Los Angeles students are in desperate need of the funds promised from Measure EE. As noted by Dr. Rocio Rivas, “California ranks 43rd in per-pupil spending with an investment of less than $11,000 per student, which is below the national average of approximately $12,526. In addition, California is ranked 48th in class size.” As a comparison, in the 2014–15 school year, New York state spent $20,744 per student. Unable to rely on the state or federal governments to help properly fund our education system, Los Angeles must look to fixing the problem ourselves by passing the parcel tax.
Despite being the direct beneficiaries of a well-educated workforce, there are members of the business community who are unwilling to make this investment. As of today, they have spent $1,350,261 to fund opposition to Measure EE. These interests support the status quo where class sizes are above what is recommended by experts, school nurses are in short supply and libraries are subject to closure.
In the event that Measure EE falls short of the two-thirds majority it needs to pass, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent Austin Beutner has delivered his corporate allies a backup plan. The text of the measure that his office delivered to the Los Angeles County Clerk was different than what was approved by the School Board. As a result, the measure before the voters is not the same as the one passed by the LAUSD Board. Since the board vote was required to put the measure on the ballot, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed suit to block implementation of the parcel tax if it passes.
If Beutner had been paying attention to the discussion that preceded the vote to submit EE to the voters, it would have been clear to him that other than grammatical fixes, no changes should have been made to the text without the approval of the Board. Board Member Scott Schmerelson asked multiple times for clarification as to what could be changed after the vote and was assured by a lawyer for the district that “nobody has any contemplation that you would depart from the intent of the Board as manifested today.” In the words of Board President Monica Garcia, “On the record, Scout’s honor.”
This is not the first time that Beutner has gone behind the backs of his bosses on the school board. Earlier this year, he ignored a request to provide all board members with copies of contracts that the District had signed. Drafts of his plan to reorganize the district were released to the press before they were given to board members. He signed a contract on behalf of the district with a former state assemblyman embroiled in scandal.
The board attempted to correct the problem caused by their Superintendent by voting unanimously to accept the changes after they had been submitted to the county clerk. Only time will tell if this will be enough to fix the complaints outlined in the Jarvis lawsuit. If not, implementation of the measure could be blocked by courts even if it is passed by the voters. Regardless of the outcome, the issue of an insubordinate superintendent will still exist.