California’s new system for funding public education has pumped tens of billions of extra dollars into struggling schools, but there’s little evidence yet that the investment is helping the most disadvantaged students.
A CALmatters analysis of the biggest districts with the greatest clusters of needy children found limited success with the policy’s goal: to close the achievement gap between these students and their more privileged peers. Instead, results in most of those places show the gap is growing.
The test scores echo a broader and growing concern about the four-year-old Local Control Funding Formula from civil rights groups, researchers and legislators. They also raise concerns about whether the $31 billion invested so far in foster youth, kids learning English and students from low-income families has been well spent.
Here’s a cynical view: Maybe the law’s stated goal wasn’t its real goal. Maybe influential teachers unions wanted to shower big districts with money to pave the way for teacher pay raises denied during the state’s long revenue recession. Want evidence?
On the micro level, consider what happened in Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district. In August 2014, the United Teachers Los Angeles issued a statement calling for a 17.6 pay increase and asserting the raise was affordable because of all the “extra dollars [that] have already flowed into the district as part of the state’s new funding formula.” In May 2015, the union ended up winning a 10 percent, two-year raise, and a year of retroactive higher pay. The following month, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson overruled an underling and said that Local Control Funding Formula money could be used for teacher raises. As Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, immediately pointed out, this is not what the Legislature intended when it passed the law.
On the macro level, consider what’s happened in Sacramento. The Brown administration has been implacably opposed to attempts led by Weber and Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, to determine how school districts have spent their Local Control funds. It doesn’t want the public to know.
Domingo Avalos is all for clean air and blue skies. But he’s also in favor of paying the rent.
The port trucker says he logs lots of 12-14-hour workdays in his diesel rig, but he still has trouble making ends meet. Last week’s media event — starring the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach proudly proclaiming their march toward emissions-free ports — sent chills through Avalos and officials of his union.
On first blush, the latest effort by Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators to give public-employee unions access to public agencies to hold “orientation” seminars with new hires is an unfair special privilege not normally provided to private groups. It’s even more disturbing that the legislation authorizing such access is being rammed through the Legislature in a secretive manner without the full hearing and vetting process.
But critics of this brazen example of union muscle-flexing should take heed. It’s the latest reminder that even public-employee unions understand that the world is about to change. It’s only a matter of time before they lose a key to their enduring power: the current system by which public employees are forced to pay dues to their respective unions, even if they have no desire to give a large chunk of their paychecks to these unions.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who campaigned four years ago as someone who would stand up for Department of Water and Power ratepayers, is pushing a proposal to give six raises within five years to more than 9,000 workers at the utility.
The salary agreement, backed Tuesday by Garcetti’s appointees on the DWP board, would provide raises of least 13.2% and as much as 22.3% by October 2021, depending on inflation. Beyond that, the pact would deliver a 4% boost over two years to the base pay of hundreds of DWP electrical distribution mechanics, also known as linemen.