The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board of education adopted a $7.5 billion 2006-2007 provisional budget Thursday, June 29th, that targets academics, reducing the dropout rate, increasing student safety, and parent involvement.

“The budget approved today spotlights the fact that this district is committed to ongoing reform both expanding our most effective programs and devoting more money to exciting new initiatives,” said board president Marlene Canter.

“This budget also reflects the board’s priorities: reducing the achievement gap, increasing parent involvement, improving student safety and carrying our elementary school gains into our secondary schools,” Canter said.

The district’s budget focus in the last several years has resulted in increased test scores, reduces overcrowding, and more qualified teachers, and this year’s budget does much of the same, district officials claim.

“I am committed to strengthening academics at LAUSD schools and this budget continues to build on the momentum that has improved student achievement over the last six years,” said district superintendent Roy Romer.

“We know that when we invest more in our middle and high schools, our students are better prepared for college and careers,” he said.

The district is providing $5.6 billion, or 75 percent of the operating budget, to increase academic achievement and eliminate the achievement gap.

The district is spending 92 percent of its budget on schools and classrooms, with the remaining eight percent to be spent on services that support schools such as computer services, payroll and curriculum development.

Earmarked are $36 million in one-time funds for what are described as “top-to-bottom improvements” at 17 of the district’s neediest high schools.

This includes $26 million in general funds and $10 million in bond funds for improved science labs, modernization of libraries, and other capital improvements that will help improve academic performance at priority schools.

The $36 million high schools initiative is part of an overall $54.6 million augmentation in the provisional budget that targets the dropout rate.

Funds will be used to hire dropout prevention counselors at 80 middle and high schools, reduce class size in eighth and ninth grade, transform campuses into small learning communities and enhance ongoing dropout prevention efforts.

The funding builds on the district’s continuing initiatives that include requiring all students to take classes that meet college entrance requirements known as A-G courses and increasing the graduation rate with the Diploma Project.

More than $649 million is targeted to provide safe and modern schools for students.

This includes funding for school police and maintenance, and more than $7 million to extend hours for campus aides to provide additional supervision during the entire school day.

More than $46 million is provided to strengthen parent and community involvement. This includes increases for the Parent Collaborative, a district-wide parent advisory group.

The 2006-2007 fiscal year budget also includes funding to provide standards-based instruction for all students, expand professional development for teachers and expand the arts program to more schools.

Incentives to recruit and retain qualified math, science and special education teachers at low-achieving schools are also included in the provisional budget.

The board of education is scheduled to adopt the final budget in August.