Wednesday, March 02, 2005


It felt more like a juvenile detention center during lockdown than lunchtime in my neighborhood public middle school. Teachers were strategically stationed throughout the cafeteria about 20 feet apart. One of the vice principals had taken her customary place at the microphone. Every few seconds the noisy room was punctuated with her constant commands: “You, in the green shirt, sit down.” “Students standing at the back table, find a seat quickly.” “Young man at the soda machine, move to a table.” ....

The lunch experience was depressing, stifling and insulting to both teachers and students alike. How did things get so bad that what used to be a welcome break in the middle of the day for both faculty and kids is now a necessary evil?

I talked with other teachers when I got the chance. Stepping out into the hallway with one teacher to monitor the changing of classes (yes, Virginia, the police state is real -- it’s the easiest solution to disorder), the 20-year veteran of the school bemoaned the disrespect for authority, the lazy attitudes, the violent outbreaks, and the general unpleasantness. “The kids used to be so good.” She once enjoyed teaching, but not any more.

On this particular day I subbed for English class, following the normal lesson plans for the day, which called for the students to take took turns reading aloud. As kids droned on, stumbling over even the most basic words, I glanced around the room. There were kids sleeping in the back, and others just staring into space. Disinterest abounded. Taped to the walls were book reports, each with its own hand-made cover. As I leafed through the pages between classes it was obvious the students’ time was spent more on their “creative covers” than on the actual exercise of analyzing or writing about books. And this was 8th grade.....

The depressing atmosphere I had experienced the first day resumed the minute I arrived in the locker room. The PE coach warned me, “Make sure you keep an eye on the stalls while the girls are changing. We have to keep close watch. No one is to take a shower. There are two girls who need to take a make-up test. Be sure and seat them to the side while the other kids are playing volleyball -- keep an eye out because the girls will try to cheat.” She was right. Three times I had to move the girls away from each other and their friends.

The class was co-ed, as are most PE classes these days. While younger boys still waiting to develop failed miserably in their struggle to show their great athletic ability in front of the physically mature girls, it was obvious the girls knew how to use their well-developed female bodies to intimidate and belittle. I was shocked at how aggressive they were. Taller than most of the boys, several of them shoved their breasts into the necks of the boys as they teased and laughed at their mistakes. Many of the girls had their gym shorts rolled up so far, their buttocks showed. “Unroll your waistband,” I said. A flat voice responded, “But everyone wears them this way all the time.”

More here


The Los Angeles Unified School District faces a potential financial crisis that threatens its future because of its unfunded $5 billion liability to provide full medical coverage to retired employees and their families, according to a new state analysis. The report by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office warned that soaring health-care costs, generous employee contracts and the failure to earmark money for the expenses pose a serious danger. It said the LAUSD needs to put away $500 million a year -- about 8 percent of its current budget -- for 30 years to cover a liability that could reach $11 billion under a worst-case scenario. Citing the LAUSD as a prime example of a problem faced by many other districts, the report said: "The liabilities some districts face are very large -- so large they potentially threaten the district's ability to operate in the future."

While school board and union officials shrug off the seriousness of health care without cost to retirees, Tim Buresh, the LAUSD's chief operating officer, said he's been warning district leaders about the problem for some time. "In the corporate world, I'd go to jail for this," Buresh said. "Corporations could never do this. L.A. has a Cadillac free-benefits system and we haven't put any money away to pay for it." If the LAUSD can't figure out how the benefits can be funded by 2007 when new federally recommended accounting changes take effect, it will have to quit promising benefits to retirees, he said.

About 150 school districts in the state provide substantial health benefits to retirees, with about 80 of those, including the LAUSD, providing lifetime benefits. The LAUSD and Fresno were cited as facing the most serious problem.....

LAUSD board member David Tokofsky said paying health benefits of retired teachers is not the most pressing problem facing the state. Districts fail to meet all kinds of conservative recommendations for workers' compensation, economic uncertainty and health benefit reserves, he said, adding that retiree health benefits are one of the only perks educators have. "Things will change. Solutions will be found and we should keep Ducky Lucky, Henny Penny and other Chicken Littles from pushing an extremist agenda in the face of real problems."

The LAUSD expects to pay about $170 million this year for 32,000 retirees to receive health benefits, and the amount is expected to more than double within 10 years. The LAUSD, like many districts, writes checks out of its general fund each year to pay for that year's benefits. The more fiscally responsible approach, according to the state report, is to treat the benefits like a pension fund and invest money now for each teacher currently in the system.....

Legally, school districts cannot deny benefits to current retirees, but they can negotiate with the unions to stop providing them for new employees. Dan Basalone, staff member for the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles union, said benefit decisions are made on an annual basis and could be revised. "(Cutting them) would politically be disastrous, obviously. It isn't something where it's this horrendous unfunded mandate that they're somehow locked into."

Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Granada Hills, this week wrote to LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer to find out what the district plans to do about the issue. Richman, a member of the Assembly Education committee, said if districts do not start addressing the problem, the state may have to step in. "The first thing they need to do is stop digging the hole deeper," Richman said. "The school district needs to negotiate with the teachers union and simply say we can no longer afford to continue to give benefits that are going to bankrupt the district."

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


No comments: