EdSource look at superintendent turnover ignores union elephant

Dec. 8, 2012

By Chris Reed

There are none so blind as those who will not see. EdSource does a 1,500-word analysis of a new study showing far higher turnover of superintendents in large school districts than smaller ones in California, discusses several theories, but never even mentions the fact that teacher union power is particularly extreme in big school districts — and teacher unions are fickle, demanding, hard-to-please masters.

In Los Angeles Unified, it took a judge’s ruling to get the union-dominated district to begin obeying a 1971 state law requiring that teacher evaluations include student performance.

In San Diego Unified, the state’s second largest district after L.A., employee compensation — primarily teacher salaries — consumes 93 percent of the operating budget. And that’s after the school board mustered the will to bargain to delay a 7 percent raise that all represented employees were supposed to get this school year. I’ve actually seen San Diego Unified documents that project employee compensation in coming years would top 100 percent of the operating budget.

Which is a mathematical impossibility.

Meanwhile, in the adjacent, much smaller, Poway Unified district, the union has much less clout, and the compensation chunk of the operating budget is only 85 percent.

In San Diego Unified, there have been three superintendents in four years, and the latest is a figurehead — a former admiral hired because the local union knew he knew his place. In Poway Unified, the superintendent is an aggressive, take-charge guy with job security.

Still wonder why big districts have more turnover of superintendents, EdSource?

Of course, EdSource is in good company. In 2009, The New York Times wrote 8,000 words about California’s dysfunction that ignored public employee union power, which remains incredible to this day. Given where this state was in 2009, that may never be topped.


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