Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dating, but no date.

4LAKids: Sunday, October 22, 2006
In This Issue:
LAUSD BUILDING CASH MAY FALL SHORT: Additional bond might be needed
Events coming up next week: CELEBRATING THREE NEW SCHOOLS plus...
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.
IT'S TOO EARLY to talk about the honeymoon with Superintendent Brewer; the engagement's been announced... but they haven't hammered out the pre-nup or even set a date yet. Nonetheless following his press conference a week ago Friday the Admiral was taken on a grand tour and introduced to the in-laws.

• Breakfast with the Hispanic community at Olvera Street,
• Lunch in the Southeast cities,
• Afternoon snack with the African American community.
• Breakfast in the Valley.

The notices are in: The press says the locals are impressed. (see "Grand Tour") So far, so good!

WEDNESDAY outgoing Superintendent Romer spoke to Bond Oversight Committee –and described financial challenges faced by the building program caused by unprecedented construction cost escalations. ("LAUSD Building Cash May Fall Short") The easy answer is for the voters of California to approve Bond Measure 1-D in November – and for the legislature to acknowledge that LA is still overcrowded even though we have [temporarily] declining enrollment (see A Question for Educators). This might not be that easy for them to see …especially as the mayor and others have been up in Sacramento for the past year painting LAUSD as a failure. So – vote YES early and often on 1-D …and consider voting NO on legislators and candidates who agree that LAUSD is a failure. And then pray for enlightenment in Sacramento.

THE DISTRICT resolved its "Who's the boss?" (The Supe? The Board? UTLA? The Principal? The Chapter Chair?) dispute over Alex Caputo-Pearl at Crenshaw HS without answering the question …or having to ask the Next Supe, the Mayor or the council thereof what they think.

ELSEWHERE the Prez says "Stay the Course" and/or "Mission Accomplished" on No Child Left Behind …even though inspectors find no evidence of instruments of math instruction! And the leaders of two business groups (170 and 165 members respectively) and the US Chamber of Commerce (3000 members) agree. That makes 3335 of the 300 million of us! —smf

E X T R A: TILT AT A WINDMILL OF REACTIONARY ED THINK/STRIKE A BLOW FOR FREEDOM – sort of! Read Orson Scott Card's essays on the futility of Homework.

►The Grand Tour Sets Sail: INTO THE BREACH
Editorial – Los Angeles City Beat

October 19, 2006 — A moment of calm and anticipation has come to the Los Angeles Unified School District, and just in time. There’s a new superintendent in town, as Roy Romer prepares to step out of the district’s war zone of politics and conflict. Romer’s job has proven to be more difficult than any one person could conquer, even a former governor of Colorado, and one who oversaw the biggest school-building program in L.A. history. Now it will be up to David Brewer, a retired Navy admiral, to take command. Battle stations!

This moment of calm is welcome but a bit surprising. The school board hired Brewer this week, while Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was overseas on a trip to Asia, barely two months before he takes a more direct official role in the hiring process, as spelled out in legislation passed last month. Those powers will go into effect on January 1, but, in a final act of defiance against the mayor, the board ignored his requests to await his return and hired Brewer without him.

Villaraigosa’s initial reaction to the news was not good, expressing “disappointment” in the action, which essentially put Brewer in the middle of an ongoing war in the LAUSD that might have doomed any hope of him succeeding. But the mayor has sounded much more conciliatory in the days since, suggesting that the arrival of Admiral Brewer could finally lead to a period of cooperation and hope for our troubled, complex school district.

Brewer has little personal experience in education, aside from having a wife and mother who worked as teachers, but his first task as superintendent will have less to do with lesson plans and everything to do with getting an unwieldy organization under control. As a longtime veteran of the American military, he at least has some hands-on experience in an entrenched, bloodless bureaucracy.

Even with the best possible cooperation from the various scuffling factions of teachers, administrators, unions, legislators, and others, Brewer will have a tough job. The problem isn’t just differing philosophies but limited resources, a situation in which monetary contributions to classrooms from parents and charities are not a luxury but absolutely necessary. Schools in poorer neighborhoods are even worse off.

During a tour this week of various communities in the district, the admiral seemed open, gracious, and ready to talk. He’ll need to listen, and he’ll need time to make the district work. He is in charge of about 700,000 students now, and their future depends on it.

• smf notes: Counting early ed, adult and continuing education students there are over one million LAUSD students – but who's counting?


by Andrea Alegría | [translation]

17 of October, 2006 – Los Angeles – Admiral David Brewer, the new leader of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), affirmed yesterday that he will be a "superintendent for all" and that he will fight with special dedication the academic inequality that exists between Latino and African-American students.

"Like in a war", Brewer said when coming out of a restaurant in Huntington Park, "you must win against a enemy house by house. We are going to go house by house".

In addition Brewer spoke of his intention to approach the challenges that face students who live with poverty in their homes and in difficult situations and social atmospheres. He made this statement after meeting with community leaders of the Southeast Cities Education Coalition — including elected officials of the cities of Bell, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Maywood, South Gate and Vernon.

"I believe that he was very positive, it was very promsing to see that he already is delivering on the promise to come and to meet with us", said Juan Noguez, Mayor of Huntington Park, after the meeting. "He spoke of his intention to work with us and I hope that this dialogue continues".

Noguez and other representatives of the cities of the Southeast look for a greater representation within the District, these areas have the greatest need as far as improvements in educational services. According to Gregory Cole, Councilman of the City of Bell, this area has one of the highest levels of student overcrowding in the schools.

"We want our voice to be listened to; we want to build an association", said Cole.

Brewer, 60 years old, a member of the the United States Navy for more than three decades, was chosen unanimously in the Board of Education the last week and will replace to the present superintendent Roy Romer in November. Romer plans to retire after 6 years in the position.

The appointment of Brewer took place in the middle of a controversy over the control of the schools with (Los Angeles) Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The mayor, who is in a trip by Asia to promote commercial ties, had requested to participate directly in the selection of the new superintendent but his request was denied. The new law, AB 1381, would give Villaraigosa greater control him of the schools, goes into effect the first of January of 2007, but the school board has brought a suit challenging the constitutionality of this law.

Brewer was not worried yesterday about these lawsuits. Accompanied by Marlene Canter, president of the School Board, and Senator Martha Escutia, who participated in the selection of the superintendent along with other leaders, said he was ready for the challenges.

He has received the vote of confidence of many.

"I believe that he is going to be a very successful leader, a great leader", said Romer. "One sees that he is a good human being …and that he is not no fool!", Romer added.

Before attending the meeting in Huntington Park, Brewer met in a restaurant on Olvera Street with community and political leaders, including several Los Angeles councilmembers, state senator Gil Cedillo, parents, family and members of educational organizations.

▲ Translated from the Spanish (with apologies) by 4LAKids and Google translation. Link to original Spanish below

►The Grand Tour 2 The Black Community: A MEASURED SALUTE TO THE NEW SUPERINTENDENT - Brewer's selection as L.A. schools chief is a symbolic victory for a black community that doesn't get much good news.

by Erin Aubry Kaplan | LA Times Columnist

October 18, 2006 – When I learned that the Los Angeles school board had hired retired Navy Vice Adm. David L. Brewer III as superintendent, I confess that my initial reaction was nakedly political. Well, I thought, score one for us.

I'm not proud of myself. Yet this is what the battle for control of L.A. schools has come to. After last week's news, it feels almost appropriate for skeptics of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's school reform plan to do a little touchdown dance in the end zone. Especially ebullient were black skeptics, who couldn't resist airing their satisfaction — and surprise — that the board went against political and demographic trends to hire an African American to oversee the nation's second-largest school district.

I count myself among the skeptics most days, but I do not see Brewer's appointment as an automatic windfall for black folk. History argues against it, and besides, he hasn't done anything yet. All the same, almost despite myself — and my initial reaction — I don't fault their optimism.

Struggling in recent years with declining numbers and influence, blacks haven't had any genuinely good political news for a long time. So it was almost inevitable that the arrival of a black superintendent would be seen as a symbolic victory of the highest order, much like the election of former Mayor Tom Bradley in 1973. At last week's news conference, the normally starchy Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte was downright giddy. "Is this a party or what?" the school board's lone black member was overheard saying.

The question is whether it is more than just a symbolic victory. Of course it is a political triumph; LaMotte opposed Villaraigosa's power redistribution plan from the beginning and has joined her fellow board members in a lawsuit they hope will render the whole thing null and void. In the meantime, she can cheer herself up with the knowledge that the board was able to install its own choice in the superintendent's office while the mayor was half a world away — and that it voted to put a black man in charge of a district that is overwhelmingly Latino and decreasingly black.

Brewer arrives at a time when it's become almost impossible to muster the political will to address the crises of black students who consistently do poorly in terms of dropout rates, test scores and other measures. One of many things on Brewer's resume is that he started a scholarship foundation for African American students; that's not a qualification for anything, but it might indicate what his priorities are in the daunting task of fixing public education. It's a start.

But it's not nearly enough, as Brewer surely knows. He'll be caught in so many headlights — those of the district, the state, the city, the mayor's office, the teachers union, education reformers at the grass roots and in high places — that he may go blind, at least for a while. Ethnic interests and anxieties will shape every agenda, some of which will be perfectly justifiable (bolstering the poor performance of black and Latino students) and some of which will not (scrapping desegregation and other color-conscious programs as needless in the age of multiculturalism).

Everybody's touting Brewer's no-nonsense military background, but public education is a different kind of war — less confrontational, more rhetorical. In a milieu that requires nuance, finesse and a strong vision, Brewer comes off as somewhat lacking in all three.

At this very early stage, he seems personable, inclusive, charismatic in a motivational-speaker kind of way. His claim that he's not a "reformer" but a "transformer" has a whiff of the religious about it that sets well with a black constituency — and with the district's truest believers. But the comments also feel a little over the top, a little indecorous. The school district needs a morale boost, yes, but it needs a lot more than that — as do its 700,000 students.

All that said, I also have to say that Brewer looks like he could be a good fit for this town. He exudes presence and has a feel for his audience that was bred in the military but is worthy of Hollywood. It doesn't hurt that he's a sharp dresser who can go toe-to-manicured-toe with our image-conscious mayor. Brewer may also benefit from his passing resemblance to Charles Dutton, the actor and director whose affability masks a grit and determination that powered him to considerable success in the most uncertain of professions.

If L.A. could get all this and real educational leadership too, Brewer could finally make winners of us all.


by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

10/17/2006 - NORTH HOLLYWOOD - Bringing his victory tour to the San Fernando Valley, newly appointed LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer III said Tuesday that he plans to turn to business and community groups to help fund education programs not covered by taxpayer dollars.

The Beverly Garland Holiday Inn was Brewer's final stop in his whirlwind two-day tour, where he introduced himself to civic and educational leaders citywide.

He now returns to his home in Washington, D.C., where he'll finalize plans for a move to the West Coast. Once he begins his job in earnest - probably by mid-November - Brewer said, he looks forward to visiting classrooms.

"I need to get down to the business of educating children," said Brewer, 60, a former Navy admiral who retired earlier this year after a 36-year military career.

"I want to look at instruction and curriculum and factors outside of the classroom ... like ignorance, poverty and crime. We have dropouts and 65,000 foster-care kids - we need to go after these issues."

Brewer was named late Thursday to succeed Superintendent Roy Romer, who plans to retire this fall from the 727,000-student district. Terms of Brewer's contract have not yet been finalized, although school board members have said they expect it to be a multiyear agreement.


As he introduced himself to local business and community leaders, Brewer also related experiences from his own life in explaining how he plans to approach his new job as head of Los Angeles Unified.

Brewer said his wife, a teacher in Virginia, turned to her school's PTA foundation when she needed money to bind books written by her seventh- and eighth-graders.

"We're going to find ways for you to give money," Brewer said. "The choices are simple - we can educate or we can incarcerate.

"Help us, help LAUSD create a world-class education system so our children can indeed be the best in the world. We need resources to fund programs. I say, think big, start small, scale fast."

He also talked about the importance of involving parents in their children's education, and suggested enlisting mentors to help parents - particularly immigrants - navigate the intricacies of the nation's second-largest school district.

Brewer's answers, delivered with authority and wit, seemed to charm the small audience, which sent the retired admiral off with a standing ovation.

Brendan Huffman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, said Brewer exuded confidence, strong management skills and a desire to be inclusive.

"I was particularly impressed with his desire to enlist parents to be involved with their children's schools and enlisting the private sector to give schools an assist," said Huffman, whose group advocates dismantling the district.

"VICA still thinks smaller school districts are better, but that could take a few years.

"In the meantime, we're committed to working with the new superintendent and the mayor to improve schools in the Valley."

Brewer said he was looking forward to moving away from the cameras and attention to visiting classrooms when he returns to Los Angeles.

"I need to get down to the business of educating children," he said.

"I want to look at instruction and curriculum and factors outside of the classroom ... like ignorance, poverty and crime. We have dropouts and 65,000 foster-care kids - we need to go after these issues."


But Brewer's first order of business will be an Oct. 25 meeting with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

While he refused to comment on the new law that gives Villaraigosa significant power over the school district beginning Jan. 1, Brewer repeated earlier comments that he intends to work collaboratively with the mayors of Los Angeles and all the cities served by Los Angeles Unified.

"We're going to make this work," Brewer said. "We're not looking for a fight with the mayor. This is a daunting challenge. He's going to find out I'm going to be his partner and his friend. We're going to get it done."


City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel - a Villaraigosa ally who has criticized the school board for filing a legal challenge to the law and for selecting a superintendent without the mayor's input - spent a second day with Brewer and came away with a good feeling about his experience and knowledge.

"I am very impressed with his commitment and passion about education, his willingness to learn about things he doesn't know and he comes with a breadth of experience and knowledge and he's willing to work with the mayor," Greuel said. "He's representing the kids and that's something the school board and mayor will support."

Brewer spent Monday meeting with leaders in South and East Los Angeles. The second African-American to head Los Angeles Unified, Brewer has no prior experience in K-12 education, but has experience managing some 8,000 employees and comes from a family of educators.


►The Grand Tour 4/The Business Community: NEW LAUSD CHIEF WANTS BUSINESSES TO HELP

By Chris Coates - San Fernando Valley Business Journal Staff Writer

10/17/2006 — The new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District said he plans to involve Valley business owners in reforming the city’s troubled school system.

David L. Brewer III, who was unanimously nominated by the school district board Thursday, said he wants local businesses to help pay for a wide range of educational programs he plans to develop to turn the district into “a world-class school system so our children can be the best.”

“One of the things I’m going to need is money. And it’s not going to come from the state or the city,” he said. Later, he added: “We’re going to come to the business community and say we need funds to pay for these programs.”

The comments from Brewer came as he opened the “Reaching For the Stars,” a regional job fair organized by the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley at the Beverly Garland Inn in North Hollywood.

The speech and brief Q-and-A session was Brewer’s first appearance in the Valley since the surprise nomination, which initially drew criticism from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was in the middle of a broad trade mission of Asia.

Brewer, who lives in Virginia, has no experience in education but has had an management extensive background in the U.S. Navy, where he retired this year as vice admiral.

On Tuesday, Brewer talked at length but offered few specifics about how he plans to reform the district, which includes more than 700,000 students in Los Angeles and several adjoining cities.

He said the keys would be helping parents navigate the school system, providing mentors and preparing students to compete for jobs internationally.

“You have to compete at the global level,” he said. “In the 21st Century, you can’t do the same things and expect the same results,” he added later.

The Tuesday speech followed a round-the-clock series of community meetings with school leaders, community members and media outlets across the city Monday.

Brewer on Tuesday denied that the saturation is because Villaraigosa is traveling overseas.

The mayor’s office has indicated that Villaraigosa plans to meet with Brewer “as soon as he returns from his trade mission in Asia.”

The morning speech also included an appearance by outgoing Superintendent Roy Romer, who will likely step down next month.


LAUSD BUILDING CASH MAY FALL SHORT: Additional bond might be needed
by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

October 18 — Los Angeles Unified's massive school-construction project faces an estimated $2 billion shortfall fueled by soaring building costs, Superintendent Roy Romer warned Wednesday.


Despite four bond measures and state support totaling nearly $19.2 billion over the past decade, Romer told the bond oversight committee that more steps need to be taken to shore up the program and fill the looming gap.

While Romer said he didn't believe another bond would be needed, committee chairwoman Connie Rice said that if costs continue to escalate at this pace all options will be on the table - including a possible fifth bond measure.

Romer, who has made the project a linchpin of his tenure, said the district was hit with a "tsunami" of increased costs - dramatic increases in land values and the price of construction material. Still, the district should continue its aggressive construction pace because costs are expected to continue to increase in coming years.

"We in the next 60 days have to go out to the community with phase four. How do we complete the program of building schools? I've told my staff, `You don't blink, you don't hesitate one step,"' Romer said.

"Other people in the country have cut the program back. We've chosen not to do that. ... This is still a bargain. ... You gotta have guts to stick with this program and we have it."

The news of the shortfall comes as a new superintendent, retired Navy admiral David Brewer III, is set to take office and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gears up to take more control of the district under recently signed legislation.

The Mayor's Office said Wednesday it wants to see more details about the shortfall and the proposals to address it.

"What we heard today is a potential for a significant shortfall and that's something we'll stay on top of and monitor," said spokesman Joe Ramallo.

The district has already built 65 schools but has about 100 left to go in a construction program that began six years ago to address a shortage of 160,000 seats.

About $13 billion of the $19.2 billion program has been earmarked for building new schools, with the rest for modernization and renovations.

Of the construction program's $19.2 billion, $12.5 billion comes from local taxpayer dollars through the four bonds, and the rest from state matching funds.

Strapped for cash

School officials said the projected shortfall would trim to $1.3 billion if voters approve Proposition 1D on the state ballot in November. The measure would give LAUSD about $475 million for new school construction and about $500 million for renovation and modernization.

If it doesn't pass, however, officials will be forced to weigh other options to meet its construction goals.

"The public should understand that we're trying to plan for some contingencies we didn't have in our original estimate. ... It could mean we'd have to, with the mayor, go after another bond. That could also be put on the table," Rice said.

The biggest strain on the program, the largest public works program in the country, has been a 167 percent increase in construction costs in the past four years.

The state's matching-fund program also has dropped from 42 cents on the dollar to 30 cents.

Meanwhile, the district also will fail to qualify for some construction funding because of its declining enrollment.

Official enrollment figures released Wednesday showed the district at 708,461 students this school year - 4,000 fewer than projected and about 19,000 fewer than last year.

A couple options

Romer said the district has taken steps to cut costs - including only building schools when needed. It also has paid down $500 million in debt, allowing it the option of re-borrowing that money in the event Proposition 1D does not pass.

Romer proposed using $1.3 billion from the bond voters approved last November to create a reserve fund to cover rising construction costs. Those bond funds have not yet been allocated and will not be needed for some time.

"Because of some uncertainty of the remedies of 1D and of improving the match, I'm recommending to the board we create a reserve of roughly $1.3 billion so that money is there in a reserve in case we don't get a legislative relief totally or we don't get all that we need out of 1D," Romer said.

The bond oversight committee took no action Wednesday but is scheduled to discuss the proposals in detail in future meetings.

The committee took the opportunity of Romer's last appearance at the meeting to laud his accomplishments on the construction project.

Rice called Romer the district's "praetorian guard" for allowing the program to move forward efficiently and professionally.

Rice also underscored the urgency of building new schools, noting that in 2015 the district will still have 70 middle schools with over 1,500 students and 13 high schools with more than 3,000 students.

Barely keeping up

Also, thousands of students will still be in portable classrooms. The state average is about 900 students for each, said Jim Cowell director of construction.

"Even when we're successful in building all of these phases on our drawing boards, there will be thousands of Los Angeles schoolchildren in portables, and our committee does not accept that as acceptable housing," Rice said.

"We are not overbuilding. We're barely building enough to say to Los Angeles' children, `You don't have to wake up at 5 a.m. to get on a diesel bus and go to a school in the Valley because there's no school in your neighborhood."'

Fellow committee member Scott Folsom echoed Rice's sentiment that the district will carry out the program.

"This is not necessarily good news, but the good news is we're going ahead," Folsom said. "The first and most important promise we made to voters is we'll continue to a traditional two-semester calendar ... and that is the mission and that's what we're going to do. We're going to do a little zigzagging, but that's where we're going."


School Board President Marlene Canter's open letter on the new superintendent



Oct 21 — (CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES — A teacher and union activist whose transfer out of Crenshaw High School sparked a series of protests by parents and fellow educators will return to the school by early next year, district and union officials announced Friday.

Alex Caputo-Pearl was transferred to Emerson Middle School in August. Union officials claimed the transfer of Caputo-Pearl, a United Teachers Los Angeles chapter chair, appeared to be revenge because district leaders blamed him for the early retirement of Principal Charles Didinger.

Last year, Didinger helped Crenshaw regain its good standing with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which had suspended its accreditation.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Roy Romer denied the transfer was a retaliatory move.

LAUSD attorney Kevin Reed said today the district and United Teachers Los Angeles "amicably resolved the issue."

"All parties have reaffirmed the need for the chapter chair and administration to work collaboratively for the good of Crenshaw High School," Reed said.

According to the district, Caputo-Pearl will return to Crenshaw no later than next semester.

UTLA officials said that means Caputo-Pearl will be back no later than Feb. 5, and possibly as early as next month.

"We are pleased that this issue has been resolved quickly and that a veteran teacher and UTLA chapter chair will return to help his school," A.J. Duffy, president of UTLA said. "Students at all schools deserve continuity in instructors and we have been able to maintain this for Crenshaw."

The union will hold a rally in support of Caputo-Pearl on Monday afternoon at Crenshaw High School.

UTLA Press Release on reinstatement of Caputo-Pearl

October 18, 2006 — LOS ANGELES — A judge set a Dec. 15 date for the non-jury trial of a lawsuit challenging legislation giving Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa partial control of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The lawsuit -- filed Oct. 10 in Los Angeles Superior Court by a coalition of LAUSD parents, students, administrators, the League of Women Voters and the Board of Education -- maintains the legislation is unconstitutional and infringes on the rights of voters.

They want a judge to overturn Assembly Bill 1381, which was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month and gave the mayor the authority he wanted over the district.

Tuesday, lawyers in the case made their first appearances before Judge Dzintra Janavs. In addition to the Dec. 15 trial date, Janavs also scheduled a pretrial hearing for Monday and gave the attorneys deadlines for filing briefs.

Named as defendants are Villaraigosa, the state, Schwarzenegger, State Controller Steve Westly and Los Angeles County School Superintendent Darline Robles.

Mayoral aide Matt Szabo has called the lawsuit a "frivolous lawsuit and a desperate attempt to preserve the failed status quo."

AB 1381 shifts most of the decision-making authority from the seven- member LAUSD board to the superintendent; creates a council of mayors, giving a significant role to Los Angeles' mayor in managing the nation's second-largest school district; and gives individual schools greater control over their budgets and curriculum during a six-year trial period.

The mayor also gets direct control over the district's three lowest-performing high schools and their feeder campuses.

Before the bill was signed, the school board voted 6-1 to challenge AB 1381's legality.

• Judge Janavs – a Superior Court Judge for twenty years - obtained notoriety recently for being defeated for reelection by Lynn Olson, an opponent distinguished for being a bagel shop owner. Janavs was reappointed to the bench immediately after the election by Governor Schwarzenegger.

•• Under AB 1381 the mayor does not get "control over the district's three lowest-performing high schools and their feeder campuses", he gets control of three OF THE lowest performing schools, etc.

Background on Judge Janavs and related news stories

from the Civic Strategies E-Letter |

Public school enrollments are plummeting in cities along the West Coast, and the decline has school officials wondering why. Is it because of high housing costs, a declining birth rate, large-scale demographic shifts, racial or ethnic prejudice, the failures of the schools — or all the above?

Whatever the reasons, the decline is real. Statewide, California schools lost 10,000 students this year, the first such decline in a quarter-century, the Los Angeles Times reported recently. Farther north, in Seattle, city schools lost another 400 students. The school system is closing seven schools next year and may close three more, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.

Why the rapid decline? "We just don't have as many kids in the city as we used to," one Seattle school official told the Post-Intelligencer. One reason: The cost of housing is running off families with children.

But that's not the only reason public school attendance is slipping. Seattle has one of the highest rates of private-school attendance in the country, about one in four school-age children. So it isn't just a declining market that's shrinking the public schools, it's a loss of market share.

You can see similar dynamics at work in affluent Santa Barbara, Calif., up the coast from Los Angeles. Over the last seven years, 400 students have left the public schools there. Declining population? No, Santa Barbara's population is actually up from 2000. But something has changed over the years: Housing prices have skyrocketed. The median home price is now approaching an incredible $1 million, and that's changing the demographics of the county. As one observer told the L.A. Times, "You have rich people who don't have kids and poor people living two or three families in a house."

And, inevitably, the poor are minorities, in this case Latinos, and as their children enter the public schools it is touching off white flight, the newspaper said. In the elementary schools, for instance, 70 percent of students today are Latino and only 25 percent are white non-Hispanics. (Countywide, 37 percent of residents are Latino.)

Public schools, then, are subject to two forces pushing down their numbers: major demographic shifts accompanied by fear and prejudice. By themselves, school systems can do little about either. But they shouldn't be bystanders to their own decline. What school systems can command is the quality of the education they provide and the choices they offer parents and students. And here's a lesson from the world of business: There are companies in flat or even declining industries (dial-up Internet connections, steel manufacturing, etc.) that grow by increasing their market share.

Perhaps that, then, should be the measure of schools in places like Seattle, San Francisco and L.A.: Not whether enrollments are growing, but the share of school-age children who attend the public schools. If the market share is increasing, we can be reasonably sure that the schools are doing something right. And if the demographics shift and kids return to these cities, public schools will grow once more.

Footnote: But what about prejudice? Schools can't overcome that, can they? In many cases, they can. The hopeful thing about prejudice is that, with some exceptions, it's not absolute. That is, if offered enough benefits, most people can put aside their qualms and work with other groups. Public schools already offer cost as a benefit, of course, but there are others they could offer: choice, excellent programs, a secure and welcoming environment, etc. If made skillfully, such enticements are enough to win over most parents who are fearful or even mildly prejudiced.


Events coming up next week: CELEBRATING THREE NEW SCHOOLS plus...
• Monday Oct 23, 2006
Please join us to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of your new community school!
Ceremony will begin at 2 p.m.
Huntington Park New Elementary School #7
6055 Corona Ave.
Huntington Park, CA 90255

• Monday Oct 23, 2006
SOUTH REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #11: Presentation of Recommended Project Definition - At this meeting we will discuss the SCHOOL PROJECT DEFINITION that staff will recommend to the LAUSD Board of Education for review and approval.
6:00 p.m.
68th Street School – Auditorium
612 W. 68th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90044

• Monday Oct 23, 2006
VALLEY REGION ARMINTA ES ADDITION: Presentation of Recommended Project Definition
At this meeting we will discuss the SCHOOL PROJECT DEFINITION that staff will recommend to the LAUSD Board of Education for review and approval.
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Arminta Elementary School
11530 Strathern St.
North Hollywood, CA 91605

• Tuesday Oct 24, 2006
SOUTH REGION HIGH SCHOOL #6: Schematic Design/Design Development Meeting
The purpose of this meeting is to:
* Present schematic and design development drawings to show the general layout, form and overall appearance of the school and the site
* Receive community input on the design of the project
* Discuss the next steps in the school construction process
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Washington Preparatory High School Auditorium
10860 S. Denker Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90047

• Tuesday Oct 24, 2006
VALLEY REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #15: Presentation of Recommended Project Definition - At this meeting we will discuss the SCHOOL PROJECT DEFINITION that staff will recommend to the LAUSD Board of Education for review and approval.
6:30 p.m.
Broadous Elementary School Auditorium
12561 Filmore St.
Pacoima, CA 91331

• Wednesday Oct 25, 2006
Please join us to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of your new community school!
Ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m.
Central Los Angeles Area New MS #4
3500 S. Hill St.
Los Angeles, CA 90007

• Wednesday Oct 25, 2006
SOUTH REGION SPAN K-8 #4: Presentation of Recommended Project Definition
At this meeting we will discuss the SCHOOL PROJECT DEFINITION that staff will recommend to the LAUSD Board of Education for review and approval.
6:30 p.m.
Ellen Ochoa Learning Center
5027 Live Oak
Bell, CA 90201

• Thursday Oct 26, 2006
Please join us to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of your new community school!
Ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m.
Lexington Avenue Primary Center
4564 W. Lexington Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

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


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. 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.
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