Thursday, October 4, 2007

Should Anyone Have To Work For Free? The LA Unified School Distirct Thinks So!

You can say what you want about teachers having it easy. But what's happening here in the Los Angeles Unified School District is udder bullshit! In a time when many workers are living paycheck to paycheck, it's not easy to go without one. But that's exactly what has been happening to thousands of LAUSD employees. Tens of thousands of teachers, cafeteria workers, classroom aides and others have been underpaid or not paid at all. Since launching a $95-million computer system six months ago, the District is attributing the screw-ups to a mixture of system failure and administrative error, but that’s little comfort to the employees that have had to turn to various personal loans – including fast cash loans – to pay their bills.

The hardest hit have been the roughly 48,000 certificated employees -- teachers and others who require a credential to perform their jobs. Their complicated, varied job assignments and pay scales have perplexed computer programmers and, this month, an additional 3,900 people received incorrect paychecks. For three months this summer, Anedra Harper, who makes about $40,000 teaching learning and emotionally disabled students at a city high school, was not paid. With mortgage payments, bills and grocery receipts piling up, she eventually took out $15,000 in loans to stay afloat. No quick fix appears possible: District officials say that several more months are needed and have already set aside an additional $37 million to pay for the repairs of the system. Months? Are you friggin' kidding me?

That does not bode well for employees. With only one payday each month -- as is the case for most district staff -- when something goes awry, carefully laid plans to pay bills and budget for such basics as groceries and gas quickly become complicated. After months of oscillating between underpayments and overpayments, and trying to decipher the system's pay stubs has led to widespread confusion and frustration. Harper eventually received paychecks for July, but both say they are uncertain whether the amounts are accurate. "I don't even know what my base pay is anymore!" And teachers like this have had to resort to protests and boycotts of faculty meetings just to get a little attention and press coverage on the issue. Aren't they supposed to be teaching our kids? Come on LAUSD.

Teachers continue to take the brunt of the abuse because they work 10 months out of the year, but are scheduled to be paid 12 times. But no one, no matter what you do, deserves this type of crap. Here in the 2nd biggest school district in the nation and one of the most expensive cities, having no cash is the equivalent to being homeless. And not to be an arrogant bastard, I don't want the homeless teaching my kids, your kids or any kids.

It goes without saying that most teachers make little enough that any disruption of their accustomed pay cycle stands to be a major catastrophe. Many educators affected by the District paycheck foul-up have reported that they have no choice but to turn to faxless payday loans to make their ends meet. Not all are eligible for bank personal loans, and cash advances seem to be the easiest way of getting the funds necessary to put food on the table. Unfortunately, this ease and convenience comes at a price – high rates of interest and exorbitant fees. The District claims that it is doing everything in its power to remedy the situation. Some Los Angeles teachers are reporting that the traumatic experience has soured them on working for the District and we don't need that type of crap n the same classroom as our kids! Those who have turned to cash advance personal loans say that they hope relief will come soon, as they now have payday loan obligations to repay, in addition to those they already had to worry about.

The district has blown through its deadline for fixing all the payroll glitches, and a new deadline has not been set. The teachers union, with good reason, filed suit against the LAUSD, but it should never have come to that. If Supt. David L. Brewer is as serious about accountability as advertised, he should find those responsible for the fiasco and make them suffer the consequences. In July, attorneys for LAUSD successfully argued before Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs that the payroll debacle was not an emergency and should not be resolved in the courts. Are you kidding me? I wonder which one of those a--holes hasn't had a paycheck in the past couple of weeks!

The bottom line is this. Fix the damn system and fix it now. These are the people who are teaching our children. There is no reason for this and the LAUSD has to take some quick EMERGENCY action. And here's what you can do. If you're in a Starbuck's today and you see a teacher in line, buy them a coffee and a pastry. At least they'll have some sort of meal today!