University High School Charter

The Battle of the Budget: Where is the money going?

With an $8 million budget, but no toilet paper in the bathrooms, broken air-conditioning systems and a lack of computers in the classrooms, students are beginning to wonder where all this money is going at University High School.

“The conditions of the bathrooms have improved, however, they’re still not to the standards of how a restroom should be,” University High School senior Andrew Alatorre said.

Bathroom maintenance has long been an issue at University High. Many stalls are broken, inaccessible or don’t have toilet paper. This problem stems from not having enough money in the budget to allocate to the custodial staff.

When Principal Eric Davidson first began as an administrator at the school eight years ago, there were 12 custodians. The LAUSD budget crisis reduced the custodial staff to eight in 2008. Currently, only six custodians remain at University High — half of what the remaining custodial staff said is needed to keep the campus clean and pristine.

In addition, teachers and students in classrooms with dysfunctional A/C systems have had to face record-high temperatures into the 90s and low 100-degree levels for the past few months. Students have protested that overheated classrooms inhibit learning and could possibly endanger the health and safety of students and teachers.

Mona Farzan, a senior, says, “It is very important towards our education for us to be in the right environmental conditions or it impairs our ability to learn.”

Class sizes have also been a major concern for not only students, but teachers as well. The maximum number of students that can be enrolled in any generic academic class is 45, though the capacity remains at 35 for magnet classes. According to data released from LAUSD, in 2011 the ratio of students to teachers moved from 20-to-1 to 26-to-1. In less than four years, the number of students in each class has increased by 19.

Ariana Silva, a University High School chemistry teacher whose largest academic class contains 44 students, states, “I can’t get to all of those students, nor is it safe.”

Students also feel that large classes restrict their ability to learn and communicate with the teacher.

“I feel like there are so many people in my classes that none of us get the chance to experience one-on-one time with the teacher,” senior Nathalye Valdez said.

Overcrowded classes contribute to the scarcity of resources. University High’s Digital Media Magnet is fortunate to have laptop carts to share amongst classrooms, but the 20 laptops found in each cart are barely enough for students to share if the class enrollment is at 35 or greater. This is problematic for taking individual assessments on Juno. Meanwhile, many non-Magnet teachers continue to lack quick and easy access to laptops or iPads and while the library is open, not all the computers work.

So what does the administration spend its money on if not for more technology, smaller class sizes, and keeping the campus clean?

85% of the money received from LAUSD in the form of general funds, or approximately $6.8 million, is used to pay teacher’s salaries and benefits, along with personnel and utility costs.

Following salaries and utilities, the athletics program requires a large portion of University High’s overall budget, estimated to between $80,000 and $100,000 a year. LAUSD had left University High with the responsibility of paying for all sports-related costs, causing the school to go bankrupt. Recently, the district has put into place new policies related to how the school funds certain programs on campus. They have taken on the responsibility of sharing the costs of the school’s CIF dues and have made contracts to repair the football equipment. The district will also reimburse the school for all of the game officials that totaled to approximately $50,000 in 2014.

Although many of the basic necessities on campus aren’t quite being fulfilled to adequate standards, the administration is trying to eliminate major problems.

Due to multiple LAUSD schools having damaged A/C systems during the hottest weeks of the year, the district began fixing the elementary schools first and then made their way up to high schools. In response to this long delay for help from LAUSD, the school provided fans to teachers with broken A/C systems and moved some classes to other teachers’ rooms during a free period.

Leslie Coleman, a Spanish teacher who experienced a malfunctioning air conditioner in her classroom, says, “I think that the administration acted as quickly and efficiently as they could, given the circumstances.”

Additionally, University High has acquired a new sports field and a brand new media center funded by LAUSD and grants from the state. The media center provides students with a platform for video and sound editing. In the midst of being built-in room 127, the new media center plans to be completed by mid-October. It will be open to all students, but will primarily be used for a digital media class, instructed by Art Shane, a performing arts teacher. Meanwhile, the new field that is now operative will allow the school to net around $1,000 profit for each home football game this year.

While University High did not have to pay money out of pocket for the school’s newest improvements, the question remains as to whether the school will have the funds to maintain these facilities.