Parcel tax push: School finance debate must not ignore scandals

Jan. 17, 2013

By Chris Reed

If we are going to have a debate about school finances in California because of the Legislature’s interest in making it easier for school districts to get parcel taxes approved to boost their budgets, let’s have a serious debate. A serious debate would focus on three related school finance scandals.

1) The unconstitutional practice of school districts asking parents to pay for basic educational resources.

2) The insane but apparently legal practice of school districts using 30-year borrowing to pay for shortlived electronics like laptops and for the most routine maintenance, including graffiti removal.

3) The ridiculous practice of school districts using capital appreciation bonds — which districts often don’t start paying back for decades and which can’t be refinanced. The result is bonds that can cost 10 times or more the original sum being borrowed.

How are they interrelated? Because they are all driven by standard teacher compensation practices in which most teachers get automatic raises for 15 of their first 20 years on the job and get additional raises just for taking graduate courses of any kind — not even in their teaching field.

This has led to employee compensation consuming 90 percent or more of the budget in many school districts — and to desperate attempts to find money to cover teacher pay such as 1, 2 and 3.

Isn’t this, yunno, news — this phenomenon? Not to the Sacramento media, which has covered the third scandal but never placed it in the larger context of why school finances are so stressed.

The key to understanding Sacramento is that goal no. 1 of the CTA and the CFT is preserving and funding those automatic raises, and the unions are the most powerful force in Sacramento. It would be nice if George Skelton ever mentioned this, don’t you think? But don’t hold your breath.




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