Our unaccountable government-run schools

By Larry Sand
September 12, 2017

Taxpayers are on the hook for the actions of irresponsible school districts, teachers who can’t find work…and very possibly, Tampons.  

The teachers unions and others in the education establishment love to point fingers at charter and private schools, claiming they’re “unaccountable.” But in reality, there is no entity in America that is less accountable than a government-run school system. They exist only because of taxpayer largess, and virtually no one gets fired when they screw up. To wit….

Over Labor Day weekend, thousands of teachers in Los Angeles went to enter their students’ grades on the school district’s website…but they couldn’t. The entire website was down. Why, you ask? Because lausd.net had “expired.” And it expired because no one paid the bill.

The district didn’t take direct responsibility, of course, but instead blamed it on an “accounting issue.” If nothing else, people will have yet another reason to ridicule the school district’s technical ineptitude. The disaster of the “iPad to every kid” program, along with the launch of a data-tracking system that was supposed to have cost $25 million, but in reality dinged taxpayers for $173 million, now have good company.

At the same time Los Angeles had its oops moment, the state of California kept pace. Assembly Bill 10 cleared the state Senate with a 37-0 vote last week. The proposed law requires that schools, which are below the “federal poverty threshold,” be supplied not only with free breakfasts and lunches, but free menstrual products also. (In my experience as a middle school Title One coordinator, I saw most “free” lunches wind up in the garbage pail as the kids were clearly more interested in running off to play on the athletic field than eating. Moreover, many of the free-lunch kids had higher-end cell phones than I did, wore more expensive athletic shoes than I did and were dropped off by parents who drove nicer cars than mine. And I never got one – not one – free sanitary napkin from the district.)

AB 10 was introduced by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, the self-anointed “Tampon Queen.” The state Senate Appropriations Committee estimates that the measure will cost the state millions to tens of millions of dollars.

I can’t wait for some enterprising male student to shout, “Discrimination,” and demand legal assistance because only the girls’ bathrooms will be stocked with the feminine items. The probable outcome will be that, in the spirit of the times, the state will do away with boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, which are like, so, 20th Century, man. Long live the Tampon Queen!

At the same time that bills aren’t being paid in Los Angeles and tampon legislation works its way through the California legislature, an enormous hole has been exposed in Golden State law. To close it, AB 872, authored by Assemblyman Ed Chau, is now on the books. The bill updates the list of which sex offenses require the immediate suspension or revocation of a teaching credential. Some new crimes on the list include “aggravated sexual assault of a child, harmful matter sent with intent to seduce a minor, and arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd or lascivious behavior.”

So it seems that until this law was passed, a violent pervert could have free reign to do whatever to a child and keep his teaching credential?! Perhaps it’s easier to understand why the Los Angeles Unified School District is looking at massive payouts to sexual abuse victims and their attorneys that have surpassed $300 million since 2012.

New Yorkers have always looked down at Californians as being flaky. But these days they have plenty of their own mishigas to deal with. In New York City, the school district’s version of “Teacher Jail” is called the “Absent Teacher Reserve.” Some of these 800 or so teachers come from schools that have closed or whose jobs may have been eliminated. But many of them are incompetent, have checkered pasts and have sat around for years because no principal wants to hire them. Firing them, however, is next to impossible because of the teacher union contract. So they sit and sit and sit, doing nothing, but they still collect their paychecks and get yearly raises. Now NYC Mayor de Blasio is forcing principals to take these 800 undesirables and put them back in the classroom. A joyous day for the children, parents and good teachers alike!

In addition to shafting school kids, New York City has also been busy screwing taxpayers. Every one of Gotham’s 1.1 million students are now receiving free lunches, irrespective of family income. And it’s all paid for by the feds. What this means is that the child of a Manhattanite one-percenter who attends a NYC public school has his lunch paid for by a working class guy in Cleveland…and you and me.

Carmen Fariña, the NYC school chancellor, said – apparently with a straight face – “This is about equity. All communities matter.” A construction worker in Ohio reportedly had a few words for Ms. Fariña, and they weren’t “I love New York!”

Lest you think weird is only a NY-CA thing, permit me to disabuse you of that notion. There are stories all over our fair land that can compete. For example, courtesy of some excellent investigative reporting by the Portland Tribune’s Beth Slovic, we learn about Andrew Oshea, a teacher on “paid leave” for two years in Portland, OR. This charmer has been in and out of jail six times since 2015 for an on-the-job incident that officials refused to comment on, and six off-duty misdemeanor crimes, including domestic violence, violating a restraining order, disorderly conduct and a DUI. But until the beginning of this month, the Portland school district had him on “paid leave.” Yup. Oshea never missed a paycheck.

When asked why this situation was allowed to fester, the school district had no comment. The lawyer for the district had no comment. A rep for the local teachers union had no comment. The teachers union lawyer had – you guessed it – no comment.

Memo to the Portland school district: Take a cue from Los Angeles and refer to the situation as “an accounting error.” That will work. Seriously.

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.

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