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EDITORIAL ABSENTEE SCHOOL DISTRICT ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DAMNING AUDIT FOR THE LAUSD.

HARDLY a day seems to pass without auditors unearthing yet another example of multimillion-dollar waste or malfeasance at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

So it's par for the course that State Controller Kathleen Connell has released yet another report diagnosing the district's neglect and incompetence - specifically, in the way it monitors student attendance.

This is, after all, the district that can't account for how it wasted $175 million on the Belmont Learning Center, how it plans to pay for a whopping 15.3 percent employee pay raise, or how it managed to blow $100 million on a ``decentralization'' scheme designed to save money.

Now we know that it can't keep track of its students, either. Is anyone surprised?

According to Connell's audit, the district was unable to provide valid excuses for almost a quarter of its students' absences. A well-run district, by comparison, should have no trouble accounting for less than 10 percent of its excused students.

But a well-run district the LAUSD is not.

Over the course of four years, the inflated attendance numbers provided to the state have resulted in the district getting $120 million more than it deserves from Sacramento, according to Connell.

Now Sacramento wants its money back, and the district - which can barely manage to keep its $9.5 billion budget in the black - will be hard-pressed to scrape up the funds.

The district has responded with three predictable, knee-jerk reactions: finger-pointing, denial and the threat of litigation. LAUSD officials attack Connell's methodology, swear that their attendance records are no worse than anyone else's and plan to sue to keep their ill-begotten $120 million.

The only thing they're not willing to do is own up to their own failures.

But that would be a better way to make up the lost cash. The state doles out school funds on the basis of attendance. If the LAUSD were to seriously confront its attendance problem and reduce its absentee rate from 8 percent to 7 percent, it would earn enough extra funds to make up its loss.

Heck, it might even do a better job educating students.

But LAUSD officials would rather waste taxpayers' money on pointless litigation than admit to their failures. The lawsuit they plan to file against the state is destined to fail - as did a similar attempt by the West Costa Contra Unified School District.

Failure, though, isn't a big concern for LAUSD officials. They're used to it - as the innumerable audits show.

The LAUSD's bureaucrats gladly accept failure - it's responsibility they're afraid of.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Words:422
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