Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ars Pecunia Vox quod Eruditio | Art, Money, Power and Learning

4LAKids: Sunday, October 19, 2008
In This Issue:
CHARTER-LIKE INDEPENDENCE SOUGHT FOR ARTS SCHOOL: Education Leaders Want 'Autonomies' for $232 Million Facility
UNIONS SHORTCHANGE TEACHERS: Dues are simply taxation without representation for many.
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.
A 4LAKids reader once asked if I write this stuff and then just hit the 'send' button. …or do I occasionally sober up and think about it before sending?

Reality lurks somewhere between the two extremes. A little well placed vitriol mixes well with pencil lead, printer's ink or the pixels on the screen.

There was a article in Friday's Daily News ("LAUSD STRUGGLES TO OPEN PERFORMANCE ARTS SCHOOL" - following) that got the vitriol flowing - a continuation of the piece in last week's Downtown News and 4LAKids ("ARTS HIGH SCHOOL TO HAVE AUDITION PROCESS") about the new Performing Arts High School. And sure enough next Monday's Downtown News will continue the story ("CHARTER-LIKE INDEPENDENCE SOUGHT FOR ARTS SCHOOL" - following) …maybe not in great depth but certainly echoing the fall of the other shoe. The story of the Performing Arts High School is evolving into a story less-and-less about education and the arts and more-and-more about money and power. Why am I not surprised?

I spoke to a colleague Friday and asked if he'd seen the DN piece. "Oh yes!" he said, suitably incensed. But when I dug a little deeper his irritation was not aroused by current events - the attempted hijack of the school by the rich and powerful in cahoots with the charter community - but by the already well documented cost escalation of the project …driven by the (selfsame) rich and powerful.

My friend was upset because the school is costing what it is - driven by the powers-that-be in City Hall and Holmby Hills from $55 million to $232 million by a combination of "scope creep", "mission creep", political shenanigans, hubris, and some good old fashioned (and inordinately expensive) visionary thinking. The DN lays out pretty clearly how this happened, step by step, and although there were certainly meetings behind closed doors there was also a great deal of public discussion. The biggest cost escalation - and by extension the methodology of selecting students for the arts high school - was approved by the voters themselves as part of the Measure R bond language.

I am not as upset by the cost as by the power grab. The new High School for the Visual and Performing Arts is really going to be something worth having …and there are those that want it!

As you read what follows and re-read what has gone before, consider this:

• Billionaire Eli Broad's singular vision for the Grand Avenue Project (which is currently on hold in a iffy economy) and the High School for the Performing Arts was the genesis and driving force for all of this.
• Eli Broad caused the original project to be redesigned to his liking, a process that caused the original architect to be replaced (and paid off) and the original design to be scrapped.
• Mr. Broad specified the new architect and drove the cutting edge (i.e.: expensive) architectural design of the campus. The cutting edge design drove construction costs up and increased construction, design and approval time. Time is money.
• Do the math: Eli Broad has contributed and/or promised about $5 million to a project his involvement has cost about $182 million.
• Now he is threatening to 'pick up his marbles' and take 'his project' from LAUSD and hand it off to another/more willing/appreciative/pliant/partner. i.e.: the charter community - because things aren't going the way he would like.
• If this modus operandi of dysfunctional "philanthropic partnership" seems oddly familiar, you're right. See or Google "Disney Hall" or "County Art Museum."
• The taxpayers of Los Angeles have already committed in excess of $50 million in bond funds for charter school construction and equipment in Measures K, R and Y.
• AB 14 and SB15 allocated $400 million statewide to charter school construction - LAUSD has more charter schools than any other district.
• Charter schools have been aggressive in requesting District facilities under Prop 39.
• Green Dot Charter Schools has taken over Locke High School in what some have characterized as a 'coup de etat'.
• $450 Million is earmarked for Charter Schools in LAUSD in the Measure Q Bond on November's Ballot. Yet they would also like this $232 million Easter egg - a school that by all accounts may be the crown jewel of LAUSD.
• In an "apples to apples" comparison between charter schools and similarly sized LAUSD schools the LAUSD schools outperform the charters; LAUSD Magnet Schools outperform charters by greater numbers - and there are many many more applicants for magnets than there are for charters.
• And - lest we forget - Eli Broad sold LAUSD the Beaudry Building - its headquarters - in a still questioned real estate transaction.

I do not question the cost of the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts. The reasons for the cost increases are well documented and approved by the right public officials in public meetings and by voters at the ballot box. If you visit the campus you see the money invested - this is not a cookie cutter high school, it is a soaring public monument to the importance of the arts and education. I do not question the value of the school; this city and future generations of young people deserve a showcase school for the arts: Drama, Music, Dance and Fine Art.

The arts are worth it; the kids are worth it. For those reasons I question giving it away.

Upward+Onward! - smf

By George B. Sánchez, Staff Writer | Daily News

October 17 -- Less than a year before Los Angeles Unified is scheduled to open a flagship performing arts school downtown, the project's cost has ballooned to $230 million and key backers remain worried about a lack of progress they believe has cost the district community support and donations.

The district has yet to finalize a curriculum or hire a principal or any staff - and the school's executive director recently walked away from the job halfway through her contract.

Philanthropist Eli Broad - who was a driving force and financial contributor to the project - is now shopping it around to charter school groups in hopes they can take it out of the district's hands.

"Many people, including Eli Broad, have been extremely frustrated with the delays that have plagued this project since its start," Broad Foundation spokeswoman Karen Denne said in a written statement.

"There is still no principal and no curriculum, and the school is scheduled to open in less than a year. There is no plan yet in place to ensure that this school will have the right leadership and the right curriculum to be successful."

The project, first proposed in 2002 at the site of the district's former headquarters at 450 N. Grand Ave., was initially scheduled to be a traditional high school costing $54 million.

But Broad lobbied to create a performing arts school to serve as an entrance to the city's $1.5billion Grand Avenue Civic Center development. He also pledged $5million toward the building and operation of the facility - including $3.1million to ensure the construction of the school's 150-foot tower, which has no function but is key to the building's conceptual design.

The new plan increased the cost to $72 million at that time, and it was expected to open in 2005. But delays, inflation, cost overruns and other problems have now raised the cost to more than $230 million.

While local superintendent Richard Alonzo has drafted an outline for curriculum, budgets and staff, key components are missing.

Though the district has selected 26 finalists for principal, there is no teaching staff and questions remain about how 500 of the school's 1,700 seats will be allotted among students outside the Belmont area who seek a seat in the arts program.

"There's no plan. There's nothing in place right now, and there's 328 days before we open," said Araceli Ruano, chairwoman of the school's advisory board, on Wednesday.

Halfway into her two-year contract as the school's executive director, Elizabeth Kennedy walked away last month. As the face of the prestigious school, one of Kennedy's roles was to create community partnerships.

Kennedy wrote in an e-mail that she left the school for a job with a local museum that "better matches my skills." She did not elaborate on her reason for leaving.

Leadership concerns prompted Broad to approach Green Dot Public Schools about converting the school to a charter. The notion drew fire from Senior Deputy Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

Well aware of Broad's ambition to give Los Angeles a world-class arts school, Cortines was surprised to hear he was pushing the charter idea. Cortines said the district will resist that proposal.

"This is a district school," Cortines said. "It's not going to be given to anybody."

Luis Sanchez, chief of staff for board member Monica Garcia, said concern and frustration are justified and have actually forced better communication and focus on the school.

Broad's interest is well known by the board and district staff, Sanchez said, but is not to be mistaken as an attempt to take over the school.

The visual and performing arts schools, Sanchez insists, will first serve students in the area and will not become an elite school.

Broad also approached officials at Green Dot Public Schools and PUC Charter Schools about partnering with the school, across the 101 Freeway from the downtown Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Neither group, however, has the will or ability to do that.

"Charter is something that is always a possibility, but not now," Ruano said. "What we need to focus on is the model and the plan."

In the meantime, the new school's oversight board, Discovering the Arts, has not been able to raise funds, host community events or agree to requests to film on campus, Ruano said.

"Will the school open? Yes," she said. "But will there be opportunities missed? Likely."

Ref Rodriguez, co-founder of the Partnership to Uplift Communities charter schools, said Broad asked him to help create "charter-like" flexibility for the school. Sanchez and Cortines both agree the school should have some freedom from district regulations.

An arts school cannot be run like a regular district school, Rodriguez said. But the maintenance needs, which include a 950-seat theater, cannot be handled by charter operators.

"It's an LAUSD school," Rodriguez said. "I personally don't believe it should be a charter school. There are different ways to achieve the same thing, which is a good education."

For a school to convert from a traditional school to a charter, 51 percent of the teachers must sign a petition. Then they have to apply for charter status to the school district.

"You need parents and teachers to vote," Ruano said about the charter proposal, which she called a distraction. "You don't even have teachers there, but there is a huge sense of urgency."

Rodriguez said charter conversion would pose other problems.

"It's so late in the game. Decisions aren't going to be made thoughtfully with community involvement. There's less than 10 months left to open the school."

Steve Barr, founder and president of Green Dot Charter Schools, said he welcomes the idea of converting the arts school to a charter. But he said he told Broad to first consider a partnership arrangement between the district, local businesses and charters.

"(Broad) wants to see a great school like Juilliard," Barr said. *

"People come to us and conversations happen because there's a lack of confidence in the district."

Despite community concerns, the school will remain within the LAUSD, Cortines vowed.

"I want to make sure the school lives up to the dreams and hopes of all of us that want an art school," Cortines said. "I will ensure that."

*smf notes: One doesn't know where to begin or who has it wrong: Barr or Broad.

• The Julliard School is not a public high school.
• It is not a charter high school.
• It is not a high school at all.
• It is a private music and arts conservatory – the equivalent of a college or university.
• Julliard is notoriously the most selective institution of higher education in the nation – with rigorous entrance requirements and auditions and interviews. It has an acceptance rate of 7%.

Student Budget: The estimated budget for a Juilliard student for the nine-month academic year 2008-09 is calculated as follows: Tuition: $28,640
Room and Board (residence hall and meal plan)
Double Room - 11,250
Single Room - 14,045
Books, Supplies, Personal Expenses - 4,100
Totals Double Room - $43,990 -- Single Room - $46,785
source: Wikipedia & Julliard

see also: ARTS HIGH SCHOOL TO HAVE AUDITION PROCESS: Applicants at $232 Million Facility Will Undergo 'Exercises' For Skill, Interest Level

CHARTER-LIKE INDEPENDENCE SOUGHT FOR ARTS SCHOOL: Education Leaders Want 'Autonomies' for $232 Million Facility

by Ryan Vaillancourt | LA Downtown News

October 20, 2008 -- DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Less than a year before the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts opens, officials are mulling a proposal that would take operational and administrative control of the $232 million school away from the Los Angeles Unified School District and hand it to an autonomous governing body.

The proposal, which was offered by the chief executive of a local charter schools organization who was solicited by the Broad Foundation, run by philanthropist Eli Broad, suggests giving the arts school charter-like independence from district rules pertaining to staffing, curriculum development, budgetary issues and most operating tasks.

Ref Rodriguez, the co-founder and co-chief executive of charter schools organization People Uplifting Communities and the author of the proposal, said he was tapped by the Broad Foundation - which has given $5 million to the school - and the California Charter Schools Assn. to consider a role for PUC in the arts school. Rodriguez ultimately decided it was not an appropriate fit for PUC, but continues to participate in discussions about the school as an individual. Eli Broad was traveling and not available for comment, a Broad Foundation spokeswoman said.

"As I started to dig around and think about the political landmines, to put it bluntly, I realized that this is not what PUC is set up for," Rodriguez said.

The most explosive landmine might very well be the hot-button word "charter." Although those working on the project have been careful not to identify the school as a potential charter institution, suggestions that certain charter characteristics could be adopted, such as the use of non-unionized teachers, has drawn criticism from A.J. Duffy, president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles.

"I have no faith in the smoke and mirrors that Mr. Rodriguez is using," said Duffy, adding that the proposal sounds like a charter, but without the designation.

Rodriguez, along with officials who have welcomed his proposal, including Board of Education President Monica Garcia, insist they are not interested in pursuing state-recognized charter status. But top district officials, among them Deputy Supt. Ramon Cortines, agree that the school should have a certain degree of autonomy, with local management having the flexibility to make decisions quickly.


Rodriguez's proposal suggests handing the reins to a nonprofit body that would have the power to control five aspects of the school: staffing, devising and managing the budget, maintenance, fundraising and managing facilities to generate income for the school.

That power, Rodriguez said, would allow the school to do things like pay teachers and administrators salaries that exceed district guidelines. It would also allow the school to hire non-credentialed professionals to teach art classes, without laboring through the LAUSD approval processes, said Araceli Ruano, who chairs Discovering the Arts, a 15-member advisory board that was set up to advise the district on the school.

"The one thing that I think everyone agrees on is that we need charter-like autonomies to make it successful," said Ruano.

With its high-profile design by Coop Himmelb(l)au, state-of-the-art facilities and expected high operating budget, the school would be handcuffed if run like most LAUSD schools, Ruano said. Philanthropists, she argued, would be more willing to donate to a nonprofit entity than the district. The arts-related facilities, including a 950-seat theater, require specialized maintenance and care that the district is not prepared to handle, she said.


The school at 450 N. Grand Ave. is scheduled to open in fall 2009. While Garcia and Cortines agree that it should function with a high degree of autonomy from the district, they want to create a model that keeps the LAUSD - and not an outside organization - in the driver's seat.

Schools in the Belmont Zone of Choice, the Downtown district that will include the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, already have the flexibility to devise specialized curriculums within each school's small learning communities, Cortines said.

The three current Belmont Zone of Choice schools - Belmont High School, the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center and the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex - are divided into 15 academies, with specializations in topics such as social justice or engineering, which are taught in addition to state requirements in math, science, history and English. The arts high school will be divided into four academies with focuses on visual art, music, dance and theater.

"The one prerequisite I have is that the arts school has to cover California state standards for high school," said Cortines. "Otherwise, I want them to be as creative and innovative as possible."

Garcia is also convinced that the district can devise an innovative and semi-autonomous governing structure without bringing in an outside organization.

"I have been involved in an effort to get autonomy to my schools with my partners so there is conversation right now about how that would work out for [the arts school]," Garcia said. "I expect that this district will have to rise to the challenge of being able to stretch and meet the needs of this opportunity."

How to meet that challenge, Garcia said, remains a "live discussion."

The district expects to select a principal for the school by the end of the month, said Local District 4 Supt. Richard Alonzo. Once that happens, Alonzo believes the school's development will accelerate.

In the meantime, some stakeholders in the school are starting to feel anxious that a plan is not yet in place.

"There's a deep sense of urgency and anxiety," Ruano said. "We just can't wait anymore."

The school has been without an onsite leader since Elizabeth Kennedy, the woman hired last year to be the executive director, resigned in September.

Kennedy, the former administrative director of the L.A. Opera, was hired last year for a position mostly geared toward fundraising. It took about two years to get the position approved, but because of bureaucratic glitches, "There was no way to get her paid," Ruano said.

Discovering the Arts ultimately paid Kennedy with part of the $5 million in grant money from the Broad Foundation before she resigned, Ruano said.


By Kim Murphy | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 17, 2008 — REDMOND, ORE. — As flocks of disenchanted Californians streamed across the border in the last decade, drawn by central Oregon's crystal-clear skies, ski slopes, small-town charm and affordable homes, Redmond has been hastily assembling portable classrooms and scrambling to build another high school.

Voters here are notoriously testy about new taxes, though, and it wasn't until May that they approved a $110-million bond issue to build a high school on the south side of town, along with an elementary school.

The district was about to sell the bonds to pay for the project Sept. 24, when the market for municipal bonds all but disappeared. Amid the global financial meltdown, the market for school bonds suddenly looked like the Monday after a bad garage sale: plenty of merchandise left, no buyers.

No buyers? For years, cities, counties and school districts have counted on the comfortable predictability of municipal bonds, whose tax-free earnings and bedrock safety rooted in local government treasuries made them attractive for cautious investors. They have been the equivalent of $400-billion-a-year, low-interest Visa cards for governments looking to build airports, courthouses, schools and industrial parks. States such as California routinely issue revenue anticipation notes to keep their coffers full before tax receipts come in.

But as Redmond School District officials and other government bodies have learned over the last few weeks, trying to sell bonds these days -- with escalating interest rates and investors wary of commitment -- is an enterprise restricted to the bold, the rich or the desperate.

St. Louis has had to postpone selling bonds for airport improvements; Morgan County, Ala., is putting off plans for a new industrial park; and Broward County, Fla., is likely to delay the sale of $170 million in bonds for sewer and water line renewals. A new rental car facility at the Port of Seattle has also been put on hold.

"I've been in my position for 12 years, and I've never seen anything like it," said Kent County, Mich., Treasurer Kenneth D. Parrish, who is also president of the National Assn. of County Collectors, Treasurers and Finance Officers.

'It's not over'

California succeeded this week in selling $5 billion in short-term notes to keep the government afloat in cash, after weeks of alarm that the state would run out of money by the end of the month. But the state is paying higher-than-normal interest rates, and though investor demand was unexpectedly high, compared with the bidding wastelands of the last few weeks, analysts said it was too early to celebrate.

"It's certainly good that California was able to get this done, but it's not over. The market is still quite tied up in the credit liquidity crunch," said Maud Daudon, chief executive of Seattle-Northwest Securities Corp., which markets municipal bonds for governments.

Kent County last month refinanced bonds for drainage walls on the Grand River and was stuck with a nearly overnight hike in interest rates that could cost the county $750,000 over 10 years. On what was to have been a routine package of delinquent tax anticipation notes, the county saw its interest rate jump from 2.5% to 10%.

In Vancouver, Wash., a $115-million bond package issued in 2004 to build a not-for-profit hospital addition also got caught in the escalation this year. Its rate when it came up for scheduled revaluation rose from about 2.5% last year to 5%.

"What happened was the market just froze up for these securities. No one was interested in them," said David Willie, chief financial officer at the hospital, Southwest Washington Medical Center.

Municipal Market Advisors, a Massachusetts-based bond research and analysis firm, estimated that $10 billion in planned bond financing was delayed during the last two weeks of September, with the total over the last year now reaching $100 billion in postponed projects.

Those cities and counties forced to go to market now -- usually because of construction deadlines or contract penalties for delay -- may be facing an increase of 25% in overall interest rates on bonds with a 10-year maturity compared with a month ago, said Municipal Market CEO Thomas G. Doe.

"People can get to market," Doe said. "It's just a shockingly high number."

Municipal bonds have normally been attractive for those willing to commit to a long-term maturity because their potential for tax savings substantially increases the effective earnings to investors.

Over the last five years, Wall Street financiers also discovered a way to package the long-term bonds into structured investment vehicles, similar to how subprime mortgages had been packaged, that allowed money market funds to buy them and turn them over relatively quickly, earning speedier returns.

This winning formula was explosively popular. The roughly $300 billion a year in debt issued by the nation's 65,000 states, municipalities and other government entities in 2002 rose to $400 billion by 2003 and remained at that level until this year's downturn.

But Doe said those so-called tender-option bond packages ran into the same kind of turbulence hitting other leveraged securities in mid-2007.

Another problem is that some city and county projects, like the Vancouver hospital, had their bonds guaranteed by insurance companies that had also insured subprime mortgages, causing the bonds to be downgraded to a lower rating. Lower ratings mean cities and counties must pay higher interest rates.

"We never dreamed these insurance companies would then go out and insure some of these subprime mortgages," said Willie of the Vancouver hospital.

Good news, bad news

He said that once the market settles down, managers hope to sell new bonds to quickly pay off the old ones.

When will that be? Many had hoped this month's $700-billion congressional bailout would correct the market, but it now appears that it will take time.

"There's probably been a billion dollars or so of long-term bond issuance this week. The good news is, it's showing the markets are starting to open up a little bit. The bad news is because investors are so nervous, the interest rate being paid is considerably higher than it was three weeks ago," said Jeffrey Esser, executive director of the Government Finance Officers Assn. in Chicago.

In Idaho, a group of five irrigation districts near Boise went to market with $41 million in bonds for a new hydropower plant at Arrowrock Dam on the Boise River.

Although the group had initially hoped for an interest rate as low as 5%, the bonds were sold at about 6.5%.

The districts had no choice but to proceed because construction must commence during the low-water months of the fall and winter, said Albert Barker, attorney for the Boise-Kuna Irrigation District.

"If we put this off for a year, no one could assure us that the market would be any better next year," Barker said.

In Redmond, school district administrators are opting to bide their time, though the old high school is bursting at the seams and a majestic but dowdy 87-year-old elementary school is crumbling into disrepair. They've waited this long to replace them; they can perhaps afford to wait a few months longer.

If the bond sale had proceeded as planned last month, it would have forced the district to shave $1 million off its construction plans -- or risk telling voters who had been promised a relatively low tax rate that they would instead have to pay 20% to 30% more, said Doug Snyder, the district's chief operations officer.

"That's not very good trust-building with the community," Snyder said.

●●smf 2¢:

* LAUSD is going to need to borrow short term interim operating financing (TRANs - Tax Revenue Anticipation Notes) to meet school operations cost.
* On Nov. 5 – the day after election day – LAUSD will be going to Wall Street to sell school construction bonds to finance current ongoing building and modernization.
* $7 Billion in additional school construction/modernization bonds are on the ballot on Nov. 4 in the form of Measure Q. As interest rates increase the bonded indebtedness of the District, tax bills and financial obligations to taxpayers go up.

UNIONS SHORTCHANGE TEACHERS: Dues are simply taxation without representation for many.
●●smf 2¢: Last week I got an angry e-mail from a 4LAKids subscriber asking to be unsubscribed. The writer – a teacher and a 4LAKids subscriber since 2005 – said they would rather spend their time prepping for classes than reading my left wing propaganda. I am expecting a rash of such correspondence – albeit accusing me of being anti-labor, right wing or a lick-spittle toady of the great voucher/charter/merit-pay/privatization conspiracy – because I am re-circulating the following. Even The Times – which is historically anti-labor – published the CYA disclaimer: “The views herein are his own.”

By Larry Sand | Op-ED from the Los Angeles Times

October 18, 2008 -- Just a few weeks into the new school year, and in the midst of an important political season at the state and national level, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the relationship that the teachers unions have with their members. Much has been written about these unions, and the case has been frequently and justly made that they are anti-student because of their adamant positions on school choice, charter schools and teacher tenure. And although these unions of course claim to champion teachers, this support is conditional and often comes at the expense of teachers.

In 28 states, a teacher is essentially forced to join a costly union. A typical teacher in Southern California, where I teach, pays $922 every year to his or her local, which then sends $611 of that amount to the state affiliate, the California Teachers Assn., or CTA, and $140 to the national affiliate, the National Education Assn., or NEA. (One has to wonder, if the unions are so beneficial, why do teachers need to be forced to join and to fork over such hefty dues in most states?)

And just what are all of these forced dues spent on? Untold millions go to political causes, whether a teacher agrees with the cause or not. According to Reg Weaver, the recently retired NEA president, his union's rank-and-file teachers are about one-third Democrat, one-third Republican and one-third independent. Yet more than 90% of NEA political spending goes to Democratic causes, according to Thus, if you are a Republican and have conservative values, your dues are being used to support causes and candidates you oppose.

In August, just before relinquishing his position, Weaver spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Although it was not surprising that he expressed support for Barack Obama, he made an egregious statement at the end of his speech. After extolling the virtues of his candidate, Weaver said, "That, my friends, is why the 3.2 million members of the National Education Assn. are organized, energized and mobilized to help elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States of America."

What? All 3.2 million? This coming from the man who has said that the NEA is only one-third Democrat. Who then speaks for the 1-million-plus Republican teachers and for the 1 million or more who are independents and may not have decided whom to vote for?

Another example is Proposition 8, a controversial measure on the November ballot in California that would seek to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. The CTA, which represents more than 300,000 teachers, just this week contributed $1 million -- on top of a previous $250,000 donation -- to help defeat Proposition 8.

As usual, the CTA did not seek input from its rank-and-file members on this issue. Although certainly some teachers are in favor of same-sex marriage, others are not. And just what, exactly, does Proposition 8 have to do with education? Why is the CTA pushing a "values" agenda that many parents, and many of its own members, may find offensive?

Aside from political choice, there are other areas in which teachers don't fare well under the auspices of their unions. Carol Katter, a veteran teacher and lifelong Catholic, objected to the fact that her union supports abortion on demand. When she sought a religious exemption from paying her dues, a union official suggested that she change her religion! In her state, Ohio, the law allowed only Seventh-day Adventists and Mennonites to claim such an exemption. Only after much legal wrangling was Katter able to do so.

One of the great bêtes noires of teachers unions is merit pay. They insist that all teachers at a similar point in their careers make the same amount of money, regardless of workload, classroom size, job performance or other measure. Good teachers earning more than bad teachers? Not on their agenda.

Clearly, this old-style industrial model of paying people based on seniority can kill incentive. Good teachers are less likely to have the incentive to excel when peers who have lower aspirations, are less talented or less effective make the same amount of money.

All of us who object to what amounts to taxation without representation must speak up. Teachers who are happy with their union should have the right to continue that affiliation. However, the rest of us -- especially those who live in states where we are forced to join a union -- would be well served to take a hard look at the organization that claims to represent our best interests and start demanding change.

Larry Sand, a classroom teacher in Los Angeles for more than 27 years, is the president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network ( The views herein are his own.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
To help you decide, here’s where the candidates stand on the issues.
An analysis by a distant relative of smf. My daughter, going to college in Maine.

Many educators and politicians like to say a child’s schooling begins at home. That may be true, but what happens when parents don’t do their job?

JOE THE PLUMBER? Meet Joe the Counter and Joe the Speller.
Dumb politician tricks.

McCAIN AND OBAMA TUSSLE ON EDUCATION Vouchers, Federal K-12 Spending Among the Issues
Education was in the spotlight at the end of the final 2008 presidential debate, as the candidates had their first and probably only chance for a face-to-face exchange over their education platforms. Though neither candidate introduced new ideas or changed his education platform, the nationally televised Oct. 15 event gave school issues their highest profile yet in a campaign that has been dominated by economic, energy, and foreign-policy concerns.

●●smf 2¢: I have a catalog from a SIAS International University in China that poses an excellent question:
What should a
21st century
education do
if not prepare us
for the 22nd?
Charles Kerchner, a professor at Claremont Graduate University and a specialist in educational organizations, educational policy and teacher unions, writes the LA Times Homeroom Blog: While the financial markets have reached the point of panic, a longer-running crisis has enveloped Los Angeles’ school system. For at least a decade, people have called the Los Angeles Unified School District a system in crisis. Even when it does things well, it gets little credit.

DORSEY HIGH REJECTS AID FROM RIORDAN GROUP : L.A. Unified officials say former mayor's effort lacked campus support but say it could yet be welcomed elsewhere.
A yearlong effort by former Mayor Richard Riordan to lead reforms at storied Dorsey High School was met Tuesday with a clear answer: Thanks but no thanks.

'YES' ON MEASURE Q: Modernize L.A. schools
Daily Breeze Editorial

Most everyone has taken a turn bad-mouthing some action or another taken by the Los Angeles Unified School District, including us. But the district has made some notable progress over the past decade in its efforts to modernize and rebuild campuses.

THE AMBASSADOR HOTEL LESSON: Demolishing such iconic buildings not only destroys history, it wastes resources
Opinion by Diane Keaton | LA Times
Last week, I drove past the 22-acre vacant lot once known as the Ambassador Hotel. As I looked at the rubble of our lost cause, I pulled over, sat back and gave in to a feeling I can only describe as guilt. I thought about my connection to the once-iconic hotel, about why places like it are so difficult to save, and about what it takes to be a better, more effective advocate for historic buildings.

The price of higher education is getting higher and higher and, as the CBS News Fast Draw team illustrates, gathering funds can be like climbing a mountain.

La Opinión: SUPPORT EDUCATION – Vote Yes on Community College and LAUSD Bonds
La Opinión Editorial - Los Angeles voters must decide on two local measures related to education funding, one on the community college system, and the other on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Both cases involve authorizing bond issues paid for with minor increases in property taxes.

The Daily News has consistently portrayed teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District and their union as power grabbers who place their own interests above students' welfare. I believe most teachers are hardworking professionals who have the best interests of students in mind as they go to work each day. The district is not struggling because teachers are too highly compensated.

GO TO: The news that didn't fit from October 19th

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
►Tuesday, October 21, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Eastern time/4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Pacific time


Join us for “Education and the Next President,” a live debate from Teachers College, Columbia University,
LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND, education adviser to Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama,
LISA GRAHAM KEEGAN, education adviser to Republican nominee John McCain.

The event is being exclusively Webcast by with generous support from The National Association of Secondary school Principals

Register now to watch the live debate.

►Wednesday, Oct. 22, noon Eastern time (9 a.m. Pacific) for a post-debate discussion with leading education analysts, moderated by Education Week's David Hoff.


SANDRA TSING LOH to speak at Mt. Washington Elementary PTA
►Tuesday, October 21 - 6:30 PM

Don’t miss this exciting and entertaining speaker on Tuesday, October 21. PTA general business begins at 6:30 pm in the Jack and Denny Smith Center (aka Multipurpose Room), with the guest speaker to begin at 7 pm .

NPR commentator, performance artist, and author Sandra Tsing Loh is also a parent advocate on Magnet Schools and is coming to Mt Washington Elementary to share her thoughts on “playing the Magnet game.” Here's your opportunity to finally understand the meaning of Magnet Schools and their importance to our childrens' education.

The address is 3981 San Rafael Ave. LA 90065 MAP:

►Monday Oct 20, 2008

Ceremony starts at 10:00 a.m.
Dr. James Edward Jones Primary Center
1017 W. 47th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90037

►Tuesday Oct 21, 2008
Ceremony will begin at 4:00 p.m.
East Valley Area New HS #1A (New Home to Byrd Middle School)
8501 Arleta Ave.
Sun Valley, CA 91352

►Thursday Oct 23, 2008
Ceremony starts at 10:00 a.m.
South Region High School #4
4110 Santa Fe Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90810

►Thursday Oct 23, 2008
Time: 6:00 p.m.
4th Street Elementary School - Auditorium
420 S. Amalia Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90022

*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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