Driving K-12 scams: push to preserve automatic teacher raises

Feb. 12, 2013

By Chris Reed

newADAThe state Senate committee report last week showing districts stealing federal funds meant for school lunch programs came as no surprise to students of California’s education establishment. There’s a strange mentality afflicting school governance in this state, an odd combination of an anything-goes ethos and a righteous sense of entitlement.

That’s why in recent years we’ve seen school districts in California caught lying about dropout rates. And about attendance rates, which determine state funding. And also about local property tax receipts, which can reduce state school funding depending on their amount.

We’ve also seen school districts’ legal but appalling abuse of school bonds, which used to be “construction bonds” but are now about finding ways to free up money for the general fund. One version of bond abuse is borrowing at ridiculous long-term rates to avoid short-term headaches through CABs — capital appreciation bonds. The more common version, though, is use of 30-year conventional bonds to pay for routine maintenance and educational equipment such as laptops and iPads.

CalWatchdog has written about these amoral assaults on taxpayers on several occasions. Anyone who pays attention quickly figures out what the Sacramento press corps never makes clear to Californians: Goal number one in the Legislature and in nearly all local school districts is accommodating veteran teachers, which means a constant push to free up enough funds in district operating budgets so that teachers can get the automatic “step” raises that they typically receive just for showing up for 15 of their first 20 years on the job.

All the other stuff we hear about education in budget fights? It’s all show. Democratic legislators beholden to the CTA and CFT know what they must do each budget season: Keep the auto raises coming to veteran teachers and stymie any reform that might discomfit them.

The latest example of K-12 chicanery

Understand this history, and it’s no surprise that federally funded school lunch programs are being looted as well to free up funds for teacher auto raises:

“At least eight California school districts have misappropriated millions of dollars in funding intended to pay for meals for low-income students — the biggest culprit being the Los Angeles Unified School District, according to a state Senate watchdog group.

“The California Department of Education has ordered districts to pay back nearly $170 million in misused funds to their student meal programs, the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes said Wednesday. L.A. Unified has been forced to pay back more than $158 million in misappropriations and unallowable charges that the district made over six years ending in 2011.

“State officials suspect the alleged misuse of funds could be more widespread across California school districts but the system is overburdened and has only a small team of investigators.”

I would bet anything that this “alleged misuse of funds” is far more widespread. The never-ending pressure to free up money in the general fund to pay for teachers’ auto raises is a constant up and down the Golden State. Whether that means deceiving the federal government, ripping off Sacramento, or lying to parents and students, so be it. It’s the California way.

A governor who wants to enable the abusers

bizarro.jerryThe key subplot here, of course, is that Gov. Jerry Brown in recent days has again made clear he wants more local control of schools.

Yo, Jerry! Yo, gov! I have some questions!

Do you get out much?

Do you think that leopards change their spots?

Do you think local school boards are full of smart, tough advocates of students?

Yo, Jerry! Yo, gov! I have more questions!

Have you been awake for any sustained period over the last 30 years?

Do you understand how California schools operate, and to the benefit of whom?

Have you even heard of Mark Berndt?

Sheesh. If this is the smartest guy in California government, we are doomed.

1 comment

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  1. double l
    double l 12 February, 2013, 16:51

    California schools are supposed to be audited annually by CPA firms that understand school financing. If this chicanery is getting past these auditors, the perpetrators should not only be required to pay back the whole amount but should be charged with fraud.

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