Sunday, October 26, 2008

Programs, not Prada

4LAKids: Sunday, October 26, 2008
In This Issue:
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 confession: When I go to PTA conventions I am very conscious of a skewed demographic. There is a preponderance of middle-class white women. I have no problem that there usually about 150 women for every guy; I have always believed that women are better at solving problems than men so that seems about right to me. However as a parent in LAUSD the plethora of white and middle class seems very unrepresentative of urban educational reality. PTA is getting better - but not fast enough.

On Wednesday I was lured by Sandra Tsing Loh (she offered free muffins!) to the Long Beach Convention Center for a little social activism at the Governor's Conference on Women. Sandra and her band of merry prankster 'Burning Moms' wanted to engage Maria Shiver and her posse on issues of public education - somehow absent from the conference agenda. Progressives like to say that "Public Education is the Civil Rights Issue of the 21st Century" …surely Public Education has a place on the agenda as a Women's Issue also?

Sandra and Co. showed up in bathrobes, housecoats, fuzzy slippers and hair rollers to advocate for public ed (I went for the Ozzy Nelson sports jacket but no tie look). We were there to raise some social awareness about public education - to get public education on the agenda of a conference held under the banner: "Welcome to The Village."

Remember The Village… the one it takes to raise a child?.

Our little demonstration immediately qualified for what Mick and Keith called "our fair share of abuse" as a couple of Long Beach's finest hustled us off the concourse in front of hall and down to the street …where we obviously belonged.

This is where I am tempted to write about the tear gas, flailing nightsticks and mace - the brutal denial of our rights! "The whole world is watching!" But it was all very polite …Gandhi would have been proud. The nice policemen laughed at our jokes and politely refused our muffins. Their moms should be proud.

Let me abuse some generalities and political correctness to say this: The attendees of Ms. Shriver's soirée about women were representative of America's true urban core - if that spot is the intersection of Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way in 90210. It was familiarly very white and female - but it was also very blonde, toned, sculpted, coifed and turned out. Not that it's a bad thing, but it was a conspicuous thing: There was very little excess fat in the crowd - Kate Moss would've felt at home. If 'well moneyed' is a term it applies here. The demise of Mervyns had passed unnoticed - though a sale at Manolo Blahnik might've emptied the hall

There were no children, no babes in arms, no strollers. The middle class represented was the upper echelon - one of the speakers was Warren Buffet and I doubt if even he admits to status above Upper Middle Class.

I don't think it's a stretch to surmise that the Governor's Conferees on Women were on the far side of the $250,000 annual income threshold that separates Josephine the Plumber from Josephine the Hedge Fund Manager in the current political debate.

The Friends of Arnold and Maria don’t send their children to public schools. Neither do Barrack or John or Joe the Vice Presidential Nominee. In her defense Sarah Plain does …but she needed help on her wardrobe.

That socioeconomic rift is not a pothole but a roadblock on the road to public education progress. Folks with disposable income dispose of some it on private education rather than investing their time and effort (and their children) in public education. Or buying bake sale muffins and gift wrap. It isn't class warfare or racism, it's the soft bigotry of low expectations - seen through the rear view mirror of Lexi, BMWs and the occasional stretch limo in the drop-off lane of The Archer School. There is neither noblesse nor oblige; from Kennedys we expect more.

TURN THE PAGE to Column One of Wednesday's LA Times and "Teens From Struggling L.A. Public Campus Get A Chance To Shine At Prestigious Private Schools." A fascinating story about truly engaged teachers who are making a difference for some very special children. Three inner city kids who get scholarships to prestigious Westside private schools though an endowment fostered by public education teachers. A feel good story with a positive outcome: involved teachers who realize how to make a difference for some very lucky, talented and hard working children - those three being the trifecta of the American Dream.

I applaud those teachers and congratulate those kids - I honor those schools. Three is of course not enough. Within hours the conservative blogosphere picked up the story - The Heritage Foundation: "Shouldn’t More Than Three Low-Income Students Be Able to Go to the School of Their Choice?" - blathering that this proves the bankruptcy of public education. Alas and alack, if only all inner city kids had this sort of opportunity; if only there was more choice and vouchers and public funding for private schools and charter schools. The sky, gentle readers, is falling! And it's never the folks' fault that refused to invest in Sky Infrastructure Maintenance.

• Those excellent private schools are very selective; they did not relax their standards or their expectations to accept those students. They did not lower their tuition to the level the government would pay if the government could pay. They did not open their enrollment to all 700,000+ LA schoolchildren.
• And LAUSD, with neighborhood schools, magnet schools, Schools for Advanced Study, partnership schools; occasionally zones-of-choice, pilot schools, open enrollment and - dare I say it?: charter schools — offers many flavors of public school choice.

Could we do better? Of course — please help us do so!

Probably some of the Governor's Conferees read that article over their breakfast of half-caff soy-milk lattes and dry toast. Probably some of them felt good, missing the point in the opposite direction. All is right with the world. Except in the stock market.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

From the LA Times Homeroom Blog

October 22, 2008 -- More than 10,000 people are gathering today at the Long Beach Convention Center for the Governor’s Conference on Women, which began more than two decades ago as a government initiative for women who are small-business owners and working professionals.

The host is California First Lady Maria Shriver, shown below greeting chef Rachael Ray on Tuesday.

Sandra Tsing Loh, public school activist and performer, writes of the conference:

"We are a growing group of Burning Moms (California public school moms whose fingers are literally singed with all the baking we’re doing to keep our kids in art, music, PE programs and more). This year, we decided to celebrate the Conference on Women’s inspiring theme of self-empowerment by:

1) Not bumming out over the fact that California’s governor and first lady do not consider public education a women’s issue. (Topics covered in the conference included finance, enterpreneurship, leading an authentic life, looking one’s best and reducing stress.)

2) Not bumming out over the fact that tickets began at $125 for obstructed view (up to $3,000 per table), money that could do SO MUCH for our struggling California public schools.

3) Being cheerfully proactive by holding our own festive pro-public-school rally on Pine Street by offering (mostly) home-baked muffins to incoming conferees, with a welcome flier. We were forced to celebrate California public schools on Pine Street because the police kicked us off the conference hall outdoor landing where more of the conferees were. The police told us the Governor’s Conference on Women had leased the Long Beach Convention Center, hence the actual Governor’s Conference on Women was a non-free-speech/public-protest zone. Duly noted.

4) Our hope is for our public-school volunteer moms in the building to get a photo of Maria Shriver wearing a: "Hello! Ask me why I’m a BURNING MOM" button, and also to get Gloria Steinem to accept a muffin. Read on to see the flier we attached to the muffins. (Admittedly, many of the women declined the muffins as they seemed to be on diets -- but why? They all looked so fabulous!)

[official simulated flyer]

Welcome to the Governor’s Conference on Women!

We’re not officially part of the conference -- we’re public school moms.

Currently California, the 9th largest global economy, is 48th out of 50 states in public school funding.

So we hope next year public school will be considered a women’s issue.

Enjoy this muffin and back home, please donate generously to your local public school. Families like us are building our kids’ arts programs, music programs, and PE programs one muffin at a time.

Have a great conference!

The Burning Moms



October 22, 2008 -- What impressed Joel Argueta first about was his locker -- a wide, ample affair that holds his backpack and all of his books. There's also a student lounge with comfortable couches, where he does homework and meets with new friends. "Overall," he said, "it is spectacular."

Heven Ambaye admits to being a bit overwhelmed with homework at the Brentwood School. She is often up until 11 p.m. reading and studying for the next day's quizzes after taking two bus rides to get home. Still, she wants to join the soccer team, maybe lacrosse too, and already has joined a school book club.
Related Content

* Transition to new school
Photos: Transition to new school

Francisco Sanchez was unsure of himself when he entered Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences last month, afraid he wouldn't be able to adjust. But the school's Santa Monica complex of old and new buildings -- it is bisected by an alley -- is like a little community, and already it feels like a second home.

Even for the best of students, the transition from middle school to high school can be trying. But Joel, Heven and Francisco are embarked on a bigger challenge. Children of low-income, immigrant families, they entered three of Los Angeles' most prestigious private campuses this fall on full scholarships. Many of their classmates went to top-rated public schools or private middle schools with vastly more resources than the one they attended, Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School a struggling Los Angeles Unified School District campus in Mid-City.

A team of Cochran teachers led by first-year instructor Sara Hernandez decided these three had a shot at making it at private schools, where they would receive a more rigorous college prep experience.

The teachers worked after-school hours, weekends and summer vacations mentoring them, helping navigate school choices, filling out applications and studying for the crucial Independent School Entrance Examination, which is required by most private schools.

The teachers connected the trio with the Independent School Alliance for Minority Affairs, a nonprofit placement and support group that offered summer math and English classes mimicking the pace and homework demands of their new schools.

There they met counselors like Christopher Price, 19, a former Alliance participant and a 2007 graduate of Windward School, who could address sensitive cultural challenges such as the classmates who receive cars for their birthdays and spend vacations in Europe.

Price, from Gardena, said that at Windward, on the Westside, he initially judged students who seemed to flaunt their wealth and possessions as shallow but found "you can have very much or very little -- money does not make the person."

"It wasn't so much the environment but how I handled it," said Price, an animation major at Cal State Fullerton. "I try to tell students they are in the top tier of people in the U.S. and the world to receive an education like this, and they need to take every advantage," said Price.

Several Cochran teachers and community members started their own nonprofit group to raise money for textbooks, school supplies, field trips, lunch money and other expenses that the students' families can't fully cover. They are also advising a new group of students.

Cochran Principal Scott Schmerelson said he supports the teachers' efforts, despite what some might see as skimming the best students from public schools. "The LAUSD has great magnet high schools these kids can go to if they wish, and if their parents wish to send them to private schools it's OK with me too," he said. "It's a wonderful opportunity to go off to a prestigious school and to a wonderful college."

At 6:20 a.m., Joel is standing at a corner near his Crenshaw area home taking a dry run on an MTA bus to Hancock Park, the closest pickup spot for Harvard-Westlake's shuttle, which will get him to the campus in Holmby Hills in time for his 8 a.m. class. By the end of classes at 3:15 and his reverse journey, he will have spent nearly 11 hours in school and getting to and from.

On a bus packed mostly with poor workers, Joel, 14, said he has dreams of becoming an engineer, possibly one day working at NASA. He loves math and science and in the fifth and sixth grades received perfect scores in math on the California standards test.

He has never been out of California, but Harvard-Westlake opens a world of possibilities. His mother, Delia, and father, Francisco, a construction worker, say they're ready to work extra hours to pay for his class trips and other activities. Joel is determined to succeed, even if it takes getting only an hour's sleep some nights to finish his homework.

"I'm well organized, and that's going to be really helpful doing homework on time and keeping on schedule," he said, listing what he sees as his strengths.

He recognizes the opportunity he's being given and is already thinking of what the future might hold. He said he wants to get a good job so he can buy a house for his parents and "help them like they've helped me."

His mother, who fled war-ravaged El Salvador in the 1980s, had always wanted something better for her children. She had never heard of Harvard-Westlake before Joel applied. But now she sees an endless horizon for her son. When Joel mentions potential colleges like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or USC, Delia mentions Harvard.

"Even in El Salvador," she said, "they talk about Harvard University."

As a symbol of educational success, Harvard was also in the mind of Zenebu Gebeyhu, who set the college as a goal for her daughter Heven, who came to the U.S. from Ethiopia as a 9-year-old with virtually no English skills.

At the time, mother and daughter had been apart for nearly five years. Gebeyhu, a single mother, had left her homeland for Egypt to find work and then came to the U.S., where she was granted asylum. Working two jobs, she sent for Heven, who had been staying with relatives in Ethiopia.

Heven, 14, was placed in an English as a second language program when she entered Cochran in the sixth grade. Within the year, she was placed in honors English. She defines herself by the challenges she's overcome -- a hard life in an impoverished country, separation from her mother, adjustment to a new language and a country of vastly different cultural norms.

She wrote about her life journey when applying to Brentwood, grabbing the attention of every member of the admissions committee.

"Her transcript showed her going from ESL to honors, getting straight A's in every honors class, and it was like, 'Wait a minute, isn't she from Ethiopia recently? This can't be real,' " said Keith Sarkisian, Brentwood's director of middle and upper division admissions. "We really felt a kind of vivacity and energy to Heven. A lot had to with her background but also the growth she went through personally and in her writing in such a short time."

Heven said she is inspired by her mother's own determination.

"When I see how hard she works, I think it's nothing to do simple homework, and that keeps me going," she said. "I have big family back home, and they're all rooting for me. I want to do it for them and for myself. I know what the bottom is like, and I don't want to stay there."

Francisco, 15, moved with his single mother, Jovita Sanchez, to the U.S. in 1999, and since then they have moved 30 or 40 times, renting rooms and converted garages.

He was shy and didn't take much to teachers or classmates, perhaps because English is his third language after Spanish and Zapotec, an indigenous language of southern Mexico.

In middle school he started piano lessons, performing Mozart's "Turkish March" for his seventh-grade recital. He was placed in honors classes in the sixth grade and so impressed his teachers at Cochran with his writing that he was encouraged to enter a statewide contest, in which he wrote about the lessons he had learned from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels.

Jovita Sanchez said her aim has always been to ensure that her son can fly as high as he is able.

"There are not so many opportunities to go to college in Mexico, not so much support," she said. "I dropped out when I was 15. I was not that smart and I couldn't learn. But I was a good worker, and that's why I've worked so hard to help him get the grades he needs to move on."

Along the way, Francisco's family has been there to help him dodge gangs, drugs and violence.

He has already made some quick adjustments at Crossroads: All ninth-graders spend a few days of orientation at a camp in Malibu, and Francisco didn't know how to swim. One of the teachers at Cochran volunteered to teach him. Francisco, they were not surprised to learn, was a quick study.

As the three students immerse themselves in new experiences, they're still in close contact with their middle school teachers.

"I feel very protective over them because we spent so much time together," said Hernandez, now a student at Loyola Law School. "I've dropped them off at friends houses, taken them to orientation, taken them shopping, picked them up at school. I hope to follow them for the rest of my life. What greater accomplishment can there be for a teacher."

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES SPEND TAXPAYER MONEY ON PRE-ELECTION OUTREACH CAMPAIGNS: The practice is legal as long as the information avoids 'express advocacy,' but critics say some of this year's efforts go too far.

By David Zahniser | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 25, 2008 - Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Unified School District mailed voters what officials described as a "fact sheet" on Measure Q, a $7-billion construction bond on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Although it did not explicitly tell recipients how to vote, the taxpayer-funded document dropped some major hints, using such headlines as "Measure Q Improves School Safety," "Measure Q Improves the Learning Environment" and "Measure Q is Fiscally Accountable."

The district went further, writing a six-paragraph script about Measure Q for principals to read in "phone blasts" to parents. And it purchased $21,000 worth of hats and T-shirts, each saying "Measure Q," distributing them on school campuses.

Although government agencies are barred from using public money to pay for campaign activities, a 2005 court ruling states that they can distribute information on ballot measures -- as long as the contents don't include "express advocacy," such as an explicit instruction on how to vote.

A Times survey found that the Los Angeles school district is one of at least eight agencies in Southern California using taxpayer money to stage outreach campaigns about measures that would benefit them. The practice, at times highly sophisticated, is drawing complaints from taxpayer advocates and "clean government" groups, who say public agencies are improperly using public funds to extract more money from voters.

In the run-up to this year's election, the city of Lynwood posted a five-minute video on its website discussing Measure II, a proposal to retain a local utility users tax. Pico Rivera city officials plan to send six mailers about Measure P, a 1-cent sales tax hike to balance that city's budget.

The practice has even produced internal dissent at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which spent $1.1 million on brochures, newspaper ads and radio spots on Measure R, the half-cent sales tax hike for transportation.

L.A. Unified has taken the concept to its limit, waging a $1-million outreach campaign that includes three mailers sent to 450,000 likely voters. Two of the three stop just short of an endorsement. "This November 4th, remember to vote on Measure Q," reads a piece hitting mailboxes this week.

Experts say the last L.A. Unified mailer crosses a legal line, resembling the campaign brochures typically sent by political committees and paid for by private contributors. "This piece clearly takes a position," said Kathay Feng, executive director of the political reform group California Common Cause. "It is not just a quote-unquote educational piece."

Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick went further, calling the mailer "a complete bending and stretching of the rules."

"This is why people don't trust their government," said Chick, who opposes the bond measure.

Foes of Measure Q said the taxpayer-funded mailers should have mentioned that this is the district's fifth bond measure in 11 years and that the four prior bonds will eventually cost homeowners $185 per year for each $100,000 that their homes are assessed.

School district officials have a different view, saying their mailings provide indisputable facts about Measure Q, including the monthly cost. They argue that their election strategy provides information, not advocacy, and complies with the law.

"You can quibble about what it is that you ought to put in" a mailer, said Michael Strumwasser, a lawyer for the district. "I don't understand that as a matter of law, you are obligated to tell them how many bonds you have had."

The trend has sparked a debate over what is, and is not, political advocacy by a public agency. Strumwasser, for example, argued that the Measure Q caps and shirts are designed to increase voter turnout and should not be interpreted as taking an explicit yes or no position on the bond.

By mid-October, L.A. Unified had spent more money discussing Measure Q than the Coalition for Safe and Healthy Neighborhood Schools, the official committee that is using private contributions to campaign for the bond measure. The coalition had raised $704,800 and spent $426,373 as of Oct. 18, according to reports.

Ballot measure committees typically thrive on repetition, using mailers and phone calls to remind voters of an issue on a crowded ballot. Now, L.A. Unified is providing much of that repetition, albeit at taxpayer expense.

But although such practices can provide a winning formula on election day, they can also produce a political backlash.

Three years ago, the Ventura County district attorney produced a 38-page report on efforts by the Ventura County Transportation Commission to pass the half-cent sales tax known as Measure B. Although the report concluded that no criminal prosecutions were necessary, it described the agency's use of public funds -- including $273,000 for postcards and voter opinion polls -- as improper.

Earlier this year, the state's Fair Political Practices Commission warned that many government agencies are "pushing the limits with public outreach programs clearly biased or slanted in their presentation of facts relating to a ballot measure." The FPPC is weighing a new rule that would define any public money used to communicate about a ballot measure as a political expenditure, unless it provides a fair and impartial presentation of facts.

Taxpayer advocates have lodged their own protests, saying public dollars are being used improperly to effectively secure more taxpayer dollars. "The brochures are so decidedly one-sided that they cannot be judged as objective," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.

This year, the campaign outreach ranges from modest to ambitious. In the Pasadena Unified School District, officials spent $600 on brochures that are being distributed in person regarding their $350-million school repair bond.

In Long Beach Unified, school officials spent $46,000 on a mailer that discusses Measure K, a $1.2-billion bond measure to pay for classroom repairs. That mailer went to 80,000 likely voters, according to district spokesman Chris Eftychiou.

Lynwood city officials have sent three mailers on Measure II and have at least two more on the way, calling such efforts "public education and outreach." "It's allowed by state law. In fact, I think it's encouraged," said Assistant City Manager Robert Torrez.

Lynwood's website contains a five-minute video of Mayor Maria Santillan discussing Measure II, which would lower the utility tax rate from 10% to 9%. Meanwhile, Pico Rivera’s website features five taxpayer-funded mailers on Measure P, the proposed 1-cent sales tax hike.

The mailers, which also went to voters, contain a series of warnings about the consequences of a defeat of Measure P. Headlines include "Road Repairs at Risk" and "Pico Rivera Faces a Fiscal Crisis That Threatens Vital Law Enforcement and Public Safety Services." Because the mailers were prepared by city employees, the total cost will not exceed $35,000, said Bob Spencer, Pico Rivera's public information officer.

"A handful of people have called us and expressed surprise that we're spending the money," he said. "But it gives us an opportunity to explain what the alternative is, which is the loss of almost $5 million from the city budget."

A much more contentious fight over taxpayer-funded campaign brochures has been waged over Measure R, the MTA's half-cent sales tax hike. County Supervisors Gloria Molina and Michael Antonovich, both MTA board members, challenged the decision to spend $4.1 million on a campaign to discuss Measure R, saying the agency was abusing the rules that allow for such communications.

Although the MTA responded by canceling the remaining $3 million of its publicity program, the agency had already mailed 4 million 16-page brochures on Measure R. A complaint was filed with the FPPC, which closed its investigation without taking action.

Now, every entry posted on the agency's website about Measure R has been reviewed by lawyers, said MTA spokesman Marc Littman.

"Every word, every comma has been vetted," he said.


By George B. Sanchez, Daily News Staff Writer

10/26 /2008 - Donors have given more than $700,000 to support a proposed $7 billion bond that would benefit charter schools and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The Yes on Measure Q campaign reported on Thursday receiving $440,500 in the first 2 weeks of October, bringing the total sum of contributions to $704,800.

A majority of the donors are construction and management groups.

Two groups - an iron workers union and a Riverside construction company - each donated $50,000 between Oct. 1 and Oct. 18, the highest donations for the reporting period.

No formal opposition campaign to the measure has been established.

The Coalition for Safe & Healthy Neighborhood Schools, which is running the campaign, spent $310,000 during the same period, bringing the expense total so far to $426,373.91.

The largest expenditures were for printing and mailing campaign pamphlets.

Measure Q would be the fifth bond in 11 years that would benefit the Los Angeles Unified School District. Local charter schools would receive $450 million from the bond.

The bond would mainly pay for building repair and remodeling as well as new technology. In promoting the bond, LAUSD officials note that even after the completion of its current $20 billion construction program, more than 200,000 students will remain in portable classrooms.

Measure Q needs 55 percent support to pass Nov. 4.

●●smf 2¢: When the Times and the Daily News get the same story completely different the spin is dizzying!

There is a seeming disconnect (and/or an inappropriate connect) in the LAUSD/Measure Q part of the story. I'm sure political types will try to maintain that the LAUSD "Get Out The Vote" effort is wholly (not holy!) separate from the the Coalition for Safe & Healthy Neighborhood Schools effort. I understand the 'arm's length' business - but at the same time there is need for real coordination and also for real accountability.

I am interested is seeing the budget and cost breakdown on the GOTV effort - including an accounting of where the money is coming from. The school district's operating budget? The facilities budget? Bond funds? …or what? And then I'd like to see the questions asked by the omnipresent critics and experts answered; "We've always done it this way! …or "Everyone else does it this way!" does not answer whether its legal.

Or, gosh forbid, the right - or a better - way to do it.

QUESTIONED CAMPAIGN MATERIALS ON MEASURE Q: Suggested phone blast script for principals & Materials mailed at taxpayers expense


By James Quinn, Wall Street Correspondent | The Telegraph (UK)

24 October -- Calpers – the California Public Employees' Retirement System – saw the value of its assets fall by about $50bn (£31bn) from the end of February to October 10 because of stock markets falls and other heavy investment losses.

The pension fund now looks set to tap Californian state employers for higher contributions, at a time when the state's budget is stretched to the limit as a result of its own investment problems.

CalPERS, which was one of the first public pension funds to begin investing in private equity and hedge funds, has seen its net worth fall from approximately $240bn in February to $190bn today.

A decision on whether employers will need to increase their contributions will not be taken until returns for the 2008 fiscal year are known.

"Cushioning the impact of investment setbacks is the fact that Calpers experienced double-digit gains in the four years leading up to the 2007/08 fiscal year," said Ron Seeling, the fund's chief actuary. "We had saved 14pc of the fund for cushioning the blow of a future market downturn, and our smoothing policy is working as it should."

If returns do not improve, Calpers said it may require employers to increase payments. The current average employer contribution rate is 13pc of payroll – but increases in contributions could exceed 4pc if losses continue.

Even if increases are needed, they will only come into effect in the fiscal year beginning July 2010, due to the benefit of substantial gains in previous years.

Whether Californian state and local authorities could meet those payments remains to be seen, however. The state has been one of the hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis, reducing tax-take and leading to additional spending on social welfare.

The situation in California had become so bad at one stage earlier this month that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he may need a $7bn loan from the US government in order to meet short-term cash needs as a result of money locked up in the frozen credit markets.

That immediate need was resolved after institutional investors purchased revenue anticipation notes from the State treasury, but the overall financial picture remains gloomy.

Calpers is not alone in its problems, with the California State Teachers' Retirement System, America's second-largest fund with 795,000 members, seeing a 9.4pc drop in value to $147bn in the three months to the end of September.

The situation adds further woes to Americans already struggling with price inflation and reduced incomes as a result of the continued economic downturn across the nation.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
►L.A. Downtown News: NO ON MEASURE Q
Oct. 27, 2008 DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - We think cynical greed lies at the heart of Measure Q, the school bond on the Nov. 4 ballot.

►LOTTERY REVENUE FALLS AGAIN = Less money for schools
Sour economy hits California Lottery too: Tickets sales have dropped two years in a row. That means less money for schools and raises questions about Schwarzenegger's plan to borrow against increasing future lottery money to balance the state

►EXPO LINE PROJECT HITS A CURVE IN THE TRACKS: Los Angeles Unified School District says crossings at Dorsey High and Foshay Learning Center would pose a danger to students.

Judge Kenneth Koss ruled that the Expo Line should build pedestrian bridges over the crossings, both of which are next to schools in South Los Angeles -- Dorsey High and Foshay Learning Center.

►GRANADA HILLS CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS STOLE OR VIEWED SAT EXAM + U P D A T E: The campus' executive director says five students were involved. The scores could be invalidated
The head of Granada Hills Charter High School acknowledged to parents Wednesday that students had stolen or viewed SAT exams before taking the college entrance test earlier this month.

Barbara Ledterman, California State PTA Vice-President for Education, said parents across the state are seeing firsthand how children are suffering because of the state's budget cuts to public schools.

A steel tower wrapped in a spiraling ribbon is one of the most striking features of a new arts high school set to open next year.

Its $230 million price tag is another.

There's more to excellence than reading, writing, and arithmetic.

What does it mean for a school to be “excellent”? Is it excellent if no one fails but no one does terrifically well either? Is it excellent if the best, but only the best, do superbly? This question is important because the way we define excellence dictates the way we achieve it.

►WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM L.A.: Tracing the Rise-and-Fall Pattern of Urban School Reform
When I told former Mayor Richard Riordan that I was studying school reform efforts such as his city’s Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now, he replied: “That’s easy—LEARN failed.”

Riordan, like most observers, saw education reform as a project, a coherent, relatively short-term set of fixes to the existing system. After half a dozen years, it was easy to conclude that the project had not lived up to expectations.

The view that one project after another has failed leads to a “spinning wheels” notion of reform in which nothing gains traction. Our historical study of the Los Angeles Unified School District and studies in other districts around the country lead my colleagues and me to a different conclusion. We believe that the whole institution of public education is in flux, abandoning old ideas born in the Progressive Era of the early 20th century and trying out new ones.

The most expensive high school in Los Angeles history -- delayed for years because it was being constructed over potentially harmful gases -- opened Saturday near downtown.

A ribbon-cutting was held at the 2,808-student Roybal Learning Center at 1200 W. Colton Ave., which was to have been called Belmont High School until the $400 million construction project ran into problems.

When first proposed, the district hoped to complete the school for around $45 million.

The news that didn't fit from October 26th

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*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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