Betty Arenson | Hope for the Educational Woke Crowd

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

On Jan. 22, the powerful United Teachers of Los Angeles Union garnered an eye-popping $840 million contract (by 2020-21) in a settlement after a teachers’ strike.

Repeatedly, Austin Beutner, superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District, stated there simply is not money to meet the union’s demands.  

But when has such a fact ever deterred a union demand?  

Beutner openly offered the UTLA to conduct an audit, telling them if they could find the money in the district’s bank account, they could have it.  

Conveniently, no audit ever happened.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti swept into the negotiations, donning his hero cape, and blissfully stood beside UTLA President Alex-Caputo Pearl to push things along — for the union that is. 

Post-settlement, it only took days for the union to unveil its Proposition EE for the June 4 L.A. city ballot. One does not have to overthink suspicions of how a proposition could so quickly be written and prepared for a ballot.  

Measure EE was about a substantial new tax. No surprise there. The goal was $500 million per year, for 12 years ($6 billion and we know such taxes never go away), to the LAUSD. 

Supposedly, “habitable” structures would be taxed at 16 cents per square foot, and then a clever attempt at a language change (“all buildings and structures”) occurred that would include sheds, driveways, garages, etc. 

Absent was any language, let alone commitments, for any measure of reform, or undertaking fiscal responsibility.  

The union consistently chanted the exhausting and weary “it’s for the kids.”

Not so. 

The initial draft forbade any taxpayer monies for “funding long-term health care or pension liabilities.” The May 10 Daily News reported that the language was “quietly” replaced two days later to read (no taxpayer dollars for) “legal settlements and liabilities.”  

Although not highlighted, that same article said that an attorney asserted that the language change would allow “Measure EE to be used toward the district’s onerous benefit costs.” He said this on Feb. 28 at a meeting; a mere five and a half weeks after the settlement. There was also a change that senior citizens could file papers within a very limited amount of time to be exempt from the new taxes. 

Without doubt this whole design had been on the drawing board for a long time before any strike or negotiations. This M.O. is too typical: demand big dollars, then burden the working man with new substantial taxes to pay for it. 

That filing had its drawbacks as it required very personal information and onerous document production. Do not miss the fact that this exemption allows those who have an opt-out position of not paying the taxes to vote as to whether someone else will pay them — and how much would those exemptions reduce the $50 million goal?  

It’s unclear as to when and how much this 16-cent fee will be increased at the will of “them.”

Larry Sand, retired teacher and president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, authored a telling June 4 commentary, “LAUSD, UTLA already looking at even more taxes.” Sand took UTLA’s Caputo-Pearl to task with the latter’s statement that with so many UTLA members renting their residences “they will pay nothing” should EE pass. 

Moreover, Caputo-Pearl appeared “gleeful that 70% of the $6 billion will come from businesses, many of whom have been shirking responsibility for public education for years.”   

That is certainly anti-cerebral. There is no conjecture as to why the LAUSD is in their deeply abysmal condition; it’s on full display right here. Caputo-Pearl obviously lacks the forethought and remains in his ignorance of the fact that landlords and businesses will pass the new large taxes on to tenants and customers.

Tracy Hernandez, founding CEO of the Los Angeles County Business Federation, said, “In the last 15 years they have 240,000 fewer students to serve…they do not have their fiscal house in order” (L.A. Daily News, May 12). Does that not suggest reducing the number of teachers and staff?  

Prudence, especially financial, is severely lacking here.

Consider reforms such as changing the provision that “employees and qualified retirees of LAUSD do not pay any premiums for themselves or their family members” (“LAUSD seeks lifeline parcel tax,” May 19). Change this to employee-only coverage and charge family member a premium, as is done in the private sector, and roll them into Medicare at age 65 versus lifetime-family free of costs.

In case you’re thinking this is a city of Los Angeles problem; it isn’t. It’s built into the system for the county, then the state, to bail them out. That means the SCV.  That means your taxes.

This topic is veritable and should not be brushed off or ignored by any taxpayer.

The present system is simply not sustainable. The people woke on EE and its trickery and deceptions saying it was “for the kids.”

Betty Arenson is a Santa Clarita resident. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among several local Republicans.

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