Sunday, September 10, 2006

All The Good News Fit to Print

4LAKids: Sunday, September 10, 2006
In This Issue:
The drumbeat for vouchers and privatizing public education: WHERE'S THE COURAGE IN EDUCATION REFORM? + FOUR MILLION CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND
EVENTS: Coming up next week...

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.

Not one. That was the best news of the week, lost in the triumphant First Day o' School Bus Tours, Lawsuits contemplated, the Belmont Learning Complex (call it "Vista Hermosa", call it "Central High School #11" – but don't call it THAT!) revisited, Schools returned to traditional calendars, New schools opened and ground broken on others.

Earlier this week both District PTA Presidents representing LAUSD sent the following Letter to the LA Times:

"Now that the dust has cleared on the Mayor's takeover attempt of LAUSD - and now that school has resumed in LAUSD and the Legislature is in recess - we'd like to invite Mayor Villaraigosa, Speaker Nuñez and Senator Romero into the classroom to teach a Civics lesson to Los Angeles schoolchildren. They can instruct our young people how getting the State Legislature to approve a change in local school district governance, avoiding the ballot box and the local electorate is good government. They can go on to explain why the state constitutional guarantee of a separation of powers between school districts and municipal government is a bad thing and how it can be circumvented. Their lesson plan could include why their "end around" to the Legislature to ratify a series of late night back room deals is a triumph of policy over politics while any court challenge based upon the rule of law is a counterproductive waste of taxpayer money and time."

Our letter remains unpublished, but our request was sort-of answered Saturday morning when Warren T. Furutani – former LAUSD Board Member, current Community College Trustee and education advisor to Speaker Nuñez addressed a Constitution Day Conference for teachers sponsored by the LA County Office of Education.

Furutani acknowledged the goodness, badness and ugliness of AB 1381 and the process that brought it thus far. But no matter how one feels about its merits or value, he said, it becomes an instant object lesson for Civics Teachers on the legislative process.

• For six weeks it has churned through the LEGISLATIVE Branch, in back rooms and hearing rooms – amended and tortured and compromised; derided and applauded. Deals were made, quid pro quos dealt, parents were bused and clad in T-shirts …and it squeaked through.

• It sits today in the EXECUTIVE Branch – where he predicts the Governor's signature in a few days.

• And from there it goes inevitably to the JUDICIAL Branch – to be poked and prodded, examined and weighed.

This, Furutani reminded the Social Studies, History and Government Teachers - despite the whining from both sides with dogs in the hunt: This is the way it is supposed to be.

And I must agree – When good and bad and ugly come together due process is the answer. But sometimes there is a compelling public interest in keeping G,B&U apart — the courts are not the only arbiter of what's right and wrong, the judges and the juries are not the only ones committed to separating good policy from bad process, legal from illegal, constitutional from otherwise. The Constitution Day Meeting began with the Preamble rather than the Pledge of Allegiance: "We the People…" We indeed.

The courts adjudged the constitutionality (or lack thereof) in the Proposition R case swiftly last week ― seeing as AB 1381 has been fast-tracked so far, let's keep to that schedule. —smf



September 6, 2006 -- LOS ANGELES -- On the first day of classes for Los Angeles Unified students, the school board decided Tuesday to file a lawsuit to determine if legislation giving the mayor some control of the district is constitutional.

"Serious questions have been raised regarding the constitutionality of a number of the provisions of AB 1381," board President Marlene Canter said after the board met in closed session and decided to pursue legal action over the bill.

"It makes sense to avoid implementing changes that could later be declared unconstitutional," Canter said. "As a number of interested parties have urged, we will ask the courts to review this measure and to determine the constitutionality of these provisions as quickly as possible."

Despite intense opposition from school district leaders, the Legislature approved the bill last week, giving Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa a partial role in governing the school district.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has yet to sign the bill into law, but has said he intends to do so.

"It's unfortunate that the Los Angeles school board would choose to use taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit to obstruct reforming our public schools," said Villaraigosa aide Janelle Erickson. "On this first day back to school, our children and parents deserve more," Erickson said. "They deserve a school board who will join with Mayor Villaraigosa and the coalition of reformers committed to turning our public schools around."

The legislation would shift most of the decision-making authority from the seven-member LAUSD board to the superintendent; create a council of mayors that would give a significant role to Los Angeles' mayor in managing the nation's second-largest school district; and give individual schools greater control over their budgets and curriculum during a six-year trial period.

The mayor would also have direct control over the district's three lowest-performing high schools and their feeder campuses. District officials have repeatedly insisted that the legislation is unconstitutional.

During a back-to-school bus tour this morning welcoming more than 418,000 district students back to class, Superintendent Roy Romer said district officials want to work with Villaraigosa to improve education.

"Things that change are not threatening. They're not dangerous. They're stimulating," said Romer, who plans to step down as superintendent later this year.

"We are today going forward, going to reach out to the mayor's office, to everybody in this community and say this is a new day. It's a new day of cooperation and partnership."

During the bus tour, Romer, Canter and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell recognized the district's academic achievements and school-building program.

Seven new schools opened Tuesday, and a total of 13 are expected to open during this academic year.

"Never in the history of the United States have you put together a building program the size of the one that is now being implemented here in L.A.," Romer said. "It will change the face of Los Angeles for decades to come."

Canter said the first day of classes is an optimistic time. "The first day of school is always thrilling, but for students, teachers, administrators and staff at these brand new campuses it's an especially hopeful time," Canter said. "The opening of these campuses also impacts thousands of additional children at other schools, where we are reducing overcrowding and improving the learning environment."



Sep 9, 2006 (CBS) LOS ANGELES Officials broke ground Saturday for a new performing arts school near downtown Los Angeles.

Central Los Angeles New High School #9, at 450 N. Grand Ave., is scheduled to open in the fall of 2008 with 1,728 seats in 64 classrooms. It is estimated to cost $208 million.

The 10.26-acre site is meant to relieve overcrowding at the existing Belmont High School, which is scheduled to return to a traditional two-semester calendar in 2009, according to Los Angeles Unified.

The school incorporates programmatic and architectural features designed to promote collaboration between education and the arts, according to LAUSD. It will have four academies focusing on music, dance, visual and performing arts, and will include a 950-seat theater, dance studios, music rehearsal rooms, art studios and gallery corridors, all designed for artistic training and presentation.

The school is part of the district's construction program to provide more neighborhood schools to reduce busing and return students to a traditional two-semester calendar.

It is funded from a $19.3 billion voter-approved bond issue to build new schools and improve existing facilities to reduce overcrowding throughout the District by 2012.

Since the program began in 2000, 61 new schools, 22 early education centers and 41 school additions have been completed.


by Erin Aubry Kaplan – LA Times Columnist

September 6, 2006 – When i met Alex Caputo-Pearl in 2002, what first struck me was the breadth of his ambition to shake up a culture of apathy at underserved schools. What next struck me was that much of his ambition would be ground to a nub by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

I almost felt sorry for the guy. A history teacher at Crenshaw High School, Caputo-Pearl was a white, East Coast native who had come to L.A. to enact his dreams of grass-roots education reform because, well, everybody brings their dreams here.

Caputo-Pearl was not alone. He's a founder of the Coalition for Educational Justice, a reform group that includes parents, students and teachers and that focuses on well-known "problem" campuses such as Crenshaw, Dorsey, Washington Prep and Los Angeles high schools. It was the coalition and its efforts to enlist the support of the school board for its campaigns — curbing military recruitment, creating alternatives to high-stakes testing — that first brought Caputo-Pearl to my attention. I wished them luck.

And a funny thing happened. The coalition started making a difference. As it packed and occasionally picketed board meetings, a culture of empowerment started taking root at Crenshaw and elsewhere. Of course, Caputo-Pearl was warily regarded by most of his higher-ups. He and his activist ilk were showing up the district simply by advocating change that the district always claimed it wanted but in reality seemed to have little use for.

Then, last year, Crenshaw High lost its accreditation. It was devastating news, but Caputo-Pearl and others welcomed the moment. Here was a chance to get all the deficiencies at Crenshaw addressed by a stunned bureaucracy while the media was paying attention.

The Crenshaw Cougar Coalition, a parent-teacher action group, swiftly formed and laid out its wish list for re-accreditation. According to several coalition parents, Crenshaw's principal and other district brass resisted the partnership. Yet it went forward, with Caputo-Pearl in the thick of the negotiations. In February, Crenshaw regained its accreditation — but only for a year. There is clearly more work to do.

Then, on the eve of a new school year, Caputo-Pearl was transferred from Crenshaw to Emerson Middle School in affluent West L.A. — an activist's version of being sent to Siberia. The transfer letter cited Caputo-Pearl's "lack of commitment to the accreditation process" and complained about him "undermining morale" — even though the accreditation committee commended the involvement of the parent group and a district deputy superintendent lauded Caputo-Pearl's "collaborative spirit."

Caputo-Pearl and his many supporters say it's all politics — a warning to anyone who would agitate on behalf of inner-city schools. Supt. Roy Romer denies that. He insists that the transfer is entirely about what's best for Crenshaw's accreditation and that Caputo-Pearl (who was also the chairman of the teachers union at Crenshaw) was hindering the accreditation process.

There are many factors here, race among them. It's easy to see a white man working in a chiefly black group as a meddlesome, messianic type leading people of color down a path they would otherwise not go. Angry Crenshaw parents say nothing could be further from the truth. "Alex does not represent us — we represent ourselves," said Glenn Windom, president of the Cougar Coalition. Black district officials have kept mum about Caputo-Pearl, including the sole African American member of the school board, Marguerite LaMotte, whose district includes Crenshaw.

Yet this is a pivotal moment not just for Caputo-Pearl and Crenshaw but for a black community that has been largely absent from an education reform movement that hit a milestone last week with the passage in Sacramento of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's bill to gain more control over the school district. It is a moment for blacks to make real — and to keep real — our own well-worn self-empowerment rhetoric. The crisis at Crenshaw, one of the few schools in the city with a significant black presence, is a chance to do just that.

Meanwhile, Caputo-Pearl is in a new classroom across town. How does he feel about that? "Truthfully, though I want to be at Crenshaw, and I expect to go back, this feels good," he said. "I'm teaching. That's always exciting to me."


►L.A. SCHOOLS GET WINDFALL VIA LAWSUIT: $53 Million or More Expected from Microsoft

by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

Sept. 7, 2006 - Los Angeles Unified's schools in low-income areas will get at least $53 million - and as much as $82 million - to enhance their technology programs under an antitrust settlement with Microsoft Corp., officials said Thursday.

The nation's second-largest school district - with 720,000 students and more than 600 campuses - could receive the biggest share of the windfall of more than $400 million that will go to the California Department of Education.

"I don't think it's one of those things that puts you over the top and now you have cutting-edge technology at every school," said Themistocles Sparangis, chief technology director for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"Clearly the fact that we've got more money going toward technology in the classroom is going to help bring us closer to the mission to make sure that more students have access to technology and to more advanced technology - to engage those students so that we can affect student achievement in a positive way."

The settlement came in an antitrust suit filed by the Justice Department and 20 states, accusing the technology giant of unfairly restricting the market for computer operating systems and Web browser sales.

The $1.1 billion settlement, reached in 2004 between California consumers and Microsoft, resulted in a voucher program for education technology in kindergarten through 12th grade. Money remaining after the settlement with consumers will be available for dissemination via vouchers to eligible schools.

While school officials have been anticipating the settlement, Los Angeles administrators just completed estimates on how much money will be forthcoming. They calculated the L.A. district's total based on $98 to $150 each for an estimated 547,464 students eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches.

The money must be used within six years of being allotted.

The online application will be made available by the California Department of Education on Sept. 18. The first round of the funding process will begin this month and the second round will be in two years.

Districts will receive notification of approval by the state in November.

"Finally, L.A. Unified is a little guy compared to the monopoly of Microsoft," school board member David Tokofsky said. "It's $80 million over six years so it's very significant, but in terms of the big picture, it's not a tsunami of money. But it ought to do something significant."

The money cannot be spent on parts or peripheral devices, but can be used to buy new computers or hardware, along with software and professional development services directly related to supporting the technology.

Tokofsky said he's concerned about the district's lack of a detailed plan for spending the money.

"My big, overarching question was: How will this infusion of money change the institution with respect to technology and instruction? At the end of $50 million to $80 million, the institution needs to be better off technologically."

To make sure the specific implementation plan is solid, a committee will determine how and where the schools spend the money, Sparangis said.

"Our intention is to get a good team of stakeholders together and put together a good plan to positively impact what goes on in the classroom and to have the technology to support that using these vouchers," he said.

While the sum of money is large, expectations should be kept in check because it's not on the level of bringing laptops to each student in the LAUSD, Sparangis said.

►PUSH TO WIN BACK DROPOUTS: The Dropout Rate in the U.S. Officially Hovers Around 10 Percent.

By Amanda Paulson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

September 5, 2006 – RANTOUL, ILL. – Chris Ahnert left high school because he figured he didn't have the credits to graduate, anyway.

Aziz Animashan left after he got kicked off the basketball team - the only thing keeping him there.

Stacy Del Real didn't want to go back to the same environment where, she says, "there were bad things happening all around me."

All three are now trying once again, at an intensive live-in program in downstate Illinois.

This fall, as America's students head back to school, there's an extra push to bring back America's dropouts as well - if not to traditional public school, then to GED programs, alternative learning centers, anything that can get them moving forward again.

Recent studies have shown that the nation's dropout rate, officially hovering around 10 percent, has been severely undercounted for years.

The high numbers - combined with research showing dropouts are far more likely to be in prison, on public assistance, or jobless - have many educators thinking about how to keep those students from ever leaving.

In addition to prevention programs, a small number of districts, counties, and organizations are reaching out to those who already have dropped out.

"This is not a new issue, but it's getting a lot more attention," says Nancy Martin, a senior program associate with the American Youth Policy Forum, and coauthor of the study: "Whatever It Takes: How Twelve Communities Are Reconnecting Out-of-School Youth."

"With districts feeling the heat because the sheet is getting pulled off this a bit, I think there is much more interest and willingness to say, how can we keep these kids in school, and if a huge number has left school, can we really see them as having left the district's responsibility? I hope the answer is no," she says.

Dropout rates are difficult to determine, and often controversial. One recent study found that about a third of the students who started high school four years ago didn't graduate on time. Other studies have put the graduation rate around 70 percent, or as high as 80 percent. Among minorities, some studies have it around 50 percent, and some large cities graduate fewer than half of their students.

Last year, the National Governors Association adopted a resolution that would set, for the first time, a common standard for tracking graduation and reporting rates - a big step forward, experts say, although it is nonbinding. Until that happens, many districts are hesitant to try more accurate methods that might show how they're failing.

But if reporting the problem needs a common standard, educators are finding that dealing with the problem needs as many varieties as possible.

In her study, Ms. Martin found that the ones that worked best didn't try to replicate high school but offered scheduling flexibility, connections to jobs, and structure. "A lot of this is what we need for all young people," she says.

In Trenton, N.J., for instance, the Daylight/Twilight High School runs from 7:30 in the morning to 7:30 at night, and lets students attend in one of three four-hour sessions. There's no lunch or extracurriculars, and students get their elective credits through community service or apprenticeships.

Teachers don't discipline - if a student is acting up, they'll motion to the door while continuing to teach, and the student will leave, knowing they'll be heard by the principal or a group of peers later - yet the school had no suspensions or serious incidents last year. For the past three years, the school has graduated more than 500 students a year, who meet all the traditional state standards.

"We do everything we can to be user-friendly," says William Tracy, the school's principal, noting that the school's seven sites include some in apartment buildings. "Now we don't have to recruit, we just keep opening sites."

Another program was spearheaded by a county - not typically a player in education policy. Deborah Feldman, the county administrator for Montgomery County in Ohio, says she realized several years ago that half of their budget was going toward criminal justice and human services, but they were doing nothing to keep people from entering those systems.

"There was no place for a second chance," she says. "We needed to institutionalize the issue." Ms. Feldman helped create and fund a county "Fast Forward Center" that reaches out to dropouts and refers them to a variety of second-chance programs, depending on their needs. It's helped 1,000 dropouts graduate, and she says that in the five years since they started, the 16 school districts in the county lowered their dropout rate from a combined 25 percent average to about 12 percent.

In Rantoul, Ill., meanwhile, Chris, Aziz, and Stacy, have entered Lincoln ChalleNGe Academy, one of 30 programs around the country run by the National Guard.

For five and a half months, students, or cadets as they're called at Lincoln, live in a structured, quasi-military environment in which they work toward their GED and develop personal goals and a plan that includes college, a career, or the military. Once they leave, trained mentors will continue to meet with them regularly and report back to the school.

"A lot of our cadets are first generational completers of anything," says Hattie LeNoir-Price, the recruitment, placement, and mentors coordinator. "Their parents can't answer their questions."

Cadets wake up at 5:15 a.m., do PT (physical training), and address adults as "sir" or "ma'am." But it's voluntary, and administrators emphasize that it's not a boot camp or funnel to the military. Besides the structure, they say, what's crucial is believing in the students.

"A lot of kids have been told they're stupid, and that's an illegal word here," says Col. Richard Norris, the lead instructor. In an environment that recognizes kids' different learning styles, he says he can see kids jump up three or four grade levels in just five months. "The biggest thing is being able to show these kids open doors, and keep them open.... When they realize you're not going to give up on them, that's when they start to come around. It's a trust issue."

Nationally, there are 30 Youth ChalleNGe programs, which are funded through a combination of federal and state dollars, and five more are starting this year. Of the 67,000 kids they've graduated, 96 percent have either gone to college, the military, or started career-track jobs, says Greg Sharp, president of the National Guard Youth Foundation. About three-quarters get either a GED or a high school diploma.

"We have all these programs after a kid gets in trouble, but very few prevention programs," he says. "We can't solve the whole problem, but we can make a huge dent."

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The drumbeat for vouchers and privatizing public education: WHERE'S THE COURAGE IN EDUCATION REFORM? + FOUR MILLION CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND


by Star Parker, Opinion in the Oceola (Fla) Star Banner

Sep 6, 2006 -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonia (sic) Villaraigosa soon will exercise more control over Los Angeles' deeply troubled school system as result of legislation that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign.

Similar initiatives in Boston, Chicago and New York City have resulted in some improvement in their school systems. But the real question on the table is why - given that the future of children is at stake, and hence the future of our country - do we settle for tepid reform when we need bold and innovative change to make a difference?

Yes, again I am talking about the need for competition in education and for school choice.

Freedom, competition and choice are what have produced the world's most powerful economy. Yet the very factors that have made America great, and have distinguished us from the rest of the world, are prohibited from operating in the education marketplace, where we produce our future citizens and work force.

Sure, maybe giving the mayor more control and having more accountability will help in Los Angeles. But does anyone really believe that shifting around bureaucrats in a monopoly controlling 746,000 students and 80,000 employees is really going to make a big difference?

And, perhaps more to the point, will anyone claim this is the best possible answer? And, if not, what does it say about America today if we are allowing interests other than the welfare of children dictate how we manage education?

The dropout rate among Latino students in the Los Angeles Unified School District is 60 percent. Among black students it's 57 percent. Average proficiency in English and math is under 30 percent.

By the California Department of Education's own Academic Performance Index, 46 percent of elementary schools score 3 or below out of a possible 10, 72 percent of middle schools score 3 or below, and 66 percent of high schools score 3 or below.

As a result of a complaint filed by my organization, CURE, along with the Alliance for School Choice, the California Department of Education is investigating compliance of the LAUSD with the school transfer provisions of No Child Left Behind.

According to NCLB, students in failing schools must be notified and permitted to transfer to another school. We have found that 250,000, about 30 percent, of the students in the LA system are eligible for such transfers, yet notification is not being given and there have only been slightly more than 500 transfers.

Given the disaster that is taking place, you would think that the priority in the state would be to consider every possible option to find an optimal solution to educating Los Angeles' children.

But this is not the case at all.
The measure to give the mayor more authority wound up being watered down as result a of pressure from the unions.

Plus, in the queue for the governor's signature, along with the bill to give the mayor more power, will be another bill passed by the California State legislature that prohibits teachers, textbooks, instructional materials and all school-sponsored activities from "reflecting adversely" on homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals.

This will certainly do wonders for low-income Latino and black students, who can't read, add, subtract and who have a 50 percent likelihood of not graduating.

According to data just released by the Census Bureau, the gap in median income between the top 20 percent in the nation and the bottom 60 percent continues to increase. It's about double what it was 30 years ago.

The rewards for education and the penalty for lack thereof are becoming increasingly pronounced. The hole into which Latino and black kids are falling in the Los Angeles school system, and other school systems in our nation's large cities, is one they're never going to be able to crawl out of.

During the last week we were reminded of the face of poverty in America that Hurricane Katrina brought to the nation's TV screens. There was a supposed outrage. But how can there be outrage that is not accompanied by bold measures?

The path out of poverty is education. To tolerate incremental change of public education in America, knowing full well that large numbers of inner city kids will not be helped, does not shine flattering light on the moral state of the nation.

In the last week, along with the focus on Katrina, there were retrospectives on the 10th anniversary of welfare reform. Courageous and innovative reform of our welfare system in 1996 produced sweeping and historic change, moving millions from government dependence to work. The reform took place in the face of opposition of the guardians of the status quo.

We must address our profound problems in education with similar resolve and boldness. Market based innovation and competition must be allowed to come into play, and we must let parents choose where to send their child to school.

To not allow this to happen, to not even give it a chance, particularly in a nation that is supposed to be free, is a moral outrage.

Star Parker is president of CURE, Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education ( and author of the new book "White Ghetto: How Middle Class America Reflects Inner City Decay."


by Clint Bolick to the Wall Street Journal

September 7, 2006 -- LOS ANGELES -- This city is the main front in the pitched battle over the No Child Left Behind Act. Like many large urban school districts across the nation -- though more brazenly -- the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is resisting the law's core command: that no child be forced to attend a failing school.

In LAUSD, there are over 300,000 children in schools the state has declared failing under NCLB's requirements for adequate yearly progress. Under the law, such children must be provided opportunities to transfer to better-performing schools within the district. To date, fewer than two out of every 1,000 eligible children have transferred -- much lower even than the paltry 1% transfer figure nationwide. In neighboring Compton, whose schools are a disaster, the number of families transferring their children to better schools is a whopping zero.

The question is whether Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings -- whose administration has made NCLB the centerpiece of its education agenda -- will do anything about it. She has the power to withhold federal funds from districts that fail to comply with NCLB, and has threatened to do just that. Rhetoric, so far, has exceeded action.

In L.A., the district has squelched school choice for children in failing schools by evading deadlines for notifying families of their transfer options; burying information in bureaucratese; and encouraging families to accept after-school supplemental services (often provided by the same district employees who fail to get the job done during the regular school day) rather than transfers. Still, the district insists that the reason for the low transfer numbers is that parents don't want their kids to leave failing schools.

That explanation rings false because, well, it is. The Polling Company surveyed Los Angeles and Compton parents whose children are eligible to transfer their children out of failing schools. Only 11% knew their school was rated as failing, and fewer than one-fifth of those parents (just nine out of 409 surveyed) recalled receiving notice to that effect from the districts -- a key NCLB requirement. Once informed of their schools' status and their transfer rights, 82% expressed a desire to move their children to better schools.

The parents were twice as likely to prefer transfers to private schools than to other public schools, but as of yet private school choice is not an option under NCLB. That is a serious defect in the law, because the number of children eligible for transfers in inner-city school districts vastly exceeds the number of seats in better-performing public schools. "We don't have the space," LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer candidly acknowledged. "Think about it. We're 160,000 seats short. Where do you transfer to?"

In response, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and John Ensign and Reps. Buck McKeon and Sam Johnson have proposed adding private options under NCLB for children in chronically failing schools. But for now, the only hope for these kids is for Secretary Spellings to hold the districts' feet to the fire.

Last month, Ms. Spellings threatened to withhold federal funds unless the California Department of Education produced a plan by Aug. 15 to facilitate transfers for children in failing schools. That deadline passed with no action.

Meanwhile, Ms. Spellings has granted scores of waivers from NCLB requirements to school districts across the nation. These allow certain districts with failing schools to offer supplemental services to children before offering transfers. This reverses the order Congress stipulated, providing for transfers first and supplemental services only for those children remaining. By bureaucratic fiat, Ms. Spellings has delayed for thousands of children the chance to escape poor schools -- and the day of reckoning for districts that are failing their most basic responsibilities.

NCLB can survive the waiver carrots, but only if they are accompanied by a serious stick. Were Ms. Spellings to yank federal funding and make an example of LAUSD, it would be the shot heard round the education world. School districts across the nation finally would have to enlist all possible options -- interdistrict transfers, charter schools, private schools -- to aid children stuck in failing schools. And, if past experience holds true, those schools finally will have a spur for improvement as their students leave and take funds with them.

But for now, LAUSD is calling Ms. Spellings's rhetoric. The California media seems to agree: Not a single major newspaper has reported on the secretary's threat to withhold federal funds, which if taken seriously ought to constitute front-page news.

NCLB is a flawed law in many respects. Still, it may represent the last true hope, at the national level, to ensure that our education system truly leaves no child behind. The establishment is chafing furiously under the tethers of accountability. If these slip away, it is unlikely that any politician will have the courage to buckle them back down again.

For better or worse, the law grants the secretary of education vast discretion in enforcement. But the law itself is clear in command: No child should be forced to endure a failing school for one minute, let alone 12 years. Under this administration's watch, four million children -- by the states' own conservative measures -- are in schools that have been failing for at least six consecutive years. Ms. Spellings has the power to make sure they are offered a brighter future.

Will she or won't she? Margaret Spellings's actions in the coming days will determine far more than the Bush administration's education legacy. They will determine whether our nation will make good at last on its sacred promise of educational opportunity.
Mr. Bolick is president and general counsel of the Alliance for School Choice.

• 4LAKids notes: "Choice" among neo-conservatives is a good thing for parents, a bad thing for those who don't choose to be parents. Mr Bolick and his organization are noted proponents for privatizing public education and voucher programs. He and they have mounted a number of lawsuits in that goal and this article has the appearance of a first, warning shot. With the LAUSD, the Mayor and City of LA; Parents groups, Teachers and Administrators in disarray – preoccupied with other educational and legal challenges – the District offers an ideal target of opportunity.

Clint Bolick bio+background

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Wednesday Sep 13, 2006 - 6:30 p.m.
CENTRAL REGION MIDDLE SCHOOL #9: Recommended Preferred Site Meeting #2 Local District 5. At this meeting we will present and discuss an alternate preferred site that will be recommended to the LAUSD Board of Education for review and approval.

Sunrise Elementary School
2821 E. 7th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

• Wednesday Sep 13, 2006 - 6:30 p.m.
VALLEY REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #12: CEQA Scoping and Design Update Meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to inform and obtain input from the community on the types of issues to be considered in a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This report evaluates the potential impacts that school projects may have on the surrounding environment.Also at this meeting, a design update will be provided. Your comments and concerns are very important. Please join us!

Sepulveda Middle School
Evans Hall
15330 Plummer St.
North Hills, CA 91343

• Thursday Sep 14, 2006 - 6:30 p.m.
VALLEY REGION HIGH SCHOOL #9: Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) Hearing. Please join us at this public hearing to discuss the findings of the Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA). The PEA determines if an environmental clean up action is necessary to ensure the health and safety of our children. We will be collecting your comments and questions regarding the PEA for this project.

Fulton College Preparatory - Auditorium
7477 Kester Ave.
Van Nuys, CA 91405

• Friday Sep 15, 2006 - 4 p.m.
MIGUEL CONTRERAS LEARNING COMPLEX: RIBBON-CUTTING CEREMONY — Please join us to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of your new community school!

Miguel Contreras Learning Complex (formerly Central LA HS #10)
322 Lucas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90017

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213.633.7493
Phone: 213.633.7616


►Ask him to to listen to parents and the PTA, to the legislative counsel, to the School Boards Association, to his own counsel, to the Republican leadership and base. Ask him to consult the Attorney General. Ask him to read his own copy of the State Constitution:

CALIFORNIA STATE CONSTITUTION: Article 9 • § 6 • ¶ 3: "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 within the Public School System."

- What part of No is ambiguous?

phone: 213-897-0322 e-mail:


• 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!

• 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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