The Chief Financial Officer for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, which oversees LAUSD finances, made a surprise appearance at Tuesday’s LAUSD Board meeting with a stern warning: LACOE is closely monitoring labor negotiations and could remove decision-making authority from the LAUSD Board if it does not keep the district’s precarious fiscal house in order.
“LACOE has the authority to assign a fiscal expert or a fiscal advisor with stay and rescind authority over board actions in order to stabilize the district’s financial situation,” LACOE CFO Candi Clark said at public comment. “I am sure that everyone agrees with me that local control is in the best interest of the students and parents of LAUSD. The fact is that LAUSD is ‘not’ too big to fail, so it is up to all of us to resolve the district’s fiscal challenges.”
Her comments come just as LAUSD teachers begin to vote Thursday on whether to authorize United Teachers Los Angeles leaders to call a strike. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner has warned UTLA that its $3 billion take-it-or-leave-it demands would immediately lead to insolvency and state takeover.
But UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl has repeatedly given his teacher members the false impression that the district’s financial health is fine.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Clark reiterated what LAUSD CFO Scott Price has been telling the Board for months -- that LAUSD has a structural deficit that will eat through all the money that it’s required by law to keep in the bank unless cuts are made.
“The only thing standing between the district and a qualified budget right now is $3.9 million dollars, which is next to nothing,” Clark said. “This is a major concern as we review the district’s budget, considering the fact that the district is declining in enrollment, has uncapped health and welfare benefits for all staff and dependents, and the fact that [UTLA] negotiations are still unsettled. We are carefully monitoring negotiations and we urge the district to continue to make progress towards implementing with fidelity the fiscal stabilization plan.”
All six LAUSD Board members released a joint statement Tuesday opposing a strike, which they said "pits adults versus adults when students and their families will bear the brunt of a strike action.”
Speak UP wholeheartedly agrees that a strike will harm kids unnecessarily by depriving them of their right to an education and possibly supervision during school hours. Families may have to find alternative childcare and face lost wages as a result. The burden will be the greatest on low-income families that make up a large portion of the district.
“We hope the shared responsibility to put students first will lead to a common sense resolution that acknowledges the hard work of our employees while addressing the safety and instructional needs of students and the financial solvency of L.A. Unified," the statement from all six Board members said.
Board President Monica Garcia (BD2) read the statement aloud at Tuesday’s LAUSD Board meeting at which the Board unanimously approved labor agreements with the administrators union, AALA, and the union for office workers, CSEA. Those agreements, along with the agreement approved for SEIU, which represents bus drivers and special education aides, means LAUSD has been able to settle on a contract with 60 percent of its workforce.
All of those employees will receive about a 6 percent raise over the course of their contract terms, and Beutner has said repeatedly he’d like to make a similar deal with a similar salary increase for teachers.
In a statement released Sunday, LAUSD also sought to address misinformation that United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl has been sharing with his members in order to gin up support for a strike, which he has been calling for publicly for two years.
“UTLA leadership has claimed the District ‘is trying to dodge the mediation question’ and [is] ‘refusing to meet’... However, L.A. Unified has accepted September 27, 2018, which is a date offered by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) mediators in accordance with California labor law to resume bargaining,” the statement said.
The statement also explained why strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky would differ from an LAUSD strike. Those strikes were statewide teacher strikes that led to increases in state funding.
“Funding for school districts in California is set at the state level in Sacramento, not by the L.A. Unified Board of Education,” the statement said. “A UTLA strike at the local level will do nothing to increase funding for L.A. Unified.”
We urge parents to talk to your teachers and encourage them to vote no on a strike and make a fair deal with LAUSD.