Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Rainy Day Fund in the Eye of the Pefect Storm

4LAKids: Sunday, Sept 21, 2008
In This Issue:
CALIFORNIA'S COSTLY BUDGET: The state finally has a budget, but Californians paid a high price in money and faith in their lawmakers.
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: an investment we can't afford to cut! - The Education Coalition Website
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.
Oh, a storm is threatening
my very life today.
If I don't get some shelter
oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away
—Mick & Keith

I'm a fan of non-traditional non-fiction writing; how could I not be? I may misinterpret it sometimes, but I don't make this stuff up!

There is a part of Sebastian Junger's "A Perfect Storm" that describes in the idiom of fiction the simultaneous occurrence of meteorological phenomena that became the title killer storm. There is much the same kind of writing in "The Hot Zone", as Richard Preston describes the mutation of the virus and the African genesis of the Ebola Plague. And the first chapter of Michener's "Hawai'i" is as good as writing gets — describing the volcanic birth of the islands and how the first seeds arrived on the rocks and grew to be greenest place imaginable, a triumph of nature and of fiction unpopulated by man.

Junger's 'Perfect Storm' - the 1991 Hurricane Grace/Halloween Nor'easter hybrid - has become a much abused metaphor - Wikipedia reports the phrase was awarded the top prize by Lake Superior State University in their 2007 list of words that deserve to be banned for overuse.

However the expression exquisitely describes the concurrent convergence of events to amplify the consequences, it’s an allegory too apropos to discard just yet.

THE FIRST EVENT IS THE ECONOMY: what "Bad Money" author/economist Kevin Phillips describes as the "Las Vega-ization" of the formerly staid mortgage banking and investment system - with every dollar: yours, mine, the pension fund's and the Chinese'; earned, borrowed and lent, – leveraged, packaged and leveraged again in a scheme to make Signore Ponzi blush — with the risk concentrated in Wall Street and spread to Main Street by institutions who knew better. Securities aren’t, and 'illiquidity' has become a word o' th' moment. Last Sunday Alan Greenspan, once the guru and now the goat of this economic cycle, predicted there was more to come. And as the week rolled on: Fannie, Freddy, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, AIG, the Big Bail Out – he was proved correct on a daily basis.

THE SECOND EVENT IS THE STATE BUDGET: a colossal mess, complicated by the above and by partisan politics in what the governor declared to be the 'post-partisan' age. But it was supposed to be the 'Year of Education' too. And Russia is no longer a threat.

The long playing budget debacle played out, ended, was resurrected and ended again this week - in a 'compromise' in some sort of twisted Victorian meaning of the word. i.e.: the maiden was 'compromised' by the biker gang. - the storm is all around us and the inaction figure governor clings to his rainy day fund.

The State PTA has declared this budget "not good enough for California’s children or for California’s future" — yet for all the hand-wringing the show of fairness at the end was political posturing. The Republicans held their 'no new taxes' line and as an education advocate and a lifelong Democrat I can only observe that education was sold out by Democrats in a bizarre show of Jell-O-like solidarity. I suppose they figure we won't vote the entire slate of rascals out in November - and I suppose they're right.

Already we are hearing that things will be worse next year. You can bank on it - if there still are any banks next year.

THE THIRD EVENT IS THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. It seems like it will never end, but in truth it does end on November 4th -. It will be decided six weeks and two days from today in the voting booth – or in the Supreme Court soon thereafter. (See "If elected…" below)

All politics being local, THE FOURTH EVENT - the figurative small boat sailing into the maelstrom - IS LOCAL POLITICS. On November 4th there will be lots of other issues on the ballot, including our own local school bond: Measure Q: $6 Billion over the next ten years to continue the school building and modernization efforts already well begun.

There are lots of Q's about Q …and not enough A's.

It hasn't been reported in the media anywhere but last week the Bond Oversight Committee voted to support Measure Q. That’s not extraordinary, the BOC has voted to support all the recent Bonds: K, R and Y. We voted unanimously for all of those; Q was supported 4 to 3.

• While the Facilities Division and the District has done an excellent job so far, the Board of Education has not lived up to promises made to the voters in Measure Y about compensation for building program managers - this has made senior positions hard to fill and has forced the District to employ consultants in jobs that should be held by direct employees.
• The Board has refused to promise to build new bond-funded charter schools to the Field Act earthquake standards – reserving the right to investigate and possibly pursue other less expensive (and by extension less safe) options. • Studies have shown that Field Act structures have a much higher survivability than structures built to the Uniform Building Code (UBC). • Field Act structures serve as post disaster relief shelters by design - not a requirement of UBC buildings. • Per the Charter School Act of 1992 charter schools financed with private money are built to the UBC, this in itself creates two unequal levels of safety for traditional v. charter schoolchildren. • Conversely (or perhaps perversely) the Private Schools Act of 1990 requires Field Act protection for all new private school construction. • Remember: Charter Schools ARE Public Schools; operationally funded with taxpayer's dollars. • And sooner or later there will be an earthquake. [see:]
• There are questions as to whether the allocation of funds to specific projects conforms to the legal requirements of the Prop 39/ 55% bond. The legal precedent says: "a list of projects submitted to the voters must be specific enough that the voters know what it is they are voting for and the auditors know how to evaluate the district’s performance." I'm not convinced that standard is met.
• It would've been preferable to go for the money in better-defined/smaller bites - in quieter times. The District has a documented long term need for $60 Billion in Improvements and Repairs — though $7 Billion over ten years is a lot of money it may not be enough.

Do not make too much about my lack of support for the BOC resolution on the Q Bond; my objection is to process, not need or the ability to deliver. I will vote YES on Q on Nov 4th - as should you - but I will watch the expenditure and the District and the Board of Education …and anyone who would help spend the money - like a hawk! And I ask that each and every one of you do the same. Watch for things like Boardmember Galatzan describes in her article ("Is the Board Being Bypassed…" below). In the end there are-and-will-be babes in the schools; in the new schools we build, in the old schools we fix up – in the charter schools and the preschools.

AND SO THE FOUR EVENTS CONVERGE. Perhaps the convergence will be harmonic, and perhaps it will not matter. From engineering we know that harmonics themselves can lead to failure.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

The Devil in the Details: The Field Act and Related Legislation/Comparison of the Field Act & Uniform Building Code + The Field Act: History & Issues

CALIFORNIA'S COSTLY BUDGET: The state finally has a budget, but Californians paid a high price in money and faith in their lawmakers.
LA Times Editorial

September 20, 2008 - It's not over. The 2008-09 state budget is so late, and so lame, that it won't really be finalized until next year -- if then. Its passage Friday and expected signature by the governor early next week provide some relief to the clinics that were about to close for lack of state reimbursements, and for employees wondering how to get by on emergency pay lower than the state minimum wage. But the reprieve is simply a brief intermission. Work begins immediately on the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2009, and nothing in the spending plan passed this week will result in a more timely or responsible budget next year.

In fact, the 2009-10 plan will rest less on a solid foundation than on crossed fingers -- that the economy will recover more quickly than even the most hopeful forecasters believe, that voters will accept a plan to securitize the state lottery, and that the lottery move will produce the very optimistic figures that the governor's finance staff is banking on.

Two key differences separate the end-of-the-week budget from the one Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger threatened to veto a few days earlier. One is undoubtedly a step forward -- or, rather, a reversal of a step backward. The budget is no longer balanced on borrowing from taxpayers in the form of early withholding. Instead, money will (the budgeteers hope) come from increased penalties on corporations that underpay their taxes. There's a qualitative difference between taking money from Californians who did nothing wrong and penalizing anyone -- in this case, corporations -- for failing to pay what they owe.

'Rainy day' reserve

The second difference is Schwarzenegger's coup -- a set of changes he calls "budget reform." For the people of California, it's a mixed bag. Three percent of the budget will automatically be deposited into a "rainy day" fund and can't be taken out except when revenues fall below the projected spending level. Though the governor failed to impose the spending caps he floated earlier this year, the Legislature's ability to respond to some of the state's deepest problems will be compromised by the rainy day fund. It's hard, though, to stand up for protecting lawmakers' discretion, given their poor performance on the budget this year.

How poor? They were supposed to complete the budget by June 15. They set a record, missing the mark by a full fiscal quarter, and in the process cost the state millions of dollars by, for example, blowing the chance to get parts of the budget that need voter approval onto the Nov. 4 presidential ballot and forcing a special election next year. Tax revenue was also lost from businesses that slowed down because they depend on state contracts. Perhaps worse than the lost money is the lost faith of citizens in their representatives' ability to manage the state.

Among the other losers, count Schwarzenegger's vaunted post-partisanship. He began his second term with an appeal to Democrats and his own Republicans to set aside their partisan differences to accomplish great things for the state. But in doing so, he alienated GOP lawmakers and undermined his power to wrangle votes from his party for a compromise budget. Post-partisanship remains an intriguing goal, but this year -- like last year -- it backfired on the governor.

Democrats too lost big. They are the majority party in the Assembly and the Senate, and they can pass bills without so much as a by-your-leave from Republicans. But that counts for nothing at budget time, when they need GOP votes to help them muster two-thirds of each house.

Democrats believed they could outmaneuver their rivals across the aisle by emphasizing education and asking Republican voters to pressure their representatives to do something -- like agree to tax increases -- to save funding for public schools. It didn't work. New Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) did fend off deeper cuts to education, transportation, foster care and other programs, but her inability to move Republicans from their no-taxes, no-way stance weakens her as she goes into the coming budget year. Outgoing Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland), for all his experience in Sacramento, fared no better.

In California's upside-down budget world, where majority power and willingness to cross party lines are signs of feebleness, the winners continue to be the state's Republican lawmakers. They cling to just over a third of the Assembly and the Senate, yet they are able to drive the budget by their willingness to say no. Every day that the state is unable to pay its bills, Republican lawmakers win short-term gains in reducing the power of government. In the long term, though, they damage their own fleeting reputations as guardians of fiscal prudence.

In the end, of course, the biggest losers are Californians, who once boasted the best-run state government in the nation. Now they are caught in indecision about which way to go -- cut back on their demands for state services or ante up with new taxes for high-quality government. Their punishment comes in budget years like this one and ballot measures that ask them to tweak here, reform there, and hope everything works out in the end. It is an endless loop, and it will bring us a 2009 special election, in March or June, to manage problems that Sacramento could not deal with in this budget. See you next year.

If Elected ... Education
This NY Times series examines how the presidential candidates would handle the issues they would confront as president.
NOTE: Senator Obama’s two daughters do not attend Chicago public schools.

by Sam Dillon | NY Times | Published: September 9, 2008

CHICAGO — Senator Barack Obama learned how hard it can be to solve America’s public education problems when he headed a philanthropic drive here a decade ago that spent $150 million on Chicago’s troubled schools and barely made a dent.

Drawing on that experience, Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, is campaigning on an ambitious plan that promises $18 billion a year in new federal spending on early childhood classes, teacher recruitment, performance pay and dozens of other initiatives.

In Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday, Mr. Obama used his education proposals to draw a contrast with Senator John McCain, his Republican opponent, and to insist to voters that he, more than his rival, would change the way Washington works.

Were he to become president, Mr. Obama would retain the emphasis on the high standards and accountability of President Bush’s education law, No Child Left Behind. But he would rewrite the federal law to offer more help to high-need schools, especially by training thousands of new teachers to serve in them, his campaign said. He would also expand early childhood education, which he believes gets more bang for the buck than remedial classes for older students.

Mr. Obama added a new flourish to his stump speech, promising for the first time on Tuesday to double federal spending on public charter schools while holding those with poor records accountable.

But more than most campaign blueprints, Mr. Obama’s education plan reflects his own work with Chicago’s public schools, campaign staff members and people who have worked with him said in interviews. His plan signals that he is looking to apply those lessons nationwide.

“Barack has been very engaged, very inquisitive about the dynamics of how do you improve public schools,” said Scott Smith, a former publisher of The Chicago Tribune who has collaborated with Mr. Obama on education projects here for a decade.

One of the biggest lessons Mr. Obama drew from his experiences in Chicago, associates said, is that student achievement is highly dependent on teacher quality.

In the two decades since Mr. Obama arrived in Chicago, its public schools have undergone a sweeping turnaround, from an education wasteland to a district that, while still facing major challenges, is among the most improved in the nation. The city has closed many failing schools and reopened them with new staffs, making it an important laboratory for one of the country’s most vexing problems.

The city closed the failing Dodge Elementary School, for example, in 2002 and reopened it as an academy where candidates for advanced degrees in education work in classrooms under master teachers while studying at a local university. Mr. Obama visited the school in 2005, liked what he saw and now proposes to create 200 such teacher residency programs nationwide. The goal, he says, would be to turn out 30,000 teachers a year to work in the toughest schools.

Mr. Obama’s views have drawn heavily from a cast of experts who helped mold the Chicago experience. Strategies for overhauling failing schools have come from Arne Duncan, who as chief executive of the Chicago public schools led the turnaround efforts. The senator derived his views on early childhood education in part from the work of a Nobel Prize-winning economist based in Chicago.

The scope of Mr. Obama’s plan has impressed many educators, but not everyone.

Michael J. Petrilli, a former Education Department official under Mr. Bush, said Mr. Obama’s plan was more comprehensive than Mr. McCain’s.

“That’s because Obama is proposing what somebody called a Christmas tree of new programs,” Mr. Petrilli said. “McCain is suggesting a couple of new things, but doesn’t think Washington should spend more on education than we already are.”

Mr. Obama’s interest in education extends back to his work as a community organizer here in the mid-1980s. In his memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” he describes a school system plagued by textbook shortages and teacher strikes. He carried those experiences with him to Harvard Law School, where he took courses on school issues taught by Christopher Edley Jr.

“Barack became committed to the notion that progress in school reform can’t come through volunteerism and professional aspiration alone,” said Mr. Edley, now dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley. “It has to be undergirded with a legal and regulatory structure that rewards success and goes after failure.”

Mr. Obama immersed himself in education issues after his return to Chicago, where he began lecturing at the University of Chicago Law School and joined the boards of two education foundations.

Chicago received $49 million from a $500 million endowment by Walter H. Annenberg, the billionaire publisher, for school reform efforts nationwide, and the city added $98 million in matching funds for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a philanthropic campaign that financed enrichment projects at a third of the city’s 600 schools.

Mr. Obama was nominated to the Challenge board and was elected chairman in 1995, said Ken Rolling, executive director of the group, which operated through 2001. Mr. Obama continued to teach law during his five-year unpaid tenure as board chairman, and he was twice elected to the Illinois Senate.

Several board members, including two university presidents, far outranked Mr. Obama in education experience.

“Let me say the room had no shortage of egos, including my own,” said Stanley O. Ikenberry, a board member who at the time was president of the University of Illinois. “It was unusual: here you had a person trained in the law chairing a board on school reform.” Still, he said, Mr. Obama won his colleagues’ respect.

Supporters of Mr. McCain have been trying to taint Mr. Obama by highlighting his ties to William Ayers, a member of the violent Weather Underground in the 1960s, by pointing out that they worked on the Challenge project together. Mr. Ayers was indicted on conspiracy charges that were later thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct.

Mr. Obama has acknowledged that he is a friend of Mr. Ayers but has sought to minimize their interactions. Records show that Mr. Ayers, now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, helped write the Challenge proposal. The records also show that he and Mr. Obama worked on the Challenge project together and that they attended some of the same meetings.

The Challenge’s overall approach — supporting many diverse education projects rather than a coordinated school improvement strategy — had been established before Mr. Obama was named board chairman, and the board came under immediate pressure to approve grant proposals quickly.

“If you throw $10 on the table in Chicago, people are going to fight over it, and we had $50 million,” Mr. Rolling recalled.

Proposals poured in and the board eventually financed projects involving 210 schools. Some were imaginative: one, for example, connected schools with museums in the Chicago area so that students learned science from a paleontologist at the local dinosaur exhibit. But many were not.

“The project proposals by and large were awful,” one board member told an evaluation team in 1998.

Relations with school authorities were difficult. Just as the Challenge got under way, the Illinois Legislature gave Mayor Richard M. Daley control of the school district, and he began an improvement campaign based on high-stakes testing and other measures. Annenberg’s let-a-thousand-flowers-bloom approach often seemed at cross-purposes with that strategy.

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said the reading and math scores of the lowest-achieving students improved in the years when the Challenge was investing in the Chicago schools.

But a final report on the Challenge concluded that the huge effort had brought little change.

“The Challenge’s ‘bottom line’ was improving student achievement,” the report said. “Among the schools it supported, the Challenge had little impact on student outcomes.”

But the experience gave Mr. Obama an appreciation for the multiple problems facing urban schools, Mr. Rolling said. The city has been a pioneer ever since in exploring ways to recruit, train and support teachers.

This has been especially true since leadership of the city schools passed in 2001 to Mr. Duncan, a friend of and sounding board for Mr. Obama. The two also frequently play basketball.

Mr. Duncan accompanied Mr. Obama on his visit in 2005 to the Dodge school, now the Dodge Renaissance Academy, on the West Side of Chicago. After the school’s makeover, student scores rose significantly, and Mr. Obama wanted to know why.

The two men arrived with no entourage and sat down with the staff in a library. Mr. Obama asked about the best way to train teachers, according to those who participated. What would it take to keep qualified teachers from leaving the profession? Would merit pay help? “He wasn’t checking his Palm Pilot,” recalled Karla Kemp, a teacher.

Mr. Obama has brought a similar intensity to discussions of early childhood education, on which he proposes to spend $10 billion a year. A Chicago expert who has influenced his thinking on this is the Nobel laureate, James J. Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago. Mr. Obama’s plan cites Dr. Heckman in connection with research that found that for every dollar spent on prekindergarten education and the care of infants and their families, there is a $7 to $10 decrease in spending on special education, remedial education and prisons.

The two men have never met, even though they live so close to each other in the Kenwood neighborhood that they use the same dry cleaner and it occasionally sends Mr. Obama’s suit coats to Dr. Heckman’s home.

Last year, when Mr. Obama started his presidential campaign and began preparing his education plan, an assistant to Mr. Obama contacted Dr. Heckman and asked him to react to an early draft of the early childhood plan.

“I completely redrafted the section,” Dr. Heckman said. “Most striking about the campaign was that they listened to what I said.”

Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Dayton, Ohio.

►If Elected… McCAIN CALLS FOR LIMITED U.S. ROLE IN EDUCATION: In comparison to Senator Barack Obama’s education plan, Senator John McCain’s is downright terse.

by Sam Dillon | NY Times
If Elected ... Education - This series examines how the presidential candidates would handle the issues they would confront as president.

NOTE: None of Senator McCain’s children attended public schools.

September 10, 2008 -- Among his short list of initiatives, Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, includes bonus pay for teachers who raise student achievement or who take jobs in hard-to-staff schools, an expansion of after-school tutoring, and new federal support for online schools and for the voucher program in Washington, D.C.

The brevity of Mr. McCain’s plan reflects his view that the federal government should play a limited role in public education, and his commitment to holding the line on education spending, said Lisa Graham Keegan, a McCain adviser and former Arizona education commissioner.

“Education is obviously not the issue Senator McCain spends the most time on,” Ms. Keegan said, adding that his plan’s limited scope should not be interpreted as a lack of commitment to education and school reform. “He’s been a quiet and consistent supporter of parents and educators who he thinks are making a difference.”

Mr. McCain would make it easier for students in failing schools to get taxpayer-financed after-school tutoring by private companies. Under President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, students at schools that have repeatedly missed testing goals are eligible, but few parents nationwide have taken advantage of those services. That is because, in Mr. McCain’s view, local school districts often set up a cumbersome process for certifying the tutors and do a poor job of getting the word out to parents.

Under Mr. McCain’s plan, the federal government would certify tutoring companies, letting them market directly to parents.

Both the McCain and Obama plans acknowledge that the No Child Left Behind law has helped the nation focus on closing the achievement gap between minorities and whites, but they also promise changes to the law without offering many specifics. And both are silent on the law’s deadline requiring that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

Both plans also propose performance pay initiatives. Mr. McCain would reallocate 60 percent of the $3 billion in current federal spending on teacher quality programs to finance direct payments to “high-performing teachers” who take jobs in high-needs schools and to those who improve achievement.

Mr. Obama’s plan would offer federal financing to districts that negotiate performance pay programs with teachers unions. It would allow bonuses for veteran teachers who help novice colleagues as well as those who teach in hard-to-staff schools or demonstrate high levels of performance.

Both national teachers unions have endorsed Mr. Obama, and last month, Mr. McCain painted him as a pawn, saying he “continues to defer to the teachers unions instead of committing to real reform.” But there is little in Mr. Obama’s record to suggest such deference. Many union members bitterly oppose all performance pay schemes, even those that, as in Mr. Obama’s plan, are negotiated with teachers.

In July 2007, when Mr. Obama addressed an annual convention of the National Education Association, some union members booed him. He repeated his proposal at this year’s convention in July, and was booed.

IF ELECTED: Complete articles with photos and graphics.

• A Note from the Board Member from the Galatzan Gazette
by Boardmember Tamar Galatzan

September 19, 2008 -- The laudable goal of training District employees to run the new computer system has been periodically compromised by expensive consultant contracts that are presented to the Board. The most recent example occurred at our meeting of September 9, when my colleagues and I were asked to approve a contract in excess of 2 million dollars to EPI-USE, a company that supplies experts to train LAUSD staff on the SAP system.

As Board members discovered a scant few days before the vote, $249,000 had already been allocated to EPI-USE without our knowledge. Although District rules stipulate that the Board only ratifies contracts of more than $250,000, in this case the sum was part of a much larger allocation of money. Compounding my frustration, the Board never seems to get a clear answer as to when, or if, the work will be turned over entirely to LAUSD information technology specialists.

There have not been any reports back to the Board on the success of previous consulting contracts for staff training. We are now hearing talk that the District will need to purchase several more upgrades of SAP, each of them requiring outside consultants to provide assistance and training.

In the end, I could not justify approving the money for EPI-USE. I cast the lone "no" vote; Board Member Richard Vladovic abstained. I will continue to oppose any of these contracts that have either been partially implemented or do not offer a clear path to self-sufficiency.

A bad deal is a bad deal, regardless of whether the purpose is sound.

●●smf's 2¢: When the contract limit for board approval is $250,000. and contracts are being awarded for $249,000. it seems to indicate a possible 'end around' the board rule. When multiple contracts are awarded to the same vendor it becomes a pattern from a bad playbook.

$250,000., gentle readers, is what we used to call "a quarter of a million dollars" in the old days — about the cost it takes today pay three teachers for a year .

The pattern of paying vendors to fix the same problem with a multiple contracts moves from "hide the ball" to "waste, fraud and abuse" pretty darn fast. "Sixty Minutes" will be shown in its entirety immediately after the game, except on the west coast when it will be aired at its regular time.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education
is proud to announce

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sponsored by Secretary of State Debra Bowen
and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell

To encourage students to be active voters once they are old enough to cast a ballot, Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell are inviting high school and middle school students, teachers and principals to participate in the MyVote California Student Mock Election, which takes place on Thursday, October 30, 2008, only a few days before California’s November 4 Presidential General Election.

The MyVote California Student Mock Election is a civic engagement project designed to help young people discover the importance of elections and the power of their vote in our democracy. It gives high school and middle school students firsthand experience with the electoral process by giving them a chance to make their voices heard on the candidates and issues of importance to them and their families.

This fall, the MyVote California Student Mock Election will tap into the excitement of the presidential election with a Student Mock Election to be held on Thursday, October 30, less than one week before California’s November 4, 2008, General Election. With engaging lesson plans and activities chosen by MyVote California Student Mock Election partner the California Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, teachers will have the tools they need to help their students become informed and involved voters in 2008 and beyond.

to receive free materials by mail!

After September 19, schools may register and print materials from the website.



HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
Sept 19 - The Budget, The Economy, The War, The School District, The Election
Forget them. Today's International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

SEVENTH GRADER SHINES WITH SOLAR CELL RESEARCH: William Yuan won a $25,000 scholarship for his graduate level work
Sep 11, 2008 [Updated Sep 16, 2008] -- William Yuan’s bright idea to create a new, more efficient solar cell earned him top honors as Oregon’s only 2008 Davidson Fellow.
As part of the honor, the 12-year-old Bethany boy will be flown to Washington, D.C., for a reception Sept. 24 at the Library of Congress where he will receive his award and a $25,000 scholarship from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.

First Stop for 'My First Vote' Tour is North Hollywood HS
Thursday, 18 September 2008 -- A bus stopping at North Hollywood High School Wednesday isn't so unusual, but Wednesday morning, a bus with a message for students to "Express Yourself" about the upcoming election is encouraging students to think about voting, campaigns and the political process. North Hollywood High School was the first stop.

Sept 18. 2008 -- Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers union have reached an impasse in their latest contract talks and are calling in an outside mediator, after the district declined to offer a salary increase, district and union officials said Wednesday.
Once a state board officially confirms that an impasse exists, a mediator will be called in by October to help the talks.

Sept 17, 2008 -- Los Angeles Unified officials received a shock at a crowded meeting Monday to discuss plans for a new elementary school in Playa Vista: Residents love it.
It's on the perfect site and it will make Playa Vista more complete, they said.
They want it to open as soon as possible.
"We don't get this a lot," said LAUSD development team manager Susan Cline, to laughter.

TEACHING KIDS A FINANCIAL LESSON: Recent upheavals provide a dramatic backdrop for the launch of a U.S. Treasury program to educate children about credit.
September 16, 2008 -- See Sally. See Sally run from the bank. Run Sally run.
In the midst of one of the worst banking crises in decades, the U.S. Treasury Department today will launch a long-planned program to teach young Americans about credit and other financial matters.
The theme of the campaign: "Don't let your credit put you in a bad place."

TESTING OF SPECIAL ED STUDENTS SHOULD BE RE-EXAMINED: Almost half of children with special needs failed their high school exit exam this year. Legislation calls for identifying new ways to assess performance and devising new methods.


Day 81+: SENATE PASSES BUDGET …AND THE ASSEMBLY TOO (meaning also and again) But the clock is still ticking until the Governor signs and The Lege decides to do nothing about the inevitable line item vetoes.
Day 81: SCHWARZENEGGER: “A budget deal, but not structural change” + “Special election in '09”
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told a Capitol press conference this afternoon that the budget the Legislature will consider tonight is "an improvement" over earlier versions, but still fails to solve California's structural financial problems.

Schwarzenegger: Special election in '09
After three elections in 2008, California voters better start gearing up for another election in 2009.

State's Top Education Leaders Urge Everyone to JOIN THE PTA!
SACRAMENTO, CA- California’s top education leaders, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and Secretary of Education David Long, today called on parents, teachers, and administrators to join the PTA.

80 Days 16 Hours 51 Minutes: BUDGET STANDOFF OVER - Governor and lawmakers agree on spending plan
(09-18) 16:51 PDT SACRAMENTO -- California's longest-ever budget standoff ended this afternoon when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders struck a deal, avoiding the governor's promised veto of a budget the Legislature approved earlier this week.


Sources close to all four legislative leaders – two Democrats and two Republicans – said their bosses believe the governor has been deliberately deceptive, and they are prepared to go on a joint public offensive against the governor.

Sep 18, 2008 12:48 pm US/Pacific
It used to be "The Big Five" it's "The Big Four +1"?
SACRAMENTO (AP) ― This morning's budget meeting between Governor Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders ended abruptly after 20 minutes with the Governor threatening an immediate veto of the current budget.

Lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger met on Wednesday afternoon to discuss ways to sidestep a budget veto and an override showdown.

Day 79: League of California Cities Statement: FINAL BUDGET UNDERSCORES DRASTIC NEED FOR REFORM


79 Days + the clock is ticking: SCHWARZENEGGER VOWS TO VETO BUDGET - the view from two Times zones

[Transcript of Gov. Schwarzenegger's press conference vowing to veto state budget]

On the cusp of Day #79: SHARON RUNNER: "I won't override the veto"

" All levels of education remain on a starvation diet that is sapping the strength of tomorrow's workforce and leaving California employers with insufficient skilled workers, ill-prepared to compete in the world's economy. Furthermore the most vulnerable in our society, the poor, the aged, the blind and the disabled are denied the basic needs that they deserve. We are the sixth wealthiest economy in the world - we can and we must do better - for our future and our children's future."

“The fact that this deal was three months overdue and had more smoke and mirrors than a David Copperfield show is a direct result of our broken budget process. Unless we change the threshold to pass budgets and raise revenues, we’ll never move beyond real budget cuts and fake budget solutions.”
Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation

Day 78 ...and still counting – SURPRISE#1: GOVERNOR WILL VETO BUDGET PROPOSAL!
Surprise #2: Governor's website crashes and cannot handle live webcast of veto press event!
Surprise#3: If lege overides his veto he threatens to veto every bill on his desk!
The move extends the state's record-setting budget impasse and sets up what could be an unprecedented override attempt.

78 Days: VETO WEBCAST @ 3?
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has scheduled a 3 p.m. news conference at the Capitol to "discuss the budget"

"This budget has enough smoke and mirrors to play the main room in the Magic Castle." Patt Morrison | KPCC-FM 89.3 | 1:16PM

78 days ...and now what? THE LATEST BUDGET NEWS as of 12:30PM Tuesday 16 Sept
Lawmakers worked into the wee hours of Tuesday morning to pass a state budget. But they didn't include one of the three demands Gov. Arnold Schwazenegger made to earn his support.
Capitol Alert has a rundown on what lawmakers passed and what's next:
What's happened:
• Who voted for the budget
• 'Yacht tax' loophole closed
• High-tech overtime exemption passed
• The Schwarzenegger demand lawmakers didn't meet
• Lawmakers react to budget
What's next:
• Will Republicans vote for override?
• Special election in 2009 likely

78 days and holding: VETO BAIT
16 September -- Today we will see what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger does with a budget that doesn't meet his demands for systemic change.

78 days later: SQUANDERED CHANCE ON BUDGET – Three months late, this poor excuse for a spending plan is a waste of our time, money and goodwill.
Tuesday morning, September 16 , 2008 -- It's tempting to tell state lawmakers, "Thanks for nothing," but that requires a generous definition of the word "nothing."

After a 78-day delay, a state budget compromise has finally reached the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after it was passed by the California State Assembly early this morning.

Nobody could have dreamed up a less responsible, more gimmicky, sure-to-backfire state budget than the one California's political leaders cobbled together and were jamming through the Legislature to end a months-long stalemate.

8:35 PM Sept 15

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — State lawmakers on Monday were considering a compromise plan to end California's longest-ever budget stalemate, a proposal that includes increasing the paycheck withholding for state income taxes.

If this is the best the Legislature could do, California voters should be wondering what their lawmakers have been up to all summer.

September 15, 2008 -- LOS ANGELES — California lawmakers appeared to have resolved the state’s budget impasse Sunday, but it was far from clear whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would sign the proposal into law.

LA Times: CALIFORNIA LAWMAKERS REACH COMPROMISE ON BUDGET: The proposed state spending plan involves no new taxes. Votes on the plan are scheduled for Monday.

77 Days without a budget: DON PERATA'S PRIVATE E-MAIL
The story of the weekend was the private e-mail Senate leader Don Perata sent to his Democratic colleagues late last week.

The news that didn't fit from Sept 21

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Monday Sep 22, 2008
EAST LA AREA NEW HIGH SCHOOL #1: Fun Fence Art Exhibit
Event will begin at 10:00 a.m.
Pueblo del Sol - Community Services Center
1300 Plaza Del Sol
Los Angeles, CA 90033

• Tuesday Sep 23, 2008
SOUTH REGION MIDDLE SCHOOL #3: CEQA Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Walnut Park Elementary School
2642 Olive St.
Walnut Park, CA 90255

• Wednesday Sep 24, 2008
CEQA Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) Meeting and Presentation of Design Development Drawings
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Virgil Middle School - Auditorium
152 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004

• Wednesday Sep 24, 2008
VALLEY REGION SPAN K-8 #2: CEQA Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Germain Elementary School - Auditorium
20730 Germain St.
Chatsworth, CA 91311

• Thursday Sep 25, 2008
Ceremony will begin at 4:00 p.m.
Roy Romer Middle School
6501 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91606

*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 Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He is a Community Concerns Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three LAUSD schools.
• 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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