Roger Niello

An Educational Train Wreck in Our South State

So here’s the math facing the L.A. Unified School District according to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by its Superintendent Austin Buetner.

“During the three-year period that began last summer, Los Angeles Unified will spend about $24 billion educating students. The district’s revenue during that time will be closer to $22 billion, forcing us to spend all our reserves.” In other words, in July of 2021 the district will have zero reserves to cover what will be a deficit budget for the 2021-22 year absent otherwise increased revenues and/or reduced expenses.

Toward that point of revenue and expense adjustments, the district is offering the union what appears to be an additional 6% pay raise plus hiring an additional 1300 educators, adding to, not subtracting from, that impending budget deficit.

And the union is striking to demand more!

What they are surely banking on is what Superintendent Beutner calls for at the end of his op-ed. “To get the money to boost wages further and hire more teachers, we need to end the strike and unite to increase funding for our public schools.”

Aside from the outrageous idea that the district intentionally commit to an overhead they can’t meet even short of the union’s demands, perhaps they ought to take a look at the plight of Sacramento Unified. That district will likely be bankrupt this year and faces the draconian state take-over that Superintendent Beutner admits he laments after watching what happened to their neighboring Inglewood Unified School District in 2012.

Intentionally committing to an out-of-balanced budget hoping for a state bailout may be just emblematic of the sort of incompetence that has resulted in nearly 70% of their students not being proficient in math and about 60% not being proficient in English (statistics cited in Superintendent Beutner’s op-ed).

We can blame the district’s financial problems on unaffordable pension and retiree healthcare commitments, and that is largely true. But the performance shortcoming combined with the self-imposed financial crisis point to complete dysfunction.

The real tragedy here is the plight of the 600,000+ students who are being educationally abused by this district. Those are over a half-million young people who deserve to have a successful future that a good education contributes to. And a successful future that their families, neighborhoods and our state depend upon.

Perhaps the only solution is a state take-over and a complete restructuring of this failing district.

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