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LAUSD-Public Service or Sacrifice?

The Compensation Committee has warped the Los Angeles School Board into a place where only the wealthy can survive

By Gabriel Buelna
Published on LatinoLA: August 5, 2007


LAUSD-Public Service or Sacrifice?


Los Angeles School Board members earn $26,000 per year - on a part time basis. Each School Board member, charged with the responsibility of preparing our children for the future, makes $25 per hour if they work 20 hours per week. If a Board member works a 40 hour week, which many do, they earn $12.50 per hour. This past March 6th, voters finally said enough is enough. Angelinos selected Measure L as the vehicle to increase the salaries of the School Board members. Voters sent a message that a $6.2 billion operating budget and over $18 billion in construction of new schools was too large for a part-time board. Pursuant to Measure L and the demands of voters, The Charter Measure L Compensation Review Committee was formed to create a reasonable salary structure for LAUSD Board members as full-time employees. The Charter Measure L Compensation Review Committee failed.

As a father of three LAUSD daughters, like many, I voted for Measure L without doing much research. I simply wanted my children to have better schools and I wanted to make sure the School Board would represent children and parents, not special interests. Therefore, I was honored to be appointed by Los Angeles City Councilmember Eric Garcetti to the Compensation Review Committee. Once appointed to the Committee, I was chosen to Chair the Committee. I have witnessed first hand how the Compensation Review Committee failed to provide an adequate salary for Board members and have effectively nullified the voters' mandate of March 6th.

For two months, the committee listened to testimony about the duties of School Board members. We listed to former School Board member and current Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar describe the importance of meeting with parents, youth and community members about schools. Former School Board President Genethia Hayes described the need for a full-time Board to tackle the bureaucracy at LAUSD. She described constituents demanding to speak with her, principles, nonprofit organizations wanting and demanding her attention. She described representing LAUSD local, regionally and nationally on education issues. Councilmember Huizar and Ms. Hayes described the School Board member's job as one that was much more than full-time.

The Committee made two salary decisions - one for full-time Board members and one for part-time Board members. The Committee decided that Board members who elected to remain part time would continue to receive $25,000 annually. I agreed to this amount as this action was being taken in the middle of an election cycle. In a startling move, however, the Committee prohibited School Board members from earning any outside income. After reviewing data and listening to testimony about creating a full time position for School Board member, the Committee, with my dissent, agreed to tie the full time salary of School Board members to a nine month LAUSD teacher salary of $46,000. Here, again, School Board members are not allowed to earn any outside income.

The Committee's decision was made without a single member of the public present. No public input on the matter was considered. In fact, the biggest loser in this entire process is the public. Voters elected for an initiative that would guarranttee full-time work and full-time pay for Board members. The public did not and does not want outlandish wages for public officials. The Los Angeles Unified School District has salaries ranging from $20,000 to $300,000 per year. During the Compensation Committee's meetings, the highest recommendation for School Board members' salaries was between $60,000 and $90,000. This amount is sufficient to have Board members work full time without the need for outside income, but not high enough to draw individuals based on salary alone. This is the salary range the committee should have chosen and needs to choose prior to August 7th.

The decision to keep part-time Board members at $25,000 and full-time Board members at $46,000 ensures that only wealthy communities will have adequate representation on the School Board. Potential candidates from working class communities will not be able to become Board members because they cannot feed their families on $46,000 per year. The Compensation Committee has ensured that the only individuals serving on the School Board are those wealthy enough to serve in spite of the Compensation Committee's salary caps. The Compensation Committee has disenfranchised thousands of low to moderate income parents and children who will not be represented by people like themselves. The Compensation Committee has warped the Los Angeles School Board into a place where only the wealthy can survive.

The Committee has until August 7th to reconsider its decision and enact the public's demand for a full-time system that would fairly compensite School Board members. As a citizen, I have never before advocated for higher salaries for elected oficials. As the Chair of the Charter Measure L Compensation Review Committee, however, the evidence was before me - and all Committee members. The evidence presented clearly indicated that a full-time, sufficient salary structure was needed for Board members, but the Committee ignored the evidence as well as the voters. As of today, the Committee has left behind a broken legacy that both alienates parents and children based on income and fails to provide School Board members with the financial resources to serve on the Board without unjust financial harm. The Charter Measure L Compensation Review Committee has five days to turn its failure into success. I propose that the Committee reconvene immediately to ensure that being a LAUSD Board member is a public service, not a sacrifice.


About Gabriel Buelna:
Gabriel Buelna, PhD, MSW is Executive Director of Plaza Community Center in East Los Angeles and a faculty member in the Chicana/o Studies Department at Cal State Northridge. You can visit his blog




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