California School Faces Budget Cuts Because It Has Too Many White Students

Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, Calif. / Facebook

Nine California schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District are facing budget cuts because they have too many white students enrolled.

Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood is one of the schools expected to face budget cuts because the percentage of non-white students has fallen below 70 percent, the Los Angeles Daily News reported Monday. The cuts in funding could result in five teachers and one counselor being let go from the school, as well as the average class size increasing from 35 to 39 students.

The funding guideline comes from a 1978 Los Angeles Superior Court-ordered integration program, under which schools with a large minority student population receive additional funds. The funding model requires a school's white-student population to be below 30 percent in order to receive the increase in funds.

For the past two years, the percentage of minority students at Walter Reed Middle School has fallen below 70 percent, according to a letter sent out to parents on March 22. The district has continued to give the school the additional funds, but in the coming school year, that will no longer be the case. The district will not categorize the school as being a predominantly minority one in the fall.

Sandra Gephart Fontana, the instructional director for Local District East, has said the school district is looking to change the funding for Walter Reed to help alleviate some of the budget cuts. The funding would be based off a per pupil model. Fontana said the change might save the five teaching positions and the one counselor post.

"It will provide additional resources to the school and should ameliorate the loss," Fontana said. "It's not exactly sure how many positions will be preserved by that, but it does provide additional resources."

The change could also avert the increase in class sizes.

There are eight other schools that are at risk of budget cuts due to their demographic changes. According to the Daily News, they are: 3rd Street Elementary (Hancock Park), Broadway Elementary (Venice), Dahlia Heights Elementary (Eagle Rock), Knollwood Preparatory Academy Elementary (Granada Hills), Plainview Academic Charter Academy (Tujunga), Stonehurst Avenue Elementary (Sun Valley), Emerson Community Charter (Westwood), and Grant High (Valley Glen).

Not all parents are convinced that the data on Walter Reed's demographic change is accurate, however.

Carol Kiernan Convey, coordinator for the parent-teacher-student group Friends of Reed, believes the data is wrong. Convey claims she has heard from several mixed-ethnicity families that they identify as white on district documents.

"The feeling is you must be Caucasian or white to get the most advantages," Convey said of the responses from these families. "We're going to have to work harder to get people to fill out the forms correctly … because they need to know that helps us."

Veronica Gonzalez, whose daughter attends Walter Reed Middle School, described how people are identifying as white because they are confused.

"They're assuming that because you're here in the United States, you put ‘white,'" Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez also blamed the 2016 election, saying the Hispanic community is "fearful" since November so they are identifying as white on government documents.