The watchdog group that oversees LAUSD’s construction bond funds wants to call off the dogs.
The Bond Oversight Committee (BOC) voted at its monthly meeting last week to make it easier to pass LAUSD construction bond projects.
A lot easier.
In fact, why bother holding meetings at all?
If the school board approves the BOC’s revised Memorandum of Understanding, the Committee will be able to approve billions of dollars in bond projects with just four votes. Currently it takes seven of the 13 members.
It's easy to imagine a project like the now infamous “iPads are a Civil Right,” aka Common Core Technology Project, getting pushed through when particularly active committee members are home with the flu.
But let’s go back even further.
The Committee was formed in 1997 in order to ensure rigorous oversight of school construction and repairs contracts before they approved a $2 billion+ ballot measure, Proposition BB, which had been narrowly defeated the year before. The ballot information included in the new measure reassured voters:
"To ensure that the bond money reaches the schools and is spent as the voters want, Mayor Riordan insisted that a strong independent Oversight Committee monitor the bond expenditures.
"The Oversight Committee included in this measure is comprised of accountants, engineers, architects and auditors. It will review projects and will report directly to the public.
"The oversight Committee findings and recommendations will be available at schools and libraries so that local voters can follow the progress of repairs at their neighborhood school. The committee will make sure that the contracts guaranteeing the repairs at each school will be completed on time and within budget."
So why call off the dogs? The committee says it’s about bureaucratic efficiency.
One BOC member told me the change is the outcome of a workgroup with the Superintendent's staff. And some of the recommendations are good. Insisting that the charter school association's seat is filled by a parent rather than a lobbyist makes sense, especially since the charter lobby's common assertion that it is the authentic voice of parents is not always true.
The BOC might also consider following its own rule that bumps members off the committee if they stop regularly attending meetings.
LAUSD is a public school system. If it continues to find ways to keep the public out, it will find that its only constituency is its own employees. That’s a problem when it's the public that's footing the bill.
Plus, as we saw with the iPad boondoggle, LAUSD makes better decisions when the public is involved.
The Los Angeles School Board, whose members are elected by the public, will have the final say.