Friday, August 24, 2012

PUSD's Golden Consultant

School's back in session, and the Pasadena Unified School District, which has to number amongst the most poorly run in the state, is back with more of the same old shenanigans. The PUSD, which controls over $300 million in Measure TT bond money designated for the building of school facilities, is famous here in Sierra Madre for threatening to cut back on its planned construction for the Middle School. The reason? A lack of necessary funding. All of that bond money somehow can't be stretched far enough to deliver on the promises that were made by the PUSD back when they were asking the voters to pass Measure TT. Which makes it look like they had been running a bait and switch operation all along. And not for the first time.

But budget shortfalls and other fiscal problems haven't stopped them from hiring a $312,000 a year consultant. Paid for out of, you got it, Measure TT money. This from the Pasadena Star News (click here):

PUSD Consultant to make more than $300,000 - A construction consultant hired by the school district to oversee the $350 million Measure TT bond program could make as much as $312,000 this year - more than the PUSD superintendent's salary. Consultant Robin Brown is being paid from the Measure TT capital improvement bond money approved by voters in 2008.

Now some Pasadena Unified School Board members are scratching their heads over why the district is doling out a six-figure consulting fee when Chief of Facilities David Azcarraga's job was created in 2009 specifically to oversee the Measure TT capital campaign.

His hiring in January came less than a year after red flags were raised in 2011 when a previous consultant, contractor SCMC Inc, billed the district for $824,860 for its work on Measure TT projects over three years.

It will be a miracle if any of this money actually reaches the schools at all. Of course, Measure TT was originally proposed because the previous school bond boondoggle, Measure Y, turned out to be less than what was needed. In part because significant chunks of it were woefully mismanaged, or even stolen. And I am sure there are those among us here in Sierra Madre who will be more than ready to tell us that another bond issue is just the thing to solve this shortfall as well.

More PUSD

Pasadena resident Wayne Lusvardi, who writes for the cutting edge state politics news site Calwatchdog.com, is responding here to an article that was published in the L.A. Times owned Pasadena Sun. An operation that apparently does not always care to publish reader feedback. Or, perhaps with all the bear sighting news they feel the need to report, there just isn't enough room. Here is what Wayne has to say:

In "what the Numbers Really Look Like" (Pasadena Sun, Aug. 19) Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Board Member Scott Phelps says an $8 million cut in state funding cannot be absorbed without "negotiating a shorter school year and associated furloughs with our employees, both of which are highly undesirable."

Phelps' credibility is an issue. Contrary to PUSD's claims of teacher layoffs in 2009, there were no core teacher layoffs in 2009, there were no core teacher layoffs even though voters defeated the proposed Measure CC School Parcel Tax.

The state has reduced school funding statewide by billions of dollars by borrowing funds for the deficit in the state's general operating fund. What the proposed tax increase propositions on the November ballot are largely about is paying those loans back. But PUSD and other school districts have survived those cuts and there is no reason to believe they can't continue to do so.

What Phelps doesn't want to tell you is that any cuts would mainly fall on ancillary staff and building maintenance costs. Maintenance costs were vastly reduced due to PUSD spending about $1 billion in facility upgrades in the last 10 years. And we haven't experienced a corresponding rise in property values for that $1 billion in school upgrades.

According to the State Dept. of Education, the most comparable school district in California to PUSD in size of enrollment and proportion of English learner students is ABC School District in Cerritos. PUSD received $1,874 more per student each year in Federal, state and local funds, reflecting about $33.3 million more than ABC Unified.

Given the lack of credibility of PUSD, I would suggest to Mr. Phelps that he submit his case for more local school funding to a panel selected by the local Republican Club for review.

Moreover, I would suggest PUSD become a "Basic Aid School District" and go without state school funding just as San Marino does. This would put home-voters, not a school board stacked with special interest education consultants as Mr. Phelps, on the PUSD Board who could provide some political legitimacy for the need for local school funding. It's wonderful that school districts are more representative of the various ethnic groups in the community. But this has led to a lack of "consent of the governed" and consent of the taxed when it comes to requests for local school funding.

What PUSD lacks is not funding but political legitimacy.

Why I am starting to like Anthony Portantino

You know, he really does look like a Sacramento politician. Kinda portly and permanently be-suited, with a smile that never seems to leave his mug. But you know what? He tells the truth a lot, and in the political dystopia that is California these days that really makes him stand out.

You may recall not too long ago that Portantino went to war with the Democratic leadership of the California Assembly he belongs to over all kinds of secretive financial shenanigans hidden from the public. And despite everything that goon squad threw at him for his inconvenient truth addiction, he stuck to his guns and won.

And now he is telling the truth about the 710 Tunnel. While the likes of Chris Holden are waffling up a storm, old Anthony just tells it like it really is. This from the Pasadena Star News (click here):

Portantino calls for end to 710 project - In a strongly worded letter to the California Department of Transportation and the California Transportation Commission, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, demanded that transportation leaders "put the brakes" on the 710 Freeway extension.

Portantino demanded that state and municipal transportation authorities "cease all activity relating to the advancement of the SR 710 extension. The SR 710 Study process has been mired in controversy since its inception. I have personally witnessed actions and activities by proponents of a tunnel option, which have been questionable, but more accurately, would be portrayed as biased and tainted," he said Wednesday.

Portantino accused Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of misrepresenting "important information while hiding the true cost and benefit of this project from the public."

Now here is where it gets really good. If Anthony Portantino ever decides to give up politics, a wonderful career in blogging could be waiting for him.

"When you have a project of this magnitude, with this many unanswered questions, manipulations and false information, one has to wonder why decision makers aren't immediately putting a halt to this insanity," Portantino said. "It's a fraud being perpetrated upon the taxpayers of California at the expense of taxpayers and the quality of life of those neighborhoods in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley which will be devastated by a project that is unwelcome and disastrous."

At last, an elected state official speaks the truth about Caltrans, Metro, and their Godforsaken tunnel. Be still my heart.

There is also an article today in the Star News (click here) regarding Metro's big decision yesterday to drop a number of the 710 Tunnel options, including any surface routes. Which means they can now begin their environmental studies on the 710 "Hole to Nowhere" Tunnel. Something which was their real aim all along.

A great information site on the 710 Tunnel

Our friends over at Pasadena Adjacent have created a great web page covering the latest up to date information on the "hole to nowhere." It includes information on studies linking cancer rates to traffic of the kind heading our way from the 710 Corridor should the hole ever get dug. Check it all out at http://www.no710.com/.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

70 comments:

  1. "What PUSD lacks is not funding but political legitimacy" and we must add integrity, which was lost a long time ago.

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  2. The consultant industry has been in an overpriced bubble for far too long, and the sooner it pops, the better. Who can make that happen? The damn bureaucrats who award the damn contracts.

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    1. Why have bureaucrats if all they do is spend our money on consultants who do the work we hired THEM to do?

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    2. We get to watch the process in our very own little town.
      Next up - an RFP for the state mandated housing report.
      The last time our consultant cost $50,000.

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  3. The mismanagement and waste of the PUSD funds is criminal.

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    Replies
    1. These people who steal money at the PUSD are criminals.
      They really are.

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  4. Come on, you guys, the middle school campus is looking good as this school year dawns. Well, ok, it looks like a wasteland. Maybe the kiddies could have Buchanan read to them from T.S. Eliot as they speculate on the walkability of Sierra Madre through the weeds looking west onto Canon Avenue.

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    1. Where is Joe "We-Got-Blight" Mosca when we need him?

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    2. And then take a Buchanan walking tour of the used-to-be-nature One Carter Stonegate lots o' death.

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    3. Bite your tongue, 8:17 am! There has never been a time when "we" needed Joe Mosca! He has been the most divisive City Council member in the history of Sierra Madre. The man perverted every issue he attempted to influence, pitting long time residents, friends, and voters against one another with innuendo and outright lies. A pox on his house!

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    4. All Joe ever did was talk and talk and talk. And what he would say depended on who he was talking to at the time. But work? No show at SCAG meetings, no show at COG meetings, no show at Metro borad neetings, and no show at PUSD meetings. Just a uselss BS artist.

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  5. Carol Canterbury for President!

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    1. We love it when the trolls try to help us up the post count!

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    2. Of the Joe Mosca fan club?

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    3. This one is obessed with Carol. You'd think he'd show some courage and tell her of his love in person. Maybe he's afraid of real women.

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  6. Swindle,Graft,Payoffs&disingenuous twiddle twaddle.So what else is new!Nobody cares.They continue to support and elect dishonest hucksters time after time.

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  7. PUSD, SCAG, SGVCOG, CALTRANS, METRO. All take our money, all don't deliver. They all need to be fired. Taxpayer revolt. Vote down all taxes and all requests fro bonds. Let's starve them out of existence.

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  8. Wasn't it The Bart himself pushing for a third round of PUSD bonds recently? Guy never met a bond initiative he didn't love.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it was. Bart is a very bad person, a very bad person!
      It is very strange that there are people in this town who still trust this man.

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    2. Sierra Madre does have it's parasitic class.

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    3. What is the Bartster's visible means of support?

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    4. Private practice land use attorney.

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    5. Shouldn't we be getting some news from El Monte soon?

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  9. Construction bonds are a moneymaking scam. Of course it doesnt mean the work is not needed. As a result they will continue to be passed even with the existing system. Something does need to get changed, but no one is going to forgo a middle school to make a statement. We need to figure out how to achieve both.

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    1. Now that people know the money is being used to pay consultants $300,000 a year rather than complete Sierra Madre's Middle School, I can't see anyone voting for another PUSD bond. Their word obviously isn't worth the paper they print these things on.

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  10. As much as I try to make a point of not criticizing people personally, Wayne Lusvardi should not be criticizing people for lack of credibility. Wayne was the same person who helped defeat measure CC by claiming there were $25M in RDA funds sitting around that would be simply given to the district. Of course the law that talked about RDA fund use was explicit that any funds the state 'borrowed' from local RDA coffers would reduce their own general fund obligation to schools. In other words, there was no 'extra' money. Rather the state was stealing the RDA funds so it could use the same amount of its own general funds on something non-education-related.

    Im also not clear what his point is about core teacher layoffs. First of all, is the implication that core teachers are the only necessary teachers for education? Second, there have been layoffs every year for the past handful of years. What he may have meant to say is there was no net change, that does not mean there were no layoffs. In two of the recent years, teachers were in fact laid off, then they were hired back when the feds approved stimulus funds. While that helped maintain teachers as the state reduced its own education funding (by about $8B between 07-08 and 10-11), it not only did not mean it had no impact--when teachers are hired back after being laid off, they undergo a bumping process, which creates teacher turnover in schools; something that can be extremely disruptive--but it also has gone away. That mention of 'loss of one-time revenue' is referring to those funds. Federal revenue is down $4M this year from last year, and $7M since 08-09. Even this year, teachers were laid off and re-hired (only because the district is banking on prop 30 passing). Anyone who thinks thats a good way to do business, is sadly mistaken.

    I also dont understand the comment that cuts will fall on ancillary staff. The state, as part of its 'budget', authorized districts to cut the school year up to 3 additional weeks if they need to do that to balance their budgets. That of course would affect everyone. All CSEA staff has had their work-year reduced by 2 to 4 weeks. About 40 FTE in special ed were cut this year (he might think they are ancillary until the lawsuits). Middle school librarians were cut. Raised class size at 2 middle schools. There were a ton of staffing cuts that were not implemented due to the expectation that prop 30 would pass. Add to that the deficit factor for this year's revenue limit is almost 30%!

    And finally, its funny he is suggesting 'becoming' a basic aid district. Districts dont actively 'become' basic aid. A district is a basic aid district when its local property taxes exceed its revenue limit allocation. There are only two ways a district can 'become' basic aid. One is for its property taxes to increase significantly (I can almost guarantee thats not what Wayne wants) or to reduce enrollment to the point that the budget is below what property taxes alone would fund. In 10-11, PUSD's total revenue limit was about $95M. District revenues from property taxes were only $50M, or just over 50% of the revenue limit. Not sure how he's envisioning 'getting rid' of 50% of PUSD's enrollment (probably even more since revenue limit is calculated on more than ADA).

    Oh, and btw, San Marino is not a basic aid district.
    http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/aa/pa/documents/advtax12.xls

    It gets about 50% of its revenue limit from the state as well.
    http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/_layouts/EdDataClassic/bookmark_redirector.asp?R4/L06/T2/F1011/C19/D64964

    credibility anyone?

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    1. I read the article Phelps wrote for the Pasadena Sun, and I had the distinct feeling I was reading the wrong article based on Lusvardi's rant. And I like Lusvardi and CalWatchDog!

      However, Lusvardi missed the boat on this one. Phelps is one of the lone voices for parental and student accountability instead of blaming the educators (he's been called a racist for doing so), and the fact that the teacher's union despises him is enough to make me like him. It's time to bring down the liberal teacher's union bankrupting our state with their unsustainable pensions and benefits, anyway. Phelps article is balanced, informative and honest. And so what if he does some tutoring for a living. Good grief!

      And that bizarre comment about a panel comprised of the local Republican Club? You have to be kidding me - and I'm a conservative Republican! They're a bunch of snobby do nothings, with the exception of one or two of them who understand the problems with the PUSD, pensions and out of control spending.

      If it were up to me, and apparently the droves of parents homeschooling because of the abysmal public school system, we would eliminate the public school system entirely, and go to a voucher system. That would give parents the choice to select a school which most closely meets the needs of their individual student. Perhaps they would even teach real history, and leave sexual orientation education to the parents.

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  11. 'rather than'? I thought the middle school was getting built. And in fact, you probably have that consultant to thank for that. Although it clearly seems like too much money, it should be pointed out that the alternative mechanism (as used in the past) is even more expensive. Why no speaking up about these things when the board votes to approve these contracts? (In public meetings btw).

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    1. True 2:05 that people are remiss in oversight, but they elect their representatives with the understanding that the representatives will do what they were elected to do.
      I think the Board members are far more culpable for the mess than the public is.

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    2. What is being done at the Middle School is not what was promised when the PUSD asked us to approve Measure TT. When you ask people for their money, and then you renege on your promises, credibility fails. That is what happened. No matter what the "alternative mechanism" might be.

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    3. Many of us in Sierra Madre have learned that participating in public meetings can be a full time job. That's fine if you don't have any other obligations, but it gets to be a real burden if you are already working 40+ hours a week and raising a family.

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    4. Please remind me what was 'promised' when you voted for measure tt. If I'm not mistaken, we've closed 8 schools since then..

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    5. You don't remember? I thought you were some kind of big expert?

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    6. what 2:46 was promised may be something different than what was on the ballot or said during the campaign. Just trying to get clarity.

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    7. You mean to say there was more than one of them making promises?

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    8. who is 'them'? (other than gigantic ants..) I cant know what other people were promised. I'd like to hear it.

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    9. Them being inclusive of double-taking phonies such as yourself.

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  12. Thank you all the Pasadena residents who are stopping this 710 scam.
    You are doing a very good thing for everyone!
    We need to all vote NO on tax issues on the ballot, the crooks in Sacramento do not deserve anymore of our money to plan these terrible schemes like the 710
    We should not give them anymore money until they stop doing these things, I don't mind the government spending our money on something we need very much.
    The 710 and over development buildings are not those things.

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  13. I figured Navigio, who obviously knows more of the facts about this, than anyone else posting, wanted us to look at it again. Anyway, I found this ballot summary:

    "To repair or replace deteriorating and outdated plumbing, heating, ventilation, and fire alarm systems; replace aging portable classrooms; make disabled access improvements, implement energy- and water-saving projects; modernize or reconstruct kindergartens, cafeterias, multipurpose facilities and gyms, and make the District eligible for millions in State matching grants, shall Pasadena Unified School District issue $350,000,000 of bonds at lawful interest rates, with no money for administrative salaries, and spending annually reviewed by an independent citizens’ oversight committee?"

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    1. Consultants are not part of administration?

      Who chooses who is on the oversight committee?

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    2. Navigio is using the usual blog arguing tactic of getting somewhat else to define the issues so that he can knock them down. When PUSD made promises to the parents of students here in Sierra Madre in exchange for their votes fpor Measure TT, the aims were laid out quite clearly. And there was NO mention of these things being dependent on state money. Wasn't true.

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    3. I'd have to assume that $300,000 a year consultant to oversee the use of all that Measure TT money would be considered an administrative person with an administrative salary?

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    4. Lets try this again.

      The measure TT text was not very specific when it came to which projects would be implemented at which schools. Its possible different things were 'promised' separate from that bond language, but I cant know what people who are not me were promised.

      There is a link to the full ballot text near the top of this page:
      http://measurett.org/measure-tt/

      you can see that not only are the projects not school-specific, but also that the school sites listed included Allendale, Audobon, Burbank, Edison, Linda Vista, Loma Alta, Noyes, and Oak Knoll. All of those have since been closed. Obviously, the priority of using the funds on those campuses did (and should have) changed.

      In addition, the text includes: "Completion of some projects may be subject to further government approvals by State officials and boards, to local environmental review, and to input from the public. For these reasons, inclusion of a project on the Bond Project List is not a guarantee that the project will be funded or completed. The Board of Education my make changes to the Bond Project List in the future consistent with the projects specified in the proposition."

      Also, regarding mention of 'no mention of things being dependent on state money", the following text is also there: "...and in order to qualify to receive State matching grant funds...."

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  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Somebody must have been upset!

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    2. The PUSD will do that to you.

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    3. hahah, now im curious..

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  15. Navigio
    Please don't put thoughts into my words. What I was pointing out is that IF PUSD shifted to being totally funded from property taxes (something I might advocate) it would mean the end of special interests and consultants controlling its Board and a shift to home-voters controlling the Board. This would give the PUSD legitimacy for property taxation. Right now those who pay property taxes and vote don't have many children in PUSD. And the homeowners don't see any "capitalization" of higher home values from public schools because of PUSD's poor performance indicators. Pretty new buildings don't raise neighborhood property values much at all (although dilapidated school facilities surely would).

    As to the alleged lack of credibility regarding the shift of redevelopment funds to schools under ABX-4-2 (2009), it was Board Member Ed Honowitz at a meeting of the Pasadena Neighborhood Council who stated that a Parcel Tax would add to state school revenues and not just offset any revenue reductions. Only after the election I had to call the State Dept. of Education numerous times to get an accurate answer. PUSD's confusing misinformation was the source of leading us to believe that they were not credible whether a Parcel Tax would or would not replace state funding. And PUSD was not credible about teacher layoffs. There were no core teacher layoffs. Name the librarians and music teachers laid off and I will retract my statement. Property owners were not about to pop for school parcel taxes if it just meant added funding during an economic depression. It was PUSD's own lack of credibility that created this confusion. My statements at that time were meant to provoke PUSD to definitively point out the legal basis for parcel taxes adding or subtracting from PUSD revenues. PUSD was not forthcoming at that time with any credible information one way or another. I would gladly have retracted my statement if they had been forthcoming.

    Also, ABX-4-2 (2009) provides for flexibility of funding for ancillary personnel instead of the prior system of political earmarks for protected "categorical" jobs. So it was up to the local school board, not some state political earmark for some protected job category, to decide how to spend their funds for ancillary personnel and maintenance costs. This flexibility saved many school districts from large budget deficits. There has been a failing effort to get the legislature to change ancillary school funding into a flexible block grant but state legislators prefer the old political earmark system that buys votes.

    How is it that ABC Unified School District in Cerritos can operate with about $33 million less funding than PUSD?

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    1. Wayne, parcel taxes and RDA funds are two different things. Parcel taxes are in addition to revenue limits. RDA funds are not (actually not in addition to prop 98 funds). Here is an exchange we had on this topic a couple years ago (yes, I am 'pas'). Note the last sentence.:

      pas wrote in TOPIX at Pasadena Star News



      in fact, i figured i'd take a look again today since there was recently the abx4-26 ruling and low and behold another entry about redevelopment funds. the 'post' of course failed to mention that the law stipulates that the state's obligation is reduced by the same amount, which of course if true, would mean zero net gain for the district. i really dont understand why this point is simply ignored, when the whole claim is that abx4-26 is supposed to be 'additional' funds..and to be clear, i think psn is almost as bad.. which makes it worse because it claims to be a NEWSpaper..

      REPLY BY WAYNE LUSVARDI

      IT IS AN URBAN MYTH THAT REDEVELOPMENT FUNDS WILL OFFSET ANY STATE SCHOOL AID. HERE IS THE WORDING RIGHT OUT OF THE COURT CASE "CALIFORNIA REDEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION VS. GENEST, DIRECTOR, DEPT. OF FINANCE, STATE OF CALIFORNIA, PAGE 7, LINES 11 TO 13:

      "...FUNDS TRANSFERRED BY AN RDA (REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY) PURSUANT TO AB 26 WOULD BE DISTRIBUTED ONLY TO SCHOOL(S) SERVING REDEVELOPMENT PROJECTS OF THE RDA'S - SECTION 33690, SUBDIV (J); 33690.5 SUBDIV.(J)"LINK: http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/capitola...

      SO THE $10.8 MILLION REPORTED IN THE STAR NEWS TODAY (MAY 10) AS BEING TRANSFERRED TO THE COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION FOR FURTHER DISBURSEMENT WILL EVENTUALLY GO TO PUSD.

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    2. As you know, districts are provided funding to provide services. This funding is largely dependent on the district's demographics. ABC unified differs from PUSD in a number of ways, many of which will impact the revenue they receive (and the expenditures for services they are obligated to provide).

      F&R
      PUSD: 69%
      ABC: 47%

      ELL:
      PUSD: 20%
      ABC: 17%

      SWD:
      PUSD: 12%
      ABC: 9%

      PUSD is 3% asian, 17% AA and 61% Hisp, ABC is 27% asian, 10% AA and 41% Hisp.

      ABC's PEL (parent education level) is 3.24 (something like a cross between webster and don benito), PUSD's is 2.64.

      In short, the districts really are not all that similar demographically. And demographics determines budget.

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    3. Btw, a couple things I agree with you on. Pasadena area taxpayers feel they have little to no responsibility for the children of this district because most of their children attend private schools. Thats embarrassing, imho, but you're right about it. Personally, I dont think public education should be seen solely as a way to capitalize on real-estate investments.

      I also agree that PUSD could do a much better job at transparency, but due to the lack of interest mentioned above, very few people in this community are really interested in having an actual discussion about public school funding. That puts the district and the board in a tough position. Do you try to explain the ins and outs (only to have their eyes glaze over after 20 seconds) or do you try to make the point more or less blindly, that additional revenue is needed when you think it is. Personally, I'd rather try the former, but thats probably why Im not in politics. Unfortunately EH often does the latter (much to my chagrin).

      I actually have some similar concerns to phelps, but mine are more surrounding the basic need for better transparency than focusing on specific numbers (I wrote a long response to phelps' article, but was not able to post it on the sun's site--tattler, I think their blog software sucks and thats probably more the reason the commenting is either nonexistent or inconsistent, not so much as a intentional thing (my opinion).

      And btw, I appreciate you responding to my points.

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  16. I sure hope the Republican's win so that the Dept of Education is dismantled and districts like PUSD are a thing of the past, and we would eliminate the public school system entirely. Then our country would go to a voucher system. That would give parents the choice to select a school which most closely meets the needs of their individual student. Perhaps they would even teach real history, and leave sexual orientation education to the parents.

    Go Republicans!!!!

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    1. The DoE has nothing to do with why PUSD exists. Puclic education is a state issue. The feds do try to bribe their way into district policy by offering money in exchange for punitive measures. Very few districts can afford to resist that temptation.

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    2. Sorry, cell phone

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  17. You know, one of the original intents of the Northwest Ordinance which was adopted by Congress in 1787, was to make certain that public education was made manifest in the United States. To quote Article III from the document
    " Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Schools were to encourage and help build good citizens. How are they doing today? Vouchers and competition are a great idea.

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    1. Well, lets see. in 1870 the high school graduation rate was 2%. In 1900 it was about 6%. In 1940 it was about 50%. In 1970 it was about 77% and right now its somewhere around 70%. A large reason the rate has dropped since 1970 is an increase in subgroups who have higher dropout rates (ie simpson's paradox).
      Half of african americans werent even enrolled in school until about 1920.
      In the early 90s it was about 93%
      In 1950 about 5% of the population over 25 had a bachelors degree. It recently just topped 30%. I think less than 7% of the world's population has a college degree.
      Similar trends for literacy, etc.
      If you care about standardized tests, proficiency rates have increased dramatically for virtually all subgroups.
      So in essence, we are educating more and more of our populace, and doing so under more and more difficult circumstances (rise in poverty at the moment, rise in single parent households, rise in non-native speakers, etc).
      I guess its up to people to decide whether these are good things or not.

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  18. Navigio
    Please do not put thoughts into my words. What I wrote was that IF PUSD shifted from state to local funding from property taxes (something I MIGHT advocate), PUSD would have greater political legitimacy for taxation. Right now most homeowners do not have children in the PUSD and don't see any positive capitalization of their property values from public schools due to the poor academic performance indicators at PUSD. Pretty new buildings don't increase property values (although dilapidated school facilities would). It's wonderful to have specialized educational consultants on the school board and to have a diverse board. But they aren't the people paying the bills. Thus there is only weak "consent of the governed" or the taxed. My observation about lack of political legitimacy is empirical not a put down of PUSD. If you want School Parcel taxes in this city your are going to have to increase political legitimacy. But that would mean that the home-voters would want to control the PUSD Board as they did before state school funding was initiated. I'm not sure all the educational special interests on the PUSD Board would desire that. But it would be the price that would have to be paid if greater school taxation is sought.

    As to your allegation about Measure CC, it was PUSD Board Member Ed Honowitz at a meeting of the Pasadena Neighborhood Council which I attended who said that new Parcel Tax revenues would not add to existing school revenues. When I called the State Dept. of Education they stated the opposite. Also, PUSD claimed there would be teacher layoffs. I' still waiting for the names of the art teachers and librarians that were laid off so I can retract my statement that there were no core teacher layoffs. It was PUSD's lack of credibility about Parcel Taxes and Teacher Layoffs that led to confusing the public, including this writer. My public statement in 2009 about parcel taxes was meant to provoke PUSD into coming out with an official statement and a legal reference to back up whether a parcel tax would or wouldn't add to school revenues. PUSD never was forthcoming with a statement. I would have gladly retracted what I stated if PUSD has cleared up the confusion.

    As to your comment on my statement that state cutbacks will only affect ancillary school personnel, please read ABX-2-4 (2009). What that legislation did was make it so that previously ancillary job "categories" (such as art and music teachers, librarians, bus drivers, dentists, aides, etc). were no longer protected by political earmarks. The responsibility of deciding which ancillary jobs were to be retained was shifted to thelocal school boards not state legislators wanting to buy votes. This resulted in greater flexibility of funding decisions. An independent report this past year of the results of ABX-4-2 indicated that this legislation saved many schools and did not adversely affect disadvantage students.

    How is it that ABC Unified School District in Cerritos which as similar number of students and non-English learners can operate with $33 million less than PUSD? You did not address that question.

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    1. please see my response above.

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  19. Navigio - are you Peter Dreier?

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  20. Navigio - it depends on what you mean by "operate." if your definition of the concept is performing the bare minimum with employees that are worked to near breaking, then yes, the PUSD is a raving success.

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  21. To give the PUSD administrators their due, when they came to town to sell TT, they tap danced around a real commitment. There was plenty of "Should"s and "intend"s and "ought to"s, but as far as I could tell, there wasn't one "will."

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  22. Mr. Crawford,
    I'd like to get in contact with you about "Metrotrans conspires" 08/23/2012 10:17:31 AM PDT article - would like to get you an old memo: that speaks to:
    "Which is actually my favorite conspiracy theory. You really have to wonder who is calling the shots here. Is it our government, or the faraway folks who are lending them all of that money?"
    please contact me nests24775@mypacks.net

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  23. Navigio

    It would help your and PUSD's credibility if you would disclose who you are. For all we know you are Ed Honowitz or Peter Dreier. In any event, you are somebody with plenty of time and plenty of knowledge about the school system. So it must be assumed that you are a member of the teacher's union that trolls websites advocating for school funding. You should disclose if you are paid by the union to be a troll of websites. Otherwise you have little credibility.

    It is the State Dept. of Education that says that ABC Unified is comparable to PUSD.

    I recall more about the confusion in 2009 over Measure CC. While the state legislature had passed ABX-4-2 to transfer redevelopment funds to public schools, PUSD was asking for an additional Parcel Tax. So any cut in state funding was to be offset by diverted redevelopment property taxes. Measure CC would then have provided a windfall of local Parcel Taxes to the district. PUSD failed to make it clear about the diversion of redevelopment funds to schools and to cite the specific code where it said that Parcel Taxes added to existing public funding for schools or not. I didn't create that confusion - PUSD did by failing to tell the public that the decrease in state school funding was to be backfilled with redevelopment property taxes. Why didn't YOU disclose to the public in 2009 during the Measure CC Campaign that the decrease in state funding for public schools was to be backfilled with redevelopment monies? And you want to open up the issue of credibility?

    The 8 schools closed since Measure TT is a nonsequitur - and if I recall the closure of schools happened before Measure TT. The school closures are related to declining attendance most of which occurred during the Housing Bubble when people were selling their homes and moving to truly affordable housing elsewhere and where schools were better.

    You claim to be a "life long Republican." That should be questioned since you won't disclose your true identity.

    Here is who I am: I am from a Democrat family, a member of a public union, a former children's social worker and welfare eligibility worker, an affordable housing analyst for a public housing agency, a former solar energy project manager, and a former real estate appraiser for a larger water district. I would hope that this would add to my credibility.

    Ok back to your helter skelter and filibustering style of discussion that typically comes to nothing. I am leaving these comments here for readers and not to reply to you.

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    1. If you would read my topix comment I pasted above you'll see thats exactly what I was saying. And I said it repeatedly during that time.

      The 8 schools closing is not a nonsequitur. They were mentioned by name in the TT ballot text. It would make no sense to allocate large portions of TT funds to closed campuses (though some are housing other programs now) even though they happened to be mentioned in the ballot. The point is priorities change. The ballot text even made it clear that would/could happen.

      I've always found it curious that people get so fixated on the identity of people, as if that would somehow change the import of the things they say. Apparently we've become so used to opinion masquerading as news that we no longer are even capable of ingesting simple facts without being able to attribute them to an agenda. Thats pretty scary.

      I have a simple goal: to try to help people better understand public education. I happen to believe public education is extremely important. I also happen to believe most of the problems in our society and politics are due to a lack of understanding/information. That is pervasive in public policy, but I think most tragic when the ill-effects are heaped on children. Ergo my focus on that issue.

      Personally, I dont think people should care who I am. They should decide whether my words have any value. If they dont, thats fine. But if I can help someone understand something better, then thats fine too. If it does help to set aside any preconceived notions of agenda (which I kind of doubt), I am nothing or nobody you accuse me of being. In fact, I expect fewer than a handful readers of this blog would even recognize my name.

      Also not clear where you got the 'lifelong Republican' comment. I dont even particularly believe in political parties.

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    2. If you care about public education, why do you defend the PUSD?

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    3. Navigio, I'm with you on the irrelevance of personal identity on a blog on which people post anonymously. In fact I really appreciate getting the clutter of personal association out of the way, and being able to focus purely on content. I also believe in public education as critical to the development of a society.
      However, when the administrators of a system become corrupt and wasteful, they damage public confidence, violate public trust, and are thereafter treated with the scorn they have earned. It is the conduct of the Board and administrators in hiring $300,000 consultants that leads to calls for the abolition of the US Department of Education.

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  24. Thanks 4:48. The "clutter of personal association" is a great way to put it.

    Regarding the negative impact of corruption, waste, violation of trust and general lack of friendliness, I could not agree more. These things are poison to public trust and should be minimized, eliminated and called out when they happen.

    However, as important as those things are, being accurate about when and whether they actually occur, or perhaps more specifically who is 'at fault', is even more important. Its very easy to believe something is true, whether it is or not. Its much harder to look at facts and decide whether something is true.

    Perhaps the best example of all occurs right here in this thread, and that is the claim that one school district is 'wasting' money because they spend more money per child than another. As mentioned in another post, in California a district has virtually zero control over its budget. The way a school district is funded is it reports to the state what kids it has enrolled and the state then gives it the money to 'cover' the education of those kids. The district gets some base amount for each child, and then on top of that, they get extra money for kids who need extra services. It should be clear that the more kids a district has enrolled who need extra services, the more funding the district would get (and spend). For the most part, when a district gets this kind of funding, that extra money must be tied to providing that extra service (thus those funds are often referred to as 'restricted'). Perhaps a mundane hypothetical example. Let's say the state decides that the district's kids need buses to ride to school so they mandate that behavior and then reimburse the district for providing it. The district would get (and spend) extra money over another district who did not have that need.

    That is a simplistic example, but its how much of public school funding works. The base amount that each school district gets is very similar (within a few hundred dollars per pupil). The bigger differences come from how many kids with extra needs the district is serving. Oh, and other sources of revenue.. like parcel taxes.

    cont'd...

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    1. ...cont'd

      In 10-11 the district's total general fund budget was $181M. Of that, $112M was unrestricted, and $68M was restricted (about a 60/40 split). There were just under 18,000 students that year (actually, its calculated based not on enrollment, but on who shows up to school--you dont get funded for people who are absent) so that comes out to about $6,345 unrestricted per student, and $3,822 restricted per student. As a comparison, ABC unified got $6,246 per student unrestricted, but only $2,047 in restricted revenue (just over half of what PUSD got). La Canada gets about $7,420 per student unrestricted, and only $838 per student restricted (have very few students with extra needs). And finally, San Marino gets $10,296 in unrestricted and $1,600 in restricted (again, fewer kids with extra needs).

      The reason SM and LC are so much higher in unrestricted than PUSD or ABC is those districts have a parcel tax.

      And then the last little twist in the story.. The past 5 years or so the state has not had enough money to fully fund what its supposed to provide so it has simply said 'too bad'. Prop 98 was a ballot measure that tried to guarantee some level of state general fund revenue to schools. This year, 28% of that money has been 'deferred'. Again, this is the 4th or 5th year in a row this has happened. Then on top of that, many of the programs for which the district is supposed to be reimbursed, they dont actually get enough revenue to cover them. In some cases, they might be able to cut the service, but in other cases the service is required by law so they have to provide it anyway. One example is special education. Under IDEA, a district cannot modify or deny support to special education students just because they dont have the money to cover it. Unfortunately, neither the feds nor the state has ever fully covered this costs for districts and thus they must take from their unrestricted revenue to 'cover' those costs. This year, over 30% of PUSD's special education budget will be covered by unrestricted funds. This is nothing specific to PUSD and has impacted California districts for at least a couple decades now. It of course impacts districts with higher rates of special needs kids more than those with lower rates. Special education is not the only program like this, though it is by far the largest and most legally-restricted.

      Admittedly, there are many problems with public education funding, but very little if any of it has anything to do with the people over on Hudson and everything to do with the people in sacramento and washington in my opinion. Obviously, funding is not the only criticism people have levied against the district, but this post is already too long for someone else's blog (apologies tattler). I will say though, often it helps to put oneself in the position of the one they are criticizing to see how/whether one might do things any differently given the same circumstances.

      Again, sorry for the length, but I did want to take at least one chance to try and show how things are not often as they appear or how they are portrayed.

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  25. FYi, here is a great description of the teacher layoff/rehire cycle by the LAO. At the end of that page are the statewide survey results for how districts treated this situation:

    http://www.lao.ca.gov/reports/2012/edu/teacher-layoffs/teacher-layoffs-032212.aspx

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