Monday, March 06, 2006

Leapin' Lizards of Faith�

4LAKids: Sunday, March 5, 2006
In This Issue:
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  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.
In remarks to all the District's principals, assembled in the Convention Center before the start of this school year Superintendent Romer wished aloud for stronger and better qualified candidates for the Board of Education.

I want to second that motion and call the question.

The election contest for the Second Board District of LAUSD is not about the Teachers Union, Mayoral Control, whether the previous Boardmember did a good job �.or whom the Supe, 4LAKids or Los Angeles Times likes. It isn't about who v. whom. It's about the 100,000 plus students who live and attend school in that area; it's about their siblings and their parents and their future. And because of the political dynamic � with the mayor and the state legislature making noises about takeover or breakup � it is about the future of LAUSD.

The 2nd District includes portions of the Eastside, Downtown, Pico-Union, Westlake, Echo Park, Silverlake, and South Los Angeles. It is the home of a proud tradition in Los Angeles schools � of Belmont, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Wilson High Schools. It is the home of sites of excellence like the New Orthopaedic High School and Bravo Medical Magnet � and works-in-progress like the new Santee Dairy HS. It is the location of caused-by-the-adults trouble spots like the Belmont Learning Complex/Vista Hermosa, High School #9/High School for the Arts and the political quagmire to come: Ramona Opportunity High School. Parts of District 2 are the most densely populated neighborhoods in the nation � its schools include the most overcrowded and challenged anywhere. Because of this overcrowding many District 2 students are bused away to other areas. Too big to be a microcosm, District 2 is a macrocosm for the challenges faced by the students, parents, teachers, administrators, taxpayers and residents of LAUSD.

The Board of Ed � who must have been answering their emails on their laptops or playing seduko when folks criticized school board elections for having low turnouts because they do not coincide with general elections � called an Extra Special Election to fill the vacancy for next Tuesday March 7th. There will be only one issue on the ballot and the election will only be in District 2.

Can you say "extra low turnout"?

The LA Times hadn't really bothered to cover the election, giving the Mayor all the education ink. Until this week that is �.when the editorial board stepped in over the reporters (email+seduko?) and made an endorsement. And until other newspapers got the real story.

The Times Editorial Board's thinking is engaging and interesting �and if the election wasn't so important I would be ecstatic about their idea!

A triumph of youth, intelligence and independence over what passes as experience in the stodgy old school district? YES!! (see: Young, Smart, Independent)

At first the Times' endorsement only seemed to add a third option to what had been a race to appear in a June runoff. The 2nd District really cannot afford to unrepresented on the school board until June. Not with only six members on an already fractious Board, a new Superintendent being hired and the Mayor, Senator Romero and Assemblyman Richman nipping at the District's heels. Not with issues of school construction and instruction � dropouts, graduation, A-G and Small Learning Communities and the very future of the District up in the air.

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW: Candidate Christopher Arellano's shoplifting arrests and charges of claiming academic degrees not earned surfaced in La Opini�n and the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles last week. The 'last minute revelations of youthful indiscretions' may have been a bit of Eastside-Politics-as-Usual. The Times reported Friday: "� reports about Arellano, which surfaced this week when they were anonymously circulated to news organizations, were apparently part of an attempt to discredit the candidate in the final days of the five-person race." Sheriff Baca, who has endorsed Arellano says he knew all along. But coupled with the "other shoe dropping" of resume inflation Arellano's candidacy is doomed.

4LA Kids had intended to support Christopher Arellano for the seat.

� Christopher opposes Mayoral Takeover and supports accountability to all the parents of his district, not to the sole resident of Getty House in Rampart Park �which is in Board District 1.
� Christopher supports School/Site-Based�not top-down�management.
� He understands that LAUSD has been making progress and still has a way to go.
� Critics point out that Arellano has been an organizer for the Teacher's Union �but so has the mayor. And when push comes to shove the interests of teachers and parents and students are almost always the same. The focus must be on the classroom � that's where the magic happens

But Arellano has disqualified himself. Inflating one's academic credentials in a bid to be a trustee for the school district is not the same as claiming to have been a star in the school play when you were only a spear carrier in Act III scene 4.

Monica Garcia, the other frontrunner, has been "unconvincingly cagey" about mayoral takeover � and has Villaraigosa's support.

Enrique Gasca is running as a parent, but his kids are too young for school and he has no educational experience.

Ana Teresa Fernandez is young, smart, independent and unproven � but the Times is willing to make that leap of faith. If I lived in the 2nd I'd be leaning that way�.

An early Arellano victory could have been a nail � though not the final one � in the coffin of Mayoral takeover. It is possible that the best one can hope for now is for there to be no decision in Tuesday's election. And hope that in the runoff a clear choice presents itself and at least one candidate with integrity and vision emerges.

If you live in the 2nd, please Vote. Vote your Heart. Vote your Conscience. Vote your Gut Feelings. If you like the Times thinking, vote that way; if you like the Mayor's, vote the other.

BUT PLEASE VOTE. We are spilling blood of our young people for democracy in other parts of the world �.this stuff is important. - smf

Editorial from the Los Angeles Times

March 1, 2006 -- Not long ago Ana Teresa Fernandez was herself an L.A. Unified student, leading protests against overcrowding at the star-crossed Belmont High School. Now she's our pick for school board.

Call it political cascading. Antonio Villaraigosa left the City Council in June to become mayor; Jose Huizar left the Los Angeles Unified School District board in November to fill Villaraigosa's vacancy on the council; and this Tuesday, four candidates are vying for Huizar's now-vacant seat on the school board. None of the top three would-be replacements is particularly impressive. The best choice is the fourth, 23-year-old Ana Teresa Fernandez.

That may seem surprising at first, because it was not long ago that Fernandez was herself an L.A. Unified student, leading protests against overcrowding at the star-crossed Belmont High School. With tough issues facing the school board in coming months � raising students' still-underwhelming test scores, curbing the alarming dropout rate, picking a new superintendent and (most important) grappling with the mayor's possible takeover of school governance � voters need someone with independence, smarts and backbone. Fernandez, young as she is, impresses more in these areas than do her opponents.

An activist and the daughter of a district teacher and principal, she seems to eat and breathe education policy and community involvement. She's open-minded about governance issues yet notes that City Hall could do more to help students right now, such as improving school security and student transportation. She recognizes the role of charter schools (former school board President Caprice Young tapped her to run a grant program for the California Charter Schools Assn.), and she has tangible experience working for current board member Mike Lansing.

Fernandez would have a lot of on-the-job learning to do, but she would make a more independent-thinking board member than the more experienced Monica Garcia, a Huizar political and policy aide who is backed by her ex-boss and Villaraigosa and who is now looking for her own place on the political ladder. Garcia is competent but has been cagey � unconvincingly so � on the mayoral takeover issue.

Teachers union employee Christopher Arellano falls on the other side, with the backing of United Teachers Los Angeles and an unwavering opposition to mayoral control at a time that calls for open-mindedness. Former political aide Enrique Gasca, who now runs a public relations firm, is likewise too inflexible on school administration. He says he welcomes Villaraigosa's leadership on education issues but resists the mayor's encroachment.

Fernandez's stance on the still-stumbling district is that everything is on the table, as long as it's in the long-term best interests of students. That's a positive and pragmatic approach for any school board member, especially one who is to represent District 2's overcrowded and underperforming schools from the Eastside, South Los Angeles and Hollywood.

by Howard Blume and Jim Crogan, The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

March 2, 2006 - A leading contender in next week's L.A. school board race is at odds with USC and UCLA over his academic standing, the latest in a series of uncomfortable disclosures for Christopher Arellano.

Arellano, 33, the candidate endorsed by the powerful Los Angeles teachers union, did not complete the master's programs for which he claims to have degrees, according to the University of Southern California. Further, UCLA declined Thursday to confirm his bachelor's degree, saying only that Arellano�s "records are on hold."

In an interview, Arellano said he was unaware of a dispute about his record at UCLA, but he acknowledged he did not complete a required four units of classes for the Urban Planning component of the dual master's he has claimed at USC. He also said he fully completed the other of the two master's degrees, in social work.

Questions about Arellano's academic status came to light even as the well-financed political newcomer is trying to lay to rest another issue: a criminal past. Thursday�s La Opinion published details about Arellano convictions for theft -- once at age 20 and again three years later.

Arellano insists that he has been open about his troubles.

"I am aware that my opponents have raised questions regarding my past," he said in a statement provided Wednesday night to the House of Representatives of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). "And yes, I did make some mistakes. I am not proud of these mistakes, but they have served to make me a better, stronger person. I am running for school board because I want to ensure that none of our children end up in the hopeless place that I did and make the same mistakes that I made."

Born Robert Christopher Bruce, Arellano said in an interview with The Journal that his mother was Mexican and his father Anglo and an alcoholic. He recounted dropping out of school and leaving Phoenix, Ariz. at 14, finally arriving in Los Angeles at 18, where he slept in a car.

"I have been like one of our kids who gets lost in the system," he said.

He began to get interested in theater and also hung out with Echo Park hipsters, who knew him as Bianco. He eventually changed his name legally to Christopher Bianco Arellano. Later, as an activist, he was involved in gay rights issues -- he is openly gay -- and the local Democratic party.

Arellano said he became politically awakened when he discovered Chicano studies at UCLA: "I redirected my frustration and anger to doing things and good work."

Following Arellano�s appearance at the UTLA body Wednesday night, union delegates overwhelmingly voted to stand by their endorsement. At the meeting delegates were not, apparently, aware of questions regarding Arellano's academic status.

Arellano's character issues both cloud and enliven a political contest far off the radar of most Angelenos. He is one of four candidates running in District 2 of the Los Angeles Unified School District to replace Jose Huizar, who was elected to the Los Angeles City Council. Huizar now holds the seat formerly occupied by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa's shadow looms large over the race. After some initial hesitation, Mayor Villaraigosa has embraced a mayoral takeover of the L.A. school district. Both Villaraigosa and Huizar, a close ally, have endorsed former Huizar aide Monica Garcia. For her part, Garcia, 38, says she "can't really comment" on Villaraigosa's takeover plan until she sees it in writing. Some political observers have interpreted this response as indirect support for Villaraigosa�s efforts.

The other candidates are not so coy in taking a different view. The most vocal opponent of the mayor�s bid for authority over the schools has been Arellano, and his position helped win the UTLA endorsement � UTLA has made resisting the mayoral takeover its No. 1 priority. Arellano also works fulltime for UTLA as a teacher rep. UTLA has consistently been the major donor in school-board races, and its endorsed candidates hold the majority on the seven-member Board of Education.

Essentially, the contest has shaped up as a proxy battle between the teachers union (supporting Arellano) and those in town who support putting the mayor in charge of L.A.�s schools (supporting Garcia). Arellano's corollary assets include a background as a community activist and, briefly, as a City Council aide.

But then came news of Arellano's other background.

In his campaign bio and in an initial interview, Arellano said he has two master's. USC spokesman James Grant said the school�s position is that no degree has been conferred. When told of USC's contention, Arellano said he has four units to complete on the second master's in the dual master's program. Regarding the first master's: "I have completed all requirements for the social-work degree. I graduated and walked at graduation ceremonies in May of 2005."

UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton would say only that Arellano's academic records "are on hold and as a matter of policy we can't confirm whether he received a degree." He declined to say why the records are on hold.

"I have no idea what the problem is," Arellano said. "I graduated from UCLA in 1998. I don't know what the holdup is � honestly. I do have student loans. They are current. With this campaign, people are letting me know what is happening in my life."

Arellano's problems could open the door for other candidates, especially if he loses the UTLA endorsement. A fallback union choice could be 31-year-old Enrique Gasca, a former Legislative aide who operates a public-relations and consulting firm and who has attracted some union support; he has presented himself as the only parent in the race. A dark-horse wildcard is Ana Teresa Fernandez, a 23-year-old UCLA graduate who works as a staffer for the California Charter Schools Association. She was schooled in activism by her mother, teacher Lupe Fernandez, who has lobbied ceaselessly for the completion of the half-finished Belmont Learning Complex. Fernandez scored endorsements from both the Los Angeles Times and the L.A. Weekly. A fifth candidate, Maria Lou Calanche, appears on the ballot but has suspended her campaign.

All of the other candidates' professed degrees check out. Garcia has a bachelor's from UC Berkeley and a master's from USC. Gasca has a bachelor's from Georgetown.

Arellano's candidacy could have fallen apart the evening of March 1, when the teachers union House of Representatives convened for a regular meeting and then entered closed session to discuss whether Arellano would keep the endorsement. The union already has committed to donating $200,000 to Arellano's campaign -- which could swamp the opposition. And more help is in the works, including a phone-bank operation, precinct walking and campaign mailers. The House dealt with the matter for about 30 minutes, said UTLA spokesman Steve Blazac. At one point, Arellano was summoned in to explain himself.

"It was an emotional appeal," Blazac said, "to teachers from someone who said, 'I had a troubled youth and stumbled a few times, but I turned my life around and let's move forward.'"

Speaking with The Journal, Arellano discounted tales told by former associates, who question his transformation and apparently alerted the media: "Obviously, they're not my friends. I've told you I made mistakes. I definitely screwed up in early life and I'm sorry about that."

In his written statement to union members, Arellano said: "Over the course of this campaign, I have always been upfront about the fact that I had a troubled childhood."

But Arellano never volunteered specifics, let alone implied that his troubles included criminal convictions or financial irresponsibility. In 1992, he appeared before a municipal court for stealing merchandise and for battery at Pioneer Market in Boyle Heights. He pleaded guilty to the theft charge in a plea agreement. The court fined him $415 and placed him on unsupervised probation for 24 months.

In 1995, Los Angeles police arrested him for stealing more than $400, which qualifies as grand theft. After initially pleading not guilty, he eventually entered a no-contest plea, according to court records. A judge fined him $125 and sentenced him to three days in prison, 30 days of forced labor with Caltrans, and mandatory psychiatric treatment. He subsequently missed multiple court appearances. Court records indicate two bench warrants were issued for his arrest for failure to appear in court, spanning from 1995 to March 1999. The 1995 case continued until September 2004.

The 1992 case did not officially close until a hearing today (Thursday) in Los Angeles Superior Court, according to court records. For more than 10 years � until today � there has been an outstanding warrant for his arrest due to repeated failures to appear in court.

Arellano's docket also includes a separate 1998 judgment for a loan debt of $3,610.97. Arellano said he couldn't recall the case, but that "any kind of debt that needed to be paid I paid. My credit score I'm happy with."

The question for voters is simply: Who is Christopher Arellano? Former friends, some claiming to be victims of alleged scams, say they consider him a charming con artist and just can't believe that he has reformed. They point out that some of his problems have persisted into recent times, such as the now-closed court cases.

But Arellano earned good marks in his year working as a field deputy for City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who has endorsed Arellano.

"Chris, I think, embodies somebody who has not only transformed his life, but also overcome a lot of hardship to be a success story, which is what we want to see a lot of youths in Los Angeles achieve," Garcetti said. "He was a dropout and overcame a broken home to work on behalf of social justice. He was able to put himself through college and graduate school. He was an extremely welcome, bright, articulate presence in the office."

Additional reporting by Robert David Jaffee.

►The La Opini�n Article: CANDIDATO AL LAUSD ES SENTENCIADO POR ROBO: Christopher Arellano fue arrestado por las autoridades en 1992 y 1995


►PRESCHOOL PLAN'S SURPRISING DEBATE: Traditional allies split on ballot measure for free early education -- teachers groups, chambers of commerce, politicians differ

by Ilene Lelchuk, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, March 4, 2006 - A ballot measure to create something as wholesome as free preschool for every 4-year-old in California has sparked a fierce political fight, and some participants in the dispute have taken surprising stands.

The powerful California Teachers Association has endorsed Proposition 82, but a group of Montessori teachers is speaking out against the measure. Various chambers of commerce have lined up on either side. And even Republican business leaders are at odds over actor-director Rob Reiner's Prop. 82, which would raise taxes for the wealthiest Californians.

As the political debate spreads through Sacramento, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn't taken sides. But some of his allies have -- opposite sides. Former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, the governor's former education secretary, contributed to the Prop. 82 campaign, while the state Chamber of Commerce, a strong Schwarzenegger ally, opposed it.

Meanwhile, state Senate Pro Tem President Don Perata, a Democrat, withdrew his support for the measure Tuesday because, he said, it would direct too many resources to families who already can afford preschool. His change of heart raised questions about whether other Democrats might follow suit.

Reiner, a well-funded and well-connected Hollywood icon, has campaigned on the notion of improving education for the state's youngest residents. He says he does not plan to run for governor despite speculation that he is laying the groundwork for a candidacy.

The measure drew $2.4 million in contributions in 2005, much of it from Reiner's earnings as producer of Castle Rock Entertainment and from his father, actor and comedian Carl Reiner. Other prominent donors included Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad, Warner Brothers President Alan Horn, author Robert Mailer Anderson, Paypal co-founder Elon Musk, DreamWorks Studios CEO David Geffen, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and San Francisco financier Warren Hellman, a Republican.

Californians to Stop Higher Taxes, reorganized in November to fight Prop. 82, raised roughly $185,000 last year. Contributors included San Francisco Republican John Fisher of the family that owns the Gap children's and adult apparel chain.

It won't be clear until late this month, the next filing deadline for campaign contribution reports, how much a second newly formed committee, Stop the Reiner Initiative, has raised.

Prop. 82's strength, political analysts say, is that education initiatives easily capture voters' hearts, especially when academic studies show more benefits from preschool than downsides.

"The proponents have on their side something that is widely popular. Conceptually, this is sort of apple pie," said veteran Democratic strategist Darry Sragow, who is based in the Los Angeles area.

"Education has been consistently the most important issue to Californians for over a decade," he said. "And when you talk about education, voters instinctively focus on younger kids. There's a sense you have to start kids on the right track.

"But," he added, "nothing is an easy sell."

Talking about why the California Teachers Association endorsed Prop. 82, President Barbara E. Kerr, a longtime kindergarten teacher, said she could see a big difference in her classroom between preschool graduates and those who did not attend and had a rough time adjusting to the classroom.

"A lot of the time, the kids didn't know what they were doing there because they've never gone to school before," said Kerr, who counted on them being able to know their alphabet, colors, shapes and numbers and other class skills. "Can they use scissors? Can they paste, or do they eat it?"

On the flip side, Pamela Rigg, a Montessori preschool teacher in San Leandro and president of the California Montessori Council, worries that Prop. 82 will set up a system in which schools that accept public dollars to provide free preschool would be subject to new state classroom guidelines, which would not be set until after the initiative passes.

"Why would we turn over our very successful system to a failed (state) system?" Rigg asked.

She also worries that if her school doesn't participate in the public program, she will lose income. Tuition at her school is $3,650 a year.

"Any parent that has a 4-year-old and is looking for a three-hour daily program, well, free is very difficult to argue against," she said.

Many business groups, including the Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland chambers of commerce, endorsed Prop. 82 for its potential benefits, which some studies say could include fewer high school dropouts and a better-educated workforce.

But the state Chamber of Commerce opposes initiatives that raise taxes, as do the Los Angeles Metro Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

"We run the risk of (wealthy residents) leaving the state or changing their behavior to avoid this tax," said Jon Coupal, president of the Jarvis group.

"Prop. 82 will increase the size of the administration," warned Hugo Merida, president of the Los Angeles Metro Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and father of four. "L.A. Unified already is a huge organization ... and it has an administration that we have been trying to break down for ages."

The Capitol was buzzing this week with questions about whether Reiner, chairman of First Five, a state children's commission, used public funds to promote Prop. 82. He took leave Feb. 24 as chairman of the agency, which was created by the Proposition 10 tobacco tax initiative for early childhood programs, which Reiner also spearheaded.

Several politicians have called for audits of the commission.

Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Alameda, who has been fighting alongside Reiner for several years to make preschool accessible to all children, predicted that the questions about First Five spending won't dampen voter support.

"I think it was a blip in the press," she said Monday. "We need to do this for all 4-year-olds if we want the K-12 system to improve."

Yet the future of Prop. 82 could get even murkier before June, especially if the governor and Legislature place more tax measures and a proposed $220 billion in capital projects on the November ballot.

Voters might go to the polls worried about what they will be asked to pay for next, said veteran Sacramento political consultant Phil Giarrizzo.

"If I vote for this today, what will happen in November?" said Giarrizzo, who disclosed he is in discussions with the Prop. 82 campaign to provide consulting services. "Voters understand there are very serious unmet needs. But some Democrats are saying we are carrying too much debt; some Republicans are saying we spent it on the wrong things. You have a cacophony of sounds."


PRESCHOOL FOR ALL: The Preschool for All Act, which will appear on the statewide ballot June 6 as Proposition 82, would provide every 4-year-old in California the opportunity to attend a half-day preschool program for free.

TEACHERS: The measure would require that by 2016 all preschool teachers have an Early Learning Credential and a bachelor's degree, including 24 units in early learning.

MONEY: Funding would come from a new 1.7 percent tax on the wealthiest Californians -- couples with annual incomes of more than $800,000 or individuals who make more
than $400,000.

MANAGEMENT: The state superintendent of public instruction, who oversees California's K-12 public schools, would manage the preschool system.


OpEd by Debra J. Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle columnist

Sunday, March 5, 2006 - California voters, beware. There is a new trend with ballot initiatives. Rich guys raise money to put pet measures on the ballot. Voters approve the measures. Rich guys acquire petty fiefdoms that put buckets of state government dollars under their thumbs.

Wealthy developer Robert Klein spearheaded the 2004 campaign for Proposition 71, the $3 billion stem-cell research measure. Wonder of wonders: Klein became chairman of the board that oversees the stem-cell program, campaign staffers got jobs with the new bureaucracy and the Legislature learned that, despite campaign rhetoric about sharing profits with taxpayers, Team Klein valued "the need to assure that essential medical research is not unreasonably hindered by intellectual property agreements."

This column, however, is about movie director/activist Rob Reiner. In 1998, Reiner sponsored Proposition 10, which taxed California smokers an extra 50 cents per pack in order to fund early-childhood education programs. Voters bit, and voila, Reiner became chairman of the state's First 5 California Children and Families Commission, which controls 20 percent of Prop. 10 receipts.

Team Reiner was well rewarded. Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that First 5 spent $230 million -- of the $800 million it has controlled -- on advertising and public-relations contracts with firms that had worked on the Prop. 10 campaign. (First 5 Executive Director Kris Perry wants you to know that most of the $230 million went to TV stations, newspapers and other media -- not to the ad agencies.)

The Times also reported that, at the very time Reiner was working to qualify his latest brainchild, "Preschool for All," which will be Proposition 82 on the June ballot, First 5 spent some $23 million on ads to promote -- you guessed it -- preschool for all.

That's a no-no. State money is not supposed to bankroll political campaigns. Reiner announced he was taking leave from the post "to avoid any political distractions." Taking leave? That's sweet, considering that Reiner's tenure for the post expired in 2004. He is chairman only because -- for some reason lost on Sacto Republicans -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not replaced him.

Reiner apparently plans on returning to his throne after the election, although Schwarzenegger's office issued a statement Friday that noted, "There is no express provision for a leave of absence" for Reiner. Lawyers are looking at it.

Last week, state Senate leader Don Perata withdrew his support for Prop. 82. Perata noted that the $23 million campaign was "over the line" and "a blatant effort to promote the initiative." More important: Prop. 82 is a bad idea.

As Perata wrote to Reiner, "the initiative pays more per pupil for a three-hour educational program than many K-12 schools are able to pay for a full school day." (Proposition 82 spokesman Nathan James responded, "If you create a program that's not well funded, you don't end up getting the benefits.")

Perata also noted that Prop. 82 would force public schools to compete for credentialed teachers. And: Trendy propositions that levy new taxes for pet programs are "one of the principle reasons why state government can't function effectively."

I don't usually agree with Perata, a liberal Democrat, but on all of the above, he is on the money.

There are other problems with Prop. 82. Many preschool operators oppose the Reiner measure because -- oh joy -- it will bureaucratize preschool.

Reiner has a gift for finding a way to tax a minority of Californians (smokers, the rich) to pay for a program that is supposed to be great for everyone -- not that everyone should have to pay for it. Prop. 82 would raise some $2.6 billion annually by imposing a 1.7 percent tax on individuals who make more than $400,000 annually or couples who make more than $800,000.

Reiner has picked a highly volatile revenue stream, that booms and busts with the economy, to fund a permanent program. Worse, some millionaires likely will decide to leave California -- not just because of this 1.7 percent levy, but also because in 2004, voters approved a measure to add a 1 percent tax on income over $1 million for mental-health programs. According to the state Department of Finance, earners with incomes over $1 million filed .2 percent of tax returns in 2003, but generated 24.2 percent of all personal income tax. That's $7.3 billion.

James, of the Prop. 82 camp, is sure that these taxes "would not cause people to pull up stakes and abandon California." Apparently, James has never been to Florida. Or Nevada.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell is a big Prop. 82 supporter. He told me, at "first blush, I really do not see a big problem" with the $23 million preschool ads, as he believes they caused preschool enrollment to rise.

Assembly GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, however, does see a problem. "Instead of lining the pockets of wealthy Los Angeles advertising executives," McCarthy said in a statement, he has a bill that would set aside $42 million from the First 5 administrative and advertising budget and spend it on accelerated preschool programs.

Doesn't McCarthy understand that Reiner knows what's best for other people? Why, Reiner knows that all children are better off in a preschool program than at home. He knows that state taxpayers should pay double what the state pays for preschool, and improvements will follow. He knows that millionaires won't leave if faced with another soak-the-rich tax. In fact, Reiner knows so much, his First 5 fiefdom didn't hesitate to spend $23 million of state money to tell you how to think about preschool.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources

from NBC4+City News Service

March 1, 2006 -- LOS ANGELES -- Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called dropout rates in the Los Angeles Unified and other urban school districts "a crisis" Wednesday at an all-day symposium aimed at reducing the problem.

Hundreds of teachers, administrators, researchers, policymakers and business leaders attended the Los Angeles Leadership Forum on High School Dropouts at USC's Davidson Conference Center.

"We're facing a crisis in our schools today," Villaraigosa said. He has made it a top priority to take over the 720,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District.

"We can turn around this school district, but we have to have a culture of innovation and creativity -- a culture that demands excellence and one that brings in the change agents," Villaraigosa said. "It won't be about one person, it will be about trying all the methodologies, all of the innovations that have been tried somewhere else and can be successful."

Recent research shows the dropout rate at Los Angeles Unified is close to 50 percent. Superintendent Roy Romer has said it is 24.6 percent.

"If it's 24, 32, 46, 52 -- those numbers aren't acceptable," Villaraigosa said. "They aren't acceptable in a city where we know that, without a high school education, you won't be able to compete for a good job. If you can't read and write, you won't be able to compete for the kinds of jobs that maintain a family, that can buy a home, that can keep the American dream alive."

The mayor pointed to charter and private schools in the Los Angeles area that have succeeded by demanding parental involvement and setting high academic standards for students.

While accusing Los Angeles Unified of lacking "passion," he also put responsibility for the dropout rate on the community at large.

Although most LAUSD parents are low-income, working-class people, he pressured them to find time and transportation to attend school meetings.

The mayor also urged Latino and black adults to mentor children, saying that a "disproportionate" number of whites, especially Jews from the Westside, are mentoring children of color.

"We've got to look in every one of our communities and say, `It's time for us to step up, too,"' Villaraigosa said.

Villaraigosa acknowledged that he dropped out of Roosevelt High temporarily after he was kicked out of a Catholic school.

The LAUSD needs "a culture of high expectations that understands that these kids are capable of ... finishing high school and going beyond, going to college," he said.

Bob Collins, LAUSD's chief instructional officer of secondary instruction, said he appreciates the mayor's comments, but believes there is now more passion in the district than in many years.

"I think if you look at what the district is doing, you're seeing really some very, very strong, aggressive moves to change secondary instruction and change it quickly," Collins said. "We're talking about concrete things. We're not talking about, `Well, maybe we should,' or 'It'd be nice if ... .' These are pieces that we have now put dollars behind, and we're putting into place."

One example is the district's "Diploma Project," he said.

Announced two weeks ago, the program targets eighth- and ninth-graders considered at risk of dropping out and encourages students who quit school in grades 10-12 to complete their studies.

The project includes recording student attendance period-by-period, reducing algebra class sizes, quarterly meetings with parents whose children are at risk of dropping out, and placing dropout outreach advisers at each campus.

"That's creating a whole new sense of direction and fire in the district," Collins said.

Graduation requirements for LAUSD students are some of the toughest in the country among public schools, he said. Along with passing algebra, which has been a struggle for many students, the district also requires geometry and algebra II.

"There's a certain passion about saying every kid can meet those requirements," Collins said.

As part of efforts to provide a support structure for students, Collins said youngsters failing algebra now must attend an afterschool or Saturday program. The directive is another component of the "Diploma Project."

The symposium, sponsored by The Gas Company, included group sessions on the impact of dropouts on the local economy, dropout prevention and dropout recovery strategies.

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, more than 148,000 students failed to graduate from California schools in 2004, costing the state more than $38.5 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes.

By Kevin Yamamura -- SacramentocBee Capitol Bureau

February 28, 2006 -- Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, one of the state's leading Democrats, said Tuesday he is reconsidering his support for a June universal preschool ballot proposal in another blow to Rob Reiner's initiative campaign.

The June initiative, Proposition 82, would increase income taxes on the state's wealthiest earners to raise $2.4 billion to pay for preschool for any family that wants it.

Perata, an Oakland Democrat, said he is concerned that the initiative lacks a "means test" and therefore would mostly benefit middle- and upper-middle class families in California. He also said there is no mandate for superintendents to use anything other than school districts, so community-based organizations serving ethnic communities may lose out.

Perata last year endorsed the universal preschool proposal, but he said he is now rethinking his position and expects to make a public announcement soon. He said his opinion change has nothing to do with recent criticism of Reiner's chairmanship of the First 5 Commission when the state body spent $23 million on ads promoting preschool at the same time Reiner was spearheading his initiative campaign.

But he was also critical of the spending of state money on advertising that may have helped the initiative.

"It wasn't even cleverly disguised," Perata said. "It's flagrant."

Nathan James, a Yes on 82 spokesman, said all children are eligible for free preschool under the initiative and that it does not benefit students from any particular income level. He also said county offices of education will administer the program at the local level and that they have a history of working with private and non-profit schools.

"We welcome the debate over Proposition 82 and the debate over the fact that half of all 4th graders can't read at grade level," James said. "Proposition 82 will help kids get ready to learn. Don Perata can either be part of the solution or part of the problem, and that choice is up to him."

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
►Monday, March 6 at 2:00 p.m.

with John Cromshow

Part 2: the second half of the candidates' forum
plus...teachers' voices from the Wednesday Evening News

KPFK 90.7 FM, Los Angeles,
98.7 FM, Santa Barbara and
steaming live at
Programs available one hour after broadcast at -
click on "Politics or pedagogy?"

Special Election...March 7, 2006
LAUSD School Board District 2
Candidates' Forum
recorded by Global Voices for Justice at the Puente Learning Center

� Christopher Arellano
� Ana Teresa Fernandez
� Monica Garcia
� Enrique Gasca

►Wednesday Mar 08, 2006
Central Los Angeles Area New High School #1 (aka Metromedia)
Construction Update Meeting
6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Le Conte Middle School
1316 N. Bronson Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90028

►Thursday Mar 09, 2006
East Valley Area New Middle School #1: Construction Update Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Victory Elementary School
6315 Radford Avenue
North Hollywood, CA 91606

*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] � 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.
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