Pasadena Schools Devour the Future

David Crane
Lecturer and Research Scholar at Stanford University and President of Govern for California

A recent article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that Pasadena Unified School District will “cut teachers, security guards, assistant principals and more due to budget woes.”

The article doesn’t outline the causes of those budget woes. Neither does the PUSD website.  But buried deep in the harder-to-find First Interim Reports filed by PUSD for 2017–18 and 2012–13 are two pages (47 and 98, respectively) that reveal at least one big cause: Spending on unfunded pension promises rose 144 percent over that five-year period. That left little for Certificated Teacher Salaries, which grew only five percent.

French economist Thomas Piketty describes debt as “devouring the future.” That’s certainly true of pension debt, which is incurred for services already rendered. This year the cost of that debt will devour $22 million at PUSD that could’ve been spent on current teachers. That pension debt exists because of unethical actions by elected officials and the board of the State Teachers’ Retirement System, as explained here. Worse is yet to come in the absence of reform by the state legislature and governor.

In the meantime — and needless to say — government officials should make it easy for the people they serve to learn the truth.

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