Friday, December 22, 2006


4LAKids: Friday, Dec 22, 2005
In This Issue:
A MAYORAL SETBACK: Legislation giving Villaraigosa power over city schools may be flawed, as a judge ruled, but his goal is (in)correct.
TURNING AROUND L.A. UNIFIED: We’re not going to make progress reforming the nation’s most dysfunctional school systems until we address segregation
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
smf4LAKids: The political campaign - Scott Folsom for School Board!
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
Here is the meat and potatoes (tofu and quinoa) of Thursday's court ruling striking down the Romero Act of 2006 (AB1381 – Mayoral Takeover of LAUSD):

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that, for he reasons set forth in the Court's Settlement of Decision filed concurrently herewith, the Petition for Writ of Mandate is granted, and a preemptory writ of mandate shall issue under the seal of this court compelling Respondents/Defendants, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, State Board of Education, State Controller Steve Westly, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles County School Superintendent Darline Robles, and those public officers and employees acting by and through their authority to refrain from enforcing or implementing AB1381 in the execution of the course and scope of their official duties;

• The ruling holds that AB1381 VIOLATES STATE CONSTITUTION ARTICLE IX, SECTIONS 5, 6 AND 8 – dealing with the separation of municipal government from school governance.

• The ruling holds that AB1381 VIOLATES STATE CONSTITUTION ARTICLE IX, SECTIONS 14 – in that it is specific law addressing only LAUSD rather than a statewide law addressing all school districts.

• The ruling holds that AB1381 VIOLATES STATE CONSTITUTION ARTICLE IX, SECTIONS 16 AND ARTICLE XI, SECTIONS 3 and 5 – in that it interferes with local home rule and the Los Angles City Charter.

• The ruling holds that AB1381 VIOLATES STATE CONSTITUTION ARTICLE II, SECTION2 AND ARTICLE I, SECTION 7 – in that it interferes with the voting rights of citizens within the proposed Mayor's Clusters of Schools.

• THE INVALID PROVISIONS OF AB1381 ARE NOT SEVERABLE – acknowledging that it was not the intent of the legislature for parts of AB1381 to stand if others were struck down.

A link to the full ruling follows.

Judge Janov's ruling establishes important new legal precedent, no one has ever challenged the state constitution's mandate for a separation of powers between municipal government and school district governance; the reason why is because no one in California has tried it since the (PTA sponsored) amendment was made to our constitution sixty years ago.

The fight is not over.

While I can find nothing to disagree with in the judge's ruling it is not binding on higher courts – courts of appeal and the state Supreme Court can and may rule differently.

In yesterday's press conference a reporter asked if the school board would now be willing to allow the mayor to operate his Clusters of Schools in a "good faith" gesture – in essence asking the Board of Ed to go along with a now proven illegal and unconstitutional program in some sort of well meaning contempt of court and the state constitution.

Following is a LA Times Editorial published under the online headline: "Good riddance, Assembly Bill 1381. Now Villaraigosa should start pushing for what he originally wanted -- real control of the LAUSD."

The Times Editorial Board is historically of a mixed mind on the subject of mayoral control – perched between bipolar and simply wanting to have and eat the cake – but the dangerous thinking is contained in the opening premise that the mayor should run the schools and the ending position that a state constitutional amendment allowing him to do so is in order. That would be a constitutional amendment undoing every one of the constitutional guarantees the ruling has upheld. The contention that "they did it in New York or Boston or Chicago" is one which we Californians need to answer with the politically incorrect/parentally correct response: "Just because 'everyone else is doing it' doesn't make it right!"

Because, gentle readers, it's wrong in those places – and it's really wrong here! - smf

The Ruling ( a graphic PDF - large file)

A MAYORAL SETBACK: Legislation giving Villaraigosa power over city schools may be flawed, as a judge ruled, but his goal is (in)correct.
(parentheses inserted) Led into temptation and delirious with sugarplum overload I could resist editorializing "(parent)heses inserted" only so long! Sorry. -smf

LA Times Editorial

December 22, 2006 -THE MAYOR OF Los Angeles should run the city's schools. That principle suffered a legal setback Thursday, but it's a principle — embraced in other major cities across the country — that must not be abandoned. Mayoral control enhances the accountability of school systems by placing the most representative political leader in the city in charge of the one aspect of local government that the citizenry cares most about: the education of their children.

That said, a mayoral takeover of schools in Los Angeles was always going to be a steep uphill political battle — more so than in New York or Chicago — and it is hard to shed tears over Assembly Bill 1381, one of the most convoluted backroom deals to be struck in Sacramento in years.

Ruling on a constitutional challenge to the bill, Superior Court Judge Dzintra I. Janavs gave Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa a failing grade in his effort to pull most authority away from the elected school board, put himself and a Council of Mayors over a newly empowered superintendent and run a cluster of schools that could have as many as 75,000 students.

Unlike in other states where mayoral control of schools has been tried, California's Constitution requires that schools be governed only by "public school systems." The City Charter calls for an elected board to run the schools and for the mayor to stick to his municipal knitting. Then there is the issue of the district's boundaries extending into more than a dozen other cities.

Janavs interpreted the charter and the Constitution narrowly, refusing to buy into some of the mayor's maneuvers aimed at surmounting this challenge — such as the Council of Mayors, the survival of the school board and the notion that the mayor's authority over schools flowed through the existing county education office.

The judge held that the charter and the Constitution are clear on the separation of municipal and educational power, and that families that would fall within the cluster of schools the mayor would directly oversee under the bill were effectively being disenfranchised, as they would have no say about the transfer. She also rejected the mayor's argument that the cluster was more like a group of charter schools, saying his schools would not receive meaningful oversight from a public school agency, as charters theoretically must.

The key legal issue at stake here — for AB 1381 and any attempt to put a weak school system under stronger leadership — is how narrowly to define a public school system. Janavs questioned the mayor's legal team last week when they contended that the phrase was highly expandable. Could the police chief run the schools? In her ruling, Janavs drew the line at a literal definition of a school system. Another judge might well rule in favor of a more liberal definition but one within reasonable limits — which could include a mayor. Of course, the additional complicating factor remains that this is an attempt not simply to redefine the mayor's relationship with voters but with Los Angeles Unified School District families that live outside the city's boundaries. A districtwide vote could resolve that.

From the moment Villaraigosa forged his backroom deal with the teachers union, AB 1381 sadly was never about putting the mayor in a true governance position over the LAUSD. As the judge noted, the law split power and liability so ambiguously among him, other mayors, the school board, the superintendent and unspecified community leaders that it was hard to know who, if anyone, would be running the schools.

The mayor plans to appeal, as he should. In the meantime, while the legislation is put on hold, there will be a lot of talk about Villaraigosa's power to influence upcoming school board races and his ability to work in various ways with new Supt. David L. Brewer to improve schools, possibly even adopting charter schools to stand in for the cluster of schools the legislation offered him.

But all that is no substitute for true mayoral control, which the city needs. So Villaraigosa needs to start plotting Plan B in case he doesn't win on appeal: a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment to gain full mayoral control, as Thursday's ruling would require. He may want to pursue this option in any event, to lose some of AB 1381's more cumbersome compromises.

There is much news coverage and differing opinion out there – all quite healthy in our democracy, here is a CONSTANTLY UPDATED LINK to much of it


► WEALTHY SCHOOLS GET MORE - Report: Districts nationwide shortchange poor, minorities

by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

12/21/06 - Los Angeles Unified and other school districts nationwide give more money and assign more experienced teachers to campuses in wealthier areas, shortchanging low- income and minority students who need more resources to succeed, a national study released today says.

The report by the Education Trust also found that districts think the tax revenue they get specifically for low-income and minority students is sufficient, so they spend unrestricted funds on "extras" such as teacher's aides and full-day kindergarten at more affluent schools.

"The conclusions are downright frightening," said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust.

"At every level - federal, state and district - the decisions we make stack the deck against low-income kids and kids of color. These facts raise disturbing questions about our values in this country.

"While we're saying that if you go to school you can be whatever you want to be, we are essentially sucker-punching them at the same time."

The study also found that Los Angeles Unified spends more per-pupil than the statewide average for impoverished and minority students. At the same time, teachers who work in wealthier areas earn about $1,400 a year more than those assigned to impoverished campuses.

"If you consider sending more money to wealthier districts than to high-poverty districts bad, L.A. has the effect of making the state of California look better," said Eli Pristoop, data analyst for EdTrust.

"That said, this doesn't address adequacy of funding. It just looks at how L.A. compares to other high-poverty districts in the state of California."

There is a wide disparity in funding not only within states, but also among states, report co-author Goodwin Liu said.

Based on figures adjusted for cost-of-living and other disparities, the 10 highest-spending states in the country spend 50percent more per child than the 40 others, he said.


While California spends $5,743 per student, Vermont - with far fewer low-income and minority students - spends more than $9,400.

And in receiving the TitleI money earmarked for low-income students, California falls roughly in the middle of all states, although it has the most impoverished youths - nearly 1.3million.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is poised to assume a greater role over the district beginning Jan.1, has promised to lobby hard for a greater share of state and federal money for Los Angeles Unified.

"The Education Trust study underscores Mayor Villaraigosa's belief that reforming our public schools is the civil rights issue of our time," spokeswoman Janelle Erickson said.

"Not only do we need to cut the bureaucratic waste to move dollars back into the classroom, we need to shine a light on how our schools are funded, including TitleI, to ensure every child is given the education they deserve."

Educators may expound on the need to raise performance and close the achievement gap, but that's just rhetoric until there's funding equality, Liu said.

"Federal Title I money is supposed to level the playing field for low-income kids, but TitleI disproportionately benefits high-spending states," Liu said. "The program's state allocation formula ends up reinforcing rather than reducing funding gaps between wealthy and poor states."

School board member David Tokofsky said federal laws need to be changed to rectify funding irregularities.

"There's a formula problem," he said. "Congress making the rules 3,000 miles away is not going to understand the diversity of circumstances in our diverse nation, and certainly formulas created in 1964 are out of touch with the geopolitical realities and educational needs of kids today."


The EdTrust report also found that districts spend more unrestricted money on affluent schools, which also tend to get more-experienced teachers, co-author Marguerite Roza said.

"In most districts, wealthier, whiter schools have more senior teachers and few teachers turning over every year," Roza said. "If you put salaries aside, wealthier schools get more resources in terms of salaries and supplies."

Because powerful teachers unions may impede efforts to reassign their members, Roza suggested using pay incentives and bonuses to attract more-experienced teachers to less-desirable schools.

Tokofsky disputed the report's assumption that more-experienced teachers are better. "Their data perpetuates this polemic in a way that I think doesn't further legislative change but increases a general sense of victimization," he said.


In wrapping up its findings, the EdTrust authors recommended raising public awareness of the need to invest more tax revenue on education, allocate more money to impoverished students and distribute funds more equitably.

Finally, the report called for school districts to publicize details of their budgets, and how much money goes to individual schools and to target more of their resources to those schools with the biggest challenges.

"There are glaring inequities in the system," Liu said. "The policy predicate - and frankly the moral predicate - for making those changes is fairly compelling.

"These issues boil down to the politics of how you rearrange money going to members' districts."

• The Daily News takes a national problem and tries to make it local; Title One funding concentrates additional funding on the schools the article says are underfunded. LAUSD is reliant on Title One funding to achieve basic education; non Title One schools ("wealthy schools" if you would) are actually funded at a lower level and end up relying on PTAs and bake sales to make ends meet. The real question that everyone seems afraid to ask is how effective Title One funding is where it's spent? Some would actually make a case statistically that the more money a school gets the lower it performs! - smf


EdTrust Press Release

12/20/06 - (Washington, D.C.) – School finance policy choices at the federal, state, and district levels systematically stack the deck against students who need the most support from their schools, according to a report released today by the Education Trust.

The report, Funding Gaps 2006, builds on the Education Trust’s annual studies of funding gaps among school districts within states. For the first time the report includes data and analysis on:

• How federal Title I funds widen rather than narrow the education funding gaps that separate wealthy states from poor states; and,
• How funding choices at the school district level provide enhanced funding to schools serving higher concentrations of affluent students and white students at the expense of schools that serve low-income students and students of color.

“With the help of two noted scholars, Goodwin Liu and Marguerite Roza, this year’s funding gap report paints a fuller – and even more painful – picture of how funding choices made at every level shortchange low-income students and students of color,” said Kati Haycock, the president of the Education Trust. “And while fairer funding systems will not alone redress all of the inequities in our education system, getting the funding right—at every level—will begin to make real our national aspiration of a fair shot for every child.”


Goodwin Liu, Assistant Professor of Law at Boalt Hall School of Law and co-director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity at the University of California at Berkeley, analyzed the distribution of Title I funds and shows that the program’s state allocation formula reinforces rather than reduces funding gaps between wealthy and poor states.

Liu’s analysis finds that the state expenditure factor in the Title I formula results in highly unequal allocations of federal aid per poor child. For example, Maryland has fewer poor children than Arkansas but receives 51 percent more Title I aid per poor child, even though Arkansas dedicates more of its taxable resources to education than wealthier Maryland. Similarly, Massachusetts has fewer poor children and exerts less effort against its tax base to fund education than poorer Oklahoma, but receives more than twice as much Title I aid.

In short, Title I tends to reward wealthy states that can raise funds for education with relatively little effort while shortchanging poorer states, including those that make relatively greater effort to fund education.

“Poor children are concentrated in relatively poorer states. Instead of providing relatively more help to these kids, Title I provides less,” Liu said. “If we are serious about ensuring that every child in America meets high standards, then we must develop a federal school finance policy equal to the task.”


In the paper’s second analysis—an update of the annual Education Trust funding gap analysis –co-authors Ross Wiener and Eli Pristoop of the Education Trust examine patterns in state and local funding across districts in the same state . Wiener and Pristoop find that in about half of the states studied, the highest poverty and highest minority districts received fewer resources than the lowest poverty and lowest minority districts. On average, states and localities spend $908 less per student in districts educating the most students of color, and $825 less per student in districts educating the most low-income students as compared to what is spent in the wealthiest and whitest districts.

After a 40 percent adjustment – the same adjustment used in the Title I formula to analyze state funding policies to low-income students – six states have funding gaps between the lowest and highest poverty districts that exceed $1,000 per child: Illinois, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Based on the same adjustment, 12 states have funding gaps between highest and lowest minority districts that exceed $1,000 per child: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

However, other states—including Massachusetts and Kentucky – target more money to high-poverty districts, and use meaningful accountability measures to ensure that the funds are used to make real progress.

“Ignoring or condoning funding gaps only makes it harder to tackle the substantive problems and inequities in public schools,” said Wiener, vice president for practice and policy at the Education Trust. “There are many complicated issues in reforming the current system, but fairly funding schools is not one of them.”


The final analysis in the report looks at distribution of funds within school districts. University of Washington Research Assistant Professor Marguerite Roza shows that, despite district bookkeeping practices that make funding across schools within the same district appear relatively comparable, substantially less money is spent in high-poverty and high-minority schools.

Teacher salaries are the clearest example. Roza looks at salary expenditures in a variety of districts and finds troubling inequities in the allocation of this key resource among schools in the same district. For example in Austin, a city with one of the largest salary gaps, the gap in average teacher salaries between the highest and lowest poverty schools within the district amounted to $3,837. In a school of 25 teachers that gap amounts to $95,925 less per year for a low-income school; in a school with 100 teachers, the gap increases to $383,700 per year.

Roza’s analysis also shows that salaries are not the only problem: districts routinely assign a larger share of their unrestricted funds to lower-poverty schools, as well. Although districts distribute earmarked funds such as Title I mostly to higher need schools, they undercut the purpose of those dollars—to provide “extras” for low-income students—by sending a higher percentage of flexible state and local funding to lower poverty schools.

"The spending patterns and funding gaps within districts exacerbate educational inequalities for low-income and minority students. Sadly, these funding inequities are buried in widely accepted and outmoded district-level accounting practices,” said Roza.

Among the report’s recommendations:

• At the Federal Level: The state expenditure factor in the Title I formula should be eliminated, and Title I funding should compensate for differences in state capacity to fund education.

• At the State Level: States need to assess relative challenges across districts and ensure that funding is commensurate with the challenges, and set equity standards for all school districts.

• At the School District Level: Districts need to publish transparent budgets and allocation figures to provide for greater accountability of local spending patterns.

“The funding inequities documented in this report, though deeply ingrained in our education systems, are not immutable. We can and should change these distribution practices so they direct resources first to the areas of greatest need,” said Haycock.


TURNING AROUND L.A. UNIFIED: We’re not going to make progress reforming the nation’s most dysfunctional school systems until we address segregation

by Paul Cummins | Truthdigg, a Progressive Journal of News and Opinion

Dec 19, 2006 — LOS ANGELES — What would it take? To truly turn around Los Angeles Unified School District, a school system that is at once the nation’s second-largest and one of its most under-performing—even, as many have argued, the most dysfunctional in the country; what would it take?

Not a quick fix. Not a silver bullet. Not simply a new superintendent, not simply a new program—Open Court [] or LAEP [] —not simply more systems of accountability to raise test scores a percentage point or two for a few years. Not Leave No Child Behind, not raising the per-pupil expenditures by a few hundred dollars.

Not that all of the above cannot, will not or do not help. And not that all the above shouldn’t be supported. But before we think any given fix will work, we need to define the problems more accurately, more honestly and more profoundly. You don’t cure an illness by treating only the symptoms. Test scores are a symptom. Dropout rates are a symptom. So, too, are gang domination, early teen pregnancy and childbirth, drugs and eating disorders, and teen suicide. All are symptoms of a fractured society, and until we fully acknowledge the breadth and depth of these fractures, we will not “fix” any school district. William Faulkner, in his 1950 Nobel Prize speech, wrote, “… we have sustained our problems of the spirit so long ... by now that we can even bear it.” But bearing it is not solving it.

The problems of our schools, I believe, are problems of the spirit. Leadership which fails to acknowledge and confront that reality will fail, and we along with it. Our primary spiritual failure is our disregard for real community. In Los Angeles, we are a balkanized city. We have a Koreatown, a Chinatown, a Little Tokyo; we have districts that are predominantly Jewish or Armenian or Vietnamese or Latino and on and on. But this is not real diversity—it is simply separate groupings that have little to do with each other. We have schools that are 99 percent Latino, 99 percent African-American or 99 percent Caucasian.

But beyond and almost superseding this, we have rich and poor. The neighborhoods and schools that are predominantly rich are also predominantly white, and the predominantly poor in Los Angeles are not white. This is not a startlingly new observation, but the failure to deal with it and the inequities these societal divisions impose on our children and youths represent a major failure of our country. Raising test scores a few percentage points may make some people feel good, but it will do little to change the lives of the desperately poor, foster children, gang-controlled youths, incarcerated youths and other youths destined for the ranks of the dropouts, the unemployed, the homeless, the “permanently unemployed,” the victims of crime, drugs, rape, etc.

So, real solutions? First, acknowledge that we have thousands of throwaway children and youths in our big cities and rural slums. Two, acknowledge that the Third World is right here in our own country and that day-to-day tragedies occur under our societal radar screens. Three, make the funding of known solutions and successful nonprofit organizations and public projects our highest priority. Four, hold a series of public and privately funded national summits to evaluate and make action plans for attacking the problems referred to above. Nothing short of a national resolve will fix LAUSD and all the LAUSDs across the land. Our children warrant such an effort.

• Paul Cummins is executive director of the New Visions Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to catalzye change in American public education. Cummins co-founded Crossroads School (Santa Monica, CA) in 1971, the Crossroads Community Foundation in 1991, New Roads School in 1995, and was a co-creator in launching Camino Neuvo Charter Academy.


by Dan Walters | The Sacramento Bee

Monday, 12/18/2006 - The two-month hiatus between Election Day and January's kickoff of the annual cycle of lawmaking and gamesmanship in the Capitol has its own flavor — appropriately falling during the holiday season, when drawing up wish lists and making new year's resolutions are venerable human activities.

When Senate President pro tem Don Perata unveiled a scheme to expand health care last week, for instance, he was claiming a role in what politicians say will be 2007's biggest issue. And in doing so in December, Perata drew much more attention than he would in January.

Others are also floating notions on health care and other potential preoccupations next year — especially those that might involve large sums of money, such as fixing overcrowded prisons before federal judges take over the system.

And then there's education, California's largest public enterprise, costing state and local taxpayers upwards of $100 billion a year.

The governor has a Commission on Education Excellence that's supposedly conducting a comprehensive review of California's public education system, which Schwarzenegger says is in need of reform, and that's triggered efforts by others.

A coalition of foundations is financing research "to provide California's policy-makers and other education stakeholders with the comprehensive information they need to assess California's current school finance and governance systems."

There's little doubt that spending more money — a lot more money — on the schools will be one conclusion, but Children Now isn't waiting for the foundations. The children's advocacy organization has issued a call for spending more on schools, claiming that a new poll of voters finds that they want "a reform approach combining more funding with tighter financial accountability." But the poll apparently never asked voters whether they were personally willing to pay more taxes for schools.

Still another call for more spending emerged last week from the California Postsecondary Education Commission, in the form of a report by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems comparing the outcomes of California's three-level system with those of other states.

The study found that California is 33rd among the states in high school graduation rates, 31st in two-year (associate) college degrees, and 14th in bachelor and postgraduate degrees.

"The commission will work diligently to encourage state policy-makers to increase the amount of resources going to higher education..." said Howard Welinsky, the chairman of the commission. And what would it cost to bring California up to snuff, according to the study? Doubling the more than $11 billion that the state now spends on colleges.

When you add up the wish lists that advocates of health care, prison reform, K-12 education and higher education are writing this Christmas, it's pretty staggering. Covering those who lack health insurance would cost about $10 billion a year, raising California's per-pupil spending on K-12 schools to the national average would run about $6 billion more, the college folks want $11 billion more and fixing the prisons would take tens of billions of dollars in new construction and several billion more in annual operating costs.

A nice round number for just these wish lists (and there are others) would be perhaps $30 billion a year, not counting the $5 billion it would take to close the state's chronic budget gap. And who would pay to raise state spending by one-third? Voters rejected every one of the tax increases, even those on smokers, corporations and the wealthy, that appeared on the November ballot.

It's the Capitol, where visions of sugar plum fairies dance in politicians' heads.


The LAUSD School Board member on the mayor's power-grab, school reform, and the greatest job in the world

Interview with Dean Kuipers | Los Angeles CityBeat

Dec 21, 2006 - David Tokofsky is a good example of why our state constitution and our city charter require governance of city schools via elected school boards: He says things that might make legislators and their big-money backers squirm. Even before he announced on December 9 that he would not seek his fourth four-year term on the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Tokofsky was among the most vocal critics of Assembly Bill 1381, which gives some authority to govern the schools to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a hodgepodge of local mayors. In a December 15 editorial in the L.A. Times, Tokofsky fires both barrels at the mayor's power-grab, implying it's nothing more than a naked attempt to gain influence over billions in school contracting, saying, �This is the behavior of despotism, not enlightenment.

A former star teacher at Marshall High School, Tokofsky famously coached his school's team to win the U.S. Academic Decathlon, beating private school students with some of L.A.'s most challenged public-school kids. He says his departure from the board is due, in some part, to the passage of AB 1381, and this must give pause to those who remain. A state court judge is considering this week whether or not AB 1381 is unconstitutional, but whichever way that ruling goes, the significant improvements in scores, the construction of 150 new schools, and the passage of multiple new school bonds will now apparently only add luster to the star of Mayor Villaraigosa, rather than the poorly paid board members who actually made it happen.

'Dean Kuipers

CityBeat: Did Villaraigosa's plan to take some control of the LAUSD inspire you not to run for reelection?

David Tokofsky: It was an ingredient but it wasn't a dominant ingredient. Learning has more to do with liberty than taking control, so the whole rhetoric of taking control � and I think [the word Villaraigosa] used in the L.A. Times was 'jihad,' and sort of the Bush language of Iraq. It just made no sense. But that's not enough to take me out of running because I had a poll, and I did well. The poll showed tremendous support for me, which I didn't think was going to be that high.

CityBeat: If the polling was so high, why leave?

David Tokofsky: I like challenges and competition, but I don't like battles for battles' sake. And when you're putting up a budget of nearly $2 million to run for school board, and you know that the opponents have to raise three to four times that, you realize that's no longer about kids and curriculum. It's about power and money. I would win. But people can think of a lot better things to do with $10 million than stuff our mailboxes with fliers and our telephones with automated messages. I decided that family and health and other avenues in public urban education were more important.

CityBeat: We're all reading the tea leaves on the constitutionality of AB 1381. Does your departure indicate you saw something there you didn't like?

David Tokofsky: The question next week will really be whether one side or the other is appealing. It's all moving very fast. I thought it was incredibly arrogant [for Villaraigosa to] form this five-member educational [team to implement AB 1381] before the law's even resolved. When Verizon donated a million dollars to after-school programs and then stipulated it could only go to after-school programs in the mayor's experimental, unconstitutional district. It already raises the specter of why the voters in 1946 separated cities from school districts. They didn't want them in the business of schools, because cities have interests that can be more developer-based, not kid-based. It's like the usual suspects of political offices are inventing more games to play rather than accomplishments to effect upon our schools.

CityBeat: Was there a need for some kind of grand gesture like this to change the school district?

David Tokofsky: No, Marlene Canter says it all the time: You didn't need a law to work together. But in the end, there are a lot of conflicts. For example: the developer who wants to build an apartment complex at the very site we've identified to put an elementary school. Who's gonna approve the various permits? And in whose interest? If you're a city councilperson, we know that the insiders are the ones that butter your bread. [Assembly Speaker] Fabian Nunez started working for Miguel Contreras, who was, in fact, opposing the merger of the two. So, you probably could even find records in the charter question discussions of Miguel Contreras and Fabian Nunez stating that the two should not be together. We know it violates the state constitution, section 6 of article 9, where the voters put an amendment in to get cities out of the business of schools.

CityBeat: Do you think that part of the reason this is happening now is because Superintendent Romer and the board were already making pretty good progress?

David Tokofsky: Yeah, elementary test scores are dramatically rising, faster than any urban district in America and in California, the middle and high schools are doing better than California's average. Sixty-five schools have gone up and 80-plus more are coming. While it's really cool to kick the school board and the school district, it's probably politically wise to claim the credit for it.

CityBeat: What about the way AB 1381 was passed?

David Tokofsky: What about the voters? If this is a debate over whether the schools are rising to our expectations or not, let's have that debate and let's have that vote right here in L.A. Don't go to the back room, and, as the mayor said, bring along your pajamas. They didn't put it out in committee, they didn't let it bounce through the Senate and the Assembly properly, they didn't bring it to a vote down here in L.A. You have legislators from northern California who just said, "It's the speaker's bill, and he's from down there, so if he wants it, I better want it."

CityBeat: People are very disappointed that there was no vote here.

David Tokofsky: Absolutely. And, cynically, they probably polled that and found out that it wasn't gonna fly down here. So they probably went up there because they already knew the answer down here. So then you avoid the debate itself.

CityBeat: You have been working part time for Green Dot, the charter schools. Are they a way to further reform the system?

David Tokofsky: No. I think charters are good for research and development. The charters think they're escaping from something bad, and the mother districts think that the charters are rogue children who don't understand public education. I think both sides haven't come to the intent of what state Senator Gary K. Hart and Senator Tom Hayden hoped was the effect of the law, which was to encourage innovation without regulation to inform the mother ship more, and use that as an experimental lab, a skunk works. The founder of Green Dot says he hopes he'll be out of business very shortly.

CityBeat: I was shocked to find out school board members are only paid $24,000 a year.

David Tokofsky: But, actually, the more debilitating piece - and obviously, the $24,000 shouldn't be replaced by city council's $170,000, because that's just exploitative - but it's the loss of the retirement. If somebody's going to be a public servant, I don't think it would cause a serious problem to assist on the pension side. If it wasn't for externalities like that, I'd still be doing it. I always quote Bill Clinton: When he left the White House they asked him what he wanted to do and he said he wanted to be a school board member. He understood that at the heart of the quality of society is the success of our schools.

• Two weeks in a row and David gets an article in 4LAKids! How can we miss him if he won't go away?

As he gets ready to leave the school board and sets out upon the next phase of his career I hope he thinks about writing his own blog and/or e-newsletter; I'll read it and disagree with it a certain percentage of the time! I hope he seriously thinks about returning to teaching and Marshall High School.

The clerk in Judge Janovs' court was a Tokofsky student. David and I found ourselves in a saloon with others for a celebratory glass of wine last night — there too we met a former "Student of David". David was quick to point out that the student didn't learn to drink in David's fourth period Poli Sci class …but just as certainly he learned something important.

Thank you David and thank you teachers everywhere. Thank you Mr. Schaeffer in the sixth grade for encouraging me to write the class newspaper.

Onward. -smf

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Spend time with your kids, families and loved ones.
• Read a book.
• Go see a play.
• See the original "Miracle on Thirty-fourth Street" or "It's a Wonderful Life."
• Discuss these things with children - there ARE miracles and it IS a wonderful life!
• Give peace a chance.

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.
• 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.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.