Faced with cuts, L.A. may shorten school year

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - One reason the U.S. economic recovery is so slow is because of layoffs among government employees. Our research department found that since 2009, more than 700,000 have lost their jobs.

One of the best places to see the pinch is in the public schools of Los Angeles. This year the Los Angeles Unified School District laid off more than 4,000 employees. Classrooms are so packed some students don't have desks. Superintendent John Deasy was forced to eliminate half of his administrative staff because he cannot lose more teachers, and he described the financial challenges as "enormous."

"We have an overall budget in the last three years that's seen $2.1 billion in reductions. We don't actually run the programs we used to," Deasy said. "We ran $49 million worth of summer school. This summer it will be just under $1 million."

Last month, the L.A. teacher's union agreed to 10 unpaid furlough days to save 4,000 jobs. The school year will be five days shorter; 18 days have now been cut from the school calendar in just four years.

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Lori Adams teaches high school math. She says with fewer teachers, classrooms that had 20 students now have 31.

"When you have 10 more kids in the classroom, that's a lot more questions to answer. It's just hard to get to all their individual needs," Adams said.

California voters face a choice in November to plug the state's $16 billion deficit. They either approve a half-cent sales tax increase and income tax hike on those making more than $250,000, or face $5.4 billion in automatic cuts in education funding.

"We have a state which I believe has fundamentally turned its back on funding public education, has systematically de-funded public education in the last 2 decades," Deasy said.

If those new taxes are not approved, this fall billions more are cut from Los Angeles schools. The district can opt to shrink the school year by another 3 weeks. That would leave L.A. with the shortest school year in the country and one of the shortest in the entire industrialized world.