(Jan. 10, 2007, updated) -- Using the period for public comment on non-agendized items at the end of the Jan. 9 City Council meeting, the Vice President of the politically active Teachers Ass'n of Long Beach (TALB) proposed that the City Council [now considering possible amendments to the City Charter for submission to voters in a special May 2007 election] include a measure creating an elected Inspector General to oversee spending by the LB Unified School District, modeled after a position in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The proposal carries political clout after TALB-backed candidates won two of three LBUSD School Board seats in 2006, filling the seat vacated by then School Board President, now 2nd district Councilwoman, Suja Lowenthal...and helping elect 5th district Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske [whose full time job is TALB's General Counsel]. Councilwoman Schipske's successful 2006 ELB Council run (ousting two-term Council incumbent Jackie Kell) coincided with the simultaneous successful School Board candidacy in ELB of TALB-backed Dr. David Barton (who ousted School Board incumbent Jim Choura).
TALB VP Day told the Council:
Mr. Day: The City of Long Beach is fortunate to have a City Auditor to ensure the independent and proper oversight of the expenditures of our tax dollars, but there's an entity in Long Beach that has an $800 million budget that has no such oversight, and that's the Long Beach Unified School District.
Long Beach Unified was chartered through the City's Charter. Its creation, offices and terms are set forth by the City's Charter.
The Teachers Association of Long Beach respectfully requests that the Long Beach City Council create a Charter Amendment creating a new position of an elected Inspector General to be modeled as much as possible after the Los Angeles Unified School District's Inspector General, as found in the state's Education Code.
We'd request that the term of service would be four years and have the same term-limits as the City Council.
The students, parents and taxpayers in our district deserve the openness and transparency that an Inspector General would provide us. The public needs to be assured that every available dollar is going directly to benefit our students and not lost or diverted into a growing bureaucracy.
Our [School] District has made some progress this year, becoming more open to public scrutiny by finally televising School Board meetings, but much more needs to be done.
The bottom line is, the public wants to know if everything possible is being done to teach our students, and we believe an Inspector General would go a long way to ensure that this is done.
Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal (a former LB School Boardmember) responded, "Please be sure to come to the next Charter [Amendment] Committee meeting" on January 16...an item that appeared to catch Mr. Day by surprise.
Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga asked TALB VP Day if he had anything in writing ; he indicated he would forward the pertinent Education Code provision.
[Update] Reached for some intiial reaction at early morning, LBUSD spokesperson Chris Eftychiou said he first learned of the proposed item in our report. He noted that as to accoutability, LBUSD's School Board is elected and accountable to the public/voters.
Mr. Eftychiou also noted that LBUSD undergoes an indepedently conducted audit each year...and for the past several years those audits have found the District operating within [acknowledges accountant-speak here] generally accepted accounting principles.
He observed that it's the right of citizens to participate in the Charter Amendment process and added "we'll see what happens next."