Education LAUSD

The Cost of Revealing LAUSD’s Bloated Bureaucracy


With all the drama yesterday around the Wall Street bailout (or lack thereof), I didn’t post this story by the Daily News’ Beth Barrett about LAUSD’s 20 percent increase in its number of administrators between 2001 and 2007.

It’s a relevant piece of journalism, but it contains a dicey editorial decision that has some people justifiably angry. However, we’ll get to all that in a minute. First here are some clips from the story:

On the edge of downtown Los Angeles, overlooking the 110 Freeway, stands a 29-story office building that boasts many of the trappings of a modern corporate headquarters: a cafeteria with flat-screen TVs, a state-of-the-art media production center, an on-site dry-cleaning service.

The tower is the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District – home to more than 3,400 employees. They are the core of a massive bureaucracy that has surged in recent years even as the number of students and teachers has dropped.


Managing almost 900 schools and more than 650,000 students is a huge task. But a Daily News review of salaries and staffing shows LAUSD’s bureaucracy ballooned by nearly 20 percent from 2001 to 2007. Over the same period, 500 teaching positions were cut and enrollment dropped by 6 percent.

In addition to the article that outlines the broad strokes of the LAUSD administrative over-bloat, Barrett and the Daily News also contend that administrators’ salaries are high, and thus have provided a searchable database, so that we-the-readers may look for ourselves.

The database is, to say the least, a controversial move, as was the DWP salary database that the DN published earlier.

The teachers union (UTLA) is extremely upset at the teacher salary postings. .

Although I favored the DWP database at the time, as it revealed so much excess, I too find I am made very queasy by the DN’s choice to put the names and salaries of school teachers online. It is legal? Yes. But is it right? I’m not so sure.

DN executive editor, Caroline Garcia, explains the paper’s thinking here.

In the days prior to this story being published, we heard from many teachers who feel that their privacy is being violated, and who asked us to not publish their names and salaries. While we have enormous respect for teachers, and understand their concerns, we believe that we should treat every LAUSD employee equally. The Daily News did the same in previous examinations of other public employees, and this report is part of our continuing effort to provide the public with information about how its tax dollars are being spent.

The DN also has a related editorial that says the following:

It’s not just its size that makes the LAUSD a bloated bureaucracy. It’s the cost of that administrative bloat: $490 million. More than 3,500 of the district’s employees earn more than $100,000 – and most are not teachers.

In fact, the LAUSD’s teachers, who toil in some of the most dangerous classrooms in the country, have comparatively modest salaries – about 17 percent less than in nonteaching jobs. That doesn’t signal the priority on education that the district needs. Worse still, the LAUSD’s teachers on average earn less than their counterparts in other large cities such as San Francisco.

This information is particularly important given that Angelenos are about to decide whether to give $7 billion more of their money to the district to maintain and upgrade facilities. Voters ought to know how their money is being spent before deciding, in these precarious economic times, whether to shell out more.

Okay, fair enough, I guess. As we face cuts to education budgets on both a statewide and a national level, the fact that our school district still has an administration that seems to metastasize uncontrollably is information worth knowing before we choose to fork over more tax-payer bond money.

(Interesting factoid: Most of the 24 people who make between $175K and $200K at the district are LAUSD’s lawyers.)

What the database does not include—and what I wish it included—is the enormous fees paid to outside consultants, who are not salaried employees.

And as a WLA commenter just noted, the Daily News simply puts the database out there without any attempt meaningfully analyze what’s in it. So, is there really a point? Or is it merely discovery for discovery’s sake?

It is heartening, I suppose that Barrett also reports that Ray Cortines is determined to cut through the bloat.

“I’m going to eliminate (administrative jobs), I’d say, by hundreds for next year out of necessity,” said Cortines, “but also because I believe … they should be in the (schools) and local districts.”

Let’s hope he actually does it. And, granted, it often takes articles like Barretts’ to spur bureaucracies into action.

But in order to report on the district’s administrative intemperance, did the Daily News really need to invade the privacy of our hardworking, usually underpaid rank-and-file school teachers?

No. I don’t think so.


P.S.: Beth Barrett is a longtime investigative journalist who has been at the Daily News since 1986, and has broken a list of high profile stories in the years in between then and now—including the I.D. of Villaraigosa’s mistress. She is leaving the paper shortly.


  • The Daily News is systematically setting out to alienate every worker group in the city, it would seem. Ironic that no teachers were upset about violations of DWP workers — on their comments section, a couple claim not to have noticed or ever read the Daily News, and they’ve only read about their own salaries now because it’s a topic of much discussion around the school water cooler and faculty lounge.

    When it came to publishing the names and salaries of all city employees, down to the lowliest field deputy making an enormous $35,000, there was and still is not a peep about that violation. “We’re paying their salaries, we NEED to know!” comes the universal chorus from left and right. And of course, Beth Barrett is the Hatchett Queen who was extolled and honored as a top-notch “reporter” for “breaking” the story about the Mayor and Mirthala — by getting a stealth interview with the ex wife’s mother, who’s in her possibly less than mentally agile late 80’s and speaks no English, flying to Mirthala’s mother’s funeral to peak at the guest list and interview mourners, and the like. My point is: Where do you draw the line? Between arguably legal but indecent, and “the public’s right to know?” Clearly, most media doesn’t have a clue (and I felt that Alan Mittelstaedt hounding DWP head Nihai down to ringing the bell at his home and asking his unsuspecting wife and son for their private DWP bill, exemplified that crass crossing across the border of decency.)

    The Daily News LOVES to get low-hanging fruit by going after this “publicly available info” to whet the public’s appetite for prurient curiosity disguised as “fairness,” and that laziness is reflected in how they get their hard city hall news as well. Ever notice there’s no mention of the County Board of Supervisors, although the 5 people there have 4 times the amount of money to spend as City Council, including all our vital healthcare facilities (like MLK and County USC, and clinics) and many other public services which dwarf the Council’s jurisdiction? That’s because the Supes aren’t as lenient about public comment and wasting their time, so it’s not as easy as just hitting on every little thing at the local level.

    The irony is that in the midst of all this, in every one of the three cases where employee names/data are published, there’s a lack of any real analysis of WHERE the waste can be found. To the contrary, by focusing attention on the salary of the teacher who (like a field deputy or DWP worker, gets paid more or less based on seniority and education), the big picture was totally obscured. WHO is being overpaid, and why? In LAUSD, all principals make over $100,ooo, while teacher salaries are all over the map and allegedly, often inaccurate. In DWP, there were some 200 employees making over $125K/ year (including Admin. Assistants) PLUS take-home cars, while the Daily News keeps harping and harping on the cars of City Councilmembers and Field Deputies. (NOT on the County Supes’ cars, which apparently include drivers/chauffeurs as well as cars; also, not on the DA’s similar perks. And who knows who else?) This, too, is commented on by the angry teachers: the REAL waste is obscured in this blanket obsession with violating everyone’s privacy. (The police protective league is fighting a similar violation of privacy, when it comes to officers involved with gangs — legitimately fearful that once data exist anywhere in any form, it can be put onto a public database.)

    Violating privacy and dignity, even facilitating ID theft, is a figment of our society, and is driven as much or more by the liberal media (like yourself) who sees nothing wrong with ALL of our private data being posted on the internet under the guise of “the public’s right to know.” Without our permission, every time we open a bank account, make a will or family trust, buy property or do anything, the supposedly private data including our Dates of Birth, phones and addresses, family members including mother’s maiden name (also on County Birth Records), etc. etc., is sold to search services (yahoo, google, etc.) who post it online and profit by selling every last bit of who we are.

    So the DN is right: this isn’t illegal, and obtaining the info is FAR easier than the “victims” have realized. That’s what we need to do as a society, and demand changes.

  • Hey, IKI,

    As you might have noticed, I agree with you on this one. Also, agreed that there is no analysis. It’s all just posted willy-nilly in a sort of undifferentiated gotcha tone.

    And, yeah, Beth Barrett is a hatchet queen. Skillful reporter, but hatchet queen in how she goes about using her skill.

    PS: I just added your point about the analysis, which was a good one.

  • I am one of the teachers listed in this database. I do not mind my salary being made available. Let the public see how underpaid I am! I work in one of the most struggling schools in LAUSD. I am dedicated to making change for my students. I am an LAUSD graduate and attended the UCs and an Ivy League school for my teaching credentials.

    This system depends on the passion of teachers like me. If only my databased salary would show the amount of money I spend each year on classroom supplies, student fundraisers, and snacks for hungry students. The system depends on me spending my money on these “extras.” What would happen if we teachers just cut off our contributions entirely? Our students would suffer, so most teachers are reluctant to even consider the possibility.

    I hope that the folks who read this blog will support us teachers as we fight for our state given but LAUSD denied COLA from last year, health care benefits, minimal raises and classroom number caps. Those of us who have made the decision to become teachers are willing to sacrifice, but I am not willing to become a martyr.

  • Well, even though you disagree with the state Supreme Court and me on the right of the public to know how much public money goes to public employees, it’s nice to see that you provided the link to the public salary database so that your readers have easy access to this public information. Perhaps it will make our democracy stronger or at least provide titillating water cooler conversation. Just curious, how many names have you looked up?UTLA’s upset because the wide disparity in pay exposes the union’s failure to adequately represent all of its members. By the way, there would be more money for good teachers if the union made it easier to fire the bad ones.

  • Thanks for the teachers’ view, Ms. Feff. Much needed.

    Alan, nah, I agree with you and the state Supreme Court. I just don’t agree with the Daily News.

    In truth, I haven’t looked up any names at all. (Had no reason to do it.) But certainly fooled around with salary ranges for a while last night. And I was surprised to find several middle school teachers that make above $150K. Yet, 2 a.m. seemed a little late to call A.J. Duffy to ask about how they managed that.

    About your last point re: firing the bad ones: Yep. Definitely.

  • Celeste Fremon,

    Thank you for bringing this to the attention of Los Angeles readers ….. well done! This is great timing in regarding LAUSD Measure Q on the ballot coming up….

    Please make yourself familar with a huge project / new school (SRHS#15 at Angel’s Gate location) planned in San Pedro that LAUSD plans on building……. the controversy here is that the community of San Pedro does not want or see a need for a new LAUSD high school.. but LAUSD says “they are going to build it” anyways because “they have the money”! $102.4 million high school for 500 magnet students (810 seat school).

    This is one of the biggest issues to come into San Pedro, but only the Daily Breeze is starting to talking about it.. can you shed light on for many readers:


    Robert Schueller
    Concerned resident of San Pedro

    – – – –

    fyi… a couple site regarding Measure Q that you might be interested in:
    Full Disclosure blog: “LAUSD: FEED THE BEAST”:

    NO on Measure Q: LAUSD $7 Billion Bond

  • So Alan figures that if nothing else, publishing personal info about any employee loosely defined as “public” at any level, can “at least provide titilating water cooler conversation.” That’s exactly about the level of what the Daily News is good for. The National Enquirer approach to “political news and analysis.”

    I know DWP lost this challenge in State Superior Court, but just because the court didn’t find the practice illegal doesn’t make their behavior ethical, appropriate or any more helpful in understanding LAUSD’s “bureaucratic bloat” that it was in understanding DWP’s or the city’s. (I hope some other organization which can generate more sympathy than the bloated DWP files a challenge.)

    Why DO some middle school teachers make so much, while others make so little despite solid educations? This just gives fodder to some teachers wanting more money relative to others, hence inflating budgets and putting pressure on UTLA to bargain harder — the opposite of the paper’s intent in exposing salaries. WHY have admin. positions increased by 20% while school population and teacher salaries have been cut? Why does LAUSD want another $7 billion Bond to build smaller, charter-like schools in the fact of declining enrollment, just-completed over-priced behemoth schools (like Belmont and Broad Performing Arts), when as even Board member Galatzan points out, they haven’t been proven to materially improve test scores or quality of education? (Meanwhile, none of these schools are slated for the underserved westside or hillside communities.)

    Being able to fire “bad” teachers should of course be an easier option, but blaming teachers for poor performance when 3/4 of LAUSD are kids of Mexican/Central American Latino immigrants who go to school poorly prepared or motivated to learn, with half dropping out, while middle class kids (of all races) have been driven out of the public schools into private/parochial, or often to other school districts like Palos Verdes, Hermosa, South Pasadena. That’s a key reason LA has the smallest middle class of any of the top 20 cities — and LAUSD’s Board which builds for the immigrant demographic while taxing the middle class is contributing to it. Even if LAUSD isn’t responsible for the city’s demographic, their bias against the middle and upper middle class taxpayers is largely to blame for the teaching burdens placed on teachers. This “elephant in the room,” as commenters on Daily News (who tend to be blue collar or struggling middle class, but increasingly even upper middle class sick of paying college tuition rates for school that should be “free”) often note, is what no amount of “good teaching” and more money can’t miraculously “fix.” Tossing equal blame at teachers and administrators with this violation of privacy hasn’t done a thing to “fix” the problem. But I guess it serves to “titillate” some people.

  • There’s a dry cleaners at LAUSD HQ? Are the services free? Next thing you know they’ll have a cafeteria!

    Why would anyone be shocked by this? There’s also a branch of a credit union. It’s reasonable to assume that the service providers pay rent.

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