Speak UP: Can you explain the deficit spending part because UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl came out the other day and said, “We have budget documents showing there has been no deficit spending for the last five years.” The union is claiming there is no deficit spending, while LAUSD says they're spending roughly $500 million more every year that than they're bringing in. Can you explain from the county's perspective, is there a deficit, and what should parents believe?
Debra: Well, our definition of deficit spending is when more money is going out than what you're bringing in. And from all of what we’ve seen in terms of LAUSD documents provided to us, they are spending more, and evidence to that is the fact that they're going from a 10 percent reserve to an 0.96 percent reserve [in three years]. So, if they weren't deficit spending, we wouldn't see this reserve dwindling down to below 1 percent.
Speak UP: That make sense. UTLA is also questioning the timing of this letter. Can you explain the timing? It's coming right in the middle of these negotiations. Did the letter have anything to do with that, or did the timing have to do with something else?
Debra: Our timeline is driven by Ed Code, not union negotiations. These union negotiations have been taking place for a long time. We have 80 districts [for whom] we are providing oversight on their budget and certifying whether they have a positive, qualified or negative budget. The timeline per Ed Code for us to make sure that we certify all of these is Jan. 14. So, it's a few days early, but it's right at the deadline. There are a billion and a half kids in LA County. It's unfortunate that the union or other people may see it that way, and I can see why they might because of the closeness in the timing, but if you look at that Ed Code, you know we're following what's prescribed there.
Speak UP: The other thing that the union is questioning is the independence of the county. UTLA is saying that there is some collusion between LAUSD and LACOE, which oversees LAUSD budget. They're basically implying that it's actually the other way around -- that the District is controlling the County Board of Education. Can you address these allegations and tell us whether you are in the district’s pocket and a puppet of the district, as UTLA claims?
Debra: That's absolutely not true. The decision to go in with the fiscal experts, actually the decision is mine. It's up to the County Superintendent, It doesn't even require my Board's approval. So, the question that the County Board of Education is controlled by LAUSD is absolutely wrong. I am a longtime educator, and I care about kids. And when I see a budget that's dwindling down with a district this large, and the impact that that has on children and families and interruption to their instruction, I'm going to go in there and I'm going to do my job and make sure that we're giving them the support that they need. But it has absolutely nothing to do with the union negotiations.
Speak UP: UTLA and a consultant for the administrator’s union did the same thing with Dr. Candi Clark, the Chief Financial Officer for LACOE. They really maligned her personally and attacked the credibility and credentials of this African American woman in a way that was pretty sexist and racist. They implied that she was a puppet of the district, said that she didn't write her own speech to the Board. UTLA claimed they had emails showing that the district wrote her speech. Can you address these conspiracy theories that we hear a lot from the unions?
Debra: That again is another absolute false statement. Dr. Clark is a very strong CFO, absolutely writes her own speeches. Everything that was written in her speech is in alignment with what she's been writing to the district over the past year. There was nothing new in there, nothing different. I was actually with her. We had a meeting, as we meet with all our superintendents in the county. I believe it was about their differentiated assistance, and they were going to have a Board meeting that day. I asked him how we could assist. He said it would be helpful if we would share the information, our concerns that we shared with him, to his Board. I had a board meeting that same day, and I said, "Absolutely, I can't be there but Dr. Clark can stay," and she wrote her speech at LAUSD. She used their laptop, then wanted to send it for us to review because it had to be approved by me. So, because they saw that there was an email that went from LAUSD to her, they made the assumption that someone else or LAUSD wrote her speech, which is absolutely preposterous. I also agree, and I think it's really unfortunate that she's been attacked in an unfair way. And I agree that there's been some sexist and racist remarks that I think are unacceptable.
Speak UP: At one Board meeting, a consultant for the administrators union even publicly called her “Miss Candy Crush or Crunch or whatever.” Do you have any comments about people working for the unions maligning and insulting a public official in this way publicly?
Debra: I find it offensive, and I find unacceptable, inappropriate and, frankly, something that were not going to tolerate. That is just uncalled for.Read More