Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Great Moments in Public Education: July 26, 2011 Edition

It's already a lousy day for liberty in California, as the forces of government corruption and taxpayer abuse are keeping themselves very, very busy. Let's run through the details.

First off, the Educated Guess blog reports that CalSTRS and teachers' unions are working hard to gut SB 27, the anti-"pension spiking" measure being pushed by Sen. Joe Simitian. In its current form, the bill would subject a public employee's pension to an audit by the relevant pension system if records showed that he or she received a pay raise of 25% or more in the final five years of employment. It would also push back on "double dipping" by preventing retired workers from returning to public employment for at least 180 days after retirement, and would prevent non-salary income (e.g., car allowances, unused vacation time, life insurance) from counting towards a worker's pension. (For a good example of "double dipping" and how wasteful it is, see this story.) Of course, in California not even an obvious abuse like spiking can be given a quiet funeral: CalSTRS and the California Teachers Associations are both pushing amendments to the bill that would prevent it from applying to current government employees, arguing that the benefits of current workers are "vested". It's truly a sad spectacle that government workers here view pension spiking as a vested right. Though it certainly explains a lot.

Second, California Watch reports on the results of a Department of Finance audit of the state Office of Public School Construction, which administers bond funds used to build schools. The audit concluded that the Office's lax adherence to its own policies may have led to millions of dollars being improperly awarded to school districts, and to instances of improper use of funds being ignored. Specifically, Finance concluded that the Office awarded almost $44 million in construction dollars to districts lacking proper documentation, failed to collect over $15 million owed to the state by districts, failed to properly audit almost 700 projects identified as "high risk" for misspending, and failed to require districts to submit annual reports. The audit concluded by questioning OPSC's commitment to its fiduciary duty to taxpayers. This sort of waste is, of course, exactly why we're always being asked to cough up more money for public schools.

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