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School for Scandal

Feb 18, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 22 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes released a report about the financial mismanagement of the Los Angeles Unified School District last week. No one expects the LAUSD—the second-largest school district in the country—would be a font of prudent financial decisions, but stealing kids’ lunch money is pretty low. From the report:

As it continued to misappropriate [$158 million] from its cafeteria fund, Los Angeles Unified depleted a longstanding surplus and began running ever-increasing deficits in its food service program. In January, 2009—a few months before the state would learn the extent of Los Angeles Unified’s diversions from its cafeteria account—the district held a press conference to appeal for increased state meal subsidies. The district’s news release was headlined: “Cafeteria fund cash flow may leave neediest LAUSD students hungry.”

Hot Air blogger Ed Morrissey tracked down the LAUSD press release from the grandstanding press conference mentioned above, and it only gets more appalling. The school district warned that without more money, “We may eventually be forced to replace fresh fruits and vegetables.” It’s one thing to run out of money, but given that liberal educators seem more excited about school gardens than, say, literacy, we’re surprised that the LAUSD isn’t running a spinach and zucchini surplus.

This is the same school district that in 2010 opened the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, built on the site of the Ambassador Hotel where RFK was shot. It’s an unintentionally fitting edifice to the Kennedy vision of government—the K-12 complex, to serve 4,200 students, cost a mere $578 million. This came on the heels of the $377 million Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, which opened in 2008, and the $232 million Visual and Performing Arts High School that opened in 2009. 

Want some more depressing numbers? In 2010, LA Weekly produced a doozy of an investigative report on the district:

In the past decade, LAUSD officials spent $3.5 million trying to fire just seven of the district’s 33,000 teachers for poor classroom performance—and only four were fired, during legal struggles that wore on, on average, for five years each. Two of the three others were paid large settlements, and one was reinstated. The average cost of each battle is $500,000. .  .  . [Meanwhile] 32 underperforming teachers were initially recommended for firing, but then secretly paid $50,000 by the district, on average, to leave without a fight.

So to recap, the Los Angeles Unified School District wasted $158 million it was given to feed needy children, blew through well over a billion dollars in taxpayer money, and has only managed to fire 4 out of 33,000 teachers for poor performance over the course of a -decade, despite spending millions in legal fees. It’s one thing for -public schools to fail to teach the kids they are charged with. But this level of incompetence suggests that they -actually have contempt for them.

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