Measure EE, a parcel tax proposal dreamed up by the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), was defeated at the ballot box earlier this week. The proposal would have levied a 16-cent tax on every square foot of developed property in Los Angeles and was counted on to generate more than $500 million per year in tax revenue.
Measure EE required two-thirds majority vote to become law and fell massively short of reaching that goal.
With 304,321 votes cast, 54.32 percent of the California electorate voted against the measure. Only 45.68 percent were in support of the tax increase.
The measure was a response to the impending UTLA contract, which was widely believed to be unsustainable and unfunded.
The UTLA contract was, in fact, a lavish give-away to unions, fully endorsed by LAUSD.
The agreement includes a 6 percent salary increase, a promise to lower class sizes, increased support staff hirings, caps on charter school growth, reduced working hours and a promise from district and county officials to support measures that would increase funding for education.
The contract came with an $840 million price tag, which district residents knew they couldn’t afford.
LAUSD has been on the brink of financial collapse for the past three years, and the tax was supposed to be its life raft. Unfortunately for the district and its union cronies, the public has rejected in no uncertain terms its attempts to siphon more wasteful dollars from their paychecks.
School board members are under no delusion of the coming financial collapse, either. Board member Kelly Gonez, originally quoted in the LA Times, said, “There’s a disconnect between the rosy, short-term picture and what we know is coming”.
Board member Nick Melvoin, also quoted in the LA Times, minced few words. “We’re in a death spiral,” he said.
Asked by the Times if UTLA believed it was imperative to demand sacrifices from its members to avoid a fiscal nightmare, Alex Caputo-Pearl, the current president of UTLA, said that he wouldn’t consider the question because he expected the state will give the district more money at some point in the future.
“If we take it off the table,” he said, “ we’re acknowledging that the public district system is going to go off a fiscal cliff, which I’m not willing to acknowledge.”
This problem, and many like it, could have been avoided if school districts focused on transparent collective bargaining instead of the antiquated model of locking the public out of the process.
Seeing this trainwreck coming more than six months ago, the Freedom Foundation published an op-ed piece in the LA Times warning of the destructive practice of failing to fully inform the public about what unions’ and school districts truly bargain for.
Unfortunately for LAUSD and the public at large, secretive collective bargaining processes continue to bankrupt school districts, misinform the public of the true cost of collective bargaining agreements and lead to greater tax increases as school districts scramble to close spending gaps.
While UTLA may not be willing to acknowledge that the district is in trouble, the State of California has actively investigated a takeover of the Los Angeles education system. Showing up unannounced at several board meetings over the last year, county and district officials have made it clear that LAUSD is not making smart choices with the public’s dollar.
If LAUSD continues at this pace, conservative estimates say that LAUSD will be out of money by 2021. If UTLA has their way, residents of Los Angeles may be looking at insolvency much sooner.