LAUSD board hears arguments for and against cuts in police department

Activists supporting the Black Lives Matter movement took their arguments once again to the Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday, June 30, urging board members to “defund” the school district’s independent law enforcement agency.

This time, the proposal aimed to slash funding for the district’s police force by 50%. The board had not taken a vote on the matter as of about 3 p.m. Tuesday, after going into closed session about 2:30 p.m., following hours of public testimony on the police issue. .

Board members were deeply divided on a similar proposal last week that offered a variety of options that ranged from eliminating the department altogether to cutting funding by about 25%.

The discussion Tuesday centered around an amendment proposed by Board Member Monica Garcia to cut in half the Los Angeles School Police Department’s $70 million budget. The amendment was debated during a public hearing to pass the district’s $7.7 billion budget.

The proposal is the latest in a wave of such proposals facing community boards, school districts and law enforcement agencies, spurred by the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a Black man whose in-custody death at the hands of a white Minnesota police officer sparked protests across the state and the nation.

The budget vote on Tuesday would not be the final word on the district budget, however, as it still could face changes due to uncertainties in the state budget. The district plans to return on July 15, when the state is expected to offer another revised budget.

Lawmakers in Sacramento have struck a deal to stem cuts to K-12 education, but the coronavirus has created deep impacts to the budget.

Dozens of speakers largely supported the idea of cutting the police budget in half. Among them were students and parents who said they felt unsafe.

Channing Martinez, organizer for the Labor Community Strategy Center, said it was a historic moment.

“This is going to be remembered,” Martinez said. “We hope you make the correct decision today.”

Amara Abdullah, the 13-year-old daughter of Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah, spoke in favor of reducing the police presence on campus, which she said places undue pressure on students of color.

“There should never be an excuse for black youth to be criminalized in schools,” she said, “especially when it’s a school that’s supposed to be a safe space.”

Meanwhile, Maisha Washington, a Gardena resident and mother of a Black student, said she was thankful for the campus police who help keep her son safe.

“As a parent of a black son who lives this reality that everyone talks about I’d rather my son deal with school police than any other officers,” Washington said. “These officers are taking time to get to know these students.”

Several officers also defended the department. Detective Shrhonda Morris, said officers routinely treat kids respectfully.

“The lies that continue to be told about school officers random searching students are lies meant to pull on the heart strings of the public and designed to create outrage,” Morris said. “Who is going to protect those teachers?”

The union representing L.A. Unified teachers voted last week to support completely eliminating the police department.

Superintendent Austin Beutner, who recently recommended a ban on police use of pepper spray, pulled together in recent weeks a task force of former public defenders and public policy experts with an eye toward reforms.

As one of the largest independent school police departments in the nation, the LASPD employs 366 sworn officers and 95 non-sworn officers with a budget of roughly $70 million.

Related Articles

In addition to alleging traumatic student experiences with police, activists cite research such as the UCLA Million Dollar Hoods project that found Black youth represent 25% of all arrests despite making up less than 9% of the student body.

District officials expect to balance the budget in the 2020-21 school year by dipping into reserves to make up for roughly $291 million in unreimbursed costs related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The state has not finalized its budget so the board will reconvene in 45 days. Lawmakers in Sacramento recently struck a deal with Gov. Gavin Newsom to stem cuts through K-12 education.

In May, the district learned that it would receive $3.5 million less from the federal CARES Act appropriation, meant to address losses related to the coronavirus. Higher school opening costs and ongoing operations were expected to cost about $225 million.

Based on the latest revisions to the LAUSD budget, the books were balanced without cost of living increases and few impacts to the classroom. A total of 855 classified employees will be impacted, including 339 who face lay-offs or reassignments to lesser-paid positions.

Staff writer Ariella Plachta contributed to this report. 

Sign up for The Localist, our daily email newsletter with handpicked stories relevant to where you live. Subscribe here.

Tags: News, Minnesota, Education, Washington, La, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Sport, Soccer, Beverly Hills, Lausd, Black, Ucla, Gavin Newsom, Southern California, Morris, Martinez, District, Gardena, Austin Beutner, Top Stories LADN, Top Stories IVDB, Top Stories Breeze, Top Stories LBPT, Top Stories WDN, Top Stories SGVT, Labor Community Strategy Center, Monica Garcia, Top Stories PSN, Los Angeles School Police Department, Melina Abdullah, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Ariella Plachta, George Floyd, Amara Abdullah, Channing Martinez, Maisha Washington, Detective Shrhonda Morris


June 26, 2020 at 10:48 AM Teachers union calls for elimination of LAUSD police force
June 16, 2020 at 5:50 PM Hundreds of protesters march, urge cutting LAUSD school police department
June 15, 2020 at 2:19 PM LA Unified chief calls to end school police use of pepper spray and policy allowing chokeholds
June 9, 2020 at 9:14 PM Teachers union board calls to defund school police at LAUSD campuses, sparking debate