Amid the debate over a possible mayoral takeover of the Los Angeles schools, the district finds itself fighting another part of City Hall: the controller’s office.
Laura Chick, the city’s top auditor, announced last month that she wants to oversee a management review of the 747,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District. As a separate government entity, the district isn’t obligated to submit to such a review by her office—and as of late last week, it hadn’t.
“This is not about a fear of audits, or of scrutiny,” said Glenn Gritzner, a special assistant to Superintendent Roy Romer. “This is about the usefulness, the purpose served, and the fairness of how this is undertaken.”
Mr. Gritzner noted that the controller gave the district little advance notice before calling a press conference to propose an audit. Although Ms. Chick is elected independently, the Democrat is a political ally of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who wants to gain legal authority over the school district. (“L.A. Mayor Steps Up Bid to Control Schools,” Jan. 4, 2006.)
The controller first pitched the idea of leading an audit after the district and the local teachers’ union agreed to hire consultants to study the system’s administrative expenditures. Union leaders have long accused the district of supporting a bloated bureaucracy.
When school officials resisted her offer to lead that effort, Ms. Chick sought to invoke state open-records laws to compel them to hand over completed audits of the system.
That further angered district leaders, who said the controller, as a government official, could not legally use the public-disclosure laws. Still, they said they’d provide the documents anyway. After a meeting between Mr. Romer and Ms. Chick last week, however, the district had yet to agree to a review by the controllers’ office.
“I’m sorry that there are those who want to blur the real issue by talking about tactics, or that I didn’t ask nicely enough,” Ms. Chick wrote in an e-mail to Education Week. “This is about making the LAUSD more transparent and accountable.”
A spokesman for United Teachers Los Angeles said last week that the union cares little about who leads the audit that it called for, so long as it gets done.