Sunday, May 14, 2006


4LAKids: Sunday, May 14, 2006
In This Issue:
 •  SCHOOL DISTRICT, DWP REACH DEAL: Utility agrees to pay $900,000 for alleged water service overcharging
 •  KPCC | 89.3 | Patt Morrison: Calling All Parents - It's Your Turn
 •  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.
►I spent this past week with five thousand plus energized and engaged parent volunteers at the California State PTA Convention in Anaheim. This is the twenty-fifth consecutive year that PTA in California has had membership in excess of one million. National PTA � the foremost child advocacy group in the nation with six million members � is over a century old; the first PTA units were formed in California and Los Angeles within a year of that first PTA Congress in 1897.

In the intervening century PTA created Free Kindergarten and promoted Free Public Education through the 12th Grade, wrote Child Labor Laws, fashioned the School Lunch Program and Seat Belt Legislation. It was PTA who advocated for delivery of the newly discovered polio vaccine in schools � ending that disease in this country for once and hopefully for all. They also held a lot of bake sales; they hosted a lot of 'Punch and Cookies with the Principal' � all of these are important things!

While PTA units at local schools are PTA's grassroots; our national, state and community unity is our true strength. When PTA speaks to Congress, State Legislatures or Local Boards of Education trough our volunteer advocates with our One Voice for All Children our strength is in our history, numbers and authenticity. PTA is more relevant, more important and more necessary now than ever as public education comes under attack by those who would dismantle and privatize America's greatest gift to democracy. There are some who would decimate public education with a million budget cuts � or (here in LA) turn it into not just another department of city government � but a private fiefdom of the Mayor lacking even the oversight of the City Council.

Booster clubs may be better at raising funds at a given school; but PTA is better at raising, addressing and solving issues � whether in Washington, Sacramento, City Hall, District HQ, the principal's office or the classroom.

► Last week's suspension of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) at very the last minute is a great example of the right thing being done by the wrong folks for the right reasons at the wrong time. State Superintendent of Schools O'Connell wrote the CAHSEE law back when he was Senator O'Connell; he's too close to the puppy to see that it's just not ready for prime time�not yet. The test is flawed, the instructional support is inequitable, and the commitment to the CAHSEE by school boards up and down the state is uneven. Kids who pass all their classes and fulfill all the requirements for graduation but can't pass the test demonstrate a failure of the system, not the student. I would prefer that educational decision making be done by educators in cahoots with students and parents; I would prefer that legislators and the courts keep their distance.

But Judge Robert Freedman got this one right.

► The Governor's May Budget Revise promises a windfall of money to be "returned" to California public education. The Governor promises the money �but watch what he says and what he and the legislators deliver. This is the same money he promised before but then said he never promised. �.or pinky promised.

Keep your hand on your wallet as you keep the following in mind:

� This is a negotiated out of court settlement of a lawsuit, the kind that starts "without admitting fault the plaintiff agrees�.."
� Previous cuts were made piecemeal, school districts got to decide what budget line items to reduce and cut.
� 'Paybacks' will ultimately go to targeted programs, with strings attached in Sacramento � Class sizes may have been increased at XYZ Unified to meet the budget shortfall, but the money may go 'back' for after school programs. [Differentiate between apples & oranges: Funds were cut from the Prop 98 'guarantee', after school programs are funded by the Governor's showpiece Prop 49)
� The Prop 98 cuts are supposed to be repaid with interest, but the interest payments � if any � are sure to be labeled as 'funding increases'.
� Money for new schools and modernization bonds are welcome and needed � but this is one time money funded by debt, NOT instructional operating funds for the ongoing day-to-day education of children. Children in school today who have been impacted by the succession of previous years' budget cuts will not see the benefit of the bond money in their classrooms next year.

► And the Mayor continues what he himself calls his "war" with LAUSD. He labels LAUSD as "Failing" and "Out of Control."

The solutions he proposes are:

� WHAT THE DISTRICT IS ALREADY DOING � Professional Development, Principal Training Academies, Putting the Superintendent in charge of the Budget, More charters, etc.
� ILLEGAL � The California Sate Constitution clearly specifies that education is in the hands of Boards of Education and cannot be transferred to other government entities. The Los Angeles City Charter likewise vests authority solely with the Board of Education. [The fact that LAUSD includes charter cities and general law cities into a special district complicates that matter in a way to keep attorneys employed and court dockets full forever!]
� UNAFFORDABLE WITH THE MONEY AVAILABLE � Lengthen the School Year, Lengthen the School Day. I remind everyone that half of LAUSD's campuses are on a year 'round calendar; the only way to lengthen the school year is to lengthen the calendar year! By order ofthe Mayor 2007 and all future years will have sixteen months. And � Mr. Mayor and President of the MTA: Think of the impact on traffic if 727,000 schoolchildren and their carpool moms, school buses and public transit are added to the road in the peak of rush hour.
� QUESTIONABLE AT BEST � Getting rid of Adult Education. Relegating Special Education as a 'leftover' (a definition from the draft of the Mayor's Plan) to be solved later (�or perhaps left in the refrigerator to be forgotten until it becomes green and furry?)

The Mayor fancies himself in an enviable no lose situation ...and he may be right! If he fails in taking over he can claim he did his best to combat 'failure in the out of control District.' And whether or not he assumes control the progress already begun will continue; programs already begun and the building program will show progress ...and he can claim responsibility because he brought pressure to bear. Never mind that the economy is turning around and more money will be coming in from the state!

But the truth is mayoral control, audits up the ying-yang or putting kids in uniforms are not the solutions; hard work and engagement by students, teachers, administrators and parents are the answer. Accountability and communication between all the stakeholders are the answers.

The outstanding question is "What exactly is the Mayor proposing that is:
1. Educationally sound,
2. Legal,
3. Can be done with the money that is available, and
4. Is in the best interests of the children of Los Angeles
...that LAUSD isn't doing now?"

The Mayor's people say private, business and foundation money will come rolling in once the current board is done away with. What is this business model? Where exactly is this sort of philanthropy happening currently? Certainly not in Chicago, New York or Boston.

In the current unacceptable funding paradigm � where the District has no control over its funding stream (�maybe that's the 'out of control'?) � LAUSD has a balanced budget �albeit at the expense of children in the classroom.

The City of Los Angeles � which collects its own taxes and fees and has revenue generating operations it actually controls (DWP, Airports, The Port, etc.) has a deficit. Could that be why the City Controller is so interested? �smf



By Juliet Williams, Associated Press

May. 12, 2006 � SACRAMENTO � An Alameda County judge on Friday granted a preliminary injunction suspending California's high school exit exam for the class of 2006, potentially allowing thousands of students who have failed the test to graduate.

Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman issued the preliminary injunction after being persuaded by the 10 students who claimed the exit exam discriminates against the poor and those who are learning English.

"There is evidence in the record that shows that students in economically challenged communities have not had an equal opportunity to learn the materials tested on the (California High School Exit Examination)," Freedman wrote.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said the ruling creates "chaos" for more than 1,100 high schools that are completing graduation preparations. He pledged to appeal immediately.

"There are students who are within days of graduation. They are left with uncertainty over whether they will be granted a diploma," O'Connell said in a teleconference. "How are these students and these schools to plan for their futures?"

Freedman denied the state's request to stay the decision pending an appeal.

The judge rejected the state's argument that the decision should apply only to the plaintiffs. He said all seniors who have otherwise met the requirements for graduation but have failed the exit exam are affected.

"Prospective harm to a student who is otherwise fully qualified to graduate is sufficiently clear. Remaining for a fifth or subsequent year in an already stressed district or attending community college when the student might otherwise be accepted to a four-year institution all demonstrate significant risk of harm," Freedman wrote.

The ruling affects 47,000 seniors, about 11 percent of the class of 2006, who have yet to pass both the English and math sections of the exam. State officials do not know how many of those students have met the other requirements to graduate. This year's graduating class is the first one required to pass the exam to earn a diploma.

"We have been fighting for months to get to this moment," the plaintiffs' lead attorney, Arturo Gonzalez, said during a news conference in San Francisco after the judge issued the ruling. "We have serious problems in the education system in California. The solution to that problem is not to deprive 47,000 kids of their diplomas."

One of the plaintiffs, 18-year-old Mayra Ibanez, said she cried when she heard about the judge's decision. She and four other plaintiffs attend Richmond High School in Richmond, a working-class city in the eastern San Francisco Bay area.

"It is hard to be poor. It is hard to grow up in a place where there is a lot of crime," Ibanez, who emigrated from Mexico five years ago, said during the news conference with her attorneys. "No one will be hurt if we get our diploma."

But some students were frustrated their hard work to pass the test seemingly was wasted. Fernando Orozco, 17, a senior at McClatchy High School in Sacramento, said he studied for hours every day for a month to pass the test.

"I bust(ed) my butt on that thing," he said.

The case was heard in Oakland, after it was moved to Freedman's court because of his previous experience trying a lawsuit involving equal access to education in California.

The ruling was a blow to O'Connell, who drafted the legislation requiring the statewide test as a state senator in 1999 and has been one of its strongest proponents.

California's exam tests 10th-grade English, ninth-grade math and level-one algebra. Students need to answer 60 percent of the questions correctly to pass each section.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he agreed with O'Connell's decision to appeal the ruling. In the revised budget for next year that he released Friday, Schwarzenegger increased the amount of money available to schools to help students pass the exam to $70 million, up from a proposed $40 million earlier this year.

Last year, the Legislature allocated $20 million in remedial aid, which Gonzalez argued was insufficient and arbitrarily distributed. The judge agreed, noting in his decision that "166 entire school districts, and nearly half of the seniors who had not passed the exit exam as of the start of the current academic year, did not receive an allocation from this $20 million."

The state had argued that the judge's ruling should be limited to the remaining plaintiffs. Four have subsequently asked to be dropped from the suit, one of them after passing the exam. The others have been unable to pass the English portion of the test.

In their brief, the state attorneys noted that all six students have poor English skills and can't pass because of that, not because they were denied a good education.

Students have multiple opportunities to take the exam, starting when they are sophomores. In some districts, Tuesday and Wednesday were the last opportunities for seniors to take the exam.

Friday's ruling came in one of three lawsuits filed against the exam. Earlier this year, in a separate lawsuit, special education students won a one-year reprieve on the requirement. Next week Freedman is scheduled to hear arguments in a third suit, which claims state officials failed to consider alternatives to the test, as the law required.


Associated Press Writers Lisa Leff in San Francisco and Samantha Young in Sacramento also contributed to this report.


News analysis by Peter Nicholas, LA Times Staff Writer

May 11, 2006 � Sacramento � With his deal this week to repay schools billions of dollars he had borrowed to balance the state budget in recent years, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has undercut the main argument that California's powerful education unions have made for driving him out of office.

The pledge to restore the funds is the governor's latest move in a clear strategy to neutralize the network of teachers, nurses, firefighters and others that has dogged him throughout his tenure and blocked major pieces of his agenda.

When Schwarzenegger backtracked last year on a commitment to pay off education money that had been diverted to other state programs, he made a political enemy of the well-funded education lobby. Union leaders cast him as a double-talking politician who could not be trusted to protect California's schoolchildren.

Now that argument becomes harder to make: Schwarzenegger is pledging to repay over seven years more than $5 billion that education groups say they are due � beginning with a $2-billion cash infusion this summer.

"There's no question in my mind that there's a political effort underway to neutralize as much opposition as possible," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu�ez (D-Los Angeles). "I don't think the administration lives in fantasyland. They know they're going to have strong opposition in November. But this is a way to soften the blow. And if they can soften the blow enough, they think they're looking at the governor's reelection."

Other union allies say that there is no political truce with the governor and that they remain committed to Schwarzenegger's defeat. The California Teachers Assn., one of Schwarzenegger's main adversaries, has endorsed Democratic state Treasurer Phil Angelides for governor. There is no sign that will change.

On Wednesday, CTA President Barbara Kerr would not comment on the political implications of the budget deal, saying only: "He's restoring the money that he owed and this is going to be really good for our schools and our communities and for public education."

But political analysts said Schwarzenegger's budgetary moves may gratify the union rank-and-file, quelling talk of dues hikes or other financial sacrifices that might be needed to bankroll an all-out campaign against the governor.

"He must be hoping that by doing this, it will quiet the discontent among the rank-and-file and make the leadership more amenable to not opposing him too vigorously," said Joel Aberbach, professor of political science and public policy at UCLA.

Bob Wells is executive director of the Assn. of California School Administrators, which represents 16,000 members. His organization was among those that joined a lawsuit against the administration to force repayment of the education money. He said the agreement "brings some closure to what was a pretty ugly chapter between us�. I think for the good of the state it's time to move on."

Schwarzenegger's decision to put more money into education caps a string of gestures that appear to be aimed at appeasing the groups that have caused him the most trouble. They are part of a formidable coalition that thwarted the governor's special-election agenda last year.

One by one, Schwarzenegger has reached out to his antagonists and offered to settle the disagreements that led to the rifts.

The conciliatory steps began immediately after the November special election, when all four initiatives he embraced were rejected by the voters and his approval ratings flat-lined.

First, Schwarzenegger dropped an effort to reduce required nurse staffing levels at California hospitals. In heeding the hospital industry's call for lower staffing, Schwarzenegger made a determined enemy of the state's nurses.

Then he signaled that he would delay a proposal to cut back on public employee pensions, announcing that the issue needed more study. Police and firefighters were furious with Schwarzenegger's plans to switch from guaranteed pension benefits to a private sector, 401(k)-type system.

Since hiring Democrat Susan Kennedy as his chief of staff, the Republican governor also has courted the state's prison guards union, which is capable of plowing millions of dollars into anti-Schwarzenegger campaign ads.

Last year, the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. raised dues on its 31,000 members to help finance the defeat of Schwarzenegger's special-election ballot measures. At an early point in his tenure, Schwarzenegger showed defiance toward the union, which had been an influential player in prison management and policy under then-Gov. Gray Davis.

Union leaders had been frozen out of administration meetings. And Schwarzenegger's corrections secretary, Roderick Q. Hickman, said that corrupt guards were being protected by a pervasive "code of silence" in prisons. Hickman has since left. And there now seems to be a rapprochement.

The governor's office said top aides have been trying to improve communication with the union through meetings with its leaders.

"It is thawing somewhat," said Chuck Alexander, the union's executive vice president, "but it's too early to tell where all this will lead. The only thing we've ever wanted was to be part of the solution, and I think they now recognize the value of our input."

Of all the governor's opponents, the CTA may be the most formidable. The union pumped about $60 million into the successful campaign to beat back the governor's "year of reform" agenda last year, leading the anti-Schwarzenegger crusade.

But now that the governor is ponying up the education money, the anti-Schwarzenegger zeal so prevalent last year may not be so quick to coalesce, friends of the governor said.

"I would think there comes a point where their membership begins to question why they would continue to spend [millions of dollars] to oppose a governor who has been a friend to education," said Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger's former communications director.

Not that reelection will necessarily be easy for Schwarzenegger.

Several hundred nurses protested the governor's fundraising practices Tuesday at the state Capitol, as part of a "clean-money" campaign.

And dozens tried to disrupt a recent fundraiser Schwarzenegger held at the Hyatt Hotel here.

"We are going to bring some heat and light" to the governor's campaign, said Chuck Idelson, a strategist and spokesman for the nurses' group.

Carroll Wills, a spokesman for the California Professional Firefighters, said he doubted that his group would reduce its opposition this year.

As firefighters see it, Wills said, the governor's actions last year "kind of hit them in their guts and their professional values, and it's a very hard thing to turn around. There is still a lot of anger with Arnold Schwarzenegger."


Times staff writers Evan Halper, Jenifer Warren and Robert Salladay contributed to this report.


By Duke Helfand and Joel Rubin, LA Times Staff Writers

May 10, 2006 � Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and leaders of several neighboring cities will call today for a state audit of student achievement in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Villaraigosa and mayors from other cities served by the school system want a joint committee of the Assembly and state Senate to investigate why the district's dropout rate is so high and its test scores so low, according to a letter outlining their request.

The move for a state audit comes as Villaraigosa seeks legislation that would effectively put him in charge of the nation's second-largest school district and turn its elected board into a quasi-advisory body.

"We are deeply concerned about the failure of LAUSD's schools to meet the basic educational needs of our children," the mayors wrote in their letter to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. "Why are these kids not learning and achieving at the levels they should be?"

District officials assailed the mayors' action, saying the school system already undergoes scores of audits and reviews each year. The district also has rejected Los Angeles Controller Laura Chick's requests to audit its spending and use of resources. Chick is among those seeking the state audit.

In a letter to Villaraigosa Tuesday, Supt. Roy Romer urged the mayor "to not waste the taxpayers' money to orchestrate this event."

Romer said in an interview that the district was preparing for a comprehensive performance audit called for in an agreement with the teachers union.

"It is frustrating, because if you really want to help us educate students better, you would not pile another audit on us," Romer said.

"I'd rather spend our money on students."

Villaraigosa and the other mayors scheduled a news conference for today at a charter school in South Los Angeles, where they plan to discuss details of the proposed state audit. They have recommended that the Bureau of State Audits conduct the review, and that it examine areas that affect the district's "core mission of increasing student achievement," including curriculum, testing and staffing.

Villaraigosa and school officials have sparred in recent months over the dropout rate, which the district pegs at 33%. The mayor, citing other statistics, has put the rate at about 50%.

L.A. Unified serves students from 27 cities, including Carson, Huntington Park, South Gate and Maywood.

Villaraigosa has proposed the creation of a "council of mayors" to run the district, with the division of power determined proportionately by population.

Because of Los Angeles' size, Villaraigosa would effectively run the school system through the proposed council.

Legislation to create the council and other changes is expected to be introduced this week or next.


By Joel Rubin, Times Staff Writer

May 11, 2006

Los Angeles schools chief Roy Romer fired off a stern rebuttal to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's call for a state audit Wednesday, saying that he and the Board of Education welcome the review but reject the mayor's continued attacks on the school district.

At a news conference, Villaraigosa and several mayors from surrounding cities also served by the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest, signed a letter to state legislators asking for a review of student achievement.

Within hours, Romer released a statement saying: "Our successes in improving instruction and student test scores in the last six years speak for themselves."

Romer, who took over L.A. Unified in 2000, reiterated frustration with Villaraigosa's continued criticism in the campaign to take control of the district.

"I am extremely disappointed that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa continues to characterize the LAUSD and its students as failures," Romer wrote.

"It's not only incorrect, it is demoralizing for the hundreds of thousands of children, teachers and parents who are making progress," he wrote.

Janelle Erickson, a spokeswoman for the mayor, defended Villaraigosa's comments.

"Mayor Villaraigosa has made it clear that the problem is not our children and teachers, it's a bureaucratic district that prevents teachers from teaching and doesn't give our children the education they need and deserve," she said.
▲It is an interesting commentary on the perception of importance of the other cities and their mayors that the Times neglects to tell us who they are,the cities they represent or what if anything they said. "Villaraigosa and others" pretty much sums it up.

It is also interesting that the Mayor of Los Angeles chooses charter schools for his platforms. Charter schools are apparently doubly lucky: They are not accountable to the LAUSD School Board; under mayoral control they wouldn't be accountable to him either. �smf

SCHOOL DISTRICT, DWP REACH DEAL: Utility agrees to pay $900,000 for alleged water service overcharging

by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has agreed to pay L.A. Unified $900,000 cash, provide unspecified rate-rollbacks and offer future rate increase protection under a tentative settlement, officials said Thursday.

The agreement, which seeks to settle a 2004 lawsuit that alleges the DWP overcharged the district millions of dollars for water service, has not yet been finalized.

"Even though this is very little money, City Hall was taking this from teachers and students and it will now be returned," board member David Tokofsky said. "This water settlement is about 1/100th the size of the potential for the electric settlement."

DWP officials said they had no comment since a settlement had not been finalized.

A larger lawsuit, filed against DWP by LAUSD in 2000, alleges overcharging of electrical rates, said Kevin Reed, general counsel for the district.

The district is seeking $90 million in damages in that case, for which trial has been set for October, Reed said.

"We're gratified the DWP was willing to settle with us, to recognize that our claims had value and to commit to putting money on the table to solve it, and it would be nice if they do that in the electricity case as well," Reed said.

He could not divulge details of the negotiated settlement or say how much the district had spent on the lawsuit.

"It's $900,000 cash, and we think considerable savings in the future and protection against other rate increases."

Just because a judge ruled in its favor on this case doesn't mean the district is more likely to succeed in the other lawsuit, Reed said.

"We've always had hope we would be successful in the other lawsuit," he said.

It amazes me that a lawsuit between two government agencies can be settled but the parties cannot divulge details of the negotiated settlement. How exactly is the public served by this sort of gag order? �smf

KPCC | 89.3 | Patt Morrison: Calling All Parents - It's Your Turn
PATT MORRISON is a one-hour magazine show airing weekdays at 2 pm PT on Public Radio Station KPCC 89.3. Patt is a well known columnist writing on all things Angelino for the LA Times; the program is known for its in-depth explorations of local politics and culture, as well as its coverage of national and world news.

Join Patt Morrison Tuesday, May 16, at 7 p.m. to discuss Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to take over the LA Unified School District.

� Would your student be better off under the mayor's proposals?

� What about tacking another hour onto the school day - how would that change your family?

Patt is asking parents to join us at this town hall forum to voice questions and hopes for the LAUSD.

Please join your voice with those of LAUSD Parent Collaborative chairman Bill Ring and 4LAKids' Scott Folsom in the discussion � representatives of the Mayor's office and Green Dot Public Schools as well as LAUSD have also been invited.

The program begins at 7 p.m. in the student cafeteria at Venice High School, 13000 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, 90066. For more information, email Patt Morrison -

Map and driving directions to Venice High School

What can YOU do?
►WRITE YOUR ASSEMBLYPERSON AND STATE SENATOR [link below to find them]. Tell them what you think about their wasting their time, effort and the taxpayer's money on the mayor's attempt at takeover or makeover � an effort that is patently unconstitutional and will never survive a court challenge. Their time, the mayor's time, the board of education's time � all of our time, thinking and hard work - is better spent working together rather than at odds to continue and support the very real efforts at reform already begun. Their time is better spent helping LAUSD find a new superintendent, guaranteeing an improved funding stream for all California schools and helping kids in the classroom, on the playground; during, before and after school.

� 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.

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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