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Fallout From L.A. Teacher Pay Raises in Area School Districts

In response to “Sour Fallout From L.A. Teachers’ Bonanza,” by Melanie Lomax and Ted Kimbrough, Op-Ed Page, Sept. 15:

Kimbrough and Lomax blamed the problems in Compton on the United Teachers-Los Angeles/L.A. Unified School District strike settlement last May. They claimed that LAUSD was forced to make program cuts because of the teachers’ raise. The fact is no cuts have been made. For the last five years LAUSD’s general fund budget has averaged a yearly surplus of $200 million. Despite last year’s 8% raise, the general fund surplus for 1988-1989 will probably exceed $200 million again. To put those surpluses in perspective, a 1% raise for teachers last year cost $11 million.

Kimbrough decries the financial plight of LAUSD because of last year’s contract settlement and how that settlement in hurting kids. But this year’s LAUSD budget has 55 administrators paid $100,000 to $161,000; 29 administrators are paid from $92,189 to $99,990; over 600 are paid $73,862 to $84,894. Many of these administrators are also provided new cars at no cost to them; over 50 are provided chauffeurs’ services, some full time. If there is anything in the LAUSD budget that is denying kids, it is this outrageous, bloated, and overpaid administrative staff.

Kimbrough claims there have been staff reductions in LAUSD. The truth is that there are several hundred more teachers employed this year than last. He talks about the adverse impact and the impending disaster that face districts around Los Angeles. It is not the strike settlement in Los Angeles that is creating problems for Kimbrough and the Compton School District. It is their priorities. Kimbrough, with a salary in excess of $90,000, is one of the highest paid superintendents in the 43 school districts in the county, while Compton teachers are among the very lowest paid in the county.

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Negotiated contracts that give teachers a decent salary are not the problem of public education. The problems lie with the fact that California only gives the schools $4,000 per year, per student, while New York funds its schools at $7,000 per student, per year. The problem is then compounded by the fact that local boards and superintendents like Kimbrough make themselves, their cars and their administrative staff the top budget priorities, rather than kids, teachers and quality education.

The Los Angeles teachers’ strike only helped education by forcing LAUSD to make kids and teachers a little higher priority in its $3.8 billion budget. The strike also produced the most progressive school-based mangement school reform plan in the United States. Teacher organizations like UTLA are working to solve the problems of public education that people like Kimbrough want to continue.

WAYNE JOHNSON

President, UTLA

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