L.A. Unified Mismanagement of Funds Costly to Teachers?


Sugarcoating that will make any teacher or parent sick.

In a Los Angeles Times article published in Sunday’s “Region” section, Mary MacVean tries to write a wonderful story about L.A. Unified school district donating 21,000 uneaten meals each day to nonprofit organizations. She cites that approximately 200 agencies will benefit from the access food and estimates that more than 13,000 students in the district are homeless. Excess food was previously discarded and was of no benefit to anyone.

L.A. Unified currently serves 650,000 meals a day at 1,000 locations to kids in their school district as part of Title 1. If a single child household makes roughly $14,000 per year or less their child is eligible for Title 1 free school lunches. The federal government uses a sliding scale based upon the number of children per household and total household income. This is truly helping families and kids thought to be in need.

The blame for the over abundance of food left uneaten is placed upon cafeteria managers poor estimation of total food needed, the federal school lunch program’s instance to serve more food than a child may want, and the children’s lack of consumption. Basically, if the kids don’t like the lunch lady’s meatloaf, let’s give it away.

Just to clarify, several things are happening between the lines that should cause concern for all tax payers inL.A.County. If the numbers add up correctly this means that on average only 2 meals per school within the district go uneaten each day. Not a bad average if true but, it’s obviously not true. The items listed in the article that typically go uneaten include “granola bars, cereal, entrees, fruit, vegetables, and milk”. Problem is “entrees” means hot meals being cooked at the schools. Meals like nachos, chicken nuggets, pizza, ham burgers, spaghetti, etc… They do not serve neatly prepackaged lunches being ordered from a wholesaler.

If students receiving federal lunches that L.A. Unified is paying for and the kids are not eating them, well the kid must be eating pretty well if they are passing up a free meal. Why would that same child eat a meal that he/she passed up at lunchtime for dinner at a homeless shelter later in the day?

Granola bars and cereal do not spoil in a timely fashion. I’m not sure why those items are being given away? Why are cafeteria managers not adjusting their orders properly so the previously uneaten nonperishable items are used by those kids in need?

Fruit, vegetables, and milk are perishable items that deserve immediate attention. One has to hope that some of these items can be used for another meal later in the week before having them shipped out to a nonprofit organization. Or are the cafeterias managers in L.A. Unified being shipped the ripest fruit and vegetables that will spoil within the next couple of days, thus the reason to have to give the food away immediately? Does the milk being delivered have a one or two day expiration date? There has to be a simple fix here!

All of this adds up to waste and poor management of money and resources by L.A. Unified and all of those involved. This is a huge problem within the state ofCaliforniaand one of the many reasons the state ofCaliforniais bankrupt… waste and poor management.

To further make matters worse L.A. Unified has “issued” 7,300 employees for the 2011-2012 school year; 5,000 of those issued are school teachers. Issued means those administrators and employees may or may not be retained for the following year due to budget cuts by California Governor Jerry Brown.

To break this down in financial terms, there are currently 180 school days in the L.A. Unified school curriculum. If the approximately 21,000 meals that are left uneaten each day were to add up to a $1 per meal, a very low estimate, but an easy number to work with, this means $21,000 per day is being wasted. $21,000 times 180 school days adds up to $3.78 million dollars over the course of a single school year. If the cost per meal is increased by 25 cents, that adds up to $4.725 million; a difference of $945,000 per year. Who knows what the accurate cost per meal is, but it’s scary to think how much money is being “donated” each year by L.A. Unified.

The effect of “donating” excess meals:

There are 672,000 students in L.A. Unified schools being taught by 31,314 teachers. This means the median average classroom holds 21.5 students per each teacher. This looks like a nice number and a great balance. Problem is the students are not evenly distributed through 1st grade to 12th grade. This is a mirage. The current average class size is closer to 42 students per teacher! If 5,000 teachers are dismissed before next year, the average student per classroom rises to 25.5. This means an actual average classroom size of 46 kids! Prisons inCalifornia are not this overcrowded.

Black Tuesday came and went on May 25, 2011 with a quiet protest of Governor Brown’s educational tax cuts. The hopes for the Black Tuesday protest were an increased recognition by tax payers, parents, and those interested in our children’s future that they will realize what these tax cuts and budget restrictions to education means, less teachers and less quality education for our children.

It’s great that excess food is going to a good cause. It’s horrible that because a cafeteria manager has a budget they are going to spend it regardless. Simple solution, stop making meatloaf if the kids are not eating it! Let’s apply the foundation for which our country’s business strategy is based upon, the capitalistic notion of supply and demand; seems simple enough?

How can L.A. Unified continue to be so poorly mismanaged? What will the final outcome be? 21,000 meals donated each day or fewer teachers in the classrooms to teach our kids?

You can read Mary MacVean’s article at: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lausd-donations-20110529,0,1069339.story