Saturday, February 10, 2007

Another week left behind.

4LAKids: Sunday, Feb 11, 2007
In This Issue:
NEW PLAN TO NARROW EDUCATION DISPARITIES: State school's chief wants to bridge gap between rich, poor and minorities.
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
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.
Eight teams from LAUSD qualified for the State Academic Decathlon Tuesday evening. (Most counties only send one!) Congratulations to City Champion (and national points leader) Granada Hills Charter HS — and to the seven other teams …and ALL the decathletes. You are the champions!

The Supreme Court refused to intervene in the mayor’s appeal of AB1381 on Thursday. The State Superintendent gave his State of Education Speech on Tuesday. Various studies and reports were published throughout the week.
• No matter what the media, politicos and gloom-and-doomers say, the public seems to like its public education. Who knew?
• The mayor named his ten worst gangs. My local gang, which made second on hizzonner’s list, are probably down at the tattoo shop getting “We gangbang harder.” applied as bodyart.
• In some localities cafeteria food goes beyond salty, fattening and soy-texturized all the way to downright dangerous.
• The safety net of Alternative Ed is spread a little too thin.
• Community colleges have a way to go.
• Senator Torlakson doesn’t approve of proposed cuts to school construction funding.
• And Texas introduces “Miss a teacher conference, Go to jail!”

I spent Thursday evening with Duffy among other people at a KPFK Town Hall on Education. Duffy privately kvetched to me that I wasn’t being hard enough on him in these pages of late – and proceeded to be so darn agreeable there was little to squabble about! Oh, he still insists that everyone at Beaudry is a Bloated Bureaucrat and I try to be a bit more scientific in my BB ID. (“I have a little list …and they’ll none of ‘em be missed!”) The farther Duffy gets from his unfortunate infatuation with AB 1381 the more his old endearing and irrepressible self he becomes. With a modest pay raise for teachers, some class size reduction, a bit of the old school site decision making and a strike avoided all could be well our the City of Angels!

Now, if they could only get the new paychecks out on schedule! – smf

• Listen to the KPFK “Politics or Pedagogy?” Town Hall on Education

By Maura Dolan, LA Times Staff Writer

February 8, 2007 - The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to immediately review a ruling that has prevented Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa from taking partial control of the Los Angeles school district.

The state high court's decision means the school district's challenge of mayoral control will remain before the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles. That court will hear arguments in early April and probably decide the case 30 to 60 days later.

Villaraigosa had sought to bypass the appeals court in hopes of expediting the case and winning a ruling that would uphold a state law giving him significant authority over schools. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs struck down the law in December.

The state high court rarely takes cases until they have been argued before an intermediate appeals court.

Fred Woocher, a lawyer for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said the district did not oppose state high court review but was "definitely not upset" about the delay. The eventual ruling by the appeals court is expected to be challenged, and the Supreme Court will have to decide once again whether to review the case.

NEW PLAN TO NARROW EDUCATION DISPARITIES: State school's chief wants to bridge gap between rich, poor and minorities.
by Shirley Dang/MediaNews Group | Woodland Daily Democrat

8 February 2007 - SACRAMENTO - In front of a packed auditorium Tuesday, state Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell laid out a new commitment to narrowing the achievement gap between students rich and poor, black and white, Hispanic and Asian.

"In today's global economy, we simply cannot afford to have any student unprepared to compete," O'Connell said in his annual State of Education address. "While clearly recognizing that reform takes time and no simple overnight fix exists, I call for a renewed sense of urgency."

The superintendent has assembled an advisory panel of educators, business leaders, college presidents, preschool experts, parents and librarians to find the root cause behind achievement gaps and drum up solutions. The state will present their findings at a summit in November.

"We will lay out clear goals around what it's going to take to narrow the gap and then we will set a clear set of benchmarks for success," O'Connell said, "benchmarks with which we hold ourselves accountable."

The speech set the tone for O'Connell's next four years as superintendent, a role in which he is responsible for educating 6.3 million students a year.

The former senator and creator of the state's high school exit exam has acknowledged the achievement gap many times in the past. However, Russlynn Ali, director of Oakland-based research and advocacy group Education Trust-West, said she felt a sea change in how O'Connell and perhaps other state leaders view the magnitude of the problem.

"For a long time we talked about it, but not with the same type of urgency, of ownership, of responsibility," Ali said. On Tuesday, she said, O'Connell for the first time recognized the achievement gap crisis without hiding it behind a veil of excuses.

In 2006, 64 percent of Asian students and 60 percent of white students scored proficient in English on state tests. Less than 30 percent of African American and Hispanic students tested at the same level.

In math, 66 percent of Asian students and 53 percent of white students tested at grade level in 2006, compared to less than a quarter of black students and 30 percent of Hispanic students.

The dramatic chasm between these different groups has remained nearly unchanged since 2003 and mirrors gaping differences in existence for decades.

Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Association, serves on the panel charged with finding a solution.

The difference between past efforts and this one will lie in studying California education's biggest malady, Plotkin said, rather than simply pointing out the symptoms.

"That's what's going to be different," Plotkin said. "Maybe we'll get the right kind of conversation happening."

• Full Text :: Superintendent O'Connell’s annual State of Education Address

by William J. Bushaw in THE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR: The Journal of the American Association of School Administrators - February 2007

“We were amazed, as we are every year, at the public’s ability to separate myth from reality and arrive at accurate assessments of their public schools.”
“This year six of 10 Americans say NCLB is either hurting or making no difference in their community’s schools. That this reality is being ignored makes it likely that NCLB, for all its bright promise, will lead to limited gains and may actually do harm to our schools.”

Congressional Republicans last summer proposed spending $100 million in federal funds on vouchers that could be used by low-income students in “failing” schools to attend private and parochial schools. “When schools don’t work, parents must have other opportunities,” U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced at a press conference to show her support.

But whether the premise that “schools don’t work” has widespread merit — and many would argue otherwise — those supposed “other opportunities” don’t seem to rank very high on the public’s wish list.

This is just the latest example of our nation’s policymakers embracing an education policy that is not backed by the public and is unsupported by research, including studies directed by the same education commissioner and the U.S. Department of Education.


We at PDK International also were busy in July, poring over the data from the latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. We were amazed, as we are every year, at the public’s ability to separate myth from reality and arrive at accurate assessments of their public schools.

When asked how to improve public education in America, seven of 10 Americans said “reform the existing public school system” rather than “find an alternative system.” Spellings’ public offering of other opportunities doesn’t command much interest. Five of 10 Americans graded their community schools with an A or a B, and these high marks rise even higher the closer respondents are to the schools. It seems the public and particularly public school parents aren’t ready to buy the notion that schools don’t work.

Further, over last three years, the PDK/Gallup poll documents that the American public increasingly opposes the use of vouchers for children to attend private schools. We find ourselves wondering why the public understands this while our leaders in Washington, D.C., do not.

Added to this disconnection between policymakers and the public is the unfolding tragedy of the No Child Left Behind Act. Praiseworthy goals are encased in an implementation plan so ill-conceived that the public overwhelmingly rejects every strategy used.
Even more damning, this year six of 10 Americans say NCLB is either hurting or making no difference in their community’s schools. That this reality is being ignored makes it likely that NCLB, for all its bright promise, will lead to limited gains and may actually do harm to our schools.

Just days before the voucher press conference, the U.S. Department of Education released a study it had commissioned that concluded students in public schools generally outperform their counterparts in private schools. The study, conducted by the Educational Testing Service, affirmed the findings of an earlier report highlighted in the May 2005 issue of the Phi Delta Kappan titled “A New Look at Public and Private Schools: Student Background in Mathematics Achievement” by Sarah Theule Lubienski and Christopher Lubienski.

The department not only delayed the release of its study, but it distributed the study late on a Friday afternoon, along with the added caveat that the study was of “only modest utility.” In other words, the study did not support vouchers.


I wish the policymakers in Washington would acknowledge that the American public likes its community schools and that the key to helping our nation’s schools get even better is to develop policies that build on this existing base of public support.

For example, eight of 10 Americans believe that preschool programs for children from low-income households would help them perform better in school as teenagers. Two of three Americans go even further by indicating their willingness to pay more taxes to fund preschool programs for at-risk children. So rather than offer policies like vouchers that feature “other opportunities” but are not supported by the public or by research, why can’t we spend $100 million to fund high-quality preschool programs that the public supports, that research has proven effective and that address the core issue behind NCLB, the achievement gap?

There clearly is a failure in America. But it is a failure of political leadership, not of the public schools. Certainly, we need better schools, and the achievement gap is a serious threat to our society and our economy. The public understands this threat and is prepared to support change through the existing system of public schools.

The support local schools enjoy provides a sound base from which to begin that effort. But our political leaders ignore the public’s desires, inflict punitive strategies on the public schools and promote alternatives that lack public support. While this approach persists, the worthy goal of meeting the educational needs of every child will remain beyond reach and too many of our children will still be left behind.

• William Bushaw is executive director of PDK International, The Professional Association in Education - E-mail:

►Conclusions of the 38th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

• CONCLUSION I. The public’s strong preference is to seek improvement through the existing public schools. Policies shaped with this fact in mind are most likely to gain public approval.
• CONCLUSION II. Public ratings of the local schools are near the top of their 38-year range.
• CONCLUSION III. The closer people get to the schools in the community, the higher the grades they give them.
• CONCLUSION IV. Policies at the state and federal levels that build on the assumption that local schools have a high approval rating are likely to gain public support.
• CONCLUSION V. Gaining public support for school improvement will be more likely if proposals are based on the schools in the community and not on the nation’s schools.
• CONCLUSION VI. There has been no decline in public support for public schools. Approval ratings remain high and remarkably stable.
• CONCLUSION VII. Support for vouchers is declining and stands in the mid-30% range.
• CONCLUSION VIII. Those who would implement the charter school concept should ensure that the public has a clear understanding of the nature of such schools.
• CONCLUSION IX. There is near-consensus support for the belief that the problems the public schools face result from societal issues and not from the quality of schooling.
• CONCLUSION X. The public is aware of the link between adequate funding and effective schooling and understands that current funding levels are a challenge for schools.
• CONCLUSION XI. The public’s preference is that the local school board make decisions about what the schools teach. Of those favoring decisions at the state or federal level, two-thirds opt for the state.
• CONCLUSION XII. There is still majority support for at least the current level of testing, although there has been a shift toward the belief that there is “too much testing.”
• CONCLUSION XIII. Large and growing numbers see the emphasis on testing translating into “teaching to the test,” and those saying that doing so is a “bad thing” are nearing consensus.
• CONCLUSION XIV. The support for using a graduate qualifying exam to determine whether a student receives a diploma is strong.
• CONCLUSION XV. There is near consensus that closing the achievement gap is of great importance and that it is unnecessary to sacrifice high standards to do it.
• CONCLUSION XVI. The public attributes the gap to factors other than the quality of schooling but still concludes that it is the responsibility of the schools to close it.
• CONCLUSION XVII. The public belief that preschool programs for children from poverty-level homes will help them to perform better in school when they are teens is apparently so strong that the public expresses a willingness to pay higher taxes to support such programs.
• CONCLUSION XVIII. The public is divided on the question of revising the curriculum to meet today’s needs.
• CONCLUSION XIX. There is majority support for a curriculum that includes a broad range of courses.
• CONCLUSION XX. There is majority support for a college-preparatory program for all students.
• CONCLUSION XXI. There is strong support for a curriculum that requires all students to take four years of math, with at least two years of algebra.
• CONCLUSION XXII. The fact that the public assigns such high importance to each of the six reasons* why teachers leave the profession in the first five years suggests that the initial step in attracting more high-quality teachers should be an effort to make the job more attractive to those who have already entered the profession.
[*six reasons: Lack of support from parents (96%), lack of support from administrators (93%), poor working conditions in the public schools (92%) lack of respect for the teaching profession (89%), low teacher salaries (88%), and lack of appropriate teacher training (84%)]
• CONCLUSION XXIII. Based on years of data from this poll, it would be a mistake to interpret the public’s assessment as indicating dissatisfaction with the current teacher corps. On the contrary, whenever polled, the public expresses great confidence in our teachers.
• CONCLUSION XXIV. The public does not believe that students in their local schools work hard enough in school or on homework outside of school.
• CONCLUSION XXV. The public is divided on the matter of extending the time spent in school.
• CONCLUSION XXVI. Extending the school day by one hour draws impressive support, although one must wonder if it is based on the need for more schooling or the desire to have kids supervised for an additional hour.
• CONCLUSION XXVII. Almost half of the respondents believe they are knowledgeable about NCLB, while just over half believe they know little or nothing about the law. Those who believe they know enough to express an opinion are also divided between viewing the law favorably and unfavorably.
• CONCLUSION XXVIII. That seven out of 10 of those professing knowledge of NCLB believe it is either making no difference in the local schools or hurting them is troubling. Because the effort to comply with NCLB is driving instruction in most schools and dominating efforts to improve achievement, the concerns of such a large proportion of the public need to be addressed.
• CONCLUSION XXIX. A public that rejects the strategies used to implement NCLB is unlikely to provide the support needed if the law is to work. Common sense would call for changes to align NCLB more closely with the public’s views.
• CONCLUSION XXX. Given that half of the public still considers itself uninformed on NCLB and one-third are unwilling to express an opinion, there is still time to make the changes that might bring support for the law.
• CONCLUSION XXXI. The responses of those who claim knowledge of the law bear out this poll’s 2003 conclusion that greater familiarity with NCLB was unlikely to increase public support.
• CONCLUSION XXXII. Public uncertainty about NCLB and, in particular, its strategies, has created a situation in which those who blame the schools for failing to make AYP hold only a small margin over those who would blame the law. Among those professing knowledge of the law, the assignment of blame is still more evenly split.

▲COMPLETE REPORT: The 38th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes toward the Public Schools by Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup


San Diego Union Tribune | ASSOCIATED PRESS

February 7, 2007 – SACRAMENTO – The state doesn't do enough to keep track of what happens to the more than one in 10 high school students who attend alternative schools in California, according to a report issued Wednesday by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

Information that is available suggests many of them are not making progress.

Between 10 and 15 percent of all high school students in California attend some kind of alternative school, from so-called community schools to independent study. The schools are supposed to be a safety net for students at risk of dropping out or who have behavioral or other problems.

Instead, the state's accountability system “allows schools and districts to use referrals to alternative schools as a way to avoid responsibility for the progress of low-performing students,” the report said.

State education officials recognize the need for accountability and are trying to reflect that in changes to the state's academic performance review system, said Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman for state schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell.

▲LAO Reports | Education: K-12 |

State law authorizes three types of alternative schools—continuation schools, community schools, and community day schools to serve high school students who are “at risk” of dropping out of school. In addition, some districts use independent study to educate at-risk high school students. Between 10 percent to 15 percent of high school students enroll in one of these programs each year.

Despite the importance of alternative education, existing K-12 accountability programs do not permit an evaluation of whether participating students are making progress. In fact, the state’s accountability system allows schools and districts to use referrals to alternative schools as a way to avoid responsibility for the progress of low-performing students. The way that the state finances alternative schools further blurs accountability and creates incentives that result in fewer services to these students.

By addressing these two issues, the Legislature can begin the process of improving alternative education in California. Improving state and federal accountability programs is a crucial first step. Schools and districts need to be held responsible for the success of students who are referred to local alternative programs. In addition, we also recommend the Legislature revise the state’s alternative school accountability program so that it focuses on learning gains and graduating students from high school.

We also recommend creating a new funding mechanism for the support of alternative programs that would reinforce the district’s responsibility for creating effective options for at-risk students. Our proposed block grant would give districts maximum flexibility to support district alternatives that best meet the needs of its students.

Alternative programs are designed, at least in part, to create a safety net for students who are unsuccessful in our regular comprehensive high schools. Currently, data are not adequate to answer the question of whether these programs serve this role. Our recommendations, therefore, would provide the data the Legislature needs to answer this question. More importantly, however, our recommendations would help ensure that all parties involved in the process—including school officials, teachers, parents, and students—would seek the answer to this question as well.

Full Report:


By Ann Bradley – EdWeek

February 7, 2007 - Conditions in the nation’s school cafeterias could trigger outbreaks of food poisoning at any time, the Center for Science in the Public Interest warned last week in a report. The Washington-based consumer-advocacy group analyzed inspection reports from high school cafeterias in 20 jurisdictions and rated them on the rigor and frequency of their food-safety inspections and the ease of access to the results of the inspections.

Most of the 29 million meals served in school cafeterias each day are nutritious and safe, but some school districts and local governments aren’t conducting frequent enough inspections or using up-to-date food-safety standards, leaving students at risk of food poisoning, the report says.

Young children in particular face a higher risk of complications from infections caused by e. coli, salmonella, and other potentially deadly food-borne pathogens, it says.

Federal food-safety standards call for cafeterias to be inspected twice a year.

District of Columbia school cafeterias ranked among the worst, with a “failing” score. Schools in Fort Worth, Texas, had the highest score in the study.

Five jurisdictions “flunked out” of our survey due to lack of information: Los Angeles County, California; the City of Cleveland, Ohio; New York City; the State of Florida; and the City of Boston, Massachusetts. The missing information varied depending on the jurisdiction:

• Los Angeles County, CA. CSPI was told that that Los Angeles County schools only perform monthly “self-inspections” and are not inspected on a regular basis, only in response to a complaint. Those cafeteria inspection reports that were found online were not performed by or in conjunction with the health department.

by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (Jan ’07) – page 4


CSPA Press Release: New CSPI Report Finds School Districts Lagging in Food Safety

January 30, 2007 - WASHINGTON—Conditions in America’s school cafeterias could trigger potentially disastrous outbreaks of food poisoning at any time, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which ranks food service operations in a new report released today. Most of the 29 million meals served in the nation’s school cafeterias each day are nutritious and safe, but some school districts and governments aren’t inspecting school cafeterias frequently enough or are using out-of-date food safety standards, leaving students at risk of food poisoning. Younger children in particular face a higher risk of complications from infections caused by E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and other potentially deadly foodborne pathogens.

In “Making the Grade,” CSPI analyzed inspection reports from high school cafeterias in 20 jurisdictions across the country and then rated those jurisdictions on the rigor of food-safety inspections, frequency of inspections, and ease of access to the results of cafeteria inspections. Some inspection reports documented unacceptable conditions such as roaches, both dead and alive; rodent droppings; and improper food storage and handling techniques.

“Cities, counties, and school districts shouldn’t wait until a major outbreak of Hepatitis A, E. coli, or Salmonella forces them to update their food codes and ramp up inspections,” said Ken Kelly, food safety attorney for CSPI and lead author of the report. “Regrettably, many school cafeterias may be just one meal away from an outbreak.”

Of the 20 jurisdictions evaluated, Hartford, Conn., received the lowest score, 37 out of a possible 100. Hartford had the highest number of critical violations, including multiple cases of dirty equipment and utensils, inadequate hand-washing facilities, and poor personnel hygiene. Hartford also had infrequent inspections (on average, one per year, violating the federal requirements for two inspections), poor access to inspection reports, and a weak food code. Other jurisdictions with failing scores include the District of Columbia, with the lowest inspection frequency; Rhode Island; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Hillsborough (includes Tampa) and Dade (includes Miami) counties in Florida. Montgomery County, Md., barely passed, as it has the most outdated food code.

Fort Worth, Texas, had the best food safety score, with a score of 80 out of 100. Other top performers overall were King County, Wash. (includes Seattle); Houston; and Denver, Colo. Fort Worth; Maricopa County, Ariz. (includes Phoenix); Farmington Valley Health District, Conn.; Fulton County, Ga. (includes Atlanta); Hillsborough County; and Minneapolis scored well in inspection frequency (even though it failed overall). Maricopa County and Virginia also earned top scores for access to inspection information.

CSPI’s Outbreak Alert! database has documented more than 11,000 cases of foodborne illnesses associated with schools between 1990 and 2004. Just one outbreak can have devastating consequences on the health of students, productivity in the classroom, and even on school district’s finances. In 2003, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld a $4.6 million verdict against a school district after 11 children were sickened from E. coli linked to ground beef in tacos.

The most common pathogens responsible for school outbreaks include E. coli, Clostridium perfringens, Norovirus, and Salmonella, according to CSPI’s database. Infections from Norovirus and Hepatitis A are often linked to infected food handlers and other critical violations in school cafeterias. Salmonella, which is common on raw poultry, can spread to fresh produce if those foods are stored too closely together. If not cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, hamburgers and other foods containing ground beef can harbor E. coli.

To protect school children from food poisoning, CSPI recommends the following measures:
• State and local governments should adopt up-to-date safety standards and receive adequate funding to ensure compliance with federal inspection regulations outlined in the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004.
• Schools should request timely inspections, employ certified food handlers, and use the best food safety procedures.
• Parents should monitor conditions in their child’s cafeteria and advocate for optimal food safety policies.

CSPI’s complete report, “Making the Grade,” is on the web at



by Matt Krupnick | Contra Costa Times

Fri, Feb. 02, 2007 - The state's economy will suffer unless community college leaders do a better job of helping students complete their education, according to a study released Thursday.

Educators and policymakers have spent more time and money helping students get into college than on helping them earn their degrees, Sacramento State researchers found.

Only one quarter of community college students seeking transfer to a four-year college or a two-year degree or certificate succeed within six years, they said.

Researchers echoed concerns brought up three months ago in a report by the Public Policy Institute of California.

"The community colleges were designed as a bridge between high school and college," said Nancy Shulock, the Sacramento report's co-author and director of the university's Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy. "Our policies just aren't helping students complete their journey."

The Sacramento report notes major flaws in the world's largest higher-education system, which has 110 colleges and 2.5 million students whose goals range from job training and certification to post-retirement cooking classes. Financial-aid programs primarily focus on helping students entering college, researchers said, and unintentionally dissuade students from finishing their educations.

Researchers also found that completion rates were much lower for black and Latino students than for white and Asian students.

Lawmakers and other researchers said the findings would help the state reform its education policies, but some community college leaders took exception to the results. Some said the researchers used flawed data to come to their conclusions.

"Frankly, we were insulted by the report," said Scott Lay, president of the Community College League of California, which lobbies on behalf of the colleges. "The report shows a real misunderstanding of the mission of California's community colleges."

In a written statement, state community college Chancellor Mark Drummond said the report "misses the mark" by ignoring ongoing attempts to improve student success.

Shulock emphasized that the report, titled "Rules of the Game," did not criticize the colleges, saying educators were doing the best they could despite restrictive state rules. State law requires community colleges to spend half their money on instruction and to limit the number of part-time faculty members.

The report concluded that colleges would be able to help students graduate or transfer if they had more flexibility on financial and hiring decisions.

Other researchers asked educators to take the results seriously.

"All you have to do is look at California's position compared to other states to realize we need to make changes," said Patrick Callan, president of the San Jose-based National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. "This isn't a time to react defensively."

The Sacramento researchers, legislators and college leaders agreed that better financial-aid programs could help more students finish college by devoting themselves to their studies full time. Other studies have shown that full-time students have higher graduation rates.

Community college students often are older than traditional students and sometimes have families to support. Colleges need to find ways to support nontraditional students, said Martha Kantor, chancellor of the South Bay's Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

"Two thirds of our students are working, and of those, half are working full time," said Kantor, who estimates that nearly 20 percent of the Foothill-De Anza student body is the working poor. "We need to understand that many working students do take longer than six years to complete their college requirements."

At Pittsburg's Los Medanos College, student leader Jasmine McDermott said many of her peers would appreciate a revamped financial-aid system to help them more quickly reach their educational goals.

"We have programs that pay for books," said McDermott, a student senator. "But as far as outside of school, there's not a lot of help available."

Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy RULES OF THE GAME: complete report



Friday, February 9, 2007, 6:29 PM

Dear Education Community Leader:

I am writing to let you know of my concern over Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to reduce the current state share of investment in new construction and modernization costs in the School Facilities Program. I believe that increasing the burden upon local communities in this way can have a seriously detrimental impact on the success of school facility construction and modernization efforts throughout California.

As you know, nearly a decade ago, I had the honor of working with leaders like yourself in crafting the historic compromise enacted via Senate Bill 50 (Chapter 407, Statutes of 1998)—the groundbreaking $9 billion investment in public school facilities aimed at helping school districts buy land, construct new buildings, and modernize existing ones.

Then Speaker Villaraigosa asked Assemblymember Hertzberg and me to take leadership on SB 50 and charged us with negotiating a new format for state school facility financing—a new partnership investment framework. A key element of this extraordinary program was a carefully developed state-fiscal relationship in which the state would be responsible for 50-percent of new construction costs and 60-percent of modernization costs.

SB 50 later became Proposition 1A and was placed on the ballot during the 1998 General Election for voter approval. The voters agreed on the merits of the proposal and passed Proposition 1A (1998) with a resounding 63-percent majority.

Based on this commitment of state funding in exchange for a reasonable, practically achievable local match requirement, voters built upon the $9 billion state investment by passing $28.7 billion in subsequent state bond measures, including the recent Proposotion 1D of 2006. Additionally, local communities demonstrated their commitment to the positive partnership with the state by passing a remarkable $41 billion in local bonds between 1998 and 2006.

Combined with the 55-percent majority vote requirement for the passage of local school bonds and the state’s commitment to cover 50-percent of new construction costs and 60-percent of modernization costs, we have made incredible strides towards ensuring that every child has high-quality school facilities available for their learning.

However, we find today that as a state, we still have a great deal to do in this area. Many students are still facing the challenge of learning in deteriorating, unsafe, and simply inadequate school facilities. Yet, the Governor has proposed that we increase the burden on our already struggling school districts and local communities by requiring them to cover the majority of the costs of new construction and modernization. Specifically, the Governor’s proposal would reduce the state’s commitment by covering only 40 percent of new construction costs and 40 percent of modernization costs.

I believe that shifting the bulk of the burden for the cost of school facilities upon local communities threatens the continued success of our partnership investments in school facilities. I believe it is imperative that the state not renege on its commitment to provide local communities with its fair share of funding by maintaining its commitment to cover 50-percent of modernization costs and 60 percent of new construction costs.

I hope you will join me in working towards ensuring that the state honors its commitment to our students and communities in this regard. Our partnership to finance school facilities has been immensely successful. Let’s keep it going!

/s/Senator Tom Torlakson
Seventh District, Concord
Concord District Office
2801 Concord Blvd
Concord, CA 94519
(925) 602-6593.

• In light of the fact that the level of state match is already drifting away from the original 50% percent of modernization costs and 60% of new construction costs – and that our LAUSD construction and modernization budget assumptions (and promises made to the voters and taxpayers) are based on the "guaranteed match" of state funds – I believe we all must be concerned and vigilant. —smf


►…and finally: TEXAS COULD PUNISH TRUANT PARENTS – Bill Would Fine Public-School Parents for Skipping Meetings with Teachers

by Jim Vertuno | The Associated Press

Feb 1, 2007 - AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Parents beware: Miss a meeting with your child's teacher and it could cost you a $500 fine and a criminal record.

A Republican state lawmaker from Baytown has filed a bill that would charge parents of public school students with a misdemeanor and fine them for playing hooky from a scheduled parent-teacher conference.

Rep. Wayne Smith said Wednesday he wants to get parents involved in their child's education.

"I think it helps the kids for the parents and teachers to communicate. That's all the intent was," Smith said.

Kathy Carlson, a fifth-grade teacher at Furneaux Elementary School in Carrollton, said she's had a handful of parents who skip meetings with teachers, but she winced at the idea of charging them.

"I don't know if we need to call it criminal. I would rather see accountability brought a different way, rather than fines or punishments," Carlson said.

"On the whole, parents want what's best for their kids," she said. "Sometimes I think they think we're out to get them. When you're talking about fining and pressing criminal charges, it kind of reflects that attitude."

Carlson said she used to teach at a school in Irving with many children of illegal immigrants.

"They were afraid to come to parent-teacher conferences because they were almost afraid of the authority" of the school district, she said.

Under Smith's bill, schools would send parents a notice for a meeting with three proposed dates by certified mail. Parents who don't respond or who schedule a meeting and don't show up without notice could be punished.

Parents could avoid prosecution if they have a "reasonable excuse" for not showing up. State education officials or local school districts would probably be responsible for defining reasonable.

Fines collected would go to the district for teacher pay raises or to buy supplies.

Smith's bill on the missed meetings would seem to face long odds to becoming law. Rep. Rob Eissler, a Republican from The Woodlands who chairs the House Public Education Committee, has said he's concerned about how it would be enforced.

Austin parent Mary Christine Reed has children in third and seventh grades and is involved in her parent-teacher association. She said she knows of some problems teachers have had, but as a parent, wonders if a steep fine or criminal charge would make them worse.

"If the idea is to create communication, to send them into the criminal justice system ... is going to do nothing but have a negative impact," Reed said. "It would make parents more scared of the school."

• smf: The late Mollie Ivins didn't just make the place up – when "The Lege" is in session every Texas village is without its idiot!

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Tuesday Feb 13, 2006 - School Board Meeting 10 a.m.
• Thursday Feb 15, 2007 - Facilities Committee Mtg 9 a.m.
Above at Board Room • 333 Beaudry Ave • LA 90017
• Thursday Feb 15, 2007
East Valley Area New HS #1B Addition
CEQA Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Meeting
LAUSD has completed a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this new school project. This report evaluates the potential impacts the project may have on the surrounding area. The purpose of this meeting is to present the Draft EIR to the community, and receive comments and questions regarding the results of the Draft EIR. Your input is very valuable.

6:30 p.m.
East Valley High School - Auditorium
5525 Vineland Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91601 *Dates and times subject to change.
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! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• 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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