Saturday, January 27, 2007

4 from the Bee, 3 from the WSJ

4LAKids: Sunday, Jan 28, 2007
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I am up in our state capital (and the capitol!) this week and weekend on PTA business. The hometown Sacramento Bee is a delight to education policy junkies because it covers education as if it matters; education news isn’t only on Mondays or focused on bashing this and championing that. The SacBee has Reporting and Commentary and – dare I say it? – News!

I’m sending along four SacBee pieces: a story about an Air Quality and Children study in LA, a piece on what the Education + Infrastructure Governor is really up to in school construction and repair, a tongue in cheek column about the antics of a liberal anti-spanking legislator and how her thinking is wackier than her paddle-prone conservative alter-egos, and a thought provoking piece on letting the students have a say rather than give a report at the Board of Ed. I’ve spared you the madcap antics of a small local school board in a district smaller than some LAUSD elementary schools so I can give you the public dysfunction of LAUSD v. UTLA. (I’m seeing an opening for our mayor to ride in on a white horse here …avoiding a strike minutes before the March 6th election. If it hasn’t been scripted that way let’s get the writers on it!0

I’ve also stuck in a three part series from the Wall Street Journal from the same author who brought us the The Bell Curve thirteen years back. You don’t have to agree, but you should pay attention.

And we have latest developments in the gang/anti gang action. Stay tuned: Hizzonner will have a gang plan of his own in the next few weeks. Onward, into the surge! - smf

►More stories and chances for your feedback @


►LIVING NEAR BUSY ROADS TIED TO KIDS' LUNG RISK: Impact on breathing is long-term health threat, study says

by Chris Bowman – Sacramento Bee Staff Writer

Friday, January 26, 2007 — Growing up near a freeway stunts a child's breathing capacity for a lifetime, significantly increasing the risk of serious lung and heart diseases later in life, according to researchers who monitored thousands of Southern California children for up to eight years.

The landmark study, led by a team of University of Southern California scientists and released Thursday, delivers a sobering answer to a long-standing question about the health effects of being raised near a busy roadway where air is chronically polluted.
These children not only are more likely to develop asthma, but their lung development can be permanently cut short, increasing their odds of having a heart attack or a life-threatening respiratory condition, starting as early as their 50s.

"It's a big risk factor," said James Gauderman, the author and principal investigator of the study by researchers at USC's Keck School of Medicine.

"If you've got less lung capacity, and you get hit with the flu or pneumonia, you've got less reserve to fall back on," Gauderman said.

The findings carry profound policy implications nationwide for agencies that monitor and regulate air pollution, for locally elected officials who determine where to place new roads and housing tracts, and for education officials who buy property for new schools, California air quality regulators said Thursday.

"This is a pretty significant finding. It strengthens the information we need for some of our control programs," said Richard Bode, chief of the health and exposure branch of the state Air Resources Board.

Earlier studies measuring the environmental fallout on neighbors of Southern California freeways prompted the state regulators to go beyond their traditional scope of regional air quality and begin examining local "hot spots."

In the past six years, studies have focused on predominantly low-income neighborhoods near heavy industry, ports, railyards -- including the Union Pacific hub in Roseville -- and at schools on busy roads, such as Arden Middle School at Watt Avenue and Arden Way.

The USC study draws data from the state-funded Children's Health Study, a long-term investigation of respiratory health that has been tracking thousands of schoolchildren since 1993. The children, now in their 20s, lived in 12 Southern California communities, from the relatively clean towns of Lompoc and Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County to smoggier Long Beach and Riverside.

The project is the largest air pollution health effects study ever undertaken, Gauderman said

While earlier findings from the children's project were more applicable to urban Southern California, results of the new freeways study should resonate nationwide, Gauderman said.

Even in communities with overall good air quality, Gauderman said, "If children are living near a busy road, then our results suggest that they are at increased risk for these kinds of health effects."

The study, scheduled to be published Feb. 17 in the Lancet medical journal, correlated the data from community air quality samples and annual lung function tests with the locations of the children's homes, relative to freeways and other busy roadways.

More than 3,600 children participated for up to eight years. Investigators examined the link between their exposure to traffic pollution at home and their lung development, measured by how much air the child could forcefully exhale into a device called a spirometer.

The researcher accounted for factors that could skew results such as socioeconomic status, smoking and breathing disorders such as asthma.

They found that the overall lung capacity of children living within a mile from a freeway was 3 percent below normal.

The performance of their tiniest airways, where oxygen is delivered to the bloodstream, was about 7 percent below normal.

The reduced breathing capacity is unnoticeable among children because their lungs are still growing. Even after the lungs stop developing, about age 18, the deficit appears to have no effect because their lung capacity, which has lots of reserve, is at its peak.

Lung capacity declines naturally with age, beginning in the 30s and 40s. For those with lungs already compromised by air pollution, the deficit is all the greater.

"These individuals start off living with reduced lung function, so that when they reach middle age, they could be at greater risk for respiratory and cardiovascular disease," Gauderman said. "Most people expect to be active in the 50s."

Earlier research in the children's health project indicated that moving to cleaner environments could improve children's breathing.

"But it is not known at this point whether they completely regain what they lost by their time in a polluted environment," Gauderman said.

The next study will seek to identify which of the many tailpipe pollutants is most responsible for the reduced breathing capacity, he said.

►BUILDING SCHOOLS IN FLUX: Governor wants to shift part of state's share of construction cost to local districts.

By Shane Goldmacher – Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - Tucked deep in the budget plan he released earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed to dramatically change how public school construction is financed in California, shifting hundreds of millions -- perhaps billions -- of dollars in costs from the state to local government.

For almost a decade, the state and local districts have split the costs of building new schools 50-50. But the governor has proposed changing that formula to require that locals now cough up 60 percent of the costs.

That proposal has been met with uneasiness among local government and schools officials, and developers.

"It means either there is going to be fewer schools or the schools that are built will not have adequate facilities," said Tom Duffy, legislative director for the Coalition for Adequate Student Housing, an umbrella group representing both schools and builders. "Districts are already not receiving the 50 percent they are promised and now you are saying you want to cut it back to 40 percent?"

Schwarzenegger administration officials defended the proposal, saying that local governments are faring better now than in the past and that school districts are already slated to receive more General Fund money in the future.

"Since school districts are going to be getting a greater share of the state's General Fund in the coming years, and in a time when they are seeing a growth in the local property tax revenues, we believe that this adjustment to the sharing ratio is important," said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance.

Schwarzenegger also proposed flipping the ratio for funding school modernization, from 60-40, with the majority paid by the state, to 40-60, with the majority covered by locals.

Critics say the whole plan looks like a way to foist more costs on local government.

"It seems to be a cost shift from the state to the locals, and we think that is a bad idea," said Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, chair of the Assembly Education Committee. "I don't see any support for it from the Democratic side because it is going to cut into operating revenues and I don't see any Republican support either because it could cause local taxes to rise. I don't see where there would be an ounce of support from anybody."

But at least one powerful group, the California Teachers Association, which has spent millions in recent years to pass education bonds, is officially neutral on the issue, with a spokeswoman saying that lawyers for the teachers union are still reviewing the plan.

Still, Kevin Gordon, an education consultant whose clients include local school officials, says the plan is "such a significant change in policy and would have such significant implications for slowing school construction that I predict it will go down to a sound defeat."

"The proposal threatens to unravel the sensitive balance of the deal that was crafted in 1998," said Gordon, president of School Innovations & Advocacy, referring to the financing plan negotiated by then-Speaker and current Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Since that landmark 1998 deal established a 50-50 cost-sharing split, with developer fees helping fund the local portion of the construction costs, California voters have approved nearly $45 billion in education bonds.

But the Republican governor, who campaigned for a $10.4 billion education bond last November, announced in his State of the State address earlier this month that still more was needed.

"That small child with the sticky hands starting the first day in kindergarten is the foundation of California's economic power and leadership," he said.

Schwarzenegger has proposed two more education bonds, in 2008 and 2010, valued at $11.6 billion.

And with the new revised funding formula, that bond money would go further toward new building schools.

In Schwarzenegger's proposed 2008 education bond, roughly $3 billion would be dedicated toward new schools. At the 50 percent match, that amounts to $6 billion of new buildings. But with the proposed 40 percent match, it totals a much more substantive $7.5 billion worth of new school construction -- with local districts and developers footing the bill for the difference.

But any such changes to the 1998 funding deal -- after which no statewide education bond has been rejected -- spark distrust.

"This has been a very successful infrastructure program," said Richard Lyon, senior lobbyist for the California Building Industry Association. "Any attempt to mess with a good thing would not be met very favorably by the building industry."

• All voters are Local Voters. If we had known that the formula was going to change would 57% of us had voted for Prop 1-D, the state school construction bond? - smf

by Steve Wiegand – Sacramento Bee Columnist

• smf notes: As I am up in Sacramento with state PTA leadership working – among other things - on resolutions for the ’07 California PTA convention this column struck a near-and-dear funnybone!

Thursday, January 25, 2007 — A resolution of support for Assemblywoman Sally Lieber's bill to ban spanking, from the Organization of Oafish Parents (OOPS):

WHEREAS Assemblywoman Sally Lieber is a Democrat who represents much of Silicon Valley, and who is only the third woman since 1849 to serve as speaker pro tempore; and

WHEREAS she is in her last term as an Assembly member, unless of course legislators persuade voters to get rid of term limits; and

WHEREAS Lieber has already proposed a bill for this session that would require sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted bug, at a cost of about $360 to parents or their health care provider, should they have one; and

WHEREAS notwithstanding the existence of current laws against child abuse, Lieber has proposed a new state law that would prohibit parents from whacking, smacking, spanking or forcefully impacting children under the age of 4; and

WHEREAS Lieber has further proposed that those convicted of the aforementioned offense be subjected to penalties that could include a fine of up to $1,000, a jail term of up to one year or maybe a stern talking-to from a grumpy judge; and

WHEREAS there is no precise definition yet of just how Lieber's legislation will define "spanking" or how it would be enforced; and

WHEREAS Lieber acknowledges that she has never had children of her own but defends her credentials to carry such legislation on the grounds that lawmakers often carry bills on topics about which they know little or nothing; and

WHEREAS Lieber's proposal has already filled the Legislature's 2007 quota for at least one bill per session that sounds, looks and feels superfluous and goofy and draws "only-in-squirrelly-California" attention from chirpy morning TV talk shows and denunciations from knuckle- dragging radio talk show hosts; and

WHEREAS the aforementioned attention has been showered by media outlets that range from the "Today Show" on NBC to the Daily Town Talk in Alexandria, Va., to the Press Trust of India; and

WHEREAS this is the best spanking proposal not involving tall, scary women in very high heels and leather pants to come out of California since 1994, when the late legislator Mickey Conroy proposed emulating Singapore and whacking youthful graffiti vandals with a paddle that resembled a cricket bat; and

WHEREAS 29 states, including California, have already banned spanking in public schools; and

WHEREAS 17 countries have banned parental spanking, starting with Sweden in 1979; and

WHEREAS two subsequent reviews of the Swedish law found that the country's child-abuse rate actually went up after the spanking ban, to levels higher than those in the United States; and

WHEREAS a 2000 study by psychologist Robert E. Lazelere of Oklahoma State University found that "spanking has consistently beneficial outcomes when it is non-abusive and used primarily to back up milder disciplinary tactics with 2- to 6-year-olds by loving parents"; and

WHEREAS a 2001 study by researchers at UC Berkeley found that "occasional spanking does not damage a child's social or emotional development"; and

WHEREAS the Organization of Oafish Parents is a statewide group of adults who know just enough to come in out of the rain and need to be spoon-fed meticulous instructions from California legislators on the best way to raise their children:

BE IT RESOLVED by the members of OOPS to support Assemblywoman Lieber's valiant struggles against the snide and skeptical, and work tirelessly for ultimate approval of "Spank a Kid; Go to Jail."

►YOUTH AUTHORITY: SOME ARE ELECTED. SOME ARE APPOINTED. Either Way, Student School Board Representatives Are Being Heard.
By Walter Yost - Sacramento Bee Staff Writer

Thursday, January 25, 2007 — De Doan arrives at Sacramento City Unified School District board meetings dressed in a dark suit, carrying his laptop computer, ready for business. The 17-year-old senior from West Campus High School is a student representative on the board.

His counterpart in the Folsom Cordova school district, Kendra Stanley, isn't afraid to speak her mind, even if it means arguing with the superintendent or the board president -- who happens to be her mother.

"My opinion represents other students. It's the only voice they have," said the 17-year-old Folsom High senior.

While a majority of school boards in California have student representatives, they're often perceived as token members with no real voice in decision making.

But some educators note a change in today's student board members -- an increased maturity and sophistication. They don't settle anymore for reporting on the homecoming dance, then going home while the adults do the real work.

Karen Young -- one of the adults -- has served on the Sacramento City Unified board since 1996.

"In the last 10 to 12 years it has evolved from having a token presence to one that is not only engaged, but involved," she said of student representatives' roles.

Student representatives these days are better able to "articulate their point of view," said June Thompson, executive director of the California Association of Student Councils.

"They're in a unique position. The information they can provide (to school boards) is vital," she said.

But giving decision-making power to 16- and 17-year-olds alarms many education leaders who argue that students don't have the maturity or experience to handle such responsibility.

Colorado, Idaho and Texas don't permit students to serve on local school boards, said Adam Fletcher of the youth advocacy group SoundOut. Others, such as Arizona and Iowa, have no mention of student board members in their education codes.

"The learning experience needs to be grounded in real life," said Fletcher, from the nonprofit organization's Olympia, Washington office.

Andrew Estep, the 2006-07 student representative on the State Board of Education, has the same powers as the 10 adults on the board.

The 17-year-old senior from Serrano High School in San Bernardino County was appointed by the governor after a yearlong selection process and represents more than 64 million California public school students.

Estep said he hasn't yet had to take part in any particularly controversial votes in his one-year term, unlike his predecessor, who cast a critical vote on the California High School Exit Exam.

Estep is a strong believer in the need for student participation in state and local education decisions.

"We are the constituents. Decisions all directly affect the student body," he said. "In any kind of democracy there should be a student voice."

California's education code allows districts to give their student board members "preferential" voting rights. Their votes are recorded in board meeting minutes but can't affect the outcome of a vote.

Student board members may cast preferential votes on all matters except those subject to closed session -- such as personnel and student discipline issues.

In Maryland's Anne Arundel County Department of Education, the student board representative has full voting privileges on all issues -- something unheard of on local boards elsewhere in the country.

That makes Anne Arundel's 17-year-old student board representative, Brittany Walker, one powerful teenager.

"Sometimes I feel a little intimidated ... this experience has been humbling," Walker said in an e-mail. "I used to be one of those 'know it all' kind of people, and serving in this position has focused me to look at things from all angles, all adult angles that is."

Anne Arundel board President Tricia Johnson said she's changed her mind on the wisdom of allowing students full voting rights.

When she was first elected to the board four years ago, Johnson said the student board member was "amazing, one of the most mature persons I've met."

Since then, Johnson said she's worked with less mature students, including one who was heavily influenced by her parents.

Johnson also said the school district has changed significantly since 1975 when students were given full voting rights. It's no longer as rural and has grown in size -- with 75,000 students, nearly 200 schools and a $1 billion budget.

Frequently, the student representative is the swing vote on controversial issues, such as teacher salaries.

"I don't feel it's fair to put so much pressure on students," Johnson said.

Doan, the Sacramento City Unified board member, believes young people are more mature than they were a decade ago and it's important they speak up about what they want.

Last year, while serving on the district's student advisory council, Doan said he told district officials that West Campus needed landscaping improvements.

"The next day about 15 maintenance people showed up and talked with students about what they wanted," Doan said.

Doan and Stanley, from the Folsom Cordova district, were elected to their boards by fellow students.

"I see myself as representing them, not myself," Doan said.

"De is very deliberative, he listens intently," said Young, who has served with nearly a dozen student board members. "Something that always impresses me is that he sees every meeting and every workshop as a learning opportunity."

Stanley also takes her role as student representative to heart. She talks as much as possible with other students, including those at Cordova High.

"The whole district is for kids and I'm the only one on the board," Stanley said. "There should be more of me."

Serving on the board with her mother, Teresa, has been a learning experience in itself, Stanley said.

"I always thought she was a nice little mommy, until I saw her in action," Kendra said of her gavel-wielding mother.

Teresa Stanley, a board member since 1996, said her daughter "is here to express the student point of view, not my point of view."

Although Doan admits to being a little nervous when he was first seated, he said fellow board members have made him feel welcome and he's satisfied with his preferential vote.

"With great power, comes greater responsibility," he said, quoting Spider-Man.

The Sacramento Bee: Education news

• I apologize to 4LAKids readers – not for presenting Dr. Murray’s arguments – which are controversial and will anger many as arrogantly elitist; but for having to edit and truncate them top fit in this issue. I assure you, my intent is neither butchery nor dumbing-down reader-friendliness!

Controversy makes one think; political correctness makes one boring.

I strongly urge everyone to read them in their entirely at the link below – and then if they make you angry I’ve included Dr. Murray’s e-mail address! - smf

►INTELLIGENCE IN THE CLASSROOM: Half of all children are below average, and teachers can do only so much for them.

by Charles Murray | WSJ

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - Education is becoming the preferred method for diagnosing and attacking a wide range problems in American life. The No Child Left Behind Act is one prominent example. Another is the recent volley of articles that blame rising income inequality on the increasing economic premium for advanced education. Crime, drugs, extramarital births, unemployment--you name the problem, and I will show you a stack of claims that education is to blame, or at least implicated.

One word is missing from these discussions: intelligence. Hardly anyone will admit it, but education's role in causing or solving any problem cannot be evaluated without considering the underlying intellectual ability of the people being educated. Today and over the next two days, I will put the case for three simple truths about the mediating role of intelligence that should bear on the way we think about education and the nation's future.

Today's simple truth: Half of all children are below average in intelligence. We do not live in Lake Wobegon.

Our ability to improve the academic accomplishment of students in the lower half of the distribution of intelligence is severely limited. We can hope to raise his grade. But teaching him more vocabulary words or drilling him on the parts of speech will not open up new vistas for him.

Now take the girl sitting across the aisle who is getting an F. She is at the 20th percentile of intelligence, which means she has an IQ of 88. If the grading is honest, it may not be possible to do more than give her an E for effort. Even if she is taught to read every bit as well as her intelligence permits, she still will be able to comprehend only simple written material. It is a good thing that she becomes functionally literate, and it will have an effect on the range of jobs she can hold. But still she will be confined to jobs that require minimal reading skills. She is just not smart enough to do more than that.

How about raising intelligence? It would be nice if we knew how, but we do not .

This is not to say that American public schools cannot be improved. Many of them, especially in large cities, are dreadful. But even the best schools under the best conditions cannot repeal the limits on achievement set by limits on intelligence.


by Charles Murray | WSJ

January 17, 2007 - The topic yesterday was education and children in the lower half of the intelligence distribution. Today I turn to the upper half, people with IQs of 100 or higher. Today's simple truth is that far too many of them are going to four-year colleges.

Begin with those barely into the top half, those with average intelligence. To have an IQ of 100 means that a tough high-school course pushes you about as far as your academic talents will take you. If you are average in math ability, you may struggle with algebra and probably fail a calculus course. If you are average in verbal skills, you often misinterpret complex text and make errors in logic.

These are not devastating shortcomings. You are smart enough to engage in any of hundreds of occupations. You can acquire more knowledge if it is presented in a format commensurate with your intellectual skills. But a genuine college education in the arts and sciences begins where your skills leave off.

In engineering and most of the natural sciences, the demarcation between high-school material and college-level material is brutally obvious. If you cannot handle the math, you cannot pass the courses. In the humanities and social sciences, the demarcation is fuzzier. It is possible for someone with an IQ of 100 to sit in the lectures of Economics 1, read the textbook, and write answers in an examination book. But students who cannot follow complex arguments accurately are not really learning economics. They are taking away a mishmash of half-understood information and outright misunderstandings that probably leave them under the illusion that they know something they do not.

There is no magic point at which a genuine college-level education becomes an option, but anything below an IQ of 110 is problematic. If you want to do well, you should have an IQ of 115 or higher. Put another way, it makes sense for only about 15% of the population, 25% if one stretches it, to get a college education. And yet more than 45% of recent high school graduates enroll in four-year colleges.

Most students find college life to be lots of fun (apart from the boring classroom stuff), and that alone will keep the four-year institution overstocked for a long time. But, rightly understood, college is appropriate for a small minority of young adults -- perhaps even a minority of the people who have IQs high enough that they could do college-level work if they wished. People who go to college are not better or worse people than anyone else; they are merely different in certain interests and abilities. That is the way college should be seen. There is reason to hope that eventually it will be.


by Charles Murray | WSJ

January 18, 2007 - If "intellectually gifted" is defined to mean people who can become theoretical physicists, then we're talking about no more than a few people per thousand and perhaps many fewer. They are cognitive curiosities, too rare to have that much impact on the functioning of society from day to day. But if "intellectually gifted" is defined to mean people who can stand out in almost any profession short of theoretical physics, then research about IQ and job performance indicates that an IQ of at least 120 is usually needed. That number demarcates the top 10% of the IQ distribution, or about 15 million people in today's labor force -- a lot of people. All of the above are antithetical to the mindset that prevails in today's schools at every level. The gifted should not be taught to be nonjudgmental; they need to learn how to make accurate judgments. They should not be taught to be equally respectful of Aztecs and Greeks; they should focus on the best that has come before them, which will mean a light dose of Aztecs and a heavy one of Greeks. The primary purpose of their education should not be to let the little darlings express themselves, but to give them the tools and the intellectual discipline for expressing themselves as adults.

* * *

The goals that should shape the evolution of American education are cross-cutting and occasionally seem contradictory. Yesterday, I argued the merits of having a large group of high-IQ people who do not bother to go to college; today, I argue the merits of special education for the gifted.

The aim here is not to complete an argument but to begin a discussion; not to present policy prescriptions, but to plead for greater realism in our outlook on education. Accept that some children will be left behind other children because of intellectual limitations, and think about what kind of education will give them the greatest chance for a fulfilling life nonetheless. Stop telling children that they need to go to college to be successful, and take advantage of the other, often better ways in which people can develop their talents. Acknowledge the existence and importance of high intellectual ability, and think about how best to nurture the children who possess it.

Dr. Murray is the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.



by Kerry Cavanaugh, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

January 26, 2007 - The author of a scathing report on Los Angeles' escalating gang problem urged activists and religious leaders Thursday to pressure the mayor and City Council to act on the report's proposed anti-violence reforms.

In her report released two weeks ago, civil-rights attorney Connie Rice criticized the city's fragmented, uncoordinated and ineffective gang-prevention efforts.

Among other measures, the study called for a Department of Neighborhood Safety headed by a "gang czar" to coordinate intervention programs and be held accountable for whether gang prevention efforts are effective.

But at the Empowerment Congress' interfaith dialogue Thursday, Rice told the group she worries city leaders may not act on the recommendations.

"I'm afraid the process is slowing down too much, and we need to have a full vote on the City Council floor. I'm not sure that will happen, so you're going to have to push for that," Rice said.

"The mayor is doing his own analysis of this and his own plan. Let's hope he wants to go to the comprehensive level."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to unveil his gang strategy next week. City leaders are discussing whether to create a deputy mayor position to oversee gangs or to appoint a gang czar - a position proposed by then-Mayor Richard Riordan in 1995.

Councilman Tony Cardenas, who heads the City Council's ad hoc Committee on Gangs and Youth Violence that commissioned Rice's $500,000 study, said he will make sure proposed reforms are enacted to better monitor and spend gang-prevention funds.

"Despite political agendas of the past, I will stay focused on what I need to do to ensure the city has the kind of accountability standards that the Schiff/Cardenas Act requires for our state-funded gang program," he said, referring to state legislation he drafted that mandated money for gang-prevention programs.

The report by the Advancement Project Los Angeles comes on the heels of several high-profile murders of children by gangs and an increase in gang violence, particularly in the San Fernando Valley, which has historically had a much smaller gang problem compared with East and South Los Angeles.

Yet the study is the third attempt to understand and stop rising gang violence.

State Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas, who organized the Empowerment Congress, said his group will also pressure city leaders to action.

"There is no way we will let this issue loose steam."

Thew Business Perspective by Gary L. Toebben

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - With more than 700 gangs and approximately 40,000 active gang members, Los Angeles is, we're told, the world's epicenter for gang violence. City officials have once again turned their focus to this regional epidemic and the business community is prepared to join hands in this initiative. Over the past three decades, billions of dollars have been spent on programs to suppress gangs, but gangs keep growing. The monetary cost for this failed war is staggering, but the human toll is much worse. Some neighborhoods in Los Angeles have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than parts of Iraq. The gang culture continues to swallow up young people, even though 23 agencies are spending $82 million in city funds each year on programs to combat gang recruitment.

The Chamber joins with Connie Rice, the author of a recently completed report calling for a comprehensive reform of the city's current efforts on gang prevention and a new commitment to a major community initiative. Rice's report to an ad hoc City Council committee recommends a three-pronged strategy that includes prevention, intervention, and law enforcement, all in close coordination with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

At the core of this strategy is the honest realization that we must change the Petri dish in which many of our young people are growing up, so that they see the rewards of staying in school and securing a good job as greater than joining a gang and selling drugs. As Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries says, "nothing stops a bullet like a job."

The report recommends creating an entrepreneurial, centralized and results-oriented city entity to replace today's decentralized and uncoordinated approach. Rice emphasizes that this new entity must be held accountable for reducing gang activity and to do so, it must be free enough from civil service rules that resources can be redirected easily to those activities that are showing the biggest results.
This new initiative will require millions of dollars that must be viewed as an investment that will save billions of dollars and countless lives in the long run.

But before we start spending money--and there is already a proposal for a $50 million tax increase circulating at City Hall--we should first measure the effectiveness of the $82 million in city money that is already being spent by those 23 agencies. The public will not look kindly on the creation of a new entity and new taxes if there is no assessment or refocusing of the resources already being spent.
Gang violence is a social problem, it's a law enforcement problem, it's an education problem, it's a jobs problem, and most importantly, it's every Angeleno's problem. We have no choice but to work together collectively on a solution. The future of countless young people and many neighborhoods in our community is at stake.

And that's The Business Perspective.

• Gary L. Toebben is President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

The Rice Report:

Associated Press

Jan 24 – (AP) – After months of negotiations, the president of the teachers union has rejected the latest offer from the Los Angeles Unified School District and has scheduled a strike authorization vote for mid-February.

"There is no doubt that we are going to go out on strike," said A.J. Duffy of United Teachers Los Angeles on Tuesday. "We would shut the place down ... Then the district would get a sense of what it's like to not have a teaching staff." The latest offer by the school district would give teachers a 6 percent total raise which includes health benefits for teachers. The proposal made by the district is a quarter-point increase over the previous offer of 5.75 percent.

If the offer had been accepted, the average pay for an LAUSD teacher would be $62,869, according to district officials. The starting pay for a new teacher would be $44,991 and the maximum base pay would be $79,160. For each employee, the health benefits package costs $11,387, said district spokeswoman Shannon Murphy.

The proposal also included three professional development "buy back days" that give teachers extra days of training and an offer to reduce class size by dedicating $210 million to address the issue.

Kevin Reed, the district's chief legal counsel, faulted the union with a breakdown in talks that have been going on since last summer.

"They are actively creating expectations out there that are not in touch with reality," Reed said. "We have put a six percent compensation out there that puts us squarely in the middle of what other districts are doing in the county." The union's counteroffer was an 8 percent salary increase.

A 15-page list of proposals by the union included substantially lowering class sizes and getting a "fair and equitable salary increase for our teachers," Duffy said.

"There is a lack of seriousness to come up with a pay raise that will encourage teachers to stay in the profession and for others to come in," Duffy said.

On the agenda for a union meeting Tuesday was whether to declare an impasse. The next step would be mediation between the two sides with a state-appointed mediator, then fact-finding.

Earlier in the day, teachers picketed in front of their schools before the start of classes and passed out flyers to parents. It was the last day in the latest round of boycotts organized by the union which represents about 47,000 members.

The strike authorization vote was scheduled for Feb. 12-14. A walkout would take place in the spring, Duffy said.

The last walkout in the district took place in 1989 and lasted for nine days.

►OVERCROWDED CLASSROOMS: "There’s too much noise, no space, there’s not enough time for the teachers too help us all. It'a like a jungle inside the classes."

Radio Commentary by Evelyn Martinez | Youth Radio KCRW

United Teachers Los Angeles and the school district are still at a stalemate over a salary raise and other grievances launched by the union. Top of that list of grievances is the issue of overcrowded classrooms, with some teachers reporting over 40 students in English and Math classes, and upwards of a hundred students in some Physical Education courses. Youth Radio’s Evelyn Martinez is a student at Roosevelt High School, where classroom size is especially problematic. But as Evelyn reports, she’s not sure the current protests will improve her situation as a student. (January 25 on KCRW)


EVELYN: Noises everywhere. I’m going crazy trying to concentrate. I feel like I’m in a straightjacket surrounded by voices. In reality, it’s 40 students bursting through the door to get to their seats just as the bell rings.

GERARDO (on tape): I think there’s just so many problems. There’s too much noise, no space, there’s not enough time for the teachers too help us all. It'a like a jungle inside the classes.

EVELYN : I agree with my friend Gerardo Gomez. My school Roosevelt High is one of the largest high schools in L.A. unified with over 5,000 students.

It’s really difficult to learn in this kind of environment. Imagine my Spanish class with 45 students. My classmates yell to me from across the room for help - why? Because the teacher is busy helping another student, and then another student. So strong students like me hardly ever get attention.

Teachers like Mr. Waldman are impacted by this too. He says relationships with students are important...

MR. WALDMAN (on tape): But even you have a really nice attitude towards your students, and you really enjoy your students, if you have 40 plus students, it still makes it difficult because then you feel bad because then you don’t feel like your servicing your students as well as you would like to. And that is a horrible feeling.

MS. QUEMADA (on tape): I believe that if a student comes here to learn and they need that class to go to college...that in spite of the size if they cooperate with the teacher, every student in there can learn and receive a passing grade.

EVELYN: That’s Ms. Quemada, our school’s principal. She’s trying to make the best of a challenging situation, but even she recognizes the issue is connected to controversy that goes beyond Roosevelt High School.

Recently, United Teachers of Los Angeles had a protest in front of the LAUSD downtown head quarters to demand a salary raise and a class size cap.

Elaine LaBoeuf, a teacher from Lincoln Community Day School was there, wearing a white hat that read “classroom size cap.”

MS. LABOEUF (on tape): I think that we need lower class size. Our classrooms are so full. Sometimes in high school classes there’s 44 students in a classroom and not enough seats for every student.

[smf note: Elaine LaBoeuf is also chair of the UTLA Community and Parent Outreach Committee]

EVELYN: It’s great to hear teachers fight for better pay and class size reduction. But honestly, I worry that maybe the salary issues are more important than reducing class size. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here in a class with too many students hoping that something will really change.

I’m not the only one frustrated. My friend Iliana Escobar shares a typical experience.

ILIANA (on tape): Today in math class, our math class is very very crowded, and we needed calculators, but there wasn't enough for everyone so we couldn't do the calculator activity we needed to do.

EVELYN: My friend Iliana does see a solution, but is worried that she won't benefit from it.

ILIANA (on tape): Really the solution is building a new school because this school is as big as it can's as packed as it can be. They say they're building new schools...but that takes years.

EVELYN: It really doesn’t seem like there’s an answer to this coming any time soon. If people keep protesting about it now, maybe it will give my ten-year-old brother a better experience in high school. By that time, I’ll be graduating from college.

▲Listen to this Commentary!

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Phone: 213.633.7493
Phone: 213.633.7616


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6387 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6383

...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think!
Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• Register.
• Vote.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
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original posting updated for format 2/2