Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mendoza v. California, Act 1.1

4LAKids Update: Sunday, December 17, 2006
In This Issue:
THE RIGHT'S EDUCATION FANTASY: Conservatives' model for improving schools relies too much on high expectations, and not enough on money. + more!
MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER JOINS RACE TO SUCCEED TOKOFSKY: Bennett Kayser, also a neighborhood activist, turns in petitions for the school board positition
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.
I think I've said all I'm gonna say this weekend about Friday's trial!

Here's what the LA Times School Me columnist Bob Sipchen wrote from the courtroom that afternoon – Bob did not report on the morning session.


The fate of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's schools takeover legislation hangs in the air today as the mayor's legal eagles take on the LAUSD's law team at Los Angeles Superior Court. Armed with a dying Blackberry, School Me's (The LA Times Education Blog) Bob Sipchen reports from the scene:

1:45 PM: Court's back in session. Can Jiffy Lube run a public school? That's the question before Judge Dzintra Janavs. Really. At least one of them. A hypothetical, floated by the LAUSD team to challenge the legislature's decision to change who rules the local schools. School Me's in the courtroom and will let you know what happens...

1:54 PM: The judge has just raised the issue of "severability" -- whether part of the bill can and should survive if other parts are killed --saying that she wants to understand it in case she finds at least part of the bill unconstitutional.

2:01 PM: The district's side is basically agin' the judge letting any aspect of the law stand -- though they admit that certain other parts could conceivably function if the judge doesn't give the mayor his demonstration schools. The mayor's side argues that the spirit of the law is to encourage reform, so it's all good. If one part gets shot down, let the rest reform on.

"It's very clear that this is compromise measure," says Judge Janavs. To which the mayor's side replies that all legislation involves compromise. The judge seems interested in which pieces of the bill were "quid pro quo."

The peanut gallery, filled with named plaintiffs and the usual suspects including reporters and a handful of education obsessives, get several good laughs out of the judge's quips, then, noting that the matter is a complicated one...

2:02 PM: The judge says she wants to get a decision out by next Thursday at the latest.

2:07 PM: and then: "The matter is submitted and the court is in recess."

2:45 PM: Back at the Times, dazed by how quickly the afternoon session ended, School Me reflects on an amusing post-hearing moment: Outside, in the 8th floor Superior Court hallway, outgoing school board member David Tokofsky slipped into the scrum of reporters -- NBC'S Laurel Erickson, The Daily News' Naush Boghossian, the Times' Duke Helfand, etc. -- and began peppering the mayor's counsel, Thomas Saenz, with his own questions. Saenz, in an apparent reference to Tokofsky's Op-Ed in today's Times, says something to the effect of: What, you think you're a reporter now? The two dry-witted wise guys' jocular sparring begins to get heated, and Saenz finally dismisses his interlocutor with: "I know you're upset, David. Everyone knows you're upset."

Asked by Helfand if, should the judge decide against his case, the mayor's side will appeal, Saenz responded: "Absolutely."

-end Sipchen -

Following are a series of takes from the press beyond the breathless "Stop Press/This Just In" first impressions on Friday afternoon, reported earlier.

Onward! – smf


• PS: Headlines that say it all: NEGOTIATIONS ARE SIGNALED ON PHONE BAN IN CITY SCHOOLS: The city is considering a plan to allow students to pay to check their cellphones at the schoolhouse door. by Anemona Hartocollis | NY Times

Rules, schmules! Apparently Mayor Bloomberg is willing to let kids BUY a waiver …or perhaps an 'indulgence' — from his absolute / no way / "If parents don't like it they can boo me a parades!" cellphone ban! This is true entrepreneurial morality. - s


• Mendoza v. California, Act 1.1: The Times
►VILLARAIGOSA SCHOOL PLAN GOES TO COURT: Judge may rule next week on whether a mayoral takeover, set for Jan. 1, is constitutional. The losing side is expected to appeal.

By Howard Blume and Duke Helfand, LA Times Staff Writers

December 16, 2006 - The law giving Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa substantial powers over Los Angeles public schools got its first airing in court Friday, when a judge asked pointed questions about the centerpiece of the intervention efforts: the mayor's authority to assert direct control over more than three dozen schools.

The Legislature passed the Villaraigosa-backed law this fall, but the school district and other parties sued last month to permanently block the measure from taking effect Jan. 1, arguing, among other things, that it violates both the state Constitution and the Los Angeles City Charter.

Superior Court Judge Dzintra I. Janavs did not issue a ruling Friday after listening to three hours of testimony from lawyers representing Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles Unified School District and others. Janavs said she hoped to make her decision before the end of next week. The losing side is expected to appeal.

At issue is Assembly Bill 1381, which would shift some powers of the school board to the district superintendent and others to the mayor and a new Council of Mayors that Villaraigosa would dominate.

Perhaps the most crucial provision for Villaraigosa, however, allows him to choose and take control of three high schools and all the elementary and middle schools that feed into them. The schools could serve as many as 80,000 students, equivalent to the state's fourth-largest school district.

Villaraigosa's attorneys argued that the Legislature had broad powers under the California Constitution to designate authority over school systems.

But Janavs had questions about that. What, she asked, would stop the Legislature from naming anyone to run schools?

"Maybe we should get the police chief into a partnership and a council," she said. "Or maybe the district attorney. Where should the line be drawn?"

"You don't have to reach that far," responded Bradley S. Phillips, a private attorney who acted as lead trial counsel for the mayor's team.

"I think I do," said Janavs, returning repeatedly to the implication that the Legislature's discretion had no apparent limits.

Attorneys for the school system picked up on the judge's interest, arguing that the mayor's team was, in essence, arguing that a "dog catcher" could be designated to run schools, or that the Legislature could take it upon itself to assign the mayor to run the county's jails or the state of Utah.

Transferring so much power to the mayor and the Council of Mayors would eviscerate the school board's authority, violating the intent of the state Constitution and the Los Angeles city charter, said Fredric Woocher, a private attorney representing the district, parent organizations and some individual parents.

"At what point has the Legislature taken so much authority from the school board that it's no longer effectively governing?" he asked.

The judge's questions suggested that the constitutional objection becomes stronger as the school board becomes weaker. That put Villaraigosa's team in an awkward position. His lawyers repeatedly insisted that Villaraigosa's new authority was strictly limited, that the school board remained intact and relatively potent and that prevailing laws and oversight remained in force.

But their arguments ran counter to the original thrust of Villaraigosa's school reform effort: He had vowed to wrest as much authority as possible from the school board, chiefly by taking over the three groups of schools.

Last weekend, Villaraigosa announced the hiring of four educators who would help run his schools, and on Wednesday, he unveiled a $1-million private donation; another $1 million already was in hand.

He's supposed to select his first group of schools by Feb. 1 and the second by March 1. That could become a challenging time frame for the mayor as the court case plays out.

The Council of Mayors, by contrast, is less crucial to the mayor's immediate plans because its primary duty is to ratify the hiring of a superintendent. On this front, the school board circumvented Villaraigosa by signing retired Vice Adm. David L. Brewer to a four-year contract last month, before the new law could take effect.

Brewer could yet be the unlikely beneficiary of Villaraigosa's efforts. The law transfers some of the school board's powers to him, and this transfer is subject to fewer constitutional challenges.

The judge raised the possibility that she would throw out some parts of the new law, but she didn't specify which. She queried the parties about whether the rest could function on their own.

The mayor's team argued that they could. An attorney for the school district said the answer depended on what survived.

The notion that part — but not all — of the new law could persist might displease some of the mayor's allies who worry that a piecemeal bill could undermine school reform efforts.

Last fall, former Mayor Richard Riordan, philanthropist Eli Broad, former Gov. Pete Wilson and some legislators specifically asked the law's backers to remove a "severability clause," and the mayor's team complied. This action suggested that if part of the bill failed, it would all be nullified. At least that's how proponents of the change understood it.

The mayor's attorneys said in court papers that severability is spelled out in the education code.

After their appearance in court, school district attorneys seemed distinctly hopeful.

"The judge has obviously taken the time to deal with these issues, read the briefs thoroughly and showed a command of the case law," said Kevin Reed, district general counsel. "I think that we're right, and I'm cautiously optimistic."

Villaraigosa predicted the law would be upheld and would "allow us all to move past the lawsuit and begin implementing the reforms."

The mayor's top legal advisor acknowledged that his side had to field numerous pointed questions but insisted that the judge's inquiries gave no reliable indication of a ruling against the law.

"I wouldn't take so much from who gets asked more questions," said Thomas Saenz, the mayor's legal counsel, who attended the hearing but did not argue the case.

"Sometimes that's just clarifying her own thinking."

Whatever survives of the new law would be a plus, he said.

"Every piece of the package," Saenz said, "was important."

• Mendoza v. California, Act 1.1: The Daily Breeze

The Daily Breeze | from news service

December 16, 2006 - A law giving the mayor partial control of the Los Angeles Unified School District violates the City Charter and could lead to mayoral conflicts in decisions involving the city and the schools, an attorney for the district argued Friday.

"One is going to get short-changed," attorney Fredric D. Woocher said during the nonjury trial of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the legislation.

The suit, filed Oct. 10 in Los Angeles Superior Court by a coalition of district parents, students, administrators and the League of Women Voters, maintains that the legislation is unconstitutional and infringes on the rights of voters.

But Assistant City Attorney Valerie L. Flores said the city has a vested interest in the education of its young people so they can become productive members of society.

The impact on a city's economy can be directly tied to school graduation rates, Flores said.

The plaintiffs want Judge Dzintra Janavs to overturn Assembly Bill 1381, which was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September and gave Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa some authority over the district, though far less than he originally wanted.

After several hours of arguments by attorneys, Janavs took the matter under submission and said she hoped to have a decision by Thursday.

LAUSD General Counsel Kevin S. Reed told Janavs that AB 1381 was passed despite the legislative counsel's conclusion that it was unconstitutional.

After the hearing, Reed told reporters he was pleased by the thorough nature of the judge's questions.

"What we wanted was our day in court, and we absolutely got our day in court," Reed said. "I think she wanted to hear all the issues."

LAUSD board member David Tokofsky, an opponent of the legislation, said after the hearing that he was struck by the frequent mention by the mayor's attorneys about their concern for the voters -- even though AB 1381 was never put on the ballot.

Tokofsky got into a brief verbal spat in the hallway outside the courtroom with Thomas Saenz, counsel to the mayor, over the way AB 1381 was handled in the Legislature

"I understand you're upset, David," Saenz said.

"I am upset," Tokofsky replied. "I have children in the district, Tom. Do you have children in the district?"

Tokofsky has announced he will not run for a fourth term.

During the hearing, Woocher said that if the Legislature has an interest in schools that "requires this intrusion," the legislation should be applied statewide.

State Deputy Attorney General Susan K. Leach, representing Schwarzenegger and state Controller Steve Westly, said AB 1381 is "not a takeover of the LAUSD, but is a statute aimed specifically at education reform in the LAUSD."

Villaraigosa, the state, Schwarzenegger, Westly and Los Angeles County schools Superintendent Darline Robles -- who oversees the county office of education, not the LAUSD -- are all defendants in the case, which mayoral aide Matt Szabo has called 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 district 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.

• Mendoza v. California, Act 1.1: The Daily News
►LAUSD PLAN GOES TO COURT: Legality of mayor's plan to take over part of school district is questioned.

By Naush Boghossian, Staff writer, Los Angeles Newspaper Group (Daily News)

Dec. 16, 2006 - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's hard-fought effort to reform the Los Angeles Unified School District culminated Friday in a three-hour courtroom showdown, with attorneys debating the legality of the law that will determine who controls the nation's second-largest school district.

Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs said she hoped to rule by Thursday on the legal challenge to Assembly Bill 1381, which gives Villaraigosa responsibility for three school "clusters" and a 28-member council of mayors authority over the rest. It also grants local educators greater authority in operating their own campuses.

Even as lawyers debated the validity of the complex law, Janavs questioned whether some of its provisions should be overturned.

"I do want to hear both sides ... in case I decide at least part of this is unconstitutional," she said. "It's very clear this was a compromise measure. I don't know how you can avoid that.

"How do I figure out which was quid pro quo for what?"

Thomas Saenz, the mayor's chief counsel, said that invalidating Villaraigosa's ability to take over the low-performing schools would gut the mayor's hard-fought reform effort.

"This is intended as a package designed to increase accountability and community involvement in education and thereby improve the schools and those are significant parts of the package," he said. "But that said, every piece of the package is important and we think that every piece of the package would lead to some incremental improvement."

LAUSD's chief attorney, Kevin S. Reed, argued that AB1371 was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor even though the state's legislative counsel had concluded the bill was unconstitutional.

After the hearing, Reed told reporters he was pleased by the thorough nature of Janavs' questions.

"What we wanted was our day in court and we absolutely got our day in court," Reed said. "I think she wanted to hear all the issues."

Fred Woocher, Reed's co-counsel, said Janavs was obviously aware that political compromises had been made to get the bill approved.

"I think she was very astute in recognizing how much of a political compromise the passage of this bill was," he said. "In the context in which this bill was crafted and all the dealmaking that went on, it really is difficult to believe if any piece of it were taken away that it would have gotten sufficient votes to pass."

Villaraigosa released a statement saying he believed his reform bill will remain intact.

"I believe the courts will rule AB1381 to be constitutional, which will allow us all to move past the lawsuit and begin implementing the reforms," he said.

The lawsuit was filed in October by a LAUSD-led coalition which claimed AB1381 violates the state Constitution, which mandates a separation between a city governments and its education system.

The suit also claims the bill violates the Los Angeles City Charter, which sets forth the duties of the mayor, but does not grant him authority over public schools.

Additionally, the suit alleges the bill disenfranchises voters who are served by Los Angeles Unified but don't live in Los Angeles.

School board member David Tokofsky sat through most of the arguments, which he said offered more debate about the law than during the legislative process.

He expressed concern about a ruling that would invalidate only portions of the law.

"On the surface it seems to make a convoluted law simpler, but it will make the administration of schools less understandable and clear to moms and dads trying to understand the system.

"Depending on which way they did it, it would be a significant addition to the breakup discussion."


• Mendoza v. California, Act 1.1: The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Dec. 16, 2006 - LOS ANGELES — A state law that gave Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa partial control of the nation's second-largest school district is unconstitutional, opponents argued in the first court hearing on the controversial reform measure.

Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs heard three hours of testimony Friday in a lawsuit seeing to permanently block the measure before it takes effect on Jan. 1. The judge took the case under submission and said she expected to issue a ruling next week.

Villaraigosa predicted the law would be upheld and would "allow us all to move past the lawsuit and begin implementing the reforms."

The Los Angeles Unified School District has about 727,000 students, some 1,130 schools in more than two dozen cities, and 78,000 employees. It is plagued with a dismal graduation rate and an astronomical dropout rate.

Assembly Bill 1381, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this fall, would shift some powers of the seven-member school board to the mayor, the district superintendent and a new council that includes more than two dozen local mayors. It also grants Villaraigosa direct control over more than three underperforming dozen schools serving as many as 80,000 students.

In court, an attorney representing the school district and other opponents argued that the law takes too much power away from the elected school board and violates the state Constitution and the city charter.

"At what point has the Legislature taken so much authority from the school board that it's no longer effectively governing?" Fredric Woocher asked.

Villaraigosa's attorneys argued that state lawmakers have broad control over school districts.

The judge questioned that argument and asked what would stop the state from putting anyone in charge of schools.

"Maybe we should get the police chief into a partnership and a council," she said.

Assistant City Attorney Valerie L. Flores argued that the law creates only a "minor intrusion" into the education system.

It "introduces the concept the LAUSD needs to coordinate with other officials to take a whole regional approach to educating students," Flores said.

The law is "not a takeover of the LAUSD, but is a statute aimed specifically at education reform in the LAUSD," argued state Deputy Attorney General Susan K. Leach, representing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Controller Steve Westly.


Daily Breeze Editorial

Sunday, December 17, 2006 - The new year promises a new direction for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has a new superintendent at its helm and will likely have a new organizational structure in the wake of legislation that gives the Los Angeles mayor control over the worst-performing schools.

Indeed, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa this month has already appointed five educators to hone reforms for low-performing schools he will control beginning Jan. 1.

Meanwhile, a coalition of the district's parents, students, administrators and the League of Women Voters is challenging the LAUSD reform law in a non-jury trial, saying it violates the city charter and rights of voters in the district.

Whatever happens, we're not overly optimistic these LAUSD governance changes are an improvement in themselves over the current structure. But if Villaraigosa wants some additional direction on how to improve the low-performing schools, he might want to crack open a report from the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation that was released this month.

"No Choices Left Behind: Competitive Models to Restructure California's Lowest Performing Schools" offers an overview of research on what seems to work and what doesn't. For instance, the study found that California's multibillion-dollar investment in reducing class size in lower grades was, overall, a failure. Class-size reduction had little effect on students' performance on federal achievement tests.

But the study by the libertarian-leaning think tank does offer some ideas that merit consideration. Among them are the following:

• Turning over the operation of low-performing schools to results-oriented public and private organizations.

• Providing opportunity scholarships so students in low-performing schools can attend the public or private school of their choice.

• Following the model of San Francisco schools, which compete for students by allowing per-pupil funding to follow the students to their preferred schools.

• Converting low-performing schools to charter schools.

The study notes that San Francisco students in 2005 had the highest Academic Performance Index scores of any other urban school district. San Francisco scored 745 (800 is considered excellent) while LAUSD scores were a full 100 points lower.

The basic theory here is that allowing parents opportunities to send their children to better-performing schools, coupled with giving individual schools more control over their budgets, would force failing schools to either change their ways or close their doors.

If and when change comes to LAUSD, that's not a bad place to begin the discussion.

▲smf opines: The solutions proposed by the study and the Daily Breeze can be (perhaps over)simplified to:

• PRIVATIZE PUBLIC EDUCATION — "Privatizing" public education is an oxymoron …it's either public or it ain't! Universal free public education is America's greatest gift to democracy; it's certainly every American's greatest right and one of government's greatest responsibilities not guaranteed or mandated somewhere in the National Archives. When government abridges responsibility the right is shortchanged.

• OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIPS are Orwellian vouchers.

• OPEN ENROLLMENT — Open enrollment may work in San Francisco – a homogeneous city eight-miles-square with half-a-million people and nowhere near LA's demographic challenge. It also works in New York, a larger city but with a compact footprint. Additionally both have outstanding public transportation systems. And New York's experience with mayoral control, open enrollment and sidelining parents certainly shows no improvement in test scores!

• CONVERTING LOW PERFORMING SCHOOLS TO CHARTERS — Our experience in LA has been primarily with start-up charters, not conversions. The conversions we have had – Vaughn in Pacoima, Palisades, Granada Hills, etc. are outstanding programs. But the flavor of charters we see most of in LA are start ups like Green Dot and Accelerated. The study and the Daily Breeze seem to be advocating for forced conversion charters – not exactly an attractive option!

The District's own Options Program, Magnet Schools and Permits with (and without) Transportation do work and are outstanding. But we need to learn the lessons and expand-upon rather than cut them; create and embrace Zones-of-Choice and leverage the public transportation we have. Some outlaw LAUSD parents transport their kids outside their attendance areas and enroll their kids in what they see as "better schools" – that, gentle reader, is the intent of the school choice provision in NCLB!. Rather than discourage and penalize this (and kids for their parent's well meant error) the District should probably tolerate it — and even encourage it where it makes sense!

THE RIGHT'S EDUCATION FANTASY: Conservatives' model for improving schools relies too much on high expectations, and not enough on money. + more!

By Jonathan Chait | LA Times

December 3, 2006 – My wife spent a few years teaching in a mostly low-income elementary school. The main thing I remember her telling me was that parental involvement was a near-perfect predictor of her students' performance. The kids with active parents did well, and the kids with disengaged parents did poorly.

The great bugaboo of education reform has always been the role of parents. But if a child's family determines his educational future, then there's not much point in trying to perfect the school environment. Or so it would seem.

Last Sunday's New York Times Magazine featured a fascinating article by Paul Tough on the conundrum of the education gap between rich and poor (and white and black). (abstract & link to full article posted on 4LAKidsNews follows) The bad news is that this gap is indeed deeply rooted in parenting styles from a very young age. There is a stark difference between the way middle-class or professional parents raise their children and the way poor parents do. The former talk with their children far more, expose them to a broader range of vocabulary and give them far more positive reinforcement. "The professional parents were giving their children an advantage with every word they spoke," Tough wrote, "and the advantage just kept building up."

The good news is that some schools have shown that they can compress this gap with an intensive and properly focused program. A small number of educators have figured out how to drill their students into appropriate behavior and learning. One of the biggest factors in their success seems to be quantity. The students arrive earlier in the day, stay later and enjoy radically shorter summer vacations.

Now, here is where things get political. Conservatives see these success stories and draw from it the (essentially correct) lesson that it is possible to dramatically improve education for poor children. But, much like the neoconservative belief that people everywhere crave democracy, they take this basic truth as a point of departure into wild utopian flights of fancy.

Conservatives citing these success stories have made their motto "No Excuses" — as if it is only the pathetic failure of the education bureaucracy that is keeping every school from matching these achievements. President Bush's No Child Left Behind law set as its official goal the elimination of the achievement gap between rich and poor and white and black within a dozen years.

What the conservatives don't grasp is that the inner-city success stories are hard to replicate on a mass scale. These schools attract a small cadre of extremely bright and dedicated teachers, often willing to work 16-hour days.

You can find some teachers like that, but you can't find enough to staff every school in the nation, or even just the poorest ones.

There are two main problems with our pool of teaching talent. The first is that it's badly distributed. Schools are mostly funded locally, which means rich districts can easily afford to pay teachers more than poor ones. Tough cites a study of schools in Illinois that found the highest-quality teachers concentrated in the richest schools and the lowest-quality teachers concentrated in the poorest schools.

This is the unavoidable result of making schools raise most of their funding locally. The only way to change this insane system would be to fund schools at the national level.

The second problem is that teachers in general are massively underpaid. Two generations ago, teaching was able to attract a lot of highly skilled women because they were excluded from most professions on the basis of their gender. But as workplaces have opened up to women, schools have lost this vast pool of artificially underpaid talent.

If you want highly skilled teachers who work investment banker hours, we have to pay them like — well, if not quite like investment bankers, then a lot more generously than we pay them now. This is the point most conservatives refuse to accept. They think you can supply the schools with dynamic, extremely hardworking teachers while paying them a fraction of what they could earn elsewhere. They believe that market incentives apply to everything in the world except the market for teachers.

Of course, you do have some teachers willing to make that enormous financial sacrifice. My wife is one of them. But you can't build a national education strategy around relying on the kindness of strangers.

►Susan Ohanaian (of opines: Ohmygod. . . and this is the "liberal" view!

A small number of educators have figured out how to drill their students into appropriate behavior and learning.
Now these liberals wouldn't put their kids into a school that used this technique. But it's great for the Others.

Jonathan Chait is a senior editor at The New Republic, where he has worked since 1995. He has written for The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Slate, Time, American Prospect and other publications. And he provides a capsule view of why we must stop labeling education plans as "liberal" and "conservative" and instead label corporate plans when we see them. Drilling students into appropriateness is definitely the Corporate Way.

Willingness to pump more money into bad ideas should not be what distinguishes genuine conservatives from genuine liberals.

The subhead for (Chiat's) LA Times article: Conservatives' model for improving schools relies too much on high expectations, and not enough on money. Jonathan Chait says "you can't build a national education strategy around relying on the kindness of strangers." That may well be true, but I'd rather rely on the kindness of the teachers he calls "strangers" than on the agendas of corporate raiders.

• • • and smf chimes in: This corporate raider strategy informs thinking like that of the study reported on in the Daily Breeze editorial (above)

►WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE A STUDENT by Paul Tough (NYT); Magazine
November 26, 2006, Sunday Late Edition - Final, Section 6, Page 44, Column 1, 8393 words

DISPLAYING ABSTRACT - On the morning of Oct. 5, President Bush and his education secretary, Margaret Spellings, paid a visit, along with camera crews from CNN and Fox News, to Friendship-Woodridge Elementary and Middle Campus, a charter public school in Washington. The president dropped in on two classrooms, where he asked the ....

Link to entire article: WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE A STUDENT on 4LAKidsNews

MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER JOINS RACE TO SUCCEED TOKOFSKY: Bennett Kayser, also a neighborhood activist, turns in petitions for the school board positition
L.A. MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER JOINS RACE TO SUCCEED TOKOFSKY: Bennett Kayser, also a neighborhood activist, turns in petitions for the school board position.

By Howard Blume, Times Staff Writer

December 17, 2006 - The race to succeed school board incumbent David Tokofsky got a second candidate Saturday.

Bennett Kayser, 60, a veteran middle school teacher and neighborhood activist, will go up against Yolie Flores Aguilar, 44, chief executive of the Los Angeles County Children's Planning Council.

Kayser got his chance to enter the race when Tokofsky's withdrawal Dec. 9 triggered a reopening of the filing period. But prospective candidates had just one week to gather 500 signatures of registered voters who live in District 5, which stretches from Los Feliz to the cities of southeast Los Angeles County.

Among four new applicants, only Kayser had turned in his signatures by Saturday's noon deadline. The signatures must still be checked, but he turned in 643, giving him some margin for error, he said.

Previously, Kayser won a seat on the elected Charter Commission, which helped write the major revision of the Los Angeles City Charter in 2000. He's also the vice president of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council.

Kayser works as technology coordinator at the City of Angels School, which specializes in independent study. He previously taught seventh-grade science and health at Irving Middle School.

In the last two redistricting efforts, District 5 was drawn to maximize the odds of electing a Latino. But it never has — because the Spanish-speaking Tokofsky won election three times. In 1999, he narrowly beat Flores Aguilar.

Kayser said he doesn't speak Spanish well, but knows the academic territory: "At Irving, I had 184 12-year-olds each day. I loved every one of them, but trying to read 184 homework assignments and get them back was not my favorite part of the job.

"There needs to be ways to figure out how to get funding down into the classroom. It seems that's not always a priority."

To compete, a candidate will almost certainly need the endorsement of United Teachers Los Angeles or Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Kayser said he would seek both, though he has disagreed with the mayor's desire to supplant the authority of the school board.

"I think the mayor has a good heart in what he wants to do," Kayser said. "I'm sorry it's come out in a combative way."

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
See the Friday Dec 15 4LAKids!

...and be careful out there!

This is a year 'round school dsitrict and though many kids and teachers are not in school, many are!

Happy holidays if you have 'em!

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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