Sunday, December 10, 2006

Misreading the tealeaves

4LAKids: Sunday, Dec 10, 2006
In This Issue:
TOKOFSKY WON'T SEEK REELECTION: The L.A. school board member cites lack of enough family time and the toll of battling the mayor over district control
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.
• The monster type headline from the special Culture section screamed out from the plastic wrap of last Sunday's Times: "WHAT LOS ANGELES GAVE THE WORLD".

Whatever it was, it wasn't meaningful discussion of school district governance or reform!

THE GREEN DOT CONNECTION became more apparent as the mayor picked the Green Dot Charter Schools second-in-command to be third-in-command of the schools he plans to take over. Green Dot's #1 Steve Barr unleashed an obscenity-laced (and that's being kind!) tirade in an LA Weekly interview and School board President Marlene Canter, quoted in an article following, says there has still been no formal meeting with the mayor's staff to discuss AB 1381. Three weeks away from AB 1381's scheduled implementation and there has been no meeting?

I was actually in the room at the RJR Nabisco stockholders meeting in Phoenix in 1988 when Kohlberg Kravis Roberts pulled off the largest hostile corporate takeover of the last century, the one he book and movie "Barbarians at the Gate" was about.
• That was a $25 billion deal.
• LAUSD's annual budget plus the school construction budget exceeds that amount.
• When people say it's not about the money, it's about the money!

Included are three pieces by or about State Superintendent O’Connell and his initiative for education funding reform – he has his work cut out for him in a year where the governor and presumably the legislature will be focused on health care and infrastructure.

FINALLY: 4LAKids isn't intentionally about me or my opinions – it's intended to be about public education in this City of Angels and it's supposed to provoke and inform your opinion.

After a one month run for Board of Education I decided to withdraw my hat from the ring on Wednesday and return to this keyboard and the bully-pulpit soapbox to continue stirring the pot from within and without the school district.

This proved to be a colossal misreading of political tealeaves with David Tokofsky's last minute withdrawal from the race on Saturday — that contest potentially becomes a no-contest with only one candidate remaining.

• David did intimate to me that he might not run …but I chose to ignore the message.
• Through backchannels I had asked UTLA where their support would be: David was their guy.
• David continued to fundraise …he filed his nominating petition … he was SO running!

My own decision to withdraw turned on the realization that any campaign I would run would be uphill and grass roots …and I had not received the level of support that I felt justified me asking people to invest their money and hard work in supporting me as a “tilter at windmills” in a three-or-four-way race I could not win. I hypothesized if I were to go out and raise funds it should be where the limited resources people contribute can go to good use — like supporting the underfunded Dental Health Program that PTA has run in cahoots with LA City Schools since 1911. A program – in the midst of a dental disease epidemic among California schoolchildren – that is in danger of going out of existence.

• There remains a realistic expectation that the mayor will try to influence the school board elections with cash support for candidates who support his agenda.
• Both the leadership and membership of UTLA still need to decide whether they support the mayor or the incumbents. At last count inside UTLA it was 50.22% for; 49.78% against. With those odds who-against-whom really doesn’t matter — in any political fight it's the kids who will lose!
• And the teachers’ union is still smarting from supporting an unelectable candidate in this year’s special election.

During the last month I have met with lots of folks out there, many who share my mission and passion — our mission and passion — very few who think anyone in LAUSD is really on the right track.
• I have spoken to many folks who think the mayor is wrong and a number who (dangerously) think that anything else would be better.
• Certainly I’ve spoken to a number of “anyone but the ones in there now” folks — a sentiment I understand but don’t entirely share …"anyone" is a wide universe of (im)possibilities!

The window to file for office has been reopened.
There may be second chances in politics …who knew?
Call me a flip-flopper, call me what you will. I am reevaluating my decision not to run and I am asking for your opinion, input and thoughts.

• Email
• Call 323.446.8385 and leave word.

I am asking for your help. Onward! – smf


TOKOFSKY WON'T SEEK REELECTION: The L.A. school board member cites lack of enough family time and the toll of battling the mayor over district control

By Howard Blume and Joel Rubin, LA Times Staff Writers

December 10, 2006 — David Tokofsky, a celebrated teacher who became an iconoclastic school board member and, more recently, one of the most vocal critics of the mayor's efforts to win authority over local schools, announced Saturday that he would not seek reelection to the Board of Education.

The pullout of Tokofsky, who filed papers last month indicating he would run again, will trigger a one-week reopening of the filing period for candidates in District 5, the mayor's office said. The district stretches from Eagle Rock to the cities of southeast Los Angeles County. A new challenger would have little time to organize a campaign.

Only one other candidate, Yolie Flores Aguilar, who narrowly lost to Tokofsky in 1999, remains in the race.

Tokofsky said he submitted his notice of withdrawal Saturday at City Hall, where the election office was open because of a filing requirement in an unrelated race. He squeezed in the errand around a birthday party for his 6-year-old daughter.

Tokofsky said one factor in his decision was his inability to spend as much time as he would like with his children; he also has an 8-year-old daughter.

"I put a jumper in the backyard for the birthday party. While I wasn't in the jumper, I felt like I was jumping today," Tokofsky said. "A lot of pressure came off my shoulders in making this decision."

Tokofsky, 46, added that he is weary of juggling outside work to get by on the $24,000-a-year salary paid to Los Angeles Unified School District board members — unchanged over the 12 years and three terms of his service. But he also said the battle with the mayor has taken a toll.

Villaraigosa quietly targeted the three incumbents on the March ballot, all of whom opposed a law, backed by the mayor, that transfers some of the school board's authority to him. The board, with Tokofsky leading the rhetorical charge, has sued to overturn the law on constitutional grounds. The case goes before a judge next week.

The mayor's office seemed pleased with the news about Tokofsky.

"David Tokofsky understands that there is a growing chorus for change, and incumbent school board members can no longer defend the status quo," said Janelle Erickson, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

A source in Villaraigosa's office went even further on condition of anonymity: "This is a huge victory for the mayor. Tokofsky was one of the leading opponents of the mayor's education reform efforts."

Tokofsky was by no means certain to lose the race — even if opposed by the popular Villaraigosa and even though he is white in a district whose Latino majority is growing, said Paul Goodwin, who has conducted polling for Tokofsky since the board member's first race in 1995.

"David was very strong going into this race," Goodwin said. "This is not a case of him being driven out because he had no chance of winning. We were pleasantly surprised. These are by far the strongest numbers he had going into any election."

Tokofsky has a history of close finishes. He first won election by fewer than 100 votes. In his next contest, the margin was several hundred. He won his last race handily despite opposition from former Mayor Richard Riordan.

"David has built up a cadre of voters who like him," Goodwin said.

Other than Villaraigosa, the key player in this year's board races is the teachers union. Tokofsky has always won the backing of United Teachers Los Angeles — an endorsement that has sometimes been ratified by the membership against the wishes of top union leaders.

The current union leadership, which has strong ties to Villaraigosa, has been cool to Tokofsky but has also conceded that he might well have won the union endorsement and the resources that come with it. The union can pour hundreds of thousands of dollars and an army of volunteers into a board race.

Tokofsky's impending departure means he will be immune from union pressure to deliver a higher salary offer in ongoing contract talks with teachers.

On Saturday, union President A.J. Duffy praised Tokofsky's accomplishments in the classroom as a teacher. Tokofsky coached a Marshall High School team to the U.S. Academic Decathlon championship in 1987.

"I am reminded that David was a really fine teacher," Duffy said. "He's got a wealth of knowledge. What a great high school civics teacher he would make with his added wealth of experience from the school board."

School board President Marlene Canter praised her departing colleague. "When he looks at an issue, it's through the lens of his keen intellect," she said. "He raises the level of discourse on the board."

Tokofsky has also always had critics, who have accused him of being overly calculating and having an intellect that sometimes wanders too much from the main business at hand. Early in his tenure, he at times was combative with district administrators.

As a board member, Tokofsky played a key role in hiring an inspector general, whose job is to ferret out fraud and waste. He also pushed successfully for the committee that oversees spending on the massive school construction and repair program. Such committees are now part of all school bond measures.

He said Saturday that he is also proud of his advocacy for full-day kindergarten, for the district's comprehensive use of student assessment and for helping break up an insular culture that typically looked for leadership only from inside the school system.

For the last 2 1/2 years, Tokofsky has worked part time for Green Dot charter schools. But he said he hasn't decided what to do next — other than that education will be involved. The self-professed political animal said he will miss the fray and playing a role in education issues at the state and federal level.

"I love challenges and competition," he said. "But just fighting over power and control is incredibly distracting and demoralizing from the core mission of helping children. I could win the playground fight, but we tell our kids at school that if you fight at school, you're both suspended."


by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

12/04/2006 — With Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hoping to take over Los Angeles Unified in just four weeks, city officials say they're working hard to streamline operations while school district leaders are bracing for the changes.

If upheld in court, Assembly Bill 1381, signed into law in September, will shift significant power from the elected school board to the district's superintendent and give the mayor authority over three low-performing school clusters. It also will give educators greater control over their campus's budget and curriculum.

Villaraigosa's education team - led by his chief of staff, Robin Kramer; Deputy Mayor Ed Cortines; and attorney Tom Saenz - has been studying public-school districts nationwide and debating how to raise student achievement and make the LAUSD more efficient.

Their top concerns, officials say, include pinpointing the district's dropout rate, providing educators with sufficient support and training, and including parents in the education system. For instance, Villaraigosa is weighing a program used in Chicago, where parents grade the performance of their children's schools.

The education team is also developing timelines of when decisions need to be made and implemented, as well as benchmarks to track progress.

But it will be newly hired Superintendent David Brewer who will feel the biggest change in his role. Beginning Jan. 1, he'll assume the authority to make budget, management and contracting decisions and take over the district's massive school-construction program.

"Giving the superintendent more authority to run the school district will only streamline the decision-making process by giving him the oversight he needs to push for real change in our public schools," said Janelle Erickson, the mayor's spokeswoman.

Villaraigosa and Brewer also want a management audit conducted of the LAUSD as part of their reform effort.

And the mayor also must formally designate the three high schools and their feeder campuses for which he'll accept responsibility - two beginning July 1 and the third in September 2008.

While the Mayor's Office is moving ahead with its takeover plans, LAUSD officials hope a judge will rule in their favor on a lawsuit seeking to invalidate AB 1381. Arguments in the case are scheduled for Dec. 15.

Kevin Reed, the LAUSD's lead attorney, said a Jan. 1 implementation of AB 1381 will result in an upheaval in the district's budget process and its $19.2 billion construction program.

Shifting contracting authority from the board to the superintendent will result in a slowdown in the process, said Reed, who predicted cost overruns of $150 million for a construction program that is already short of cash.

"I think you can expect a lot of disruption with the operation of the schools, primarily related to the great ambiguity that exists in the bill and a lot of unanswered questions in AB 1381," Reed said. "But we have contingency plans."

Reed also said the lines of authority between Brewer, Villaraigosa and the board will need to be worked out.

"We would be entering territory no other school district or public agency has had to enter. The district will do its best to comply with the law when and if it goes into effect, but it will be incredibly difficult to do so.

"It will be costly, and it will be a substantial disruption to the operation of the district."

School board President Marlene Canter said there has been no formal meeting with the mayor's staff to discuss AB 1381.

But, she said, board members want Brewer to serve as a liaison between them and the mayor - especially if a judge rules that AB 1381 is valid.

"From the board's perspective, we are continuing our governance responsibilities and we'll continue to do that no matter what as we move forward," she said. "We'll do whatever we need to do to serve the needs of the kids."

At a news conference last week, Villaraigosa said he hopes the suit challenging the constitutionality of AB 1381 will be decided quickly.

Villaraigosa refused to divulge details of what his office is doing to prepare for a governance shift, but said staffers have been working hard.

"We have an exciting plan for the mayor's partnership schools. We have met with some of the best education reformers in the country and leading advocates for kids. These schools, without question, do not have the resources they need. Part of what I can do with this bully pulpit is make the case for more funding."

In its lawsuit, the district claims that AB 1381 violates constitutional mandates separating the operations of cities and the education system. The suit also says the law violates the Los Angeles City Charter, which does not grant the mayor specific authority over public schools; and that it disenfranchises voters who don't live in Los Angeles but are served by the district.

In ruling on the suit, the judge will have to decide whether provisions of the City Charter or state law prevail, said Loyola Law School professor Karl Manheim.

If AB 1381 goes into effect Jan. 1, most people won't expect the mayor to make dramatic changes in the first week - or even the first month, said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at the University of Southern California.

But, the mayor's political future could depend on the success of schools, especially those in the three clusters he'll oversee.

"At this point in time, it's fairly important in terms of his political career and his agenda," Jeffe said.

"He set up this goal, and he promised there would be a difference. The question is whether or not voters will hold him to that promise or whether or not he can make good on his promise.

"But if the schools he's directly overseeing don't improve, he's in a significant danger zone," she said. "There's no way out of that."


By Howard Blume, Times Staff Writer

December 9, 2006 — A leader of a fast-growing chain of local charter schools has accepted a top position with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's education team, immediately becoming a key player in the administration's school reform efforts.

Marshall Tuck, 33, president and chief operating officer of Green Dot Public Schools, is expected to work under Deputy Mayor Ramon C. Cortines when legislation takes effect Jan. 1 that will give the mayor substantial authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The mayor's office declined to comment. Tuck confirmed the move but also said he wanted to talk with Green Dot staff before commenting further.

Green Dot founder and chief executive Steve Barr was effusive about the appointment.

"We're pretty fired up," Barr said Friday. "We love Marshall and it's a good validation of our hard work."

The hire raised concerns late Friday afternoon at the headquarters of United Teachers Los Angeles that Tuck would head schools under Villaraigosa's direct control. Union leaders have generally opposed the rapid spread of charter schools in the district.

Another concern was that hiring the top administrator without teacher input probably would offend union leaders.

But a call between the mayor's office and a top union official apparently allayed any uneasiness. Union leaders said they understood that Tuck was not being hired to run the schools and that any such decision would be made later.

A union official said he would reserve judgment on Tuck, saying he was not familiar with how teachers are treated at Green Dot. "If he can help make these non-charter schools successful, we would welcome that," said Joel Jordan, UTLA's director of special projects.

The new law giving Villaraigosa a role in schools still faces a court date next week over a constitutional challenge that could nullify it.

Tuck joined the charter school company in July 2002 as chief operating officer and became president in fall 2004. He'd previously worked as marketing manager and lead salesperson for a software company. He has also been an investment banker in New York and a volunteer teacher in Zimbabwe.

L.A.-based Green Dot operates 10 small high schools, five of which opened this year near Jefferson High. Tuck, who has worked mostly in the background, represents the less controversial side of Green Dot.

The other side is represented by Barr, whose brash personality and politicking have raised hackles about Green Dot that will inevitably color views of Tuck. Barr clashed openly with recently retired Supt. Roy Romer, and in the last race for mayor spearheaded a coalition that pressured both challenger Villaraigosa and incumbent James K. Hahn to seek authority over the schools.

And in this week's LA Weekly, Barr took a shot at new Supt. David L. Brewer by criticizing the Navy's education programs. Brewer, a retired admiral, used to help run them. Barr also offered an obscenity-laced response to purported anti-Green Dot comments from teachers union President A.J. Duffy.

Duffy said Friday that he had intended to criticize charters in general, not Green Dot in particular, but added: "Charters do not educate any better."



By Frank D. Russo, Publisher, California Progress Report

An article appeared in this morning's Oakland Tribune: "O'Connell searches for the true cost of education--California superintendent hopes $2.6 million study drives funding of state's schools", that provides much food for thought. It focuses on K-12 education--an important issue in its own right that is shaping up to be a major one for the Governor and legislature in the session that starts on Monday. But there is a very interesting approach O'Connell is taking--and it is one that is missing in public discourse on the size of government in our state, nation, and on a local level.

It is so simple, but it is radically different from the posturing that is heard in the debates in Sacramento and by the press and the pundits at large on funding our state's schools. The usual debate focuses on how much we are spending, how it compares with years past, money that has been "borrowed" from education to balance the state's budget and whether it has been paid back, and how this fits within various formulae, including Prop 98, which requires a certain amount of our state's budget be dedicated to education .

Sweep all that to the side. Instead, O'Connell is proposing to figure out what is really needed to provide the children of our state a proper education--both from a reform standpoint and the financing that is needed--and then acting on this information. Sure, all the statistics that have framed the debate in the past are relevant and should be taken into account. One needs to see where our spending level is compared with other states and the national average. But if we can first try to ascertain what is really needed, here in California, then we are ready to debate what we should spend on education. Only then can we have an intelligent debate on the overall budget, whether to raise taxes, and some of the larger issues that politicians pander to voters about.

As an abstract principle (and a pretty powerful one indeed) California's voters do not want higher taxes. But poll after poll have shown that they want services from their state government and education is at or near the top of the list of what they want. There is indeed a new poll that confirms that Californians, by a very sizeable majority, want a better educational system and are willing to pay for it--if there is accountability.

Just saying taxes are "too high," pledging that there will be "no new taxes" in California, or saying that we have "a spending problem" does not get us to the starting point of the real debate we need. It is like the Emperor Joseph II in Amadeus telling Mozart that there are "too many notes" in his compositions.

A thoughtful linguist at Real Reason, Annette Shenker-Osorio, said it best recently:

"The problem with “Shrinking” Government: Government is typically viewed as something separate from community life—something that can simply be made to “grow” or “shrink” like a tumor. This mental model for thinking about government obscures some basic realities.

The challenge is to promote a more sophisticated way of thinking about government. Government is the community coming together to set priorities that serve the common good. When government is starved of resources, these decisions don’t disappear—they simply shift to less transparent, less accountable, and less democratic institutions."

Columnist Peter Shrag, wrestled with the contradictory attitudes of the voters of this state in his book California: America's High-Stakes Experiment.

He spelled much of this out in a column in March of this year: "Does California really want things to work?"

Is California-present - or for that matter the nation - prepared for the new society growing up around us in which we are all, to one degree or another, immigrants? Are we still willing to maintain and pay for the good society we seemed at one time on the road to becoming, and seemed sometimes to take for granted, or will we settle for an increasingly fractured, inequitable society divided between rich and poor?”

Three months after Proposition 13 passed, Howard Jarvis, its principal author, wrote a piece for The Bee complaining about "illegal aliens who come here to get on the taxpayers gravy train." Since then we've had a string of ballot measures seeking to restrict services, including public education, for illegal immigrants, and ending ethnic preferences in employment and education.

But in the long meantime, California's cumbersome governmental machinery - its supermajority vote requirements, its auto-pilot spending mandates, its incomprehensible fiscal machinery, its wild-card initiative process - make it appear that despite voters' expressed desires, they really aren't sure they want the thing to work at all.

It would serve the people of California to have a debate and discussion of what is really needed in education and all levels of our government rather than tired clichés and campaign rhetoric. That goes for health insurance, the state's prisons, and any one of a number of expensive but important programs.

►O'CONNELL SEARCHES FOR THE TRUE COST OF EDUCATION: California superintendent hopes $2.6 million study drives funding of state's schools

By Grace Rauh, Staff Writer, Oakland Tribune

12/01/2006 — SAN FRANCISCO — For years it has been a rhetorical question. But for the first time this spring, Californians may finally get an answer. Exactly how much does it cost to properly educate a child?

The question has been posed repeatedly, and the answer was the focus of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell's speech Thursday, kicking off the California School Boards Association's annual conference, held in San Francisco's expansive Moscone Convention Center.

Nearly 4,000 school board members from large and small districts around the state planned to attend the three-day event.

"We actually asked what is the actual cost to educate a student," O'Connell told the crowd. "I hope that (the answer) really drives the discussions in Sacramento."

The $2.6 million study responsible for uncovering this elusive answer was funded by four foundations and led by Stanford University. O'Connell, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislative leaders commissioned the research and the results should be released in two to three months.

"I hope it's a benchmark," O'Connell said after his speech, from the floor of an education trade show taking place alongside the conference. "I hope it's more than a study that is placed on the shelf. I hope it drives education funding."

Education funding in California is distributed in a messy, complicated manner, with districts given different amounts of money to teach their students. On average, the state spends $7,746 on each student, according to data from the 2003-04 school year compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics. Texas spent

$7,271 on each student during the same year. New York lavished $12,535 on each of its pupils, according to the center.

California voters support spending more money on public schools, but only if there is greater accountability over how that funding is dispensed,according to a new statewide poll released Thursday by Children Now, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Oakland.

Eighty-four percent of the 1,300 voters surveyed by telephone believe public schools should have the materials and teachers needed to teach the state's academic standards, even if it means increasing education funding.

Nearly eight in 10 voters surveyed said they support some type of education reform, which could include a complete restructuring of public schools or softer reforms that still would dramatically change the system.

"There's not a big divide in the electorate in terms of making major changes in education," said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now. "They are saying loud and clear that the system is unacceptable and we need major change in California."

For Lempert, the key to the polling results is the realization that voters want education reform and financial accountability. They are saying, "Let's do both. Let's do them together. Let's get them done," he said.


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell's remarks at the California School Board Association meeting, Thursday, November 30, 2006;

JACK O'CONNELL: It's great to be here with you again at your annual conference.

This promises to be an interesting year in Sacramento. Over the next few months we'll be hearing a lot about the results of a tremendous, multi-faceted research project now underway by four major foundations at the request of myself along with the governor and leaders of both houses of the legislature.

That research will inform many of our education funding discussions in the upcoming year, and it may cause us to rethink many issues I know are a concern to you, from declining enrollment to teacher salaries. Rick Miller from my staff will be at this conference tomorrow to talk more about this effort. We look forward to your feedback when the research is complete.

Quite simply, we need to find the resources to do whatever it takes to close the achievement gap. It's the job of public education to prepare students to succeed in the world regardless of the challenges they bring to us - to find those strategies, programs and interventions that work so that every child gets an education backed by the new 3 R's:

• Rigor - because all students must be prepared to a level higher than ever before, and preparation for today's workplace must be as demanding as preparation for college.

• Relevance - because we need to keep our students engaged with schools that relate to their real lives and the real world of work they face.

• Relationships - because every student needs connections with caring adults and good role models in their schools.

You as school board members have a big part to play in making sure that every student has access to these 3 R's. We can't deliver the education our students deserve without leadership at the district level.

Now I'm proud that in California, unlike in many other states, we've resisted the pressure to lower our standards to make it appear as if our students are doing better, in order to avoid the harsh spotlight or sanctions of No Child Left Behind Act. Instead, we've kept our standards high and now we have a clear picture of how far we have to go to reach the high expectations we've set.

And we do have a long way to go in order to eliminate the achievement gap that threatens the futures of a growing population of students.

We are working to address this problem with extra resources, with interventions at the school and district level, and with better professional development for teachers and administrators.

But clearly, we must work harder, faster and with more focus. Our challenge has been made more difficult because we have not in the past been able to point to solid research and say, "here are the two or three or a dozen things that must be done for this group of students or that group of students or all students - and here is what it will cost to deliver those things, if we expect to meet our goal of all students becoming proficient and prepared to succeed."

We set high expectations, and then we just do the best we can when it comes to funding.

And, as you well know, our schools are accustomed to a feast-or-famine - more often a diet or famine - depending on the size of the budget pie in any given year, regardless of whether or not education's cut of that pie actually meets the needs of preparing our students for the future.

The question here in California and all across the nation is, just what will it take to close the achievement gap? Is there even a way education can make up for factors such as poverty and dysfunction in the home?

What will it take for us to provide every student in every school with well-qualified, effective teachers, and how will we do this when, over the next decade, nearly a third of California's teachers, some 97,000, are expected to retire?

How will we attract excellent leaders to serve as school principals in all of our schools in a decade when we expect 40 percent turnover in school administrators?

And how do we ensure public support for adequate funding of our public schools as fewer Californians, particularly those Californians who vote, have children in schools? How do we do this at a time when the costs of health care, pensions and other services to support an aging population puts even more pressure on school budgets and the state budget itself?

We know it is possible for students to overcome tremendous obstacles to achieve, with the right mix of attention, engagement, excellent instruction, and support. So we must find ways to deliver these ingredients to all children

Meanwhile, i know we're all pleased that the 2006-07 brought us fiscal relief with a $4.5 billion, 11.4 percent Proposition 98 increase.

And I'm particularly pleased that the O'Connell/CTA v. Schwarzenegger settlement sets up a stream of funding for low performing schools -- $2.9 billion over the next seven years.

So this is a great year for one-time funds and I want to assure you my department is working to allocate those funds as quickly as possible and with the maximum flexibility intended by the Legislature and Administration.

Fortunately, California voters this month once again showed their support for schools by passing Proposition 1D, and we'll see $200 million for small high schools, $500 million for Career technical education, and more money for state of the art school facilities as a result.

Locally, 54 school bond measures were passed, representing more than $6.6 billion in construction and modernization funds. 54 out of 70 local communities approved general obligation bonds requiring 55 percent approval rate.

Of those, 35 received approval margins between 55 and 66.6 percent.

(So I'm grateful to voters for supporting California's public schools, and I'm proud that with your support we lowered the threshold for passing these bonds to 55 percent.)

That's some of the good news. Budget forecasts for the 2007-08 fiscal year aren't quite so positive. Though it looks as if Proposition 98 revenues will support COLA and growth, the one-time monies available this year will be gone, and not much will be available to fund new programs.

Education will also be competing with health care and other critical areas of the budget at a time when the governor has said he will eliminate the structural budget deficit.

So let me assure you I will do everything in my power to protect Proposition 98. California voters intended this funding formula to be the base for school funding, and it must be the base, not the ceiling.

I know declining enrollment is a top concern for many of you, and I understand the pressures particularly faced by unified school districts.

You'll likely see proposals again this year in the legislature dealing with that issue, and as I said, coming out of the research we expect to be released early next year, we may see new approaches to resolving some of the issues stemming from declining enrollment.

In the meantime, i plan to continue my support for the concept of extending the "hold-harmless" period for districts with enrollment in decline; that way you will have more time to consider how your district should respond to its changing enrollment and funding.

I'm grateful to all of you for all that you do for the 6.2 million students we serve.

Thank you.


from Associated Press

LOS ANGELES, December 6, 2006 - (AP) -Teachers pressing demands for a new contract rallied outside Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters Wednesday evening.

The teachers pointed flashlights at the building in a symbolic shining of light on what they claim is bureaucratic waste.

Members of United Teachers Los Angeles have been seeking a contract settlement for five months, said Marla Eby, a spokeswoman for the local teachers union.

The last contract expired in July.

Their main complaint, according to Eby, is the district's expenditure of $450 million on non-school-site supervisory and administrative positions. Classrooms, meanwhile, are underfunded, union officials claim.

Eby said teachers turned on their flashlights and directed them toward the building although many headquarters employees had already gone home.

Teachers held up picket signs that said "Cut the Bureaucracy" and "Quality Schools Now."

District Superintendent David Brewer III, still new on the job, issued a written statement before the demonstration. He said the district has offered teachers a package that includes a 4.5 percent increase in total compensation.

"Our teachers are this district's most important asset to help accomplish the shared goal common to everyone involved in the LAUSD - to provide the best possible education for our children," he said in the statement.

By Howard Blume, LA Times Staff Writer

December 7, 2006 — As teachers prepared to rally Wednesday to protest stalled contract talks, their union leaders criticized contract extensions for senior school district officials as well as a possible consulting contract for former Supt. Roy Romer, who retired last month.

One rally took place in the southwest San Fernando Valley; another was held just west of downtown at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Both were well attended.

The featured prop for the late-afternoon event, in the hands of many demonstrators, was a flashlight to "shine your light on district waste."

The union also brought along two movie premiere-style searchlights to round out the metaphor, and shined them on the central administration building. Speakers downtown addressed a spirited throng of more than 2,500 from atop a truck/bandstand.

In an interview, union President A.J. Duffy accused the district of protecting entrenched bureaucrats and squandering money that should go to classrooms and teachers. He took direct aim at a possible consulting contract with Romer, which the school board discussed Tuesday in closed session.

Duffy also criticized the rehiring earlier this year of more than 30 senior managers with two-year contracts that took effect July 1. With Romer intending to retire, such contracts should have been limited to six months or so, he said, allowing the new schools chief to "pick his own team."

"It's the same old, same old. Why did they hire the entire senior staff back again?" Duffy said. "And we're concerned that the district would hire Romer back. Are we going to have two superintendents?"

But new Supt. David L. Brewer III supports "tapping the experience and historical perspective" of Romer, said Don Davis, Brewer's chief of staff. Under Romer, he said, the district began offering multiyear contracts to attract top talent and provide continuity.

The union has demanded a 9% salary increase and smaller classes; the district has offered 3% and a more limited class-size reduction. An earlier, separate pact over health benefits raised the compensation package by 1.5%.

Negotiations are playing out against the backdrop of school board elections in March. The backing of United Teachers Los Angeles has been critical in previous elections. UTLA is withholding the possible endorsement of incumbents until January, to pressure officeholders on the contract talks.

Three-term incumbent David Tokofsky will face one less challenger than anticipated. Luis Sanchez, who heads an Eastside nonprofit, said Wednesday that he would drop out and support Yolie Flores Aguilar, chief executive of the Los Angeles County Children's Planning Council. She lost a close election against Tokofsky in 1999.

"She has a better chance of beating David Tokofsky," Sanchez said. "And to beat David we cannot split the Latino vote."

Tokofsky's Latino-majority District 5 stretches from Eagle Rock to the cities of southeast Los Angeles County.


By Scott Simon, broadcast on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday, December 9, 2006

Even in a week that's filled with bombings and poisoning investigations, for many people the saddest moment in the news was when Brian Anderson, an Oregon sheriff, had to turn away in tears as he announced that James Kim's body had been found.

"I'm crushed," he said. "He was a real superhero."

Mr. Kim and his wife Kati, their daughters -- 4-year-old Penelope and their 7-month-old baby Sabine -- were stranded in their car in a heavy snow after making a wrong turn onto a logging road west of Grant's Pass, Ore.

The Kims lived in San Francisco, where James Kim worked for a tech news Web site. His family owned two boutiques and a coffee shop where he stopped each day, buying a double latte in the morning and a frappe that he brought home to his wife each night.

They were driving home from Thanksgiving in Seattle, and missed a turn when snow began to fall; and their car got stuck.

The logging road they turned down should be blocked off by a gate in November, because it's considered hazardous in winter. But authorities said yesterday that vandals apparently cut the lock; and the gate was open.

For a week, the Kims huddled and ate berries, baby food and crackers. After a few days, they had to burn their tires to keep warm, and to try to attract attention. When they ran out of food, Kati Kim, who is still nursing their baby, breast-fed 4-year-old Penelope, too.

In these times of mobile phones, instant messages and global positioning satellites, it is hard to imagine that you can be lost and out of reach anywhere in the United States. Many news accounts have tried to imagine the pain, cold, hunger and fright the family must have felt -- the excruciating uncertainty, day after day, as they weren't found and couldn't know that hundreds of people were searching for them.

What might have been hardest for James and Kati Kim was to see and hear their children suffer.

So after a week stuck in the wilderness, and no sign of rescue, James Kim decided that a father has to do whatever he can to save his family -- or die trying. He struck out to try to find help. Hungry, weak, and wearing only street clothes, James Kim, a city boy from San Francisco, walked and crawled for ten miles over sharp ledges, through bristling forests and swam through freezing creek waters.

Two days after he left, Kati Kim and their daughters were found. Their health is good. But two days after that, James Kim was found dead in a ravine, of exposure.

So much of modern popular culture depicts parents who are goofy, foolish, clueless and slightly pathetic. Almost every parent is certain they would risk their life for those they love; James Kim actually made that sacrifice.

As Joe Hyatt, a member of the rescue team searching for James Kim, told reporters this week: "He must have been an extremely amazing individual. I would only hope I could do the same for my family."

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
►MONDAY DEC 11, 2006
Please join us to celebrate the completion of your new classroom building!
Ceremony will begin at 1 p.m.
Vine Elementary School
955 N. Vine St.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

►TUESDAY DEC 12, 2006
The purpose of this meeting is to inform and obtain input from the community on the types of issues to be considered in a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. - Bret Harte Preparatory Middle School
9301 S. Hoover St.
Los Angeles, CA. 90044

SOUTH REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #7: Presentation of Design Development Drawings.
6:00 p.m. - Russell Elementary School - Auditorium
1263 E. Firestone Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90001

►THURSDAY DEC 14, 2006
SOUTH REGION MIDDLE SCHOOL #7: Project Update Meeting
6:00 p.m. - Peary Middle School
1415 W. Gardena Blvd.
Gardena, CA 90247

*Dates and times subject to change.

Judge Dzintra Janavs will hear arguments in Mendoza, et al v. California (the case challenging AB 1381 - Mayoral Takeover of LAUSD) in Department 85 in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.

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.
• In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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