FIRST PERSON-The longstanding endemic corruption at the dysfunctional and nearly bankrupt Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will not be cleaned up until the school district’s operational practices – both financial and academic -- are finally addressed, eliminated, or radically changed.
After the recent resounding defeat of the Proposition EE parcel tax, that needed 67% "Yes" votes to pass and only got 45% of the votes cast, LAUSD's Superintendent Beutner, Mayor Garcetti, and UTLA's Alex Caputo Pearl now propose to go to the State of California for the money they were unable to get from property owners in Los Angeles.
This could be a successful course of action, if -- a big if -- Superintendent Beutner et al are finally able to convince the California State legislature that agreeing to bail out LAUSD is not just throwing more good money after bad, a practice that’s been done for decades.
Some of the following points Superintendent Beutner and Co. could make to the State might succeed, but only if they have the teeth to fundamentally reorganize LAUSD’s administration, academic goals and financial practices to accomplish this difficult task. Entrenched interests will be there to fight them every step of the way:
The number one reality that stands the best chance of getting the State Legislature to give LAUSD more money is that it presently costs "an average of $407.58 per person per day and $148,767 per person per year" to incarcerate a juvenile. Educating these predominantly minority students in LAUSD (Blacks have a 14-times greater, and Latinos have a 7.5 times greater chance of being incarcerated than Whites) could be accomplished for a small fraction of this amount. Bottom line: educated people with gainful employment, for the most part, do not wind up in jail.
But up until now, LAUSD has continued to socially promote students grade after grade without their having mastery of basic grade-level academic standards. This ultimately leads to the very act of education being a humiliating experience for these students. Think about being put in an Algebra class without knowing your times tables or into a high school Government class with only a 3rd grade reading ability.
Ultimately, these students drop out of school, but not before disrupting the academically inappropriate classes they’ve been placed in, where they assure that other students who want an education can’t be educated. Sadly, this is because the teachers are too busy dealing with behavior issues and constant disruption. And the schools’ administrations do nothing to help, because their sole concern is the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) money collected by LAUSD for just for mere attendance, whether or not the students are being educated at appropriate levels.
Predictably, these avoidable negative behaviors have led to chronic truancy. In 2018, 75,000 students were not in class on a regular basis during 10% of the year. LAUSD admitted that this was 9% of the total LAUSD student body, but it was actually independently calculated at 13.7%. This caused LAUSD to lose $503 million or $3 million more than it would have gotten if Proposition EE had passed.
This situation causes 50% of LAUSD teachers to quit within five years of being hired, triggering the expensive process of having to replace them.
And if the total space offered by all colleges and universities in this country represents only 30% of the total number of high school graduates, why has LAUSD systematically closed down its shop classes that would offer a viable alternative for some students to make themselves employable instead of dropping out?
Up until now, with Proposition EE and before, there has been no systematic and independent cause and effect analysis of all the factors that lead to LAUSD’s unabated failure both as an educational entity and a financially solvent business. If there were to be such an analysis, the district wouldn't continue to ignore the unavoidable conclusion that LAUSD as presently constituted is designed to fail. This is because it puts vendor and administrative interests above what should be its primary function: educating all students to their potential.
And where is it written that six-figure salaries can only be earned by administrators, not teachers? What if the top of the salary scale at LAUSD was attainable by senior, high-tenured teachers, instead of exclusively by administrators? Do you really believe that an administrator's job is more difficult than that of an excellent teacher?
And finally, another longstanding unquestioned structural defect in LAUSD has been that its administration has been run by mostly ex-teachers who’ve escaped the classroom, but do not have the business skills needed to run one of the largest business entities in California. Austin Beutner, with a personal fortune of $7.4 billion, has the business experience that no other LAUSD Superintendent has ever had to finally allow LAUSD and its teachers and students to live up to their potential. He can help create a nurturing educational environment that is no longer financially and morally bankrupt. Alas, LAUSD still avoids an independent audit of both its academic and business practices. Until they allow a truly independent audit, the State Legislature should not give them a penny.
Give me a call, if you'd like some help.
(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles, observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second- generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.