Wed, Jun

New School Parcel Tax: Rewarding Mismanagement at LAUSD

FIRST PERSON-Why would any Los Angeles property taxpayer in their right mind vote on June 4 this year to pay an average increase of $450 on their property tax bill to subsidize a still purposefully mismanaged LAUSD that has remained on the verge of bankruptcy for years? 

This is an LAUSD that has steadfastly refused to submit to an independent audit of -- dare I say -- openly fraudulent financial practices and expenditures. Would you be able to ask for a bank loan or a mortgage without submitting to an independent audit of your finances? So why has LAUSD been allowed to run amok for generations without any external check on its fraud and mismanagement? 

Add to this the fact that 65 years after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision established the principle that, "separate but equal...is inherently unequal," LAUSD remains de facto segregated with a 90% Latino and Black population and less than 10% White and Asian. So now White property owners who already have burdensome property tax bills are supposed to vote to increase their own taxes for a public education system at LAUSD that they have not and will not use? And don't forget that this proposed property tax for a public education system they don't use would be added to the $20-30 thousand a year they already pay to a private or parochial school to keep their kids away from bad LAUSD public non-education. 

In theory, the only reason why LAUSD, the second largest school district in the country exists as a single entity is what is called the economics of scale, in which LAUSD should get the best price for the goods and services it buys, due to its size. LAUSD has and continues to pay the highest prices for these goods and services as witnessed by documented conflicts of interest and overcharging in the hundreds of millions on the iPad contract under John Deasy as well as the fiasco at the Belmont Learning Center and the scandal at the RFK Learning Center on the old Ambassador Hotel site on Wilshire. All this is because LAUSD remains captive to its "agreed corporate vendors" who remain free to charge the District the highest prices without competitive bids not allowing LAUSD the ability to buy goods and services from much less expensive sources. 

Simply stated, LAUSD spends most of its money on everything other than educating students. 

And even though 83% of charters do the same or worse than LAUSD with their student bodies, charters have been allowed to pilfer students from LAUSD and occupy District classroom space. This only exacerbates the negative impact on LAUSD's ability to amortize its fixed costs as it is serving fewer and fewer students. 

In a disingenuous attempt to justify raising the property tax bill, LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia spoke on the Larry Mantle KPCC Air Talk radio show about "more graduation at LAUSD." What she failed to mention is that there is no substance to the credit recovery courses. Students can go through the motions and copy their way through without addressing any of the missed prior grade-level standards they had been allowed to miss; yet still, they graduate and receive a high school diploma. Predictably, 70% of these students subsequently can't pass a community college entrance exam that is based on prior grade-level standards these students were supposed to have mastered before being given diplomas by LAUSD. 

And finally, even a cursory examination of LAUSD student attendance shows that hundreds of millions of dollars are lost every year due to truancy. This stops the District from receiving daily attendance money from the State of California for the absent students. Truancy occurs because, after being socially promoted without mastery of prior grade-level standards, students predictably find school humiliating. Ending social promotion would stop this cycle and would more than compensate the District with added Average Daily Attendance money from the State of California.


(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles, observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second- generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.comLeonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.