Los Angeles School District Needs a Hard Reset

A few weeks ago, I wrote that tax-grabbing state bureaucrats were pushing hard-working Californians to the brink. Incompetence, mismanaged money and union greed have turned the formerly Golden State into a failing enterprise. Here, I will focus on the Los Angeles Unified School District and its union, the United Teachers of Los Angeles, both of which have done more than their share to contribute to the state’s demise.

After a six-day teacher strike in January 2019, the district and union settled on a contract that many questioned. Now, a year later, LAUSD officials admit to spending $18,788 per student. But in a mid-January interview with EdSource, school superintendent Austin Beutner indicated that the district gets just $16,402 from the state to educate each child.

Mr. Beutner went on to explain that LAUSD would have to borrow from future reserves to cover the hefty shortfall. Knowing that kicking the can down the road is a stopgap, he added that “we have to go to the Legislature and get more funding.” Which means, of course, “We need to raise taxes.” (Imagine your kid handling his allowance that way. He overspends. You get angry, but he says not to worry; he will cover the shortfall by borrowing from Grandpa! He ends with, “By the way, I need a bigger allowance.”)

The other angle of the stick-it-to-the-taxpayer scenario comes to us courtesy of UTLA leader Alex Caputo-Pearl, who sloughs off the problem by saying he is skeptical about “doomsday predictions.” He stressed the importance of getting the split roll initiative passed in November, which would have a devastating effect on businesses – and their customers – if passed, and likely lead to lower, not higher revenues. As a selling point, the union boss perpetuates the myth that California is 43th in the U.S. in per-pupil spending. Yet, according to the latest available data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the state actually ranks 21st in state education spending. The same report also informs us that L.A. is ranked 7th in per-pupil spending of the nation’s 25 largest school districts (and 11th of the top 50), coming in ahead of Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas, et al.

Desperately trying to stay above water, LAUSD has been moving money from pocket to pocket, sometimes unethically. CalMatters’ Dan Walters writes that researchers at UC Berkeley in 2015 “concluded that LA Unified had shifted most of the extra money it received to improve the educations of poor and English learner students into general purposes, such as salary increases.” Despite complaints by civil rights groups, the district has not changed its ways. Walters adds that LAUSD “appears on everyone’s list of managerial basket cases” and “constantly flirts with insolvency by persistently overspending revenues and looks to Sacramento for bailouts.”

In fact, the state is hardly starved for edu-bucks. The California Department of Education projects total state expenditures for 2019–20 from all sources to be a record $214.8 billion, with a great deal of that headed for LAUSD, the state’s largest school district. And the gluttony seems to have no bounds. Another potential tax grab is coming to California in the form of a school bond, which will be on the March 3rd ballot. The ironically named Prop. 13, a “School and College Facilities Bond,” would authorize $15 billion in general obligation bonds for school and college facilities.

At the same time, we are pouring taxpayer dollars in education, the ROI is quite poor. On the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) just 30 percent of California 8th-graders scored proficient in reading and just 29 percent in math. And a measly 18 percent of Los Angeles 8th-graders scored proficient in reading and an even worse 16 percent did so in math.

LAUSD has been in a state of crisis for some time now. No one in charge seems to know how to run a school system, educate children and maintain a budget that doesn’t abuse taxpayers. About a year ago, both the county and state began to threaten a takeover. While this has not been talked of lately, it may indeed be the best route to go. If that happens, the district would lose its power and the labor contract with the union would go out the window.

When your computer is malfunctioning due to spam, viruses, bots, et al, the best thing to do is a “hard reset,” which eliminates all the crud and restores factory settings. All settings, applications and data that had been added by the user are removed. It’s time to reboot this broken system, and give students, their parents and taxpayers a fresh start. And the sooner the better.

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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center.


  1. Does this mean the Democrat promise of “Control Alt Delete” isn’t enough? That would mean the only way to clear the system is to “pull the plug” and “purge the system memory.” That will only happen when the Democrats are kicked out of the system………Do you the voter have that courage?

    • Herman Young says

      Yes, voters have the courage to kick out the teachers unions and bring sanity back to our state’s formerly great K-12. Get on board. The teachers unions can easily be out-voted. There are far more of us than them. CTA and CFT have been unmitigated poison to our formerly great K-12 system. The state teachers unions have betrayed everyone.

  2. You said it, incompetence and miss managed funds. Money will not fix any publicly funded school in California.
    That “hard reset”?
    That first starts with decertifying all, ALL teachers unions throughout California.
    Next step is adjusting all State retirements, current draws and future benefits.
    Then the public at large, aka parents of students need to be involved with teacher hires and curriculum.
    All these steps followed by periodical grand jury, with authority, style reviews at random years, never to exceed a five year period. This grand jury to have the authority to hire and fire. With reinstatements on appeal through a board of public and peer members.
    Money, can’t fix it, just like money can’t fix the rest of the state. Until we get competent members of legislature who can correctly manage a budget and state business we will continue the decline.

  3. The Captive says

    VOTE NO – They are con-artists of the worst sort. They don’t deserve any more taxes because they are people who are NOT TRUSTWORTHY. These are Democrats that are NOT RESPONSIBLE -AND you can bet you bottom -dollar they will take your last dollar and not give the kids a worthy education.
    This state of insanity does not deserve to run anything because you can see that they will ruin and destroy all they can and then run with the money if they can. The schools have been turned into INDOCTRINATION CENTERS FOR SHARIA and that is W-R-O-N-G !! There is so much wrong that taking one item at a time is the only way to make it RIGHT.

  4. Put them on a fixed budget if they run out of money they have to lay off administrators and board members until the shortage is taken care of

  5. Gotta Gedada Displace says

    All the above 3 comments sound just wonderful, but what chance in hell do they actually have of being IMPLEMENTED when the mix of a CROOKED SYSTEM and APATHETIC VOTERS have all but INSURED Democratic control at most if not all levels of government ? WHERE in CA has voter awakening /discontent ever reached critical mass to turn out corrupt Democrats for Republican / Independent reform ? The Grey Davis recall was DECADES ago, and that was WITHOUT “Top 2” WITHOUT a Corrupt AG and Secretary of State who keep voter rolls DIRTY and falsify Ballot titles and Statements, and WITH thousands of conservative / Reform minded voters who followed their employers OUT OF STATE and who the FALSE FLAG GOP leadership did NOTHING to replace. At WHAT point does simple MATH eliminate the remaining hope that the conservative remnants of the GOP can get support from the other effectively DISENFRANCHISED non-Democratic parties / voters and BREAK the DNC stranglehold on CA by repeal of “Top 2” , “Ballot Harvesting” and the dirty AG / SoS ? Before now, I was waiting for a house sale to leave, now, absent the events above, I don’t feel I can wait any longer and will have to hope the equity is still here un-stolen when I can come back for it.Plans and wishes are fine, but timing AND ACTION is everything.

  6. Herman Young says

    Just think how much our school districts could spend “per student”, if the Prop 98 ** guarantee state dollars for public education was only spent on legal California residents.

    But since cutting the teaching work force in half would starve the teacher union dues cash cow, this state will continue spending over half of its “per pupil” funding on Mexican citizens instead of only US citizens.

    ****Prop 98 guarantees 50% of all general funds be dedicated off the top to K-14 educaiton: 90% for K-12; 10% for community colleges.

    Per pupil spending would double to $30,000 per student if our open border and sanctuary city teachers unions were not filling our K-12 classrooms with illegals.

    Think about this when you vote for your own local school board offiicials.

    Reject any and all funding and endorsements by the teachers union, or their fronted PAC organizations. Demand school board members commit to closed borders and ending sanctuary cities. Then over turn the SCOTUS mandate of free K-12, at US taxpayer expense, for any and all illegals.

    This is the only way to get California K-12 out of its presistent #45 nationwide rankings.

  7. Herman Young says

    All state teachers need to visit “OptOutToday.com” (Freedom Foundation) and opt out of their teacher union membership.

    Not only do the teachers instantly save $1000 out of their paycheck no longer paying forced union dues, but they starve the most destructive organization in this state – the teachers unions who have been laughing all the way to the bank while our state K-12 goes down the toilet..

    Bring pride, dignity and professionalism back to the teaching profession. OptOutTodday.com

  8. Rottweiler says

    As we took our child out of school in the 4th grade as Common Core was being implemented, the teacher told us “you will never be able to teach your child, you are not qualified”. I figured after reading about the awful effect that common core would have on her ability to read and write and perform math, we made a decision that was the best for our family. We joined a group of wonderful home schooling academy kids in Torrance/South Bay which not only offered plenty of resources but was educationally superior because you pick the curriculum for your child, they maintain and enforce the records of attendance, and make certain that you are providing the proper milestones, testing and by doing our work 3-4 days a week we had time to go to museums, libraries, amazing places and field trips. We did physical activities, sports and found plenty of fun time to explore other cultures and our group was very diverse. It just goes to show you that a focused family unit can do marvelous things instead of settling for the dreary, decaying, inescapable government brainwashing of anti-American sentiment so prevalent in LAUSD. It is all about the unions, the quotas, the misuse of funds and the lack of rich curriculum. When a graduate can get their diploma with a “D” average how can a parent fail? By the way, I work full time as does my husband, our child and many of the other kids took the early exit for college and passed at 12 years. Our daughter is in a high school program where you can get your AA or AS as you exit high school with both. Afraid of your juvenile on a community college campus? The college professors go to the high school. Our child is our most precious possession why would you consider I-phone and I-pad raising them not to mention by the corrupt lobbying groups that want to turn your child into a “social warrior” to raise money for the teachers union? We had neither. If you want to see how bad CC is look for the video on YouTube if they haven’t removed it by the HSLD called “Building the Machine”, a chilling look at the industrial/mediocre education picked out for your child. It causes anxiety, the math is brain numbing and non-sensical, they remove many classics and basically want your child to be on the same mediocre level as all of the rest. No exceptionalism here. We had many naysayers but they turned out to be negative and simply wrong. Couldn’t be happier, you can pick your child’s friends, not so in a class of 40 where perhaps the parents aren’t even doing homework with the child or making any effort to help their child. Try homeschooling options, how could anyone in LAUSD got wrong?

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