School officials this week unanimously approved the Long Beach Unified School District’s 2020-21 budget, which includes a cut of $71.8 million, a 10% decrease in the nearly $1 billion budget due to reductions in state funding following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district is saving money by not hiring to fill some vacant positions and by re-organizing at the executive staff level, where they’ve cut more than a million dollars. But most of the cuts are being offset by drawing money from the district’s financial reserves, which sat at more than $200 million.

“We are entering 2021 with a very healthy reserve level that’s giving us extra time for how to plan for these ongoing cuts,” said Yumi Takahashi, the district’s Chief Business and Financial Officer.

That’s good news for the 10,000 employees of the LBUSD—the district is the city’s largest employer—who won’t have to worry about widespread layoffs until at least the 2021-22 school year.

The Board of Education heard from numerous community members this week calling on the district to increase spending on Black students and anti-racist policies after a series of protests calling for police reform after the death of George Floyd.

Several letters requested a Black Lives Matter curriculum to be adopted for teaching American history, while many others requested the district hire more Black teachers, and end its contract with the Long Beach Police Department.

Boardmember Felton Williams, who previously spoke out about his brother’s death while in police custody, touted the district’s progress in closing the achievement gap and its record of hiring diverse teachers. He also acknowledged that the district can improve and expressed optimism that it would do so.

“Thank you for your very substantive thoughts about what our district should be doing, we appreciate it,” he said. “We have a lot more to do, but Long Beach is way ahead of the game. Districts like Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, they all look to Long Beach as an innovator, and that’s for a reason.”

Boardmembers Juan Benitez and Megan Kerr requested that the district draw up a formal schedule of digital or in-person meetings for the community to continue to have input over how money is spent.

LBUSD superintendent Chris Steinhauser also floated the idea of an additional board meeting between now and the start of the school to allow more community input.

Currently the Board is not scheduled to meet again until July 20.

Wilson High name change

Several community members also addressed calls to change the name of Wilson High School, named after former President Woodrow Wilson, who supported racial segregation and other racist policies.

The controversy drew more than 100 letters to the Board of Education, which is not formally considering any change to the name of the school.