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Is Jackie Goldberg The Answer At LAUSD?
Another amazingly progressive idea!…
[by Jon Coupal] 2/28/06

There is speculation that Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, one of the Legislature's most liberal members, is the front runner to be the next Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent. The current title holder, former Colorado Governor Roy Romer, has run afoul of the district's Byzantine internal politics and has signaled his desire to leave before his contract is up.

But even after he is long gone, Romer will be remembered by taxpayers as they continue to pay off the bonds for his massive school building program that, estimates show, may provide more classrooms than will actually be needed in the coming years. And they may also be thinking of Goldberg who authored the legislation that will allow the school district to continue to collect state matching funds based on current enrollment rather than on the declining enrollment projected for the future.

Jon Coupal

Jon Coupal is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website] [go to Coupal index]

The Assemblywoman says that she is not interested in the job, but denials from ambitions politicians have little credibility, especially when they come from an officeholder whose career will soon be dead-ended by term limits.

Goldberg has a reputation for being bombastic and contentious, but her lack of charm could actually be an asset in trying to overcome inertia at the hidebound LAUSD.

However, she is also known to be devious. In 2003, at a meeting of a group of her most radical Assembly colleagues, including now-Speaker Fabian Nunez, she urged that they withhold their votes on the budget in order to trigger a crisis. If people lacking state services became enraged, she concluded, there would be a greater chance they would vote for a measure, Proposition 56, slated for the next ballot that would make it easier to raise taxes.

How do we know all this? Seems that the Capitol intercom was on in the meeting room and her remarks were heard throughout the building. When an aide rushed in to tell her that she had a larger-than-intended audience, listeners were treated to an earthy Anglo-Saxon epithet just before the speaker system was shut off.

Taxpayers recall other "achievements" of Goldberg's long career. It was Los Angeles City Councilwoman Goldberg who, right after the 1996 passage of Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, authored the resolution directing the city attorney to file suit to overturn its provisions giving voters and property owners a greater say in local taxation. Eventually, the city attorney returned an opinion that, as most already knew, there were no grounds for a lawsuit.

If Goldberg, a former school board member, were given the top job at LAUSD, she would find many of the same problems that she left behind when she was elected to the City Council. However, they have increased in magnitude. Under her watch, a major procurement scandal resulted in jail terms for some LAUSD bureaucrats. A follow-up investigation by the state auditor general showed that the district was unable to account for 38 percent of its portable and valuable equipment, like computers.

But this is small potatoes compared to the problems the LAUSD now confronts. The district faces an unfunded $10 billion obligation to its employee healthcare program. The Belmont Learning Center, the nation's most expensive high school, built over an abandoned oil field that is leaching toxins, has a new name but is still unoccupied. And a new performing-arts high school is now running 100 percent over budget and may end up costing more than Belmont.

The Los Angeles school district is the nation's largest geographically and second largest in student population. It includes 27 cities and has a budget larger than 18 of 50 states. With its gargantuan size, it is renowned for its lack of responsiveness to the needs of students and the community. Does the district really need someone with sharp elbows and a bumptious personality to whip it into shape? Much more likely is that putting Goldberg in charge of the LAUSD would be like pouring water on the Titanic.

A better solution for taxpayers would be legislation by George Runner and Keith Richman that would break up the district into smaller, more manageable units. If this were the case, parents and community members would have a greater influence over the education of our children as well as provide a better watchdog over public dollars, a role for which Goldberg has already shown she is unqualified. CRO

copyright 2006 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association



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