Sunday, February 17, 2008

Chart(er)ing the course.

4LAKids: Sun, Feb 17 '08 President's Day Weekend
In This Issue:
David v. Lisa | Dust-Up: L.A. SCHOOLS REVISITED
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.
TUESDAY the Board of Education in closed session settled the lawsuit with the charter schools, committing to share school facilities with charters — even if it means forcing teachers to share classrooms, a sorry state of affairs called "traveling teachers."

To be fair, no one is suggesting that schools or teachers actually share classrooms between district schools and charters - at least not yet – but I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that forcing teachers to share classrooms is bad educationall policy - and like year round calendars, not enough classrooms or facilities, seats or textbooks; and forcing students to be bused out of their neighborhood ("traveling students?") is a indicator of overcrowding.

The settlement is based on a test case lawsuit called Ridgecrest Charter School v. Sierra Sands School District - where a state chartered school sued the local district for facilities under Prop 39. Even though the charter prevailed it never exercised its option. And to see how well this precedent setting charter has performed see this:

ON THURSDAY City Controller Laura Chick released her report and audit of the city's anti gang efforts. Its conclusions echo the findings of the Connie Rice authored Advancement Project study of last year: The city is not doing enough and there is little or no coordination and/or accountability on what little they are doing.

• The city is a monster bureaucracy (alike the school district only more so!); this is the second of two studies saying the same thing.
• Studies are either ignored or followed up on.
• Chick's report makes concrete suggestions and suggests a time line:
- A follow up report on progress-made in six months.
- Two years to get stuff up and running or declare a bureaucratic impasse.

The report follows as Ms. Rice led; it calls for current money to be spent wisely — and it identifies $19 million in unspent-but-earmarked Community Redevelopment Agency funds to start with. It puts the mayor in charge and accountable - and indeed the mayor is probably the right guy.

FROM THE INTRO: "Since it is widely known that gangs do not respect artificially set municipal or governmental boundaries, the City of Los Angeles’ gang problem is really a regional problem shared with Los Angeles County, Los Angeles Unified School District and numerous other cities and school districts in the area. As such, the best solutions to the problem would be with regional partnerships and not limited to those undertaken solely by City government within its city limits."

Controller Chick's press conference set the tone, she stood shoulder to shoulder in unity with Mayor Villaraigosa, Chief Bratton, Sheriff Baca, City Councilperson Hahn, the City Attorney, Ms. Rice, representatives from the governor's office and various city and county agencies. Spectacularly absent were representatives from the school district: no superintendent, no school board members, no senior staff. Absent without a note.

FRIDAY the legislature in Sacramento dodged the issue and half-heartedly followed the governor's lead in cutting the budget. They decimated education and public health outlays for this year, wrung their hands over worse-to-come next year – and using a bit of fiscal smoke and mirrors plus a fair amount of borrowing solved nothing. State PTA President Pam Brady warned that the governor's -proposed budget cuts to education and children's health were unacceptable and that if implemented could mark the beginning the end of public education in the state. 4LAKids hopes she's wrong — but this unexceptional lege has accepted the unacceptable. They are committed to undereducating the schoolchildren of California …and because they're borrowing the money to do it – are asking the kids to pay the bill.


• The Daily Breeze on charging non-profits to operate youth after school programs: LAUSD SAYS IT'S PAY FOR PLAY TIME
• The Downtown News: AMBASSADOR SCHOOLS COST SOARS TO $566 Million
• and 3 articles from the LA Business Journal Real Estate Quarterly on the LAUSD BUILDING PROGRAM.

MEMBERS OF UTLA: There's an election on for the leadership and future direction of your union. Please get informed and vote. Model behavior, the children and their parents are watching!

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf


by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 13, 2008 -- More Los Angeles campuses will have to make room for charter schools, even if some teachers are forced to give up their classrooms and become roving instructors, under a litigation settlement approved by the Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday.

The agreement requires the school district to inventory all properties and work directly with charter schools to find space on or off campus. Charter advocates say finding and paying for facilities is their No. 1 challenge.

The settlement signals "new cooperation" toward serving all students -- whether they attend a charter or a traditional school, supporters said.

"We share the pain of overcrowding equally," said Caprice Young, president of the California Charter Schools Assn., a party to both suits. "We in the charter school movement recognize that the Los Angeles Unified School District has a space crunch, and we all have to work together to create great facilities for all kids."

Agreeing to the possibility of roving instructors, called "traveling teachers," was perhaps the major -- and most controversial -- concession by the school district. Because of classroom shortages, these teachers move from room to room with cartloads of materials throughout the day, an intensely unpopular assignment.

The school district could provide no figures on how many teachers travel, but their numbers have declined dramatically in recent years with the construction of new schools and declining enrollment.

Two lawsuits were filed in May under a state law that calls for public school campuses to be "shared fairly." Charters are independently run public schools freed from many provisions that govern other schools, including adherence to union contracts and district curriculum.

The school board approved the settlement by a 4-3 vote after a closed session.

Board member Richard Vladovic dissented, recalling the time he "traveled" as a middle school teacher early in his career. "I couldn't spend the time I wanted to focus on my lessons and on meeting with students and counseling them," Vladovic said. "I felt my students got cheated." He also worried that traditional schools would lack needed space and flexibility to improve their schools.

Before the litigation, the two sides had been split on facilities, especially with L.A. Unified dealing with its own classroom seat crunch. Currently, 143 district schools operate on a year-round schedule, and 42 have a shortened school year. Even after the district completes a $12.6-billion school construction program, adding about 165,000 seats, officials say some schools will remain overcrowded.

At newly constructed district schools, officials have rarely considered charter school needs, except in rare cases when seats are left over. And no existing school was to be significantly hindered by a charter. Moreover, the review of available space was partly an honors system, with principals disclosing whether or not they could house a charter school.

Over the last decade, charter schools have operated out of churches, high-rises, warehouses and portables slapped down in parking lots. They are supposed to model academic innovation, but officials also saw another benefit.

"Charters could go into storefronts," said board member Julie Korenstein, who voted against the settlement. "They were increasing space so our [traditional] schools would become less overcrowded. Putting them back on our campuses does just the reverse."

L.A. Unified now oversees 125 charter schools with 47,000 students, more charters than any school system in the nation. About a dozen are in district-owned facilities. These include three of the 10 small high schools operated by Green Dot Public Schools, which filed the lawsuits along with PUC Schools, six charter parents and the charter association.

"In other cities, people offer facilities if we come," said Green Dot founder Steve Barr. "We should be looking at this strategically -- together."

The settlement aims at that goal, substituting a five-year plan for a cumbersome, almost ad hoc process that gives charter schools little advance notice on availability, and then guarantees space for only one year. The agreement, which leaves many details to the future, relies much on good faith.

Negotiators for the charter schools said they made numerous concessions and that the terms of the agreement do not represent their view of state law. Board member Yolie Flores Aguilar said the settlement protects "our schools from staying on or going back to [year-round schedules], making sure we don't bus kids out of their neighborhood or put students back in portables."

Charter advocates said they expected the agreement to open up many more new and existing campuses to charter schools, which is precisely what critics worry about.

"This is the kind of thing that makes everyone in the school business crazy," said Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Assn. Charter schools are "the interlopers here. They land from outer space, get kids to sign up and now they say, 'We want special accommodations made for us.' "

The agreement still needs the formal approval of other parties to the suit, including parents and the boards of the charter schools.

by Harrison Sheppard, LA Daily News Sacramento Bureau

Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to share space on its campuses with charter schools, settling a lawsuit by charter groups that said the district was violating state law.

Charter school organizations sued the district last year, claiming that it was refusing to follow Proposition 39, which requires school districts to provide appropriate space on their campuses for recognized charters.

Settlement talks over the past six months resulted in an agreement under which the district agreed to provide space, with several exceptions.

"The settlement ensures the school districts will provide facilities to all of the schools that request facilities," said Caprice Young, president of the California Charter Schools Association and a former LAUSD board president.

Two separate lawsuits were filed last year by the association and by Green Dot Public Schools and Partnerships to Uplift Communities and parents.

Under the settlement, charter groups agreed to not seek space on campuses already considered overcrowded. They also will not seek space on a campus if it could force the relocation or closure of early childhood education programs.

But the teachers union said it is unhappy with the agreement, claiming it violates labor laws and that sharing space will cause tensions and disruptions on campuses.

United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy said he was appalled that the union was not consulted. "We find in these situations, the charter schools take no responsibility for what their students do," Duffy said. "All the blame for graffiti or dirty bathrooms or fights is always on the kids from the regular school. And that's not acceptable."

He added that the union views the agreement as a change in working conditions for teachers, meaning it should be subject to negotiation in the collective-bargaining agreement. Without that process, he believes it could violate state labor law.

The union may seek legal action to overturn the agreement, he said. The group also is looking to form a coalition with other teachers unions throughout the state to work on legislation to "level the playing field" between charter schools and regular public schools.

But LAUSD general counsel Kevin Reed said Duffy was "grasping at straws." A year ago, he said, the union went to court challenging a district plan to offer space to a charter on a middle school campus.

"It took us exactly one court hearing to have that case thrown out of court," Reed said. The agreement itself, Reed said, simply represents an affirmation by the district to follow state law.

Proposition 39, though, remains "a huge challenge for L.A. Unified" because of the decades of overcrowding faced by many of the district's schools.

The state has offered inadequate assistance to districts to help prepare their facilities for charters, he said. "We're struggling to find balance between treating charter students fairly and ensuring that district students are not unfairly burdened by the steps taken to find facilities that work for charter schools," Reed said.

by Rick Orlov and Rachel Uranga, LA Daily News Staff Writers

2/14/08 -- Amid broad criticism that Los Angeles' efforts to combat gangs are haphazard and ineffective, City Controller Laura Chick is unveiling a wide-ranging blueprint to bring together dozens of piecemeal city programs and hold them accountable under a new office directed by the mayor.

The audit, set to be released today, comes a year after civil-rights attorney Connie Rice outlined broad problems in the city's efforts and estimated that gang crime is costing taxpayers more than $2 billion a year.

Key among Chick's more than 100 recommendations is coordination of the region's resources - from city parks and police efforts to school programs and a new Anti-Gang Office.

"The city must immediately establish a new strategy that presents a single voice, possesses the authority and responsibility to lead and coordinate the city's efforts and can be held accountable for success and failure," Chick said in the 157-page audit.

"This is all about accountability."

Rice praised the audit and said it offers concrete solutions to boost the effectiveness of city programs even as the number of gangs has risen over the past quarter-century to 700 with a total of 40,000 members.

"I think what we have now is a second opinion, confirming the original diagnosis that the city has to consolidate its gang program under the accountability of the current gang czar," she said.

"There has to be rigorous accounting and evaluation that doesn't exist now. We can't let the turf wars and political consideration get in the way of ending the youth-gang homicide epidemic. We still do have an epidemic."

Chick said she is prepared to counter arguments from the City Council and any reluctance to transfer authority to the Mayor's Office.

"What I would say is if not now, when? We have a system that is completely dysfunctional and costing us millions of dollars each year and countless numbers of lives," Chick said.

While Chick did not put a price tag on gang crime, she said the city currently spends more than $160 million a year to combat gangs with enforcement, intervention and prevention efforts.

Chick said no new money should be allocated to the efforts, but that $19 million should be redirected to new neighborhood action programs under the direction of a new Anti-Gang Office that would be run by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The office would be responsible for overseeing all programs now carried out by the Los Angeles Police Department, City Attorney's Office, Community Development Department, Recreation and Parks and Children, Youth and Their Families.

"The city can accomplish more with the resources it has if it strategically and organizationally focuses these resources," Chick said.

Once the new structure is in place, Chick said she would back proposals by Councilwoman Janice Hahn and others to seek a new tax that would fund anti-gang efforts.

Villaraigosa said he agreed with Chick's recommendations.

"I fully embrace the controller's report and am committed to working with our partners on the City Council to implement the kind of coordination and accountability necessary for success," he said.

"We cannot be afraid of change when too many of our kids and communities are living with unacceptable levels of violence."

Chick said the Anti-Gang Office would include divisions to deal with suppression, intervention, prevention, assessment, evaluation and administrative services to coordinate state and federal grants.

Last year, Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton launched their own attack on gangs, creating a list of the worst in the city and a "Most Wanted List" that has led to the arrest and prosecution of several gang members. Villaraigosa also brought in Jeff Carr to head up anti-gang efforts.

Since then, the city has seen dramatic drops in gang-related crimes - 5 percent in the Valley last year and 4 percent citywide. Gang homicides fell 26.5 percent - from to 294 in 2006 to 216 last year.

That trend is continuing this year, officials said, with gang crime and homicides each down 20 percent in the wake of increased cooperation among gang interventionists and boosted presence of LAPD officers in gang-ridden neighborhoods.

Chick said the new Anti-Gang Office would develop criteria to determine the effectiveness of all programs, using measures such as reduction in gang crimes, higher school attendance levels, community participation and increased employment.

As part of assessing effectiveness, Chick recommended new bids within six months by all anti-gang service agencies, noting that the L.A. Bridges program has not been re-evaluated in 10 years.

"This situation not only creates a sense of entitlement among service providers, but also diminishes the effectiveness of program evaluation and accountability," she said.

Chick said she plans to seek the support of the Los Angeles Unified School District board, the county Board of Supervisors, business groups, neighborhood councils and other groups to get the City Council to implement her proposal.

She said the plan would not block efforts under way to deal with specific problems or efforts in various communities, including eight "gang reduction zones" already identified by the mayor.

But she said many of the efforts are disjointed and need to be coordinated, and much of the effort in the gang reduction zones so far has revolved around police and suppression while more work is needed on prevention and intervention.

But Councilman Tony Cárdenas, who chairs the City Council's ad hoc Committee on Gangs, said Chick's proposal might be premature.

"Before we create an Anti-Gang Office in the Mayor's Office, we need to prove where it belongs," Cárdenas said. "This, to me, is politics, and politics have driven funding and intervention for close to 30 years and our streets are not safe for our children."

Chick countered Cárdenas' comments, saying it is an example of the council trying to maintain control of gang programs that have failed.

"We are long overdue to change the way things are done around here," Chick said. "This is the most important work I've done in my seven years as controller and I am completely committed to seeing this implemented."


By Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 14, 2008 -- Even as Los Angeles leaders pledge to combat gang violence, a dysfunctional city bureaucracy is spending millions of dollars on unproven programs and is failing to coordinate with schools, law enforcement and social agencies, according to a report set for release today.

Produced by City Controller Laura Chick, the report assails the city for taking a hodgepodge approach to youth and gang services. The city scatters oversight across more than a dozen departments that duplicate efforts and award contracts to antigang programs without establishing goals or objectives, the report says.

At a press conference this morning, Chick will call for a bureaucratic shake-up at City Hall that she admits could be politically difficult to execute.

The controller urges the city to place everything under a single entity in the office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who would have the authority and visibility to bring about change while bearing direct responsibility for progress.

Such a move could reduce the City Council's influence over how programs are managed and which communities receive attention.

In the report, made available Wednesday, Chick did not call for new spending but for the city to redirect $19 million doled out by the Community Development Department.

And she called and for the city to work more closely with the school district, Sheriff's Department and other agencies.

Report Abstract (29 pp)


• "School kids did not cause this crisis. Cutting public education in the middle of the school year is going to be disruptive, and devastating in some communities." - California Federation of Teachers President Marty Hittleman

• "It is kind of pathetic. At what point is someone going to say, 'We have a problem and we have to deal with it'?" - Christopher Thornberg, a partner at Beacon Economics

• "Today's action means doctors will simply stop seeing [poor] patients." - Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley)



By Harrison Sheppard and Steve Geissinger
San José Mercury News Sacramento Bureau
Article Launched: 02/16/2008 01:35:26 AM PST

16-Feb-08 - SACRAMENTO - In a prelude of even harsher cuts to come, lawmakers Friday chopped more than $2 billion from state programs, with schools, social services and health care providers that serve the poor taking the biggest hits.

Combined with making other cuts, borrowing, deferring payments and postponing cost-of-living adjustments to welfare families and the elderly and disabled, the state has covered a $3.7 billion deficit in the current fiscal year and has slashed almost half of the $14.5 billion deficit the state is facing through the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Or not. The state's independent budget analyst is releasing a report next week that - judging by the latest revenue estimates from the state controller - will likely show that the $14.5 billion deficit was actually underestimated.

If that's so, it would only add to what is already going to be an especially painful process for lawmakers to send a balanced budget to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by June 30, when this fiscal year ends.

"If these cuts were serious, then the cuts coming our way in June and the summer are going to be devastating," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, following the conclusion of the emergency session called by Schwarzenegger.

One of the biggest cuts authorized Friday was a 10 percent reduction in state reimbursements to Medi-Cal providers, starting July 1, which will save about $544 million in 2008-09.

Not only will doctors and hospitals receive less money, but there is also concern that fewer doctors will accept Medi-Cal patients.

Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, called the decision "devastating."

"There are literally millions of people," Wright said, "who will have a harder time getting the care that they need."

Other cuts authorized by the Legislature included:

• Cutting education funding by about $500 million. But legislators insisted those cuts would be less painful because they are coming out of education funds that have remained unspent during the current and prior years. In any event, it's still money schools were expecting to receive.

"School kids did not cause this crisis," California Federation of Teachers President Marty Hittleman said in a statement. "Cutting public education in the middle of the school year is going to be disruptive, and devastating in some communities."

• Postponing the filling of 60 new judge positions, for a savings of $22 million this year and $54 million next year.

• Delaying nearly $5 billion in payments to local governments and the State Teachers Retirement System, and deferring cost-of-living adjustments for payments to the elderly and disabled, as well as some welfare recipients.

Those delays create savings only in the current year, however, and are seen more as a way to deal with the state's cash-flow problem this year than as a longer-term budget solution.

Núñez and other Democrats were especially disappointed Friday because, while there was bipartisan support to pass the cuts, Republican lawmakers in the Assembly voted down a proposal to close a loophole in the so-called "yacht tax," which allows people who buy yachts or planes to store them out of state for three months to avoid state use taxes.

Assembly Republican Leader Michael Villines of Fresno said the GOP plans to hold firm against all tax increases, believing they ultimately hurt the economy and are therefore counterproductive.

"We have to discuss new ways to do the budget that are not tax increases," Villines said.

That doesn't bode well for Democrats' insistence that "new revenues" - presumably, tax and fee increases - must be part of the eventual budget solution.

Tax increases must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote, so some Republican support is necessary. Friday, there was some Republican support for closing the loophole, and it even passed in the Senate, but it fell short in the Assembly.

Núñez is expected to bring a similar yacht-tax bill back up for a vote again next week.

Most of the cuts authorized Friday were for programs in the current, 2007-08 fiscal year, which ends June 30. Approved as urgency measures, they take effect as soon as Schwarzenegger signs them, which he has said he will do today.

"The Legislature should be commended for working together - both Republicans and Democrats - to make difficult decisions and take this first step toward fixing our state budget," Schwarzenegger said in a written statement.

In addition to the cuts, the state this week borrowed an additional $3.3 billion that was authorized by a bond measure approved by voters in 2004 to help balance the budget that year.

The cuts approved Friday also will carry over into the full 2008-09 year. In total, lawmakers conclude they now have to address a remaining shortfall of about $7.4 billion in next year's budget - but they are also aware that number will rise if revenues are indeed below projections.

The Legislature avoided one potentially thorny issue Friday by not proposing a cut to the state prison system. Schwarzenegger has proposed granting the early release of 22,000 non-violent prisoners who are within 20 months of parole to save money.

Republicans, however, adamantly opposed the idea and it was clear, said Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, who chairs the Assembly budget committee, that there would not be two-thirds support for such a bill.

The issue, however, is almost sure to come up during the future budget discussions, as will the governor's pitch to close dozens of state parks in the next fiscal year.

But Friday's decisions certainly were not without controversy - or the money-shifting that critics have described as shell-game gimmicks.

A successful lawsuit filed by transit advocates could have forced the state to take $400 million it shifted from transportation to the general fund and give it back to transportation.

But legislative budget analysts found what they believe is a legal way to shift the money. They intend to use the money for school bus transportation, which is funded in the education budget. They will then cut that same amount of money from the education budget.

Transit advocates called it a "deliberate end-run around the court's decision."

'Rather than work with us to implement the judge's decision, it looks like the governor and the Legislature have instead decided to thumb their noses at the court," said Joshua Shaw, executive director of the California Transit Association and primary plaintiff in the suit.

But Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said it was clear from the judge's ruling that such a shifting of funds was "legal and proper."



from The Associated Press
02/15/2008 - Here are some of the actions taken Friday by the California Legislature to begin to address a $14.5 billion deficit:

• Cut $167.6 million from the budgets of various departments and state agencies.
• Delayed $1.1 billion in payments to public schools from July to September, but exempted some school districts that would be so short of funding they would qualify for an emergency appropriation from the state.
• Adopted a 10 percent cut in payments to doctors and other health care providers who serve patients in Medi-Cal, a health care program for the poor.
• Delayed cost-of-living increases for welfare families and elderly and disabled poor until Oct. 1.
• Cut school spending by $506 million.
• Reduced funding for regional centers, which provide services for people with developmental disabilities.
• Deferred gasoline tax payments to cities and counties for April through August until September.
• Delayed appointment of 60 new judges.
• Delayed payment of state support for the teachers' retirement fund until November.

The Senate also approved a bill that attempts to prevent wealthy Californians from avoiding the sales tax when they buy cars, planes or boats out of state, but it was blocked by Republicans in the Assembly. Assembly Democrats said they would try again next week to pass the measure.
Source: Assembly Budget Committee



By Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 16, 2008 -- SACRAMENTO -- The Legislature passed a package of emergency budget measures Friday, which lawmakers touted as swift, responsible bipartisan action that averts a cash crisis and erases nearly half the state's $14.5-billion deficit.

But their move would not actually reduce spending on that scale; rather, it would push most of the red ink forward with accounting maneuvers and borrowing.

The lawmakers' measures would put taxpayers on the hook for more debt and would, at best, allow the state to hobble through the next few months, said budget experts outside the Capitol. What are the legislators waiting for? some asked. With the state in its worst financial shape in years, the emergency actions amount to little more than nibbling around the margins.

"Yet again, they are dodging and weaving and hoping . . . they don't have to make any tough decisions," said Christopher Thornberg, a partner at Beacon Economics, a consulting and research firm in Los Angeles. "It is kind of pathetic. At what point is someone going to say, 'We have a problem and we have to deal with it'?"

Some of what lawmakers did would help close the state's budget gap. But the savings would amount to only $2 billion over the next year and a half. Most of the cuts made to achieve those savings would affect schools and doctors who treat the poor.

Despite previous assertions by lawmakers and the governor that they had cut up the state's credit cards for good, the package approved Friday also included $3.3 billion in borrowing authorized by voters years ago to deal with an earlier deficit but never undertaken.

The difficulty of making even $2 billion in cuts partly explains why lawmakers fell back on deferrals, delays, transfers and other accounting shifts to keep the state afloat.

The cuts, which the governor is expected to sign into law today, mean that school districts would have to forgo $506 million that was given to them in the current year's budget, a move lawmakers said would not affect classroom instruction, though educators have disputed that. And reimbursement rates for doctors who provide healthcare to the poor under the state's Medi-Cal program would drop by 10%.

Some of the same legislators who have argued passionately in favor of balancing the budget entirely through spending cuts -- as opposed to tax hikes -- couldn't bring themselves to vote for cutting subsidies to doctors.

"Today's action means doctors will simply stop seeing [poor] patients," said Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley), an anti-tax crusader who suggested that healthcare cuts were disproportionately large.

A reduction measure that failed was aimed at buyers of yachts, airplanes and luxury recreational vehicles. The state Senate passed a bill to close a loophole that allows many of those buyers to avoid paying sales tax by keeping their new vessels out of state for 90 days.

Assembly Republicans, calling the measure a tax hike, blocked it. Legislative budget analysts estimated that eliminating the loophole would raise $26 million.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) called on Republicans to join the effort to "close this 'sloophole' once and for all." He said he would put the measure to another vote in the Assembly early next week.

Most of this week's budget moves would not create lasting savings. They involve either borrowing or doing such things as delaying payments for various programs into the next budget year. These actions may give the appearance that part of the deficit has been eliminated, but the payments aren't canceled. They are simply made later.

"A lot of this stuff is shell games," said Ryan Ratcliff, an economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast. "We are just sort of pushing obligations around to create an accounting statement that looks nice but does not really change the reality of the deficit."

Ratcliff said lawmakers are exhibiting their usual reluctance to take substantial action until after the governor releases his revised budget plan in May. "We've got hard choices to make, but it appears we are not going to make them now," he said.

Delay could prove costly.

With the deficit so large, the Capitol's partisan divide so deep and three of the Legislature's four leaders now lame ducks, few in the capital expect an agreement on how to eliminate the rest of the deficit by the July 1 deadline for enacting a new budget.

If there is no budget deep into August, as occurred last year, the state will be unable to sell billions of dollars in short-term bonds that finance officials are planning to use to keep from running out of money. Such bonds are routinely sold to "even out" the state's cash flow; they provide funds to cover the cost of programs early in the fiscal year and are repaid when tax revenue surges in the spring.

But the bonds cannot be sold without a budget in place. The alternative is a costly bridge loan from investment bankers.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer warned in a letter to lawmakers recently that such a move would probably be frowned on by credit-rating agencies and could trigger a downgrade.

A downgrade would increase the amount of interest the state must pay on its borrowing. Lockyer said that could cost taxpayers as much as $128 million in fiscal 2008-09 and $319 million more the next year.

Taxpayers won't need to wait to assume more debt, however. The $3.3 billion in borrowing in Friday's package would add two years to the repayment schedule for the debt that voters approved in 2004.

Schwarzenegger had promised never again to borrow to balance the budget. But his administration argues that it is appropriate for him to use what remains of the 2004 package.

Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, in Palo Alto, said the $3.3 billion in borrowing might have been justified as part of an overall plan that included spending reductions and new revenues that would close the budget gap.

"But so far they are using it just to kick the problem down the road," he said.


David v. Lisa | Dust-Up: L.A. SCHOOLS REVISITED
All last week, Reason Foundation's Lisa Snell debated former L.A. Board of Education member David Tokofsky on the LA Times Dust-Up online Dust-Up blog.

February 11, 2008 -- Does the Los Angeles Unified School District provide enough choices for its customers? How can the district make it as easy as possible for students to exit failing schools and attend successful schools?

February 12, 2008 -- How would you assess the union’s current leadership, and what should its role be in improving Los Angeles schools?

February 13, 2008 -- Are school vouchers a reform that could save poor students, or a crackpot idea that’s also dangerous for public education?

February 14, 2008 -- L.A. Unified students perform well in elementary school; so why is the district’s dropout rate so high? Should we be concerned about a high dropout rate, or does attrition of unmotivated students help motivated students?

February 15, 2008 -- Troubled Crenshaw and Westchester high schools have taken more control over their campuses from the district. If they succeed, and if more schools become charters (like Locke High School), would that suggest L.A. Unified could be better off broken up?

Dust-Up: L.A. SCHOOLS REVISITED (Feb. 11-15, 2008)

The Times' Howard Blume writes the Homeroom blog;

It somehow escaped CNN, but United Teachers Los Angeles, the L.A. teachers union, held the second of three candidate forums [last] Thursday night at union headquarters in the Wilshire district. There [was] also another forum on Monday at White Middle School in Carson.

The election has ramifications far beyond the union because UTLA, with more than 40,000 members, is a major local political player. And its members are inevitably at the center of any school-improvement effort.

Ballots, mailed to teachers, will be retrieved from the postal service on Feb. 21.

Those who can’t get enough can read candidate statements and watch candidate videos at There’s an election tab in the upper left-hand corner.

So what did the candidates for president have to say?

The incumbent is A.J. Duffy, a longtime union activist who surprised many when he unseated predecessor John Perez.

One challenger is Becki Robinson, a longtime union officer who could be a long shot because of her self-funded, low-budget campaign. She lost a hard-fought campaign for president to Perez. These days, Robinson helps run district programs that take place outside of school hours. And she’s the union rep for UTLA members who work in the district’s downtown headquarters.

Robinson challenged Duffy’s record on some high-profile matters. Her criticisms were frequently echoed by fellow challenger and longtime union officer Linda Guthrie.

Among their issues: Duffy supported school board candidate Christopher Arellano without a complete background check. The media later uncovered that Arellano, a UTLA staff member, had a criminal record and had exaggerated his education credentials. Arellano was trounced on election day after the union had spent more than $200,000 in his behalf.

The challengers also fault Duffy for the union leadership’s support of Assembly Bill 1381, which would have given Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa substantial authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District. The union membership belatedly voted to oppose the bill, which became law but was overturned by the courts.

Critics blame Duffy, too, for allowing Locke High to fall under the control of a private charter school organization and for losing control of the Los Angeles school board, which no longer has a majority of candidates elected to office primarily by the union.

Finally, the challengers said Duffy and his leadership team could have done more to help union members after the school system’s new payroll system malfunctioned on a grand scale.

Duffy defended his record, saying that members have received far more in raises during his term than during that of his predecessor. Health benefits also have been maintained, he added. And he singles out union agitation and pressure as a key factor in getting the district to resolve payroll issues.

Guthrie, currently the vice president for secondary schools, also has a long record of union service, including on negotiating teams under three union presidents. She talked of how, many years ago, she signed up members while carrying her 6-month-old baby.

She accused Duffy of exaggerating his record, taking credit for things accomplished by many, and fudging the facts.

A fourth candidate, Barbara Eisen-Herman, did not attend.


EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Tuesday Feb 19, 2008
6:00 p.m.
Coughlin Elementary School - Auditorium
11035 Borden Avenue
Pacoima, CA 91331

• Wednesday Feb 20, 2008
10 am
LAUSD Board Room
333 Beaudry Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90017

• Wednesday Feb 20, 2008
Ceremony starts at 10:30 a.m.
El Camino Real High School
5440 Valley Circle Blvd.
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

• Wednesday Feb 20, 2008
SOUTH REGION MIDDLE SCHOOL #2: Pre-Construction Community Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Escutia Primary Center
Multi-purpose Room
6401 Bear Ave.
Bell, CA 90201

• Wednesday Feb 20, 2008
VALLEY REGION SPAN K-8 #1: CEQA Scoping and Schematic Design Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Olive Vista Middle School - Auditorium
14600 Tyler Street
Sylmar, CA 91342

• Thursday Feb 21, 2008
EAST LOS ANGELES HIGH SCHOOL #1: Construction Update Community Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Utah Elementary School
255 Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Los Angeles, CA 90033

• Thursday Feb 21, 2008
6:30 p.m.
Canoga Park Elementary School
7438 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Canoga Park, CA 91303

*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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