After the most expensive school board race in history, we are left with the winners Kelly Gonez and Nick Melvoin, both of whom were heavily supported by the pro-charter people (otherwise characterized as the billionaires) and not the teachers unions. So it’s fair to say that teacher unions, in this case UTLA, have suffered a pretty big blow. That is, of course, if we buy into the theory that pro-charter school board members want to expand charter schools massively and get rid of all the teachers in the district. Let’s face it, that long-lasting false theory has proven to be nothing but a myth and a scare tactic. That said, I thought that maybe we would hear a more cooperative tone from UTLA now that the race has been decided. Maybe it’s just me, but one would think that perhaps it’s time to tone down the rhetoric and get to work on behalf of students and teachers.
Recently, just after the historic election I listened to an interview on KCRW with host Madeline Brand (please take a moment to listen to it). School Board Member-Elect Kelly Gonez and UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl were the guests. When Gonez spoke, it seemed clear what her objectives and her agenda are. Though she does support charter schools, she said that her main focus will be to “strengthen and support district schools” and make sure that any bad actors in the charter school system are dealt with appropriately and cited the LAUSD school board oversight authority to shut down schools.
Gonez went on the record to denounce the President’s proposed education budget calling it “disastrous” and saying that we have to push back on it altogether. I felt a sense from Gonez that she was very interested in working together and is careful about using divisive language or continuing the us versus them mentality that some have taken.
Meanwhile, listening to Alex Caputo-Pearl is like nails on a chalkboard! He continues to use divisive rhetoric and uses a bully tone toward the two new school board members which will be sworn in next month. He also went on to discuss the UTLA agenda, and it is very irresponsible.
Caputo-Pearl stated that UTLA wants the district reserves to go to salary increases and benefit/pension increases…but wait, not so fast, what is the intent of the reserve fund? According to government finance experts, these reserves are necessary. Take a look at this advice from The Civic Federation:
Best Practices for General Fund Reserves
The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) recently updated its best practice on unreserved general fund balances to recommend that general purpose governments maintain at a minimum an unrestricted general fund balance of no less than 2 months of regular general fund operating revenues or regular general fund operating expenditures. This amounts to 16.7% of either general fund operating revenues or regular general fund operating expenditures.
An important point to consider is that a school district is only as fiscally sound as its reserve fund. Depleting the fund to zero would be extremely irresponsible. If it appears as if UTLA doesn’t care about the solvency of the district, this is why. It’s akin to using your entire retirement fund for fun trips and frivolous impulsive purchases. Once you are at zero funds, you have no way to support your future. This is similar to what UTLA wants to do here. Additionally, these reserves are also used to help pay for unexpected expenditures, such a lawsuits and settlements, which in some cases can be millions of dollars. For example, recent sexual abuse and molestation cases that required huge settlements costing over $300 million dollars!
UTLA must stop the madness and end the culture of divisiveness once and for all. It’s time to accept the will of the LAUSD voters and play nice in the sandbox!
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