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When taxpayers count the cost of government, they would do well to include the tab for waste, fraud and abuse by the government monopoly K-12 educational system—particularly abuse.
As Richard Winton and Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times report, the Los Angeles Unified School District, second-largest in the nation, missed a series of cases involving “teacher misconduct” and “the result is a trail of victimized students and massive payouts to victims and attorneys that have surpassed $300 million in just the last four years.” The teacher misconduct involves blatant and longstanding sexual abuse, and the LAUSD, “in some instances, continued to employ teachers who were under a cloud, or ignored or overlooked direct complaints.”
As outraged parents have learned, California’s government monopoly education system makes it practically impossible to fire teachers, whatever the gravity of their offenses. For a full decade LAUSD officials ignored complaints against teacher Robert Pimentel of De La Torre Elementary, who was eventually convicted of child abuse and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Pimentel cost the LAUSD $58 million in sexual abuse payouts, and the district has spent a staggering $200 million on claims made by students in the case of a single teacher, Mark Berndt. In 2011 Berndt was found with “hundreds of photos of his third-grade students—bound, gagged, crawling with cockroaches and sometimes fed semen.” The LAUSD paid Berndt $40,000 to resign, and he retains lifetime health coverage and a pension totaling $3,891.17 per month.
Teacher unions also went to bat for the abuser.
As Larry Sand explained in City Journal, the California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers endorsed AB 375, a bill written “in response to Berndt’s heinous crimes,” but which gave “teachers like Berndt even greater protections against dismissal than they currently enjoy.” Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill, but for parents and taxpayers the reality remains clear: Neither education bureaucrats nor teacher union bosses are eager to remove abusive, predatory teachers. That reluctance endangers students, distresses parents, and will surely wind up costing taxpayers more than $300 million. As the Los Angeles Times reporters explain, “more cases are outstanding” in the matter of Mark Berndt, whose career spanned more than 30 years.