Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bother to vote. Vote early. Vote often.

Additional election related news update - sorta!

4LAKids: Sunday, March 4, 2007
In This Issue:
NASTY BATTLE FOR CLASSROOM CONTROL: L.A., which educates one of every 12 California students, is ground zero in the Education Wars
LAUSD MEMBER'S COMMENTS ABOUT WESTCHESTER DRAW IRE: Board's David Tokofsky apologizes for saying area was once friendly to Nazis and KKK.
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.
There is an election coming up on Tuesday, an important election for LAUSD and the City of Los Angeles.

Much is made of the low turnout in decisive school board and municipal elections in LA — and this is not by accident but by design. The City Charter sets the date for municipal primary elections in March and general elections in May of odd-numbered years rather than in even-numbered (national election) years to keep the numbers down and manageable. Oh, the politicos say it keeps the electorate focused on local issues for local elections.
But they would say that …wouldn’t they?

Q: Who benefits from low turnout?
A: Incumbents
Q Who wrote the Charter?
A: Incumbents
Q: And who would benefit from increased turnout?
A: The electorate.

Everyone who bothers to vote will have different reasons to make different choices in the voting booth on Tuesday – or on the mail in ballot if they’ve done that already. Single issue voters will vote their issue. Conservatives will vote conservative, liberals will vote liberal. Middle-of-the-roaders will find little middle ground. If you have someone you know and like you’ll vote for ‘em; someone you don’t like you’ll vote against. Cranky folks’ll vote the rascals out; happy folks will stay the course.

4LAKids has a single issue focus: What’s best for the kids of LAUSD? That’s the litmus test – and following are the scores. The scoring is subjective – if you feel differently you’ll vote differently. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Unfortunately the mayor of Los Angeles has defined the school board election with the same singular focus as I – and he has applied his considerable charisma and billionaires Jerry Perenchio, Eli Broad and Richard Riordan’s considerable bankrolls to the school board election to further his education agenda – an agenda resoundingly tossed out by the courts, unpopular with parents, slimly rejected by his sometime allies in the teacher’s union and really not embraced by the citizenry in any large numbers. Maybe he’ll get enough support on Tuesday, hopefully he won’t.

►Here’s who 4LAKids likes:

Ms. LaMotte’s opponent is the most qualified challenger in all the races and a fine educator — but with a multi-million dollar loan from the District to build a charter school IN DEFAULT - a charter school he is co-founder and director of - he’s carrying far too much baggage. Perenchio, Broad and Riordan’s money should be repaying the loan.

I supported his opponent last time, but Jon’s grown into the job and grown on me. He’s served his constituents well. His opponent is not yet a parent in the District and works for The City of LA – she would be a part-time school board member with the appearance of a conflict of interest – some might even say making her a double-dipper at the city payroll. But not me — because I know payroll checks for LAUSD come from the county!

UTLA for its own reasons decided early on to not back anyone in this race, David Tokofsky for his own reasons decided not to seek reelection, withdrawing on the last possible day. Bennett’s a great guy with a big heart and a fine teacher but Yolie Flores Aguilar will probably win; she is highly qualified and has the mayor’s backing and money.

Again, incumbent Mike Lansing retires and UTLA stands on the sidelines. The mayor favors Richard Vladovic, but in 4LAKids humble opinion Neal Kleiner is the better candidate. (Kleiner and I were on a radio chat show together recently – that we agreed on almost everything probably didn’t help the show’s ratings any!)

The current leadership of LA is having problems in the limits of that role. First we had AB 1381, the misbegotten and unconstitutional attempt to take over LAUSD. Last year’s Measure R was ruled similarly unconstitutional in that it combined two issues (term limits and election reform) into a single ballot measure, and violated the city charter because it was never vetted through the neighborhood councils. Measure L has the same problem in that it’s about two issues (term limits and election reform – this time for the school board) and it too was not vetted through the neighborhood councils.

You get to vote for all four - they continue to be the right folks for the job!

►I am only going to weigh in on one city council race: VOTE FOR ALVIN PARRA IN CD 14.

Alvin has kids in LAUSD, his wife is a teacher; maybe it would be good to have someone with those qualifications on the city council? Ya think? Incumbent Jose Huizar left the school board mid-term and ran for City Council based on his record as President of the LAUSD Board of Education ...and hasn’t stopped bashing the District since! If it is a failing district as he claims he’s got to take some responsibility for the failure. Huizar has said he was forced against his better judgment to support Measure R – yet duplicated the duplicity in supporting Measure L. Now, according to David Z’s article in the LA Weekly (below) he not only fudged on building permits for his house, he may have played a little fast-and-loose with the residency requirements for his school board seat — as in: He didn’t live in his district! Sooner or alter we need to hold elected officials to the same standards we expect of real people in real life. Sooner would be good.

Please, don’t take my word for it; instead make the city and the school district take YOUR word for it. VOTE!

Onward - smf

David Z|LA Weekly - THAT’S NOT PERMITTED: José Huizar ignored the law, expanded his house, then used insiders to make things okay

NASTY BATTLE FOR CLASSROOM CONTROL: L.A., which educates one of every 12 California students, is ground zero in the Education Wars
by Doug Lasken | LA Weekly

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - As diverting as it is to speculate on whether Hollywood will go for Hillary or Obama, the Los Angeles Unified School Board races on March 6 have the potential to more directly affect Angelenos, from families with children to taxpayers who foot the bill for the sprawling district’s more than 600 schools.

A major power struggle is afoot, with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa facing off against the 38,000-member teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, for control of the five-member elected board — and, ultimately, control over how the bitterly fought reform of the area’s troubled schools proceeds.

Yet even against this backdrop, in which Villaraigosa hopes to sweep new candidates onto the board, and UTLA and its supporters want to retain several incumbents, some experienced political watchers are questioning whether the makeup of the school board even matters.

Alice Callahan, director of Jardin des la Infancia, a charter school for kindergarteners and first-graders in downtown Los Angeles, and a shrewd observer of school board politics, says, “Board members come and go, and it doesn’t seem to matter which ones are in. They all seem pretty ineffectual anyway. The bureaucracy pretty much runs itself.”

Under the previous schools superintendent, Roy Romer, a number of key teaching, reading and math reforms — focused heavily at the grade-school level — led to dramatic jumps in test scores, even at some of the city’s poorest and most hopeless elementary schools. Romer brought dramatic change — after several previous superintendents and school boards largely wrote off the schools, amid decades of falling test scores.

Despite Romer’s progress — which included a historic shift in student achievement in the grade schools — he was vociferously criticized by Villaraigosa when the mayor launched his campaign to take control of L.A. Unified last year.

Though Villaraigosa has not, to date, released any detailed plan for fixing the schools, he spent months faulting Romer for moving too slowly on improving the high schools.

While the grade schools have begun to flourish, the high schools suffer huge dropout rates. Functional illiteracy is especially common among high school teens who attended Los Angeles grade schools in the 1990s, before the Romer reforms in reading, math and teacher retraining kicked in.

Now, under new Superintendent David Brewer, and in the wake of a court ruling that for now prevents Villaraigosa from controlling even a handful of high schools, the battle over who fixes the schools is playing out in the school board elections.

Two incumbents are up for re-election, and both face well-financed opponents backed by the mayor, while two other seats are open and have attracted rivals financed by the teachers union on one side and the mayor's camp on the other. The seats in play are districts 1, 3, 5 and 7.

District 3, in the west San Fernando Valley, is held by union-backed incumbent Jon Lauritzen, who taught computer skills at Canoga Park High School before winning his first term on the school board.

He attacks his main opponent, Tamar Galatzan, who is backed by the mayor, by saying, “We can’t afford to let the progress we’ve made be squandered by my opponent, who is supported by Richard Riordan and the same anti-teacher coalition that brought us Caprice Young.”

Lauritzen is not known for pushing reform, however, and is chiefly known for a failed attempt to get a one-year moratorium on opening charter schools in Los Angeles. By contrast, Young, swept into office with Riordan’s support, presided over Romer’s reading and math reforms, which proved so successful at the elementary level. She lost her seat to Lauritzen four years ago and now heads the reform-minded California Charter Schools Association.

Lauritzen’s opponent this time, Galatzan, a deputy city attorney with the Neighborhood Prosecutor Program who works with Van Nuys–based police, says she’s running against him because, “As a parent of two young children, I worry that my sons will not receive the same quality education that I received while attending LAUSD schools.”

Meanwhile, UTLA vice president Joshua Pechthalt has attacked Galatzan’s camp for backing charter schools. Galatzan’s campaign manager, Mike Trujillo, says, “Tamar believes that the charter movement is the only way that parents can have a voice in their children’s education.” Is there a conflict of interest in an LAUSD board member advocating charters, which compete with existing schools? Trujillo responds that charters will bring back the fleeing middle class, and actually save foundering public schools.

And indeed, the March 6 election is shaping up as a referendum on whether Los Angeles, the epicenter of the charter-school movement, should push for even more charter schools.

School board president Marlene Canter says the district should learn from charters, including innovations like “small learning communities” for failing high schools. She’s proud that Los Angeles Unified has opened 103 charters, more than any district in the nation. But longtime union-backed board member Julie Korenstein, of the Valley, snaps, “The mayor wants to take out the Board of Education and have his own people under his influence,” predicting that as kids bail out to attend charter schools, “an ongoing attrition” of students will hit LAUSD.

Charter schools are semi-autonomous, allowed to save money by avoiding certain state regulations and hiring non-union teachers. Anyone can try to launch a charter school, but such schools must show that their curriculum and teachers are producing solid student achievement.

United Teachers Los Angeles steadfastly opposes charter schools for complicated reasons. While it’s common wisdom that charter schools save money by hiring non-union teachers, outgoing L.A. Unified board member David Tokofsky notes that teachers at Green Dot — a charter-school system that has made headlines by stealing students and teachers from L.A. Unified — are part of the California Teachers Association union.

The fact that, as Tokofsky notes, Green Dot’s unionized teachers earn about 10 percent more than other Los Angeles teachers may also play a role in why United Teachers Los Angeles is opposing this new competitor on its turf.

Tokofsky, a widely respected high school teacher before entering politics, has represented District 5 since 1995 and was expected to run again, but recently dropped out. He “wasn’t looking forward to clashing with the mayor” he says, and after years in the $24,000-per-year post, he wanted to focus on building financial security for his family.

Seeking Tokofsky’s seat in the tattered Eastside district are Yolie Flores Aguilar, whom Tokofsky narrowly beat eight years ago and whose salient feature appears to be her acceptance of charter schools, and Bennett Kayser, a technology expert for L.A. Unified. Aguilar met recently with Silver Lake parents and Steve Barr, head of the Green Dot charter schools, and decried a “cookie cutter” approach to education. But Tokofsky — an Aguilar critic — notes that she has a history of backing disastrous education fads.

Eight years ago, Tokofsky says, Aguilar was board president at the obscure Los Angeles County Office of Education, and was a big supporter of the Spanish-first “bilingual education” theory that sent achievement among Latino students crashing down. Aguilar also backed the now-discounted fad known as whole language — an anti-phonics theory.

Interestingly, Villaraigosa, who supports Aguilar, also backed those old classroom fads when he was a state legislator. Aguilar did not respond to the L.A. Weekly’s request for an interview, but according to Tokofsky, during her time with the county Office of Education, she was especially lenient on school suspensions and expulsions, often sending violent students back to school.

Kayser, an L.A. Unified technology coordinator who calls himself a “tireless advocate for education, social justice and community participation” has no major formal endorsements, although Tokofsky has been giving him guidance.

Another touchy battle is unfolding in District 1, which largely takes in South Los Angeles, where incumbent Marguerite Poindexter La Motte, a former district administrator, is endorsed by the teachers union. She opposes charter schools, but she’s gotten far more attention for openly slamming Green Dot leader Barr as “a rich white millionaire trying to make money off our babies” — and then absurdly denying using the dreaded “W” word.

Union leader Pechthalt, who backs La Motte, attacks her opponent, Johnathan Williams, as “one of the most visible charter-school advocates in Southern California” — a slam that might actually help Williams with Los Angeles voters, who are increasingly embracing the charter-school movement. Indeed, Williams is backed by Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss, state Senator Gloria Romero and the local Young Democrats.

But La Motte says Villaraigosa’s schools takeover dream makes little sense: “I am really not clear about what the mayor wants,” she tells the Weekly, “and the [mayor’s] recently published 52 points do not help much because just about every one of the 52 points is currently being implemented by this board.”

With the departure of no-nonsense school board member Mike Lansing — a popular former executive director of the Los Angeles Harbor Boys & Girls Clubs — several candidates are fighting it out for the wide-open District 7 seat.

District 7, a long finger of land that begins at Normandie Avenue and runs south through Compton and Lomita, ending in San Pedro, has attracted candidates Richard Vladovic, a retired school superintendent who has the mayor’s endorsement, retired middle school principal Neal Leiner and retired teacher Jesus Escandon.

Between the unions, mayor and school board, the issues — reading and math scores, dropout rates and classroom reform — have been shrouded in a Byzantine haze of politics. Beyond that haze are 740,000 students — one in every 12 students educated in California — who are at ground zero of the Education Wars.

LAW Editor's Note: The March 6 LAUSD school board race features two incumbents, not three. In addition, outgoing school board member David Tokofsky is not making formal endorsements, and has not endorsed candidate Bennett Kayser.

smf adds: Tokofsky is a paid consultant for Green Dot Public Schools.


By David Hernandez & Donna Connolly | from Mayor Sam’s Sister City

Monday, February 19, 2007 - This measure is just one more attempt by Mayor Villaraigosa to take over the LAUSD Board of Education. Putting aside the question of constitutionality (the measure combines more than one unrelated issue on the same ballot initiative; term limits and campaign finance reform) this initiative is wrong on so many levels.

Let’s begin with campaign finance reform which, according to the text, will “encourage a broader participation in the political process by placing limits on the amount any individual can contribute" in any one election. Campaign reform of this type, while it sounds good, will actually do the opposite. By setting contribution limits at $1,000 per individual, an unknown candidate running a grassroots campaign will have to get 150 people to contribute $1,000 to compete with the likes of Mayor Villaraigosa and his developer friends. These interested parties have already contributed over $150,000 to his Partnership for Better Schools–a committee the Mayor formed to raise money for LAUSD candidates in three separate Districts. Anyone who has ever worked on a grassroots campaign knows that you have to raise money to raise money. If you have the endorsement of people with access to deep pockets who know all the clever ways to traverse the system, this type of reform is irrelevant.

Secondly, if you manage to get through the first 17 pages of legal jargon in your Voter Information Pamphlet, you'll find the breakdown of a compensation committee that is due to form on April 7, 2007. The need for a committee of this sort is baffling enough without trying to figure out how the darn thing is supposed to work. These are elected officials that earn $24,000 a year being of service to their community. This measure makes them look like corrupt politicians in dire need of oversight and accountability.

Thirdly, this reform will do nothing to prevent the formation of a committee like Partnership for Better Schools. After trudging through a morass of sections and subsections, there is a clause on page 16 that stipulates that as long as the advertisements don't say that it is paid for by the candidate, anyone can endorse or oppose anyone they want as long as they clearly specify such on all campaign ads and literature. Remember all those 527's people were so upset about during the 2004 election, well here we to again.

Finally, on the issue of constitutionality, many of the same people behind Measure L were also behind Measure R on the November 2006 ballot. That proposition was ruled unconstitutional by a Superior Court Judge and allowed to stay on the ballot by an appellate court.

Mayor Villaraigosa’s initial attempt to take over the LAUSD school board was ruled unconstitutional by Judge Dzintra Janavs in January. He has stated publicly that he is determined to take the matter all the way to the Supreme Court.

Measure R—the proposition that combined term limits and ethics reform—passed by the voters in November, is due to go before the same judge in April. Like Measure L, it too combined more than one unrelated issue on the same ballot initiative. Doing so violates the state constitution and the LA City Charter. Don’t let another measure pass that ends up in the courts! Remember it is your money they’re spending; they don’t care what it takes to further their agenda or how long.

• Hernandez is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit opposing Measure R.

LAUSD MEMBER'S COMMENTS ABOUT WESTCHESTER DRAW IRE: Board's David Tokofsky apologizes for saying area was once friendly to Nazis and KKK.

by Paul Clinton, Daily Breeze staff writer

March 1, 2007 - In what he later said was an effort to pay Westchester a compliment that got lost in an inadvertent exaggeration at a public meeting, Los Angeles school board member David Tokofsky sparked outrage when he said the neighborhood had once been friendly to Nazis and the KKK.

He made the comment during a segment of Tuesday's meeting set aside for an "inspirational moment" to recognize educational activist Kelly Kane, a founder and executive director of the Westchester Playa Education Foundation.

Tokofsky, a Los Angeles native who represents the east side on the Los Angeles Unified School District board, first congratulated Kane on her active role in improving schools in the Westchester area.

"Certainly, your tone and message represents a different Westchester than the one I grew up with," Tokofsky then said, "one of the few towns in L.A. where the American Nazi Party and KKK found fertile ground."

Nervous laughter can be heard after he made the statement on the recording of the meeting, which is posted on the LAUSD Web site.

Board President Marlene Canter, who represents the area, didn't interrupt her colleague and continued the meeting, but denounced the comment Wednesday.

"David was speaking for himself and not the board and not the district," Canter said. "Sometimes when inappropriate comments are made, I make the judgment call to ignore it."

On Wednesday, Kane and other community members asked Tokofsky to recant.

"I know there are several people in our community who are demanding a formal apology," Kane said in a voice mail. She didn't return several follow-up calls seeking further comment.

Activist David Coffin said the comment stunned Westchester parents and teachers.

"There's a lot of community identity around here," Coffin said. "There's a lot of people who have been here for generations. This really tars them with this ugly picture of the community. I was very much offended by what I heard."

The 47-year-old Tokofsky said he was sorry Wednesday and stressed that his remarks came from memories as a boy living in Pacific Palisades.

"I apologize to anyone who might have been hurt by any hyperbole on my part," he said. "I remember going to the (Los Angeles International) Airport as a young student and seeing for the first time in my life extreme racial epithets spray-painted on walls. It's still in my mind as a horrible time with horrible tensions."

In the 1970s, the mostly white suburb became a battleground for integration of Los Angeles Unified schools.

In 1979, voters recalled board president and Westchester representative Howard Miller when he advocated busing in black students to integrate the schools. Miller's replacement, Roberta Weintraub, vowed to resist integration plans by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a May 30, 1979, article in the Daily Breeze.

Housing discrimination has also cropped up in Westchester's past.

In 1990, the Westchester Investment Co. paid a $450,000 settlement in what was the largest housing discrimination payment in U.S. history at the time. The company was accused of keeping blacks from moving into the 161-unit Belford Park Apartments complex in the 8800 block of Belford Avenue.


March 01, 2007 -- MENLO PARK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A landmark study from independent research institute SRI International, for the first time systemically examining the status of arts education in California, reveals that the vast majority of California's schools fail to meet state standards for teaching the arts, and that access to arts instruction varies widely among the state's schools.

The study, “An Unfinished Canvas, Arts Education in California: Taking Stock of Policies and Practices,” commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, was conducted by SRI’s Center for Education Policy. The Ford Foundation provided additional support for the study. SRI’s research finds that most K-12 schools fail to meet standards that California established in 2001 for teaching the arts in four areas: visual arts, music, dance and theater. Until now, California has lacked comprehensive and reliable information to indicate whether these standards for arts instruction were being met.

Key findings of the study include:

• 29% of California’s schools do not offer a standards-based course of study in any of the four arts disciplines — music, visual arts, theatre, and dance.
• 89% of California’s schools fail to offer a standards-based course of study in all four disciplines, falling short of state goals.
• 61% of schools do not have even one full-time equivalent arts specialist.
• Standards alignment, assessment, and accountability practices are uneven in arts education, and often not present at all.
• California students lag behind the national average in hours of arts instruction — up to 50% less in music and visual arts instruction at the elementary level.

A statewide survey of 1,800 randomly selected schools, case studies in 13 districts, analyses of statewide databases, and a policy and literature review were among the inputs used to inform the study results and recommendations.

“This important and unprecedented research will provide decision makers with solid data as they consider the future of arts education in California,” said Moy Eng, director of the performing arts program at the foundation. “High quality, sequential arts education does more than help develop a sustained interest in the arts. It fosters the ability of our students to think in new and creative ways.”

“Principals reported multiple barriers to arts education,” said Katrina Woodworth, Ed.D., SRI researcher and principal investigator of the study. “While many identified inadequate funding as the top barrier, most acknowledged that funding alone will not solve the deficiencies in arts education. In many schools, the focus on improving test scores means that schools are allocating the bulk of their instructional time for mathematics and reading at the expense of the arts and other core subjects.”

Added Woodworth, “Principals also noted that elementary classroom teachers often lacked the expertise to teach the arts and that arts specialists were in short supply. With the release of this study, we offer important recommendations to increase student access to arts education to the level envisioned by state policy-makers.”

State arts education funding was significantly increased in the 2006-07 state budget, including $105 million in ongoing funds for a new Arts and Music Block Grant Program; this amounts to less than $16 per student per year. Woodworth noted, “The new funds are unlikely to be sufficient to support new staff positions. However, the funding will provide critical support for districts as they establish the infrastructure to support arts education, provide teachers with much-needed professional development, and purchase materials and equipment.”

“The results of this study provide a needed wake-up call to lawmakers, educators, parents, and the public,’’ said Marshall Smith, director of the education program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. “We know that arts instruction can benefit many aspects of a student’s life, including academic performance. It’s time we take real steps to ensure that all of California’s children receive a quality arts education.”

The state of California has used visual and performing arts standards in schools since 2001. Beginning in 2003, students seeking admission to either the University of California or California State University systems are required to have completed at least one full year of arts coursework in high school.

• About SRI International - Silicon Valley-based SRI International ( is one of the world’s leading independent research and technology development organizations. Founded as Stanford Research Institute in 1946, SRI has been meeting the strategic needs of clients for 60 years. SRI’s Center for Education Policy studies reforms that hold promise for improving the K-16 system of schooling and lifelong learning. The Center conducts research and evaluations on the design, implementation, and impact of educational programs, especially improvement efforts targeted at disadvantaged students.

• About The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation - The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been making grants since 1967 to help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development, performing arts, philanthropy, population, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. A full list of all the Hewlett Foundation’s grants can be found at


►Editorial: WHO DOUBTS ARTS MATTER? Study shows students need more

from the Ventura County Star

March 3, 2007 - There isn't a lot of arts education in California public schools and access to what there is varies widely.

Few should be surprised by these conclusions of a landmark study on arts education. Released Thursday, "An Unfinished Canvas, Arts Education in California: Taking Stock of Policies and Practices" was commissioned by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and conducted by Silicon Valley-based SRI International, an independent research and technology development organization. It included a survey of 1,800 school principals and case studies of 13 school districts.

The key findings for California schools are:

— 29 percent do not offer a standards-based course of study in any of the four arts — music, visual arts, theater and dance.
— 89 percent fail to offer a standards-based course of study in all four disciplines.
— 61 percent do not have even one full-time equivalent arts specialist.
— Standards alignment, assessment and accountability practices are uneven in arts education and often not present at all.
— California students lag behind the national average in hours of arts instruction — up to 50 percent less in music and visual arts instruction at the elementary level.

One reason arts education suffers is because of schools' focus on math and reading proficiency, gauged in a plethora of standardized tests. However, there is a good deal of research indicating that the arts, while important for their own sake, also boost academic achievement, not to mention bolster self-esteem and reduce delinquency.
State and federal education leaders have gotten the message, with California incorporating visual and performing arts standards in schools since 2001. A big boost to the standards is the requirement since 2003 that students wanting to attend either the University of California or California State University systems complete at least one year of arts coursework in high school.

Arts education got another boost this fiscal year, to the tune of $105 million in ongoing state budget funds, for a new Arts and Music Block Grant Program.

Despite this progress, the latest study shows arts education is not a priority in too many California schools. Fortunately, a number of local arts groups are filling the breach in Ventura County, funded primarily through parent-teacher groups and grants. Among them are Art Trek, which trains volunteer docents to go into classrooms to teach art; and Focus on the Masters' "Learning to See" program.

The fact these programs are thriving in our county demonstrates the appreciation and hunger for arts education.

The "Unfinished Canvas" report is yet another tool for parents and teachers to advocate for more of it.

• smf notes: The increased arts funding - triggered by Prop 49 and promised last year - relies on California's tax revenues increasing. They aren't.

"An Unfinished Canvas, Arts Education in California: Taking Stock of Policies and Practices" — Full study, results and methodology



by Paul Abramson | School Planning & Management, February 2007

Have you noticed that every time a legislative body, or a politician, or a think-tank thinker gets around to looking at schools, the emphasis is on money first, and education, if at all, a distant second?

Several state legislatures have been considering bills to consolidate small school districts and schools. The reason: they cost money. If you combine two or three small districts, you need fewer administrators. You might also be able to save some space or avoid some facility duplication. So, let’s consolidate districts and save money, right?

Well, right if money is what concerns you most. But how about education? Every recent study has emphasized the value of smaller learning environments for children. This would take kids who are now in small schools and thrust them into larger ones. Would that be good for education?

How are children helped if bus trips are doubled and tripled to bring them to a single “more efficient” school building? If bus trips are longer, how does that gibe with the concept that every child should get outside and play and exercise for at least an hour a day in order to stay healthy and avoid childhood obesity? So yes, consolidation might save some money, but at the expense of good education.

Speaking of busing, in New York City, on the coldest day of the year, the city school system changed bus routes leaving thousands of students standing in the cold, forcing seven-year-olds to take public transportation, and scheduling others to arrive long after school had started. The disruption to the educational process was significant. The purpose — the district could save $12 million, a drop in the city’s education budget. Money, not education, was what drove the city’s action.


Recently a think-tank thinker, Marguerite Roza of Education Sector, determined that school districts nationwide could save as much as $77 billion annually by changing provisions in teacher contracts.

Ms. Roza cited class size limitations, professional development, paying for teacher education, and the use of teacher aides, among other targets. Small class size has been shown over and over to make it possible for teachers to work more closely with individual students, but many teachers, given small classes, teach in exactly the same way they did with larger classes. That’s where professional development and teacher education come into play. They go hand-in-hand.

Ms. Roza also focuses on “above average health and insurance benefits, retirement benefits, and paid sick and personal days.” There are abuses in these areas, but one of our problems as a nation is that we are not attracting the best and the brightest to work in our classrooms teaching, among other things, advanced science, math, and research skills that are going to be needed if our children are going to compete with children from other nations around the world. School districts can’t offer high salaries. What they can offer is “above average health and insurance benefits, retirement, and paid sick and personal days.” If we truly want to get and keep the best talents in our classrooms, why would we take away the things that attract them?


Last month I wrote about two incidents where locks had been used to solve problems with teen-agers. I suggested there were better ways to solve the problems than locking students in or out.

You may remember the situation in Maplewood, NJ. The library was across the street from a middle school and every afternoon students came streaming across the street to use the library until parents picked them up, often running around, making noise, disrupting, and otherwise acting inappropriately.

Rather than closing the library, which was proposed, township officials, school officials and community leaders came together to seek alternative things for teen-agers to do after school. A once-a-week program at a church was expanded to three days. The school gymnasium and cafeteria were opened for supervised student use the other two days. A nonprofit organization invited students to a recreational and life-skills program, and students were asked to help develop after-school programs in which they would be interested.

In other words, instead of locking middle students out, the community analyzed the situation, identified the problem (nothing for young teens to do after school), opened up the schools and other venues and established attractive programs.

These were politicians, school administrators, and community leaders who didn’t stop to ask first, “what will it cost?” Instead they asked, “How can we solve a problem?” and then they found the money to do the job. They put the children first. What an extraordinary idea.


This report highlights the history and importance of public education in the United States, dating back to its establishment as a necessary institution for the young republic and Horace Mann's efforts to promote a common school for all. The report focuses on how and why the U.S. system of public education came into being; the six core public missions that public schools have been expected to fulfill, such as unifying a diverse population, preparing people for democratic citizenship, and ensuring equal opportunities for all children; and why these missions are relevant today and why the nation must maintain them while pursuing reforms to help all schools live up to these core ideals.


EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Tuesday Mar 6, 2007 ELECTION DAY – VOTE!

• Tuesday Mar 6, 2007 [Attendees who show up with an "I Voted!" sticker are be promised the school they want!]
SOUTH REGION SPAN K-8 #1: Presentation of Design Development Drawings
At this meeting we will present the design of the new school and discuss the next steps in the school construction process.
6:00 p.m.
Wilmington Middle School Auditorium
1700 Gulf Ave.
Wilmington, CA 90744

• Wednesday Mar 7, 2007
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Salvin Special Education Center
1925 Budlong Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90007

• Thursday Mar 8, 2007
VALLEY REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #13: Site Selection Kick-Off Meeting
Join us as we kick off the site selection process for this new school.
6:30 p.m.
Vista Middle School
15040 Roscoe Blvd.
Panorama City, CA 91402

*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.
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