Saturday, May 15, 2004

4LAKids: Saturday, May 15th, 2004

This Week @ 333 Beaudry: THE BOARD + THE BUDGET

During a particularly contentious moment in the
budget debate at the school board Thursday evening –
when the rhetoric was flying hot-and-heavy – the claim
was made that the reason the principal’s and teacher’s
unions were advocating break-up of the mini-districts
was to allow teachers and principals to do what they
want without anyone “making sure business is being
done” — avoiding accountability. Within an hour of
that statement being made I was talking to a principal
who bemoaned the impending mini-district breakup:
“There goes the support we get from the local

My reading of the tea-leaves agrees with
Superintendent Romer’s: Some sort of break-up or
reduction of the eleven local districts is inescapable.
Some (and perhaps all) of the $50. per-student budget
cut will probably be returned to school sites. And yes,
The Governor’s May Budget Revise - delivered on
Thursday- was not as bad for K-12 education (and
LAUSD) as it could have been. Not this year.

Change, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad – only
inevitable. LAUSD has a sorry record of failing to
stick with reform it begins: LEARN and School based
Management come to immediate mind. As we look to
a new direction we need to resolve to keep focused on
the goal we’ve always had: Excellence in education for
every schoolchild in this district.

One must remember that the eleven local districts were
created in an effort to preserve Superintendent Ruben
Zacarias’ job (failed) and avoid breakup of LAUSD
(succeeded). The mini districts as an experiment in
local control and accountability – as a reform effort –
didn’t work universally — though some good things
came out of them.

• The sub-district’s focus on local issues like
overcrowding in districts like K & J produced results.
• The excellent administrative and instructional
leadership of a few became apparent.
• The cooperation between Districts A, B and C on
parent involvement and community concerns was
particularly effective.
• If test scores are important performance in
elementary grades has improved – though I would
contend that this is more attributable to the
laser-focus from the central office on Open Court and
teaching-to-the-test than the local district

• Ultimately the local districts are eleven boxes on the
org chart of LAUSD – with the real power and
decision making now concentrated at the top of the
chart. LAUSD remains a command and control

LAUSD is now poised upon the brink of real reform.
The menu of options are many ...but boil down to two.

• The District can embrace real change and empower
school site administrators – principals and governance
councils – with real power, power over hiring and
staffing decisions, power over their pursestrings. Give
principals true decision making authority and make
them accountable to their school communities — freed
from bureaucratic micro-management and provided
with real support from the newly reconfigured
LAUSD. This is the model espoused by William
Ouchi, Education Secretary Riordan and Governor
Schwarzenegger. (Both Superintendent Romer and
Board President Huizar are out of town during the
next two weeks — I hope they take along and re-read
Ouchi’s “Making Schools Work”.)

• The other option, the easy one, is to simply move the
Lego’s on the map into new configurations – eight or
six or three stacks – or maybe pile the red ones and the
blue ones and the yellow ones separately. We can then
continue on – the status quo tarted-up in a new spring
outfit– business as unusual.

‘Making sure that business is being done’ is not what
administrative support – or even true leadership – is
about. Principals and schools need to be empowered
and made accountable to their communities: Parents,
teachers, students, community members. Sure, the
school district has a role in seeing that the curriculum
is being taught, achievement measured and standards
are being met – that kids are safe and the system runs
well. But for the most part day-to-day decision making
needs to reside as close as possible to the classroom.
That place is the Principal’s Office. The buck doesn’t
stop there; it stops in the classroom. But the buck
should be spent in the principal’s office!

There has been a lot a rhetoric bandied about and I’ve
been there bandying. But from here on out is the time
for dialogue, reasoned opinion sharing, consensus
building ....and a awful lot of listening. 750.000 kids
are waiting for the best thing to be done in their name.


• Daily News/Wednesday: ROMER PROPOSES 10% CUT FOR

By Jennifer Radcliffe - Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - Bending to union-driven
pressure, Los Angeles Unified School District
Superintendent Roy Romer proposed Tuesday cutting
an additional 10 percent from the budgets of the 11
local districts.

During an emotionally charged two-hour debate, some
trustees said Romer's proposal to cut $3.3 million from
local districts still fell short.

Their alternatives ranged from eliminating all 11
districts to freezing salaries.

"If we don't make some real systemic changes this
district will be bankrupt in two to three years," board
member Mike Lansing said.

Lansing unsuccessfully proposed reducing local
districts to include only core workers, cutting $50
million from the administration and freezing salaries
this year for all employees and consultants.

But Romer said the local districts are critical for
overseeing construction, improving curriculum and
serving the community.

"We don't need to jump off the cliff and destroy or
take apart the infrastructure of the district," Romer

"I'm proposing that we keep the 11 districts, that we
further economize by cutting another 10 percent ... and
that we continue to look for more economies as we
continue to work."

LAUSD officials cut nearly $500 million from the
district's budget this year and face another possible $94
million shortfall in the 2004-2005 budget to be
adopted later this year.

If the cuts aren't made at the administrative level,
children will suffer, trustees said.

Also on Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to
renew Granada Hills High School's charter for an
additional five years.

The 4,000-student campus received a one-year charter
last May, becoming the largest charter school in

By Cara Mia DiMassa
Times Staff Writer

May 12, 2004

Facing hard decisions about budget cuts and the future
of its subdistrict structure, the Los Angeles school
board on Tuesday night again postponed any

The almost three-hour discussion focused in large part
on the 11 subdistricts, which were created four years
ago to reduce the district's central bureaucracy. Those
subdistricts have been criticized by the teachers union,
which calls them a waste of resources and a symbol of
bloated, out-of-control administration.

In recent months, as the board has authorized a spate
of budget cuts and the elimination of 480 nonteaching
jobs, United Teachers-Los Angeles President John
Perez has called for the elimination of the local
districts. On Tuesday, he lumped them into what he
called "the fat in the district's budget."

Each subdistrict oversees a student population of
50,000 to 80,000 and has a total budget of between $8
million and $12 million.

On Tuesday, Supt. Roy Romer proposed to further cut
the general fund budgets of the local districts by 10%
— in addition to 18% in previous cuts — but said he
needed the subdistrict structure to oversee the L.A.
Unified School District's plans to build 160 schools in
the next few years.

"I believe that we are in a position that we need to be
very economical," said Romer after presenting his plan
to reduce the budgets, but not the size, of the districts.
"But we don't need to jump off a cliff and destroy or
take apart the infrastructure of the district."

Debate among board members was heated. Some
supported Romer's proposal and making more cuts in
the 2004-05 budget; others proposed scrapping the
local district structure in favor of separate divisions for
elementary, middle and high schools. But all agreed
that the district was facing a financial crisis.

The district must cut about $500 million from its
2004-05 budget to address a projected shortfall from
the state budget. So far, about $477 million has been

The board postponed further discussion on how to
make more cuts until Thursday.

Also Tuesday, the board granted Granada Hills
Charter High School a five-year renewal for its

Granada Hills, which had among the best academic
records in the district, became a charter school last
May. At the time, board members granted the school a
one-year charter because they wanted to develop a
comprehensive strategy on creation and supervision of
charters districtwide. So far, no such strategy has been

• Daily News/Friday: ROMER OKs CUTTING

By Jennifer Radcliffe - Staff Writer

Thursday, May 13, 2004 - With the move to eliminate
Los Angeles Unified's 11 local districts gaining steam,
Superintendent Roy Romer agreed Thursday to
develop plans to reduce the number of districts to
either four or six.

In yet another emotionally charged meeting, trustees
Mike Lansing and Marlene Canter lambasted other
board members for trying to force a vote for the
elimination of the local districts this week, when
Romer is scheduled to be out of the country.

The board majority is bending to United Teachers Los
Angeles, which wants local districts eliminated so
teachers don't have to deal with nearby administrators,
Lansing said.

"Mr. Superintendent, if this board decides to meet
tomorrow to decide the structure of the school district
without you in attendance, I strongly suggest you
resign as superintendent ... and then this board can
appoint (UTLA President) John Perez as the next
superintendent, as they would be directed to do
anyways by UTLA. This is a travesty and a total waste
of my time," said Lansing, defending Romer.

He then walked out of the meeting.

While Romer supports the 11 local districts, he has
made cuts to their budgets to appease critics. He said
Thursday, however, that he understands more drastic
measures are being called for and will comply with the
board majority's desire to overhaul LAUSD's
administrative structure.

"I think this is a mistake, but I hear the board," he said.
"I would be a fool not to address this carefully (and)

The latest proposal, which is expected to be voted on
June 8, would reduce the number of local districts to
either four or six. It replaces a motion to replace the
11 districts with three divisions, which would be
focused on elementary, middle and high schools,

The new proposal requires local districts' budgets to be
cut by 38 percent and for the $28 million in savings to
be returned to schools.

• LA Times/Friday: L.A. UNIFIED BOARD

The members exchange angry accusations during a
debate on whether to restructure as a method of
reducing spending.

By Jean Merl - Times Staff Writer

May 14, 2004 - The debate over the fate of the Los
Angeles school system's 11 subdistricts erupted into
angry exchanges at a school board meeting Thursday,
with one board member accusing at least three others
of doing the teachers union's bidding.

"They take their marching orders from [United
Teachers-Los Angeles], and they don't need the
superintendent's input into something as unimportant
as the construction or deconstruction of this district's
structure," board member Mike Lansing said during
the special budget-cutting session.

Lansing and board member Marlene Canter angrily
objected when it appeared that three, and possibly
four, of the board members were trying to rush
through a vote on a motion to disband all of the
subdistricts and replace them with one division each
for elementary, middle and high schools.

The semiautonomous local districts were formed four
years ago to put administrative services closer to the
schools and to help implement academic reforms on
campuses. But the union has criticized them from the
start, saying they drain money that would be better
spent at the schools.

The motion causing anger Thursday was made by
board member Jon Lauritzen, who was elected with
the union's help, as were all the other board members
except Lansing and Canter.

This year, as the district tries to close a nearly
$500-million gap in its nearly $5-billion operating
budget before the new fiscal year starts July 1, the
union has stepped up its call for the board to disband
the districts.

Supt. Roy Romer has proposed cuts in the local
districts' budgets but has repeatedly said he is reluctant
to eliminate them just as reforms are taking hold and as
the district is building 160 schools over 10 years.

Earlier this week, the board agreed to postpone a vote
on Lauritzen's motion until June 8, when Romer, who
was leaving for London on Thursday night, and board
President Jose Huizar, whose family vacation starts in
a few days, would be back in town. On Thursday,
however, Lauritzen tried to bring his motion to an
immediate vote.

"Time is of the essence," Lauritzen said when Canter
and Lansing objected. "We need to act on this as soon
as we possibly can" to save money and allow enough
time for such a significant restructuring, he said.

When the board's legal advisor said the vote could not
be moved up without at least 24 hours' notice,
Lauritzen unsuccessfully sought to have another
special meeting today.

Canter objected to deciding the local districts' fate
when Romer could not be included.

"I think it's humiliating and disrespectful to the
superintendent," Canter said, adding that there was no
reason to have a superintendent if the board was going
to ignore him.

The board eventually settled on discussing the fate of
the districts May 25 and taking a vote June 8, but not
before the bitter arguments over the union's role broke

"The reason they don't want 11 [subdistricts] is they
don't want people close to the schools looking over
people's shoulders and making sure business is getting
done," Lansing said of the union.

Two other union-supported board members, Julie
Korenstein and Marguerite LaMotte, shot back at
Lansing, who left for another engagement after his

"Everybody at this table had somebody who helped
them get elected," LaMotte said. "I really take

Korenstein said she was "really disappointed that Mr.
Lansing gave such a cheap shot and then ran out of the

Huizar offered a compromise to be considered with
other plans for the districts at upcoming meetings. He
suggested reducing them to between four and six and
diverting about $28 million of their budgets to schools.

Huizar said after the meeting that he did not believe
Lansing meant to include him in his remarks, as he had
not sought to eliminate the subdistricts, as the union
wants. But Huizar said he and some other board
members are frustrated by what they saw as Romer's

"We have been asking him for months to give us
detailed information" about the costs and to come up
with some options for reconfiguring them, Huizar said.

Romer promised the board that he is working on such
plans but said he and the board needed to be thorough
in deciding what to do.

B+B: PTA's Position
A Resolution of the Tenth District PTSA

WHEREAS the funding mechanism for public
education in California and the current economic
slump has contributed to the budget crisis in LAUSD,

WHEREAS the District must reduce its budget for
school year 2004-2005, and

WHEREAS the Los Angeles County Office of
Education (LACOE) has requested that LAUSD
produce a balanced budget for 2004-2005 by June 1,
2004, and

WHEREAS Tenth District PTSA holds that what’s
included within a budget is more important than what’s
eliminated, and

WHEREAS Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA Board
of Directors voted on April 14th to open discussions
with the Teacher’s Union (UTLA) to find common
ground in budget cutting proposals, and

WHEREAS Tenth District PTSA and UTLA and
AALA (the administrator’s union) share a common
goal in keeping LAUSD solvent, fiscally responsible
and accountable and:

• keeping the impact of budget cuts as far as possible
from the student in the classroom
• maintaining and strengthening educational
programs for all students
• maintaining school nursing and student health
services, student psychological services and
student counseling services, and

WHEREAS the Superintendent’s proposed budget
reductions adversely affect the above bullet points.

THEREFORE the Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA
Board of Directors requests that the Superintendent
and The Board of Education implement a balanced
budget for 2004-2005 in keeping with the above goals
and guidelines and consider all options for budget
reduction, including:

• reduction and/or elimination of consultantancies
and independent contracts that do not directly
affect educational programs - including eliminating
programs such as ‘learning walks’ and ‘red team
visits’ that are counterproductive to student and
teacher morale
• returning ‘coaches’ to the classroom as teachers
• empowering principals and/or school site councils
with local control of programs at their schools
• a complete report upon all budget reductions at
school sites to the School Board and the public
a through evaluation and of the effectiveness -
educational, administrative and budgetary - of the
eleven local mini-districts; and a study of
alternatives to that administrative model -
• • a complete program and financial audit of the
program and
• • a study of alternative methods of
administration, including reduction in number
and/or scope, collapse or elimination of the
local district administrative model.

FURTHERMORE in the best interest of all the
schoolchildren in Los Angeles — Tenth District PTSA
further requests prompt and open dialog between the
Superintendent, Board of Education and all
stakeholders - including parents, teachers,
administrators, students, district staff, other district
employees and community members.

Adopted by a vote of the Board of Directors of the
Tenth District PTSA this 12th day of May, 2004

/s/ Marta Lear, President
/s/ Scott Folsom, Vice President, Education

note: 10th District represents the membership of PTA schools and councils South of Mulholland Drive in local districts D,E,F,G,H,I,J & K - appx 75% of LAUSD.

THE COVERNOR’S MAY BUDGET REVISE: Californians Give Mixed Reviews to Governor Schwarzenegger's First Budget

by Mike O'Sullivan - Voice of America Los Angeles Bureau Chief

15 May 2004 - California Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger has unveiled a $103 billion budget
that is getting a mixed response from Californians. The
plan is intended to close a gaping hole in the state's
finances, which has threatened its credit rating.

Mr. Schwarzenegger promised a budget that will "cut,
cut, cut," but the cuts in his spending plan are less
severe than some had expected. Still, the proposal
promises to close more than 20 billion dollars in
deficits over the next two years.

Mr. Schwarzenegger's plan cuts two billion dollars
from elementary and high school education, far less
than some had feared. "It is a compassionate budget
that spends tax dollars more effectively to support
essential services," he said.

The plan from the Republican governor also avoids
new taxes, which drew criticism from Democrats like
California Treasurer Phil Angelides. He says the
proposal puts too high a burden on ordinary people.

"Not one corporate tax loophole being closed, not one
millionaire being asked to pay a dime more for a fair
budget that's balanced," he said.

The deal has satisfied the leaders of the state's two
public university systems, who have accepted
immediate cuts of nearly one billion dollars in
exchange for added revenue in 2006 and later. Robert
Dynes, president of the University of California,
praised Mr. Schwarzenegger for what the official
called his "strong commitment to higher education."

But Democrats and some editorial writers criticize the
plan, which they say will solve the immediate problem
but create deficits later. The centerpiece of plan is a
multi-billion dollar bond issue. The San Francisco
Chronicle newspaper says the governor is relying on
borrowed money and is missing the chance for genuine
reform. And the Los Angeles Daily News notes that
Mr. Schwarzenegger assumes higher revenues from an
improving business climate, and it calls the governor's
plan "Arnold's Gamble."

The Democratic-controlled legislature must approve
the proposal, and Democrats say they will fight to
change it.

! - VOA LA Bureau Chief Mike O’Sullivan is a
different person than AALA President Michael


"To visit Gatewood is to glimpse what California's new governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, wants to do across the state: simplify payments to schools, shift more money to the school level, and hold principals directly accountable for student achievement."

from A RAY OF HOPE FOR SCHOOLS – Sacramento Bee, April 11, 2004

Campaign Finance & Ethics: Necessarily an Oxymoron?

smf notes: This one is worrisome. There was an investigation. No laws were broken; no codified ethical boundary was crossed. Contractors have the right to contribute to bond campaigns and the superintendent has the right to remind them of that right. And the constitution guarantees certain rights that don’t always have to be exercised.

• Daily News Article: BONDED NY SCHOOL TIES?
Analysis reveals contractors' $upport of district's ballot

By Beth Barrett - Daily News Staff Writer

Sunday, May 09, 2004 - Contractors who already have
agreements worth more than $250 million to build and
modernize Los Angeles Unified schools -- and stand to
get much more -- contributed nearly a quarter of the
campaign funds to pass the latest $3.87 billion bond
measure, a Daily News analysis found.

News of the contractors' financing of Measure R
comes as allegations of a "pay-to-play" system at City
Hall are being investigated by county and federal

However, Los Angeles Unified School District officials
say they were scrupulous in making sure none of the
campaign contributions was tied to pending work.

Superintendent Roy Romer said he personally seeks
most of the money and takes precautions to prevent
anyone from getting special influence over the district.

"I know there are all kinds of crosscurrents in this
town. One way to keep (contractors) from having
leverage is to raise the money yourself," Romer said.
"It was one of the most critical things to the life of the
district, and I know the importance of the guy running
the place asking (for the contributions)."

Romer -- a former Colorado governor and head of the
Democratic National Committee -- said he has no
tolerance for any connection between contributions
and decisions made by the district.

"I've been in politics 40 years, and I'm very strict in my
habits of raising money."

Romer said the Measure R campaign staff was given
orders not to ask for contributions from anyone with
work pending before the district.

"Nobody is going to get any advantage in this system,"
he added. "I have billions at stake. I cannot and will
not allow it to be tainted."

Campaign finance reports show 29 contractors
contributed $361,000 of the $1.6 million to Measure
R, which voters approved March 2, boosting the
district's construction program to a record $10 billion.
Those same 29 contractors already have contracts
worth $256 million, district records show.

Unions and wealthy individuals, including billionaire
and civic activist Eli Broad, were also among the large

LAUSD Inspector General Don Mullinax said that
while the contractors' contributions "may appear
improper" to the general public, there would have to
be a showing that an actual conflict of interest had

"The question here is not who gave and how much,
but were any of these contributions made as a quid pro

Darry Sragow, the consultant who managed the
Measure R campaign and two earlier district bond
campaigns, said he's never seen any evidence of "arm
twisting" of contractors to make political donations.

"If I saw the remotest evidence of anything wrong, I'd
walk away," Sragow said.

Sragow explained that people raising money for
political campaigns have to tap into those who are "in
the system."

"The dynamic is very, very simple. Most people have
no interest in contributing to any kind of campaign.
The people who contribute have some active interest
in what the campaign is about.

"It's hardly a surprise the people involved on a
day-to-day basis with the school district provide the

Glenn Gritzner, Romer's special assistant, said
members of LAUSD's facilities staff, which oversees
the school construction program, weren't allowed to
raise campaign funds or provided with a list of

"They wouldn't have a guess" who contributed, he

Included in the bond campaign was a $2,125
contribution from Tom Rubin, the consultant to the
School Construction Bond Citizens' Oversight
Committee, charged with independent review of bond

"There is no conflict between supporting building new
schools and wanting the money spent in the wisest and
most productive way."

Rubin said he looks for contracting improprieties "in a
general sense," and that he has examined some specific

"Nothing I ran into was there enough there that I felt
there was something inappropriate going on."

Still, there are many close connections between the
district and the contributors.

A contribution of $22,500 to Measure R was made by
Parsons Brinckerhoff Construction Services Inc.,
whose regional office is in Orange. It is a division of
Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc.

One of the company's vice presidents, James Delker, is
among six Parsons Brinckerhoff Construction Services
employees under a $2.4 million contract with LAUSD,
district records show.

Delker, LAUSD's acting deputy chief facilities
executive for existing facilities, said he learned about
the contribution only after it was made, adding he
doesn't have authority to alter the company's contract
with LAUSD, though he does review the invoices.

"If (the contract) needed a change, that would be
handled by the contracts division and the Orange
office," Delker said. "I'm not authorized to make

Parsons Brinckerhoff Construction Services officials
could not be reached for comment.

Gateway Science & Engineering of Pasadena
contributed $25,000 to the bond. Sources have told
the Daily News the firm's president Art Gastelum was
involved in an airport concession deal that's now a part
of District Attorney Steve Cooley's criminal
investigation into pay-to-play accusations.

Romer said he didn't personally request the
contribution from Gastelum.

"There's no charge I've seen proven ... if someone
wants to make contributions, I treat them as any other

Gastelum said the firm, which does work for LAUSD,
made the contribution because "it's for kids. It's for

"I expect to get nothing. I already have a contract. If I
do good work, I expect to get more work."

Gastelum declined to discuss any investigation
involving airport matters.

Ron Tutor, president of Tutor-Saliba Corp. in Sylmar,
gave $15,000 to the bond. The firm has a $36 million
contract to build a high school in the East San
Fernando Valley.

Tutor said Romer called him for a contribution, and
that he viewed it as a "community service."

"We're one of the largest businesses in the city. I grew
up here. I went to Van Nuys High School. ... What
possibly negative could there be in giving something to

Tutor, whose firm has gotten involved in numerous
contracting controversies and is now facing possible
loss of the Van Nuys FlyAway contract because of
allegations of shoddy work, said he won the work
because he was the lowest bidder.

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental
Studies, a Los Angeles nonprofit, nonpartisan group
that studies campaign financing, said the public would
expect that "those who benefit are the ones who give."

He said in the absence of public financing, there are
few other options for paying to inform the public about
bond issues.

The new bond adds as much as $60 a year per
$100,000 of assessed property valuation. Property
owners are now paying about $100 a year per
$100,000 of assessed value as a result of the previous
two bonds.

The bond calls for $1.9 billion to be used to construct
up to 50 schools, and $1.6 billion to be spent on


May 10, 2004 - Romer's fund-raising raises ethical

So Ron Tutor, president of the scandal-plagued
Tutor-Saliba Corp., gets a phone call from Roy
Romer, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified
School District.

Tutor-Saliba, which has made millions on some
questionable public contracts, just so happens to be
working on a $36 million LAUSD project, building a
high school in the East San Fernando Valley.

And Romer just so happens to be looking for a
donation to the campaign on behalf of Measure R, the
$3.87 billion school bond that voters approved back in

So Tutor obliges with a $15,000 donation, calling
Romer's solicitation and his response an act of
"community service."

That's one way to look at it.

Another, more cynical view is that Tutor had the good
sense to keep the golden goose well-fed. With the
passage of Measure R, the LAUSD would have
billions of dollars to build more schools -- contracts for
which Tutor's company could fairly compete.

Then there's a third, even more cynical interpretation:
Tutor's contribution was an investment. It was a
thank-you for contracts past, or a tribute paid to
ensure favorable consideration for contracts future.

No, no one's ever demonstrated any such arrangement,
let alone proved a crime of any kind. But then, political
quid pro quos are rarely provable -- public officials
know to stay discrete, to make only implicit promises
of favoritism.

Just look at ongoing probes into the burgeoning "pay
to play" scandal in City Hall.

And it's not as though the LAUSD has a squeaky clean
record. Memories of the botched Belmont Learning
Center and the bungled appropriation of Proposition
BB funds still give the public plenty of reason to doubt
the way the district manages its contracting, despite
Romer's overhaul of its facilities division.

Romer says he guards against corruption by making all
or most of the fund-raising calls himself. Facilities
staffers aren't allowed to solicit contributions, nor do
they get to see the list of donors.

There's no reason to doubt Romer's word, but even if
no favoritism exists, it's easy to see how -- especially in
this city -- contractors might think it does. Getting a
call from the top boss himself would only add to, not
take away from, the perceived pressure to pay to play.

Surely it's no coincidence that some 29 contractors
contributed a total of $361,000 to the Measure R
campaign, or that those very same contractors already
have $256 million worth of contracts with the district.

Nor does it help appearances that the district now
publicly worries that perhaps it's building too quickly,
rushing to meet a demand for new schools that, in light
of future demographics, might never materialize.

Even if no crimes are being committed, the way funds
are currently raised inevitably lends itself to the
appearance of corruption -- and provides fertile
ground for the real deal.

There's something unseemly about a superintendent
hustling money from his contractors, and contractors
"investing" by seeking what amounts to tax hikes for
everyone else.

And nothing short of comprehensive campaign-finance
reform will change that.