Nobody Minding The Store At LAUSD

Today taxes are due. As we race to get our tax returns filed before the midnight deadline, I have often used this annual event to get my students to think about why people procrastinate to the last possible minute to file and then finally get their returns in just under the wire. After some attempt at avoidance of the issue presented by this problem -- much in the manner of those sitting in their cars in front of the Terminal Annex Post Office Downtown just before midnight in their pajamas -- the students finally come up with the answer: nobody wants to face the consequences of failing to timely file, which includes interest, penalties, and maybe a better chance of being audited added on to their already painful tax reality.

Consequences, for better or worse, are a necessity in human interactions where one seeks a reasonable percentage of compliance and success in accomplishing the necessary (and less pleasurable) tasks like tax collection. In the past at perdaily, whether we were talking about student behavior, parent's responsibility or teacher and administrative accountability, we have pointed out that although their are adequate regulatory measures posited by the California Education Code, the LAUSD/UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement, and LAUSD Bulletins defining relevant behavior and consequences for failure to comply, there has been a consistent failure to enforce these rules. Such failure would be tantamount to the government telling people that they should send in their taxes by April 15, but not imposing any sanctions if they fail to do so.

With the hope that this "no consequences" policy was finally turning around, I was initially heartened by the indictment of an LAUSD construction supervisor who was not only making over a quarter of a million dollars a year by working for the District, but was also making a similar amount through his privately owned company that he is alleged to have funnel business to by ensuring that LAUSD hired his company's employees as consultants. However, on looking into this matter more thoroughly, it became clear that this prosecution posed more questions than it sought to address:

1. Since the LA Times had originally broke this story in 2007, why did it take so long for a grand jury to indict this alleged dishonest LAUSD employee?
2. With financial irregularities at LAUSD having been questioned by L.A. City Controller Laura Chick, who requested the authority to do a complete audit of LAUSD finances, why was City Controller Wendy Greuel given authority to only audit LAUSD construction and not the other financial problems?
3. Hijazi is a senior project manager for the district and his partner, Bassam Raslan, is a regional director of construction -- a high-level management job. Neither of these partners in a private company that they owned while working for LAUSD could have accomplished their alleged improper actions without the active knowledge and tacit complicity of many other LAUSD employees and consultants and yet, so far, Mr. Bassam Raslan is the only person to be indicted.
4. President Obama today has called for a full scale investigation of the coal industry and all the practices and violations of Massey Energy across the board. Why hasn't there been such an across the board independent audit of all LAUSD finances and transactions in all areas it does business, since there is no evidence that the present scandal is limited to the multi-billion dollar construction program?

It is rather self-defeating to expect that anyone will be able to turn around LAUSD's failed modus operandi without having the power to impose reasonable business practices from some form of independent regulatory agency that cannot be silenced by powerful LAUSD. I have talked with the California Attorney General's Office, they say they would be happy to do this, but as the attorney for the California Department of Education, they need to be asked by this state agency to do so. Given that LAUSD dwarf's the California Department of Education, it is clear that this entity feels incapable of regulating LAUSD's continuing malfeasance.

If you doubt this, all you have to do is call them and ask them why they haven't done it so far?

Flickr:House of Sims

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