Sunday, July 30, 2006

The debate joined, the public engaged.

4LAKids: Sunday, July 30, 2006
In This Issue:
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.
Thursday evening saw the 'almost only' legislative hearing in LA on AB 1381 (at the hearing it was announced that Senators Richman and Runner will host their own hearing in the San Fernando Valley next week).

The hearing, which started at 5:30PM and ended five hours later – well past the bedtimes of many and the deadlines for the Times and Daily News – was at times eventful, engrossing, gross, raucous, crowded, informative, repetitive and exasperating. It was always hot in all senses of the word; the auditorium's air conditioning was not up to the challenge of the day and the event! The Times reporter ("… more than 400 people.") must have counted the sign-ins or number of speakers ….not the house! The Irving Middle School auditorium was near capacity with many milling outside and in the foyer. Though 700+ IS more than 400!

All the players were there: The Mayor and his attorney, The Superintendent and his, Speaker Nuñez and Senator "Don't call me Ms." Romero (AB 1381 authors-of-record, Tom Saenz – Mayor Villaraigosa's counsel being the acknowledged ghostwriter); Board President Canter and a quorum of the Board, Governance Commission Chair Casillas and a trio from that group, both PTA District Presidents (see link to our comments below), Mayors and City Councilpeople from other LAUSD cities, Councilman Huizar, Committee Chair Goldberg, Assemblyperson Liu, more LAUSD senior staff ever seen in one place outside of the Beaudry elevator lobby, at least six reputed candidates to be the next LAUSD Superintendent, the media ― and parents, teachers, principals, union leaders, politicos, students and just-plain-folks. Stakeholders from across the District: The debate joined, the public engaged.

Notable no show: Ramon Cortines, the Mayor's new Education Czar. He doesn't start 'till August 1.

The outcome? Who knows. Chairman Jackie Goldberg summed it up best: The opinion in the room and city is divided; there are more questions than answers, more complications than can be solved with a silver bullet. If this is a battle with winners and losers – everyone – especially the kids – will loose. A meeting of the minds building on common ground is preferable to the knock out and drag out fight that lies ahead.

Hopefully the right people heard her …though a number of them left early. ―smf

PTA in LA Speaks Out: The remarks to the committee by PTA District Presidents Ross & Folsom.

►L.A. MAYOR GRILLED OVER SCHOOL TAKEOVER PLAN: 400 residents and officials of smaller cities under Los Angeles Unified rule express their concerns at a public hearing.

by Howard Blume, LA Times Staff Writer

July 28, 2006 — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's school reform plan received its first and only local public vetting Thursday evening in a sometimes raucous hearing where Los Angeles residents addressed state lawmakers, who will have the final say.

Perhaps the most significant blow was landed by officials from neighboring cities, who announced their opposition to legislation that would give Villaraigosa substantial authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District. Parts or all of the cities fall within the boundaries of the Los Angeles school system.

The early evening gathering, convened by state Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles), played out before an audience of more than 400 people, some of them recruited for the event, and undecided parents and community members at Washington Irving Middle School north of downtown.

The worst moment for Villaraigosa probably occurred before the hearing, at a news conference called by officials who said they represented the perspective of the cities other than Los Angeles that are within the boundaries of the L.A. school system.

A small retinue of council members and mayors announced, one after another, their view that Villaraigosa's plan gave the L.A. mayor authority at their expense.

"Mayor Villaraigosa is good for the city of Los Angeles, but not for the city of San Fernando," said San Fernando Councilwoman Maribel De La Torre.

Villaraigosa's plan would supplant key functions of the elected Board of Education with a council of mayors, but he would control 80% of the vote because 80% of L.A. Unified students live in Los Angeles. Earlier in the day, his aides had argued that the neighboring cities still would be getting a better deal than they currently have: The latest version of the legislation, unveiled today, offers cities in southeast Los Angeles County an opportunity to take direct control of some of their schools — an option that some of the city officials had not yet seen.

"We are just not going to have any meaningful say and we are not interested in that kind of plan," said Benjamin "Frank" Venti, a Monterey Park city councilman who is also president of the Independent Cities Assn.

"Not one of the 27 cities said they oppose our position" in opposition to Villaraigosa's legislation, said West Hollywood Councilman Jeffrey Prang, who also represents the California Contract Cities Assn. "It's unanimous."

At Irving Middle School, camera crews left the city officials when the telegenic Villaraigosa arrived, flanked by state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) and L.A. Unified school board member Monica Garcia. All support Villaraigosa's reform plan.

On the hill behind them, however, parent partisans who oppose the mayor assembled in camera range wearing bright yellow T-shirts and carrying pink signs that read "No mayoral takeover." Another group protested Villaraigosa's plan as not paying enough attention to special education students.

Inside the school auditorium, events rapidly took on more an air of theater than of substance as officials testified before parents who would ultimately have no vote on the issue. And parents testified before only three members of the Legislature, which will decide the matter.

Yet passions were nonetheless strong on both sides.

"Every single year, it's the same situation," testified parent Martha Sanchez. "I want change. We need to change. I don't care how."

Alisa Smith, of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council, said she was "was on the fence about this proposed piece of legislation until I started to read it."

"I got about halfway through when I fell off the fence with an astonished thump," Smith said. "It is so clearly about money and ego and not education."

It was a lot to absorb for the genuinely undecided. Clayborn Keith had heard about the event through his son's school: "I'm just trying to figure out what it's all about."


by Naush Boghossian Staff Writer, LA Daily News

July 28, 2006 — Seeking to appease critics of his legislation to reform Los Angeles Unified, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa offered Thursday to grant neighboring southeast cities greater oversight of their local schools in his plan.

The revelation came hours before a hearing on Assembly Bill 1381, which would give Villaraigosa a significant role in running the nation's second-largest school district.

The 750-person capacity auditorium at Washington Irving Middle School in Glassell Park was packed with critics and supporters who turned out for the official Assembly Committee on Education hearing for the bill, which will be debated next month in Sacramento. Further amendments are expected to be announced early next week.

Villaraigosa proposed creating a fourth cluster of underperforming schools in the southeast part of the district that would be governed by a joint-powers board composed of the cities' officials.

Villaraigosa would have most of the authority over the three other proposed clusters of underperforming schools.

The offer, which could become an official amendment to the bill, was created to meet the concerns and interest of leaders in the southeast cities for greater local control over education in their jurisdiction, said Thomas Saenz, the mayor's chief counsel.

"The existing bill, even without this new proposal, gives all of the cities greater access to the district management and decision-making," Saenz said.

LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer saw the mayor's gesture as a sign of weakness, saying it was clear the mayor was desperately seeking the support of the southeast cities for his reform efforts.

"It seems to me this amendment was drawn simply to elicit their support, but the idea of the proliferation of separate districts within the district is a real problem," said Romer, alluding to the addition of the fourth cluster in South Gate.

"The total authority of the board and superintendent goes to the mayor. It just complicates the administration of the district. It's obvious the mayor and his staff are trying to draft things that appeal to more supporters."

The hearing brought together all stakeholders in the reform effort including Villaraigosa, Romer, the bill's author, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu¤ez, school board member Marlene Canter, parent group leaders and council members of cities served by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Villaraigosa said his reform plan would increase collaboration with parents, increase accountability, as well as give school sites greater control over curriculum, budget and instruction.

"It's about expanding reform, deepening it, accelerating it," Villaraigosa said. "The current system is a top-down structure created in the 1960s and it's not working ... This legislation will give us the opportunity to create the kind of structured accountability essential to turning around our schools."

Romer once again used charts to buck the criticism that the district is a failing one, but he reached out for greater collaboration with the mayor, particularly in choosing the next superintendent. He displayed student achievement data to show that over the past six years LAUSD schools have shown a greater rate of improvement than the average state school.

"It is working. In fact, it's spectacular," he said, citing their student performance improvements and a $19 billion construction program, the largest public-works project in the country.

"The bill has some real problems. It divides accountability. ... We don't need a bill that constitutionally divides the authority of this school district."

The hearing also included a presentation by Maria Casillas, co-chairwoman of the blue-ribbon presidents' joint commission on LAUSD governance, detailing its findings after one year of research and expert testimony in considering a governance change at the LAUSD.

The commission's primary recommendations included greater local authority at school sites, but the group came up short of supporting a governance shift at the district that would put the mayor at its helm. Prior to the hearing, officials from more than two dozen other cities served by the LAUSD voiced their opinions of the bill.

W.H. "Bill" De Witt, vice mayor of the city of South Gate said he had not heard about the latest amendments. Without their support, it would send a signal to legislators that they are not happy with the bill.

"We feel in the southeast area that we've been shortchanged. We just don't want to get the short end of the shaft," De Witt said. "We want to listen to him ... but certainly we're having some communication problems."

But Saenz said neighboring city officials - including those in the California Contract Cities Association and the Independent Cities Association who announced on Thursday their opposition to the bill - would change their minds if they studied the new amendment because it would give them a greater voice in the district than they've ever had.

LAUSD chief counsel Kevin Reed said the move on the part of the mayor shows clearly that he's motivated by political gain rather than improving schools.

"To add these schools based on geography, regardless of their performance, indicates that this is about politics and nothing else," he said.

VIDEO LINK: "Principal's Union President is LAUSD Plant to Irritate Mayor! Villaraigosa and Nuñez Flee!!" Tape @ 11!!!


by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has raised nearly $1.1 million through 10 donors - led by Los Angeles billionaire A. Jerold Perenchio - to promote his legislation to reform Los Angeles schools, according to campaign finance reports released Friday.

The Mayor's Office publicly released the documents and challenged Los Angeles Unified School District officials to make similar disclosures on their political spending.

"This is a commitment that's following campaign finance guidelines to disclose the committee's spending and contributions and donations, and that's in sharp contrast to what the district is doing - taking taxpayer funds, spending it on a political campaign, and there's no transparency and accountability for that money," said Nathan James, a spokesman for the mayor.

"Parents deserve to know how much money is coming out of textbook and teacher salaries and going to political consultants."

District officials responded Friday by calling the challenge a "diversionary tactic."

"The Mayor's Office released a list of private contributors, but has not released how much in tax dollars it is spending on this campaign, including press deputies, legal counsel, city lobbyists, and other city employees," Superintendent Roy Romer said in a written statement. "Every commitment the district has already made has been reported in local media outlets. For the Mayor's Office to `call' on the district to release this information is redundant. This information has already been disclosed."

School officials so far have spent nearly $250,000 in district funds to fight the mayor's plan.

The documents released Friday showed the Mayor's Committee for Government Excellence and Accountability has $1.15 million cash on hand for its efforts to support the mayor's Assembly Bill 1381, now before the Legislature.

The bill would give the mayor a significant role in running the LAUSD and would give school sites greater control over budgets, instruction and curriculum.

Perenchio, who it was announced this week agreed to sell his Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications Inc. for nearly $13 billion, led the donors with a $500,000 contribution. Other donations included $100,000 from Westfield, the shopping center company, as well as $25,000 from Eli Broad's former company, KB Home.

Broad is a proponent of mayoral control of school districts, although he has indicated he does not support the mayor's compromise legislation brokered with the teachers unions.

"I think that all of the contributors to the committee have been active for a long time in civic life in L.A. and are extraordinarily interested in improving the schools here and that's why they're supporting the mayor," James said.

▲smf notes: All of the media reports on this story missed a couple of interesting facts, probably because they relied on the Secretary of States extrapolation of the data and not the Mayor's Committee for Government Excellence and Accountability's actual F460 filing:

• The Committee's legally declared purpose is as a "Ballot Measure Committee". Where is the ballot measure? The Mayor is committed to "NOT a ballot measure!"
• The second largest contributor to the Committee – after Jerry Perenchio at a cool half million dollars – seems not to be a three way tie between AP Properties of Chicago, Ill; David Fisher of the Capital Group and mall developer Westfield at $100,000.00 each — but Friends of Antonio Villaraigosa (2006) - a campaign committee formed to support Antonio should he run for State Senator in District 22, a seat currently held by Gil Cedillo. FOAV'06 was terminated last May, but not before transferring $169,000 to the Mayor's Committee for Government Excellence and Accountability – an entry that appears in the F460 filing as a "Miscellaneous Increase to Cash".
• Form F460 Schedule E, which accounts for $90,482.62 in cash expenditures is not included in the published F460 filing as of this writing. In fairness, these expenditures are accounted for (totaling $92,094.00) in the Secretary of State's data – but it may be (questionable) policy not to publish this form

The Secretary of State's campaign finance page for the Mayor's Committee for Government Excellence and Accountability


Commentary by Suzan Solomon - The Signal | Santa Clarita Valley

The mayor of Los Angeles has determined that it is in the best interest of 730,000 students that he control 80 percent of the Los Angeles Unified School District while the remaining 27 mayors whose neighboring cities are part of LAUSD share control through a mayoral council that will oversee an appointed superintendent.

The mayor of Los Angeles has determined that the "elected" school board will have diminished authority - thus diminishing the voice of the community - and will be reduced to communicating with parents on matters of student achievement and student discipline.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants to control the LAUSD and will bypass the voters - the very voters who elected him to office - to do it.

He, along with Assemblyman Fabian Nuñez, D-Los Angeles, are sponsoring Assembly Bill 1381, which ignores and violates the California Constitution, which states in Article 9, Section 6: "The public school system shall include all kindergarten schools, elementary schools, secondary schools, technical schools and state colleges, established in accordance with the law and, in addition, the school districts and other agencies authorized to maintain them. No school or college or any other part of the public school system shall be, directly or indirectly, transferred from the public school system or placed under the jurisdiction of any authority other than one included with the public school system."

On Aug. 7, AB 1381 will be presented to the state Senate Appropriations Committee. If the bill is passed, it will reduce and diminish the authority of the elected school board as well as the accountability that individual boards have over personnel, collective bargaining, fiscal management, approval of budgets and facilities. In addition, it will create conflicts of interest and confusion between teachers, staff, parents and the school district on issues of authority and accountability.

AB 1381 is based on flawed reasoning. The bill is politically motivated to advance the career of one politician, and one politician only: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The mayor considers the bill to be a "pilot program" for six years. The mayor cannot be allowed to abuse law and the legislative process for a "pilot program" with no thought of the consequences or effects felt by LAUSD.

We must work together with the elected LAUSD Board to defeat AB 1381, and it is imperative that school districts statewide voice their opposition.

While this bill is specific to the Los Angeles Unified School District, it opens the door for mayors statewide and nationally to seek control of locally elected schools boards through similar measures.

The bill short-circuits the voice and the will of the people of California and the fundamental principles of democracy and governance at the grass-roots level by failing to take into consideration the opinions, beliefs and values of the voters and members of the community.

I strongly urge you to send letters to editors and to contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as your state senator, to express your opposition to AB 1381.

The act to take over the LAUSD is not in keeping with the principles of democracy. Not when words like "education czar," "control" and "takeover" are used. What happens to LAUSD will have an impact statewide, if not nationwide. The voice of the people of California will become more and more silent if politicians are empowered by indifference and passiveness on the part of the citizens. Your voice at the ballot box will become symbolic rather than truly influential.

The time is now to get involved before it is too late, when the political deals have been made and the legislation is passed without the voice of the voters.

▲Suzan Solomon of Valencia is president of the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association, a member of the Newhall School Board and a member of the Los Angeles Committee for School District Organization. She is also President of Thirty-fourth District PTA, encompassing Northernmost Los Angeles County and Kern, San Bernardino, Inyo and Mono Counties



by Maribel De La Torre, Guest Columnist, LA Daily News
Maribel De La Torre is a member of the San Fernando City Council

July 26, 2006 — A special meeting of the San Fernando City Council was scheduled for this past Friday with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to discuss reform for the LAUSD. The council, of which I am a member, had agreed to meet with Villaraigosa before taking a formal position on his reform plan, otherwise known as Assembly Bill 1381.

But the meeting was never to take place. The Mayor's Office called three hours before the scheduled start to cancel. Apparently Villaraigosa and his staff were unprepared to host a meeting that would be open to the public, as San Fernando City Council meetings must be to be in accordance with state open-meetings laws.

And herein lies the problems with Villaraigosa's takeover plan for the independent cities that are serviced by the LAUSD.

Although Villaraigosa's office has refused to acknowledge or work with the city of San Fernando's governance structure, he can only be doing this for two reasons. Either he and his office are truly ignorant of our governance structure, or he would rather negotiate directly with mayors who have absolutely no decision-making power. Both reasons should be of concern to all 26 member agencies serviced by LAUSD.

If his actions are based on ignorance, then he should learn how our councils' governance structure functions and how we make decisions. In our cities, our mayors' position is not necessarily the city's position. We are governed by majority rule.

If the meeting was canceled due to his desire to negotiate only with the mayors of the cities, then every single council member and every single resident in every city serviced by LAUSD should be extremely concerned. The reasons our cities engage in majority vote/rule is because it is the democratic way and is to create balance in our communities.

Our City Council represents over 25,000 residents in San Fernando, and our residents entrust us with the daily decisions affecting them. It is our duty to fight for equity. In this case equity must come though checks and balances.

It is the city of San Fernando's position that AB 1381 should be amended to include several provisions, but the overriding and most important should include a super-majority veto power regarding appointment of the superintendent and veto power over the budget approval. (Two-thirds, or 18 of the 26 cities, would have the ability to override Villaraigosa's decision on choosing a superintendent or approving the budget of the school district.)

On a personal level it is my belief that cities should be given options under AB 1381. Those should include the ability for cities to form their own school districts or the ability to contract with either the LAUSD or another school district. Currently, the 26 cities are being forced into a situation which may not be mutually beneficial.

The 26 member agencies serviced by LAUSD have one shot at carving out educational reform and one shot at getting this right. To do this, we must be able to be at the negotiating table as elected bodies ready to make decisions in a very open and transparent manner.

However, in the past several days transparency has been shut out of this process, beginning with Villaraigosa's cancelation of our meeting. Not one single school-reform meeting is being hosted in the San Fernando Valley.

Parents, elected officials, taxpayers and educators should be concerned over the nontransparency of AB 1381 by those who are pushing this agenda forward without wanting to hear from the rest of us.


►MAYOR TO HIRE SCHOOL DISTRICT ENVOY: Ramon C. Cortines, a former superintendent, will be Villaraigosa's education advisor and representative before the LAUSD board.

By Duke Helfand and Joel Rubin, LA Times Staff Writers

July 25, 2006 - Moving to bolster his sway over Los Angeles' embattled public school system, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will name former schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines today to the post of deputy mayor for education, youth and families.

Cortines, a veteran educator who has led some of the nation's largest and most politically volatile school districts, including Los Angeles Unified for a brief stint, is expected to serve as an important buffer between Villaraigosa, the school board and the teachers union.

Cortines would not say in an interview whether he supports state legislation that would give Villaraigosa a measure of control over the school system. But he insisted that any takeover must be a collaborative effort involving the warring sides.

"We're poised to take the next step. Instead of taking it in a fractured way, I think that we need to come together," said Cortines, 74. "I think we all need to compromise a little."

Cortines' hiring was interpreted by many in the education community as a smart strategic move for Villaraigosa, who has waged an often ugly campaign over the last year to wrest control of the school system from the elected school board. The mayor plans to formally announce the appointment at a South Los Angeles preschool today.

Cortines is widely regarded as a respected educator — he has run school districts in New York, San Francisco, San Jose and Pasadena. His selection was cautiously welcomed by some school district leaders who believe he can bridge the political chasm opened by the conflict.

School board President Marlene Canter said she thinks Cortines "will bring some depth to the conversation" over the schools, adding: "I have a lot of respect for the work Ramon Cortines has done. If his goal is to create a partnership, this will be very helpful."

In his new position, Cortines will represent the mayor before L.A. Unified and other civic institutions, including community colleges, universities and corporate and philanthropic groups.

He also will be Villaraigosa's top educational advisor, replacing Carolyn Webb de Macias, who is returning to her job as vice president of external relations at USC after a year's sabbatical in the mayor's office.

Some educators speculated that Villaraigosa may have hired Cortines to install him eventually as superintendent when Supt. Roy Romer retires later this year — a notion that Cortines and the mayor's office sought to dispel.

Such a scenario would be possible if Villaraigosa wins the Legislature's approval next month for a bill providing him with some control over the school district, including veto power over the hiring and firing of superintendents.

Cortines said he had no plans to succeed Romer, at least for now, saying he removed his name from the board's ongoing search Saturday, once he decided to go to work for Villaraigosa. Cortines said that the mayor persuaded him that he could best serve Los Angeles from City Hall.

"I believe, as citizens, we have to step up to the plate when we are asked," Cortines said of the post, which will pay him about $130,000 a year. "This is not a job for someone who wants to put L.A. Unified on their resume."

Cortines had previously expressed interest in the superintendent's job, saying he would not formally apply but would accept the post if offered by the mayor and the school board.

Whether or not he stays in City Hall, experts said that Cortines' experience in New York — where he had to balance Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's demands for a voice in education issues with the power of the school board — qualifies him to manage the complicated power-sharing arrangement called for by Villaraigosa's district reform plan. Cortines frequently clashed with Giuliani, ultimately resigning after two years.

"He's just a highly respected senior statesman," said Stanford education professor Michael Kirst, who has written extensively about mayoral control of schools.

Villaraigosa's chief of staff, Robin Kramer, said the mayor picked Cortines because of his knowledge of large urban school systems, but noted that Cortines will have a broad portfolio.

Aside from advising the mayor on L.A. Unified, he will serve as a liaison to city departments and commissions that focus on children and families, including the Recreation and Parks Department and the city's library system.

"The mayor has articulated a view and pathway for schools to improve," Kramer said. "Ray shares that philosophy. It is definitely one which, at its very core, rests on the notion that parents, teachers, educators, the union and businesses have to be involved."

Cortines began his career as a teacher in Northern California in the mid-1950s. In addition to his school district positions, he has served as adjunct professor at Harvard and Brown universities. He currently serves as a member of the board of the J. Paul Getty Trust and as an education consultant to the Broad Foundation.

Cortines took over L.A. Unified as an interim superintendent during a period of upheaval in early 2000. He presided over the school system for just six months — and left before he had time to confront anything likely to make him unpopular.

Cortines' short tenure spanned the turbulent removal of former Supt. Ruben Zacarias and the arrival of district outsider Romer.

During his stay, Cortines and the school board reshaped the school-construction division, canceling the district's two major construction projects — including the Belmont Learning Complex. He was instrumental in introducing a much-touted plan to decentralize the school system.

Some of his actions, considered momentous at the time, had little staying power, but insiders have praised him for setting a tone of school reform and accountability that has persisted.

Caprice Young, a board member when Cortines was interim superintendent, recalled Cortines as a "consensus builder" who could cool friction between then-Mayor Richard Riordan and the school board.

"He pays attention to making sure everyone is heard," said Young, who now runs the California Charter Schools Assn. "And he inspires people to act as grown-ups, which, quite frankly, is what is needed right now — some grown-ups to look after the kids instead of all this bickering."

• Times staff writer Howard Blume contributed to this report.


from abc-7 & City News Service

LOS ANGELES, July 28, 2006 - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's effort to take over the Los Angeles Unified School District got a big thumbs sideways Friday by a City Council committee.

After listening to public comments, the council's Intergovernmental Relations Committee took no position on Assembly Bill 1381.

The chair of the committee, Councilman Greig Smith, said the panel will again consider whether to support the measure during a meeting scheduled for next week. [Other committee members are Herb Wesson and Alex Padilla.]

No supporters showed up for the committee meeting and four people spoke against the plan, including community activist Ted Hayes, who questioned whether future mayors would be committed to playing a role in the school district.

"Can we always be assured that every successive mayor will be just as talented, just as skilled, just as energetic when it comes to dealing with educational issues?" Hayes asked the committee.

Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, both Villaraigosa allies, introduced a bill in the Legislature last month that would allow the Los Angeles mayor to have a role in how the school district is governed during a six-year trial period.

The plan is opposed by Los Angeles Unified School Superintendent Roy Romer and many school board members, but after intensive lobbying and compromises by Villaraigosa, the state Senate's Education Committee approved a bill last month.

At a contentious legislative hearing Thursday night, parents, educators and mayors of many of the other 27 cities whose students attend LAUSD schools criticized the plan as being a power grab by the mayor, and Romer said the plan "has some real problems" because it "divides accountability."

Friday, Villaraigosa announced an amendment to the legislation that would offer outlying communities greater oversight over their local schools.

Part of the proposal calls for creating a fourth cluster of underperforming schools in the southeast part of the school district that would be governed by a joint-powers board comprised of the cities' officials.

Villaraigosa would have most of the authority over the three other proposed clusters of underperforming schools.

During the Assembly Committee on Education's hearing, held at Irving Middle School in Glassell Park, Villaraigosa said his reform plan would increase accountability while also giving schools greater control of curriculum.

"This legislation will give us the opportunity to create the kind of structured accountability essential to turning around our schools," he said.

Villaraigosa has said he wants to improve high school graduation rates in the district, citing five recent studies that show about half of the students attending LAUSD schools fail to graduate within four years.

Romer says the district's dropout rate is closer to 24 percent for the 2005-06 school year, an improvement of 33 percent over the previous year.

Sunday OpEd: BILL GATES, THE NATION'S SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS – His foundation has big clout in American education. How will it wield its power?


by Arin Gencer, LA Times Staff Writer

July 27, 2006 — California schools could receive hundreds of millions of dollars in school technology funds made available through an antitrust settlement with Microsoft Corp., the state Department of Education announced Wednesday.

More than $400 million will be poured into the education department's coffers, said Jack O'Connell, State Supt. of Public Instruction. Schools in districts with state-approved technology plans — and with at least 40% of their students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches, a low-income indicator — would be eligible for funding.

"The lack of technology in our classrooms hurts students from low-income families the most," O'Connell said, explaining the criteria. "This settlement is great news for our schools."

The money could be used for computer hardware or software, technology maintenance and infrastructure, network equipment or professional development, he said.

The money comes from a $1.1-billion antitrust settlement approved by a Superior Court judge in San Francisco in 2004. Two-thirds of the funds unclaimed by California businesses and consumers were designated for California public schools, said Richard Grossman, one of the lead attorneys in the case against Microsoft.

"This settlement will not only equip California schools … but will also equip students with the skills they need to succeed in a world that increasingly places a premium on technological literacy," said Martin Pastula, U.S. justice and public safety manager for Microsoft. He said the company was pleased to see the money directly benefit disadvantaged students.

O'Connell described the settlement agreement as "an important step in closing the digital divide in California schools" — and a welcome relief after recent cuts in federal funding for educational technology.

"All of these resources will help our schools in their efforts to improve achievement, close the achievement gap" between low-performing Latino and black students and their peers, O'Connell said.

The vouchers will be distributed through the department's Education Technology K-12 Voucher Program, and must be used within six years of their issuance. The per-pupil voucher amount could range from about $100 to $150, O'Connell said.

The department will put out a request for applications online starting in mid-September, O'Connell said.

Schools could use the funds for a wide range of needs, O'Connell said. "If a school district's goal is to have a laptop for every student, this funding could be used for that purpose," he said.

Education officials in the Los Angeles school district and in Orange County said they have long anticipated the funds.

"It's a wonderful opportunity," said Themy Sparangis, the Los Angeles Unified School District's chief technology director for educational technology. "We're going to support the schools in making sure that … they get the best value out of the vouchers."

Sparangis said the money could go toward further incorporating technology in instruction — such as programs that support learning algebra and passing the mandatory high school exit exam.

Nearly half of Orange County's roughly 590 schools would qualify for vouchers, said Sandra Lapham, administrator of educational technology for the county Department of Education.

"There is always the issue of providing what is needed, of providing equitably, of making sure that the equipment is as current as it can be within the educational setting," Lapham said. "It's going to be very well used."

4LAKids: The News That Doesn't Fit — Stuff that hasn't yet, can't, won't or shouldn't make it into 4LAKids!


▲ Tuesday, August 1, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
Hosted by Assemblymember Keith S. Richman & Senator George Runner
Granada Hills Charter High School
10535 Zelzah Ave,
Granada Hills
Los Angeles 91344

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

▲ Thursday, August 3, 2006, 6:30 PM
Parent Power! • It's About Our Children! • No Mayoral Takeover!
Wilson High School
4500 Multnomah Street
El Serreno
Los Angeles 90032

Map to the three locations

What can YOU do?



• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6387 • 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.
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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