Comic-book villainy on display in San Diego Unified

June 16, 2013

By Chris Reed

It’s time for a tale of comic-book villainy from San Diego Unified, the state’s second-largest school district and one in which voracious unions so dominate decision-making that a stunning 92 percent of the operating budget goes to employee compensation.

When 11 of every 12 dollars goes to pay and benefit, the squeeze on the rest of the budget is enormous. And so you see students forced to pay for educational supplies, in defiance of the California Constitution. And so you see 30-year-bonds used to pay for routine maintenance and short-lived electronics like laptops and iPads.

And you see money specifically designated to be used to subsidize school lunches for tens of thousands of students from poor families grabbed for adult employees — over and over and over.

Adult employees 3, poor schoolkids 0

This is from my U-T San Diego editorial:

“On scams and scandals large and small [in California], the motivation is often protecting the interests of public employees, whether or not it serves the public interest. …

” … when it comes to sheer obnoxiousness, a local example is tough to beat. We refer to the three reports this year of San Diego Unified improperly diverting money to adult employees from school lunch programs meant to help low-income students.

“In February, a state Senate report blasted the district for improperly taking at least $4.5 million in federal lunch funds to help pay for the salaries and benefits that consume more than 90 percent of the district’s operating budget.

“Last month, the state Department of Education demanded a refund of $13.4 million from San Diego Unified because it had used funds from a federally reimbursed state program meant to subsidize lunches for poor children for other purposes, starting with $10.9 million in employee salaries.

“Last week, the district announced it would stop using funds that are supposed to subsidize lunches for low-income students to pay for gifts to encourage good “attendance” and other positive behavior by cafeteria workers. About $300,000 had been diverted for that purpose over the past 12 years.

nslp_icon“We suppose this represents progress, because in the first two cases, the school district flatly denies it has done anything wrong — even though the state laid out a lengthy, specific, unrefuted list of district violations in its May 15 letter demanding repayment of the $13.4 million.

“Nevertheless, San Diego Unified officials seek to depict these reports as inter-government squabbles over accounting procedures. Instead, they’re more properly seen as a pathetic serial scandal involving a district that repeatedly raids funds meant to help tens of thousands of low-income students so it can give the money to adult employees.” 

Even for California, this is pathetic

Even by the appallingly low standards of California governance, this is pretty extreme.

San Diego Unified’s leaders should be ashamed. If they’re capable of being ashamed.

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