is a federal statute which funds primary and secondary education. The funds are authorized for professional development, resources to support educational programs, and parental involvement promotion.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa applauded the decision to delay the vote on staffing levels.

ìI strongly support the Board of Educationís decision to go back to the negotiating table before moving forward with draconian cuts which would increase class sizes and lay off teachers,î Villaraigosa said in a statement. ìAnd I encourage the representatives of the districtís teachers and employees to join them in seeking smarter solutions.

ìLaying off classroom teachers should be a last resort, and the board was right to delay those layoffs until all other remedies can be explored,î said the mayor. ìThe challenge we face is great, but we can save jobs and keep class sizes small if management and employees are willing to work together and share in the required sacrifice.î

Dr. Rex Patton, principal at Coeur díAlene Avenue Elementary School, thinks that it would not have been a good idea for Cortines to step down with LAUSD in the midst of a financial crisis.

ìI think we need his leadership right now,î Patton said.

If Cortines, who has been the superintendent for less than six months, had decided to resign, he would have been required to give 30 days notice.

The board will consider the proposed staffing cuts later this month.

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