Monday, January 15, 2007

Live the dream.

4LAKids: Monday, Jan 15, 2007 - M.L. King Day
In This Issue:
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"We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living."
— Martin Luther King

"I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, "Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind." The world must hear this. I pray to God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.

"We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

"John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: "No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." And he goes on toward the end to say, "Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." We must see this, believe this, and live by it if we are to remain awake through a great revolution."
— Martin Luther King



PST January 12, 2007 -- LOS ANGELES -- Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's bid for partial control of the Los Angeles Unified School District was dealt another setback Thursday when a judge denied a motion to delay enforcement of her ruling that the legislation is unconstitutional.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra I. Janavs also rejected an alternative proposal by the mayor's lawyers to allow key preparations for the takeover plan to go forward.

The mayor's lawyers argued Janavs' Dec. 21 decision should be delayed and that preparations be allowed to begin according to the legislation's timetable in case her original decision is overturned.

But Janavs said the mayor was not just asking for permission to prepare for planning and preparation, but also making a broader request to begin implementation.

She also said it would cause disruption and confusion in the affected schools by making it unclear whether the mayor and his partnership of schools were in charge, or the current administration and board members.

Thomas Saenz -- a Villaraigosa attorney who was present in court but did not take part in the arguments -- said Thursday's decision will be appealed. The appeal will be separate from that filed over Janavs' original ruling, which is set to be decided sometime in April under an expedited calendar, Saenz said.

The mayor's office also has asked the state Supreme Court to hear its appeal.

An appellate court decision on Thursday's ruling will likely come sooner than April, Saenz said.

Board of Education President Marlene Canter, who attended the hearing, praised Janavs' decision.

"I'm very pleased she upheld her order," Canter said. "I think it's very clear AB 1381 is unconstitutional."

AB 1381 is the legislation that gives the mayor the power to take over some of Los Angeles Unified's most challenging schools. The legislation was to have gone into effect Jan. 1, until Janavs ruled it was unconstitutional.

Canter said she still welcomes the mayor's participation in the schools and hopes to meet with him.

"We should be at the school sites, not in court," Canter said.

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

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


Jan 11, 2007 -- LOS ANGELES, CA (AP) -- Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has appealed to the state's highest court to rule on the constitutionality of a new law that gave him partial control of the nation's second-largest school district.

Less than a month ago, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dzintra I. Janavs ruled the law violated the state constitution and the city charter. It had been scheduled to take effect January 1.

Janavs ruled that it interfered with the governing authority of the locally elected Los Angeles Unified School District board.

The state 2nd District Court of Appeal on Tuesday granted the mayor's request for an expedited appeal of the ruling, but Villaraigosa's new filing asked the California Supreme Court to take it over.

Janelle Erickson, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said the petition was filed with the Supreme Court to expedite the hearing on the law, AB 1381, because, ''our public schools can't wait.''

''There are few issues of greater importance in Los Angeles and California than the education of our children,'' Erickson said.

Under the law, some of the powers designated to the seven-member school board would be shifted to the mayor, the district superintendent and a new council comprised of more than two dozen other mayors within the district's boundaries.

The legislation also would give Villaraigosa direct control over the district's 36 worst-performing schools. The mayor had initially sought near-complete control over the district.

Kevin Reed, LAUSD's general counsel, said he had expected the latest filing since the mayor vowed to take it to the state's highest court immediately after the initial ruling was made.

He received confirmation that it was filed Wednesday afternoon but said he had not had a chance to look at the 60-page document.

''We remain confident that the bill is unconstitutional just as the Legislature's own lawyers found not just once but twice, as well as a respected, experienced Superior Court judge,'' Reed said. ''We expect the same answer in the appellate court. It is unfortunate that we have to spend the time and the effort litigating this case now in three different courts.''

Attorneys for the mayor want Judge Janavs to stay her decision while the appeal is pending. A hearing will be held in Los Angeles Thursday in her court on that request.

By Lesli A. Maxwell – Education Week

January 10, 2007 -- Just 10 days before he was to assume partial authority over his city’s public schools, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was forced instead to wage a legal battle to keep alive a new state law that he believes is key to improving the nation’s second-largest school system.

Late last month, lawyers for the first-term mayor appealed a Dec. 21 ruling by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge throwing out the law that would have transferred some management powers over the 708,000-student district to the mayor on Jan. 1.

Judge Dzintra I. Janavs ruled that the law violated the California Constitution, including the school measure’s centerpiece: Mr. Villaraigosa’s bid to directly control three low-performing high schools and the middle and elementary schools that feed into them. Los Angeles Unified School District officials, contending that the measure stripped too much power from the elected school board, filed suit over the law last fall after it was approved by the Democratic-controlled California legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

Mr. Villaraigosa’s lawyers, who on Dec. 22 filed the appeal in the California 2nd District Court of Appeal, have said they may seek to expedite a final ruling by asking the state supreme court to take the case immediately. Now, Judge Janavs will rule by Jan. 11 whether the law is in effect during the appeals process.

In the meantime, Mr. Villaraigosa has pledged to move ahead with planning for the cluster of 36 “mayor’s schools” that he hopes to be directly overseeing by the start of the next school year. The mayor has already brought in more than $2 million in private funding to help develop improvement strategies for the effort and has hired a team of experts to run it.

“We certainly are most concerned about the impact the ruling has on those schools that were going to be pulled away from the LAUSD bureaucracy and put teachers, students, and parents directly at the table for running them,” said A.J. Duffy, a supporter of the mayor’s plan and the president of the 48,000-member United Teachers Los Angeles, which is affiliated with both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. “We want to see that kind of reform move ahead regardless of what happens in the courts.”
‘Strong Incentive’

School board President Marlene Canter, one of the law’s most vigorous opponents, said she and Superintendent David L. Brewer III spoke with the mayor after the Dec. 21 ruling to express their willingness to work with him on districtwide reforms. Ms. Canter, who was elected to the board six years ago, said she would not rule out giving the mayor a role in seeking to improve the district’s lowest-performing schools.

“It’s not that this district is against partnerships of any sort; we have approved 103 charter schools,” Ms. Canter said in an interview last week. “But the mayor, who wants to run some of our schools, has never presented a plan to us, never told us what his clusters of schools would look like and what methodologies he would use to increase achievement.”

One expert on mayoral control of public schools said the legal standoff presents just such an opportunity.

“The district could possibly delay this thing and basically run the clock out on the mayor, making it difficult for him to do anything,” said Michael W. Kirst, a professor emeritus of education and business administration at Stanford University. “But the mayor has the leverage to say he will drop the appeal if the school district agrees to give him something.

“I think both sides have a pretty strong incentive not to let this thing drag on, which would inhibit any movement on improvement in the district,” he said.

In her 20-page ruling, Judge Janavs ordered public officials “to refrain from enforcing or implementing” any part of the new law. She called the legislation “drastic” and a change that would give the mayor “a role that is unprecedented in California.” She argued that the law could open the door for legislators to turn control over public schools to any number of officials, even chiefs of police.

Lawyers for the mayor said the judge misunderstood the state legislature’s broad authority under the California Constitution to grant Mr. Villaraigosa the authority to oversee the public schools in his city.

The mayor is also planning to back candidates who support his quasi-takeover plan for what will be four open seats on the district’s seven-member school board. That election is in March.

Under the now-overturned law, Mr. Villaraigosa was to have shared authority over much of the school district—including veto power over the hiring and firing of the superintendent—with a council of mayors representing the 26 other cities and handful of unincorporated communities that lie within the boundaries of the Los Angeles Unified district.

In October, while the mayor was on a trade mission to Asia, the school board appointed Mr. Brewer to the district’s top post. He took over Nov. 14 from the previous superintendent, Roy Romer.

By Howard Blume, LA Times Staff Writer

January 12, 2007 -- Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the teachers union became reluctant foes Thursday when the mayor endorsed prosecutor Tamar Galatzan for the school board seat held by one of the staunchest allies of United Teachers Los Angeles.

The race, which is expected to be hotly contested and expensive, will test the reach of the mayor in the west San Fernando Valley and the staying power of the teachers union as the most potent political force in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The endorsement was Villaraigosa's second in two days for the March election — he declared support for heavily favored Yolie Flores Aguilar on Wednesday for the open Eastside seat. The Valley race was a tougher call because of long-standing ties between the mayor and UTLA, where Villaraigosa once worked as an organizer. UTLA also was a key ally on Assembly Bill 1381, which was supposed to give Villaraigosa substantial authority over the school district. The law is on hold as a court challenge proceeds.

Jon M. Lauritzen, 68, was part of a school board majority that voted to oppose the bill and file suit, which made him a hard sell to Villaraigosa. Intermediaries portrayed Lauritzen as a friend to teachers who would work well with the mayor regardless of the litigation's outcome.

"I would hope the mayor would be pleased with my record," Lauritzen said recently. "I'll work with the mayor any way I can."

Perhaps out of deference to such entreaties, Villaraigosa declined to criticize Lauritzen when asked to describe his shortcomings.

"I've come today to endorse Tamar Galatzan," he said in response. But he didn't mince words about the contest's importance.

"The San Fernando Valley is ground zero for the education reform movement in Los Angeles," he said. "This seat is critical to ensuring a change agent is elected."

As for the teachers union, Villaraigosa said, "I don't think we are on opposite sides. I still work closely with UTLA."

It was nothing personal, apparently, on UTLA's end, either. "He knows we are going to support Jon Lauritzen," union President A.J. Duffy said. "Jon has been a good friend to public education and to teachers. And we're going to put money in his campaign and foot soldiers."

Educator Louis Pugliesi, 56, also is on the ballot.

At the news conference, Villaraigosa said Galatzan, if elected, would be the board's only parent of school-age children.

"When you're a parent, you want every dollar going to your child's education, not a wasteful bureaucracy," he said. "It's time to elect a parent who has a personal stake in improving our schools."

Retiring board member David Tokofsky, whom Villaraigosa would have opposed, also has school-age children.

The event was held across the street from Birmingham High School, Galatzan's alma mater. Galatzan, 37, a prosecutor in the city attorney's office, said her interest in running was sparked after she read a Times series last year on the schools' dropout problem.

"It was like someone splashed cold water in my face and said, 'Wake up and pay attention,' " she said.

The morning's sole display was the blow-up of an article about this week's suspected gang-related wounding of two teenagers near Grant High School.

As a prosecutor, Galatzan said, "I never met a gang member who wasn't first truant and then a dropout."

Also on hand was former Mayor Richard Riordan, who had tried, with mixed success, to elect his own school-board majority during his time as the city's leader.

One setback was the loss of incumbent Caprice Young four years ago to Lauritzen.

After the news conference, Riordan characterized Lauritzen as a puppet of the teachers union.

In that earlier campaign, Young had been cast, by the union, as Riordan's puppet. That tactic would not work so well today, he said.

Villaraigosa and the union leaders "are both Democrats and allies in many fights over the years. It's going to be hard for the union to paint the mayor as a crazy, right-wing conservative," Riordan said.

The union has not yet made an endorsement in the other three board races.


• UTLA's so-called "key alliance" with the mayor on AB1381 has been repudiated by an underwhelming vote of the membership; though some might say UTLA leadership has been unenthusiastic in following membership's direction..
• The union leadership's initial 'wait and see how the primary turns out' position on supporting Jon Lauritzen has also been repudiated by the membership, UTLA leadership seems more committed to Lauritzen's candidacy.
• There are not "three other board races"; only four LAUSD seats are being contended in this election.
• The mayor is right about the parent of school age children thing. But being a parent is an affliction one never recovers from and to my knowledge the only current school board member that hasn't had their kids in LAUSD is Monica Garcia – the mayor's champion on the Board of Ed. Ms. Galatzan says her interest was sparked after reading a series of articles in the Times. Those were excellent articles – but as a parent where was her interest and activism before January 29, 2006?

• See David Zahniser's reporting and tea-leaf-reading from the Dec 20th LA Weekly on the Team Villaraigosa machinations and political endorsements – with a little help (and strategically misplaced lack thereof) from his friends at UTLA HQ in the link following:

From the 4LAKids vault: ANTI-CHOICE MAYOR - A political machine squeezes out Tokofsky, Montañez and Fuentes, giving voters sanitized choices

Ana Tintocalis | KPBS News (San Diego)

Jan 9, 2007 - President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act is up for renewal. The federal program wants to raise student achievement across the country. Many San Diego teachers and principals say the law needs to be changed. KPBS Education Reporter Ana Tintocalis has more.

Elizabeth Gillingham is the principal of De Portola Middle School. It’s located in the San Diego middle-class neighborhood of Tierra Santa.

GILLINGHAM: We are a distinguished school by California standards and we became a model middle school for the state of California, one of 14, last year.

But in the eyes of the federal government, De Portla is failing despite the fact that student test scores improve every year. Under The No Child Left Behind Act, the school has failed to meet all the federal academic targets. Gillingham is frustrated.

GILLINGHAM: The one measurement isn’t fair, its confusing to parents, and if they step foot on any campus, once they meet the teachers, they’re going to see people who care about kids.

President Bush proposed and a Republican Congress approved the No Child Left Behind Act five years ago. The law requires every child to be proficient in reading and math. A school can be punished if some of the students don’t satisfy the academic benchmarks. It could lose federal money. It may have to adopt a new curriculum. Or parents could ask the district to bus their child to another school.

There wasn’t supposed to be conflict between federal and state standards. The federal law was clear about that. But states like California pressured the federal government to allow them to keep a separate system.

Arun Ramanathan is director of governmental relations at the San Diego Unified School District. He says having two ways to measure a school’s success inevitably caused confusion.

RAMANATHAN: You have a federal system that says all of these schools are failing, and you have parents how children are in these schools, and in many cases they working real hard or doing a job. And that doesn’t work out in their heads. How could my school be identified as failure by federal government but at the same time the state accountability system says it’s doing a good job?

State educators see the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind act this year as chance to fix the program. They want the system to mirror California’s model of accountability. They say the state’s system provides a more accurate picture of how students are doing.

Currently more than 70 schools in San Diego are labeled as failures under the federal program. Ramanathan expects more schools will labeled as failures if the problem isn’t solved.

RAMANATHAN: We’re going to have more and more elementary schools falling in other failed category, and more and more of our high schools, until we reach a point where literally every single one of our schools is a failure.

Some states like Colorado have weakened their state standards and tests so students can make the federal targets. Jeff Simmering calls this “gaming the system” to avoid penalties -- penalties such as losing federal funding. Simmering is the legislative director of the Council of the Great City Schools. His organization believes No Child Left Behind needs an overhaul.

SIMMERING: This act needs more than tweaking. As they say the devil is always in the details, but the details really need to be reworked.

President Bush calls No Child Left Behind a “significant education accomplishment.” He says it forces states to look at how they teach poor and minority students.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says the program is working. But she admits the program could be improved.

Alan Bersin used to be Superintendent of San Diego schools and was education secretary for Governor Schwarzenegger. Bersin still serves on the state education board. He believes No Child Left Behind can be salvaged.

BERSIN: Reauthorization will bring change and much of that change I expect will be positive. The important matter is that we fix No Child Behind and not scrap it. It would be a huge step backward to simply go back to the days that everything goes where there isn’t an accountability system for holding adults responsible for the learning of children.

Look for a political battle to take place this year over the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. Teachers unions will be pushing the Democratic controlled Congress for drastic changes. Conservatives will want to keep most of the program intact. Some observers say the issue won’t be settled until after the 2008 election. Middle School Principal Elizabeth Gillingham hopes for relief. She says educators can’t continue to work under dueling standards.

GILLINGHAM: I don’t know one school principal that doesn’t pull their hair out trying to figure out how to do things better, I don’t know one teacher who doesn’t look at every student in that class and try to help them succeed.

Other administrators agree. They spend a lot of time explaining two systems of accountability and which one applies when.


January 9, 2007 - Washington, DC - On the fifth anniversary of the well-intentioned but badly under-funded No Child Left Behind initiative, Congressman Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo-San Francisco) yesterday said the White House had nothing to strut about at its events marking the occasion.

"People across the political spectrum who care deeply about public education came together five years ago expressing hope that this program could reverse what had gone wrong with our schools," Lantos noted. "The president had even rallied Senator Ted Kennedy to his corner on this one. But rather than a panacea for quality public education, the one-two punch of the Administration's empty slogans and inadequate funding has failed to knock out the achievement gap between the disadvantaged and children of privilege. As long as that remains the case, this fight is fixed."

The independent, UC-Berkeley-based PACE center (Policy Analysis for California Education) recently reported that California middle-school students from lower-income families continue to perform just as poorly on state exams when compared with better-off students as they did 3 years ago.

"Without adequate funding, these schools, and more importantly, these students will continue to face the Sisyphean task of being required to pass 'Adequate Yearly Progress' tests they are ill prepared to take," Lantos said.

This year's national education funding falls short of projected need by $16.4 billion. Since the No Child Left Behind legislation became law, the Administration and the previously Republican-led Congress have under-funded it by a staggering $56.8 billion dollars. In California, this extreme shortfall means that 16,850 teachers will be denied the training promised in the law.

"On the Peninsula and in San Francisco, we are all too familiar with the painful decisions that need to be made when education budgets fall short," Lantos, an educator and former member of the Millbrae School Board, noted. "I am delighted that for the first time since the law's inception, Democrats will have the chance to strengthen this program, and to make meaningful changes to ensure that the original funding commitments are met."

Administration lays groundwork for renewal of education law
From eSchool News staff and wire service reports

• President Bush met privately with lawmakers on Jan. 8 to discuss the pending reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and acknowledged the need for changes to the federal education law, though he reportedly made no promises when the subject of more funding was addressed.

January 9, 2007—President Bush pushed for renewal of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education law in a private meeting with congressional leaders on Jan. 8 but was noncommittal on their request for more money to help schools meet the law's requirements.

The controversial law has had an impact on many aspects of education, including education technology, and has increased pressure on school systems to spend money on computerized student information and assessment systems.

"In our discussions today, we've all agreed to work together to address some of the major concerns that some people have on this piece of legislation, without weakening the essence of the bill," Bush said following the White House meeting with Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

NCLB seeks to ensure that all children can read and do math at grade level by 2014, which has placed many new demands on schools. The law calls on schools to step up testing, boost teacher quality, and pay more attention to the achievements of minority children.

Schools that get federal aid but do not make enough progress must provide tutoring, offer public school choice to students, or initiate other reforms, such as overhauling their staffs. First Lady Laura Bush, a former teacher and school librarian, and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings attended the Jan. 8 meeting, a day the Bush administration chose to mark NCLB's fifth anniversary.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. who chair committees overseeing education, said they urged the president to propose funding increases for NCLB. Bush made no commitments, according to a congressional aide who was briefed on the discussions and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

Democrats, who won control of Congress in November, say the administration and Republican lawmakers have underfunded the law by about $50 billion, compared with what originally was called for. Republicans say it is common practice for legislation to be funded at less than the full level.

Partisan sniping over the law has been common in recent years, but the lawmakers attending the Jan. 8 meeting struck a bipartisan note and pledged to work together to get the law renewed for five more years. The united front is part of a strategy to fend off critics who want to see the law scrapped or drastically changed.

"This issue now has its detractors and those who are opposed to it. That's true in the Democratic party and the Republican party," Kennedy said.

Spellings listed a few areas of concern that came up during the Jan. 8 meeting. They included how to test special education and limited-English speaking students, a desire to give schools credit for progress even when they fall short of annual targets, and ways to get more students access to free, high-quality tutoring.

Spellings also indicated she was willing to consider providing financial incentives to states that want to align their standards with more rigorous ones in place elsewhere. The administration, and Republicans generally, have consistently resisted anything that resembles national standards dictating what students across the country should know and learn.

"I think anytime there's a carrot approach, as opposed to a stick for continuing to raise the bar, I think that will be well received," Spellings said.

NCLB has pushed some states to weaken their standards to avoid consequences that arise when schools miss annual targets.

Kennedy and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., have introduced legislation addressing the issue. The National Education Association, the largest teachers' union, has endorsed Dodd's bill calling for voluntary national standards.

In an interview with the Associated Press (AP) before the Jan. 8 meeting, Spellings said there were a few "bright-line principles" the administration would not agree to alter under a rewrite of the law. Among them is the basic requirement that all students are proficient in reading and math by 2014--a goal many observers call unrealistic.

Spellings also said the administration was open to debating how progress should be measured. Critics, including the teachers' unions, have said the current law does not give enough credit to schools that make significant strides in student achievement but fall short of reaching an annual target.

In the AP interview, Spellings declined to preview the amount Bush would seek when he releases his annual budget in February. She did indicate an interest in getting more money to teachers who work in schools that have difficulty attracting people.

Bush sought $500 million from Congress for that purpose last year and got about $100 million.

"Our best teachers, or are most experienced teachers, are in places with our least challenged learners," Spellings said.

She also reaffirmed the administration's view that the law, which focuses on early and middle grades, should be expanded in high schools.

• Education Department background on NCLB
• National Education Association

by Bob Sipchen | School Me Column | LA Times

January 15, 2007 — Negligent Los Angeles parents take note: You have only until Friday to get a postmark on the magnet school application that your more responsible peers regard — rightly or wrongly — as their last desperate hope for getting their children a good education at taxpayer expense.

Don't panic, though.

Sure, last school year 65,000 applicants battled for about 16,000 spots at 162 Los Angeles Unified School District magnet campuses with concentrations on such diverse subjects as natural science, administrative law and Latin music.

And yes, really good parents have been working on strategies for accumulating magnet "points" since well before their children were born.

For those of you who aren't that devoted, here's a quick primer on how to game the system.

Your first faltering steps will depend on a pivotal choice.

It goes without saying that you're terrified of the local middle school, which you just assume has lousy test scores because of those tough-looking kids you see hanging out in front, presumably spreading graffiti, smack and STDs.

But are you among the lucky few living in a middle-class niche neighborhood with a boutique elementary school that you want your child to attend?

Or did a tour of your local elementary school also make you worry that you could be tossing Precious into perdition?

In my view, parents make the magnet decision today based far more on complex issues of social class than race per se.

But race was the issue when district mucky-mucks cooked up the system in 1977 to comply with the California Supreme Court's order to voluntarily integrate.

Thirty years later the United States Supreme Court is pondering whether magnets in other states are violating the Constitution by making enrollment decisions based on skin color. L.A. Unified's magnet program could be at risk.

In the meantime, race remains the pivotal magnet criterion.

We'll have to return to that. Race has nothing to do with getting those magnet points that determine your child's position on the list that the district's computer generates to determine who gets into each school.

They can be acquired in five ways only:

1) A child can claim four "matriculation" points for every consecutive year he's in a magnet school, up to a total of 12 points.

2) If a child applies to a magnet and is rejected, he gets four points per rejection, again for a maximum of 12 "wait list" points.

3) If the district has slapped a PHBAO label (that's "predominantly Hispanic, black, Asian and other non-Anglo") on the child's non-magnet neighborhood school, he gets another four points.

4) If that "resident" school is overcrowded, he gets another four points.

5) And if he has siblings who attend the magnet to which he's applying, he gets another three points.

The most points a child can accumulate is 23.

The relative simplicity of this unravels, however, because of the fine print on Page 4 in the district's pretty, new, full-color Choices brochure: "Each magnet's openings are determined by the need to maintain a racially balanced enrollment and by available space."

As far as the magnet program is concerned, the only categories are "minority" — Asians, Filipinos, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, African Americans and Hispanics are lumped together in this category — and "white."

Schools are supposed to strive for a balance of either 60% minority and 40% white or 70%-30% in very heavily "minority" neighborhoods. So the district weighs white children's points only against other white children's; a minority child's against other minorities.

Because whites made up just 8.8% of the district last year, pitting the 22.2% of them who applied to magnets against the category "minorities" has a somewhat psychedelic feel.

So does the reality of white students being the beneficiaries of what usually becomes upside-down affirmative action.

To understand how to work the race angle, imagine a mom whose ancestors trace back to Scotland married to a dad whose predecessors hail from Mexico. Their little girl could flip to "minority" or flop to "white."

Say the mom had her heart set on little Juanita-Jane snagging one of the estimated 106 seats at 32nd Street School, a K-8 performing-arts magnet with links to USC.

The district says 3,860 students applied to 32nd Street School last year. A glance at the district's website shows that the 733-member student body is 8.7% white. So the mom would be better off embracing her child's whiteness on the app.

At certain Valley and Westside magnets, however, the "minority" designation would be a huge advantage.

And if the mom wanted to get Juanita-Jane into the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) magnet near La Cienega and the 10 Freeway, it would probably be a wash, because this college prep-oriented school's student body is 29.5% white.

In any case, Juanita-Jane wouldn't have a prayer of moving from 32nd Street to LACES regardless of racial preference.

Those matriculation points, you see, are good only for jumping from one magnet's final grade into the next magnet's earliest grade — and since 32nd Street and LACES both offer grades 6-8, 12 points would instantly evaporate if the girl bailed after grade 5.

Nothing, of course, would prevent the child from trying to make the leap anyway. And if she scored in every other way, she would have 11 points.

But LACES had 2,649 applications last year. And no one with fewer than 16 points made it into the school, magnet coordinator Victoria Vickers says.

If Juanita-Jane's mom really had her heart set on LACES, she might have been better off marking "minority" on her daughter's application for 32nd Street School.

"Huh?" you say.

Well, as a Latina, Juanita-Jane would have a pretty good chance of being rejected, and if that went on for three years, she would have racked up 12 rejection points, bringing her possible total back up to 23.

So it is that many a parent has called many a magnet coordinator trying to figure out which school is most likely not to accept her child or, conversely, which campus has the greatest need for a kid who's not of the district's vast, multi-hued "minority."

This complexity drives people batty. It explains why dozens of frantic parents have attended the "Martinis and Magnets" seminars put on by author and performance artist Sandra Tsing Loh and author Christie Mellor. It explains why, over at, Loh and a growing stable of battle-scarred "magnet Yentas" have been publicly wrestling with readers' questions about magnets' mystical intricacies.

A quick spin around LACES, the district's first magnet, reminded me of why I think magnets are worth the stress of getting in.

I stuck my head into math, art, English, history, computer and music classes, and every teacher had complete control of the students, all of whom — white, black, Latino, Asian, whatever — seemed respectful and eager to learn.

"No way," you say?

Think about it. Not all magnet schools are great, of course. And many regular schools are plenty good. But there is an element of self-selection that gives magnets an advantage.

If Juanita-Jane's mom goes through the psychic pain of cracking the application process, is she going to let her daughter mess up?

And if parents are doing their bit to keep their kids in line academically, is it any wonder that the best teachers apply to these programs and arrive at work with a good attitude?

And if the teachers consistently challenge and encourage, is it any wonder that the kids go home motivated, which makes parents want to help with homework, attend teacher conferences and help out at the school?

I doubt many parents are going to offer up their child to the abstract goal of integration. Is it any wonder, though, that so many black, white, Latino, Filipino, Native American and Asian parents will spend this week angling to get into a school like LACES?

▲smf's 2¢: The Third Most Promising Thing to Come Out of LAUSD (after all the Construction & Modernization and Full Day Kindergarten) of late was not Open Court, the mayor's sudden interest in public education (after sending his kids to private school) or the hiring of the new superintendent. It was the discovery and dissection of LAUSD by Sandra Tsing Loh - The Maven of Magnets.

Laugh, drink up (the appropriate toast is: ¡PHABO!) and follow all her tips of Magneteering ….and then be sure to send in your application certified mail/return receipt requested!

Keep a copy: things get lost. - smf

TSL's Scandalously Informal Guide to Los Angeles Schools

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
•Tuesday Jan 16, 2007
Pre-Demolition Meeting
6:00 p.m. - Wadsworth Elementary School
981 East 41st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90011

•Tuesday Jan 16, 2007
Pre-Design Meeting
Join us at this meeting where we will:
* Introduce the Project Architect to the community
* Provide overview of the school facilities, including: number of classrooms, library, lunch area, etc.
* Review LAUSD design principles
* Receive community input on school design
6:00 p.m. - 61st Street Elementary School
6020 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90003

•Wednesday Jan 17, 2007
Pre-Demolition Meeting
6:30 p.m. - Pio Pico Span School
1512 S. Arlington Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

•Thursday Jan 18, 2007
Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) & Presentation of Design Drawings
* The purpose of the meeting is to present the Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) prepared for the Valley Region Montague Charter Academy Addition project to the community for comments and questions. The Draft MND is a study prepared by LAUSD was prepared in compliance with the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) guidelines.
* Also at this meeting we will present the design of the new school and discuss the next steps in the school construction process.
6:30 p.m. - Valley Region Montague Charter Academy
13000 Montague St.
Pacoima, CA 91331
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213.241.5183
* Note: January Meeting Cancelled *
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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