LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Despite vocal public calls for defunding, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday rejected a proposal that would have slashed 90% of the L.A. School Police Department’s budget by 2024.
The proposal by board member Monica Garcia called for the School Police budget to be reduced by 50% in the 2021-22 fiscal year, then 75% the next year and 90% the following year, with funds redirected to the “highest need schools in support of African-American students.”READ MORE: 'From Pasadena, With Love,' City Of Roses Honors Small Businesses
Some board members, however, said they were reluctant to take such a drastic action without an alternative plan in place to guarantee the safety of students in the nation’s second-largest school district.
“I would regret for the rest of my life if I left any student vulnerable, any student in danger,” board member Richard Vladovic said.
A big crowd descended on the LAUSD’s headquarters in the afternoon to argue for and against the funding of the district’s school force. The board heard 12 hours of public comment, with some opposing and some supporting the cut in funding.
The L.A. School Police Department is the largest independent law enforcement agency catering to a school district in the country. It responded to more than 100,000 calls last year, which included threats of mass shootings, robberies, sexual assaults and burglaries. They oversee 1,300 sites and are funded with about 1% of the district’s budget, or $70 million.
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But after the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests, and increasing calls to reroute police funding to mental health and social services, the district’s teachers union and Black Lives Matter activists are calling on the district to do follow suit. And they have support on the Board of Education — boardmember Monica Garcia has proposed cutting the school budget by 90% by 2024. It’s one of three proposals that will be up for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting.
Superintendent Austin Beutner has also signaled some support in that direction. Last week, he said the police force will be part of a district-wide budget review, and has called on the board to end the use of pepper spray and carotid holds in schools.
“I’m concerned with the overpolicing of our students. I’m concerned that police are funded and replacing our nurses, our counselors, our psychologists, our social workers and we know that student needs are not being met,” activist Davona Williams said.
But the school police officers are not standing by quietly. A large group of Los Angeles school police officers and their supporters camped out overnight to be first to get into the board’s meeting Tuesday morning.
“The district’s turning their back on us and leaving us all to hang by just dismantling our agency,” school police Officer Nestor Gonzalez said. “We should work collectively and come up with actual, tangible solutions and not just putting safety aside. Safety should be No. 1 for our kids.”MORE NEWS: Angels To Hire Phil Nevin As Third Base Coach
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