Calling the Transformer

first_imgBecause in the past few decades of Los Angeles Unified School District history, slashing bureaucracy has never been the board’s preferred way to free up cash. Traditionally, when the school board needs to find money, it’s the kids who pay through slashed art and music programs, inadequate supplies and textbooks, or perpetually uncleaned bathrooms. But the bureaucracy has remained sacred. So it’s nice to see Brewer break with convention and promise to go after the fat instead. Now he needs to deliver. Prudence suggests that the LAUSD ought to have found the money before committing to a new contract, but prudence sometimes yields to political reality. And now the district is starting at a $200 million budget gap. In short order, Brewer is going to need to come up with the funds, and without robbing the traditional targets. He will need to show the public exactly where the savings are being achieved – how many bureaucrats are being relieved or returned to the classroom; where operations are being streamlined; and how the downtown apparatus is being made more efficient. A former Navy admiral, Brewer has said repeatedly that more accountability is needed in the district. And now he will be singularly accountable for wringing the promised savings from the LAUSD bureaucracy. Meanwhile, L.A. teachers are getting a handsome raise, with more likely to come in a year, when the contract must be renegotiated. The deal also includes some modest reduction in class sizes. Paying teachers better, we’ve long been told, begets better teachers and, in turn, better schools. Ditto for smaller classes. On these fronts, Brewer will also be held accountable for whether the investment lives up to the promise. Paying more for better teachers and smaller classes is well worth it – especially if the money is only coming out of the bureaucracy – provided that the result is better education overall. But the proof is in the results: higher test scores, lower dropout rates, more responsive schools and a smaller bureaucracy. These are the standards by which the superintendent will be judged. We’re looking forward to seeing the Transformer in action.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WHEN Superintendent David Brewer III took the helm of the LAUSD in October, he boasted that he was not a reformer, but “a transformer.” Let’s hope he’s right, because if the district is going to pay for its whopping new teachers contract, he’s going to need to radically transform the way it does business, and fast. The 6 percent, one-year pay hike for teachers – coming, conveniently, just in time for United Teachers Los Angeles to make its hefty campaign contributions to incumbent school board members who face re-election in March – will cost the district $200 million more than it had budgeted. Not to worry, Brewer says. He and the board will find the money by taking a knife to the LAUSD’s bloated bureaucracy. And to do that, he’ll need to be a transformer, all right. last_img

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