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LA Unified: Lack of Independent Oversight

LA  WATCHDOG--The Los Angeles Unified School District has voted to establish an Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee “to provide increased accountability and ensure that funds from Measure EE [the District’s proposed $500 million parcel tax], if approved, are used as approved by the voters.”.  

But this politically appointed Oversight Committee will do very little to improve the transparency and accountability of LAUSD’s operations and finances.  Rather, it is just another smoke and mirrors campaign promise by the political establishment who are looking to pick our pockets, again. 

If Measure EE is approved by two-thirds of the voters, the politically appointed Oversight Committee will be charged with monitoring the use of the $500 million of new revenues.  But this money represents less than 6% of total revenue, hardly enough to get an accurate picture of LAUSD’s operations and finances. 

And as we all know, cash is fungible, allowing new money from the $500 million parcel tax to fund existing projects, freeing up the previously allocated money to be spent without oversight.  

LA Unified has indicated that the new money will be used to lower class sizes; retain and attract quality teachers and support staff, including librarians, nurses, and librarians; maintain its facilities; provide necessary administrative services; and support disadvantaged students.  

But this is nothing but campaign promises as the new money will go to fund the LAUSD’s Structural Deficit and its contributions to its two underfunded retirement plans.  And according to the web site of United Teachers Los Angeles, the new cash will also pay for the recent salary increases for the teachers.   

The net result is that very little of the $500 million parcel tax will make it to the classroom. 

Some have suggested that the Office of the Inspector General provide additional oversight.  But the IG is charged with auditing and investigating the operations of the District for waste and fraud, not its overall operations and finances. Furthermore, this office is in turmoil as top management has been replaced because of allegations of a hostile work environment, sexual harassment, and racial discrimination.   

The political establishment is putting a full court press on the voters, urging us to approve Measure EE, the $500 million parcel tax.  But rather than buy into their campaign promises and misleading information, we should reject Measure EE.  

Rather, we should demand that Mayor Garcetti and his operatives cease threatening opponents of Measure EE with the loss of City business and that the District stop using our money to fund its political campaign to “educate” us about the merits of the parcel tax.  

Alternatively, LA Unified should look to the State for additional funding, “right size” its bloated bureaucracy, lease or sell its many surplus properties, reform its pension and other retirement plans, establish an independent oversight committee to monitor the District’s operations and finances, and develop a real strategic plan that benefits the students of both the public and charter schools, all of which were recommended in 2015 by Ramon Cortines and the Independent Financial Review Panel.  

Vote NO on Measure EE, the $500 million parcel tax. 

 (Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw