Some 225 years ago, when empress Catherine the Great visited the Crimea region, legend has it that a Russian public official named Potemkin ordered construction of “villages” that looked great from afar but were actually just facades. Think the fake small town the good guys built in “Blazing Saddles.” Now many California school districts are beginning their Potemkin village-ization. To cover compensation costs that top 90 percent or more of operating budgets, everything must go until there are just facades of schools left. Everything must go, that is, but pay and pensions for veteran and retired teachers.
The latest example comes from Los Angeles Unified:
Facing unrelenting budget pressure, Los Angeles Unified has pared its summer school program – again – to its smallest size ever, with only a limited number of courses available to failing high school students who need to make up classes to graduate.
Credit-recovery classes will be offered at just 16 of the district’s nearly 100 high schools, with online classes hosted at eight campuses. Only seniors who have received a “D” or “F” in a required subject like health or algebra and sophomores and juniors who have failed one of those core classes can enroll.
Unlike past summers, credit-recovery classes will not be offered at LAUSD’s adult schools, which are on the chopping block because of a $390 million deficit facing the district. District officials hope California voters will pass a sales-tax hike and local voters will pass a $298-a-year parcel tax so they can salvage the adult schools.
“We’re in a horrible (financial) bind from the state,” Assistant Superintendent Alvaro Cortes said Wednesday. “We’ve been going through this for the last four years, and it’s not going to get any better.”
The last paragraph is just pure manure. It is not the state’s fault that California public schools almost uniformly award automatic raises based on years on the job. In San Diego Unified, for example, the last contract I saw provides automatic 3.8 percent annual raises for 15 of the first 20 years a teacher is on the job. That is in addition to raises teacher unions win through collective bargaining. In San Diego Unified, in 2012-13, teachers will get phased-in raises that add up to 7.2 percent.
And no surprise, San Diego Unified, the second largest state school district after L.A. Unified, is also undergoing Potemkin Village-ization:
The San Diego school board voted to eliminate nearly 1,000 nonteaching positions Tuesday night …. . Under the San Diego Unified School District’s preliminary budget, more than 1,600 teachers and well over 1,000 full and part-time nonteaching employees — including classroom assistants, cafeteria workers, and office clerks — will be laid off next year. …
Lost in the districtwide protests against the teacher layoffs that cover 20 percent of the elementary teaching force has been the hit to San Diego Unified’s early childhood education program that would lose state funding under California’s preliminary budget.
Of the district’s 185 state-funded prekindergarten teachers, 150 received pink slips. The program serves students from low-income San Diego families and helps prepare them for kindergarten by teaching language, social and physical skills, and identifying students with special needs. Some 385 nonteaching jobs at the child development centers have also been cut.
So once again, can someone tell me how teacher unions are all about social justice?
There used to be a document on the San Diego Unified website that showed the district was on track to spend 102 percent — 102 percent!!! — of its operating budget on pay and benefits. I can’t find it now. But that is still the best example ever of what I’ve been whining about for years. When the Potemkin village-ization of California public schools is complete, thanks to insane pay policies, all available money will go to employee and ex-employee compensation.
102 percent, for you non-math majors out there, is more than 100 percent.