Will school finance scams be addressed? One of two at best

Dec. 9, 2012

By Chris Reed

The push is on to gut Proposition 13, with the nominal rationale being the urgent need to help public education by making it easier to pass parcel taxes. But will the Democratic lawmakers behind this first do anything about two huge education finance scandals? I explore this topic here.

The first is one that got international attention earlier this year after revelations that the Poway Unified School District had borrowed $105 million using capital appreciation bonds (CABs) at a long-term cost of $981 million. Why are CABs so insanely expensive? Because the interest on them builds for 20 years before the district contractually can begin to pay them off. …. 200 California school districts … have used these bonds. ….

[The less-known] second school-finance scandal [is] the increasing practice of districts all over the state of using 30-year “construction bond” borrowing to pay for routine maintenance, short-lived electronics and other needs that are supposed to be paid for by the operating budget [such as] San Diego Unified buying nearly 100,000 laptops and iPads with bonds that won’t be fully repaid until 2039.

“There are restrictions in current statutes,” [state Sen. Mark] Leno said. If 30-year bonds are being spent this way, “they’re not being used as they should. … That’s not a formula that’s sustainable.”

However, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in an interview last month that he considered this use of bond funds understandable because of school budget woes.

On the first scam, I believe that state Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s outrage will lead to constructive change. But Torlakson’s response will be the norm, I predict, in how Democratic elected officials respond to bond insanity no. 2.

Never forget that the overriding goal of the most powerful people in Sacramento — the teachers unions — is preserving the automatic raises that teachers get for 15 of their first 20 years on the job. Few if any California Democrats will stand up to the teachers unions. The few who do are demonized and marginalized.

The result: School districts using 30-year borrowing to pay for graffiti removal will be adjudged to be just fine. Gotta keep those automatic raises coming for teachers.

Related Articles

CalWatchdog Morning Read – July 18

Californians approve of Brown, Obama and state — country, not so much Referendum filed for overturning recent gun-control measures   San Diego

Good ol' Tom

And now for another installment in our irregular look at Republicans who feed at the public employee union trough. According

Actually, Jim Jones cult was Bay Area Democrats

John Podesta, President Obama’s new guru, just apologized for saying of Republicans, “They need to focus on executive action given