Culver City Observer -

By Letters 

Dear Editor

DO HAPPY EMPLOYEES = HAPPY STUDENT OUTCOMES?

 

March 19, 2015



Dear editor,

Back in January 2015, the school board voted to go along with Superintendent LaRose’s mid-year recommendation to raise district salaries another two percent- across-the-board.

This latest raise brings the employees’ accumulative salary gains to over 15% since Mr. LaRose was hired—back in 2011.

This two-percent, district-wide increase was not peanuts. It increased the district’s total cost for employing its current staff by over a million dollars annually.

At the school board’s last meeting, the Second Interim Report showed that the district will run yet another deficit: this year - $1,020,000. Is it just a coincidence that the two-percent “salary corrections” and this year’s deficit were both around a million dollars? Since LaRose’s hiring the district’s reserves have decreased from over $17M down to around $13M.

How Long Can This Go On?

The district administration has described its three previous budgets as being “balanced.” Sounds good. But were these budgets really balanced? Is an annual budget really balanced if you have to dip into your saving to make ends meet? Not in my book.

I can only guess that the district knew it was spending more than it had coming in from state and federal revenues. So why are we spending approximately a million dollars a year out of this one-time reserve account to pay for these on-going salary raises?

Looking Good

Last year, both Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s stated in their financial reports about our district that the amount of reserves held by a district was one of the indicators they use in establishing a district’s rating.

Since the school district, itself, doesn’t have to pay back any of the bond money borrowed; an increase in our local tax bills may not be an on-going concern for this district administration; for it is the local property owner/taxpayer that has to pay back both, the loan’s principle and interest, whatever it turns out to be.

Future Interest Payments

Will this constant raiding of our reserve cost local taxpayers more in future interest payments? How will these continuing annual deficits and spending down of our district’s reserves affect our future loan percentage rate when the CCUSD goes out to borrow its second $26.5 installment of Measure CC in 2017? Will having less in reserve increase or decrease future bond interest payments?

District Assumptions

In its last Public Disclosure of its Collective Bargaining Agreement release between the CCUSD and the CCFT--last January, 2015--the district reaffirmed its Goals stating:

(underlining and bold type for emphasis done by the author)

The District has considerable amount of reserves built up over the past several years that are going to be reinvested along with the increase in LCFF funding into salary schedules of the District. This increase will bring salary schedules particularly for CCFT unit members into the median salary range for Los Angeles County School Districts. This is in line with the District’s goal of elevating the salary schedules across all bargaining units within the median of LA County School Districts to retain and hire the best employees available. Elevating the District’s salary schedules is one of the District’s top priorities. The District is continuing to cut costs where available, focus on spending down restricted dollars and ensuring that the pupil to teacher ratios are well balanced.

When Did This Happen?

Now, we read in a recent LA Times article that according to the teacher union President, David Mielke, the district’s original goal of elevating CCUSD employees’ salaries to “within the median” has changed and that the district’s new goal is to increase employee salaries to “above the median.”

Wishful Thinking

Either Mr Mielke has wishfully over-exaggerated the previous salary goals set by Superintendent LaRose, or our superintendent has agreed privately with Mr Mielke to increase the district’s salary goal beyond the median figure without any public discussion about the matter.

It looks like the district maybe publicly saying one thing while negotiating something quite different with its employees.

Another Free Pass This Year

Fortunately for Mr LaRose and his certificated staff, the State of California has said this year’s 2014-15 state testing results are not to be used to assess student progress, teacher evaluations, or school and district performance.

Unfortunately for local parents and taxpayers, we will have to wait yet another two school years to see whether Mr LaRose’s feel-good “reinvestments” of his district-wide, double digit salary increases and harmonious and collaborative union relationships will deliver on the higher student performance promised by the implementation of Common Core and his Whole Child pedagogy.

George Laase

Culver City

 

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