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Trimming the 'Bloat' of the LAUSD

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The Daily News has published a series of articles today regarding the financial layout of the Los Angeles Unified School District's administration, and points to what appears to be a bit of an upper-tier bloat. As the LAUSD preps to face a massive budget cut, some wonder if now is the time to trim the fat downtown at their administrative headquarters.

By conducting a public records search, the Daily News found the following:

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The district has approximately 4,000 administrators, managers and other nonschool-based employees - not including clerks and office workers - whose average annual salary is about $95,000. About 2,400 administrators are among the 3,478 LAUSD employees who earn more than $100,000 annually. Meanwhile, the average salary for an LAUSD teacher is $63,000. And the average household income in Los Angeles County is less than $73,000.

They've also published a searchable database of LAUSD employee salaries. As comparison, they also looked at salaries for administrators of other large school districts nationwide; LA ranks second behind New York, however our "Superintendent David Brewer III and Senior Deputy Superintendent Ray Cortines make more than their peers" in the largest district. Further, "Los Angeles Unified teachers on average earn $63,000, less than teachers in districts ranging from New York City and San Diego to Chicago and San Francisco." There are nearly 900 schools in the district, providing instruction to over 650,000 students, but even Superintendent David Brewer believes that the bureaucracy needs to be smaller and less centralized. Although he has cut many jobs, he intends on cutting more, and diffusing other administrators into the many regional districts within the LAUSD overall. Members of the school board agree, and feel the focus should be on employing teachers who will provide the students with a quality education.

'Cut, cut, cut' seems to be the mantra, and its not being told to first graders holding scissors and construction paper. Jobs are on the line, programs may lose out on funding, and raises may not take place. The raise freeze is already causing the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) to put a plan into action for a work stoppage in early 2009, and union president A.J. Duffy told the Daily News the district is "looking at a strike in January or February."

In conjunction with their investigative reports, the Daily News is also running an editorial today which skewers the district for its "Administrative bloat" and asks that voters be aware of where the money might go if they vote in approval of Measure Q--$7 billion in funding--come November. Although where money goes in the district and how it is appropriated is complex, it may seem to the average Angeleno that the LAUSD bureaucracy is signaling that their needs at times outweigh those of their students. It's an unfortunate message to consider inside the voting booth, particularly when we know the students need more than they are getting, and those funds can be earmarked for educational purposes.

However, the editorial's author pins focus firmly on the people in charge: "Considering the scope of the LAUSD's administrative bloat revealed in its staffing and salaries, it's clear the district's first priority is not educating students, but sustaining the bureaucracy."