L.A. Teachers Union: Give us $250 Million, Or Keep Schools Closed

The second largest public school district in the United States is in turmoil. Los Angeles Unified School District, with over 600,000 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade at over 1,000 schools, may not be open for the business of teaching on August 18. How to handle the COVID-19 pandemic is the issue, and there is nowhere near a consensus on how to handle it.

The union representing LAUSD teachers is the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), which has recently put out a lengthy document outlining what they believe are “Safe and Equitable Conditions for Starting LAUSD in 2020-21.” It’s a doozy.

Laced throughout the document are references to the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has on “people of color.” The document leads off with a section entitled “The Same Storm, But Different Boats,” making the case that LAUSD’s student population is disadvantaged compared to the general population. They are more likely to live in higher density housing, more likely to live in multi-generational households, more likely to live further away from medical care, more likely to use mass transit, etc., etc. Their point: All of this “structural racism” means that compared to other school districts in California, more will have to be done before LAUSD can open.

The problem with this litany is it predates COVID-19 and ignores a crucial question: Are disadvantaged communities going to be better off or worse off if schools don’t reopen? If it is impossible to meet all of the conditions that might be […] Read More

Modest Strike Settlement Nonetheless Puts LAUSD in Even Worse Financial Shape

One of the grievances expressed by the union during their recent strike against Los Angeles Unified School District was that, according to them, charter schools are draining funds from public schools. This assertion, repeated uncritically by major news reports on the strike, does not stand up to reason.

Public schools in California receive government funding based on student attendance. Since one of the other primary grievances of the union was overcrowded classrooms, it would be reasonable to conclude that LAUSD schools are not underfunded, but overfunded. There should be plenty of money, but there’s not. LAUSD is teetering on insolvency, and the strike settlement agreement is going to make their financial challenges even worse.

Charter Schools Outperform LAUSD’s Unionized Schools

The reason LAUSD is running out of money has little or nothing to do with charter schools. It has to do with inefficient use of funds. A study conducted by the California Policy Center in 2015 calculated the per student cost in LAUSD’s traditional public high schools to be $15,372 per year. The same study evaluated 26 charter high schools and middle schools located within LAUSD’s geographic boundaries, and found their cost per student to be $10,649 per year.

At the same time as LAUSD spends far more than charters per student, they do a poorer job educating their students. The same 2015 study, “Analyzing the Cost and Performance of LAUSD Traditional High Schools and LAUSD Alliance Charter High Schools,” compared the educational outcomes at nine charter high […] Read More