Patterico's Pontifications

2/28/2019

LAUSD Teachers Have Won the Battle and Now Expect to Collect the Plunder [Updated]

Filed under: General — JVW @ 8:57 pm



[guest post by JVW]

UPDATE: The district is going with the $0.16 per square-foot option and plans to have it on the June 4 ballot. It will require a two-thirds majority vote to pass. I think going with the progressive tax is a bad idea: my gut instinct tells me that the people with the biggest lots who would receive the largest tax bills are likely those who do not have students in the LAUSD system. That family with the 8,500 square-foot lot who generally votes Democrat because they love the environment might have been willing to cough up an extra $537 each year to help the schools, but may balk at a $1,360 increase. Good luck on convincing them the money will be used wisely.

——

Though I don’t believe we discussed it on this blog, our Southern California readers and those who pay close attention to national reporting probably heard about the teachers strike in the Los Angeles Unified School District which took place shortly after the start of the new year. After a week and a day on the picket lines, the United Teachers of Los Angeles reached an agreement with the district to return to work in return for a pay raise, smaller class sizes, increases in nursing and counseling staff at school sites, and a “study” of the efficacy of charter schools which the union hopes will blunt the momentum for their growth. It also included the highly self-serving promise by the LAUSD brass to help the union lobby Sacramento for higher taxes and more funding for schools.

The deal, while seen as a victory for the union, raised some unavoidable questions about whether or not the deal was financially viable to the district. The Los Angeles County Office of Education has given grudging approval to the deal, but continues to warn that the district must reckon with its unfunded pension liabilities and bring down the percentage of the LAUSD budget that goes towards retired staff in order to ensure long-term fiscal stability.

So, faced with new financial obligations in the wake of the strike and having made no progress on dealing with the pension tsunami nor the continued drop in enrollment which doesn’t bode well for the future, the district and the union are going to that old standby: raising tax revenue on the schmucks and schmendricks who continue to live here. As part of the settlement with the union, the district had already promised to help lobby for a Proposition 13 split-roll, in which some of the property tax protections enjoyed by business owners for commercial property would be rolled back and the property would be taxed at closer to the current value rather than the original purchase value. This is a favorite idea of state Democrats, who promise that most of the $11 billion expected to be raised by this tax will be funneled back to local governments. But considering that a Prop 13 split-roll has already been floated as the answer to K-12 education, higher education, high-speed rail, single-payer health care, and pension backfill, it seems pretty likely that the money will disappear in the California budget morass with making only minimal progress in education funding.

With the passage of the split-roll being far from assured, the LAUSD and UTLA are additionally proposing a parcel tax for Angelenos, in the expectation of raising at least $500 million earmarked for K-12 education in the LAUSD. There are two possibilities for the plan that are being floated: a flat $537 tax per lot irrespective of property size, or a sixteen-cents-per-square-foot tax which would see owners of the larger city lots paying a higher tax.

The cynicism with which this tax is being proposed is breathtaking. LAUSD hopes to have this parcel tax brought to the voters no later than this November’s election, with the possibility of placing the measure on the June 4 municipal election if LAUSD can prepare and submit the ballot materials in the next few weeks. The parcel tax is a form of hedging the district’s bets in case the voters don’t agree to the Prop 13 split-roll when it appears on the November 2020 ballot, and though for the time being the education blob wants everyone to believe that the parcel tax and split-roll represents an either/or choice, it’s a certainty even if the parcel tax passes later this year that the district will continue to support the split-roll idea next year. The timing of this is obvious, as the UTLA contract with the district runs out at the end of 2022 and by then the union will no doubt have more demands to issue, especially should both tax measures pass. All this, of course, without any concessions to fiscal sanity from the district.

As we have discussed ad nauseam here, California is a very left-wing state in which Democrats and their allies almost always get their way. The votes on the parcel tax and the split-roll will go a long way towards establishing wether there remains any sense of fiscal sanity in this state, or if we have completely surrendered to big government progressives who believe that everything could be made better if only the government had just a bit more of our money. If the decision is to continue to tax ourselves without respite, expect the out-migration trend among families with children and the middle class to continue.

– JVW

25 Responses to “LAUSD Teachers Have Won the Battle and Now Expect to Collect the Plunder [Updated]”

  1. Is there anyone who doubts that once the Prop 13 split-roll comes into effect that there were be a concerted effort to undo Prop 13 protections of homes? First it will be homes valued at more than, say, $3 million, with some waivers given to senior citizens or other long-time owners. But eventually the state will try to get our property taxes up to New Jersey or Connecticut levels?

    JVW (54fd0b)

  2. The strangle-hold of unfunded public pension liability will be the death of Caliunicornia.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  3. Generally speaking, you get teacher strikes when, the district is being dishonest with the union, they are spending way way too much at the DO level, or they are trying to hold far more in reserve than the union thinks is necessary.

    District funding is public and is available on the LA unified board of education site here: https://achieve.lausd.net/cms/lib/CA01000043/Centricity/Domain/123/Superintendents%20Final%20Budget%202018-19_2018%200615%20REVISED.pdf

    Their budget has some… oddities? First of all, if you can eliminate 49 million dollars of admin positions from your district office and still have 140 million dollars in positions for certificated administrators at the DO, you are, um, a bit top-heavy. Second, they did a capital outlay for materials and supplies of 500 extra dollars per student (350 mill total) over what they spent last year, which I would guess was a chrome cart expenditure for chrome books for every student in the district. That’s a one time purchase and will not carry over into next year (they will need to be replaced over time, but it will spread over probably 10-15 years instead of all at once as they did this year. (if it was chromes, but that is the only “materials and supplies” thing I can think of that would increase spending by $500 per pupil.

    Sped funding looks a little high and healthcare funding looks a little high.

    The other thing to note is that the reserve projection numbers are pretty much magic. I have never seen a projected reserve number from the year before that matched the actual one from that year. The actual is always higher and generally ends up being similar to the year before. The district is not increasing teaching salaries by 700 million dollars, so they will have very significant carryover and as long as the housing market doesn’t go into unstoppable free fall, they can continue that carryover year on year. You can tell they are doing this in LA unified because their projected reserve in 17-18 for 18-19 was 400 million when in fact it ended up being over 700 million. Magic.

    Pension funding numbers aren’t the problem with the budget. LA unified doesn’t really seem to have a problem with their budget, though the employees may need to make a bigger contribution to their health benefits in the not too distant future.

    Looking at the salary scale (which is stupidly opaque) it looks like someone in my (low level admin) job in LA is actually making less than I am making and I am not in an area with the same living expenses as LA.

    (if, at some point, anyone wants me to explain declining enrollment and how that affects district spending, I’m willing to do so)

    Nic (896fdf)

  4. charter schools in arizona have been a mixed bag at best with the charter school owners making millions of dollars off the tax payers instead of spending the money on the students as state legislature allows them lower standards and hiring sub standard teachers that has included teachers with criminal records. sex offenders have been hired. problem students are kicked out and sent to public schools. when teachers went on strike here state republicans threatened to fire all of them and hire new teachers ;but pay is so low that there is a 40% teacher shortage now. other states contacted teachers and put up billboards offering to hire teachers at better pay if the state fired them. then state threatened to prosecute them for striking. in the end the teachers parents and others voted the republicans out in many offices turning arizona from a red to purple in 2018.

    lany (093d1c)

  5. , who promise that most of the $11 billion expected to be raised by this tax will be funneled back to local governments

    Here in Florida, property taxes are a purely local (city and county) affair. The state constitution sets out the homestead exemptions (a crazy quilt now via election-approved amendments) but actual rates are set, and the taxes collected, by the counties and municipalities. Am I to infer that California does it differently?

    (if, at some point, anyone wants me to explain declining enrollment and how that affects district spending, I’m willing to do so)

    If it is the same as in Florida, state and federal education is done on a per-student basis. So the fewer students in LA schools, the fewer dollars LA schools get from DC and Sacramento.

    Kishnevi (2c05aa)

  6. One thing to do is an initiative setting strict conditions on any future public employee contracts statewide. Some useful provisions:

    * A ban on pension spiking, strictly limiting pensions to a percentage of a 5-year average of base pay.

    * Clearly stating that no employee has any invested right in the future operation of a pension system, and that pension grantors may change their pension system at any time, and that employees only have rights to benefits for past work.

    * Setting an absolute cap on pensions from all sources at twice the average state private sector pay, and this affect current and future employees.

    * Requiring all current pensions to be recalculated according the the formulas in the new contract.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  7. “The cynicism with which this tax is being proposed is breathtaking. ”

    But it is Trump’s fault per this website re: disallowing write-offs at the state level. Ergo, it wouldn’t be so bad for LA denizens but for the evil orange man bad.

    jb (847773)

  8. The LA district has been renegade for a few decades now…

    Colonel Haiku (903a0b)

  9. With regards to declining enrollment, here in the Baltimore area, they are dealing with having to close elementary and grade schools in certain areas of Baltimore City because the number of students enrolled at these schools has declined to the point where it costs more to keep the doors open than merge enrollment districts. Parents aren’t happy about that because it means if their local elementary/grade school closes, they have to schlep their kids farther or have them on school buses longer. Declining enrollment also hurts the amount of state aid given to the school district; which is generally formulated on a per-pupil basis rather than a lump sum.

    CygnusAnalogMan (9c66ec)

  10. UPDATE: The district is going with the $0.16 per square-foot option and plans to have it on the June 4 ballot. It will require a two-thirds majority vote to pass. I think going with the progressive tax is a bad idea: my gut instinct tells me that the people with the biggest lots who would receive the largest tax bills are likely those who do not have students in the LAUSD system. That family with the 8,500 square-foot lot who generally votes Democrat because they love the environment might have been willing to cough up an extra $537 each year to help the schools, but may balk at a $1,360 increase. Good luck on convincing them the money will be used wisely.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  11. “California is a very left-wing state in which Democrats and their allies almost always get their way.”

    Eventually, Democrats will figure out that voting with one’s feet is a loophole that needs to be closed.

    Munroe (548534)

  12. But it is Trump’s fault per this website re: disallowing write-offs at the state level. Ergo, it wouldn’t be so bad for LA denizens but for the evil orange man bad.

    This is a prefect example of taking two marginally related things (objections to disallowing SALT deductions vs. supporting a parcel tax), linking them by pretty much force-wrapping them in duct tape, then pretending that you have made a really salient point and have exposed hypocrisy. Nope.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  13. I still think the problem is still with the curriculum its mind arson.

    Narciso (790c29)

  14. Nic (896fdf) — 2/28/2019 @ 11:23 pm

    You raise some important points and the union was very insistent that the reserves were overinflated and there may be some truth to that, but recall what the purpose for having reserves is. When we had the latest recession nearly 4,500 LAUSD teachers were laid off, despite the intercession of the Obama stimulus package. The County Department of Education wants those large reserves to serve as a bulwark against having to repeat the layoffs at the next recession. If you estimate that the salary and benefits for new teachers to be approximately $75,000, then those 4,500 teachers earn $337.5 million per year, and a $700 million reserve therefore covers two years of their employment.

    And you are absolutely correct to mention that administrative bloat and really poorly conceived and badly executed initiatives are sucking up funding that could otherwise be used on teachers, but there is no guarantee at all that the funds from this parcel tax won’t contribute to that mess.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  15. Hope your resting in peace, Andrew.

    mg (8cbc69)

  16. The teachers’ union’s want no accountability for results and no charter or other non-unionized schools. Willl the day come when their laims of being pro-student are not taken seriously?

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  17. The last time a politician tried to run against the teachers’ unions (but not hard enough) was Bobb Dole in 1996.

    Among the things being inflated is the sheer amount of hours and years children spend in school.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  18. Willl the day come when their laims of being pro-student are not taken seriously?

    The unions have been telling us for years that having a low student-to-teacher ratio was a major factor in ensuring strong academic performance, but their own behavior either suggests that they don’t really believe that, or that they prioritize their own self-interests ahead of the students. When the LAUSD was facing budget cuts because of the recession, the UTLA was presented with two options. Option A was that every teacher takes a pay-cut, progressively graded so that the teachers earning the most would take the largest cut, and then no teacher layoffs would be necessary. Option B was no pay-cut, but layoff enough teachers to make up the budget shortfall. The union voted by secret ballot and overwhelmingly chose Option B, knowing in advance that it would be the newest teachers who would be subject to the staff cuts. Ever since then I have had a hard time believing that they are really in it “for the kids” as they always like to claim.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  19. Hope your resting in peace, Andrew.

    He would have turned 50 today.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  20. I can’t even begin to talk about what’s wrong with LAUSA. I would just observe that the more powerful the teachers union, the weaker the kids’ educational achievements.

    Patricia (3363ec)

  21. I mean LAUSD…

    Patricia (3363ec)

  22. pay the teachers children are our future. tax cutters are the past.

    lany (69d161)

  23. Applicants looking to teach mathematics at the University of California campuses are evaluated based on their past contributions to “diversity.”

    According to the current job postings for these positions, applications must include a “diversity statement” detailing the applicants’ “past and/or potential contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

    https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=11927

    harkin (125f65)

  24. I feel bad for the people of LA. Public schools are terrible. Crime is rising. Racial animus is off the scale. Government corruption is a growth industry. All-in-all, it resembles a 3rd world country. It feels like the next Detroit….

    jason stewart (bb1fc8)

  25. #5.

    Years ago, (I think this is right) the state Supreme court decided that local funding of schools was unfair to poor schools, and a windfall to rich areas. So (again I think I am right), the court mandated that all taxes for schools be gathered together in Sacramento, then parceled out “equitably.” I believe even fundraisers of any significance go into the pot.

    The impact was predictable: (1), parents were undercut: the ones that raise money for things and controlled it somewhat; who needs them; (2), involved parents left for private schools, since they had no control anymore, and teachers -sorry “educators,” didn’t need them; (3), unions got a chokehold over money, since its easier for them to control pols in the state capitol than local parents. And it just gets worse.

    Harcourt Fenton Mudd (5e0a82)


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