Editorial: District should reassess merits of basic aid

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Editorial Cartoon Dec. 16 jpegThe 2013 school year marks the fourth year since the district’s change to a basic-aid funding system from one that allowed permits to out-of-district students. Current seniors who had permits to attend one of the district’s middle schools a few years ago had to scramble to find a new home in Beverly Hills to avoid transferring to a different high school. The district stood by its new policy. Many firmly believed that the system would yield more funding for school programs and other needed accommodations. They believed such results justified the means.

However, the “ideal” funding system has, in practice, been struggling recently. Though the system may really produce more funding for students in the long term, Beverly has gone through cuts in budgets and programs in the last four years, while the district’s basic-aid endowment played only a small role in maintaining these programs. Even though California’s passing of Proposition 30 helped to avoid the anticipated $6.2 million budget cut, BHUSD still suffered a $3.5 million cut last year. The high-school Teachers on Special Assignment position, K-8 school librarians and K-8 school principals were at risk of being laid off, and special education employees stood to lose staffing hours. Fortunately, the Beverly Hills Education Foundation alleviated the district’s pain of losing a huge part of the budget through its donations and fundraisers.

Within the same school year as the state budget cuts, the Los Angeles County Office of Education cut one-third of all 23 participating Los Angeles County districts’ budget for the Regional Occupation Program (ROP). The budget was determined by the size of each district and the recorded student involvement through Average Daily Attendance. The majority of the funds were designed for use in maintaining ROP classes, paying teachers’ salaries, competition and registration fees, transportation and supplies. Due to our school’s ROP budget savings of $60,000 from previous years, our school only suffered a 4 percent reduction from the total budget, resulting in a $22,000 cut. The basic-aid funding system did not help in covering for these budget cuts, and we still suffered elimination of some ROP staffing positions this school year.

The adjustment of the district’s funding system also altered the school culturally, jeopardizing the diversity of the student body. The speculation that the lack of diversity among students undermined both academic and sports performances in recent years should be considered as a consequence of the district’s funding system. More importantly, it is essential for both the school and the district to reassess whether this change has produced more benefits than damages, and take measures to resolve accordingly.

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