Reading the red tape

Amazing. A district blessed with citizens who have never turned down a bond measure — and in fact have approved two local bonds in the 1990s alone, can claim to find their purse unexpectedly empty. And that’s not even taking into consideration the state modernization monies it will soon be receiving from Sacramento or FEMA monies resulting from the Northridge earthquake. One would think that most school districts somehow manage to pay the bills and maintain their facilities without the benefit of such generous citizens, and indeed they do.

In fact, of the 47 unified school districts in L.A. County, none have been as richly supported as SMMUSD, but 43 manage to spend a greater percentage of their funds in the classroom. SMMUSD joins Compton and El Segundo at the very bottom of the country for dollars actually spent in the classroom. One would think that the bonds would free up monies for the general fund and classroom use, but apparently not so.

The good news is for the administrators. Already among the highest paid in the country, district administrators were recently rewarded with pay raises averaging 9.55 percent for the year (teachers received a 3 percent raise in February, and support personnel recently accepted 2.5 percent for each of the next two years). Odd that the people who ran the district into the red, who were already among the best paid in their profession, were the big winners in the salary race, isn’t it? And if they’re so good, why is Lincoln’s pool still empty? Why is Barnum Hall still out of service? Why is the district settling lawsuits, paying contractors hundreds of thousands of dollars, while lighting fixtures fall from the ceilings of our elementary schools’ cafeterias onto the tables below?

Why does SMMUSD rate 44th out of 47 districts in classroom spending, but first (or nearly first — the data isn’t available yet) in administrative salaries? Why were the administrative salary increases so generous if money is so tight (which is hard to buy with all those bonds we’ve passed)? Why are teachers now being told during negotiations for next year that the cupboard is bare? If district administration is so deserving of such largess, why aren’t we in the black?

Not too hard to figure out, is it?

Marc J. Sanschagrin,

SMMCTA Executive Board

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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