Saturday, February 23, 2008


4LAKids: Sun, Feb 24, 2008
In This Issue:
CALIFORNIA SCHOOLS WITH HIGH DROPOUT RATES LISTED: A UC Santa Barbara study shows 25 sites, many are charter campuses, account for a fifth of dropouts
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
4LAKids Anthology: right, wrong, never indifferent.
4LAKidsNews: the news that didn't fit.
To wrap oneself around the challenges of growing up - or parenting a child - or teaching - in LA in the first decade of the twenty-first century there are lots of walls that must be broken through. In LAUSD there are the silos of compartmentalization; Local District Two teachers share little contact with Local District Four teachers. And Local District Eight? …I daresay there are many that would be surprised to learn that San Pedro is part of the City of LA and LAUSD!

The elementary folks don't talk to the secondary folks, the food service folks don't talk to finance – and payroll is obviously disconnected from IT. There is a struggle to align the reform initiatives: Small Learning Communities, A-G, CTE, High Priority Schools, Dropout Prevention, Parent Involvement, I-divison, Charter Schools. None of these are outcomes; they are all merely directions - hopefully forward. "College Prepared and College Ready" is just another buzzword compliant neologism that describes a hypothetical goal. As in: "No Child Left Behind". Even Improved Student Achievement isn't the destination — the goal is-and-must-be Future Generations Building a Better Future…and you never get there!

Decisions are made by Superintendent Level folks – folks remote in time and location from classroom instruction. And all of this of course is ammo for the break-up-the-school-district folks; but it's not an issue of size, it's an issue of communication. What we have here is a failure to communicate.

And it isn't just LAUSD. It's this huge city we live in and the greater megalopolis it’s a part of — and the relationship between the neighborhood + the school, the region + the local district, the cities + the school district; the state + the nation. It's about the connections and lack-thereof between education + health + public safety – with children caught in the middle …and their parents mis-or-underinformed.

All the things I just wrote of: education, public health and safety are all paid for more-or- less by the state government because they control the purse strings thorough taxes or federal outlays — for everything from schoolbooks to bridge repair to fire trucks. And in the current budgetary situation and the governor's proffered solutions every one of those things will be cut ten per cent.

ON THURSDAY I flew up to Sacramento to gather with the California State PTA leadership and discuss things legislative. Mostly we talked about the budget and the impact of education, healthcare and social welfare cuts on kids. That's what The Lege and The Gov are discussing too …there just isn't much else on anyone's agenda up there! There's a bill here and an initiative there about Small Schools and Career Ed – and a promising return to Driver's Ed in high school. But without money – the mother's milk of politics – the discussion is all about the lack of money.

Make no mistake: the Teachers are energized about the budget, the Admininistators and Superintendents and School Boardmembers are energized. Parents are energized too – and will be more so in the weeks ahead. Our special interests are not our jobs and careers – our special interests are our children and that's the message we must bring forward. Something's gotta give – and it won't be us because our kids have the most to lose!

ALSO ON THURSDAY the Legislative Analyst changed the numbers: the deficit is no longer $14 Billion, it's $16 billion. If the governor says it takes a 10% cut (and x borrowing) to fix $14 billion, does it take (I knew two years of Algebra I would come in handy!) 11.42 % plus x+y borrowing to fix $16 billion?

It's a trick question – it takes raising taxes to fix them both. Not 'fees', not the yacht tax, not Indian gaming or the lottery; those are the things we talk about while we don't talk about raising taxes. First the car tax; then split the rolls and periodically reassess business property. Prop 13 can continue to protect homeowners; it doesn't need to protect oil companies and supermarket chains and shopping mall operators.

But it also takes facing facts. The Golden State is already bankrupt; we are 46th in the nation in per pupil spending. Or we were …in good times with a growing economy. Before the cuts already done and the cuts to come. That's moral bankruptcy. That's failure to invest in the future.

THURSDAY the Daily News broke with the story of the tax implications of the LAUSD payroll debacle; the follow up editorial - posted online Thursday predictably called for district breakup.

ALSO THURSDAY and closer to home all hell broke lose in my neighborhood. Around noon right near a local elementary school a carload of adult gang members shot and killed another adult gang member who was standing holding the hand of his two year old.

Read that back to yourself:
• Noon.
• Near a school.
• Two year old in hand.

The Times continues in their description saying that witnesses saw what happened and returned fire.

• Witnesses returned fire.
• Noon.
• Near a school.

A car chase with police ensued. More shots were fired. A gang member from the shooters' car brandished an AK-47 and was shot dead by police; three other guys ran and got away – this all adjacent to a second elementary school and middle school. All three schools locked down while the manhunt continued – eventually the second and third – but not the fourth shooters were apprehended.

All this gunplay happened near schools with kids in them; three schools were locked down. In broad daylight, beginning with kids presumably at lunch on playgrounds – all protected by those lovely "Safe School Zone" signs.

Glassell and Cypress Parks – where all this took place – are pleasant working and middle class neighborhoods with homes and yards and hard working folks raising families —struggling to make ends meet. Kids going to school, API growing, multiplication tables learned, homework forgotten, living the American Dream — the flagpole with the Old Glory and the MIA/POW flag in the pocket park. When The Times printed the map in the paper of these goings-on I could find where I live on it; my family travels those streets every day, to work, shopping, to school.

The victims this time may be gang members – but the real victims are my neighbors – and your neighbors — the good people who live with this sort of violence everyday.

The name for what gangs do in LA is "Terrorism"; reports 5,728 gang related homicides in LA in the 21 years between 1985 - 2006.

When I was growing up we 'ducked and covered' in school to save ourselves from nuclear annihilation. The children in those three schools Thursday – "low to the floor, keep away from the windows" – and the two year old – came closer to annihilation from stray 9 millimeter and 7.62 rounds than we ever did.

If this is the new Americana, the Norman Rockwell Four Freedoms include the right to be safe; I think that's nonnegotiable. Kids need to be safe at school and at home and going to-and-from school. That's not asking too much.

ALSO THURSDAY …and far more mundane, the UTLA election returned the current leadership to office. Duffy got 59% of the vote, a solid majority…that's 59% of the 21% who voted – 12% of the eligible voters. Democracy is not pretty, but when folks don't participate whatever good looks it has wane quickly.

I like Duffy; I have nothing against UTLA – but the union contract is usually (or perhaps: unusually) the overarching governing and policy setting authority of this school district – and 21% participation in the process is unacceptable.

Onward nonetheless —smf

LA Times: MAYHEM CRIPPLES BIG AREA: Thousands stranded, schools locked down as notorious group battles the LAPD after a drive-by killing.

by Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

2/21/2008 - Massive payroll glitches that left Los Angeles Unified teachers under- or overpaid last year are creating a new nightmare as thousands of year-end tax forms also have been found to be inaccurate, district and union officials said Wednesday.

While LAUSD officials had promised that payroll problems would not affect teachers' year-end W2 tax forms, at least 3,400 have been identified as incorrect with less than two months remaining before the April 15 tax deadline.

And thousands more December pay stubs - which are usually used to verify annual income figures - now are not matching up with W2 figures, leaving many teachers concerned about possible errors.

"People have struggled all year long, and we are quite frustrated with the district," said Chuck Vaughn, a teacher at Farmdale Elementary School in El Sereno. "Now it's time for taxes, and it becomes a very serious issue."

District officials said that of the 3,400 incorrect W2s, at least 700 were because of incorrect taxation of employee medical benefits.

Other mistakes have been attributed to payment errors that have occurred since the February launch of the district's new computerized payroll system.

David Holmquist, LAUSD's chief operating officer, said that while the district is working hard to correct the errors, it is also pleased that only about 2percent of the forms have been found to have errors.

Holmquist said the district also has contacted most of
the employees who have received incorrect tax forms and will begin sending corrected forms by the end of the week.

Holmquist also said a 30-person team has been set up to address district employees' concerns over their tax forms. He said the district so far has received 451 inquiries out of the 120,000 tax forms that were sent out.

"We understand that there are all different flavors of issues out there because of what we have been through, but we want to talk to any employees who are having issues and we want to resolve these issues," Holmquist said.

Holmquist also said letters and memos were sent to district employees last month informing them that their pay stubs and W2s would not match up. Teachers were urged instead to use their W2s as their official end-of-year document.


But for teachers like Cheryl Ortega at Logan Street Elementary School in Echo Park, the previous months' glitches with the district's payroll system - in which she was consistently overpaid - have left her wary.

"Why would you believe anything they say? I was told the payroll problems were fixed, and my February paycheck still isn't right," she said. "I got overpaid again."

Ortega said that when the figures in her W2 form didn't match her year-to-date pay-stub figures, she decided to hire an accountant to audit her finances - at her own expense.

"Why should I pay my accountant more money and take time off of work to fix these problems? I already work full time," she said. "This is very de-energizing."

The teachers union has hosted several meetings this week for teachers and school representatives to ask Internal Revenue Service and Franchise Tax Board officials questions about how to file their taxes when they disagreed with their employer's W2 figures.

David Goldberg, treasurer for United Teachers Los Angeles, said that after a year of struggling with incorrect paychecks - or no paychecks at all - teachers are on edge this tax season.

"This year there is a hypersensitivity, which is completely rational after you have gone through one of the worst computer breakdowns in California history," Goldberg said. "It's completely rational for people to be skeptical."

About 100 people attended the two union sessions, but Goldberg also said the district has moved quickly on most of the W2 concerns.

At least 700 district employees whose year-end tax forms had incorrect medical-benefit deductions already have been contacted by the district, he said.

UTLA President A.J. Duffy said that after a disastrous payroll year, the union was braced for "the good, the bad, and the ugly" this tax season.

All things considered, he said, the issues teachers are now facing are minimal.

"The fact that only 100 people showed up at both our meetings is an anecdotal indicator that, for the most part, the W2s have been accurate," he said.

Still, Duffy said many teachers continue to complain to the union about their inability to get an appointment with the district staff to review their tax forms.

"Even though we believe these forms are accurate, there are lingering questions that people have, or in some cases it's just clarification of procedure," he said. "The district has improved its payroll process, but it is still not responsive in responding to these concerns."

But district officials said the tax team does not have a backlog of appointments and that employees should be able to get prompt attention.

LAUSD board member Tamar Galatzan said she understands employees' frustrations dealing with the payroll system.

Galatzan, who represents schools in the San Fernando Valley, said if teachers and other district staffers are not getting help from the district, they should reach out to board members.

"Hopefully this is the last big hump to go over to deal with this payroll crisis," Galatzan said.


At the UTLA meetings, IRS officials reassured teachers they would be able to write letters of explanation if they thought their W2 forms were inaccurate, and that teachers would be able to pay taxes based on what they believed to be their correct annual income.

Employees also can seek an extension to file, although any taxes that are owed still have to be paid April 15.

Still, many teachers say they feel like they are being penalized for a payroll mess that even the district's financial gurus have been unable to figure out.

Sandy Keaton, a district audiologist, said all of her paychecks last year did not properly deduct funds for a medical-benefits program she had signed up for.

While she was able to get her wages garnished to cover the cost of the benefits, her paychecks for the year are wrong.

And she said the system's new pay stubs are so confusing she doesn't know how to begin trying to check whether the figures in her W2 are correct.

"I am trying to work backwards now to see if this W2 is correct. If I can't understand my pay stub, how can I figure out if my W2 is right?"

Daily News Editorial

02/21/2008 - If there were any lingering doubt that the LAUSD had become irreparably broken, the mess with teachers' tax forms ought to put it to rest.

It's just the latest nightmare in the stupendously disastrous payroll debacle that has cost the Los Angeles Unified School District more than $100million - more than the payroll system cost to purchase - so far to "fix."

Or, more accurately, it has cost the taxpayers this money and denied 700,000 kids the education they need and deserve.

Considering the mess with tax forms, it may take even more money to "fix" again in time to meet the April filing deadline.

This situation should have been anticipated by LAUSD payroll officials, or at least the high-paid consultants who are getting rich on the district's incompetence.

The payroll system caused thousands of teachers to go unpaid or receive incorrect pay for months during the past year while the new payroll system was created. It was bound as well to have problems computing the year-end pay of teachers. And so it did.

The W2 forms of more than 3,400 teachers have so far been found to be inaccurate. A total of 120,000 forms were sent out, and who knows how many teachers have just filed them away for a future date with Turbo Tax and haven't assessed whether the totals might be incorrect.

The ongoing payroll problems do more than suggest that the LAUSD is structurally broken; it screams it.

There's a behemoth bureaucracy engaged in trying to keep its organizational chaos in check to prevent such debacles.

There's a school board without any sort of vision for the failing.

And there's a financial black hole where hundreds of millions of dollars meant for education simply disappear because of mismanagement.

It's time for the public to revisit that idea once again. The relentless exodus of LAUSD students to charter schools shows this is, in essence, already happening. But allowing it to linger in a slow death is unconscionably unfair to the kids who remain behind.

If the system is broken, why not make breakup complete before it does any more harm?

by Patrick McGreevy and Howard Blume | Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

February 22, 2008 - SACRAMENTO — The incoming leader of the state Senate said Thursday that he wants to overhaul California's programs for reducing the number of high school dropouts, calling it a top legislative priority.

Under existing requirements, Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles would be allowed to take more than two centuries to bring its graduation rate up to 82.9%, which is the current state standard, said Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

Steinberg, who will take over as Senate president pro tem in November, has drafted a bill that would reset the bar for schools in California to boost the number of students who make it to graduation.

"We think 250 years is slightly too long," he said. "It's unacceptable. The current goal, to put it charitably, is not nearly ambitious enough."

The idea of setting higher graduation goals is supported by many education experts, including state Education Secretary David Long.

"There has to be that perfect balance between raising the bar and making it achievable, because school districts have a lot of other things on their plates," Long said.

However, Delaine Eastin, a former state superintendent of public instruction, said the Legislature would have to come up with more money to help schools increase their graduation rates, adding that after-school and preschool programs are important elements.

"They are going to have to make some investment. It's not easy, and it's not free," she said.

Los Angeles Board of Education President Monica Garcia also supports Steinberg's goal. "I appreciate the urgency in this bill," she said. "For too long our graduation rates have not been acceptable. I see this bill as about accelerating the pace of change."

Garcia faulted the state for failing to adequately fund schools, leaving the Los Angeles Unified School District with crowded classrooms and year-round calendars that she said ultimately affect graduation rates. Proposed state budget cuts also will do substantial additional damage, she said.

"Schools are always being asked to do more with less. That has to stop," Garcia said.

Acknowledging that money is tight this year, Steinberg said that changing the standards now will create the foundation for faster improvement in future years when money is more available.

Under state rules set up to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, schools must either meet a graduation-rate goal or improve by 0.1 percentage point per year to avoid sanctions.

The 2007 graduation rate target is 82.9%. State education officials said they intended all along to install a more rigorous system once the state adopted a reliable data system.

Crenshaw High had a 56.9% graduation rate in the 2005-06 school year, the last for which figures were available. L.A. Unified had a rate of 63.9% that year.

As it is, Crenshaw's rate has been heading in the wrong direction: It declined over the previous two years. The district's graduation rate also dropped last year.

Steinberg, a former educator, plans to introduce legislation today that would set the graduation rate goal at 90%.

If that goal is not met, a school with Crenshaw's performance could comply by raising its graduation rate 3.3 percentage points in two years.

If schools fail to meet standards, the state can take sanctions against the schools, ranging from sending in assistance teams to closing the campus entirely.

When Crenshaw parent Glenn Windom first learned of the school's high number of dropouts, "I was angry. It was horrible," she said.

Because there is widespread skepticism about the accuracy of the graduation rates now reported to the state, (Steinberg and Eastin, among others, believe the rates are inflated) the senator's bill would make enforcement of the new standards contingent on the state's devising a more accurate method of reporting the rates. That might not happen until 2011.

Still, the new legislation is welcome for building on past reforms addressing the graduation rate, said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project and an education professor at UCLA.

Without attention to graduation rates, he said, the state's accountability system "rewards schools that push out kids with low scores."

CALIFORNIA SCHOOLS WITH HIGH DROPOUT RATES LISTED: A UC Santa Barbara study shows 25 sites, many are charter campuses, account for a fifth of dropouts

by Mitchell Landsberg | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 21, 2008 - Just 25 of California's 2,462 high schools account for more than a fifth of the state's dropouts, with the problem heavily concentrated in charter and alternative schools, according to a study being released today by UC Santa Barbara.

However, a UCSB researcher said it wasn't clear whether the schools were responsible for the problem or were simply the recipients of a disproportionate share of troubled students. And some educators and school advocates criticized the report -- either for relying on questionable data or for releasing potentially explosive statistics without context.

The report, issued as part of the California Dropout Research Project, used readily available state data to compile a list of every high school in the state ranked by the number of students listed as dropouts last year.

It showed that, of the 10 schools that reported the highest numbers of dropouts, only one was a traditional, comprehensive high school -- and the principal of that school said it ranked so high because of a data error. The rest were alternative schools, most of them charters and all specializing in education for high-risk students who couldn't make it in conventional schools.

Russell Rumberger, a professor of education at UC Santa Barbara and director of the dropout project, said Wednesday that the report wasn't intended to answer questions about why the schools had so many dropouts but rather to give educators a snapshot they could use to map out future research.

"Is the school doing a bad job, or are the kids at risk anyway no matter what setting they're in?" Rumberger asked in a conference call with reporters. Either way, he said, the value of the study is in telling the public, "This is where we should be concerned."

Rumberger stressed that he wasn't judging the individual schools at the top of the list, but added, "If that many kids are dropping out, it's unlikely that you're doing a good job."

That comment angered Buzz Breedlove, director of John Muir Charter School, a Sacramento-based organization that operates programs for at-risk students at 43 locations throughout California. It was No. 1 on the UC Santa Barbara list, with 1,856 dropouts -- more students than are enrolled at the school.

"To reconfigure numbers and come up with a dropout rate of 149%, which on its face is ludicrous, doesn't suggest to me that very much thought went into these numbers," said Breedlove, a former nonpartisan policy analyst for the California Legislature.

More than half a dozen of the schools on the list had dropout rates over 100% because enrollment is based on the number of students attending classes on a single day in October, but alternative schools typically have students arriving and leaving throughout the year.

According to Breedlove, the typical John Muir student is 19, has already dropped out of school two or three times and has completed only 75 of the required 210 credits for high school graduation. The school serves students who are enrolled in several organizations, including the California Conservation Corps.

"I would submit to you that one reason that our students drop out the way they do is that, absent our program, they wouldn't be in school at all," Breedlove said. "They would be terminal dropouts."

Much the same story came from the No. 2 school on the list, SIATech (School for Integrated Academics and Technologies), a San Diego-based alternative charter with seven campuses. SIATech works with the Job Corps to reclaim students who have already dropped out.

Spokeswoman Linda Leigh said a high dropout rate "is one of the pitfalls of trying to recover students who are really high-risk individuals."

The only conventional, comprehensive school among the top 10 was Madera High North in the San Joaquin Valley, listed at No. 9 with 539 dropouts. But the school's principal, Ron Pisk, said that figure was wrong, the result of a coding glitch that occurred when the Madera Unified School District recently switched data systems.

"It's absolutely driving us crazy," he said. "I've been losing sleep over this." The true figure, he said, is about half what is listed in the report.

Four of the schools in the top 10 are charters run by the same couple, John and Joan Hall. Their nonprofit charter, Options for Youth, has campuses ranked sixth, seventh and eighth, and their for-profit charter, Opportunities for Learning, was ranked third. The schools, which allow students to work independently, were the subject of a Times article in 2006 that found they had a poor record of keeping students until graduation.

A spokesman for the organization, Stevan Allen, issued a statement saying it was "not at all surprising that schools specializing in dropout recovery have a high number of dropouts -- just as obesity clinics have higher incidences of diabetes and heart disease among their patients. By definition, we are dealing with a population highly inclined to drop out."

He estimated that the true dropout rate at the four schools ranges from 15% to 35%, rather than the 42% to 49% shown in the report.

Gary Larson, a spokesman for the California Charter Schools Assn., also criticized the UC Santa Barbara report and said it could be interpreted as painting charter schools -- particularly those that specialize in educating troubled youth -- in a bad light.

Charters are independently run but publicly funded campuses that are free from many state and local regulations in exchange for boosting achievement.

Daria Hall, assistant director of the Education Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to improving education, complained in an e-mail that the report was based on "state-reported dropout figures that are wildly inaccurate."

As an example, she said that John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles, ranked No. 16 in the report, has an official dropout rate of 9%, yet it has more than 1,900 students entering as freshmen but fewer than 500 enrolled as seniors.

"Unless almost 70% of the entering class transferred out, and no one transferred in, this school loses more than 9% of its students to dropout," Hall wrote.

Rumberger, the dropout project director, said the data were accurate but conceded that the state's method of calculating dropouts leaves a great deal to be desired.

"I don't think the data are flawed," he said. "I think the data give an incomplete picture."

►IN FAIRNESS OR CONFUSION - The statistics quoted in this report give Crenshaw High School, (singled out by Senator Steinberg above) a Dropout Rate of 6.5%; Steinberg says the Graduation Rate is 56.9%. Apples and oranges.
•The Dropout Rate is the percentage of students who drop out in a single year.
•The Graduation Rate is the percentage of 9th graders who graduate four years later.
All these statistics miscount things like kids who leave but continue their education elsewhere (including those who go to charters or move to another school, school district or state, kids who turn 18 and go to community college, take five years to graduate, etc.) The state is supposed to be developing a program to actually track individual students, but the system implementation is running late due to software problems - and the governor quietly eliminated the funding in the budget. Why fix it when you can complain about it? - smf

▲Link to the Report and Data

by Victoria Kim and Janet Wilson | Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

February 22, 2008 - Susan Hartley knows exactly where the now-shuttered Hallmark meat plant is: The high-walled compound sits just six blocks from her office. But until 143 million pounds of beef from the company were recalled this week, the Chino Valley Unified School District food director had no idea some of the beef served in her cafeterias came from the old dairy cows slaughtered just around the corner.

Officials at Chino and other school districts around the country have little clue where the food supplied through the National School Lunch Program comes from. After this week's largest-ever recall of beef -- nearly 50 million pounds of which went to schools nationwide -- officials are nervous about the quality of the U.S. Department of Agriculture food that they have no choice but to trust.

"Schools are really held hostage," said Mark Coplan, spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District, which spent five years weaning itself from the subsidized-food system that daily serves free or reduced-price lunches to 30 million low-income children. "They offer you pennies per child, . . and you are forced to spend those pennies on frozen products that subsidize the farmers, the meatpackers and meat producers."

USDA officials say that the health risks posed by the recalled beef are "very, very remote" and that good quality beef is served through the school lunch program.

Janet Riley, spokeswoman with the American Meat Institute, said there was no evidence the meat from the Chino plant was unsafe and disputed assertions that ground beef sold to schools though the federal program was unsafe or of inferior quality. "That is patently false," Riley said.

"We feed a lot of children, so I don't expect my children to eat filet mignon during lunch, and they'd rather have a hamburger anyway," she said. "We're obviously feeding a lot of children subsidized lunches, so we're trying to make sure we do that in a cost-effective, safe manner."

Half of the food served by the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest in the country, comes from the USDA program, which buys in bulk from lowest-bid processors. Critics say the system attracts large-scale industrial operations that are likely to cut corners to provide cheap beef.

"Those by design are not producing high-quality products. It's all about efficiency," said Moira Beery, a program manager with Occidental College who works with Los Angeles area schools to get them to use better quality, local produce.

Hallmark/Westland Meat in Chino bought cheap dairy cows and processed most of them into ground beef, which does not get a USDA grade and tends to be the catchall for scraps and less lucrative cuts of meat.

Chino has one of the largest concentrations of dairy cattle in the U.S., with 250,000 on about 100 farms. After three to five years, when a cow is no longer producing milk, it is sold to a slaughterhouse like Hallmark.

Truck drivers supplying cattle to Hallmark often said that the sickly dairy cows used there would be rejected at most other slaughterhouses, an animal-rights activist who worked undercover said in an interview with The Times.

Video footage released last month by the Humane Society showed workers using electric prods, forklifts and high-pressure hoses to force weak and sick cattle to their feet so they could be slaughtered. Cattle that cannot walk are banned from human food out of concerns of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease.

Authorities said Thursday that 20 million pounds of the suspect beef that went to schools had been consumed, 15 million pounds were on hold and 15 million pounds were still being traced. The USDA will take action against Westland to try to get it to pay the cost of the national recall, officials said.

Kenneth Clayton, associate administrator for the Agricultural Marketing Service, the USDA arm that administers the lunch program, said meat suppliers have to meet stringent standards. Carcasses need to be rinsed in acid, treated with steam and tested for bacteria at three stages: as carcass, as chunks of meat and during the grinding process. About 10 suppliers of ground beef who meet these criteria compete for contracts with the school lunch program.

But Beery said that means "we've come to accept that our food system requires things like acid-washing meat. . . . I don't think that is the food that we want to be serving our kids," Beery said.

Schools receive about 17 cents worth of commodities and $2.47 in cash per free lunch served. After labor and distribution costs, roughly a dollar is spent on purchasing food for a students' lunch, advocates say.

The USDA paid $1.48 to $1.55 per pound of ground beef, similar to the average wholesale price of lean ground beef.

Food services directors at the state's largest school districts in the state said they had believed USDA commodities to be of good quality.

"We do rely upon the USDA much like consumers do when they go to the supermarket, so it is disconcerting that this could occur," said Chris Eftychiou, spokesman for the Long Beach Unified District, the second-largest school district in the state.

Concerned about nutrition, Berkeley Unified officials decided about five years ago to scrap their heavy dependence on the frozen beef patties, plastic-wrapped cheese and other longtime staples of cafeteria school lunches. They now make lunch from scratch every day for all children who want it in the 9,000-student district. That includes the 37% who qualify for subsidized school lunches.

"We don't serve a scrap of federal school program commodities on our menus," said Coplan. "Most of that food is full of fat, full of cholesterol. . . . Our concern is childhood diabetes and obesity."

There are now salad bars at every public school, and fresh juice and trail mix bars have replaced soda and candy bars; pizza made with organically grown whole-wheat flour and as many locally grown products as possible has replaced the once ubiquitous hamburgers and pepperoni pizza as the school lunch favorite.

The district had to supplement its federal lunch funds with $1 million from its annual budget of about $100 million.

Chino officials said they don't see how they could afford the Berkeley approach in a district where nearly half of the 33,000 students qualify for a federally funded school lunch.

But state and federal inspectors have also looked askance at the program, saying they could not certify fresh salad ingredients as safe, for instance. Frozen meat and other commodities are regularly tested and are far easier to certify as safe, they told the local district.

A study published in 1996 in Johns Hopkins University's Epidemiological Reviews exploring how deadly Escherichia coli might enter the U.S. food supply found that "when the product was finally . . . made into hamburgers, it was nearly impossible to say which cattle, or even how many, went into the patties."

The researchers found that a single lot of beef at a large commercial meat packer came from as many as 11 sources in four states. In another case, they found that meat possibly tied to a large, 1993 E. coli outbreak in the West came from as many as 443 animals, which had come from six states through five slaughterhouses.

In Chino, school district officials this week were filling in the order sheet for next year's USDA commodities and crossing their fingers.

"I hope this is just one place. I hope it's not everywhere. I hope the others all follow the guidelines," district spokeswoman Julie Gobin said.

▲ 4LAKIDS 2¢: LAUSD has approximately 11,000 cases of beef and products made from beef with the dreaded USDA vendor code EST336 from Hallmark in it's recalled inventory, each case weighing ten to twenty pounds depending on what it is. All this product will be incinerated and the costs of the recall and destruction paid for by the feds. The meat itself comes to the school district for free - it will probably be replaced. There is no firm word yet as to whether the USDA or the meatpacker will reimburse the district for the cost of preparing and processing the meat (forming into patties or incorporating into products for sale. - smf

by Dr. Joe Harrop | Red Bluff CA Daily News

February 23, 2008 - There has been a lot of public education news recently, both in Red Bluff and elsewhere. In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, David Brooks touted a serious national effort on education. In France, a country with ambivalent feelings about its relations with Jewish people since at least the Dreyfus Affair over a century ago, our new ally, Nicolas Sarkosy, proposed a revision of the Holocaust Education programs amidst great controversy.

The California Dropout Research Project proclaimed the statewide dropout rate in 2005-2006 was 3.5 percent, a figure far lower than that most would have estimated.

Meanwhile, in the Red Bluff Daily News, Jennifer Stillwell, a sophomore at Red Bluff High School opined that the California High School Exit Exam, CAHSEE, was really, well, "cheesy." And lastly, the local high school board took the first steps toward becoming more involved in football play calling.

Public education is the essence of politics, whether you consider the high school exit exam, football issues, or the No Child Left Behind program. The oft quoted, but seldom read Greek, Aristotle said - I use a paraphrase by Lawrence Cremin on this - that it is impossible to talk about education apart from a conception of the good life; since people will always differ about what consists of the good life, they will differ in regard to education, and therefore, education falls squarely within the domain of politics.

In assessing the state of our nation in its January-February issue, The Atlantic Monthly featured an article by Matt Miller of the Center for American Progress, titled "First Kill All the School Boards." We all remember what Mark Twain said about school boards: "First God created idiots. That was for practice. Then He created school boards."

Both Brooks and Miller would want to have a stronger federal role in education, with high standards and more local flexibility in providing education. Miller would like a national education system; he claims that in many other countries this is the way it is done, and then he points out that continuing to spend the large amounts we do on education and having mediocre results when compared to other countries is unrealistic.

Mark Tucker of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce asks this question: "If we have the second-most expensive K-12 system of all those measured by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, but consistently perform between the middle and bottom of the pack, should we examine the systems of countries that spend less and get better results?"

Miller emphasizes that school boards spend too much time on micro-management and personnel decisions and not enough on establishing standards and maintaining accountability. He would do away with local control.

The United States has a very diverse population; its geography is vast; it has a history of immigration from Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Each wave of immigration was met with a breakwater to lessen the impact of that wave; the "Irish need not apply" signs all over Boston at one time is only one example. Eventually the melting pot of opportunity created the American stew that we celebrate with pride.

We rely on a unique form of government to hold all of us together, and it requires an active and informed electorate. To maintain our republic, provide continuity, and assure balance, it is important we have as much in common as possible. A core curriculum in our public education system can provide that. A common understanding of who we are, where we came from, and what our aspirations are helps keep the ship of state from veering too far off its course. However, establishing just what knowledge we should hold in common becomes very political.

I have a copy of the 1893 California Education Code; it is 140 pages including the title page, the table of contents, the code, an index, and a list of the current county superintendents of schools. Belle Miller held that position in Tehama County in 1893. The current version of the education code states that it is a permissive code; however, the index is far thicker than the 1893 volume. In fact there are over 100,000 numbered sections to the code!

The CAHSEE is clearly not a real exit exam; it is a minimal standard. Ms. Stillwell is correct to state that for motivated, competent students it is almost a waste of time. When I was in high school, and yes there were high schools in those days, many of our students dropped out at 16, when they could legally leave school. Now we require education until completion of the 12th grade or age 18.

In our schools, we pride ourselves on the myriad of programs we provide to keep students in school, and Red Bluff High has ample reason for pride in its programs. It has done an outstanding job to work with a large spectrum of students. (4LAKids adds: API 690, down 7 points from the previous year, percent of students scoring Proficient or Above: 53.5% - roughly equivalent to Taft High School) )

In California, we have an extensive community college system that provides second chance opportunity to students who did not do well in high school. While this is very good, other countries have more efficient systems that provide vocational education to those who do not qualify for a more academic program; decisions about who goes to which program is made an a far earlier age than a self-selection process permits.

With the growth of service sector jobs, the aging of our population, the globalization of trade, and the decline of manufacturing in our economy, our schools need to prepare students for a world different world from that my generation was prepared to face. Some of the basic skills and knowledge are the same, but some will be different; high standards for both academic and vocational classes will produce both a well-informed electorate and skilled employees.

The debate over local control versus a larger more unified system will play out in op-ed pieces, academic arenas, and newspapers. It will be fueled by decisions made by those in local control.


About the author: Dr. Joe Harrop is a retired educator with over 30 years of service to the North State.


EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Monday Feb 25, 2008
Ceremony starts at 10:00 a.m.
Valley Region Elementary School #7
7650 N. Ben Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91605

Tuesday Feb 26, 2008
CENTRAL L.A. NEW LEARNING CENTER #1 (Ambassador): Construction Update Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Berendo Middle School
1157 S. Berendo Street
Los Angeles, CA 90006

Tuesday Feb 26, 2008
VALLEY REGION SPAN K-8 #2: Pre-Design Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Germain Elementary School - Auditorium
20730 Germain St.
Chatsworth, CA 91311

Wednesday Feb 27, 2008
Ceremony starts at 10:00 a.m.
Valley Region Elementary School #9
6900 N. Calhoun Ave.
Van Nuys, CA 91405

Wednesday Feb 27, 2008
GRATTS NEW PRIMARY CENTER: Pre-Construction Meeting
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Gratts Elementary School
309 Lucas Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Thursday Feb 28, 2008
CENTRAL REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #20: Site Selection Update Meeting
6 p.m.
Virgil Middle School - Auditorium
152 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004

Thursday Feb 28, 2008
SOUTH REGION MIDDLE SCHOOL #3: Presentation of Recommended Preferred Site
6:00 p.m.
Walnut Park Elementary School
2642 Olive St.
Huntington Park, CA 90255

Thursday Feb 28, 2008
VALLEY REGION BLYTHE ES ADDITION: CEQA Scoping and Schematic Design Meeting
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Blythe Elementary School - Auditorium
18730 Blythe St.
Reseda, CA 91335

*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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