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Fewer teachers, more bureaucrats — That’s the LAUSD solution to our failing public schools

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 theCA_DN.jpg 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.

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9 Responses to Fewer teachers, more bureaucrats — That’s the LAUSD solution to our failing public schools

  1. Sandy Sand says:

    Beth Barrett gone, too. That doesn’t leave much except Rick “Rewrite V’s Press Releases” Orlov, the sappy apcray of Dennis McCarthy and some amateurish op-eds by interns.
    Maybe Barrett can write a few intelligent guest op-eds for them on the nasty business that goes on at City Hall.
    Let’s hope the voters will take your advice and
    “…take this $7 billion bond issue on the November ballot and shove it. [I wish I had a way to bold face "shove it!"] Let’s see them dismantle this system first before they stick their hands in our pockets again.”
    That goes for every other pick pocket measure on the ballot.
    I think they might heed that advice, if not from you or I or anyone else who says the same thing, but from their own dwindling bank accounts.
    Hopefully, we’ve reached the tipping point where voters say, ENOUGH! No more robbing me and broken promises of spending our money how they said they would. It’s long past time for the city and state to live within their incomes just as we must.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yes, the LAUSD has been functioning this way for
    many many years and as a parent in the PTA I knew something was “rotten in Demark” because of the way the booksale money advertised for the Library went into some other account which I did not recognize. Odd.
    As the years have passed, I am more concerned with the size of LAUSD. Who is responsible for making sure that each suburb is not treated to their own school district. A little town of 980 had their own school board and the parents and teachers knew what was taking place, who needed tutoring and who really should have more advanced instruction. My grandsons live in Mission Viejo, a town at the last census was 78,000. They have two school districts. This makes more sense. By LA’s standards, that means my grandsons are attending private schools, but no, they are in efficiently run and responsible public schools.
    I think having Mayor V. involved in education is ridiculoous. I think having 700,000 students in one district is barbaric. And unfortunately, we have UTLA that wants that kind of control voting as a bloc every single election.
    As a Grandmother I will join with any effort to force sanity into education in LACity. And if heads must roll, so be it. They are a big part of the problem. Another part of the problem, blaming students who are bored to death on SOME SORT OF ATTENTION DISORDER is a warning signal we must heed.

  3. Anonymous says:

    LAUSD has always been about adults’ needs and NOT the primary objective of educating the children. What happened to accountability?
    Angelenos should visit Full Disclosure regarding “Feeding the Beast – LAUSD wants another bond” video ($7 billion dollar school bond) and come up with your own conclusion.

  4. anonymous says:

    Another thing that bugs the heck out of me is why we wasted taxpayer $$$ on a $20B bond to build 160 NEW schools when enrollments are declining! It took me a long time to figure out that it was just to give JOBS to Mexicans in construction and ultimately in administration and staffing.
    But the worst is yet to come…the creation of millions of ‘green collar jobs’…the biggest scam of the century. Maybe we should change the name to ‘brown collar jobs”.
    Villar has used LAUSD to boost the economy of Mexico…not the education of American kids!

  5. Kim Thompson says:

    I have to disagree with Sandy.
    Although Beth is definitely the best-of-the-best in reporting, Rick Orlov is great, as is Mariel Garza, Dana Bartholomew, Harrison Shepard and Kerry Cavanaugh.
    What a great bunch of reporters that I’ve enjoyed immensely over the past 5-10 years. We all know Beth will be able to get work anywhere and her investigative work can’t be topped.
    Good luck Beth and don’t forget about Sunshine Canyon! Until I actually see the alternatives in place and working, I’ll be a tad nervous.

  6. Kim Thompson says:

    Okay, I have to disagree again. Our enrollments are not declining and you cannot prove that. I thought we had new people FLOCKING to Los Angeles in droves. We’ll need schools for them. And why do we have so many over-crowded schools now? Check out Herrick Elementary in Sylmar. That didn’t stop the developers at the end of Balboa Blvd. from building new condos and apartments in the Herrick Elementary School District causing them to be even more over-crowded.
    Plus if you live where I live in Granada Hills, the Granada Hills High School is really the Porter Ranch High School with a small portion of kids from GH who go there and they must live very close to the school. All that development in Porter Ranch, whose home school is Granada High pushed all of the rest of us in Granada Hills into the district of Kennedy High, which is further from our homes and our kids can’t go to school where their parents went around here — to Granada High.
    So build the new schools, you will have the enrollment and then you really ought to think about keeping ALL kids in their neighborhood schools. Forget those silly magnet programs. If you want your kid to go to Van Gogh Elementary, move into the district. If you want your kids to go to Castlebay, move into that district.
    Half the traffic in the morning during September to June is the parents and the buses crowding up the streets around the schools and adding to the smog and wasting fuel because they don’t want their “babies” to walk, which most of them NEED to do.
    Touchy subject. I’ll stop now. Many problems, easy solutions.
    Oh, and to the racist before me at 4:18 PM – “green jobs” will be one of the biggest advantages of all of the green building going on. We implement alternative technologies and someone has to install and maintain them, lobby for them, sell them. Green jobs are the way of the future.

  7. LA person says:

    Enrollment is declining according to several sources.
    Here’s on sample from Jan 23, 2008 report.
    The people may be moving here, but maybe without the same numbers of children but enrollment is declining, not the population generally.
    Some people don’t send their kids to LAUSD schools anymore or move out of the district because of the economy and expense. Some are coming back to LASUD since Jan. b/c they c/n afford the non public schoool expense.
    The LAUSD works to slow to match needs with the conditions and this goes for all they handle, just too big an operation.

  8. Anon2 says:

    My sense of the practical reality is that many (although certainly not all) new administrators are former teachers who worked their way up the system in search of more pay or who were bumped upstairs because they couldn’t be fired, but they could no longer effectively teach. In effect, the administrative superstructure has grown as a release valve for the low front-line pay. This has two consequences: (1) There is a built-in constituency for keeping the administrative structure large, and (2) Shrinking that structure might result in the loss of many jobs for current or new teachers because more experienced, less energetic and effective former administrators, may take their place or keep their spots. A compromise might be something that allowed merit pay at some seniority level, but which cut administrative options for advancement. Keep the best teachers in the classroom, but don’t reward the weak teachers by creating more safe landings for them.

  9. In L.A. says:

    During my few years with a temp career change teaching at LAUSD a few years back, several of my fellow new teachers were working on getting their adminstrative credential as well as the teaching credential. I asked a few about the reasons and more money was the main answer.
    I went into teaching for teaching, and being an administrator was, to me, headaches that were not worth the money. Many other teachers were like the ones I mentioned, planning for the goal of getting out of the classroom. I did not give much thought until reading the post above that discussed it, but there really are too many poeple headed for careers as administrators and vacating teaching positions, leading to a top-heavy structure being perpetuated.
    Accommodating all the administrator-hopefuls is not possible, and really, the trend should be turned around. The gap between teachers and andministrators was always present, though not necessarily hostile, but trading ideas was not a pasttime that happened at our high school. The idea of suggestions coming from faculty for the administration to consider was a complete act of futility.
    Fortunately, that principal is now retired, but the new one may not see the utility of working with members of the faculty, but we shall see. My experience was that student were a challenge but not problems, while the administrators were functions that rarely supported teachers in significant situations. A lot of revelations came through that experience that outsiders would not be able to see.
    Our school was a low performer on APIs and the principal never really chose a clear direction by which could take our school out of that condition.
    By the way, requiring uniforms and banning usage during school class hours, with lunch an exception, of personal wireless devices and MP3 type players would help maintain a better focus on learning. The small learning communities are what the district is convincing themselves will turn around things.
    Whatever we did when I was in LA schools decades ago must have had some validity since even my weaker were able to read and write when we graduated. Many students now still have problems with handwriting and prefer printing instead of cursive to write. Much has changed but skills have gotten poorer.

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