Sunday, September 24, 2006

4LAKids: Regifting.

4LAKids: Sunday, September 24, 2006
In This Issue:
A promise not a gift: K-12 EDUCATION IN U.S. COSTS $100,000 + A RESPONSE 4USKids
COME HOME, WAYWARD ANGELENOS: Antonio’s call to the faithful
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up + next week... featuring Martinis & Magnets v.2.0
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 @!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
As the dust clears on the Mayor's takeover attempt of LAUSD and the ink dries on the Governor's signature of AB1381 we should take a look at what we – the parents, taxpayers, teachers and students of Greater Los Angeles have been given.

The answer is unclear. Whatever this gift is, it isn't what anyone asked for. It isn't what the Mayor wanted: Full control of the school district like other big city mayors have. It isn't the great gift of parent engagement and accountability that parents have sought. It isn't breakup of the district championed by some and it isn't transfer of curricular and financial control to the local school site espoused by the teacher's and administrator's unions. It doesn't rid LAUSD of bloated bureaucracy in a great sweep of reform. It certainly doesn't add money to the program, raise teacher's salaries or add any points to API or AYP.

The Mayor now will share control with a council of mayors, the school board, and a new superintendent he may (or may not) have a say in the appointment of. Parents will have less accountability; their last court of appeal, their board member and the Board of Education have had much of their power removed – they can't even appoint their own staff or question detail in the budget! The role of the Council of Mayors is ambiguous at best. Do they have a staff, an office – or even a phone number? Do they meet more than twice a year? Who sets their agenda? Who pays their expenses and from what funding stream? The CofM is more than a new level of bureaucracy – it's a whole new branch of government with elected officials performing functions that didn't exist when they ran for office. In a system criticized for being too top heavy AB 1381 has added three new levels at the top!

And the gorilla in the bathtub is this: Who decides how the $19.3 billion in school building and modernization money is spent? The voters of Greater Los Angeles in four elections by two-thirds majority (in three elections only a 55% majority required) declared that the Board of Education decides – following guidelines in the bond language and overseen by a Citizens' Oversight Committee. Is the court mandated cooperation between the Board of Ed and the Oversight Committee even binding upon the new hierarchy at LAUSD?

In a radio interview a frustrated parent said the worst that could come from the Mayor's initiative is that we will find ourselves still where we are six years from now. That's an outcome that is so unacceptable as to be unimaginable – so we must now forego the rhetoric and the politics and all begin the overdue dialog about where we want to go and how we get there from here.

As we do so we can contemplate the outstanding question, now outside our control: "Who's in charge here?"

And the unfortunate answer is the courts must decide that …because the legislature would not. —smf
• Scott Folsom is a parent in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTA/PTSA and as a PTA/parent representative is Vice-chair of the LAUSD School Construction Bond Citizens' Oversight Committee.

The above commentary WHO WILL REALLY BE IN CHARGE OF LAUSD? originally appeared in the San Fernando Sun last Thursday, Sept. 20.

A promise not a gift: K-12 EDUCATION IN U.S. COSTS $100,000 + A RESPONSE 4USKids
by Dan Lips | Human Events

Sep 20, 2006 - More than 50 million children across America returned to school over the past few weeks, and so now is a good time to consider how much we spend on public education and whether we’re getting good value for that money. This big-picture view is disheartening.

How much does K-12 public education in America cost? One way to answer that is to look at direct taxpayer expenditures on education. In July, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that the average per-student expenditure in public schools was $8,310 in the 2003-04 school year. State’s per-student expenditures ranged from a high of $13,338 in New Jersey to a low of $4,991 in Utah.

Altogether, spending on all elementary and secondary education topped more than $500 billion in 2003-04, or about 4.7 percent of the entire economy as measured by GDP. The U.S. spends more on K-12 education than the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, or Sweden spends on everything.

Based on the most recent per-pupil expenditure figures, the average student enrolled in public school for the next 12 years can expect to have about $100,000 spent on his or her education.

And what are we getting for all that money? Despite this considerable investment, many students will not receive a quality education. More than a quarter of all eighth grade students scored “below basic” in reading on the 2005 NAEP exam, which by the government’s definition means that they are not able to “demonstrate a literal understanding of what they read” and “make some interpretations.” One in five eighth graders scored “below basic” in math.

Poor test scores are just one bit of evidence of widespread underperformance. According to the Department of Education, the national high school graduation rate is 73 percent, and some researchers argue that even this estimate is too generous. Whatever the exact number, it is disturbing that so many American students fail to earn a high school degree.

Failure to graduate comes at a substantial cost. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average full-time worker who did not graduate from high school earns $23,400 annually, versus $30,000 for a high school graduate. That’s a 29 percent pay cut. And an average full-time worker with a Bachelor’s degree earns $52,200 per year-or more than twice as much as the average high school dropout.

The Census Bureau projects that a high school dropout who works full time will earn $1 million over his or her lifetime, while a high school graduate will earn $1.2 million. A college graduate can expect to earn $2.1 million. Clearly, education pays, and stopping short can be expensive.

Another growing cost of our failing public education system is remediation, which is the burden that other institutions like colleges and businesses shoulder to help people develop the basic skills they should have learned in primary or secondary school. The Department of Education reported that 100 percent of all community colleges and 81 percent of four-year colleges offer remediation. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy estimates that remediation costs colleges and business in just the state of Michigan approximately $600 million per year. If the other 49 states and the District of Columbia are anything like Michigan, the country spends tens of billions of dollars each year making up for public schools’ shortcomings.

And then there are the opportunity costs of public education. An opportunity cost, as economists define it, is the benefit forgone by choosing a particular course of action, as opposed to an alternative. How much stronger would the American economy be if the billions spent on public education actually bought our 50 million schoolchildren a high-quality education?

And what about the toll the current education system levies on the lives of the children it disserves? No dollar figure can make up for a lifetime without even a basic education.

Politicians and lawmakers tend to get mired in the details of legislation and so rarely step back and look at the big picture. We won’t see widespread improvements in American education until we as taxpayers begin to recognize the costs of the current American education system and demand something better.

Mr. Lips is education analyst at The Heritage Foundation.

►smf's five cents worth: Mr Lips, Human Events (which advertises itself as "The National Conservative Weekly") and The Heritage Foundation cannot be allowed to frame Public Education as a Liberal-Conservative/Red v. Blue Debate.

It is not a "we the taxpayer" issue; it is a "We the People" issue. This isn't even a bipartisan issue because it shouldn't be partisan at all.

We are not universally getting enough bang for our buck for our $100K per student investment …but the answer may be to increase our investment and then be prudent investors in insisting that all our money is spent more wisely. This is not an argument for raising teacher's salaries or vouchers or buying shinier, heavier, better illustrated textbooks; this is not an argument for throwing more money at the problem. This is an argument for a public acknowledgement that there is a problem requiring some good hard thinking and investment in finding a solution beyond testing our way out of it.

Public Education is a not crisis – it is a great gift of democracy. It is not an entitlement —it is a Fundamental American Right, unwritten and unguaranteed.

Maybe the time has come to write and guarantee it and commit 5% of the federal budget – one nickel for every federal tax dollar collected, one nickel of every federal dollar spent to educate our children. Money collected nationally, distributed to the states and spent and controlled locally.


Section 1.
A well educated citizenry, being necessary to the security and well being of the nation, the right of all citizens and residents of the United States between the ages of five and eighteen years of age to a quality free public education is guaranteed.

Section 2.
Congress may establish national standards and criteria but the local independent governance and regulation of public education by the people within the states shall be preserved.

Section 3.
No provision of this Article shall be construed to limit public education, and Congress and the people may increase the age limits as enumerated in Section One.

Section 4.
The Congress shall provide for the funding for Public Education, including operation, construction, and maintenance of public schools, and for the equitable distribution of funds.

Section 5.
The Congress shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

San José Mercury News Editorial

Sun, Sep. 24, 2006 — API vs AYP . The Academic Performance Index, the state's school accountability system, vs. Adequate Yearly Progress, the federal government's measurement under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The simultaneous release of results on the federal and state tests last month sent conflicting signals. San Jose's Gardner Academy, which saw an impressive gain of 60 points, to 623, on its API score -- one of the highest in the county -- didn't meet its federal goal for the sixth straight year.

It had plenty of company in San Jose and elsewhere: 719 schools in California more than doubled their API growth targets but came up short on AYP. By the state's standards, they were a resounding success; by the feds' yardstick, they flunked.

Defenders and detractors of both systems traded comments. Jack O'Connell, the state superintendent of instruction, defended API as a fine measure of a school's progress. California Business for Education Excellence, a group of business executives, denounced it as worthless.

Each is right, to an extent. The best measure would combine the API's emphasis on overall school improvement with the AYP's demand for proficiency in math and English by every student.

For more than a year, Gov. Schwarzenegger's secretary of education, Alan Bersin, and O'Connell have been advocating a single standard in talks with Margaret Spellings, U.S. secretary of education.

The timing may be right. Congress must reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act next year. Some states and interest groups are out to abolish the law. California, by arguing that fixing the act would strengthen it, would have leverage to bring consistency to state education reforms.

Both API and AYP are based on results from the state's STAR exams, which test students' ability in English, math, science and social studies. But there are differences in how they use the data.

API measures schoolwide improvement, based on a scale of 200 to 1,000. The state has set 800 as the target.

API's advantage is that it gives parents and teachers one simple score. It also recognizes the progress of schools, like Gardner Elementary, where often mostly low-income English learners start way behind.

Problems with API: In a school with a diverse student body, a single score can mask achievement gaps among low-income and ethnic groups. The state requires only small gains in API scores every year -- usually 5 to 15 points; as a result, mediocre schools can escape penalties without getting much better. And an 800 score is too low an expectation.

AYP measures the proportion of students who are proficient -- performing at grade level. Every few years, the feds raise the bar. This year, 25 percent of all students must be proficient in English and 27 percent in math. In two years, it will be 35 percent in English and 37 percent in math and upward until, by 2014, every student must be proficient. Schools that fail to meet AYP's levels of proficiency two straight years are flagged for supervision.

AYP sets high expectations. And it requires every student group, including disabled and low-income students, to make the goal, or the whole school is dinged. There's no hiding behind the law of averages.

But in a diverse school, there can be as many as 46 criteria. The poor performance or absence on the day of a test of a handful of students in one subgroup can result in even a high-achieving school failing. AYP also doesn't recognize the struggles of schools where there's a continuous flow of low-income English learners who'll take years to reach proficiency. Last year, Gardner nearly doubled the percentage of students who were proficient, but they still made up only 16 percent of students.

The compromise that California is pushing would swap AYP for a pumped-up API. Schools would have to raise their scores more quickly. The target would be 875, which corresponds to performing at grade level, not 800 (chosen because it was a round number). And all minorities would have to show parallel improvement.

Proficiency by every student would still be the goal. But as long as schools like Gardner made continuous and vigorous progress, they'd be in compliance. And, unlike other states, California wouldn't feel the pressure to cheat the No Child Left Behind Act by lowering state standards.

From the Associated Press

September 23, 2006 — WASHINGTON — A scorching internal review of the Bush administration's billion-dollar-a-year reading program says the Education Department ignored the law and ethical standards to steer money how it wanted.

The federal audit is unsparing in its view that the Reading First program has been damaged by conflicts of interest and willful mismanagement. It suggests the department broke the law by trying to dictate which curriculum schools must use.

It also depicts a program in which review panels were stacked with people who shared the director's views, and in which only favored publishers of reading curricula could get money.

In one e-mail, the director told a staff member to come down hard on a company he didn't support, according to the report released Friday by the department's inspector general.

"They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the [expletive deleted] out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags," the program director wrote, the report says.

That official, Chris Doherty, is resigning in the coming days, department spokeswoman Katherine McLane said Friday. Asked if his quitting was in response to the report, she said only that Doherty was returning to the private sector after five years at the agency. Doherty declined to comment.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings pledged to swiftly adopt all the audit's recommendations. She also promised a review of every Reading First grant her agency had approved.

"When something undermines the credibility of this department, or the standing of any program, I'm going to spring into action," Spellings said.

Reading First aims to help young children read through scientifically proven programs, and the department considers it a jewel of No Child Left Behind, Bush's education law. Just this week, a separate review found the effort is helping schools raise achievement.

But from the start, the program has been dogged by accusations of impropriety, leading to several ongoing audits. The report from the Office of Inspector General, an independent arm of the Education Department, calls into question the program's credibility.

The ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee was furious.

"They should fire everyone who was involved in this," said Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez). "This was not an accident; this was not an oversight. This was an intentional effort to corrupt the process."

Spellings said the problems happened early in the program, which began in 2002, before she was secretary. She said those responsible had left the agency or been reassigned.

About 1,500 school districts have received $4.8 billion in Reading First grants.

• "One official is likely to quit?" "Spellings said … those responsible [for breaking the law, for conflicts of interest and willful mismanagement] had left the agency or been reassigned." The Dance of the Lemons @ the Dept of Ed? – smf
►from There are or were 190 LAUSD schools participating in the Reading First Grant. The State criteria to participate in Reading First is that eligible schools must have 40% or more of second and third grade students scoring below basic and far below basic on the California Standards Test and be a Program Improvement school or have 50% or more of students counted for Title I funding.

The State provided the District with a listing of 250 eligible schools. The District was only allowed to apply for up to 75% of eligible schools. Those schools were selected by the Local District based upon a commitment of the faculty to participate in professional development; a commitment to participate in on going professional development throughout the year; and schools had to show evidence of existing coach capacity to support the Reading First program components.

PowerPoint Presentation on LAUSD participation in Reading First

COME HOME, WAYWARD ANGELENOS: Antonio’s call to the faithful
written by David Zahniser, LA Weekly

September 20 -- Want an easy way to make politicans in Los Angeles squirm? Ask them where their kids go to school. That was the lesson from this week’s love fest at the Los Angeles Central Library, where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa welcomed, yet again, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger — the Republican who took a detour from his surging re-election campaign to sign the bill giving the mayor power over the Los Angeles Unified School District.

With the ink barely dry on the governor’s signature, Villaraigosa invited parents and business leaders to “come home” to the sprawling district of more than 700,000 students, an odd request considering that the mayor had just spent the past year calling L.A. Unified a failure. Even more unusual was the mayor telling reporters that he saw no contradiction between his own invitation to parents and his decision to keep his children in parochial school — including his only son, who attends Loyola High School, where tuition costs $8,300 annually.

“We have a long tradition in our family [of] a faith-based education,” said Villaraigosa, pointing out that he, his mother and his children have attended Catholic schools. The mayor also made clear he has no interest in pressing parents who “feel strongly about their faith” to return to L.A. Unified.

“[But] for those who don’t feel strongly, we’re saying, ‘Come home,’” he added.

But then, Los Angeles has a rich tradition of politicians, policymakers and civic do-gooders who seek to control the fate of the public schools while keeping their own families far, far away. School board president Marlene Canter, snubbed by a mayor who opted not to invite her to the bill signing, sent two children to expensive private schools — Brentwood and Harvard-Westlake. Former mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg, who campaigned for a breakup of L.A. Unified, has two sons in private school. And Antonia Hernández, who sued L.A. Unified over bilingual education as the head of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, sent her kids to parochial schools in Los Angeles.

As he introduced the governor, Villaraigosa certainly didn’t need to look far for people to lure back to the district. Standing next to him was Schwarzenegger, whose children are enrolled at Brentwood School, where tuition costs $24,800 annually for grades 7 to 12. Next to the governor was Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, whose two school-age children bypassed L.A. Unified years ago, attending public schools in the high-achieving college town of Claremont until last year, when they transferred to the Sacramento City Unified School District.

Even with two school-age children attending public schools, Núñez — whose district encompasses working-class neighborhoods near downtown Los Angeles — sounded downright testy when asked about the public/private equation. “How does that matter?” shot back Núñez. “How does that matter?” He stalked off without answering questions.

In fact, Villaraigosa’s bill-signing ceremony provided a veritable tableau of figures who one way or another have opted out of L.A. Unified. Standing behind Núñez was City Council President Eric Garcetti, who graduated in 1988 from Harvard-Westlake, where tuition for the current school year is $23,850 (parents are advised by the school to budget another $3,000 for fees). Standing next to Garcetti was Mary Najera, the lone parent invited to speak at the event, who spent the past six months tearfully describing her triumphant decision to pull her son out of L.A. Unified and put him in a charter school operated by Green Dot, a group enthusiastically supportive of Villaraigosa’s education bill.

So in which direction are Angelenos supposed to march — toward the district, or away from it? After all, Villaraigosa urged reporters to ask Najera about her family’s move from L.A. Unified to Green Dot. But that compelling tale seemed to conflict with the mayor’s message to business leaders: “Come back to our public schools,” he told the audience. “Invest with us in the future.”

The decidedly mixed messages did little to disturb Scott Folsom, an activist with the Parent Teacher Student Association who said he understands that no parent — mayor or otherwise — wants to experiment on their child. Parents seek the best for their offspring, whether it’s public, private or parochial school, Folsom said. “If you think that’s the best opportunity for your child, you’ll do that,” he said.

Yet Folsom also argued that full-time working parents are frequently drawn to private schools as much for the after-school programs as for the academics. Even with fund-raising by Villaraigosa, less than one out of every three elementary schools in L.A. Unified are served by the city’s L.A.’s Best after-school program.

“That, I think, is something the mayor should be much more seriously engaged in than he is,” Folsom said. “We need to have these programs at every school in the district. Parents need the option of knowing their kid can be left in a place that is supervised and has programs, whether it’s educational or recreation or whatever.”

The only child featured at Villaraigosa’s bill-signing event was yet another participant in the exodus from L.A. Unified — 5-year-old Kaylyn Tullos Sylo, who is enrolled in a charter school in Watts.

Although charter schools technically qualify as public schools, their test results are not factored into district scores. If L.A. Unified’s schools show a lack of improvement, they could lose the federal funds that are earmarked for low-income children, according to the terms of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. To put it another way, every time a high-achieving child transfers from an L.A. Unified campus to an independent charter school, the campus that is left behind becomes even more financially vulnerable.

Villaraigosa pulled off an amazing hat trick by bringing together a coalition that combined Green Dot parents with United Teachers Los Angeles, the powerful union that has grown increasingly anxious over the rise in influence of the city’s charter schools — a byproduct of Villaraigosa’s yearlong education campaign. UTLA president A.J. Duffy argued that Green Dot, unlike L.A. Unified, has the luxury of weeding out children who have learning problems or uninterested parents.

“If 100 kids apply, they take 40 or so in, so they get to screen the best,” he said. “That could mean the smartest. That could be the families with two parents. They could be the middle-class parents who are going to put more time and effort into their kids’ time and education.”

Villaraigosa promoted the charters by scheduling many of his appearances at their campuses. Green Dot, in turn, aired television commercials featuring Villaraigosa delivering a passionate stump speech to a crowd of cheering charter-school students. Many of the parents sent up to Sacramento to support the mayor’s bill wore the blue T-shirts of the Los Angeles Parents Union, a group whose members come primarily from Green Dot.

“[The charters] have seized upon the moment and are riding this horse as long and as far as this horse will carry them,” Duffy said. “They’ve gotten the imagination of people, and it’s difficult to stop the train. That’s why I think we need a moratorium.”
How Villaraigosa will reconcile the two camps — charter-school advocates on the one side, skeptical teachers on the other — is unclear. Either way, Schwarzenegger did little more than echo the mayor’s mixed message, homecoming be damned. The governor touted Villaraigosa’s bill as one that would “clone” all the things that L.A. Unified does right. And then he derided that same district as one that chokes the life out of even its most heady successes.

“We all know that there are many great, great schools here in the Los Angeles Unified School District,” Schwarzenegger told the audience gathered at the library. “There are many great teachers, great students and everything. But the system has failed all of them.”

The governor knows the score: It’s much easier to keep trashing the district when you don’t run the place.

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

by Stephen Moore, from the Wall Street Journal, September 1, 2006

As a father of two teenage boys, I can attest to the fact that the single greatest teen crisis in America is not drugs, alcohol, smoking or early sexual activity, but sleep deprivation. Tuesday marks the start of the school year in our district in Fairfax, Va., and for the better part of the next nine months my kids will shuffle through the day resembling the zombies from "Night of the Living Dead." The reason that so many kids today appear to be slouching toward Gomorrah is simply that they lack sleep.

Waking teens from their deep REM sleep before 7 a.m. -- which during late fall and winter is well before the rooster crows -- is much like approaching a lion gnawing on an antelope carcass. All the niceties that we've tried to instill in our children for the past 15 years about honoring thy mother and father go flying out the window in these wee hours of the morning. Breakfasts from now until June will be as somber as the death row inmate's last meal. We shovel frosted flakes down their throats so that the temporary sugar fix arouses them out of their comatose state long enough to get them out the front door.

When I queried my kids and their friends recently about how they survive on seven hours of sleep a day, they confess that the strategy is to catch up on a few z's during first and second periods at school. That would be fine if the first subjects were classes like social studies, which indoctrinate them with anti-American ideals anyway. But get this: The educrats who run the Fairfax County schools front-load the vital subjects like math and English at the start of the day because they actually believe "that's when the kids are most alert."

It's astonishing that a community like Fairfax, which prides itself on the quality of its public schools, retains a 7:20 a.m. start time despite the detriment to the health and scholastic achievement of our kids. Parents with teens are in open revolt to the idiocy of the policy and have even started a Web site,, to fix it.

The school board insists that an 8:30 a.m. start time would cost the county some $40 million a year, because of unalterable bus schedules. Incredible. The legislators in our state just passed a $2 billion tax increase, the largest ever, to fund the latest education fads, like higher teacher pay and smaller class sizes -- which studies all show will have almost no effect -- but they can't afford a policy at a fraction of the cost that will do far more to benefit kids in terms of improved behavior, attendance, mood, health and test scores.

This controversy over early school start times is raging in hundreds of communities today, pitting parents against unbending school bureaucracies. Surveys of teen's parents in school districts with early start times find that as many as 90% favor a later starting bell. If ever there were a case study in how public school boards ignore the wishes of their "customers," it is this.

Meanwhile, research overwhelmingly confirms that lack of sleep in adolescents has become a horrendous health problem in America. The National Sleep Foundation finds that teens now average between 6.5 and seven hours of uninterrupted sleep on a weeknight and only one in five gets the recommended nine hours. Of course computer games, chat rooms, sports schedules and the like have a lot to do with the late nights.

But so do their biological clocks. Studies show that spurting growth hormones in teens alter their circadian rhythm and naturally turn them into night owls, physiologically uninterested in 9:30 p.m. bedtimes and fiercely opposed to 6:15 a.m. wake-up calls. (This fact suggests that I myself am still in late puberty.)

So here is the inevitable ritual: Kids trudge through the week on insufficient sleep, barely limp to the finish line on Fridays, use the weekends to pay off the week's sleep debt by snoozing until noon and then try to readjust their body clocks on Monday morning. Prof. Jim Moss, a sleep expert at Cornell, says: "It's as if at the start of every week our kids have West Coast to East Coast jet lag." He finds that in the early morning classroom "the overwhelming drive to sleep can replace any chance of alertness, cognition, memory or understanding."

And we also know that later school start times can reduce this affliction. Amy Wolfson, a professor at Holy Cross who studies Americans' sleep patterns, tells me: "The evidence is pretty clear that students in the later-starting schools get more sleep and have less tardiness, fewer behavior problems, and do somewhat better in school."

We're a society fixated on public policies that are "for the children," yet we tolerate school schedules that harm students and, worse yet, make what should be the best years of their lives needlessly miserable. Communities spend billions of dollars a year -- with so-so success in fighting teen drug use -- but sleep deprivation has all of the same disabling symptoms while being far more widespread. Perhaps it's time for a new campaign: This is your teenager's brain; this is your teen's brain (a fried egg) on six hours' sleep.

• SLEEP Research - Links to Web Pages with Information About Adolescents and Sleep

►L.A. SCHOOL BOARD REBUFFS MAYOR'S REQUEST ON SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: Panel president says she won't share confidential information with Villaraigosa

by Howard Blume, LA Times Staff Writer

September 23, 2006 - Los Angeles school officials Friday rejected the mayor's request for confidential information about the search to replace retiring schools chief Roy Romer.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had sought "all relevant information about all applicants" both for himself and for other members of a new "council of mayors" that will have partial authority over the school system as of Jan. 1.

But the secret search will remain so, wrote school board President Marlene Canter: "It would betray the promised confidentiality to distribute information on the participants to a group of the size you describe, especially at this time."

The hunt for Romer's successor is reaching a pivotal stage. Potential finalists from an original group of 100 or so are being interviewed behind closed doors this weekend.

The response from the mayor's office was immediate and heated.

"The mayor is deeply disappointed," said spokeswoman Janelle Erickson. "This letter is a bald rejection of Mayor Villaraigosa's call for partnership in choosing the next superintendent. It further isolates the Board of Education from the broad and historic coalition of parents, teachers, business and community leaders who have come together to bring fundamental change to our schools. It's time for the board to end their obstructionist tactics, recognize the Legislature's mandate, and open the process."

In her letter, Canter pointed out that board members themselves do not know the identity of applicants and recruits. The school board could have opted for an open process, but such secrecy is common for the early stages of a high-profile superintendent search. The idea is for contenders to apply confidentially without risking offense to their current employers and to limit outside political influence.

But that doesn't mitigate Villaraigosa's frustration: A major fruit of his hard-fought effort is a role in helping choose the superintendent, the single person most responsible for running the public schools. But the timing of Romer's voluntary departure — he'd like to leave as soon as possible — along with the time lag before the new law takes effect could cut Villaraigosa out of the loop.

The mayor could even be geographically out of touch if the decision is made during his 16-day trade mission to China, South Korea and Japan that begins Oct. 7.

The mayor's office tried to forestall this possibility. "What type of message would it send if the board tries to railroad this decision past the council of mayors while the mayor is representing Los Angeles abroad?" Erickson said.

Villaraigosa's Sept. 18 letter, which prompted Canter's response, spoke of a "spirit of partnership" in urging the board to inform him about the candidates and to allow him into interviews. But Villaraigosa also threatened to fire any superintendent not to his liking — although he will lack the unilateral authority to do so.

Even under the new law, Villaraigosa's formal participation would be indirect, through a council of mayors who together represent all portions of the sprawling school district. Villaraigosa will dominate that council, but he has no more right to information than any other member. The council is not yet formed.

Once the school board is briefed on finalists, there could be another chance to include the mayor before the hire is made.

Canter indicated her commitment to involve Villaraigosa "in the search process as it moves forward. Our students will be best served by choosing a superintendent that both the board and our mayor can unite behind."


from LA Times Staff and Wire Reports

September 23, 2006 - Los Angeles Unified School District and its labor unions have settled the potentially contentious matter of health benefits, leaving them virtually the same as last year.

The agreement affects 90,000 union members — 220,000 people when dependents and retirees are added in. One notable change: Employees will have to work longer before qualifying for retiree health benefits.

Maintaining the benefits will cost an additional $58.2 million, equivalent to a 1.5% salary increase, said district general counsel Kevin Reed.

The teachers' contract expired June 30. Other labor issues, including wages, remained unsettled.

►Two Reporters/One Press Event #1: HIGH-TECH PLAN TARGETS CRIME NEAR TWO L.A. SCHOOLS: Villaraigosa says police, teachers and parents will brainstorm over computer

By Patrick McGreevy, LA Times Staff Writer

September 21, 2006 - Enlisting cutting-edge technology to reduce violence near Los Angeles highschools, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced plans Wednesday to bring together parents, teachers and neighbors for computer-aided brainstorming sessions to identify crime problems near the campuses and find solutions.

The Community CompStat program is a variation of the Los Angeles Police Department's long-standing use of computers to map where crimes are occurring by type of offense. The technique allows officers to discuss the findings and develop strategies for problem locations. The police program has been credited with helping reduce crime in the city by 40% during the last four years.

The new program, which kicks off in November at Fremont High in South Los Angeles and Crenshaw High in the Crenshaw district before being rolled out to other schools, extends participation to parents, teachers, school administrators and those who live near or work close to schools, the mayor said.

"We are going to focus around schools, create partnerships, get new ideas and really involve you in a way that's going to make a difference," Villaraigosa told parents, teachers and residents at a news conference at Fremont.

"Working in a partnership with the school district and the community, we're going to reduce crime around schools and make it safer for kids to come to and from schools," he said.

CompStat, which is short for "computerized statistics," was developed by a group of policing experts, including William J. Bratton when he was head of the New York Police Department. He brought CompStat to Los Angeles when he became chief of the LAPD.

New York City has incorporated some CompStat features, including a focus on crime hot spots, into an Impact Schools initiative to concentrate additional police on those 24 schools and surrounding neighborhoods that suffer from a disproportionate amount of crime.

Villaraigosa went to New York in April to learn about that city's program, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended Wednesday's announcement in Los Angeles, saying that the effort has cut crime around schools in his city. Over the last three years, violent crime in and around the schools targeted in New York has dropped 53%, and school test scores are improving.

"Establishing a safe and secure environment for learning, as you are prepared to do here at Fremont High School, really has been essential for the progress we have achieved," Bloomberg said. "Teachers can't teach and students can't learn in schools that aren't safe."

Bratton said at the news conference that the program would bring police administrators together in one room on a regular basis with members of community policing advisory boards, neighborhood councils, elected officials, clergy, principals, teachers, parents and students. Bratton will lead the forums.

"I know from experience that CompStat works by helping us focus our limited resources on the most pressing problems," Bratton said. "Ensuring student safety to and from school and while on campus allows the children to focus on their learning."

Fremont and Crenshaw are in neighborhoods that have endured crime.

A sweep in May led to the arrest of six people in the neighborhood around Crenshaw High School, including a registered sex offender, on suspicion of probation violations and other charges.

In March, extra security was brought in to quell fighting between Latino and African American students at Fremont High. In 2004, a 14-year-old Fremont student was shot to death while riding his bicycle near his home.

The initiative was welcomed by Roy Romer, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and school board President Marlene Canter.

Both have clashed with Villaraigosa in recent months over his successful effort to gain some power over schools.

But on Wednesday, district officials said they were enthusiastic partners in the school safety program.

"Keeping the community surrounding our schools safe is as important as academics," Canter said.

Villaraigosa downplayed the dispute over his increased role in the school district, giving Canter a hug at one point.

►Two Reporters/One Press Event #2: 'MIKE FOR PREZ' IN L.A.

by Michael Saul, New York Daily News

September 21, 2006 - LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton lauded Mayor Bloomberg as a leader for urban America and suggested he would make an excellent President.

"Mayor Bloomberg is without a doubt one of America's finest mayors, a great leader and a voice for the people of New York, but also for urban cities across the nation," Democrat Villaraigosa said yesterday at a news conference with Republican Bloomberg in tough South Central L.A., where Villaraigosa launched a new school safety program.

Bratton, who backed Mark Green over Bloomberg in the 2001 mayor's race and is now the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, said Bloomberg is well suited to run the country.

"As to whether he'd want the aggravation or not, I don't know," Bratton said. "After New York, he might not want any more."

Despite the high praise, Bloomberg again said yesterday he's still not planning to run for President. Asked if all the kudos is making him reconsider, Bloomberg replied, "No, no."

Today, Bloomberg is scheduled to meet with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a fellow Republican, in San Jose.

EVENTS: Coming up + next week... featuring Martinis & Magnets v.2.0
"MARTINIS & MAGNETS": A short helpful introduction to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Magnet System with Sandra Tsing Loh and Christie Mellor

Sunday, October 8th, 5 p.m.
Ave. 50 Studio
131 N. Avenue 50 (just north of Figueroa)
Highland Park, CA
Avenue 50 Studio: (323) 258-1435


Special "LAUSD"-themed cocktails provided by Modern Spirits Vodka (Non-alcoholic beverages will also be provided)

ABOUT "MARTINIS AND MAGNETS": Now in its second year, "Martinis and Magnets" was created by writers (and LAUSD mothers) Sandra Tsing Loh and Christie Mellor.

Back in 2005, they realized:
1) Many L.A. parents were confused about to how to apply to L.A. area magnet schools
2) The magnet point system was complex
3) So complex that for some, vodka would be needed
(Trivia question: Modern Spirits Vodka’s creator is Armenian--magnet point "advantage" or no?).

They also felt LA public school parents deserved their own annual fall mixer.

As such, all public education supporters are welcome to attend this free event. . .

For further information, e-mail:
Phone: 213.633.7493
Phone: 213.633.7616


What can YOU do?
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. Everyone's 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 • 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.
• Register.
• 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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