Sunday, July 16, 2006

Curious. Curiouser. Most Curious.

4LAKids: Sunday, July 16, 2006
In This Issue:
BROAD ATTACKS VILLARAIGOSA'S PLAN FOR SCHOOLS: Philanthropist says Villaraigosa-UTLA compromise would muddy LAUSD lines of authority
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.
Things didn't go well for the Mayor's plan this week.

• On Wednesday evening there was an acrimonious meeting at UTLA. The Mayor/UTLA Leadership faction prevailed – but only through an Edward G. Robinsonian application of Robert's Rules of Order. Robinson as Johnny Rocco in Key Largo: "You know how we run elections in Florida? We just keep counting the votes until we get the result we want."
• Thursday the State PTA voted unequivocally to oppose his plan.
Q: Who cares about PTA?
A: Legislators in an election year ...California PTA represents one million voters.
• Also Thursday: The LAUSD Governance Commission, ignored-to-date by the Mayor, returned the favor and said 'let the people (between the lines: Not the Legislature) decide'.
• Friday Eli Broad, he of deep pockets, turned on the plan.
• Somewhere in there the County Supervisors joined the six previously declared 'members' of the Council of Mayors in opposition.

■ I hope to see many of you at one or two of the TOWN HALLS and COMMITTEE HEARINGS calendared below!

I cannot recall a previous 4LAKids with an article about the State Board of Education; this one has three. It seems the State Board President has quit in a tiff with the legislature over Bilingual Ed – a subject worth fighting over. This squabble has escalated to the point where the legislature has totally eliminated the board's funding. It is reported that the Governor – albeit publicly committed and born again as The Education Governator – has chosen not to get involved. But none of this is standing in the way of Green Dot Public Schools asking the State Board of Ed for the authority to approve its own charters.

Think about this: Charter schools spend the taxpayer's money educating the public's children – accountable back to local boards of education for periodic charter renewal on how well they've done spending the money and educating those children. And a single charter operator wants to be authorized to grant its own charters, subject only to oversight by an (unfunded) appointed panel in Sacramento? The word "Accountability" is bandied about in just about every context in public education today. Who exactly is accountable here to whom? And where is the check or the balance?

Green Dot founder Steve Barr is asking to be granted quite a franchise.

[Unreported in the media: Green Dot's petition was denied by the State Board.] —smf

More: STUCK ON FAST FORWARD: The L.A. mayor's mad rush to fix the city's problems. Opinion/Interview by Jill Stewart from The Wall Street Journal


Written by David Zahniser | LA Weekly

Wednesday, 12 July 2006 -- Will teachers give his school plan a passing grade? High school teacher Warren Fletcher had just hung up the phone, finishing yet another call urging a colleague to show up at an emergency meeting of the legislative body that governs United Teachers Los Angeles, the powerful union at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Three weeks after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cut a deal with UTLA to rearrange the power structure at L.A. Unified, Fletcher was working furiously to undo the pact, telling anyone who would listen why he considers it a bad piece of legislation: It’s too vague. It’s too hastily written. It asks teachers to take certain promises on faith. Most importantly, Fletcher warned, the Villaraigosa proposal would create an “imperial superintendent,” one who had more authority over budgets and union contracts while retaining power over textbook selection.

With the state Legislature slated to vote on Villaraigosa’s L.A. Unified bill next month, Fletcher is pushing for the union’s full membership — not just three UTLA leaders who cut a deal in a room — to vote on the bill. Fletcher watched as the union’s board of directors demanded an explanation for why UTLA agreed to a “superpowered superintendent” — only to be told not to worry.

“The response of the leadership was, ‘We’re working with Antonio; he’s someone who’s collaborative,’” Fletcher recalled. “This [bill] is all premised on the idea that Antonio will be mayor for the entire eight years, and I don’t think you can get a casino to take that bet. I certainly don’t think Phil Angelides would.”

Angelides, of course, is the Democrat running for governor — a man who Villaraigosa has yet to endorse, to the consternation of the party faithful. The mayor, in turn, spent part of last weekend with Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the La Raza conference and is seen as a candidate for governor in 2010 — a scenario that will go much more smoothly if Angelides loses in November, and if Schwarzenegger is forced out by term limits.

July is ushering in a season of creeping doubt for the mayor and his plan for L.A. Unified, a complex bill that would give Villaraigosa veto power over the hiring and firing of the superintendent, yet preserve the elected seven-member school board — albeit with a diminished role.

Although the bill has the enthusiastic backing of UTLA president A.J. Duffy — one of the men who reached the accord with Villaraigosa in private — a breakaway faction within UTLA demanded and got a special session of its House of Representatives to review the plan. The meeting was scheduled for Wednesday evening, hours after the L.A. Weekly goes to print. And even if the faction loses, its effort to force a special meeting — one triggered by a petition from 50 union leaders — hints at the growing reservations over the mayor’s plan.

Six cities within L.A. Unified have already voted to oppose the bill. The Los Angeles Times has published four critical editorials. Then there are the five powerful county supervisors, each of whom would have a seat on Villaraigosa’s 32-member Council of Mayors as representatives of the unincorporated areas within L.A. Unified — communities painted yellow in the Thomas Guide, such as East Los Angeles, Florence and Marina del Rey.

Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, whose district takes in much of South Los Angeles, voiced major misgivings over the bill’s plan for putting Villaraigosa in charge of three of L.A. Unified’s lowest-performing high schools. In fact, Burke, who endorsed the mayor last year, said she does not want any of the schools in her district to fall under his sway. “The high schools in my district have so many problems and so many issues,” she said. “They don’t need to be involved in any new pilot program, as far as governance is concerned.”

Teachers have been ambivalent about the Villaraigosa bill for different reasons. Some felt they were made to look foolish by UTLA’s leadership, which hammered out its compromise days after union activists personally implored state lawmakers to reject the mayor’s previous plan for taking control of L.A. Unified. Within days, dozens of teachers at Venice High School produced a petition that criticized the compromise agreement reached by the union’s leaders.

“I want the [House of Representatives] to reiterate our original position and tell our president that he went too far in expressing our will,” said English teacher Brad Jones.

Other teachers voiced dismay about a change in wording made to the bill hours after Duffy reached his deal with Villaraigosa. The original draft of the L.A. Unified bill, produced on June 21, promised that the curriculum at each school would be chosen by a committee comprised of that school’s teachers, principal and staff. That language was initially viewed as a coup for the union, giving it more say over the selection of textbooks and other teaching materials that had long rested with the school board and superintendent.

Two days later, the language was gone. And this week, Duffy said the union never wanted or expected teachers to win the power to select teaching materials at individual campuses. “Anybody who understands the legislative process understands that bills change from the moment they hit the floor of the Legislature to the moment they get out and are voted on, and quite frankly, we are happy about that,” he said.

Villaraigosa attorney Thomas Saenz described Fletcher’s warning of an imperial superintendent as a “mischaracterization,” saying such arguments are being made by critics who have not read the bill. Duffy, for his part, argued that there is no need for a membership vote on the bill, since the union took a position favoring a partnership with Villaraigosa in March.

“I believe that once our members get the information, they will be overjoyed with this arrangement,” he added.

Still, since his election as president last year, Duffy has sometimes had trouble convincing the union’s legislative branch to follow his lead. Five months ago, he pushed without success for the union to endorse school-board candidate Monica Garcia, who had the mayor’s blessing. Weeks later, he asked the union’s leadership to back state Assembly candidate Kevin de León — also supported vigorously by Villaraigosa — and was turned away.

Duffy argued that the Villaraigosa school bill will result in reduced bureaucracy. But Fletcher, the UTLA activist, said there is no specific language in the bill to achieve that goal, and suggested that Duffy is asking the membership to go on faith. Instead, Fletcher said he will ask for a full union vote, then recommend that the membership vote no.

“At this point, this thing has been done under dark cover of night. It’s a bad bill that will result in bad public policy no matter who wins,” he said.

►BULLIED BY TEACHERS: Mayor V’s school plan emerges wounded, but still standing after union assault

Online follow-up to the above, written by David Zahniser |

Wednesday, 12 July 2006 -- Democracy isn't pretty, and nowhere was that more true than Wednesday night at the boisterous and occasionally chaotic meeting of the United Teachers Los Angeles, whose leaders booed, hissed and shouted at each other as they debated Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s compromise plan for seizing power at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Microphones went dead, members interrupted each other and, in the end, the UTLA’s House of Representatives served up a nailbiter of a vote on whether to embrace the mayor’s plan for rearranging the power structure at L.A. Unified.

The House, which serves as the legislative body for 38,000 teachers at L.A. Unified, makes decisions in an Old World fashion; members hold up oversize white cards to show whether they support or oppose a measure. When the union’s leaders asked members if they opposed the mayor’s L.A. Unified legislation, a sea of cards went up. Asked to back the mayor, another sea of white cards went up. To the casual eye, it was hard to tell which side held the upper hand in the debate over L.A. Unified.

When the dust had settled, the UTLA’s legislative branch had endorsed the plan by a relatively narrow margin — 101 votes in favor, 89 against. But by then, the plan, and the union leaders who negotiated it, looked a bit battered. “There’s a split on this, and we’re going to have to regain confidence,” said UTLA vice president Josh Pechthalt, who helped negotiate the deal with Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa’s plan for L.A. Unified was the only item on the agenda at the UTLA’s emergency meeting, a session that took place only because 50 union members submitted a petition demanding a discussion of the bill. After working nearly a year to defeat Villaraigosa’s plan for mayoral control, the UTLA went to Sacramento last month and crafted a compromise granting the mayor veto power over the hiring — and contract extensions — of L.A. Unified’s superintendent. The compromise also strengthens the hand of the superintendent and diminishes the role of the elected seven-member school board, denying its members even the ability to select their own staff.

A breakaway faction within UTLA quickly branded the deal a sellout, saying the union had resurrected Villaraigosa’s plan just as it was near death in the state Legislature. Nearly half of UTLA’s delegates came to Wednesday’s session furious that the deal had not come before them. More than a few questioned whether it will leave them vulnerable in pending contract talks with the school board, several of whom were elected with the UTLA’s backing. “What I’m curious about,” declared eighth-grade history teacher Tom Skidmore, “is the wisdom of striking a backroom agreement that stabs in the back the very people that we’re negotiating with.”

Union negotiators said they struck the deal because they believed it would blunt mayoral control and prevent Villaraigosa from adding 100 charter schools, campuses that don’t have to follow many rules of the Education Code, throughout the district. Meanwhile, UTLA president A.J. Duffy argued that the plan posed a setback to Villaraigosa’s ambitions.

“He got hardly anything he wanted to begin with,” Duffy argued. “He wanted full mayoral control. He wanted the Board of Education obliterated. He wanted every little bit of power in his hands.”

Pechthalt argued that Villaraigosa’s plan for overseeing 36 underperforming high schools — three high schools and the middle and elementary schools that feed into them — will keep the mayor from allowing an army of charter schools to open. The UTLA vice president also pointed out that Villaraigosa will be a potent ally in the union’s salary negotiations, even if the bill doesn’t go into effect until January 1.

“He told us in meetings, ‘I’m going to be an advocate for you at the bargaining table.’ I think we have to take him up on that,” Pechthalt said.

Villaraigosa offered support in other ways, sending a letter to the UTLA promising to work with the union to elect school board members, four of whom come up for reelection in March. Meanwhile, Villaraigosa in-house counsel Thomas Saenz pointed out that while some teachers may be unhappy, others are criticizing the bill as too pro-union.

“We’re getting hit by both sides, which tells me we’re in the right place, which is the middle,” he said.

Still, the union’s criticism may linger. Minutes after the UTLA vote took place, a few frustrated union leaders said they are looking into forcing a full membership vote on Villaraigosa’s plan — a move that would require, among other things, 500 signatures. UTLA delegate Paul Huebner warned that if the bill passes, cities within L.A. Unified that oppose Villaraigosa’s plan may simply try to leave the district.

“The breakup of the school district will kill us all, and you all need to realize, that’s what’s coming from this legislation,” Huebner declared.

For Villaraigosa, victory comes at a price. Union leaders were quick to call the legislation flawed, a proposal borne of desperation at the thought that state legislators might take up the mayor on his bid for control. And even backers of the plan did not sound like the mayor’s fans.

“We have basically taken a bad idea, mayoral takeover, and made it palatable,” said Monroe High School teacher Gregg Solkovits. “I’m not going to tell you I trust Antonio Villaraigosa. I’m not going to tell you I’m going to vote for Antonio again,” Solkovits told the crowd. “But as far as I can see from this bill, he has been defanged.”


by Joel Rubin, LA Times Staff Writer

July 14, 2006 - As the debate over control of the Los Angeles Unified School District raged around it, a little-watched commission exploring reforms to the public school system formally agreed Thursday to a set of sweeping recommendations.

The 29-member commission, created last year by City Councilmen Alex Padilla and Jose Huizar, a former president of the Board of Education, released its main findings and met to finalize wording on dozens of other less significant proposals.

The commission's most striking suggestion was its call to preserve the seven-member elected school board as the "primary governing body" of the school district. The board should retain crucial powers, such as the ability to hire and fire the district superintendent, select principals and decide where to build new campuses, the commission recommended.

Those conclusions, which are not binding, come after months of tense jockeying over the district as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has sought to wrest some control from the school board. A bill currently making its way through the Legislature would, among other changes, give the mayor veto power over the selection of a superintendent and control of three clusters of low-performing schools.

The commission, led by former Councilman David Cunningham and former district official Maria Casillas, also recommended that the 727,000-student school district be dramatically decentralized. Teachers and principals at each school would gain increased responsibility over budgets and student performance. Moreover, the group concluded that schools should be reorganized into clusters, in which high schools are grouped with the middle and elementary schools that feed into them. Currently, the district is divided into eight regions, but that cluster system has been attempted in the past.

Three of the commission's recommendations have gained some traction in the City Council. This week a council committee approved a motion by Huizar for a ballot measure that would place term limits on school board members, hold them to the same campaign fundraising rules as council members, and increase their annual salaries from the current $24,000. The entire council is expected to vote on the motion next week.

If it passes, the measure will be put before voters in November.

Beyond that, the effect of the commission's report is uncertain.

BROAD ATTACKS VILLARAIGOSA'S PLAN FOR SCHOOLS: Philanthropist says Villaraigosa-UTLA compromise would muddy LAUSD lines of authority

by Duke Helfand and Joel Rubin, LA Times Staff Writers

July 15, 2006 — Philanthropist Eli Broad, one of the city's most influential civic figures, has told Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that he opposes the mayor's current plan to wrest control of the Los Angeles school system.

Broad, a longtime ally of the mayor, criticized Villaraigosa for striking a deal with teachers unions that he believes would muddle lines of authority in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

After months of urging a complete takeover of the district, Villaraigosa struck a compromise last month with United Teachers Los Angeles and the California Teachers Assn. that would allow him to share power with the elected school board and the appointed superintendent.

Legislation to put those changes into effect passed its first hurdle last month, when the Senate Education Committee endorsed AB 1381 despite legislators' reservations that it would bypass local voters and possibly touch off power struggles with the school district.

Broad made it clear that he was unhappy with the bill, saying in a letter to Villaraigosa that "true mayor control of the Los Angeles Unified School District is vital for the future of our city."

"It is regrettable that you did not want to wage a campaign for true mayoral control, but rather saw fit to negotiate with UTLA and CTA," Broad wrote in a letter dated June 30.

"I regret that I cannot support, in its present form, the bill that was passed by the Senate Education Committee" last month, Broad wrote. "If significant changes are not made, we may be better off having the bill fail."

Moreover, Broad said that the superintendent must have complete control over the hiring and firing of principals and that teacher contracts should be negotiated outside the "union-controlled school board."

Broad could not be reached for comment Friday.

A Villaraigosa spokesman defended the legislation, saying it "represents the best chance for fundamental reform of our schools."

But the mayor's chief of staff, Robin Kramer, said that Villaraigosa continues to entertain suggestions from business leaders, union officials, parent representatives and others who want a say over the new governance structure. The mayor and Broad have not discussed the letter, Kramer said.

In a short written response, Villaraigosa said he looked forward to discussing Broad's concerns.

"The creation of public policy is always a process in which hearing myriad views is healthy and important," Kramer said. "We welcome all these suggestions. We welcome even those with which we don't agree. We'll consider them all in a thoughtful way."

Broad, who runs a foundation on education reform and has given money to independently run charter schools, was a strong supporter of unsuccessful state legislation last year to give the mayor the power to appoint the school board and hire the superintendent.

Villaraigosa has made his takeover of the Los Angeles schools a centerpiece of his year-old administration.

He pulled back from his initial position and settled for a lesser role after the teachers unions threatened to torpedo his plans.

Villaraigosa's staff is working to amend the legislation in hopes of gaining the votes needed for passage.

The latest version would give a "council of mayors," made up of the 27 cities served by L.A. Unified, veto power over hiring and firing a superintendent. Villaraigosa, because of his dominant stake on the council, would have the ultimate authority over the superintendent selection.

The school board would continue to have final say over the selection and dismissal of principals and would retain sign-off authority over the district's multibillion-dollar budget.

The superintendent, meanwhile, would gain greater control over how to spend district funds.

Villaraigosa's takeover plan has powerful supporters, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), who co-wrote the legislation.

But Villaraigosa's plans have prompted questions from other leaders, particularly those in the business community, about the wisdom of putting the district in so many hands.

"It looks unmanageable," said one business leader who like others spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of upsetting Villaraigosa. "It's not doable under the mayor's structure."


►BUDGETLESS, STATE SCHOOL BOARD MEETS TODAY: Its president has quit after squabble with Democrats

By Aurelio Rojas – Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 — The California Board of Education, which sets policy for the state's 6 million public school students, will meet today with no money in its budget, no president and feeling neglected by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On June 30, the same day the Republican governor signed a budget that did not include any money for the board's staff, the panel's president, Glee Johnson, abruptly quit.

"I think she felt the Governor's Office was overlooking the significance of the board and what it does," said Roger Magyar, the board's executive director, adding the budget mess was a factor.

Johnson, who as an aide to Gov. Pete Wilson helped usher in school standards and accountability, did not give a reason for her resignation and was not available for comment Tuesday.

But during her six months as president, the 11-member board split on several matters, including how English learners should be taught -- a recurring issue that has divided Democratic lawmakers and the board.

In April, the board voted down a proposal for instructional materials designed to help English learners, angering members of the 27-member Latino Caucus. In response, Democrats stripped $1.6 million for the board's staff from the budget that Schwarzenegger signed -- despite appeals to the administration by board officials, Magyar said.

Sen. Martha Escutia, who is carrying legislation, Senate Bill 1769, to expand instructional materials for English learners, said she told the governor late last month that the board would not get funding in the state budget.

"I said it in front of his chief of staff (Susan Kennedy) and other people," said Escutia, D-Whittier. "Maybe they made the mistake of underestimating me."

The money for the board's staff is now in SB 1769, which also would provide the instructional materials Escutia asked the board to support.

Meanwhile, the board's civil service staff is being paid with money from the state Department of Education while other staffers are on the payroll of the Governor's Office, Magyar said.

"We want to work with the Legislature to restore the funding as quickly as possible," said Sabrina Lockhard, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger.

The budget, she said, contains two items for materials for English learners -- a $30 million, one-time appropriation and $20 million to research how best to teach such students.

Magyar said that because the overall education budget was not as contentious as in previous years, the board's funding "slipped through the cracks."

He said Johnson and other board officials alerted the administration about the issue, to no avail.

"There were some people who said, 'Governor, we think you ought to take action against the Legislature,' " Magyar said. But he said the governor's advisers told him it was too late to hold up the budget over the matter.

Schwarzenegger, who is running for re-election, had made a strong push to sign the budget before the fiscal year that began July 1. It was the first time since 2000 that the budget had been signed that soon.

Lockhard said the board is still carrying out its responsibilities -- and has Schwarzenegger's strong backing.

"The governor is proud of the board," she said. "He really supports them, he believes that they're doing an excellent job."

Rebecca Parker, a board consultant and civil service employee, said the staff remains committed to its jobs.

"We've chosen to continue to do business because the (school) districts in the state depend on us," she said.

On Tuesday, Schwarzenegger -- who has been courting Latino voters during his re-election campaign -- appointed David Lopez, president of National Hispanic University in San Jose, to replace Johnson on the board.

Today, the board is scheduled to select a new president. A possible candidate is Joe Nuñez, currently the only Latino on the board and an official of the California Teachers Association.

Lopez is expected to attend the board meeting, although his appointment to the four-year term requires Senate confirmation. Last year, a Senate panel rejected Schwarzenegger's bid to reappoint Reed Hastings to the board.

As head of the panel, the Silicon Valley businessman lost support of Latino lawmakers for bucking their efforts to expand instructional materials for English learners.

Lopez, who runs a school whose goal is to increase college attendance of Latino students, should meet less resistance, said Maria Quezada, director of the California Association for Bilingual Education.

Last week, former Govs. Wilson and Gray Davis, in a rare show of bipartisanship, sent a joint letter to Schwarzenegger urging him not to retreat from the curriculum standards and testing they pushed through while in office.

Escutia said the legislation she is exhorting Schwarzenegger to back would not change standards or expand bilingual education.

That issue, she said, was settled by Proposition 227, the 1998 ballot measure that largely eliminated bilingual education in California.

"What we're trying to do is provide the materials for these students to learn," she said. "This is not about bilingual education."


Opinion by Peter Schrag, Sacramento Bee Columnist

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 — Anyone who thinks the battle over bilingual education or high academic standards is over in California had better think again.

Last month the Legislature, in thrall to the bilingual lobby, cut all funding for the staff of the State Board of Education -- a small, but symbolically large, $1.5 million -- from the state budget. The cut was in retaliation for the board's refusal to approve Option VI, a separate curriculum for English learners that might well have begun the formal resegregation of immigrant kids in California schools.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could have blocked the budget maneuver, which was a slap at him, since the board is the entity that sets his education policy. He could have blue-penciled any number of items dear to the Legislature from the budget and then made a deal to restore the funding.

The governor, said Schwarzenegger communications director Adam Mendelsohn, was "disappointed" at the Legislature's action. But clearly the governor doesn't want to resume last year's mud wrestle.

Former Gov. Pete Wilson would have whacked a chunk of the Legislature's own funds from the budget and held it hostage until the board's money was restored. Schwarzenegger, in pursuit of his election-year Mr. Nice Guy act, did nothing, despite warnings from some board members about the consequences.

The most immediate consequence was the resignation late last month of board President Glee Johnson, a Republican and, like all other board members, an appointee of the governor. Although Johnson never aired her anger publicly, her departure echoed the resignation of board executive director Rae Belisle and the near-resignation of one or more board members in 2004.

The two issues are similar. In 2004, the board was incensed that the governor's office had approved a budgetary exemption from board review for materials for English learners -- putting a hole in the state's standards. Both times board members were blind-sided by the administration they were supposed to be serving.

The prime target of the board's ire in 2004 was Bonnie Reiss, the Hollywood lawyer and longtime friend of Maria Shriver, the governor's wife, who had been given the education portfolio in the governor's office but probably didn't understand the board's role or the issues involved. This time the governor's meek response seemed to stem largely from the chastening lesson he learned from his failing tough-guy reform campaign last year.

Both episodes raise a major issue: whether either Schwarzenegger or legislators understand or care about the ambitious academic standards and accountability measures that California put in place over the past decade. Last week, in an extraordinary act, Wilson and former Gov. Gray Davis sent them a letter trying to remind them of their importance.

English learners now must take 2 1/2 hours daily of English-language arts with all other students, plus an extra hour of English immersion keyed to the state's standards. The bilingual crowd wants a wholly separate program.

Mendelsohn said that as an immigrant and (perhaps still) an English learner, the governor understands that rather than segregating them in separate programs, "it's more beneficial" for immigrants to learn English in classes with kids who already speak the language. One test of that understanding will be the two new appointments he has to make to the board.

A ham-handed piece of legislation, SB 1769 by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Whittier, restoring the state board's funding in return for approval of Option VI for English learners is pending in the Legislature. People close to the governor say he'll never support Option VI.

They say he's talking with legislative leaders about the board's funding, but you can't take that to the bank.

The state's academic standards raise important questions -- about local control, about testing, about the best way to move kids from homes where English isn't spoken to English proficiency, about how to teach everything else even as English is being learned. But those are issues for open debate, not budgetary retribution.

The backers of Option VI maintain that the state's existing programs have failed. In the words of a legislative staff analysis of SB 1769, "the performance gap between (English learners) and native English speakers has remained virtually constant in most subject areas for most grade levels since the passage of Proposition 227 (the 1998 initiative that sought to eliminate bilingual education for most California students)."

But that's a meaningless argument. Students are designated as English learners because they don't speak English well. Once they're proficient -- at least in theory -- they're no longer English learners: High scorers leave the category as new immigrants come in. One can hope that individuals will learn faster and move on more quickly, which in fact seems to be happening. There's no way significantly to raise the average proficiency of the group.

But the larger question concerns the making of education policy, which is inherently complex. Zeroing out funding for staff each time some group doesn't like an educational policy decision puts the state on the slippery slope to politicizing everything.


by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

Inspired by a brother who dropped out of high school and died young of a drug overdose, Steve Barr devoted himself to creating schools that educate teens in a nurturing environment.

Now the founder of the successful Green Dot Public Schools is on the verge of a major breakthrough that could make him the king of Los Angeles charter schools.

On Wednesday, the state Board of Education is poised to vote on giving Green Dot the authority to create independent charter schools without having to first get approval from local school districts.

It would mark the first time a charter operator in Los Angeles won that power, and only the second time in California.

"It's just insurance. We will exhaust all efforts to work with the district but just in case we have this in our hip pocket to use," Barr said Monday.

"We're really trying to figure out how to take research and development (at charters), couple it with political will and create systematic improvement. We're not going to create a district with 1,000 charter schools."

By David J. Hoff | Education Week

July 12, 2006 -- The United States needs a fundamental change in the way it allocates money to public schools—something that will not be easy to achieve even though it is desperately needed, a bipartisan, philosophically diverse group of policy leaders is contending.

The ad hoc group—including three former U.S. secretaries of education, two prominent former governors, and many other well-known policymakers—says that schools' budgets should be based on per-pupil allotments that are weighted according to students' educational needs. And it rejects the widely promoted "65 percent solution," an approach that calls for districts to spend at least that percentage of their budgets in the classroom.

In its manifesto arguing for what is called weighted-student funding, which its leaders dub the "100 percent solution," the group says the method differs from prevailing budget practices that often shift resources away from the schools that need them most.

"The key change from traditional approaches is that money is allocated to schools not based on staffing levels or programs, or just the number of students, but on the characteristics of the students attending the school," the group of more than 70 says in "Fund the Child: Tackling Inequity and Antiquity in School Finance," a 67-page report released in June. "Students with greater needs (poor, disabled, or English-language learners, for example) receive more money as part of their allocation, allowing their schools to provide the education they need."

[article continues/link below]

• smf notes: Weighted Student Formula may be the next big thing in education reform ...or it may be another flavor of the month. Whether its the real deal or just a scare, we need to pay attention. Click below for the entire article - which contains a lot of good links and background.

The complete article - with links to download the report

►4LAKids gets mail!

Dear Scott,

This summer, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be hosting a series of town halls with parents to discuss his plan to improve our schools, cut the bureaucracy, and provide real accountability at LAUSD.

These town halls will provide an opportunity for members of the community to learn more about AB 1381 -- the Mayor’s bill to reform LAUSD -- and get involved in the fight to fix our schools.

We invite you to join the Mayor in this historic partnership with parents and teachers to bring excellence to LA’s schools!

South Los Angeles
Wednesday, July 19, 5:00 – 7:00 PM
Victory Baptist Church
4802 S. McKinley Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90011

West Los Angeles
Thursday, July 20, 5:00 – 7:00 PM
Westwood United Methodist Church
10497 Wilshire Blvd. (Wilshire at Warner)
Los Angeles, CA 90024

San Fernando Valley
Thursday, August 3, 4:30 – 7:00 PM
Los Angeles Valley College
Monarch Hall
5800 Fulton Avenue
Valley Glen, CA 91401

East Los Angeles
Tuesday, August 8, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Sacred Heart High School Auditorium
2201 Griffin Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90031

Since space may be limited, please RSVP to Simply include your name and the number of people in your party, and we'll be able to make sure we can accomodate everyone interested in finding out more about the Mayor's plan.

Thank you so much for your help and support. We look forward to working with you over the coming weeks and months to bring back Excellence in LA Schools!


Mon., 7/24 5:00-7:00 Board Room, Beaudry Bldg
333 Beaudry Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90017

Tues. 7/25 5:30-7:30 Birmingham HS Auditorium
17000 Haynes St, Van Nuys, CA 91406

Wed., 7/26 5:30-7:30 South Gate Park Auditorium
4900 Southern Avenue, South Gate, CA 90280

Committee phone (916) 319-2087

• Jackie Goldberg, Chair Dem-45 (916) 319-2045

• Mark Wyland, Vice Chair Rep-74 (916) 319-2074

• Juan Arambula Dem-31 (916) 319-2031

• Joe Coto Dem-23 (916) 319-2023

• Loni Hancock Dem-14 (916) 319-2014

• Bob Huff Rep-60 Phone: (916) 319-2060

• Carol Liu Dem-44 (916) 319-2044

• Gene Mullin Dem-19 (916) 319-2019

• Fran Pavley Dem-41 (916) 319-2041

• Keith Richman Rep-38 (916) 319-2038

• Tom Umberg Dem-69 (916) 319-2069 the current thinking that if we have a lot of meetings in a just a few days maybe we won't notice we never got to vote/

What can YOU do?
► GO TO A MEETING ...or some of the meetings ...or all of the meetings. Listen to what they say. Have your say.

►CONTACT 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, 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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