Bigger, not better

first_imgWith test scores declining and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s school-takeover plan quashed by the courts, the breakup question is more poignant than ever. Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, and state Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, have already introduced breakup legislation in Sacramento. Meanwhile, the supposed “efficiency” of the LAUSD bureaucracy is having effects even more serious than the occasional lost paycheck. According to a California State University Center for Teacher Quality study, one in five public-school teachers in the state leaves the profession within five years. The most-often cited reason for their early retirements? Bureaucracy. Teachers are, as a rule, not in the business for money. They want to change lives, to inspire young minds, to make a difference. Yet new teachers’ optimism is all too often squelched by a public-education system that rewards mediocrity, punishes innovation, and treats educators like assembly-line workers rather than the creative, responsible professionals they are. This is the trend across the state, but we can only imagine how much worse it is in the LAUSD, the district that’s infamous for its stifling and bloated bureaucracy. Right now, the LAUSD is delivering neither efficiency nor creativity, let alone satisfactory results. That’s why voters must back reform candidates in May’s school board elections – and why the breakup option can’t be ruled out.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Suffice it to say, like most other LAUSD failures, this one won’t be cheap. That’s something to keep in mind next time the subject of breaking up the LAUSD arises. One of the main reasons for keeping the bureaucratic behemoth together, its defenders say, is economies of scale. If the LAUSD were split into several smaller districts, they warn, we would get great waste and redundancy – with multiple payroll offices, for example, doing identical work. Keeping everything consolidated, the LAUSD’s apologists insist, helps us to achieve much higher levels of efficiency. It’s a pretty funny line of argument. “LAUSD” and “efficiency” are two words that seldom go together without a good chuckle. But the payroll catastrophe ought to lay it to rest – unless you think a no-good, $95 million system and a pricey lawsuit make for an efficient use of scarce education funds. FOR thousands of teachers who have been shortchanged on their paychecks – or who haven’t received paychecks at all – the LAUSD’s ongoing accounting problems are a personal nightmare. For the rest of us, they’re a public revelation. Back in February, the Los Angeles Unified School District introduced a new, $95 million payroll system that has bungled paydays ever since, leaving teachers unable to pay their bills on time. Fed up, the union representing LAUSD teachers has filed a lawsuit demanding, among other things, interest on late payments. Taxpayers, of course, will end up paying for all of this – the disastrous computer system, the lawyers’ fees, and whatever extra compensation to which the affected teachers are entitled. last_img read more

Read More »