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Los Angeles Unified School District

District Partner 2002-2003, 2007, 2017-2019

Recently, ERS partnered with LAUSD and an independent advisory taskforce to conduct a detailed analysis of resource allocation across the district, with a special emphasis on distribution of funding; teacher compensation, strategic retention and professional learning; and overall equity of resources.  The analysis presented a series of options to mitigate LAUSD’s budget deficit while also reallocating resources in ways designed to improve teaching and learning.

"Over the years, I have worked with many recognized experts in the field of education, but without question, I'd rank ERS at the top."
-Jean Brown, former Superintendent, Local District 1,
Los Angeles Unified School District

District Facts

As the second largest school district in the country, LAUSD faces both great challenges and great opportunities. The school system serves about 580,000 students - 84% of whom qualify for free and reduced price lunch - and employs about 26,000 teachers. Like all large urban districts, LAUSD is constantly striving to improve student achievement: in 2016-2017 only 40% of students met or exceeded state standards in English Language Arts and 30% did so in math.

Also like many large urban districts, LAUSD faces an uncertain financial future. The growth of charter schools, declining student population, rising benefits costs, a slowdown in state funding growth, and increased pension liabilities combine to sharply constrain LAUSD’s finances. Leaders must figure out how to optimize their limited resources to ensure every student is prepared for tomorrow.

Work Focus


  • District Turnaround Strategy: Assess the successes and challenges of LAUSD's current district-wide turnaround strategy; compile research and case studies on successful turn-around efforts within LAUSD and other districts; outline short-term and long-term needs to sustain improvement.
  • School Leader Development and Support: Identify current barriers to school leadership success, including principal mobility, career advancement, and leadership development; propose skills and supports that school leaders need to succeed and recommend effective school leadership team models, roles, and responsibilities; outline investments needed to develop a system-wide school leaership development program.


  • Resource Mapping: Analyzed resource allocation across the district, with a special emphasis on distribution of funding; teacher compensation, strategic retention, and professional learning; and overall equity of resources. Identified opportunities for the district to eliminate its budget deficit and to re-allocate resources to increase investment in several strategic priorities.
  • Targeted Analysis of Student Absenteeism: Analyzed attendance and absence patterns in LAUSD schools, assessed current attendance improvement efforts, reviewed best practices in comparable districts, and presented recommendations that led to meaningful attendance gains.


  • Resource Mapping: Created a resource map to help LAUSD identify and prioritize reallocation opportunities and to examine changes in teacher compensation and central spending over time


  • Student-Based Budgeting: Advised on creating a student-based budgeting formula (also known as Weighted Student Funding)

  • School-Based Resource-Use Support: Gave principals tools to examine their own budgets and resource use and to support the district’s efforts to improve middle school teaching and learning

Findings and Outcomes



  • School Leadership Development and Support: District leadership has incorporated several ERS recommendations into its leadership development training model, including increased emphasis on strategic resource planning and allocation and creation of a principal residency model.  Support for existing principals now includes more differentiation depending on principal experience and individual growth needs.

2017- 2018

  • Targeted Student Absenteeism Analysis: The LAUSD School Board largely agreed with the recommendations compiled by ERS and submitted to them by the LA Unified Advisory Task Force. The district has piloted several new approaches, including personalized direct mail to parents, neighborhood canvassing and phone banks, and cash incentives to schools. These efforts have yielded a significant increase in attendance and the most successful programs will be scaled up.

Reports and News Articles


  • Funding and School Design: On behalf of LAUSD and the Los Angeles Teachers Union, ERS conducted an in-depth analysis of the LAUSD budget to determine investment at the central and local administration level, as well as the school and student level. Findings from the analysis were published in the comprehensive report, Strategic Review of FY06 District & School Level Resources. In response to the report, the LA Board of Education convened a first-ever LAUSD Board/Los Angeles Teachers Union Retreat to discuss the analysis and report. They reached consensus on key compensation and central office spending findings and have taken the following steps to implement the recommendations:
    • Creation of an Innovation Unit to develop and implement changes recommended in the report, such as increased resource flexibility and high school funding.
    • A "summit" of experts to review the efficacy of current English-Learner programs and service delivery.
    • Exploration of weighted student funding system to allocate resources to schools.
    • Exploration of an extension of the school day that would give sufficient time for common planning and allow for block scheduling at the middle and secondary levels.


  • School Design: ERS developed the following products and services that built the capacity of 1,700 LAUSD principals to strategically manage resources:
    • Designed a training program with trainers, coaches, and materials for principals and assistant principals at the elementary and secondary school level.
    • Produced three case studies that describe the budget and organization of a typical LAUSD school to engage principals in group discussion and problem solving.
    • Developed software tools for use by principals-in-training to evaluate their own school budgets according to principles of effective resource organization.

  • Resource Map: ERS presented the district with a comprehensive report on school budgets, course schedules, organization, and use of time in every LAUSD middle school. The findings led to new designs for middle school schedules that reduced teacher load dramatically and increased time in literacy.



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