Testimony of Lisa Haver to the BOE, January 17 2019

APPS member Deborah Grill and I wrote a commentary in the Notebook this week about a library that opened in a District school not because of the District’s policies but despite them. Crowdfunding for a school library is not innovation, it is desperation. Every district school was built with a library. But now libraries are being converted, like paved over trolley tracks, so that they can never be libraries again. I’m guessing every person sitting at that table went to a school that had a library. Every school needs a school library.

The only significant way the Board can only show it is not the SRC is by changing the District’s spending priorities.

The Board must reject the idea, furthered by corporate education reformers, that the biggest problem, the one we should spend tens of millions to correct, is teacher ineffectiveness. Action Item 10, $17 mil for expanding the contract of CLI, is another example of misguided spending.

I sent the Board a sampling of comments teachers sent me about CLI. Most feel that even though CLI used to be a good program, it is not any longer. With the $40 million total the SDP will have spent on CLI since 2014 we could hire 405 librarians.

On August 20, 2015, the SRC approved B-22 to CLI.  This resolution approved $838,000 in addition to the original 10/16/14 resolution B-9 for $7,000,000.
$7,000,000 10/16/14
838,000 8/20/15
15,305,269 3/16/17
17,337,621 1/17/19
Total = $40,480,890

Next month the Board will vote on 3 new charter applications. The District cannot afford and does not need any more charters. In December the Board reversed (but not publicly) a non-renewal vote by the SRC and gave as a rationalization that it wanted to avoid legal fees if the charter appealed. That same rationale was used in two previous cases. The best way to avoid renewing failing charters or having to spend money on legal fees is not to approve any more charters.

The SRC built and maintained a corrupt, pay-to-play system. That has to end. The salary of every District employee is public information. That is not true for charter employees. However, the most recent federal tax information shows that charter CEOs are compensated very well—because their own boards decide what to pay them. This Board has no control over that, but it can stop it. The CEO of the charter that was renewed in December despite years of decline is paid just under $200K. Two charter CEOs make more that Dr. Hite. The total amount paid to charter CEOs in 2017 was just under $9 million—for 1/3 of the District’s students.

The Board must make a commitment to stop expanding a system that the public has little control over, where there is almost accountability, when there are only 12 people in the CSO to oversee 87 schools, where circular lease agreements enrich businesspeople who have nothing to do with educating students. The Board should vote no on all charter applications.

The District’s website states: “First and foremost, all work of the Board will be guided by the nonnegotiable principle: ‘The interests of our students come first.’”

You cannot enrich CEOs and their real estate interests and consultants and say you are looking out for the best interests of the children.