Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Environmental Impact of the Preschool Exit Exam upon NCLB, etc. PART II

4LAKids: Sunday, May 19, 2006 PART II
In This Issue:
 •  PTA WORKS TO SAVE RECESS: The National PTA is worried that the days on the playground might be coming to an end.
 •  ARE SCHOOL CAFETERIAS SLOWLY DYING?: LAUSD cafeterias are losing more workers and offering fewer quality meals.
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  READING TO KIDS: Read to some kids the second Saturday morning each month. Make a difference. Change some lives (including your own!).
 •  The Blueprint for Effective School Reform: MAKING SCHOOLS WORK � Get the Book @!
 •  THE BEST RESOURCE ON CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FUNDING ON THE WEB: The Sacramento Bee's series "Paying for Schools."
 •  FIVE CENTS MAKES SENSE FOR EDUCATION- Target one nickel from every federal tax dollar for Education.
►THE ABCS OF PRESCHOOL: Rich kids go private, so what's 'universal' about Rob Reiner's initiative?

Op-ed by Sandra Tsing Loh, LA Times

March 15, 2006 - With all the heat Rob Reiner has been getting for his universal preschool ballot initiative, I hate to pile on. After all, as a Toyota minivan Democrat and mother of two, I'm in favor of more preschool. Just don't tell me it's "universal" until your family joins ours in the vast whirling cosmos of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Given the way that affluent families already eschew L.A. Unified's totally free education � forbidding their spawn to get any closer to state-regulated instruction than they would to, well, the bus � Reiner's Preschool for All ballot initiative would really mean more preschool for the poor, but with a much nicer name. In the L.A. of 2006, the only true "universal" is a studio.

We've seen the dichotomy of public versus private schools � if you will, the bureaucracy versus the "lattetocracy" � in our own family's educational travels. Our eldest's school is in the first camp, being a Van Nuys magnet that abuts that supposed public school den of horrors known as � Birmingham High. (Which, never mind that depressing, four-part, front-page L.A. Times series on its dropouts, I still consider a decent school. On March 20, its excellent choir will perform at Disney Hall. So there!)

Our tattered but soulful L.A. Unified school is academically challenging and a veritable Ellis Island (my daughter is the only blond in her class of 22). Kindergarten runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. There's daily homework of reading, adding and printing entire sentences, and sentences�. Frankly, we're peddling as hard as we can to keep up with the immigrant kids, almost all of whom have had, yes, free preschool, which has been provided by the federal and state governments for years and more recently by our much-maligned school district.

There's what I call "the Head Start crowd" � Armenian kids who speak Armenian and Russian and are so adept with pencil and paper that they can practically fill out their own magnet-school applications.

There's the Latina mom of my daughter's friend, Precious. She teaches in the Los Angeles Universal Preschool program funded by Reiner's previous school initiative, Proposition 10. She believes in structure, discipline and homework twice a week � at age 4. Asians? Don't get me started! (The Bangladeshi architect mom already has her eye on Balboa Gifted Magnet! Academic Performance Index = 971! Yikes!)

Even some of our non-low-income kids have had free preschool. "How's that possible?" I asked one mother, amazed. "I don't know," she said, throwing her hands up in the air, in apology and confusion. "It was in Arleta."

Clearly our mistake was starting our preschool search on the south side of the tracks (Ventura Boulevard) in the offices of � oh, bane of the anxious middle-class parent � our yuppie pediatrician.

The preschools she recommended were Maggy Haves and the Neighborhood School, names wonderfully reminiscent of farms, chickens and Wallace Stevens' lone red wheelbarrow in the rain. (Other favorite L.A. preschool names include A School for All Children Great and Small, Little Dolphins by the Sea, Magic Years, the Nurtury and Wagon Wheel.)

Unfortunately for us, like hip restaurants, "recommended" L.A. preschools tend to be notable less for their universality than exclusivity. (Was our application rejected because our daughter didn't know her ABCs or because our area code was 818?)

We eventually did find a sweet, $400-a-month preschool affiliated with a church. Price-wise, for L.A., it's not an elite preschool, but it is overwhelmingly Caucasian, middle income and developmental. This means kids may follow a ladybug all morning if they feel like it.

Would Precious' L.A. Universal Preschool-trained mom approve?

Anthropologist Adrie Kusserow has done a fascinating study comparing preschools in upper-middle-class Manhattan with working-class Queens, which in L.A. terms parallels the differences between, say, Studio City and Panorama City. Perhaps the divide's not quite as stark as one example Kusserow cites in which a well-meaning, college-educated white teacher soothingly asks her inner-city brown student, "Don't you want to take your poetry book home?" and the boy says: "Oh, no. If my dad saw this, he would beat me."

But there are telling differences in educational philosophies. Working-class parents tend to favor discipline, homework and, if need be, drilling. For affluent parents of Little Dolphins, drilling = actual death of the soul.

However much Democrats love the word "universal" (with its refreshing intimations of Europe, the metric system and washed pine furniture), sadly, most politically progressive California parents I know don't much care for the word "public" (fluorescent lighting, chain-link fence, the Pledge of Allegiance). Their kids eat organic vegetables and make diversity collages in private school to the tune of $15,000 a year.

Their parents' beef with L.A. Unified? It's not the great numbers of poor Latino children, oh no. It's that such English learners must be taught via the (much too structured and creatively suffocating) Open Court literacy program�. And "Hayley is so bright I know she will be bored."

But I don't want to be too hard on my own party. Look, at least we have a preschool initiative. Many poor families are still on preschool waiting lists � their kids deserve a place. And if universal preschool is rigorously standardized, there should be plenty of space in them because, for affluent parents of fragile geniuses, when it comes to this particular free governmental service, it will be, "After you, my dear Alphonse."

Sure, this divide in cultures calls into question the national parents' movement that Reiner champions. On his Parents' Action for Children website, he writes: "Groups as disparate as gun owners and the elderly, lawyers and truck drivers all have the backing of major national organizations�. But what about parents?"

Yet the solution is within his grasp. Even Meathead could shed his blue-state celebrity taint if, come 2015, we see his kids marching, elbow to elbow with ours, straight into Birmingham. High.

▲"Scott, you're SO negative! If you're not for Prop 82 or handcuffing high school students who ditch class �what ARE you for?"

AN OFFICIAL 4LAKids ENDORSEMENT: Sandra Tsing Loh's one-woman show, "Mother on Fire," runs through April 9 at the 24th Street Theatre.


By George Skelton, Capitol Journal | LA Times

March 16, 2006 -- Let's clear up one thing: Filmmaker Rob Reiner's preschool ballot initiative would not raise taxes on the wealthy by 1.7%. It would hike them a whole lot more than that.

The increase gets contorted � by sponsors, by journalists � to 1.7% because the top income tax rate would be bumped up from 9.3% to 11% for most individuals making more than $400,000 and couples over $800,000.

Do the math. That's an 18% rate hike.

But because only taxable income over $400,000 � or $800,000 � would be taxed at the highest rate, the actual dollar increase would be less than 18%. For a single person making $700,000, according to the legislative analyst's office, the extra bite would be $5,100 � roughly 8%.

That's still a hefty hike, but one very few of us ever would have to worry about. The legislative analyst says people in this stratospheric bracket represent less than 1% of personal income taxpayers, although they send Sacramento about one-third of its $45-billion annual income tax revenue.

Do the math again: Reiner estimates his Proposition 82 would raise $2.4 billion annually. That's an average 16% hit on these taxpayers.

One other thing not to forget: Voters two years ago imposed an additional 1% tax rate on incomes above $1 million to pay for mental health services. So these people's rates, under Prop. 82, would rise from 10.3% to 12% � the highest state income tax in the nation.

The super-rich don't get a lot of sympathy, of course. And that's why the latest Field Poll shows 55% of likely voters supporting Prop. 82, with only 34% opposed.

But the point is, some Californians would be socked hard. We'd be tapping a coveted tax source and generating billions. And is voluntary preschool for every 4-year-old how we'd prefer to use that money, especially with the state still spending billions more than it's taking in each year?

Let's stipulate that preschool is good. It would be a desirable new government program. No argument here.

As Reiner noted to the Sacramento Press Club on Tuesday, "it's hard to debate" the merits of preschool. He pointed out that half of fourth-graders fail basic reading, and "quality" preschool has "a profound effect on how children function."

And to Reiner's credit, he has proposed a way to pay for his proposal � unlike then-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger with his after-school initiative in 2002, which merely raided the treasury and robbed other programs. Gov. Schwarzenegger intends to inaugurate his program next fall.

"If you're going to do something, do it and fund it," Reiner told the Press Club. "I don't think it's a healthy way to do things to strap the Legislature with burdens at a time when they may be having difficulty with budgetary concerns."

But that again raises the question: Shouldn't these higher taxes be used for balancing the state books? Or for existing K-12 school programs?

The anti-82 campaign has been firing off daily missives detailing what the $2.4 billion could buy: 69,000 full-time teachers, $8,400 worth of textbooks and supplies for each classroom, 3,300 new classrooms�.

But this Stop the Reiner Initiative outfit is being disingenuous. Funded by business and anti-tax interests, it wouldn't favor raising taxes on the rich regardless of the cause.

Indeed, it issued a report Wednesday by former Legislative Analyst William Hamm, now a private consultant, asserting that higher taxes on the rich actually would cost the state money because these flexible folks merely would shelter more of their income.

I'd like to test that thesis � but maybe not for preschool, and probably not through more runaway ballot-box budgeting.

Reiner's Proposition 10 in 1998 � a cigarette tax increase for early childhood development � was illustrative of how a well-meaning initiative can result in little public accountability and abuse of tax money.

The Reiner-headed commission that Prop. 10 created spent $23 million of public money for TV ads promoting Reiner's current cause: preschool. The ads ran while Reiner was launching Prop. 82.

"Serious questions were raised that go right to the heart of public trust," says Sen. Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno), an attorney general candidate who has prompted an investigation by the Sacramento district attorney.

Reiner could credibly argue that there are safeguards in Prop. 82 to prevent a repeat of Prop. 10's misuse. But first he'd have to admit there was misuse. And he refuses.

Asked if TV ads pushing preschool were a proper use of public money, Reiner replied: "Absolutely. Because it is mandated in [Prop. 10] that we use 6% of our money on public education."

He rationalized that the Prop. 10 commission had pumped $1 billion into preschool programs, and was merely educating parents about them.

"If I'm opening a business � in my business, it's a movie [and] you don't tell anybody there's a movie out there, you'd be an idiot," he said.

But that doesn't wash.

For one thing, the ads were targeted at swing voters without small kids, clearly with the goal of peddling the initiative.

Moreover, Prop. 10 contained only a one-word mention, in passing, about preschool. It wasn't included in any voter guide argument. There definitely was no voter mandate to promote a future preschool ballot measure.

So here comes a Reiner sequel, and it's a very expensive ticket. The producer needs to persuade us it's not just another "Groundhog Day."


By Daniel Weintraub � Sacramento Bee Columnist

March 16, 2006 - Rob Reiner seems like a smart guy who believes sincerely in his vision for how best to care for and educate California's youngest children.

But Reiner is also the latest in a long line of public officials so blinded by their own belief in the goodness of their cause that they begin to believe anything done in the service of that goal has to be right, and any criticism has to be from the forces of evil.

At a speech and question-and-answer session Tuesday with the Sacramento Press Club, the Hollywood director and political activist insisted there was absolutely nothing wrong with the children's commission he chairs using public money to persuade voters to embrace his belief in universal, state-funded preschool.

Reiner compared the two-year ad campaign, which cost tens of millions of dollars, to other state efforts to promote health insurance for kids or inform workers they might be eligible for paid family leave.

But there is a fundamental difference between those advertisements and the campaign run by the First 5 California commission, which was conceived and begun when Reiner was chairman (he recently took a leave) and designed in part by his own political advertising consultant.

The other state campaigns Reiner cites in his defense were meant to inform people about policies or programs already in place and which the people who saw the ads might be eligible to take advantage of.

The preschool campaign was something else entirely. It was designed from the start to change public opinion about a key public policy issue, to "create demand" for a new program and bring pressure on lawmakers to approve such a program or lay the groundwork for the very kind of initiative that Reiner is pushing now as Proposition 82 on the June ballot.

An October 2002 memo spelled out that strategy. It discussed polling and focus groups on the issue, lamented that there was insufficient public support for the commission's goals and described how an advertising campaign could build support for a greater government role in preschool. The same strategy was mentioned in the 2004 contract for one round of the ads, according to a copy of that contract quoted by Los Angeles Weekly columnist and blogger Bill Bradley.

Reiner notes that an earlier initiative he authored creating the children's commission - Proposition 10 in 1998 - included a provision setting aside 6 percent of the commission's budget for public education campaigns. And he says the ads in question were meant merely to inform parents that preschool was available to them.

"At the end of the day, we want people to use the programs we've got," Reiner said. "We want them to know how important it is."

But the strategy memorandum and the contract make clear the ads were about much more than parent education. They were even targeted to nonparents because polling had shown that childless couples might be more supportive of public preschool than parents of young children.

Reiner says he never saw that memo. But it's difficult to believe that he was not aware of the strategy behind a series of ads developed under his direction by his close associates to promote his vision. If he was ignorant of the intent, then he was an incompetent chairman. And the fact that even now, after he has been made painfully aware of the details, he still does not see a problem with the campaign, suggests he has a huge ethical blind spot.

In a nutshell, here's the problem: If the people who control the public purse can use tax dollars for a paid television propaganda campaign designed to persuade voters to give them more power and more money, then there is no limit on the use of public funds for political purposes.

Imagine, for example, if the leaders of the California State University system were unhappy that the Legislature would not approve a fee increase the university's managers believed was necessary to preserve their programs. Suppose the university concluded that the reason the Legislature wouldn't budge is that the public did not understand higher fees would be paid mainly by the wealthy, that low-income students would get financial aid and that the policy change would allow the system to admit more students than it otherwise could.

Under the Reiner Rule, the university would be free to use public money for an ad campaign designed to build public support for the higher fees needed to preserve and expand access to the university.

We all know the university would not and could not do such a thing. But there is little or no difference between such a campaign and the campaign waged by Reiner and his allies to win support for universal preschool.

The tragedy here is that Reiner is seeking to persuade the public to place more trust in government to handle the most intimate of issues, the education of our 4-year-olds. Yet his actions as a government official have served only to erode the very public trust he is trying so hard to build.

►smf piles on: In addition to Rob Reiner's unfortunate misadventures with the sprit-if-not-the-letter of the (no capital letters) campaign finance law (Was the 'campaign' to educate the kids in his First Five Program, or to promote the Prop 82 initiative campaign?) there are a couple of flaws in the Prop 82/Preschool for All Initiative. Cumulatively they add up to what school building planners darkly call "fatal flaws".

1. There is NO FUNDING FOR FACILITIES in Prop 82 to house the preschools envisioned; the funding is only for the operations and program � teachers and textbooks and hopefully finger-paint. The killer cost in LA will be classrooms; Prop 82 puts the costs of buying land and building classrooms onto the K-12 school districts and existing local and state school construction bonds. Can you say "Unfunded Mandate?" In LAUSD those funds are spoken for and the Superintendent has (perhaps imprudently) promised "no more bonds". The existing county-run/federally-funded Head Start Program cannot find enough classroom space, existing operations money goes unspent!
2. California doesn't even require Kindergarten! K is optional and appx 10% of kids don't go. Maybe we should require Kindergarten before we universally prepare kids for it?
3. This is another well meant initiative made up by do-gooder activists and put on the ballot by well-meaning petition signers aided and abetted by professional signature gatherers - not lawmakers! I am a well-meaning do-gooder activist and I support and applaud us and our good work! I like Rob's movies �but I know our limitations! Prop 82 not that much different from the flawed measures on the special election ballot universally defeated last November; if passed they become about The Unintended Consequences.

There is a cult of celebrity at work here: The debate has become as much about Rob Reiner as it is about preschool. The articles above mention preschool 43 times, Reiner 35, kids and children 25. I am for universal preschool but I don't go with the argument that this is not the only chance we will ever have for a universal preschool program. I believe that our lawmakers need to focus on this and do their job � a referendum on the ballot written by educators, lawmakers and parents - and read over by lawyers - would be infinitely preferable to Prop. 82.

Sandra Tsing Loh's one-woman show,"Mother on Fire," runs through April 9 at the 24th Street Theatre.


� Comunidad pide cuentas al LAUSD sobre el solar del plantel | Community requests LAUSD reports of the plant

por R�ger Lindo/La Opinion

�Es que el LAUSD oculta algo sobre el terreno donde se planea construir una nueva escuela? Es lo que afirman vecinos, padres de familia y la concejala Jan Perry, que ayer denunciaron negligencia y poca transparencia de parte del distrito escolar para informar sobre el hallazgo de sustancias contaminantes en el sitio donde se planea construir la Escuela Los �ngeles No. 4.

Is LAUSD hiding something on the land where construction of a new school is planned? That is the belief of neighbors, parents, families and Councilwoman Jan Perry, who yesterday claimed negligence and little transparency from the school district on informing of the findings of polluting substances on the site where they plan to construct to Los Angeles School No. 4.

La Opinion article/in Spanish:

▲The article above [and the KPCC story below] demonstrate a terrible dilemma that exists over envinomental concerns on school � or any � public construction in California. The egregious missteps of the Belmont Learning Center and South Gate projects � and the many hiccups at almost every building site � point out the quagmire of unknown and unknowable environmental concerns in building in LA. We forget that this city used to use the tar from the La Brea Tar Pits to pave its roads � the bones were a nuisance! Last year the Metro Gold line tunneled though an old Chinese cemetery without an environmental concern in the world!

I am on the Bond Oversight Committee, but the BOC doesn't monitor or review LAUSD environmental studies because we lack the authority and expertise.

In California the final deciding opinion in environmental concerns on government projects lies with the elected officials. The Board of Education commissions, reviews and approves all environmental reports; they are author, judge, jury and court of environmental appeals �and hopefully environmental steward. I'm not picking on the Board here, the City Council gets to decide on city projects and the MTA Board says "red light/green light on" tunneling though graveyards and historical sites.

This process is fundamentally and environmentally flawed. The elected body's interest is in building stuff and saving the taxpayer's money. Time = money and expedience must be their watchword. They pay the paychecks of the folks who write the study and then approve or disapprove the result. Environmental Impact Reports are mind-numbingly technical beyond comprehension � requiring post-graduate knowledge of chemistry, geology, engineering and the law. Understanding them has nothing to do with the skill sets of educators, politicians or policy makers. No elected body I have ever heard of has disapproved their own EIR. No Environmental Protection Agency reviews them. There are no California Environmental Quality Act Police. As long as the Board of Ed, the City Council or the MTA say that it's environmentally sound, it's legal. Whether it's environmentally sound or not. �smf

KPCC 89.3 | Adolfo Guzman Lopez | 03/17/2006

Residents say that the LA Unified School District say the LAUSD failed to warn them about toxic soil at a middle school under construction.

[ Audiolink: LISTEN ]


by Dick Iannuzzi, President, New York State United Teachers

March 16, 2006 - Here's a simple thought: State things accurately, evaluate them accurately and report your conclusions accurately. Perhaps I've defined the antonym for spin! It would certainly be a different approach than author James Frey took in his fictionalized memoir, A Million Little Pieces, featured in Oprah Winfrey's book club and later found to be what called "a million little lies." It seemed Frey's memoir � a record of one's life � was less than factual or, as he put it, "All the way through the book, I altered details."

Of course, Frey doesn't stand alone in the field of deliberate mistruths. Remember when President Bush stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln a few years ago and, referring to the war in Iraq , proclaimed: "mission accomplished?" We all know how accurate that turned out.

An astute contributor to, the American Federation of Teachers' excellent Web site and blog that focuses on the federal No Child Left Behind Act, observed that the president's sense of timing and appropriateness have not improved much since then. The clever AFT blogger recently posted:

"The president's Fiscal Year 2007 budget includes this facile phrase: 'With NCLB implementation largely completed ...' Hmmm. At the risk of exaggerating the importance of a few words, I have to ask whether anyone in the Bush administration truly believes implementation is 'largely completed.' If so, I guess we can move on to something else now."

Under the leadership of AFT Executive Vice President Antonia Cortese, the AFT has sought to bring the opinions and views of practitioners into the discussion of what needs to happen if NCLB is going to succeed. What a novel idea: Ask those who actually do the work about what is needed to get the job done! Combining the views of practitioners with the research and expertise of the national union and its affiliates, AFT has tried to address what needs correction in NCLB.

Both NYSUT and AFT recognize that NCLB, though disappointing so far, has at least put focus on our schools and on the important issue of raising student achievement. That's why we declined to take part in lawsuits that have been initiated in an attempt to overthrow NCLB. Instead, we're working with lawmakers at the decision-making table to ensure our members' voices are heard and that the problems are fixed so that NCLB can live up to its early promise.

We're looking for significant improvements because the problems are significant. As the AFT succinctly describes it:

"Guidance for states has been unclear, untimely and unhelpful, and the U.S. Department of Education's attempts to make the law more flexible have brought about only minimal improvements without addressing NCLB's larger flaws. Underlying all these issues is the pervasive problem of funding, which is far less than what was promised and far less than what is needed. The stakes are too high for our children to wait until the upcoming reauthorization (in 2007) before we begin talking about how to make positive improvements to NCLB."

AFT and NYSUT have identified four areas in the NCLB implementation that need to be fixed:

Funding: All the good intentions of NCLB are for naught without adequate resources to implement them. When NCLB was passed, Congress authorized funding to address its requirements.

Between 2002 and 2005, however, the gap between what Congress promised and what Congress provided for NCLB programs was $27 billion. Adequate funding should be used to lower class size, hire specialists in reading and math instruction, create mentoring programs, and provide other crucial supports to struggling schools and students.

Accountability: The formula that holds schools accountable, Adequate Yearly Progress, must give credit for progress that schools do make. It should distinguish between effective and ineffective schools. As a measurement of success, AYP is a failure. It doesn't measure the yearly progress of the same students over time, and there is no evidence that a school making AYP does anything to close the achievement gap.

School improvement: Interventions are needed to improve student performance when that performance has been appropriately measured and found to be lacking. However, NCLB-required "interventions" � sanctions � for schools that fail to make AYP are punitive.
They fail to provide the resources or the time necessary to make improvements. Instead, funding is diverted to Supplemental Education Services providers whose qualifications are inadequate and inconsistent. The March 8 New York Times reported that companies "offered New York City principals thousands of dollars for school projects, doled out gift certificates to students and hired several workers with criminal records" in their rush to land lucrative contracts as SES providers.

Staff quality: Ensuring that all students are taught by teachers who know how and what to teach is a goal that NYSUT and AFT share with NCLB. The highly qualified teacher requirements of NCLB, however, do not take into account special circumstances of middle-level teachers, special education teachers and teachers in schools that do not provide an environment for high performance. Meanwhile, NCLB fails to adequately address the needs of School-Related Professionals.

Educators in New York state, of course, know what it takes to strive for � and achieve � higher standards and accountability. We've been doing it for almost a decade.

In fact, it could be argued that NCLB testing took a page (not successfully, because it increased the quantity rather than quality of tests) from New York 's ELA and math testing in grades 4 and 8 that were implemented beginning in 1999. While the results aren't yet where we'd like them to be, our students are making progress.

More recently, we've also demonstrated that we can work within the parameters of NCLB to provide successful programming that outpaces what's happening in other states. For example, the Rochester Teachers Association and the United Federation of Teachers offer federally funded SES programs for students in targeted schools.

They do so by providing vastly improved student-to-teacher ratios and certified teachers in the students' own school buildings. This is in contrast to many of the for-profit, private SES providers that have resorted to giveaways and bribes to entice students to an often-inferior program.

NYSUT has never ducked issues of standards and accountability. To the contrary, the union has been their champion on the state level and, with AFT, nationally as well. But efforts to hold our schools and our students to higher standards must be fair and attainable. They must make sense. That's why the union is enthusiastically working with AFT to "get it right" with regard to NCLB.

Together, we are insisting that the Department of Education:

� focus on closing the achievement gap;
� set challenging but realistic student achievement goals;
� establish a process that judges school effectiveness by measuring student progress over time;
� acknowledge and make decisions based on student subgroups;
� ensure tests are reliable and accurate;
� establish appropriate interventions; and,
� make qualifications for SES providers more rigorous.

This is just a partial list, of course; the AFT "Let's Get it Right" Web site provides more details. But it's clear that there's much to be done to ensure NCLB meets the high expectations many of us had for it in the early part of this decade.

NYSUT will continue to lobby for meaningful changes to federal education policy and funding. You can help. Fax a letter to your representatives in Congress at, telling them you oppose President Bush's federal budget proposal, which again fails to provide the financial resources needed to make NCLB work.

At the same time, sign the AFT's electronic petition at letting Congress and the administration know it's time to fix NCLB once and for all.

With your input, we've determined the problems with NCLB. You should be � and need to be � part of the solution for NCLB to get it right.

Sign the AFT's electronic petition at

PTA WORKS TO SAVE RECESS: The National PTA is worried that the days on the playground might be coming to an end.
►smf opines: In the school-reform-at-all-costs laser focus on reading and math and improving test scores � on squeezing every last dollar out of the school budget and every last minute out of the instructional day � the adults sometimes put the program of No Child Left Behind ahead of the goal of leaving no child behind.

They (whoever 'they' are!) just plumb forget about the kids and what's best for kids.

Following is an example of just that happening. And not a just an isolated school or two. At 40% of elementary schools in the USofA. And if you think it's preposterous and 'can't possibly happen here', remember that two years have already been eliminated from high school PhysEd in California. 'They' say that's to accommodate increased class loads for college bound students.

Here's the algebra: TIME SPENT ON PE OR RECESS = MONEY. That's what 'they're' saving.

►PTA WORKS TO SAVE RECESS: The National PTA is worried that the days on the playground might be coming to an end.

From the Associated Press & WUSA News (Washington DC)

March 13, 2006 � (AP) � The PTA is backing a national initiative called "Rescuing Recess," which encourages elementary school students to write letters to state and local leaders, asking them to keep recess as part of every school day.

Today at Brent Elementary School in Southeast, DC dozens of students were turned loose on the playground with jump ropes and rubber playground balls. That came after they learned that, according to the PTA, 40% of the elementary schools in the U.S. have either eliminated or are considering doing away with recess.

Keya Cooper of Northeast says her son Nicholas needs recess during the day because otherwise she thinks he'd be bored with a lot of built up energy.

►PTA Press Release: Recess Is At Risk, New Campaign Comes To the Rescue

ARE SCHOOL CAFETERIAS SLOWLY DYING?: LAUSD cafeterias are losing more workers and offering fewer quality meals.

by Joshua Pechthalt, Vice President, California Federation of Teachers

As a product of LAUSD, I vividly remember going to nutrition and lunch and eating good meals that were prepared daily by a cafeteria staff. In fact, when I later worked in a kitchen at a summer camp, I got to know two women, Emma and Louise, who worked as head cooks in LAUSD cafeterias during the school year. Both these women were skilled in preparing delicious, wholesome meals for large numbers of people, and I got to see firsthand how these school district employees excelled when they had the resources they needed.

Unfortunately, what has happened since my school days of the �60s and early �70s has been the de-skilling of cafeteria workers, the elimination of cafeteria positions, and the near elimination of quality meals at the school sites. In the past couple of years, this has become particularly apparent. At my home school, Manual Arts, there is virtually nothing available for lunch unless you sign up for it earlier in the day. Once-thriving cafeterias have become moribund, and the implications go far beyond getting a good meal during the workday.


Many cafeterias now only reheat and serve prepackaged food sent by the District. The limited and less-than-appealing menu served to students now seems to be the norm in most student and faculty cafeterias. At Manual Arts and probably in many other schools, teachers have stopped going to the faculty cafeteria because there is little from which to choose. With fewer people buying lunch, school site administrations and the District have created the conditions for eliminating cafeteria workers.

This in turn allows the schools and the District to avoid paying health care benefits to those cafeteria workers who qualify and instead contract out to Pizza Hut and other vendors who pay minimum wage and no health care benefits. In some cases catering trucks have become the food providers for school faculties.

The downsizing of jobs in school cafeterias has also meant fewer jobs in many communities. While these jobs did not pay high wages, they were nevertheless unionized, paid above minimum wage, and offered health benefits for those employees who worked enough hours.

At one elementary school in East Area the elimination of cafeteria workers has resulted in the school site administration pressuring an instructional coach to help clean tables in between lunches.

For students, fewer cafeteria workers has meant longer lines to buy food and then only a few moments to wolf down meals. Lunch and nutrition at many schools is a race against the clock as students rush around campus trying to get something to eat and then gulp it down in their remaining few minutes.

No wonder many students eat little or nothing at all during the school day.


The planned downsizing of faculty cafeterias has also made it more difficult to build a sense of community among faculty and staff. Back in the day, as we say at Manual, the faculty cafeteria was a lively place where beginning and veteran teachers could chat, share ideas about the classroom, talk union business, or just exchange movie reviews.

Clearly the calculation on the District�s part is that cafeteria workers and the hot, nourishing meals they provide are expendable luxuries. How ironic that an educational institution that promotes the notion of a community of learners has no real notion of what it means to create a community. As adults we certainly promote the idea of meal time being an important part of the day for families to share and discuss. And yet that activity is seen as nearly irrelevant in the District and in the workplace. As a response, I know many teachers who have given up on the idea of going to the cafeteria and instead stay in their rooms and often open them up to students. While creating an important place where students can meet and chat, these teachers have unfortunately isolated themselves from the other adults with whom they work.

Functioning cafeterias where nutritious meals are creatively prepared and served should be the norm in the District, not the exception. At most large workplaces (and our schools are such places) a good cafeteria is a vital part of the workplace.

If we are to take seriously the notion of school reform, then I believe we have to look at all aspects of the school experience. A school culture that forces human beings to scramble across campus to get some food before it runs out and then forces you to shove it down your throat so you can scamper back to class is the opposite of what we should be creating at our schools. Decent meals with time to eat should be part of our vision of a nurturing, learning environment. If you think this is unrealistic or too idealistic, the next time you have to go to LAUSD headquarters at Beaudry, be sure to stop in at one of the two bustling cafeterias.

There you will have your choice of homemade soups, salads, cooked-to-order meals, sandwiches, and anything else you might want. Apparently quality meals with time to eat for District administrators are a priority but for students and teachers, oh, well, better rush down and get that remaining baloney sandwich.

▲This article appeared originally in the November 11, 2005 United Teacher, the newspaper of United Teachers of Los Angeles (aka The Teachers' Union). The author brought it to my attention in response to 4LAKids' rant on March 12 about the sorry state of children's health, nutrition and physical fitness in LAUSD and California. Mr. Pechthalt is currently writing an article about the need to improve Phys Ed in LAUSD � stay tuned. And, in fairness, there is currently only one cafeteria at LAUSD HQ �the other one is being remodeled! �smf

EVENTS: Coming up next week...

►Tuesday Mar 21, 2006
Gratts New Primary Center: Pre-Demolition Meeting
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Gratts Elementary School � Auditorium
309 Lucas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017

►Tuesday Mar 21, 2006
Valley Region Monroe Span K-8 Addition: Schematic Design Meeting
Please join us for a community meeting regarding the design of Valley Region Monroe Span K-8 Addition.
At this meeting we will:
* Present schematic design drawings
* Receive community input on the design of the project
6:30 p.m.
Monroe New Elementary School #2
8855 Noble Ave.
North Hills, CA 91343

►Wednesday Mar 22, 2006
South Region High School #6: Presentation of Recommended Preferred Site
Local District 8
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 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Washington Preparatory High School Auditorium
10860 S. Denker Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90047

►Wednesday Mar 22, 2006
Valley Region High School #4: Presentation of Design Development Drawings
Please join us for a community meeting regarding the design of the Valley Region High School #4 project.
At this meeting we will present the design of the new school and discuss the next steps in the school construction process.
6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Patrick Henry Middle School (Independence Hall)
17340 San Jose Street
Granada Hills, CA 91344

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213.633.7493
Phone: 213.633.7616


What can YOU do?
� E-mail, call or write your school board member: � 213-241-6387
[office vacant/stay tuned!] � 213-241-6180 � 213-241-6388 � 213-241-6382 � 213-241-6385 � 213-241-6386 � 213-241-6383
...or your city councilperson, mayor, assemblyperson, state senator, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think!
Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
� 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.

� GET INVOLVED! Click on the [LINK] below to send a letter to the California legislature encouraging them to fully release Prop 98 funding to the California schools.

"To the Honorable Legislators of the State of California:

"California is in a severe budget crisis. It is the driving force behind the decision to once again suspend Proposition 98. We as concerned citizens of California urge you to not suspend Proposition 98 or defer its obligations to future years. Education already holds a large I.O.U. from the State of California.

"The outcome of suspending and deferring Proposition 98 is that it does not provide California Public Education the proper amount of funding and attention it needs so that our children can be competitive in the future global environment. In addition, as the cost of living in California continues to outpace the national average, it is even more important that California Public Schools offer children a superior level of education in order to continue to attract top talent for California businesses. Without a solid state educational system, top talent, and their families, will seek employment outside of California causing businesses to either relocate or rely on outsourcing to find qualified candidates. Rather than compromising education, we, as concerned citizens ask the Legislatures of the State of California to respect and abide by the entire essence of Proposition 98.

"Thank you for taking the time to consider the issues of inequity and inadequate funding for public education. We are confident that you will do what is necessary to address these needs as you deliberate the use of State revenues in developing a balanced State budget."

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three 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. Quoted and/or cited content copyright � the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright � 4LAKids.
� To SUBSCRIBE e-mail: - or -TO ADD YOUR OR ANOTHER'S NAME TO THE 4LAKids SUBCRIPTION LIST E-MAIL with "SUBSCRIBE" AS THE SUBJECT. Thank you.  � THE 4LAKids ARCHIVE - This and past Issues are available with interactive feedback at

  Unsubscribe | Update Profile | Confirm