Sunday, July 18, 2004

4LAKids: Sunday, July 18th, 2004

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4LAKids: Sunday, July 18th, 2004
In This Issue:
WILLIAMS v. CALIFORNIA—2 from the Times: Suit on Schools Near Resolution & 1 Teen's Action May Help Many
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
4LAKids Book Club for June & July –CHOOSING EXCELLENCE: “Good Enough” Schools Are Not Good Enough
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
THE 4LAKids ARCHIVE - Past Issues and added features
FIVE CENTS MAKES SENSE FOR EDUCATION- Target 5¢ from every federal tax dollar for Education
• from the California Charter Schools Capitol Update
listserv: As newspapers have reported, the state budget is
at a standstill. On Wednesday, the Governor took his
plea to pass a budget to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s
deputies, asking them to put pressure on Democrats to
approve his deal with the cities and counties. Thursday
night, the Governor and the Speaker of the Assembly held
dueling press conferences blaming each other for the
budget stalemate.

[STOP PRESS: Gov. Schwartzenegger’s descent from rhetoric to gender-questioning in calling his opponents “Girlie Men” on Saturday would lead to immediate suspension or expulsion from LAUSD were he a student above the fourth-grade under LAUSD’s zero-tolerance of sexual harassment!]

Controller Steve Westly has indicated that the State could
function until July 28th without a budget. This allows
lawmakers additional time to push the envelope as close
to the 28th as possible in an effort to get what they want.

Local government funding is still an unresolved issue.
One of the new twists to the local government plan is a
new compromise presented by local government officials,
which involves a plan for allowing the state to take money
from local government twice in any ten year period upon
a declaration of a fiscal emergency and a supermajority
(three-fourths or four-fifths vote) of the Legislature. The
amounts taken would be treated as a loan to be repaid,
with interest, within three years. The outline of the latest
proposal was released in the past few days, and is the
subject of an intense statewide advocacy effort.

• smf notes: I have a real concern here, born of experience
in the mess that masquerades as school funding in
California and forged in the crucible of trying to make
mid-year downwardly-revised ‘here-are-the-real-numbers’
budgets work at schoolsites. Even though there is a voter
mandated “Constitutional Guarantee” that schools in
California will be funded at certain level it’s been very
easy for the legislature and governor to undo the
guarantee to spend the money on something else!
Something like prison guards.

It seems to me that the counties and municipalities are
being asked to follow this same funding paradigm — a
well documented and self perpetuating failure of
monumental proportions.

My personal caveat emptor to the mayors and
councilpeople and supervisors — and to their
stakeholders, the voters and taxpayers (‘That’s us,
folks!’), is this: The deal you are striking is with those
wonderful folks who brought you school funding!

If you think this budget mess is a spectator sport being
conducted for our amusement between the Actor and the
Politicians up in Sacramento, think again! They want to
pay for police officers and fire fighters the same way they
pay for teachers, schoolbooks and classroom supplies.

Get involved. Tell ‘em you’re not amused. Ask ‘em to
keep their old promises before they make new ones.


Contact your state legislators.

smf notes: Pew Charitable Trusts research shows (and just plain ‘duh!’ observation confirms) that attending a high-quality preschool can have a substantial impact on a future child’s success in school.

Quality preschool programs:

• Improve the likelihood of learning to read by the third
• Reduce the chances of being held back for a grade.
• Reduce the chances of being placed in special education.
• Increase the possibility of graduating from high school.

Yet in this country, we have a fragmented system of early
education that is highly uneven in access, quality and the
financial burden imposed on families.

California’s First Five Initiative, funded by tobacco taxes
through Proposition 10 – has tried to make a difference in
our state. But in the end the process has been held
hostage by politics – and a political food fight over the
funding and who will control it.

It won’t be long before the taxpayers can add “What
happened to the 50¢ a pack for cigarettes?’ to “What
happened to the lottery money?” —smf

A state audit of five counties finds most money for child
programs unspent.

By Gabrielle Banks - Times Staff Writer

July 16, 2004 - SACRAMENTO — State auditors
criticized officials in five counties Thursday for failing to
properly spend more than $909 million intended for early
childhood development programs.

Auditors found that the counties, including Los Angeles
County, left unspent as much as 85% of the money they
had received since 1998, when voters agreed to a
statewide tax on tobacco products for the programs.

The report said some county panels set up to distribute
the Proposition 10 money kept incomplete records, did
not establish clear rules for hiring contractors or failed to
evaluate the effectiveness of the programs they did fund.

"They promised that every single penny was going to be
spent on children [ages] 0 to 5. To find out we're sitting
on a pile of cash — that doesn't do anything for a child in
Baldwin Park … or Compton," said Bakersfield-area Sen.
Dean Florez (D-Shafter), who sought the audit because of
concerns he had with how Kern County was using its

The ambitious 1998 ballot initiative championed by
filmmaker and child advocate Rob Reiner proposed to
funnel money from a 50-cents-per-pack tobacco tax into
health, education and child-care programs for some of the
neediest children in California.

In Los Angeles County, the group handing out the money
is called First 5. It has earmarked $600 million for
universal preschool for all 4-year-olds and $100 million
for universal healthcare up to age 5. But these programs
are not yet up and running, according to Executive
Director Evelyn Martinez.

The auditors found that the newly established
commissions generally lacked clear rules for governing
themselves. For example, the Santa Clara group set a
spending cap of $15,000 for unsolicited grants, but then
awarded $1 million to the Children's Discovery Museum.
Some commissions could not explain how they had
chosen contractors.

Florez condemned Kern County for its plan to spend
$1,400 on bronze plaques recognizing the commissioners
at 20 new tot lots.

All five of the commissions abided by local bidding laws
in handing out Proposition 10 money. They were not
required to consider all bidders. Some made sure their
bidding process was open to the public, but others kept
the process closed.

Martinez said that considering the size of the undertaking,
she thought L.A. County's commission fared well in the
audit. She said she expects the universal preschool
program to be ready to begin after Labor Day.

Reiner's aide Ben Austin agreed, saying, "Everybody is
pointing to this as a groundbreaking program. We want to
tighten it.

"We're very confident that money that has been allocated
has gone to children. If any public dollar is spent
improperly, that's something we have to look at."

Several commissions responded in the audit that they had
already begun to spend money on effective programs for

A grand jury investigation in Santa Barbara last year
found that the county commission had misspent
Proposition 10 money in its haste to set up childhood
development programs.

Assemblywoman Wilma Chan (D-Alameda), chairwoman
of the legislative audit committee, said the county
commissions will need more oversight, but she
emphasized that the criticisms in the report were
"relatively minor."

weeks of debate, L.A. County officials agree on the
makeup of a new agency to oversee a $600-million
program funded by tobacco tax.

By Carla Rivera - LA Times Staff Writer

July 13, 2004 – After weeks of intense political
wrangling, Los Angeles County officials reached a
compromise Monday on the composition of a new agency
to control a $600-million tobacco tax-funded preschool
program and gave the Board of Supervisors a greater role
in its operations.

The new entity, Los Angeles Universal Preschool Inc.,
will have a 13-member board of directors. The five
members of the Board of Supervisors will each appoint a
representative and are expected to submit candidates by
Aug. 1, said Supervisor Don Knabe, who is also the
chairman of the panel that controls tobacco taxes locally.

That agency, First 5 Los Angeles, on Monday approved
eight members for the preschool board, all chosen by an
advisory committee that has been developing the program
for more than 18 months. As it stands, the new board
probably won't meet before September. Planners had
hoped to begin enrolling students in September but say
the last-minute infighting probably has pushed the launch
date to 2005.

The actions came after a weekend of lobbying by
filmmaker and children's advocate Rob Reiner and others
to placate county officials seeking greater control over
the program and members of the planning team, who had
feared too much county interference.

The spat raised questions about who is answerable for the
millions of dollars of public money raised through 1998's
voter-approved Proposition 10, which levied a
50-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes to pay for preschool
and other early-childhood education and health programs.
A contract approved Monday strengthened the power of
the supervisors and First 5 Los Angeles to oversee the
nearly $600 million expected to be generated for
preschools over the next five years.

"I'm really pleased," said Reiner, the statewide First 5
chairman who early during Monday's meeting jokingly
suggested that no one would be allowed to leave without
an agreement. "Ultimately, it came down to people of
goodwill who at the end of the day cared more about
children than whatever parochial issues."

A key sticking point was the proposed size of the
governing body, with the planning team initially
submitting a 23-member list. Some county officials,
including Knabe, urged a more compact body of nine

The sides settled on 13, although some on the advisory
team, including Nancy Daly Riordan, a children's
advocate and the wife of the state education secretary,
had insisted that number was too few for the massive
effort to enroll 150,000 children in preschool and raise
private and public funds to sustain the system. Riordan
was among those named to the new board.

The compromise also seeks to ensure that the board is
ethnically and geographically diverse. Two slots will be
given to early-childhood education experts and two to
parent representatives.

The agency will oversee a system being built from the
ground up. It was scheduled, before the delays, to begin
enrolling up to 5,000 children age 4 in the fall and up to
150,000 over the next decade. Home-based child care
providers and existing preschools such as Head Start will
be used to extend classes from half day to full day. Scores
of new centers are to be built.

Karen Hill-Scott, an education consultant who has led the
planning, said the new agency probably will be
independent once it is up and running.

"It saddens me that it takes so much struggle to agree on
issues of control and governance, but it's always that
way," said Hill-Scott. "This in a way was sort of like a
political campaign. I think initially it will be closely
monitored, and that as the system demonstrates its
accountability and ability to deliver on the master plan,
everyone will relax."

Besides Riordan, those named to the new board were
Shizuko Akasaki, director of special projects for the Los
Angeles Unified School District; Al Osborne, a UCLA
business professor and faculty director of a Head Start
training program; John Agoglia, former president of NBC
Enterprises and president of the Los Angeles Board of
Airport Commissioners (nominated as the interim
executive director of the preschool agency);
philanthropist Wallis Annenberg; Vilma Martinez,
attorney and former president of the Mexican American
Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Robert K. Ross,
president and chief executive of the California
Endowment; and Donald Tang, senior managing director
of Bear Stearns & Co.


Letters to the Times: July 18, 2004 — The article on the "Preschool Plan" ("A Compromise on Preschool Plan," July 13) tells us plenty about the bureaucratic setup for running this First 5 activity, but it generates plenty of questions.

With all these people and all that money ($600 million), there's little information about what will the kids in the First 5 be doing. What do we expect them to learn? How will we know? Who will the teachers, directors, support staff, etc., be? And how will they be qualified?

What materials will the kids and their staffs be using? And where will this take place? Will the kids walk to school, get on buses, be delivered by parents?

With all that's at stake, where are the early childhood experts who should be on board from the start? I see plenty of "activists" and lots of chiefs, but precious few Indians.

Nathan Kravetz
Professor emeritus of education
City University of New York
Sherman Oaks

STATE AUDITORS REPORT 2003-123: California Childrens and Families Commissions

WILLIAMS v. CALIFORNIA—2 from the Times: Suit on Schools Near Resolution & 1 Teen's Action May Help Many
had alleged inner-city children were shortchanged

By Duke Helfand and Cara Mia DiMassa
LA Times Staff Writers

July 10, 2004 - Lawyers for Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger and the American Civil Liberties Union
are close to settling a major lawsuit accusing the state of
denying poor children the well-trained teachers,
up-to-date textbooks and clean classrooms needed for a
decent education, according to people involved in the

Negotiators are expected to reach an agreement in the
coming weeks to provide more money for textbooks and
more state attention to urban campuses populated mostly
by low-income and minority students, many still learning
to speak English.

The ACLU's 4-year-old suit alleged problems that "shock
the conscience," including vermin-infested schools.

But given the state's weak fiscal outlook, the proposed
settlement is not expected to provide a massive infusion
of money to correct such problems. Instead, the
agreement would focus more on monitoring local
districts' efforts to provide highly qualified teachers and
use previously approved bond funds to build new

"There are very serious talks going forward," said Mark
Rosenbaum, the ACLU's Southern California legal
director, who refused to discuss specifics about the
intensive effort to settle the class-action lawsuit, known
as Williams vs. California.

Schwarzenegger is pressing hard for a settlement, an
about-face from his predecessor, Gray Davis, whose
administration vigorously fought the case and racked up
more than $18 million in state legal bills.

Several sources familiar with the talks said the proposed
agreement would seek a one-time, $139-million fund this
year for the state's lowest-performing schools to buy extra
textbooks and instructional materials.

The draft agreement also would require the state's most
crowded schools to phase out by 2012 a controversial
calendar that shaves 17 days of instruction off the year,
sources said.

It would bar crowded campuses from converting to such
a calendar and would allow the state to appoint trustees
to oversee districts' building programs if they don't make
adequate progress by 2008 to ease overcrowding and
lengthen the school year.

Most of the schools on the shortened calendar are in the
Los Angeles Unified School District, which has 129 of
them. The district already is in the midst of a massive
school construction program intended to return all of its
students to a traditional, 180-day school year by 2012.

Negotiators, including representatives of the Los Angeles
district, are still haggling over the authority of the
trustees, one of the stickiest issues. And some education
officials in Sacramento and in Los Angeles are worried
that new layers of bureaucracy might be created without
the state supplying enough money to correct many school

The state, the ACLU and other civil rights groups
involved in the settlement talks are rushing because they
want to give lawmakers in Sacramento time before
adjourning Sept. 1 to pass legislation implementing
aspects of the settlement, including the extra textbook

In an appearance at a Sacramento high school last week,
Schwarzenegger said, "It is a shame that we as a state
have neglected the inner-city schools. It's terrible. It
should never have happened. Every child is guaranteed to
get equal education, equal quality teachers, equal
textbooks, homework material. All of this stuff ought to
be equal, but it hasn't been."

According to a transcript provided by his office Friday,
Schwarzenegger also said it was "crazy" for the state to
fight the lawsuit, adding: "We are very close in settling
that …."

Los Angeles school board President Jose Huizar said his
panel is expected to discuss the possible settlement in a
closed session next week.

"I am glad that the pending settlement is near," said
Huizar, who declined to offer details. "The case is long
overdue for settlement. It's obvious that education is not
where we want it to be in California or LAUSD, and the
plaintiffs pointed out areas that need improvement."

The lawsuit, filed in May 2000 in San Francisco Superior
Court, named 99 students from 18 schools in Los
Angeles, San Francisco and other California cities. The
case, named after a San Francisco middle school student,
Eliezer Williams, sought help for tens of thousands of

According to the lawsuit, students in low-income schools
"lack the bare essentials" such as adequately trained
teachers, functioning toilets, proper heat and air
conditioning, and modern textbooks.

Many of the schools also were infested with "vermin,
including rats, mice and cockroaches," contended the suit,
which was also filed by the Mexican American Legal
Defense and Educational Fund and other public interest
groups and law firms.

The complaint said such conditions violated the California
Constitution's requirement that all students be offered a
free and equal public education.

Sweetie Williams, 52, father of plaintiff Eliezer Williams,
said he had received a letter from the ACLU in May
saying the case was likely to be settled rather than go to
court. He said he was not told of any details.

Williams, the father of seven and pastor of the 80-member
Samoan Pentecostal Church in San Francisco, said he and
his son had agreed to be a part of the lawsuit because
textbooks at Eliezer's Luther Burbank Middle School
were lacking or tattered, the ceiling tiles in classrooms
were falling down and the "academics were just lacking."

He said being a part of the suit somewhat eased his
frustrations. "We wanted to spearhead the issue and get
as much attention as we could," Williams said.

"My kids are my only assets. We can fix broken
computers, but when a kid breaks, you are looking at

"We just wanted to be a part of making sure that every
kid gets the proper eduction," Williams said. "Without it,
they don't have much of a future."

The principal of Luther Burbank MS (in San Francisco) could not be reached for comment.

Other plaintiffs spoke of similar conditions at their

Abraham Osuna recalled that the bathrooms at Jefferson
High School in South Los Angeles were so disgusting
that he trained himself not to use the facilities while at

Osuna, now a 21-year-old film major at UCLA, also said
his high school calculus book was 20 years old and that
math texts often were marred by scribbles and destroyed
by students who tore off page numbers.

"After a while, you end up having optimism washed away
from you," Osuna said.

Jefferson Principal Norm Morrow said the school has
taken steps to correct the textbook and bathroom

He said the staff now schedules regular bathroom
inspections and cleanings, paying for extra custodial staff
on weekends. And the school also makes sure every child
has the appropriate textbooks — relying on extra funding
from the school district.

"I think we are in pretty good shape today," Morrow said.
"It's just a matter of staying on top of it."

Times staff writer Stephanie Chavez contributed to this

complaint led to a suit that may bring more funds to urban
By Stephanie Chavez
LA Times Staff Writer

July 11, 2004 - The final indignity for Sweetie Williams
hit the afternoon his son Eliezer brought home tattered
photocopied pages from an eighth-grade math book, not
the math book. This came after another son wrote an
essay about his San Francisco school titled "Too Many,"
for too many broken chairs, too many broken urinals, too
many old books.

So when the ACLU contacted Williams in 2000 and
asked if he would allow Eliezer, then 12, to be the lead
plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the state over
school inequities, the frustrated father said to sign up his

The suit accused the state of denying poor children the
well-trained teachers, up-to-date textbooks and clean
schools needed for a decent education. After the
administration of Gov. Gray Davis spent $18 million to
fight the lawsuit, lawyers for Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger and the American Civil Liberties Union
are expected to reach an agreement within weeks,
according to people involved in the talks.

After joining the lawsuit four years ago, Williams sent
Eliezer to school with a disposable camera to photograph
broken rails, busted lockers and falling ceiling tiles. He
and Eliezer attended news conferences and stayed late for
interviews because "we wanted to get as much attention
as we could." And then the Williams side of the widely
watched Williams vs. California lawsuit continued on with
his schooling — and waited for results.

Although the settlement could involve more money for
books and more state attention to urban schools that
teach mostly low-income and minority students, the help
would arrive too late for Eliezer, who will be entering his
senior year in high school, the boy and his father said in
interviews Saturday.

"It's kind of disappointing," said Eliezer, who is 16.
Sweetie Williams, a father of six and pastor of the First
Samoan Full Gospel Pentecostal Church in San Francisco,
and his family were in Norwalk to attend a religious

"It kind of confused me over the years. I thought they had
forgotten about me," the teenager said of the lawsuit. "I
thought it would be settled sooner. But at least now I
know it wasn't for nothing."

Now Eliezer isn't so worried about the deficiencies
alleged in the lawsuit: the roaches and other vermin in the
classroom, the lack of a school librarian, the social studies
textbook that did not reflect the breakup of the former
Soviet Union. They were a part of his adolescent years at
San Francisco Unified School District's Luther Burbank
Middle School.

As an incoming senior at Balboa High School, he worries
about his grades. He's a C-plus student. He's struggling
with U.S. history and physics because "there are just
things [in those classes] I've never heard of before."

And, at last, when he's found a passion for school because
of a new communications course and aspires to be a
cinematographer, the student known to many top
education officials simply as the Williams case wonders if
he will be able to get into a college.

"I'm going to try my hardest to make it into college," he
said. "But I'm worried about my grades."

Would a math textbook to take home from middle school
have made a difference?

Sweetie Williams, 52, explained it this way:

"As a pastor, I can preach and preach to my
congregation. But I want everyone to have a copy of the
Bible at home so they can read it, study it, and if they
have any questions, they can reference the chapters. The
same too has be available to the kids when it comes to

"These kids need to be provided with the right and proper
tools," Williams said.

Louise Renne, special counsel for the San Francisco
Unified School District, said the last five years have
brought a "sea change" of improvements to district
schools, including Luther Burbank, which has been
extensively remodeled. Also, a new maintenance and
instructional materials program has been put in place to
ensure that campuses are up to code and that there are
enough textbooks to go around.

Some of the improvements, she said, came not as the
direct results of lawsuits or legislation, but because San
Francisco voters passed a nearly $300-million school
bond issue last year. Renne said that the district had
disputed "a number of the allegations" in the suit and that
one claim about the lack of books from a student whom
she declined to name was overstated.

The call Sweetie Williams said he once got from his son's
high school further fueled his frustrations over the state of
public education, and spoke to one of the lawsuit's
contentions: that students from low-income schools lack
adequately trained teachers.

"I got a call from a teacher saying he was counseling my
son because he had been late three times," Williams said.
"I asked him if he was a counselor. He told me, no, he
was a coach. I told him to send my son home, I'll do the

The elder Williams, named Sweetie by his mother because
"I was sweet," he said, is an airport screener supervisor at
San Francisco International Airport and leaves the family
apartment before 7:30 a.m. His wife, Talosaga, also
works as an airport screener. They juggle jobs and their
church responsibilities and expect their oldest children to
help out with baby-sitting their younger siblings.

The couple, who are from American Samoa, came to
California in 1997, in part to offer their children a better
education. "To my frustration, this has not been the case,"
Williams said.

Yet Eliezer spoke with enthusiasm about his senior year
at school, where he has found his niche in communication
arts. The student who didn't have a math book in middle
school to take home can now check out expensive video
and computer equipment. He credits his teacher, George
Lee, with jump-starting his enthusiasm. For Mother's
Day, Eliezer produced a video presentation that included
old family photos and a recorded message from his sister
in Texas.

"It blew my wife away," Sweetie Williams said. "And it's
all because my son has a good teacher. That's what counts

As the years wore on, few in his school even knew Eliezer
was at the center of the Williams case. The notoriety of
the case in national education circles never translated to
special treatment in school for Eliezer. The father and son
don't even think of themselves as activists — just one
voice, albeit the lead name behind the 99 students and 18
schools named in the suit.

And Williams said one advantage of his big family —
children ages 29 to 3 — is that although the older boys
had to take remedial courses at a community college to
make up for lost time in middle and high school, there is
the youngest, Kealani.

"Maybe the settlement of this lawsuit will come in time to
help her," he said.


• Science exam plan has some saying 'stop'

By Jennifer Radcliffe - Staff Writer

July 16, 2004 - A proposal that would require Los
Angeles Unified School District students to take another
batch of science tests is drawing heat from the teachers
union and at least one school board member who say
students are already inundated with standardized exams.

Superintendent Roy Romer's $1.8 million plan, which will
be considered by the school board next month, would
require fourth- through eighth- graders to take three
diagnostic science assessments each year.

Romer implemented similar tests in English and math in
2001, and plans to add social studies exams in 2005-06,
as a way to ensure that students are learning.

"We can tell whether a student is really progressing ... and
we can make corrections," Romer said.

But board member Jon Lauritzen said students are already
buried under an array of tests mandated by the federal No
Child Left Behind Act that are designed to show progress
in closing the achievement gap.

"The kids are just going to totally burn out," said
Lauritzen, a former teacher. "It's an endless string of

In addition to tests required by federal and state
lawmakers, students must wrestle with the high school
exit exam, while some of those bound for college also
face the SAT, ACT or Advanced Placement tests.

Some high school students spend nearly 50 percent of
their spring semesters being tested, he said.

"It's really a wonder that we do any teaching at all,"
Lauritzen said. "If you don't have any time to instruct
between the various tests, you lose out."

Lauritzen said he would like to see the number of district
assessments reduced to two per subject per year, and that
he would like teachers surveyed on the topic.

But Romer said three to four diagnostic tests a year is a
must. He said he sympathizes with Lauritzen's concern
that students are tested too much.

"I'm happy to get rid of some of the other kinds of tests,"
Romer said, adding that the other tests are mandated by
the state.

• California Achievement Tests/Reading: Grades 2-11.
• California Achievement Test/Spelling: Grades 2-8.
• California Achievement Test/Math: Grades 2-11.
• California Achievement Test/Science: Grades 9-11.
• California Standards Test/English: Grades 2-11.
• California Standards Test/ History: Grades 8, 10 and 11.
• California Standards Test/Science: Grades 5 and 9-11.
• California Standards Test/Math: Grades 2-11.
• California Writing Standards Test: Grades 4 and 7.
• California State University Early Assessment Program:
Grade 11.
• California Physical Fitness Test: Grades 5, 7 and 9.
• California High School Exit Examination: Grade 10.
• Standards-Based Assessments: Grade 9.
• National Assessment of Educational Progress: Grades 4,
8 and 12.

Board member Julie Korenstein said that while she
supports Romer's proposal, she agrees that students are

"There's not enough time to teach for all the testing," she

The assessments that Romer wants, however, are far
more useful than some of the state-mandated exams that
rate students and schools, she said.

"It's a tremendous teaching tool," Korenstein said of
Romer's assessments. "This is a much wiser way of
testing children."

Angelica Urquijo, a spokeswoman for United Teachers
Los Angeles, said the union is skeptical of these
additional tests, which adds stress to both teachers and

"These are tests that are, in fact, overburdening kids," she
said. "It's not the testing. It's the type of tests that are
there sometimes to label kids as failures."

But Todd Ullah, the LAUSD's science coordinator, said
these low-stakes science tests -- designed to prepare
students for the standardized exams -- will not take much
time. And he noted that testing is a natural part of the
academic process.

"Of course I'm worried (about overtesting), but they are
in school. Sometimes people don't see the forest through
the trees."


• New construction and slowed enrollment growth make
staggered schedules less crucial, but many districts will
keep year-round system.

By Joel Rubin - Times Staff Writer

July 11, 2004 - Liberated by slowing enrollment growth
and the construction of new campuses, California schools
are beginning to turn away from a practice that helps ease
crowding but is loathed by teachers, parents and students:
overlapping "multitrack" schedules.

But the move, which gained momentum this year, does
not necessarily mean a return to the long days of summer
fun for students. Among schools reverting to single
tracks, many are keeping year-round schedules that some
experts say improve learning.

"The traditional calendar is no longer sacrosanct," said
Tom Payne, who monitors year-round programs for the
state. "People have realized that there are advantages to
the year-round schedule."

Used primarily in elementary and middle schools,
multitrack schedules make the most of classroom space
by running year-round, with students divided into three or
four groups that operate on staggered schedules. Because
some students and teachers are always on vacation, the
convoluted schedule creates logistic nightmares:
Administrators struggle to schedule staff training sessions,
students become isolated from one another, and teachers
find collaboration difficult or impossible.

"The sense of school and community is challenged" with
multitrack schedules, said Cheryl Cohen, assistant
superintendent at the Orange Unified School District,
which is eliminating multitrack at several schools. "It was
a solution for certain circumstances, but clearly was not

In a three-decade battle against persistent overcrowding,
California has relied on the strategy far more heavily than
any other state, education experts say. Multitrack
schedules proliferated in the early 1970s, and then again
throughout the 1990s, when enrollments surged.

During the recent wave, the number of the multitrack
schools in California soared as the enrollment crunch was
compounded by a shortage of money for school
construction. State lawmakers encouraged the trend by
giving priority for construction funds to districts that
agreed to open year-round schools.

Dependence on multitrack programs peaked in 1998,
when 1,027 schools used them. More than 1 million
California students — about 16% of the state total —
were affected.

The tide turned after voters approved a series of bonds
for school construction — most recently a $12.3-billion
initiative in March — and enrollment growth slowed.

What began as a slow decline in multitrack schedules
accelerated dramatically last year, when 142 schools
eliminated them. Only 39 schools — 11 from the same the
district — added multitrack schedules.

Some districts — especially Los Angeles Unified —
continue to struggle with crowding and are unable to
drop their multitrack programs. And education officials
are quick to point out that future enrollment gains could
force districts back onto the plan. But Payne, with the
California Department of Education, said he expects the
trend to continue at least over the next five years as
enrollment in elementary and middle schools declines.

Tiny Magnolia School District in the Anaheim area, for
example, has eliminated multitrack calendars at three of
its four year-round elementary schools for the coming
year. Nearby Orange Unified will do the same at five of
seven schools that use multitrack scheduling. Both
districts hope to eliminate multitrack schedules at
remaining schools as soon as possible.

Carol McGown, a first-grade teacher at Magnolia's Mattie
Lou Maxwell Elementary, said she is eager to start on a
single schedule in a few weeks.

"When you can collaborate with all the other teachers and
everyone is on the same page, it is a big benefit for the
children," she said.

But the change does not mean that McGown's students,
or those at Orange Unified, are free to frolic until
September. Like many districts throughout the state,
Magnolia and Orange Unified chose to keep their schools
on a year-round schedule, but without the hassle of
multiple tracks.

Instead of the typical 10-week summer break, school will
start Aug. 9 for the Magnolia schools and July 26 in
Orange. Students will have three nearly monthlong
vacations in summer, winter and spring.

Year-round supporters said the evenly spaced vacations
are better for students. "Kids do forget some of what
they've learned over the summer," said Harris Cooper,
director of the program in education at Duke University
and leading researcher on year-round schooling. Research
indicates that students lose about a month of learning
during a 10-week summer holiday, Cooper said — twice
as much as those on year-round schedules.

Summer's detrimental effect is especially pronounced,
educators said, at schools such as Maxwell, where more
than two-thirds of the students are English-learners who
often spend summer months speaking their native

The monthlong winter break in year-round schedules also
can accommodate the traditional exodus of Latino pupils
to home countries over Christmas, while the short holiday
break on traditional calendars leads to absences and the
loss of attendance-based funding.

The new schedule "is the best of both worlds," said
Maxwell Principal Kristin Lasher. "Everyone is here at the
same time … and we don't waste classroom time
reteaching what students have already learned."

Year-round calendars, proponents said, also allow more
opportunities for teachers to help struggling students
without having to wait several months for summer school.
Year-round schools typically offer remedial classes and
tutoring during vacations.

Joanna Zug, president of the Magnolia PTA, said nearly
all parents had embraced the decision to stick with a
year-round schedule at the elementary schools.

"I think year-round works best for everybody — teachers
and students," Zug said. "There is an element of
momentum and routine. The schedule gives everyone a
nice rest, but then they're right back, and it is not such a
huge deal to gear the kids back up to go to school."

Not everyone agrees. Billee Bussard, who heads a
national anti-year-round advocacy group, Summer
Matters, said she is skeptical about research on the
disadvantages of summer vacation. Summers, she said,
give students the chance to pursue extracurricular

"The long break provides opportunities for learning that
kids do not get in the classroom," she said.

Indeed, nearly two-thirds of the schools that dropped
multitrack schedules this year opted to return to a
traditional calendar.

Among districts that favor the traditional school year is
Los Angeles Unified — which has by far the largest
number of year-round students in California. LAUSD
plans to return to a traditional calendar school by school
as overcrowding eases enough to drop multitrack

Ronnie Ephraim, chief instruction officer for the district,
said the long summer break provides a needed
opportunity for students to repeat failed classes. But more
than anything, Ephraim said, echoing several other
educators, the preference for the old-style schedule comes
from ingrained rites of summer, such as camp, sports
leagues and family vacations.

"The whole community prepares itself for the kids in the
summer. They will just accept [the traditional schedule]
better," Ephraim said. "A lot of it is habit."

Though education officials disagree over whether
year-round schedules will ever become the norm, one
thing is certain: Few will miss the days of the multitrack.

"No one ever chooses a multitrack program for
educational reasons," said Priscilla Wohlstetter, director
of the education governance program at USC.

"Districts do it out of necessity."


By Beth Barrett - Staff Writer

July 12th, 2004 – Incensed by the Los Angeles Unified
School District's plan to borrow nearly $40 million to
build a downtown garage for top bureaucrats, teachers
union officials on Monday called for an end to the free
parking privileges so the $4 million a year could be used
for education.

District officials defended the proposal, saying the annual
cost of paying off the certificates of participation for an
approximately 1,700-space parking garage at its Beaudry
Avenue headquarters and operating it, would be less than
what it currently pays in leased parking spaces.

But United Teachers Los Angeles President John Perez
said the garage -- to be considered by the board tonight in
closed session -- would still drain millions of dollars from
the general fund to service the debt at a time when scores
of teachers struggle to find street parking and the budget
has no money for raises.

"Thousands of teachers park on the streets and have to
worry about their cars being vandalized," Perez said.
"Teachers, particularly at elementary schools, sometimes
have to park three or four blocks away.

"Why build a $40 million parking structure for
administrators who make two or three times more than
teachers? This is another example of where the hierarchy
takes care of itself."

Perez also questioned why, after spending more than
$184 million to buy and renovate the controversial
building for its headquarters, the district now wants to
spend an additional $40 million to build a parking
structure on three nearby properties.

"My understanding was the parking in the building would
be sufficient for their needs, and that was supposedly why
they bought the building," Perez said. "I never heard them
talk about the parking being inadequate."

Board member David Tokofsky called the proposal
"unfinished business from the first Beaudry purchase."

"It's also salt on a no pay-raise wound," Tokofsky said.

District officials said owning the facility would result in
cost savings over the existing parking leases -- beginning
at about $174,000 a year, according to confidential
documents -- as it seeks to consolidate employees in other
leased properties, eventually expanding Beaudry from the
current 2,800 employees to about 4,000 employees as
floors now occupied by Bank of America become

"It's a savings, that's the basic reason for doing it," said
LAUSD spokeswoman Stephanie Brady. "Any way we
can reduce savings is what we do."

Brady said while paid parking isn't stipulated in union
contracts, it has been the district's policy.

"It's an equity issue," Brady said, noting that parking is
free at schools and other facilities throughout the district.

She said the district was providing adequate parking at
new schools.

Michael O'Sullivan, president of Associated
Administrators of Los Angeles, said parking around
Beaudry is scattered at several facilities, creating a

"Between the elevators and the parking, no one is happy
with Beaudry. As far as any parking for administrators or
anybody, the district provides free parking for teachers at
the schools."

District officials said there had always been an
understanding that leased parking space would be used
until that ceased to be a good business option.

"This is not a surprise," said Bruce Kendall, the LAUSD's
director of maintenance and operation. "We knew we had
to park employees. They made a decision to lease part of
the parking, and to later examine ... the decision."

Though district officials declined to discuss specifics of
the proposal, Brady said the district waited until there
were "suitable" options to leasing.

According to the board report, the properties under
consideration are on Boylston, 3rd and 4th streets near
the headquarters building.

• smf notes: By law the new LAUSD HQ/333 Beaudry
Building and the proposed parking structures are not –
and cannot be — paid for from school construction bond
funds! This may be good news to property taxpayers —
but it’s bad news for students; these costs are paid for
from the District’s operating budget - the money
earmarked for the education of children.

Two-and-a-half years ago folks from the LAUSD Real
Estate Branch testified before the Bond Oversight
Committee that the Beaudry Building had adequate
parking to meet present needs into the foreseeable future.

Because the old District HQ at 450 N. Grand — torn
down to become a new high school (because LAUSD
already owned the land the State did not provide any
‘matching funds’ for property acquisition) — was
“parking challenged” I questioned specifically on the
need to accommodate both staff and district visitors. I
was assured there would be no problem!

The Beaudry Building, with no level sidewalks on any
side is a horror in terms of access by people with limited
mobility. And nobody knew to question the building’s
feasibility regarding elevators! We have all since learned
the hard way that a building designed as a bank
headquarters does not adapt well to use as a school
district HQ — where people commute often between
floors and offices! The amount of productivity lost by
District Staff and visitors waiting for elevators (when they
work) must add up to thousands of person-hours per
month. Give the Beaudry Building a D minus, with U’s in
Work Habits and Cooperation ...and add to that the
ubiquitous: “Does not work well with others!”

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Tuesday Jul 20, 2004

• Ramona Opportunity High School CEQA Public Meeting

Please join us at this meeting to give your comments and ask questions about the Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration for this school project. This report evaluates the potential impacts the school project may have on the surrounding environment.

6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Ramona Opportunity High School
Multipurpose Room
231 S. Alma Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90063

• Phase II Presentation Recommended Preferred Site
Local District 6

At this meeting we will present and discuss the site that will be recommended to the LAUSD Board of education for this new school project.

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
South Gate Middle School
4100 Firestone Boulevard
South Gate, CA 90280

• Wednesday Jul 21, 2004

• South Region Span K-8 #1

Phase II Site Selection Update Local District 8

Your participation is important! Please join at this meeting where we will review:

* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Wilmington Middle School Auditorium
1700 Gulf Avenue
Wilmington, CA 90744


Meets 10AM Wednesday July 21st
in the Board Room @ LAUSD HQ
333 S. Beaudry Street.
Los Angeles, 90010

Inconveniently located @ 3rd & Beaudry, West of the
Harbor Fwy. Park at designated parking lots on
Boyleston St., South and West of the Beaudry Building.
Validations are available in the rear of the meeting room
— which is thankfully located on the ground floor
elevator rides required! • Phone: 212.241.4700
Phone: 213.633.7616


4LAKids Book Club for June & July –CHOOSING EXCELLENCE: “Good Enough” Schools Are Not Good Enough
John Merrow - the documentary filmmaker and
corespondent behind the Merrow Report series of
education broadcasts on NPR and PBS - spoke to the
California State PTA convention last month about his take
on public education issues. Much of what he said was
reported a month ago in 4LAKids (see: May 9th: “NOTES

Merrow’s thinking is further developed in CHOOSING
EXCELLENCE (Scarecrow Press, 207pp) — first
published in 2001 but is still very applicable today. Some of
his thoughts re: charter schools (which at the time were
totally unproved) probably need reworking as the data
becomes clearer – but his take is 98% on!

(‘Choice’ in LAUSD means particpation in the magnet
school program - the ultimate choice is often made by a
lottery – ‘choice’ becomes a matter of chance!)

“Choice” has become a political buzzword in education,
often it really means school vouchers and the privatization
of public education. Not here. Merrow’s call is for
nothing-less-than excellence in education, and his mantra
that “‘Good Enough’ Schools Are Never Good Enough”

His critique of multiple choice standardized tests, his
description of the roles of parents, students and educators,
and his premise that excellence is a choice parents must
make – and his step-by-step guide on how to make the
choices – are well worth the read.

This is good stuff! —smf

Get CHOOSING EXCELLENCE from your local library, bookstore - or order it by clicking here.

What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member. Or your city councilperson, mayor, assemblyperson, state senator, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think.
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• Vote.

Contact your school board member

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is Vice President for Education in Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and governance council member at two LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
• In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited.
• This and past Issues are available – with interactive feedback — at