Torrance “Disunified” School District: Intervention Program Raises Equity Concerns

Data obtained via a public records request shows a surprising imbalance with regard to the number of intervention teachers assigned to each elementary school site within the Torrance Unified School District.

The imbalance raises questions about equity as some schools were forced to raise funds to hire intervention staff, and part-time music and science teachers, while other similarly situated schools received the same benefit at District expense.

The disparities are apparent among the non-title I schools. Riviera, which is located in one of the wealthier areas of Torrance, raised the astonishing sum of $421,000 over the past three years in order to pay for its six intervention teachers while Hickory received 4 intervention teachers even though it has only raised $20,000 over the same time period.

Anza has a booster club dedicated solely to raising funds for intervention teachers. That organization, called the Anza Eagle Education Alliance, has raised $105,000 over the past three years. Utilizing those funds Anza was able to hire two intervention teachers the past school year. Towers elementary, on the other hand, did not raise any funds at all in the past three years towards personnel expenses and yet still had 3 intervention teachers assigned to the school.

This raises the possibility that the District is essentially redistributing the wealth by not providing intervention resources at schools with a proven track record of fundraising for those expenses. If that is the case it could irk parents at schools like Anza, Riviera, Seaside, and Victor who put in long hours fundraising through various means in order to pay for services that other similarly situated schools in the District are able to receive without commensurate fundraising efforts.

Disparities also exist within the Title I schools. Edison had five intervention teachers while other schools like Lincoln and Carr were only assigned one. Fern, Torrance, Wood, and Yukon were each assigned two intervention teachers despite substantially different enrollment figures. Most of the Title I schools did not raise any funds at all to pay for personnel.

As an added insult to the schools using hard earned fundraising dollars to pay for intervention services the District has informed school sites about a new directive this year that could dramatically increase the costs needed to hire qualified intervention teachers. In prior years, schools could hire part-time intervention teachers at a negotiated flat per hour rate.

This flexibility allowed schools to hire experienced educators, such as retirees, at much lower per hour pay rates than what their years of experience would typically dictate. The new rule requires that even part-time intervention teachers must be paid at a rate commensurate with their years of experience. The change could double the costs needed to hire experienced intervention teachers or force school sites to hire teachers with little or no experience.

School sites in Torrance are able to use locally raised funds to hire personnel due to a controversial decision by the School Board allowing the practice. That policy was first enacted in 2010. At the time, the District was weathering an economic storm that resulted in a sizable reduction in the District’s teaching staff. The issue has divided the School Board ever since as Board members Terry Ragins and Mark Steffens have been consistent critics of the policy.

Their concern is that the policy essentially allows some schools to buy a better education for their kids than other schools in the District could afford. The most recent extension of the policy came in June of this year. At that meeting, Ragins once again voiced opposition to the policy by stating, “We are a unified district and we are not providing a unified and consistent set of resources to all of our students in all of our schools by allowing this.”

It would appear that Ragins is correct. The District is not providing a consistent set of resources to all of the students in all of the schools. Ironically, however, the data shows that the schools sites that are raising the most money are those that may be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to intervention services.

11 comments

  • Anonymous

    Q: Who has the responsibility The superintendant of the School District to assign resources or is it the budget and appropriations committee of the School Board with their recmmendations for appropriations? I think and believe that there is far more involved here and indepth investigation might be in order. The other questjion is this, How connected is the School District Superintendant to the School Board members and whom does he favor and whom does he not? This is political game that is being played out for sure. Equality is not a factor apparently. I myself have no children so I have never had encounters with the School Board of the Torrance Unified School District, and also have only had brief encounters in the past with School District representatives when they were trying to sell a giant expense package to Taxpayers of Property for Rmodeling and Improving the schools in the district. By the way did that project ever get approval as it was laid out. I hope not because the plan did not seem to be equitable to all campuses in the district. What is really needed not only in the School District but also at the city level is planning, research, Proposal Drafting, with evidence of need, presentation, buy in, and voter approval. Also, there is a need to have a long range maintenance and upkeep plan that allows for a portion of the school district to be always under maintenance and upkeep on an ongoing rotating basis with all campuses covered. The Torrance Unified School District needs to establish a long range plan that can presented to the School Board with confidence and request funding for the plan on a quarterly basis not annually and executed as such and then follow the plan and update and improve the areas necessary. This is called a plan of Building Maintenance, and upkeep of facilities! That plan should be totally inclusive of all facility needs, upgrades, maintenance, etc, to assure the Torrance School District can provide a top notch product to the students in attendance. Isn’t this a novel idea? When can the Torrance School Board, and the District Supervisor and his staff get started ?

  • I think every similarly situated school should receive equivalent resources. I believe that is what equity demands. The data provided by the District tells me that is not happening. What frustrates me is that many parents give money to local fundraising groups like the PTA or the EEA with the understanding that those funds will go to support their local school site, but it appears to me that is not what actually occurs. Parents at the schools that are raising funds for personnel are essentially subsidizing other schools that don’t raise funds. I don’t think that is fair or ethical because that is not made clear to the parents that donate.

    • Anonymous

      The money Riviera raises goes to the teachers Riviera is assigned. We are not subsidizing other schools.

      • How do you explain then a school like Towers (that raised no funds) receiving more intervention teachers than a school like Anza (which raised a lot of funds)?

        • Anonymous

          You need to understand the difference between Title 1 funded intervention teachers and Alliance funded enhancement teachers. You are calling all these teachers ” Intervention Teachers”. BIG difference between funds allocated through Title 1 to help bring students academic achievement up to required standards and the EXTRA teachers purchased through Alliances. Adding teachers to enhance computer skills, music, and science with private funds at certain schools is not fair and equitable in public education. STOP THE ALLIANCES they perpetuate inequality. All funds raised should go through the Torrance Education Foundation who funds all schools equally.

          • Clint Paulson

            I understand there is a difference between Title 1 and non-Title 1 schools. That’s why I included which schools are Title 1 in the data. That way, people can compare Title I schools against other Title I schools in the District and non-Title I schools can be compared against other non-Title I schools.

  • The money raised needs to stay with the school that raised it.

  • Anonymous

    The money raised does in fact stay with each school. As a member of the PTA at all three levels, we account for EVERY dollar raised!
    If that wasnt the case, you wouldn’t be screaming “inequity”!

    • As a member of a local PTA Board myself, I am not doubting that the PTA accounts for every dollar raised. What concerns me is that District resources do not appear to be distributed equally across the board. I was informed, for example, that PTA funds were used to hire all of the intervention teachers at Riviera while other schools received those resources at District expense. This would mean that Riviera is not on equal footing as other schools as they have to fundraise for services that other schools receive without having to fundraise.

  • Anonymous

    There are so many elements to this problem. You are right on about the schools subsidizing others. Everyone is correct in that the money they fundraise is being used to hire the staff. However, they are not receiving the money that they would have if they did not raise those funds since it is only being distributed to the schools that did not fundraise enough.

    Either way someone loses. The Title I schools are never going to raise enough money and the children will not get an equal education if the money is not split evenly. I’m curious to the effect that open enrollment has on the socioeconomic level of the Title I schools. There is definitely a movement of children from North Torrance to other parts of Torrance through the program. The empty spaces are then filled with interdistrict permits. Many of these kids are great but their families have no ties to the community and do not participate in fundraising to the same extent as local families.

  • Linda Gottshall-Sayed

    I take a lot of issue here with the perception that wealthier communities (like Hollywood Riviera) whose parents raise more money want to keep ALL that money within the school they fund raise at. Isn’t the school district here called the Torrance UNIFIED School District????? What’s so unified in that kind of thinking. The question to be asked is are there the same fundraising efforts REQUIRED at each school, NOT THE AMOUNT that school brings in. Each school has a different socio-economic group it serves. I am frankly astounded at the notion that all the money that the Rivera community raises (from parents or non parents) should go ONLY to support the children that attend the school in that wealthy community. The chart shows inequities and I am concerned about the fundraising efforts at each school … and the amounts raised should not be the bar!

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