State’s 2 biggest school districts begin Potemkin village-ization

Some 225 years ago, when empress Catherine the Great visited the Crimea region, legend has it that a Russian public official named Potemkin ordered construction of “villages” that looked great from afar but were actually just facades. Think the fake small town the good guys built in “Blazing Saddles.” Now many California school districts are beginning their Potemkin village-ization. To cover compensation costs that top 90 percent or more of operating budgets, everything must go until there are just facades of schools left. Everything must go, that is, but pay and pensions for veteran and retired teachers.

The latest example comes from Los Angeles Unified:

Facing unrelenting budget pressure, Los Angeles Unified has pared its summer school program – again – to its smallest size ever, with only a limited number of courses available to failing high school students who need to make up classes to graduate.

Credit-recovery classes will be offered at just 16 of the district’s nearly 100 high schools, with online classes hosted at eight campuses. Only seniors who have received a “D” or “F” in a required subject like health or algebra and sophomores and juniors who have failed one of those core classes can enroll.

Unlike past summers, credit-recovery classes will not be offered at LAUSD’s adult schools, which are on the chopping block because of a $390 million deficit facing the district. District officials hope California voters will pass a sales-tax hike and local voters will pass a $298-a-year parcel tax so they can salvage the adult schools.

“We’re in a horrible (financial) bind from the state,” Assistant Superintendent Alvaro Cortes said Wednesday. “We’ve been going through this for the last four years, and it’s not going to get any better.”

The last paragraph is just pure manure. It is not the state’s fault that California public schools almost uniformly award automatic raises based on years on the job. In San Diego Unified, for example, the last contract I saw provides automatic 3.8 percent annual raises for 15 of the first 20 years a teacher is on the job. That is in addition to raises teacher unions win through collective bargaining. In San Diego Unified, in 2012-13, teachers will get phased-in raises that add up to 7.2 percent.

And no surprise, San Diego Unified, the second largest state school district after L.A. Unified, is also undergoing Potemkin Village-ization:

The San Diego school board voted to eliminate nearly 1,000 nonteaching positions Tuesday night …. . Under the San Diego Unified School District’s preliminary budget, more than 1,600 teachers and well over 1,000 full and part-time nonteaching employees — including classroom assistants, cafeteria workers, and office clerks — will be laid off next year. …

Lost in the districtwide protests against the teacher layoffs that cover 20 percent of the elementary teaching force has been the hit to San Diego Unified’s early childhood education program that would lose state funding under California’s preliminary budget.

Of the district’s 185 state-funded prekindergarten teachers, 150 received pink slips. The program serves students from low-income San Diego families and helps prepare them for kindergarten by teaching language, social and physical skills, and identifying students with special needs. Some 385 nonteaching jobs at the child development centers have also been cut.

So once again, can someone tell me how teacher unions are all about social justice?

There used to be a document on the San Diego Unified website that showed the district was on track to spend 102 percent — 102 percent!!! — of its operating budget on pay and benefits. I can’t find it now. But that is still the best example ever of what I’ve been whining about for years. When the Potemkin village-ization of California public schools is complete, thanks to insane pay policies, all available money will go to employee and ex-employee compensation.

102 percent, for you non-math majors out there, is more than 100 percent.

7 thoughts on “State’s 2 biggest school districts begin Potemkin village-ization

  1. I can’t get too distressed over the loss of Pre-K and adult ed/evening programs; these extend public education into the “social justice” realm beyond any fiscally sustainable level. Bonus is the oft-noticed (by you at least) effect of revealing who really wields the power in state and municipal politics and who bears the brunt of the progressive agenda.

  2. Solutions that do not include substantial reductions in the rate of pension accrual for FUTURE service for CURRENT (yes CURRENT, NOT just NEW) workers are pointless …. as they accomplish nothing until the NEW workers the changes apply to will begin to retire in 20+ years.

    We’ll be insolvent LONG before then.

  3. CA teachers are the highest paid of any state in the union. Just Google: Teacher Pay by State, or similar wording, to see the many studies. So when the demonstrating unionized teachers, and their brainwashed students begin their protests, just ask them how they rank compared to other states.
    Also, when comparing CA education attainment levels to other states, you will find the highest achieving ones are often the ones with lower teacher pay.

  4. For me, the “wedge issue” that could reverse the dreary GOP appeal to minorities is school choice. It’s something I’ve championed for decades.

    No single measure could better help minorities than offering everyone options to seek better educational choices for their kids. Democrat-leaning minorities understand and appreciate this option better than white suburban Republicans, but everyone would benefit — except, of course, the labor unions. And it would GREATLY reduce the unsustainable pension problems we have with our existing school employees.

    But what has been missed in CA is that school choice IS happening in a number of other states. In the Golden State, it’s like we’ve given up our kids’ future for the benefit of CTA and the other education labor unions.

    It’s a concession that needs to change. The Democratic Party has chained itself to the unions — the GOP should commit itself to the parents, the kids and the taxpayers.

    Here’s an excellent summary of a recent WSJ article on Louisiana’s remarkable education reforms — including though not limited to widespread school choice. It’s improving education options at both private AND public schools. And even a substantial number of Democrat LA state legislators have changed their thinking on this issue.

    Given that this year President Obama is again proposing to ban the small D.C. school voucher program for poor kids, it’s an issue that the GOP needs to push to the front of the priority list.

    And ,BTW, if you are not receiving the free daily email service from NCPA, you should sign up. Great summations of important articles and studies of interest to conservatives and libertarians.

    http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=21820&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ncpadpd+%28Daily+Policy+Digest%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

    NCPA Daily Policy Digest
    Receive the Daily Policy Digest via Email

    Education Issues

    April 16, 2012

    School Vouchers Gain Ground

    The Louisiana state legislature has approved a new school vouchers system that, when signed by Governor Bobby Jindal, will be one of the largest in the country. The move caps 18 months of extensive expansion of voucher programs nationwide and broadens the national argument about the future of public education, says the Wall Street Journal.

    With growing systems in Florida, Virginia and Indiana joining older programs such as those in Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the use of vouchers has increased rapidly since 2010.

    Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have either voucher systems or “scholarship” programs that provide tax benefits to individuals and businesses for contributions that help pay for students to attend private school.

    The vast majority of these programs are targeted at specific groups of at-risk students, such as low-income or those with special needs.
    The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, an organization that advocates vouchers, estimates that about 220,000 students are currently enrolled in the programs nationwide.

    The Louisiana program would add hundreds of thousands of students to the voucher camp, and would also implement several innovative policy provisions that would help put the program at the cutting edge of education.

    . . .

    For text:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303624004577338131609745296.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsThird

  5. We’ll never really “reform” public education. CTA et al rule! Instead, institute school choice via the proposition system.

    For me, the “wedge issue” that could reverse the dreary GOP appeal to minorities is school choice. It’s something I’ve championed for decades.

    No single measure could better help minorities than offering everyone options to seek better educational choices for their kids. Democrat-leaning minorities understand and appreciate this option better than white suburban Republicans, but everyone would benefit — except, of course, the labor unions. And it would GREATLY reduce the unsustainable pension problems we have with our existing school employees.

    But what has been missed in CA is that school choice IS happening in a number of other states. In the Golden State, it’s like we’ve given up our kids’ future for the benefit of CTA and the other education labor unions.

    It’s a concession that needs to change. The Democratic Party has chained itself to the unions — the GOP should commit itself to the parents, the kids and the taxpayers.

    Here’s an excellent summary of a recent WSJ article on Louisiana’s remarkable education reforms — including though not limited to widespread school choice. It’s improving education options at both private AND public schools. And even a substantial number of Democrat LA state legislators have changed their thinking on this issue.

    Given that this year President Obama is again proposing to ban the small D.C. school voucher program for poor kids, it’s an issue that the GOP needs to push to the front of the priority list.

    And ,BTW, if you are not receiving the free daily email service from NCPA, you should sign up. Great summations of important articles and studies of interest to conservatives and libertarians.

    http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=21820&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ncpadpd+%28Daily+Policy+Digest%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

    NCPA Daily Policy Digest
    Receive the Daily Policy Digest via Email

    Education Issues

    April 16, 2012

    School Vouchers Gain Ground

    The Louisiana state legislature has approved a new school vouchers system that, when signed by Governor Bobby Jindal, will be one of the largest in the country. The move caps 18 months of extensive expansion of voucher programs nationwide and broadens the national argument about the future of public education, says the Wall Street Journal.

    With growing systems in Florida, Virginia and Indiana joining older programs such as those in Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the use of vouchers has increased rapidly since 2010.

    Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have either voucher systems or “scholarship” programs that provide tax benefits to individuals and businesses for contributions that help pay for students to attend private school.

    The vast majority of these programs are targeted at specific groups of at-risk students, such as low-income or those with special needs.
    The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, an organization that advocates vouchers, estimates that about 220,000 students are currently enrolled in the programs nationwide.

    The Louisiana program would add hundreds of thousands of students to the voucher camp, and would also implement several innovative policy provisions that would help put the program at the cutting edge of education.

    . . .

    For text:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303624004577338131609745296.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsThird

  6. Pingback: EPA’s Crucifixion Chief Falls on Sword while “Green” Companies Pollute!!!! « Temple of Mut

  7. Thanks for keeping this dbtaee honest. The Commonwealth Foundation (read the always humble Matt Brouilette) has declared that “fixed costs” are not a reason to say schools will lose money. Their conclusion is bogus because they take the narrowest view of fixed costs and not a realistic one. They do not count salaries of the custodian, just the ladder he uses. Check with some experts on this and speak out. Also the constitutional issues are real. One way to help the bill would be to level the playing field a little and improve parents ability to choose is to require all students in schools that accept vouchers to take the PSSA test!

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