Sunday, September 16, 2007

Where is the plan?

4LAKids: Sunday, Sept 16, 2007
In This Issue:
WHY SO MANY TEACHERS ARE QUITTING: District-run schools see much higher rates of dissatisfaction than charter schools.
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.
Where is the plan?

In LAUSD, in the city of LA, in health care — in Iraq?

Wringing one's hands, responding to the other guy/the polling data/the 'situation on the ground' …or waiting to see what the legislature, congress or the insurgency does is NOT a plan! - smf

The LA Times Editorial Board gets to go first - not with a plan - but with an actual if not a new problem:

• FILING ISN'T LEARNING: Using students to help teachers with paperwork, and calling it a class, is part of what is stunting education.

Los Angeles Times Editorial

September 12, 2007 -- Of all the useless classes foisted on California's high school students, few are as academically irrelevant as service class. Never heard of it? Maybe it's called "teacher's assistant class" at your neighborhood school, or perhaps it's listed as "independent study."

Students' duties in these electives are, by and large, similar: making copies, running errands, taking attendance, sometimes grading papers. Other electives are borderline irrelevant -- manicuring and cosmetology come to mind, particularly when they fail to prepare students to obtain licenses in those fields. But service classes are universally without instructional value.

So if they don't benefit students, why do schools offer them?

Because they benefit adults.

Teachers are inundated with paperwork -- it's the No. 1 reason they abandon the profession -- and service classes provide unpaid aides. But students shouldn't be denied an hour of learning so that they might work, for free if for class credit, to lighten the load on those paid to teach. That's a particularly grim life lesson to give a teenager, and it's made worse by the shortage of substantive electives. Not all schools have sewing machines for fashion design classes or computers for programming, but there's always attendance to take.

There's more. An Oakland-based research organization has looked into these so-called classes and found, at least initially, that low-performing schools with poor and minority students offer them disproportionately. So the students who most need education are grading papers instead. And what is the No. 1 reason cited by high school dropouts for leaving school? They're bored.

At least, you are no doubt thinking, the Los Angeles Unified School District is chagrined by this problem and is rushing to solve it. Nope.

Board President Monica Garcia, a former guidance counselor at Foshay Learning Center, says she once thought service classes should be banned. Now, she says, the district has bigger fires to put out: Schools built for hundreds serve thousands; children land in the ninth grade with second-grade reading skills. In other words, some problems are just too low priority.

It is precisely that defeatism and lack of imagination that has stunted the educational lives of Los Angeles' children for far too long. Here's an alternative: Solve problems, starting with dead-end electives. Replace them with hours of learning. Teach kids, don't just house them. And yes, address overcrowding and reading too. It's not too much to expect the district to take on more than one problem at a time, and it's not too soon to ask it to start solving the ones it has.


by Gene C. Johnson Jr., Los Angeles Wave Staff Writer

September 13, 2007- In what both sides agreed was a historic moment, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday approved a controversial petition effectively handing control of Locke High School over to the Green Dot Public School charter organization for at least five years.

Effective July 1, 2008, the move marks the first time a public school will be run by a private entity in the LAUSD. Some high schools within the district, such as those in Granada Hills and in the Palisades, have been converted into charters but are run by LAUSD teachers and administrators.

In recent years, Locke, located in Watts, has been one of the lowest-performing schools in the school district. “Locke is what it is now and it hurts,” said school board member Richard Vladovic, a one-time principal at the troubled campus who now represents the area in which it is located. “It hurts having worked there and worked in that community for four years — when you look at the test scores right now and what those youngsters are getting.”

School board trustees Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte and Julie Korenstein cast the dissenting votes during the Tuesday board meeting held at school district headquarters.

“I am not clear in what the instructional program is,” LaMotte said before later adding: “If a mass of kids do not want to go to Locke, then the financial encumbrance upon [the school district] is even greater. [And] what do we do about the teachers who do not want to work for anyone other than L.A.?”

“I believe that boards of education, working with superintendents and staff, should be able to resolve the problem with the teachers at this school,” added Korenstein. “I am appalled that a new board … just said: ‘Give the children away.’”

Still, the decision drew loud cheers from the sea of bright green T-shirts in support of the conversion, which was met with red-shirted disdain by members of the United Teachers Los Angeles. The crowd jammed into the school board chambers tallied well past its 155-person capacity.

“Please, we are imploring you, do not tell us that we are failures,” said UTLA Secondary Vice President Linda [Guthrie] “Because this [conversion] will ripple from the Harbor over to the west Valley. We will all know that you have no confidence in us to do the work that we need to do.”

As a result of the board’s approval, Green Dot and the school district will forge an agreement under which the charter firm will assume control of all educational matters on the campus, with ownership of facilities remaining with LAUSD. Green Dot will be liable for anything that occurs on campus.

The new charter school, as a part of the accord, will also have to take out additional insurance.

According to Greg McNair, chief administrative officer for the school district’s charter division, 80 percent of the estimated $14 million annually allotted to the school will go to Green Dot.

Those in support of the conversion included area activists Lillian Mobley, “Sweet” Alice Harris, and Reggie Andrews, the Rev. Leslie R. White of Grant AME Church, and Watts Labor Action Committee chief Tim Watkins.

“Locke High fails to provide the necessary safety net for our children. It’s burning our teachers out,” Andrews said. “They have to be social workers, parole officers, they have to be everything other than teachers. Kids are coming to school burned-out because they have to get through gang-infested neighborhoods. When they get to school they are tired.”

“This is the reformation that we need at Locke High right now,” added freshman student Rosalyn Carter. “If Green Dot doesn’t take control, what is going to happen to us? They’re [the school district] going to shut it down and there’s not going to be a school. It’s not fair for the kids who want to go to college.”

The conversion of Locke into a charter school will also include the establishment of a “Launch to College Academy” serving grades 10 to 12.

The venture also includes the establishment of a start-up independent charter school that, beginning in the 2007-08 school year, will serve only ninth grade students to begin with, grow to include the next grade level in subsequent years.

According to the proposal: “It is anticipated that those start up independent charter schools begin offsite and relocate to the Locke campus beginning in 2008-09 and each succeeding year until the Locke two-semester operating capacity is reached.”

Some of the stipulations in the agreement with the LAUSD include Green Dot hiring a principal for Locke High no later than Jan. 31, 2008.

Also, according to the agreement: “On or before Jan. 31, 2008, Green Dot must negotiate in good faith and execute a memorandum of understanding with the district which addresses, among other things, the hiring of the certified and classified staff at Locke High School and sharing of student level performance data.”

• 4LAKids 2¢: There was a lot of press on this story, a link to the stories follows. The Wave Newspaper covers the area and it only seems fair to hear the viewpoint from th' 'Hood. The headline does have it right: The operation of a public school is being turned over to a private company. This is not a conversion charter as envisioned by the law: Engineered by the parents, teachers and the community acting in concert. It's true that Green Dot Public Schools, Inc. will be accountable - annually - to the board of education - and it's also very true that the board and the school district have done a monumentally poor job of holding previous administrations and the local district - and teachers, parents and students accountable for Locke. And vice versa. Lest we forget: Alain Leroy Locke High School - named for "The Father of the Harlem Renaissance" - was the 1967 the poster child for improving public education in the underserved communities of South Central - as King Drew Medical Center was for healthcare - following the '65 Watts civil disturbances.

The Beatles in the refrain to "(I've got to admit it's) Getting Better" say: "…it can't get no worse." Hopefully JPG&R are right. And hopefully for the kids at Locke it will get far better!

There are outstanding issues to re resolved before this can go ahead - the vote by the teachers is disputed, the vote by Parents (not those that showed up 'on the day' but actual Locke parents with actual students actually enrolled at the school) seems open to question; the interpretation of the charter law itself is questioned by all sides, pro and con. Who gets how much money will be contested. But hopefully these things - and the contract issues - will get resolved in the very near future so that progress can be attempted and the program got on with!

Other coverage of the Locke/Green Dot story

WHY SO MANY TEACHERS ARE QUITTING: District-run schools see much higher rates of dissatisfaction than charter schools.
by Vicki Murray | California Focus | Orange County Register

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - More than 6 million California children return to school this fall, but about 25,000 of the teachers they left last semester likely won't return if recent attrition trends are any indication.

Nearly every U.S. president since Harry Truman has proposed teacher recruitment plans, in addition to countless state-level programs. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has recently proposed spending $130 million on teacher recruitment, but such efforts largely miss the mark because the core problem is teacher retention, not recruitment.

Little has changed since 1983 when "A Nation at Risk," a report based on 18 months of research by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, concluded that "the professional working life of teachers is, on the whole, unacceptable," which helps explain why the American schoolhouse has become a revolving door for teachers. Average annual national non-retirement teacher turnover rates exceed 14 percent, meaning around a third of the teaching workforce (more than 1 million instructors) are in transition each year.

This turnover costs California taxpayers an estimated $455 million annually, but better employment opportunities like those offered at charter schools could help.

Among nonretiring California teachers at schools run by local districts, more than half who leave blame job dissatisfaction, compared with one in three of their peers nationwide. Inadequate support, excessive bureaucracy, a lack of collegiality and insufficient input under the current district-managed schooling system are leading reasons why California teachers quit.

In contrast, overall satisfaction rates among charter school teachers nationwide, at 82 percent, are more than three times higher than for their district-managed counterparts. Also, more than one in four charter school teachers across the country said they would do something else entirely if they could not teach at a charter school. They cite as key elements of job satisfaction their influence over curricula, student discipline and professional development, as well as school safety, collaboration with colleagues and their schools' learning environments.

Three of four former California educators would consider returning to teaching if working conditions were better. Less-bureaucratic, independent charter schools have great potential for winning them back. In Los Angeles, for example, 8 percent of teachers came out of retirement specifically to teach at local charter schools.

A district-run schooling system, in which students are typically assigned to schools based on where their families live, is an increasingly unattractive prospect for teachers. It is the relic of a bygone era that held few employment opportunities for women, who historically were three-quarters of the teaching workforce. The times, and employment opportunities, have changed, but California's district-managed schooling monopoly founders in a time warp.

An unassigned, diversified education system with a variety of schools founded and run by educators would foster strong teacher-school and teacher-student matches and offer teachers the same wide range of employment options other professionals currently enjoy. To attract quality teachers, schools would have to offer competitive salaries, flexible schedules, and professional working environments in which teachers have autonomy to innovate and are rewarded for their success in educating students.

Such a system exists in Japan, and teachers there have parental support, motivated students and salaries that rival Japanese baseball pros. A diversified education system also gets results since Japanese students consistently score at or near the top on international exams across a variety of subjects.

As a reform model, schools founded by educators, like charter schools, hold great promise for filling the void left by decades of disappointing state and national efforts to improve the teaching profession.
►Vicki E. Murray, Ph.D., is the Education Studies Senior Policy Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento. She is also a Visiting Fellow at the Independent Women's Forum in Washington, D.C., and author of the new IWF study Empowering Teachers with Choice: How a Diversified Education System Benefits, Teachers, Students, and America.

• smf 2¢: GOOD GRIEF! WHO IS THE CUSTOMER? Dr Murray is proposing an education system run for the benefit of teachers. She says "A district-run schooling system, in which students are typically assigned to schools based on where their families live, is an increasingly unattractive prospect for teachers" This is an utter repudiation of neighborhood schools. I'm all for open enrollment and for parent and student choice - but in LA we have housing and public transportation issues that make this very, very difficult. In the United States we have a tendency to put schools where the children are. And to assign teachers where students are. Lest I be accused of charter bashing I think my friends and otherwise in the charter community would agree that the number of charter schools built because that's where the teachers are very few and far between! Although building subsidized teacher housing is an investigatable option.

In Houston they lure experienced retired principals out of retirement to run challenged inner city schools; the result there (as they are here in cases like Cahuenga ES and Lloyd Houske) are outstanding.

And finally: Japan as a business model went away in the 90's. Japan has a famously homogeneous population, an immigration rate hovering at about 1% (legal and otherwise) with 90% of Japanese considering themselves in the middle class. And (I'm making this up without real data, but I'll bet I'm right:) few "Japanese Language Learners" beyond K-1.

• U.S. PROPOSES TO TRIM SCHOOL MEDICAID FUNDING: Tightened rules could save $3.6 billion over 5 years, HHS says

By Christina A. Samuels | EdWeek | Vol. 27, Issue 03, Pages 1,17

September 12, 2007 - Federal officials have proposed a plan to stop reimbursements for some of the services schools provide to Medicaid-eligible students, a move long predicted—and dreaded—by local educators.

The policy changes were announced late last month by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under the proposal, Medicaid would no longer reimburse schools for the costs of transporting eligible children from home to school and back.

The program would also stop paying school administrative costs now covered by federal aid—money that goes for identifying and enrolling Medicaid-eligible students and for coordinating the provision of medical services covered under a state's Medicaid plan. The program would still pay for certain health services needed by eligible children and for transportation from school to the service providers.

Medicaid officials estimate the changes would yield $635 million in savings to the federal health-insurance program for the poor in the 2008-09 school year, the first year of implementation, and an estimated $3.6 billion in savings over five years, said Mary M. Kahn, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS.

The overall aim is to make sure that Medicaid is paying for appropriate services, not shouldering costs that should be borne by school districts or other agencies, federal officials say.

"Medicaid is an extremely costly program, and we have to make dollars stretch as far as possible," Ms. Kahn said. "That is the issue. Medicaid funds are not limitless. If a service is genuinely the responsibility of a different agency, it's our fiduciary responsibility to make sure that we are not paying for it out of Medicaid dollars."

The proposed rule was scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Sept. 7.


Officials of school districts reacted angrily to the proposed changes, which were announced on the CMS Web site Aug. 31 but had been expected since President Bush released a fiscal 2007 budget plan that included the proposed cuts. Schools are legally required to provide certain services to students with disabilities, district administrators say, and Medicaid is shifting its responsibility to pay for poor students onto cash-strapped school districts.

"This seems incredibly shortsighted," said John P. DiCecco, the director of health partnerships and Medi-Cal programs for the 708,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District. Medi-Cal is his state's Medicaid program.

"It's all cost-shifting down to the states from the federal government," Mr. DiCecco said. "I find it astounding that this would be the focus of cuts."

The district would lose about $2 million in transportation reimbursements per year and $8 million to $10 million in reimbursements for administrative outreach per year, he said.


The Department of Health and Human Services is proposing changes to its program for reimbursing schools for certain health services provided to children eligible for Medicaid. Payments to schools would no longer be available for:

• Administrative activities performed by school employees or contractors, or anyone under the control of a public or private educational institution.

• Transportation from home to school and back for school-age children with individualized education programs, or IEPs.

• Payments would remain available for certain covered services in a child's IEP and for transportation from school to a health-care provider for a covered service.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

That money is just a small fraction of the district's $6.2 billion budget for 2007-08. However, Mr. DiCecco said, it pays for what he believes are essential services that would have to be curtailed.

For example, children enrolling in Los Angeles schools fill out applications to determine their eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches. District officials take that information and determine whether a child is also eligible for Medicaid. That kind of outreach effort by school officials is part of the administrative aid that the Health and Human Services Department proposes to cut, Mr. DiCecco said.

"The loss of funding is just going to be devastating," said Wendy Gonsher, the director of fiscal and data operations for the 257,000-student Broward County, Fla., school district. She estimates that her district would no longer receive about $6 million to $8 million a year in federal reimbursements for administrative services. The district does not submit transportation claims.

Broward County's reimbursements are placed in the general fund and then paid out again in health and health-related services, Ms. Gonsher said. "We're buying nurses. We're buying psychologists," she said. "This latest move—we feared it was coming. We hoped it wouldn't."


The Medicaid program and school districts have had an uneasy partnership since 1988, when the adoption of the federal Medical Catastrophic Coverage Act allowed schools to receive payment for certain health services provided to Medicaid-eligible children, such as speech, physical, and occupational therapies to students in special education, as part of their individualized education programs, or IEPs.

Reports from government watchdog agencies have suggested that the school reimbursement process has been poorly overseen by CMS, and there has been abuse and fraud at the state and local levels.

For example, in a 2000 report, the Government Accountability Office noted that Michigan had submitted to the federal agency $30 million in questionable administrative claims from schools in late 1998. The office of the Health and Human Services Department's inspector general examined claims made by the New York City school district in 1993 through 2001 and said that more than $96 million in federal Medicaid reimbursements for student transportation should be disallowed. The district disputes both the inspector general's methodology and conclusions.

Districts contend that any abuses in the system were partly the fault of CMS and of unclear rules. They also claim that the federal agency is scrutinizing school Medicaid reimbursements based on guidelines that didn't exist when the questioned spending occurred.

"We did nothing untoward," said Kathleen Cummins Merry, the director of Medicaid services for Michigan's Wayne County Regional Education Services Agency, which provides special education services to 34 school districts, including Detroit.

CMS "outlined the rules, and we followed them to the letter. Now they've determined that they didn't like the rules they've created," Ms. Merry said.

School district officials say they plan to use the 60 days they have to comment on the proposed regulation to rally support both among their fellow school officials and among federal lawmakers. A bill that would have barred the action then being contemplated by the Health and Human Services Department was introduced in July 2006 by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. It didn't pass in the last Congress, and it was reintroduced this year.

In addition, current legislation pending in the House for reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, would also bar CMS from adopting the changes.

"We want to let everyone know about this proposed elimination [of support],"Ms. Merry said. The program "does, in fact, reach out and help kids and help families find the help they need."

Mr. DiCecco of the Los Angeles district said he hoped federal lawmakers would also weigh in. "I don't think this is either Congress' intent or anyone's understanding," he said.

• LAYOFFS LOOM AT LOCAL KIDS' HEALTH CLINICS: Budget cuts slice into funds to get needy enrolled

by Harrison Sheppard, Sacramento Bureau | LA Daily News

September 14, 2007 - SACRAMENTO - Dozens of health clinics across California, including in the San Fernando Valley, are bracing for funding cuts and layoffs this month that could threaten efforts to aid the region's thousands of uninsured children.

Promised state funding earlier this year, the nonprofit health clinics, along with local government agencies, began hiring extra staff to enroll more low-income children in subsidized health insurance programs.

But last month Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed funding for the outreach programs as part of about $700 million in cuts he was forced to make to win Republican support for the budget.

The move has stunned many clinics, counties and agencies that had already started hiring people and gearing up to provide new services for a program that had just started in the spring and now has suddenly ended.

"We were all surprised by it because we thought those funds were secured funds when we started our work," said Vilma Champion, director of marketing and managed care at the San Fernando-based Northeast Valley Health Corp., which runs several clinics.

"We hired staff. We put our services in place. We're now not going to be able to retain most of those folks."

Her organization hired nine people in April. While they don't have funding for those positions, they are hoping to find other spots for about half of the new employees; the others will be let go.

The Northeast Valley Health Corp. hosted the governor's press conference in January 2006 when he first touted his plan to make the funds available to expand children's insurance enrollment.

It was seen as one of his first big steps toward improving health care overall in California.

Health advocacy groups estimate that several of the governor's vetoes combined cut a total of about $66 million that would have helped enroll about 100,000 children in health insurance programs in 2007-08.

The funding did not provide actual coverage, but paid for advertising campaigns and staff to help low-income families learn about the services available and fill out complex paperwork.

Clinic officials say outreach is necessary because the population they serve - including many who do not speak English or have little education - often has trouble understanding the health care system.

As a result, roughly 447,000 children who are eligible for Healthy Families or Medi-Cal remain uninsured, according to a California Health Interview Survey. In total, about 763,000 children in California do not have health insurance.

But state officials said Thursday that the cut was simply a financial necessity and the governor remains committed to expanding health care coverage for children.

"We remain committed to enrolling all uninsured children that are eligible for all Healthy Family and Medi-Cal programs," said Mike Bowman, spokesman for the state Department of Health Care Services.

"The governor was tasked with cutting more than $700 million from the proposed budget. Unfortunately, those decisions impacted some programs at the county level."

He noted that the budget actually increases funding by $59 million for expanded enrollment in the Healthy Families program, which will pay for 39,000 additional recipients.

Health advocates say, however, it will be tough to sign up potential new enrollees without outreach programs.

Enrollment in Healthy Families has grown to 832,000, up from 686,000 when Schwarzenegger took office, Bowman said. Medi-Cal provides coverage to about 6.7 million people, including 3.2 million children, he said.

Los Angeles County health officials estimate that about 200 people countywide - in about 30 different clinics and local government agencies - were hired with the expected funds.

They expected to use the money to help enroll about 25,000 Los Angeles children a year in programs such as Healthy Families and Medi-Cal.

The county had expected to receive about $26 million over three years for the program. Instead, the state now will only reimburse for any costs in the 2006-07 fiscal year incurred through June 30, 2007.

The counties and clinics are on the hook for anything spent after July 1 - even though the governor's veto was not announced until Aug. 24.

Los Angeles County has agreed to reimburse the clinics out of county funds through Sept. 27, at a cost to the county of about $2.2 million.

"It was a real shock, and it was devastating for a lot of different agencies," said Suzanne Bostwick, acting director of children's health outreach initiatives for the county health department.

"We were working on this night and day for a year. You have to look at not only how it affects the agencies, but all the people that will not be receiving services because of this."

Besides local clinics, the county also provided state grants to local government agencies like Los Angeles Unified School District and the city of Long Beach.

About a third of Los Angeles County's 9.5 million residents do not have health insurance, according to the California Health Interview Survey.

More than half of the county's 257,000 uninsured children are believed to be eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families.

Olga Duran, director of health outreach services for Valley Community Clinic, said her organization hired five staff members in the spring for outreach and now has to lay them off.

"That basically takes away our enrollment and outreach capabilities in the clinic," Duran said. "We do not have the money to carry the program forward."

In applying for the state funds, Valley Community Clinic set a goal of reaching out to 5,000 families and enrolling 1,700 more children in subsidized health-insurance programs.

• 4LAKids 2¢: That S-CHIP/MediCal/Healthy Families is being slashed is complicated further in Los Angeels, ,where the United Way of Greater Los Angeles is terminating its eighty year history of support and funding for the LAUSD/PTA Student Dental, Vision, and Medical Clinics and Programs - which have historically been the safety net for uninsured and underserved LAUSD students.

By Mark Fitzgerald | Editor & Publisher - America's Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry

September 14, 2007 - Chicago - In a victory for high school journalists, the California Supreme Court let stand an appeals court ruling that schools cannot censor controversial speech in student media.

The high court Thursday declined to review the appellate court ruling in a lawsuit that former Novato High School student journalist Andrew Smith filed against the Novato Unified School District after administrators publicly condemned two columns he wrote for the school paper, and tried to confiscate all copies of the offending pieces.

The decision is important because it upholds the state's so-called "anti-Hazelwood" law that was intended to restore student free-expression rights in the wake of the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. In that case, the high court ruled essentially that school administrators are publishers of student media with the same power to direct or spike material that any publisher of a non-government newspaper has.

Smith alleged the school district violated California's Education Code, which in part states that "school districts ... shall not make or enforce any rule subjecting high school pupils to disciplinary actions solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside of the campus" is protected by the First Amendment and California's state constitutional guarantees of free speech.

The Novato school district had an even more simply stated code of student First Amendment rights. "Students have the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press and have the right to expression in official publications," it code said.

At issue in the case were two columns written by Smith for the school paper called The Buzz when he was a senior in 2001. Most controversial was the first column about immigration. Smith urged police to roundup as many illegal immigrants as possible, and wrote that it could be simply done:

"It can't be hard to find and detain the people who can't speak English. If a person looks suspicious than just stop them and ask a few questions, and if they answer 'que?,' detain them and see if they are legal."

The column created a stir in the Marin County school, and a day after its publication students and some parents marched on the campus in protest. Though the principal had reviewed and approved the article beforehand, the schools superintendent ordered the confiscation of all undistributed copies of the paper. A letter was sent to school parents saying the article had violated both the Novato and California codes of student speech. The school also convened a public meeting in which, according to Smith's lawsuit, the student was denounced and reprimanded.

Smith's cause was taken up by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a politically conservative-oriented group that was searching for a case involving the censorship of "politically incorrect" speech on high school campuses. PLF was joined in amicus briefs by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C.

Smith lost in state district court, but the appellate court declared that state law "mandates that a school may not prohibit student speech simply because it presents controversial ideas and opponents of the speech are likely to cause disruption." Smith's case was the subject of an E&P online column in May.

Thursday's decision "delivered a powerful blow against 'politically correct' censorship in California public schools," PLF attorney Paul J. Beard II said in a statement. "There is no question now that thought codes cannot be imposed on student journalists in this state."

• Mark Fitzgerald is E&P's editor-at-large

• 4LAKids disagrees with what Smith wrote - but there is a line between racist hate speech and politically incorrect adolescent insensitivity not crossed here. Smith had and continues to have a right to express his opinion - the "right to be wrong!" - both under the California Ed Code and certainly under the Novato School District Student Rights Policy. - smf

by Gregory Weinberg - Op-Ed in the LA Daily News

• Gregory Weinberg is co-chair of the San Fernando Valley Industry & Commerce Association's Workforce Development Committee.

September 14, 2007 - WHAT if you heard that one local business created 239,000 jobs, would pay $1.2 billion in local and state taxes, would pay its workers, on average, more than $27 per hour and provide $944 million to local small business? More than likely, you would want to make sure that business thrived and ensure that it was able to successfully continue.

It may surprise you to learn that the "business" I am referring to is the Los Angeles Unified School District's construction program.

Not only has this program already completed 67 schools throughout the district, and not only has it already stopped over 7,000 kids from being bused into neighborhoods that are not their own, but it also has provided a tremendous economic impact throughout the region.

The LAUSD offers an eight-week "boot camp" for small contractors to help them do business with the district. Through its "We Build" program, the LAUSD offers a 10-week apprenticeship and placement assistance program for local workers to join contractors or local trade unions. And the LAUSD offers a five-month MoneyWorks program for contractors to improve their financial literacy and capacity for growth.

To date, 375 small contractors have graduated from the boot camp, receiving more than $25 million in contract awards. Some 462 local workers have been able to start a career in construction through the We Build program. And the program has received numerous awards and recognitions from many minority and local business advocacy organizations.

But now, all that is threatened.

Under an outdated state funding formula, urban school districts like the LAUSD become ineligible for state funds sooner than they should, threatening the district's ability to continue building the schools our schoolchildren so desperately need.

Not only that, but under current state rules, the state will not fund a school for a child in its own neighborhood if there is room anywhere else in a school district. So, for instance, the state will not help fund a school in Watts if there is room at a school in Woodland Hills, expecting the LAUSD to bus the child all that way, every single day.

This is simply unfair.

AB 1014, a bill introduced by Assembly Majority Leader Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, would help fix that. It would make the funding formula more equitable and more attuned to real-world conditions.

In short, the bill would provide the critical state funding needed so that this school district can continue its success in building these schools. AB 1014 is awaiting its fate on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk.

Voters in Los Angeles have generously passed three school bonds because they understand how dire the need has been for decades. The district has proven it can meet this need by getting these schools completed.

But the state had always promised to do its part, getting state school bonds passed to match these local funds. But if AB 1014 doesn't pass, the LAUSD will get nothing from the most recent state school bond - to say nothing of future bonds.

Much-needed neighborhood schools, being built on time and on budget, provide a tremendous economic impact in a region that needs it.

The Legislature has done its part to give the LAUSD its fair share by passing AB 1014. Now it's up to the governor to do the right thing and sign it.

• 4LAKids 2¢: WHAT CAN YOU DO? As you now know, AB 1014 is on the Governor's desk and awaiting his signature. Please call, email, write or fax his office and add your two cents worth to everyone else's'. Call Susan Kennedy - the governors Chief of Staff at her office at 916-445-2841 - and tell her you are a Parent, Teacher, Student, Taxpayer and/or Voter - and that you expect the governor to do the right thing and sign this legislation. The state must live up to its promise to match the funding the voters of LAUSD have already committed.

Governor's Office:
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-2841
Fax: 916-445-4633

Los Angeles Office
300 South Spring Street
Suite 16701
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: 213-897-0322
Fax: 213-897-0319

• • • WHILE YOU'RE ON THE PHONE… urge the Governor to sign AB 321 (Nava) to protect children in school zones:

AB 321 (Nava) would allow local authorities, if they so choose, to designate a school zone speed limit of 15 mph within 500 feet of a school in a residential district where the current speed limit is 30 mph or less. This lower limit would apply only when children are going to or leaving school during school hours or at the noon recess period.

A January 2007 report by the California Department of Transportation highlights that between January 1998 and December 2005, 11 children were killed and 1,449 were injured in the vicinity of 350 schools in the study. Of these, 44% involved bicyclists and 56% involved pedestrians. Approximately 52% of those injured or killed were 12 or younger. Pedestrian fatalities are the third leading cause of injury death for children under 15. In order to reduce the high rate of pedestrian injuries and deaths among children , it is critical that we improve safe routes to and from schools by reducing hazards and increasing student, community and motorist awareness. There is a definite link between vehicle speed and pedestrian crash severity. At 15 mph, most pedestrians will survive a crash, at 25 mph, almost all crashes result in severe injuries and roughly half are fatal, while at 40 mph, almost 90% of crashes are fatal.

This bill has received the support of the Assembly and Senate and is now on the Governor’s desk. Call, fax or email the Governor today to ask him to Sign AB 321 to save the lives of children traveling to and from school.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Thursday Sep 20, 2007
Please join us at this public hearing to discuss the findings of the second phase of the Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA). The PEA determines if an environmental clean up action is necessary to ensure the health and safety of our children. We will be collecting your comments and questions regarding the PEA for this project.
6:00 p.m.
Ramona Opportunity High School
231 S. Alma Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90063

• Thursday Sep 20, 2007
Pre-Construction Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Chase Elementary School - Auditorium
14041 Chase St.
Panorama City, CA 91402

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-893-6800


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

...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 immediate past 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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