Posted on LA School Report by Mike Szymanski | http://bit.ly/1kAKZ6l
October 23, 2015 11:32 am :: A blue-ribbon panel of leading figures in education, politics and finance has been working behind the scenes to help LA Unified identify financial challenges and solutions as the district faces budget deficits in the near future.
The panel includes people who have worked with the district in the past, and many have won awards or honors for their involvement in education. One member is now working for the search firm hired to find the district’s next superintendent.
Known as the Independent Financial Review Panel, the group was formed in March by Superintendent Ramon Cortines and is being supported by $250,000, approved by the board. The panel’s findings and recommendations are due before the end of the current academic year. Cortines has expressed his desire to step down by the end of the calendar year.
<<Former state treasurer Bill Lockyer on panel to advise LAUSD.
The money to support the examination was approved in June, but no one is being paid, said a district spokesperson, adding, “We will be buying them sandwiches.”
Despite the constant refrain by board members to bring transparency and accountability to the business of the district, the work of the panel is being conducted in private. The members of the panel were not identified publicly (see below), and meetings are not open to the public. The panel was mentioned almost as an afterthought in a report earlier this week before the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee by Chief Financial Office Megan Reilly, whose office is overseeing the panel’s work.
In her presentation, Reilly said it is an “all-volunteer” panel that will take “a comprehensive deep dive and look at the financial problems facing the district.” She said they were “outside experts asked to join us on behalf of Mr. Cortines.”
Reilly has projected a budget shortfall of $333 million in 2017-18, presumably one of the reason the group was impaneled.
During the public forum section of the committee meeting, led by board member Mónica Ratliff, a former school board member, David Tokofsky, pointed to the secrecy surrounding the panel and its work.
“This is the first time in a public meeting that this financial review panel has ever been mentioned,” he said.
The district did not immediately respond to a request for more detailed information about the panel and its progress.
According to Reilly, Cortines asked her in March to establish a group of experts in California public finance and education. The panel convened that month to “help review and make recommendations concerning the long-term financial sustainability and health of the district,” according to a slide she presented at the committee meeting. She added, “Their work is intended to provide a foundation for our discussions regarding the district’s long-term priorities and investments.”
This is the first time such a high-profile panel of outside experts have been asked to look at LAUSD’s budget.
According to another statement, the panel is “expected to review and make recommendations concerning long-term financial matters, financial priorities and the health of the district’s finances.” The report says the panel “will not be involved in the development of current budget plans or discussions with the district’s collective bargaining units.”
This Official Statement, which includes the cover page through the appendices hereto, is provided to furnish information in connection with the sale of the $326,045,000 2015 General Obligation Refunding Bonds, Series A (the "Bonds ") by the Los Angeles Unified School District (the "District "). The Bonds are issued pursuant to certain provisions of the California Government Code and other applicable law and a resolution adopted by the Board of Education of the District (the "District Board ") on April 14, 2015 (collectively, the "Resolution ") authorizing the issuance of not to exceed $2,500,000,000 of general obligation refunding bonds.
Independent Financial Review Panel:
In March 2015, the Superintendent announced the formation of an independent panel with
These are the members of the panel:
- Maria Anguiano, an architect of the University of California-wide fiscal improvements plan and a former senior advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Post-Secondary Success Team.
- Delaine Eastin, the 25th California State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the first woman to be elected to that position.
- Michael Fine, a deputy superintendent for the Riverside Unified School District. Chief administrator for Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team.
- Bill Lockyer, former California Treasurer and veteran politician.
- Darline Robles, the former superintendent of Los Angeles County Office of Education and the Salt Lake City School District who is now part of the search firm seeking the next LAUSD superintendent. (●●smf: Dr. Robles is a former board member of the now-defunct Pearson Charitable Foundation)
- Miguel Santana, former city administrative officer for Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa and deal with a time of severe belt-tightening for the city.
- Darrell Steinberg, longtime state politician and president pro tem of the Senate who authored more than 70 bills involving education, mental health and foster care.
- Peter Taylor, president of ECMC Foundation, chaired the James Irvine Foundation and is on the boards of the Kaiser Family Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust.
- Kent Wong, the director of the UCLA Labor Center, and former staff attorney for the Service Employees International Union.
Apparently John Walsh, listed variously as the Assistant General Counsel at Los Angeles Unified School District and LAUSD Financial Policy Director is facilitating the Independent Financial Review Panel meetings and preparing its report. Earlier Walsh justified LAUSD’s misbegotten iPad finance polices thus:
“Another issue was whether it's legal to buy tablets, with an estimated life of three to five years, with bonds that taxpayers would retire over 25 years. Early on, the district talked of using short-term bonds that would match the life of the tablets.
“But officials have since decided that regular, long-term bonds can be legally used, provided that some of the money goes to projects, such as buildings, with a longer lifespan, said John Walsh, L.A. Unified's director of finance policy.” [LA Times/Aug 27, 2013 | http://lat.ms/2041tEw ]