Cortines has served for 15 years on the board of the publishing company, according to a recent report by Times staff writer Howard Blume. Since coming to work for the district in 2008, Cortines has earned more than $150,000 a year for serving on the board, while Scholastic has made $5.2 million in contracts with the district as its main supplier of reading intervention curricula.
No one should need a primer on why this is a disturbing situation. The reaction of school board President Monica Garcia -- "I don't know what is interesting here" -- is dismaying. Here's one thing we find interesting: The head of L.A. Unified -- a district with abysmal reading scores -- cannot involve himself in key decisions about reading intervention contracts for which Scholastic is competing.
Nor does it remove the conflict for Cortines to distance himself from the process. The people who make the contract decisions obviously want to please their superintendent. Cortines might not care whether they pick Scholastic, but how is the staff to be sure? It may seem to those making the decision that the safest bet is to pick the company with which their boss is entangled.