By George Runner Op-Ed in the LA daily news
In which the good senator, who represents a small piece of LAUSD and also many other school districts in Northern LA County struggling with fiscal crisis, gets a few things right and thereby quite conveniently lays off the entirety of the blame for the $4.8 billion in budget cuts to K-12 education up-and-down the state to LAUSD ...and accepts none of it for poor bi-partisan (let's share the blame!) leadership from Sacramento.
There is a website with an application called the CALIFORNIA BUDGET CHALLENGE where we get to play lawmaker and balance the budget. With two clicks, rolling back the governors elimination of the so called "Car Tax" and splitting the rolls on Prop 13 so that big corporations pay their fair share of property tax the state returns to budget surplus.
This is not an anti-business tax gouge, Of these two fixes it is the Car Tax that returns by far the most revenue. (For real controversial thinking see Warren Buffet's comments on Prop 13 when he was Candidate Schwarzenegger's advisor!)
This does not solve any of the issues of adequately funding public education over time; it only solves the state's budget deficit. Only. Much more work needs to be done. —smf
04/08/2008 - Over the past few weeks, the Los Angeles Unified School District has been lamenting the hardships that the district will face because of proposed budget cuts.
The district listed the possibilities of shutting down 22 schools (which officials claim would displace 62,000 students), laying off 6,000 employees, reducing benefits, or even shutting down the entire district for more than two weeks to make up for the shortfall.
But the budget troubles plaguing the LAUSD should come as no surprise to district officials, especially since decisions they made last year led to the troubles this year.
In March of 2007, the LAUSD agreed to a new union contract that would raise teachers' salaries by 6percent, as well as funds to reduce class sizes.
At the time, Superintendent David Brewer III admitted that this contract would create a $213million deficit for the next three years. In other words, LAUSD officials promised benefits they knew they could not afford.
The LAUSD continues to make noise about the looming budget cuts because officials would like to distract us from the systematic fiscal mismanagement that has been occurring for years.
The $95 million dysfunctional payroll system, which left many teachers overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all, comes to mind.
And it has recently been reported that attempts to fix the system might cost taxpayers between $24million and $37.5million over the next 15 years. Ironically, the
system meant to save money became yet another episode of embarrassment for the district.
Recently, the district "misplaced" $400 million in computers and software for classrooms. The school district claims that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget cuts amount to $460 million for 2008-2009, but it seems most of these cuts would have been absorbed were it not for the LAUSD's own ineptitude. This type of abject incompetence cannot be rewarded with continued funding in the absence of common-sense accountability.
Let us not forget that even as the district complains this year, during the previous five years, the LAUSD's enrollment has actually declined by nearly 40,000 students while its revenues rose by $1 billion.
So while the district howls about alleged cuts, in reality it has been receiving more resources while simultaneously dealing with fewer students.
The bureaucratic waste of the LAUSD harms the quality of education for all children, but especially those from low-income households. The longer the district resists reform, the more generations of children get cheated out of a decent education under this hapless system.
It seems disingenuous that district representatives lobby the Capitol and blame their troubles on budget cuts, yet ignore the fact that were it not for their own ineffectual "leadership," the resources they receive would be enough. The fact that they can shrug off a $400 million loss or waste tens of millions on a broken payroll system demonstrates this.
I have no objection to making sure our schools have the resources they need, and I have consistently advocated for more money reaching the classroom.
This is clearly not the case in the LAUSD.
There needs to be greater transparency and accountability in the way this district spends its money.
Without reforms, further investment would be an investment in failure.
Sen. George Runner, R-Palmdale, is the chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus. Contact him through his Web site, http://republican.sen.ca.gov/web/17.