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Jim Battin

Waste Watch – Costly Contracting Practices Wasting Classroom Dollars

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the state’s biggest and second-largest school district in the nation with more than 700,000 students, known for incompetence and corruption, has yet again, come under investigation for spending an enormous amount of taxpayer dollars on questionable contracts –  while the district, not to mention the state, is facing historic budget deficits.

According to the L. A. Daily News, May 13, 2008, “With Los Angeles Unified facing spending cuts of as much as a half-billion dollars amid a statewide budget crunch, the district is coming under renewed scrutiny for its nearly $175 million in consulting contracts with outside firms covering everything from legal help to improving student achievement.”

Taxpayers should be shocked to know that, “The LAUSD has dozens of multiyear professional-services consulting deals that total $173 million.”

Although it is a common practice to contract with outside vendors to better utilize funding sources, this
money was spent on among other things, “The Superintendent’s office has $4.7 million in outstanding consulting contracts, including a 14-month, $74,000 contract to provide monthly support for computer-related duties for the superintendent.” That is a lot of remedial technological assistance when you consider “the LAUSD’s own in-house Information Technology Division staff that provides services districtwide.”

LAUSD also “has an in-house communications department, as well as consultants, but also spent $30,000 on an 11-month contract for “media interview and presentation training to the superintendent, members of senior staff and cabinet.” Not to mention spending “$194,030 for a consultant to provide yearlong intensive training for athletic coachers and intramural coordinators in ethical practices and decision-making,” when the department has an internal ethics program.

It is outrageous that wasteful contracting practices are tolerated, but one of the board members may actually have her priorities straight saying, “she wants to review the list of contracts and obtain details of the deals and the services provided.” While some of the contracts might be valuable she said she questioned district accountability and the sheer volume of deals.” “The dollar amount is staggering,” “I have no doubt there are tens of millions of dollars for contracts for things that are less important than the classroom, our kids and our teachers.”

At a time when the state is grappling with a multi-billion dollar deficit and voters are being asked by the education community to make sacrifices for education–it hardly seems that Los Angeles Unified School District is listening when they misuse taxpayer dollars by awarding contracts that do nothing to bolster our schools.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has demonstrated a total lack of concern for taxpayers and their hard-earned dollars by squandering precious education resources, and it is time they change their business model. Being good stewards of taxpayer dollars requires transparency and accountability, because taxpayers deserve to know that their hard-earned money is being spent wisely. 

For past issues of Waste Watch — click here.