Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times has written column after column that make sense about the accumulating disasters at the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In this one, he describes the latest series of embarrassments for the districts. So the FBI carted off 20 boxes of documents connected to the plan to spend $1.3 billion of bond money dedicated to school construction and repairs to buy iPads.
What about the other huge wastes of money in a district that has none to spare?
I’m wondering why the feds didn’t kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. While they were rummaging around at district headquarters, they could have grabbed another 20 boxes of documents related to the disastrous multimillion-dollar electronic student tracking system that created chaos in August and still hasn’t been fixed.
And speaking of the FBI, district officials were oddly complacent about the storm troopers, if you ask me. You’d think someone would have enough self-respect, even if it was just for show, to put up a fuss or demand an explanation for the raid. But I watched a district lawyer tell a TV reporter, with a smile, “I have no idea what it’s about.”
I’ll tell you what it’s about.
It’s about a disastrous year for the nation’s second-largest school district, which has managed — thanks to bungling, sloth and political squabbling — to let down more than 600,000 students.
And the iPad and MISIS (My Integrated Student Information System) failures were not the only things that went wrong. The district paid out a staggering $139 million last month to settle claims against a teacher who fed his own semen to elementary school students, among other monstrous behavior, some three decades after the district received its first complaint about him.
And he adds:
The challenges in school districts like LAUSD are largely about socioeconomic issues, and that’s the purview of county officials. So why is it that L.A. County supervisors, whose constituents fill L.A. schools, act as if LAUSD is somebody else’s problem rather than everybody’s responsibility?
We don’t need a politician to hijack the district, as former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tried to do, or to stock the board with lackeys. But there’s middle ground between Villaraigosa’s hostile takeover bid and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s unapologetic invisibility.
Where’s the leadership and collaboration in one of the richest cities in the world, home to some of the greatest universities on the planet, as well as some of the largest nonprofits devoted to lifting up communities?
I’m not a fan of blue-ribbon panels that have no authority and produce voluminous reports nobody reads. But I’d be willing to temporarily waive my bias if a team of good people got together to help the district find a new superintendent and map out a plan to turn things around in 2015, especially if no one on the school board is going to lead or get out of the way.
There’s too much at stake to plod along, business as usual, as a horrible year ends with the FBI at the door.