LAUSD’s structural problems: finances, spread of charter schools

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LAUSD board meeting. Photo by Saul Gonzalez/KCRW

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Caitlin Plummer

One of the major points the teachers union is making in negotiations with LAUSD is that the district has a reserve of nearly $2 billion.

Teachers union president Alex Caputo-Pearl believes the district could easily spend it on the union's demands. But the district says most of that money is already accounted for.

It’s tough to tell where the truth lies, says Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA.

“If you listen to the district, they are running out of funds, they are faced with a structural deficit. The county has said the same thing, and threatened that they will take them over if they don't get their finances in order… The union says they've got plenty of money.”

What Noguera knows for sure is there have been reports saying the district's finances are in trouble, that they're running a structural deficit.

Noguera believes there should be intervention, maybe from the mayor or new governor, because the district and union are in such disagreement.

He suggests leadership has been absent in resolving the dispute partly because LAUSD is autonomous. “It doesn't report to the city. It does report to the County Office of Education, but it has a lot of autonomy. And therefore no other figure outside of perhaps the governor has that kind of authority to force the two sides to come together... If this were New York City or Chicago, where the mayor has control, it would be very different,” Noguera says.

Alex Caputo-Pearl has said that Superintendent Austin Beutner and pro-charter school members of the board want to break up the district and make it a for-profit institution.

But Noguera doesn’t know if he agrees. However, he says the proliferation of charter schools is a legitimate concern.

“L.A. has more charter schools than any city in the country. There's no oversight for those schools. And many of those schools are under-enrolled, and it has wreaked havoc in this community.”

He notes that the county has been authorizing more charter schools than the district. “Where the oversight comes from is a political matter. And there there is a new governor, new State Commissioner of Education here in California, both of whom are less supportive of charter schools. So I expect to see some changes,” he says.

Credits

Guest:
Pedro Noguera - Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA - @PedroANoguera

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Christian Bordal, Yael Even Or, Alexandra Sif Tryggvadottir, Caitlin Plummer