It’s the Picket Line Versus the Bottom Line in the Coming LA School Strike

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Barring a last minute deal or court decision, there will be a teacher’s strike tomorrow in Los Angeles. Each side has their own view of the school district’s fiscal health and its ability to raise salaries and hire new teachers, nurses and counselors. But the teachers have the upper hand in an effort to rally citizen and parent support.

Television news reporters interview grade school students volunteering to walk the picket line and show them making signs in support of their teachers. What can the school board offer in response, a green shaded accountant with a spreadsheet?

Yet, it’s the bottom line rather than the picket line that is determinative in this dispute.

The teachers’ union pounds home the item that LAUSD is sitting on a $1.9 billion surplus. The teachers score points with the public with their charge that classes are too large, and there are not enough nurses and counselors to go around.

The teachers’ union garners great publicity with its rallies, signs and even a wrap around ad over the Los Angeles Times.

The district is making its case to a much smaller audience. Yet, the financial case made by the district can’t be ignored. The school district points to retirement and health care obligations that could put the district into insolvency—the school superintendent’s word as well as the Los Angeles County Board of Education– if the teachers demands are met.

Stanford lecturer, one-time advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and importantly a former director of the California State Teachers Retirement System, David Crane writes despite a 42% increase in LAUSD revenues over four years, the union has itself to blame because the union oversees the health benefits of its members.

“One-third of LAUSD’s retirement spending is for unnecessary, duplicative or excessive health insurance subsidies provided to retirees entitled to Medicare or ACA coverage. Terminating those subsidies could provide an immediate $10,000 salary increase for LAUSD teachers,” Crane asserts.

Such a salary boost would easily exceed the 6.5% increase retroactive to 2017 the union demands.

The public hears very little about the fiscal consequences if the teachers’ argument prevails. Yet, it is that bottom line that has to be considered in reaching a resolution of the dispute or the school district will be calling on taxpayers to bail them out.

 

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