LAUSD Brass Feathers Nest as Teachers Depart

By DAY HIGUCHI

Sports fans wouldn't cheer for an overpaid coach and a big stadium if the team didn't have any seasoned players. Yet the Los Angeles Unified School District continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on top officials and their wasteful schemes.

In fact, LAUSD has spent $300 million for a new headquarters and more than 500 new non-school administrators who have climbed on the District's gravy train since "decentralization" was supposed to shrink the bureaucracy.

Sacramento sent LAUSD more than $200 million in new revenue this school year. Dozens of other local school districts passed on the cost of living allowance to teachers by raising their pay up to 5 percent. LAUSD could have also raised salaries. Instead, they are telling teachers to go six years without a raise. That's pretty dumb, even for L.A. school officials.

Short-changing 48,000 LAUSD teachers hasn't "freed up" resources for our 735,000 students. It has only fattened the bureaucracy, pushed classroom veterans into the ranks of better-paying districts and forced L.A. officials to hire more novices. None of this is good for students.

The economy may be weak, but the greatest weakness LAUSD suffers from is leadership. Officials are being tested, and I'm afraid their scores aren't that good. For example, no other school district in California is considering Draconian measures like freezing teacher's pay for 6 years or laying off staff during the Christmas holidays.

When this school season opened, School Board President Caprice Young admitted that the pay raise she opposed last year had been a shot in the arm for recruiting new teachers. Those gains will be wiped out if LAUSD stands pat on salaries while others move forward.

Classroom teachers' exodus to better paying local districts will gather speed as school board members consider a proposal by LAUSD Chief Financial Officer Joseph Zeronian to freeze salaries for five more years.

Forecasters expect K-12 funding to increase more than 5 percent annually in each of the next five years. Zeronian never mentions these positive trends in his projections. This is the time for leaders to raise new revenue. We know there is vast, untapped public support for a super bond to meet the state's school construction needs.

LAUSD is just beginning to make good on its word to improve our schools. This is no time to reverse course. This is the time for leaders to defend public education programs that work. UTLA will support programs that improve low-performing schools, and we will work with officials who are serious about bringing new revenue from Washington and Sacramento.

But no program can succeed without good, experienced teachers. Hiring and holding onto them are the best investments any school district can make. UTLA will not stand silent while School Board President Young plays politics with public education. We promise to hold bureaucrats accountable until they get their priorities straight, and we count on the public's support.



Day Higuchi is president of United Teachers LA, representing LAUSD teachers.

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