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Retiring LAUSD School Board President Calls for More Tax Increases

Retiring LAUSD School Board President Calls for More Tax Increases

A Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education meeting in Los Angeles on April 14, 2009. (David McNew/Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler

8/31/2023

Updated: 8/31/2023

Commentary
EdSource, usually an excellent site for education news, especially for California, on Aug. 28 ran a puff interview with Jackie Goldberg, president of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s School Board. She is retiring in December 2024 after 40 years in public service, including stints as a member of the Los Angeles City Council and the California Assembly. She long has emphasized education policy, beginning as a teacher, and is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
The interview, instead of being an encomium, actually shows why the state’s once model education system has declined in recent decades.
“One big problem is general funding. California is still 33rd in what it spends on its kids’ K-12,” she said in the interview. “OK, that’s ridiculous. We’re the fourth-richest economy in the world—not in the country—in the world. And yet we’re 33rd? Really? Why is that?
“Well, it’s because you can’t tax rich people; you can’t tax property owners; you can’t really talk to anybody unless they vote that they like to be taxed. Well, what are the odds of that? We haven’t been able to do very well, have we?”
Actually, what’s ridiculous are her statements. Gov. Gavin Newsom boasted in his January 2023 budget proposal, “K-12 per-pupil funding totals $17,519 Proposition 98 General Fund—its highest level ever—and $23,723 per pupil when accounting for all funding sources.”
The latter number comes to $593,075 for a class of 25. Why aren’t they turning out top scholars for that amount?
And California, of course, is the highest-taxed state in the country, a major reason it has lost 500,000 people in the past two years.
Then California State Assembly Member Jackie Goldberg (C) and her partner, Sharon Stricker (L), stand onstage as they get the thumbs-up from U.S. Assemblyman Mark Leno (R) prior to California Governor Gray Davis signing a law authored by Goldberg which granted benefits to same-sex domestic partners, in San Francisco on Sept. 19, 2003. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Then California State Assembly Member Jackie Goldberg (C) and her partner, Sharon Stricker (L), stand onstage as they get the thumbs-up from U.S. Assemblyman Mark Leno (R) prior to California Governor Gray Davis signing a law authored by Goldberg which granted benefits to same-sex domestic partners, in San Francisco on Sept. 19, 2003. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Prop. 13 Under Fire Again

Ms. Goldberg takes direct aim at the Proposition 13 tax reform from 1978—but those limits on property taxes are the foundation of what little tax reasonableness is left in the state.
She said, “I’m thinking that unless there is some initiative, a campaign again, to separate from Prop. 13 tax savings for senior citizens and homeowners, to finally get rid of the exemption for the wealthiest property and corporate owners in the state ... all that is profit off the backs of the children and youth of California.
“[Corporations] may refuse to agree to be taxed and [they spent] $800 million defeating an initiative that said, ‘Oh, guess what. It’s time for you to pay your share. You made your wealth in California. Give some of it back to the children and stop being such greedy, soulless suckers.’”
Spoken like a true socialist.
The initiative she references is Proposition 15 from 2020, which would have removed Prop. 13 protections from commercial property. If it had passed, it would have driven even more businesses from the state than have left from already sky-high taxes. It lost in a close race, 52 percent to 48 percent.
Her statement that businesses spent “$800 million” defeating it also is ludicrous and should have been corrected by EdSource. According to Ballotpedia, total Yes on 15 contributions were $68.5 million, while No on 15 garnered $74.2 million. Pretty close.
Ms. Goldberg said, “But we will take that on again. And when we win, you will begin to see real changes in low-income urban districts because there is only so much you can do with the class sizes we have.”
She’s probably right. The state is becoming even more liberal, and voters keep hearing how repealing Prop. 13 will make things better. But the “real changes in low-income urban districts” will be more unemployment and homelessness as business departures from the state accelerate.
Students walk to their classrooms at a public middle school in Los Angeles on Sept. 10, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Students walk to their classrooms at a public middle school in Los Angeles on Sept. 10, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

What About Excellence?

The main thing missing from the interview is promoting educational excellence through such reforms as merit pay for the best teachers and more school choice, meaning competition among schools. In fact, Ms. Goldberg’s current tenure on the board, which began in May 2019, coincides with the recent attacks on charter schools.
LAist reported Nov. 23, 2022, “Between 2000 and 2015, charters in L.A. looked like an unstoppable force. Student enrollment in charters boomed along with the movement’s political fortunes: in 2017, charter-backed LAUSD candidates won a board majority.
“Since then, charter enrollment has plateaued—and charter advocates’ hold on district politics has loosened significantly. No clear champion for charter schools emerged in either of LAUSD’s 2022 races; none of the candidates said they felt charters should be allowed to grow. ...
“On election night 2017, Los Angeles’ teachers union leaders watched as their allies on the school board—facing a tidal wave of outside spending from charter school interests—lost their seats, leaving union sympathizers in the minority on the powerful school board.
“Five years later, United Teachers Los Angeles is back in the driver’s seat.
“UTLA members and sympathetic parent activists rallied around Rocío Rivas, who declared victory last week in the election for the open District 2 seat, which represents parts of east and central L.A.”
Teachers, students, friends and family protest and picket in the rain outside John Marshall High School during a United Teachers Los Angeles strike in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 14, 2019. (Barbara Davidson/Getty Images)

Teachers, students, friends and family protest and picket in the rain outside John Marshall High School during a United Teachers Los Angeles strike in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 14, 2019. (Barbara Davidson/Getty Images)

Look for the Union Contributions

According to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, in 2019 Ms. Goldberg’s campaign contributions included $1,200 from UTLA Pac of Educators, $500 from UTLA Pace Committee, $250 from UTLA Executive Director Jeffery R. Good, and $200 from UTLA Speech Therapist Arlene G. Inouye.
She also received numerous other campaign contributions from other public-employee unions, such as $1,200 from ACEA Local 2090 AFSCME Pac, and $500 from the Los Angeles Professional Managers Assn. PAC.
For the nonpartisan board seat, Ms. Goldberg won a special 2019 runoff election, 71 percent to 29 percent, over Heather Repenning; and in 2020 over Christina Martinez Duran, 58 percent to 42 percent.
That’s what it’s really about: union money and union power. LAUSD’s brief period of excellent reforms, accountability, competition, and charter advancement ended with Ms. Goldberg’s election. That’s the real story EdSource missed.
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John Seiler

John Seiler

Author

John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com and his email is writejohnseiler@gmail.com

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