Hard as this may be to believe, given all the lip service paid to fixing our failing schools, LAUSD’s “bureaucracy ballooned by nearly 20 percent from
2001 to 2007. Over the same period, 500 teaching positions were cut and
enrollment dropped by 6 percent.”
Got that? $20 billion invested in new school buildings and millions more to pay the salaries of a bloated bureaucracy and there’s fewer teachers than six years ago to educate 650,000 children who still are almost as likely to drop out as get a diploma, whose test scores still remain abysmally low.
That’s from Sunday’s Daily News in a story by Beth Barrett, her final story at the paper after more than 20 years of exposing the sins and crimes of L.A.’s political and civic leadership.
It’s accompanied by a searchable database that provides the name, salary and job of every LAUSD employee. What it shows is that the average salary of the district’s 4,000 administrators. managers and other nonschool-based employees is $95,000 — more than administrators are paid elsewhere. The average teacher salary: $63,000 — less than teachers are paid elsewhere.
What teachers have been saying for decades is now a demonstrable fact: Classrooms have been robbed of resources to pay six-figure salaries to bureaucrats whose main function in life is to stifle the creativity and energy of the people who hold the future of our children, of our city, in their hands — the teachers.
“(The bureaucracy) grows whether it’s fat or
lean times,” said United Teachers Los Angeles union leader A.J. Duffy. “It’s iindicative of an upper echelon, of a leadership cadre that doesn’t want to use its authority to clean house.”
Get rid of 1,000 of the bureaucrats and $95 million plus a third more for benefits is freed up for classroom resources and to reward thousands of the best teachers with the salaries befitting the value of their contribution. Get rid of 2,000 and you might actually have a district that starts to work.
After 30 years of decline and failure, somebody should have figured out what the problem was and done something about it.
For all those years, we’ve heard repeatedly that it’s the children’s fault because there’s too many that come from poor or immigrant families. And it turns out the biggest problem is too many bureaucrats and leadership that is too feeble to face the truth.
They point fingers at everybody else but the truth is the city’s leadership lacks the political will to do anything about the LAUSD’s most glaring problem or any of L.A.’s other glaring problems for that matter.
And when you see what LAUSD’s board members and bureaucrats have to say in Barrett’s story you can see that the mentality exposed by then Inspector General Don Mullinax years ago — Deny, Defend, Deflect — remain at the core of the culture of failure within the district.
What does it take to get real reform?
Breakup of the district was squelched. Dick Riordan’s takeover of the school board got shanghaied. Charter schools have faced resistance every inch of the way. One superintendent after another has proven unable to act decisively. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s school czar plan amounts to indirect control of less than a dozen schools and the insertion of Ray Cortines into LAUSD’s No. 2 job, a role that has created more confusion than clarity of purpose.
Maybe Duffy and the teachers union is right that a strike’s needed. But it’s going to take a strike by parents, students and the teachers backed by the community as a whole to change the culture of LAUSD once and for all and put the district’s resources to work where it counts: In the classroom.
Frankly, they can take this $7 billion bond issue on the November ballot and shove it. Let’s see them dismantle this system first before they stick their hands in our pockets again.