The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

L.A. Schools Reopen Amid Big Staff Shortage

Aug 30, 2021

When Los Angeles schools (LAUSD) opened on August 16, district officials said the well-being and safety of students and staff was their first concern. But less than a week before schools started, the district had thousands of vacancies for teachers, nurses, sanitation and maintenance workers, and other staff.

In other words, L.A. students went back to crowded classrooms and dirty school buildings in disrepair, guaranteeing the spread of the virus simply because of the enormous size of the district. And sure enough, about 3,000 LAUSD students had tested positive for coronavirus by the end of the first week of school, and another 3,500 were put on quarantine as well, for being in close contact with someone who tested positive. About 1,000 LAUSD employees also missed at least one day of work, either because they tested positive or were close contacts of those who did.

It’s not that the district is short of money. Look, for example, at the 350 million dollars the district is spending on the coronavirus testing required of students and staff who are physically at schools.

Even considering the district’s size, the price tag is huge. And it turns out, the tens of thousands of tests the district performs every day are not processed locally. Instead, the tests are flown twice a day, by jet, nearly 350 miles away to the Bay Area. The company that processes the tests, SummerBio, was given a no-bid contract last year by then-Superintendent Austin Beutner, who left the district on June 30. Founded just a few months before getting the lucrative contract, SummerBio had no credentials, except perhaps the business ties that Beutner has had in the past with the company’s founder.

Handing out big chunks of the district’s budget to contractors, while overcrowding classrooms and neglecting the maintenance of schools—that’s what LAUSD leaders did before the pandemic, and that’s what they are doing now that schools are open again.