Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's always darkest just before you step on the cat.

4LAKids: Sunday, Nov 16, 2008
In This Issue:
MAKING CHARTER SCHOOLS MEASURE UP - The L.A. school board needs a stricter policy when approving or renewing charter schools.
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.
The meeting pretty much opened with Senior Deputy Superintendent Cortines sucking all the air from the room.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON @ 4PM Ray Cortines addressed a full house at the Beaudry Boardroom - with countless more watching on closed circuit TV - on the subject of the school district budget. Like King Harold at Stamford Bridge - we had all survived the faux earthquake ...but the next crisis was about to do us in.

Cortines spoke not from behind the horseshoe and its raised dais and two wooden barriers - one of them fortified with Kevlar to deflect not just the slings and arrows of indignant outrage but actual incoming fire. He stood at a microphone down in the cheap seats, among the groundlings at Beaudry — half of whom he pretty much said would soon be unemployed.

The teachers' union leadership (who have their own office tower on Wilshire) have called for ALL the Beaudry bureaucrats to go — echoing the mayor's pledge two years ago to shut Beaudry down and run the district from a bungalow somewhere. Cortines scoffed: "They couldn't exist without the District Bureaucrats."

Bureaucrats, he commiserated, are the critical folk who support the critical work in the classroom, supply the supplies, buy the textbooks and pay the payroll. And, he continued, if the District were to be rid of EVERYONE at Beaudry - to fire the whole kit and caboodle - including the highly compensated Superintendent Brewer and himself - and to sell the building — it would not save the requisite $400 Million projected to meet the budget shortfall THIS YEAR!

And next year and the year after that are coming up - and they look even bleaker.

This was the third of four districtwide informational (UTLA parlance: "Brainwash") meetings on the immediate, medium and long term impact of the international fiscal, budget and credit fiasco on LAUSD. "The Great Recession" – which LAUSD prepared for by hiring more staff while attendance and revenue declined.

FYI: The fourth (but Cortines promised …not the last) meeting will be on Monday, November 17 at the El Sereno Middle School Auditorium, 2839 N. Eastern Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90032 - 4 to 5 p.m. If you can make it you should be there, to listen, question and then to argue or agree. Or to adjourn for margaritas.

The midyear-cuts and the longer term cuts proposed are draconian - and will be especially hurtful at a time when the District is actually beginning to perform better - outperforming (in terms of growth and improvement) all other districts in performance assessments for the past year from kindergarten to graduation.

• Cortines proposes to eliminate consultant contracts and cut waste and duplication; belts will be tightened and many positions will be eliminated.
• There is a hiring freeze and credit cards are being cut up.
• He proposes class size increases from 20:1 to 25:1 in K-3 -- and eliminating the class size reductions in 7th and 9th grades.
• Many assistant principal positions may be eliminated - though some schoolsites may be empowered to manage their own budgets and hiring where they can.
• He proposes a "tax" on all programs - in give back money to the District to reassign priorities.
• Cuts to Categorical programs such as English Language Learners are seen as inevitable - though these reductions are usually orwellianly titled "flexibility".
• Special Ed Programs are exempt - but not necessarily staffing and support levels. Cortines sees many "assistants to assistants".
• School site clerical staff will be protected. Safety and security will not be compromised.
• He remains open to eliminating some testing and periodic assessments where these can be shown to be ineffective.
• Cortines made clear that this would not be about "reassigning assignments"; employees and their jobs will be eliminated. There is the promise of "golden handshakes" for early retirees - but those details are not yet ready.

Ray Cortines has a reputation as a decentralizer - and he sees many of these changes devolving power to local districts and schoolsites …but local districts too face the elimination of 50% of staff and a "tax" on their budgets. Budget cuts are being directed centrally — Cortines often lapses into the first person-singular pronoun before saying that the Board and Superintendent are the ultimate decision makers — albeit with little choice.

After a Q and A session Cortines finished painting his picture by saying he doesn't know how the District meets the fiscal demands of the future without relief for the medium or long term. He is proposing to tighten down the fasteners, batten the hatches and sail on — but can see the very real possibility of fiscal failure, bankruptcy and closing the doors - not just at Beaudry but at every school - if the folks and Sacramento permit such a thing.


WEDNESDAY EVENING much the same meeting was had on a smaller and perhaps more global scale at the boardroom of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District - at a conference jointly hosted by the SMMUSD, Santa Monica Council of PTAs and sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

The principal speaker was incoming Assembly Education Chair Julia Brownley (D-41) - panelists were SMMUSD Superintendent Tim Cuneo, LA County Office of Education Superintendent Darline Robles, State PTA President Pam Brady and the moderator, Ted Lampert, President of Children Now. The subject was Why Sacramento Matters (to education funding) - and it’s safe to say the recent events drove the discussion with greater relevance than when the roundtable was called a few months back.

Julia Brownley set the stage and described the perfect storm (her metaphor) of the continuing/continuous state budget crisis, the Wall Street/Main Street/Your Street market meltdown and the partisan political intransigence in Sacramento.

First and foremost, the budget crisis is real. The Schwarzenegger Doctrine of Cut Taxes, Borrow and Deficit Spend has met a stone wall as the international credit markets dissolve in chaos. Revenues are seriously down, California is in trouble and the trouble worsens daily.

California is alone among the major states (we love Hawai'i …but it has only one school district!) in that almost all education funding comes from the state while the decision and policy making theoretically resides in thousands of local boards of education.

The truth is that whoever controls the purse controls policy and power. It is the California state legislature - not local school boards, county offices of education, State Department of Education, State Board of Education or the Superintendent of Public Instruction that run the show. 80 assemblymembers, 40 senators and the governor - few of them with educational expertise - run public education in California in a political process oft compared to the manufacture of sausage without FDA oversight.

• California has the most students, the highest standards and the least per pupil investment in public education.
• California's revenue generation (tax collection) is problematic at best with the 'two-thirds rule' to generate or increase taxes. And the current times are not - with apologies to Dickens - "@best"!
• The Federal "No Child Left Behind"/ESEA mandates drive about 80% of education spending and provide about 10% of the funding. This is exacerbated in urban districts where Title I of NCLB/ESEA rules supreme.
• In spite of all the above public education in California has been improving; test scores, graduation rates and the AYP/API/CST/CAHSEE alphabet soup measures are all up. AP and SAT scores are up.

But funding is down. And unless something is done to "enchant revenue" there will only be more cuts and no relief. And legislative Republicans - remaining barely above a third - have taken the pledge: "No New Taxes."

If past is prologue those are infamous last words.

Assemblymemeber Brownley described the Governor as believing that this 'lame duck' session offers a unique chance for some "do-the-right-thing" bipartisan movement. But the truth is that the intransigence resides in one party only - and unless the governor is offering lots of swell jobs to the soon to be legislatively unemployed this seems to be wishful thinking. Maybe Arnold will offer some good jobs in the show biz - they seem to be short an action hero.

SMMUSD Superintendent Cuneo offered a bleak picture of that district's finances. Their problems don’t have as many zeroes after them in the bottom line as LAUSD's - but programs and jobs and position and people's careers are on the line. And this is a district where the voters have supported the district with parcel taxes and municipalities chip in from their city budgets. Districts up and down the state have cut fat and muscle to make the budget agreed to two month ago work. More cuts this year and further cuts into the next two years make every district - including small and energetic ones like Santa Monica candidates for fiscal failure.

County Superintendent Robles must be reaching for the Xanax. Should any school district in LA County - whether LAUSD or Santa Monica-Malibu or Agua Dulce - become insolvent they become her problem. That said she agreed with all the presenters, the perfect storm offers an imperfect opportunity for real reform of education funding. She commented on the fact the Los Angeles County voters had approved every school construction bond and education parcel tax on last weeks ballot. We all most work together to lobby Sacramento for real long term solutions.

Ted Lampert from Children Now echoed the message, reminding all that China and the Asian "Tiger" nations are concentrating on educating the top 10% of their students. Ten per cent of Chinese students is about equal to our entire student body. And that those students will ultimately be competing with all of our students for the best jobs in the "World is Flat" Global Marketplace. We must invest in the future or give up on it. Local school districts must up the ante and help themselves - in creating their own revenue streams (and NOT through bake sales) and aggressive advocacy in Sacramento and DC.

And PTA President Brady rang the bell of alarm and hope. We have done these things in the past, we Californians have understood that our children are our best investment in the future and we have invested in them and it. To use budget language: we cannot afford to look at public education and the welfare of children as a bottom line budget issue but as a fiscal and moral investment in California's future.

The Q and A that followed touched on a number of items. How flexible can we afford to be in Categoricals? Again the argument: Categorical programs are investment in students with special requirements, to transfer that investment to general operations short-changes them. A third grader who doesn't learn English in the third grade never gets a chance to learn it in the third grade again - that year is lost to them and to us.

Julia Brownley spoke of how the Vehicle License Fee ("Car Tax") elimination precipitated this whole California budget mess - much as energy deregulation triggered the last financial slump. The whole meltdown is no longer dollar-for-dollar attributable to the VLF cut …but up to about three months ago it was!

This is the time to revisit the VLF. And splitting the rolls on Prop 13. On how the state and the cities and counties and school district raise revenues. On who runs the show, the elected or the electorate? Now is the time. Now.


IN A WEEK WHERE ALL THE NEWS SEEMS TO BE BAD even the decent news is bittersweet.

There is something indelibly positive about a life well lived into the 97th year, especially by an educator who embodied that calling to its - and his - fullest. True educators are lifelong learners and as lifelong teachers they share what they learn; seeds are planted and knowledge sown is wisdom reaped.

DR. GEORGE W. HOUSNER was such a man. The Braun Professor Emeritus at Caltech is honored in his LA Times obit as the Father of Earthquake Engineering. Housner developed the mathematical framework to understand quake vibrations, leading to more rigorous building standards nationwide. Houser's many contributions and accomplishments are outlined in the obit, I recommend it.

Housner came to Caltech and the study of earthquake engineering after the Long Beach Earthquake of 1933; that temblor being the watershed moment of California school construction. Thirty days after the Long Beach Earthquake the legislature enacted the Field Act - a legislative prescription for school seismic safety - guaranteeing the security of generations of California schoolchildren from then until now. All schools are dated akin to BC and AD from March 10, 1933. There are no schools from before that date that have not been razed or reengineered.

The Field Act legislated standards but it was Housner an engineer neither a lawmaker nor a seismologist - who created the field of quake engineering and expanded the knowledge base. Housner and his colleagues at Caltech and throughout the globe studied and learned from every seismic event - and taught others - including lawmakers and makers of public policy, not always the most willing students - what they needed to know.

The result has been that the Field Act has become a golden dynamic standard for safety that has kept every California schoolchild alive, safe and uninjured in California schools since '33 - a standard changing and improving with the increase of knowledge and the advocacy of Housner and his collogues.

To those who would say that that's because no major earthquakes have happened during school hours in that time I say we can count our lucky stars. But the data on damage sustained by Field Act constructed schools - built and inspected and held to the standard - show that our schools have and will survive what nature has to offer, their occupants safe and sound

Legislators don't build safe schools; school boards and oversight committees and voters and taxpayers and charter operators don’t build safe schools. Engineers build safe schools. It is ironic that Housner died on the day before the Golden Guardian/Big Shakeout - the statewide earthquake drill/rehearsal. But we all can rest easy - parents and teachers and taxpayers and students - and Housner should rest easy - knowing that his work continues on.

One of the lucky stars we have to thank is Dr. Housner; they should name a school in every district in the state for him.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! —smf

Housner Obituary

by George Sanchez, Daily News Staff Writer

November 14 - Facing a midyear budget cut of up to $300million, the Los Angeles Unified School District has issued an immediate halt on filling open positions, using district credit cards and spending on a variety of contracts.

While the cost-saving measures are temporary for now, they could lead to closing small schools, combining continuation programs and reducing administrative staff sizes if the crisis worsens, said Senior Deputy Superintendent Ramon Cortines. He is also considering "taxing" every department, meaning a percentage of department budgets will be slashed to address looming budget cuts.

"I've got to find a way to deal with a $200(million) to $300million midyear cut, or we won't make payroll," he said.

Cortines announced the purchasing freeze Monday in a memo sent to all schools and district offices. Only purchases for health, safety, legal requirements, school construction and school lunches will be allowed.

"This does not mean that I do not trust your judgment and respect your ability to make wise decisions, but these are unpredictable times and we need a few days to assess where we are financially for the 2009-2010 school year and beyond," Cortines wrote.

Megan Reilly, the LAUSD's chief financial officer, explained: "This freeze is asking to stop all spending so we can do an assessment of where we stand in preparation for massive budget cuts."

Mike O'Sullivan, president of the district's principals union, said the memo surprised employees. "We understand the need to reduce expenditures. There's a need to see the district's financial standing, but what's really disturbing was the nature of how it was done," O'Sullivan said.

Those with district credit cards should have been notified earlier, O'Sullivan said, adding that it is unclear how long the freeze will last.

The purchasing freeze should not change day-to-day school operations, Cortines said, noting that essential programs, supplies and even training will continue.

"I'm asking people to use judgment and wisdom on what is essential," he explained.

Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed cutting state spending by $4.5billion for the current year. More than half of the cuts would come from education.

"He made this recommendation based on the assumption that he'd get approval for a tax increase," said Cortines. "If he doesn't get that approval, the midyear cuts could go up as high as $350million."

LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer III has warned that the governor's cuts could lead to school closures. School districts throughout the state are facing similar tough choices.

"It's not only logical, it's necessary," said Bob Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies. "There's a lot more coming, and there will be more pain because it's in the middle of the year."

Before last week's announcement, the LAUSD was facing $188million in cuts from the approved 2008-09 state budget. District officials said in October that dire financial straits would effectively end the small-class-size initiative next year.

District officials will meet today to discuss the freeze and budget options, Reilly said.

Facing a projected cut of $700million over the next three years, Cortines said cuts will first happen at LAUSD headquarters, then district offices, and last at schools. But with 80percent of the budget going to staffers, there's only so much he can cut.

"Even if we closed down (LAUSD headquarters), it wouldn't be $400million," Cortines said.



LAUSD Budget Message: No Hope, Just Nope!
LAUSD has been a District on the move recently, with a series of “Budget Information [Brainwash] Sessions”, trying hard to turn the “HOPE” of its teachers and health and human service professionals into the “NOPE” of ...

• Fear mongering emails and phone calls sent to teacher’s homes
• Protecting Paperwork and Periodic Assessments, not Students and Teachers
• No Fair Contract for those who work with students,
• Threats to the Healthcare of our Families
• Class Size Increases for Struggling Students

There is no doubt that these are difficult times for our state, our schools, our students and their families, and for ourselves as workers. But we know that if we don’t raise our voices, it will get worse for all of us. The real economic fears that many of us feel right now are being used to attack the foundations of a quality public education system for all, and to keep us from demanding real change in LAUSD, such as:

• Ending Unnecessary Testing and Paperwork
• Emptying the District Offices to Fill Teaching Positions
• Cutting off Consultants to Send the Money to Schools
• Protecting Class Size, Health Care, and the Classroom
• Demanding Stable Funding for Schools and Services
through Progressive Taxation in Sacramento

Don’t Take “Nope” for an Answer!


Mr. David L Brewer III, Superintendent
Mr. Ramon Cortines, Senior Deputy Superintendent
Los Angeles Unified School District
333 South Beaudry Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Week of November 10, 2008

Dear Mr. Brewer and Mr. Cortines:

AALA applauds your efforts to communicate to employees the magnitude of the budget shortfall facing the District. Holding the four community meetings is a very good idea. In addition, you have published memos outlining the priorities and focus of possible cuts. These actions will educate some to the issues, but many more will not know what has been said and how serious this crisis could become.

Clearly, the Governor’s calling of a special legislative session will help drive home the point to employees, but more is needed. We at AALA would like to help get the facts out to all concerned, especially the 2600+ employees that we represent.

As you move forward with planning and strategizing ways to handle the fiscal issues, we would suggest that you focus on the following key points:

1. CUTS SHOULD ONLY BE MADE IF THEY ACTUALLY REDUCE COSTS. Making cuts based on symbolic action, or the perceived desire to appease certain factions of the District, should be avoided. For example, reducing the number of Assistant Principal positions at schools will not help the bottom line. Virtually every Assistant Principal (indeed, every administrator) is first and foremost a fully tenured teacher who will always have a job. By the time you factor in the loss of work time (eight hours plus per day versus six hours), you will quickly see that it actually costs more to make these cuts.

In an auditorium of UTLA members, discussing the possibility of a reduction of administrators will, no doubt, elicit applause, but it is not a good business practice. You will not make any meaningful impact on the budget gap this way, despite what other organizations might suggest.

Furthermore, you will be weakening the thin blue line of staff overseeing the accountability of a school and its instructional program just at a time when scores have been increasing across the board. As experienced leaders, you know how valuable your field commanders are in keeping the organization and its employees on task, and they deserve better than this.

2. LAUSD SHOULD NOT BLINDLY MOVE FORWARD WITH CUTS BUT ACTUALLY CRAFT A STRATEGY TO PURSUE ADDITIONAL REVENUES. The Facilities Division is king and pursues money with great vigor, but the Operations and Instructional divisions lack the same level of political savvy and vision. They need your help. The recent success with the DWP lawsuit is a good example of getting revenue back to the general fund. All of that money can be given back to the general fund with careful oversight.

Instead, it is slipping back into the murkiness of the IT and Facilities Divisions, and both of these divisions have considerably more money than the others. The District needs to pursue a variety of efforts to get more resources for instruction and operations, such as challenging the Community Re-development Agencies (CRA’s), pursuing the Educational Revenues Augmentation Funds (ERAF), crafting Federal earmarks, and vigorously pursuing state mandated monies owed, etc. The list is long.

Even Governor Schwarzenegger has finally seen the light and is calling a special legislative session to consider “revenues” and move away from cuts. He seems to be adverse to symbolic cuts based on rhetoric that will do nothing but feed the public’s concept of Districtwide mismanagement as promoted by UTLA.

We look forward to working with you on real budget prioritization such as a May 2009 parcel tax or other types of revenue enhancements, and we stand ready to meet with your budget and financial staffs at any time. This needs to be a team effort or we are just moving chairs.

Dr. Mike O’Sullivan

cc: Board Members

►CALIFORNIA'S CAR TAX MAY BE ON THE ROAD AGAIN: The Vehicle License Fee That Got Gray Davis Recalled and Arnold Schwarzenegger Elected Looks like a Good Idea Again.

The Times points out that the Car Tax/VLF served California well for 60 years. Undoing it has failed the state for six years. Until last year reimplementing it would have actually balanced (or come close to balancing) the budget. It's not enough anymore, but it's got to be on the table. Along with spitting the rolls on Prop 13 …but one sacred cow.third rail/taboo metaphor at a time. - smf

Editorial from the Los Angeles Times

November 11, 2008 - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has shown he's capable of learning. Not every governor who rode into office on a no-new-taxes pledge would propose a sales-tax increase of 1.5%. He's right to insist that every solution to the state's fiscal crisis be on the table, so we're happy to pitch in with a suggestion -- bring back the car tax.

There, we said it. Again. California's leaders took a wrong turn in 1999 when they slashed the vehicle license fee, or car tax. The move frittered away a rare revenue surplus that should have been used instead to fix the state's structural deficit. The plan supposedly called for the rate to go back up during fiscal crises to the same level it had been since 1948 -- 2% of vehicle value. But when then-Gov. Gray Davis tried to do just that, Schwarzenegger fanned voter anger and booted Davis from office.

It's not out of a sense of mischief that we now call on Schwarzenegger to bring the tax back to its historical level. Not solely, anyway. The car tax is a smarter choice than a sales tax for digging out of the current budget hole. Asking Californians to pitch in through their vehicle registration fees rather than at the cash register would have fewer negative effects on sales, which we can expect to be diminished too much already in the coming months.

Sales taxes are regressive: They take a higher percentage of household income from the poor than from the rich. A 1999 California Policy Research Center study found vehicle license fees to be nearly as regressive, but at least the proceeds are unrestricted and could be used to bail the state out of its mess. Because of voter fiat, sales taxes paid at the gas pump are off limits for any use but transportation. Local government also claims a share. Another advantage of car taxes: They are deductible from federal income tax. Try deducting your sales tax on your 1040 form and see how far you get.

Schwarzenegger already has swallowed his pride a bit on car taxes: He's proposing that each vehicle owner pay $12 more. But that's an especially regressive fee, imposing barely an irritant on a wealthy motorist while packing a wallop for a low-income one. The state can do far better for itself and its residents by returning to the tried-and-true vehicle license fee.

Any tax hike will cause pain, but not nearly as much as the deepest budget cuts the governor is proposing. And sales taxes are already rising: If the 1.5% state increase is adopted, the rate in two Los Angeles County cities will be 11.25%, and just a penny less in the rest of the county. That's not the way to go. Cutting the car tax helped get us into this mess. Restoring it to the rate that served California for 60 years can help get us out.

►BUSH'S TAX BREAKS FOR BANKS COULD COST CALIFORNIA $2 BILLION: Wells Fargo is state's chief beneficiary of change that allows banks to write off losses when taking over failing institutions.

By Evan Halper | From the Los Angeles Times

November 11, 2008 -- Reporting from Sacramento — Even as California's fiscal woes mount, the state is slated to lose an additional $2 billion in coming years as a result of new tax breaks the Bush administration created for a small group of banks including California-based Wells Fargo.

A tax change put into effect by the U.S. Treasury Department provides new federal and state breaks for banks that take over other failing financial institutions. The subsidies come on top of the $700 billion in bailout money that Congress authorized as part of the federal rescue plan.

The move is provoking anger among lawmakers and activists from Washington to Sacramento. The primary beneficiary here will be Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia Corp. days after the Bush administration changed the tax law.

At issue is the extent to which banks can write off losses they absorb when taking over other banks. Decades-old limits on those write-offs were removed by the Treasury Department on Sept. 30. An estimate by the law firm Jones Day, which represents banks, found that the change will save banks as much as $140 billion, mostly in federal tax relief.

Officials at the state Franchise Tax Board, California's tax collection agency, say state law requires them to conform with the new rule.

Days after the tax rule was changed, Wells Fargo successfully moved to acquire Wachovia Corp., whose losses on loans could reach more than $70 billion. Tax experts at Jones Day and elsewhere have projected that those losses will allow Wells Fargo to claim $20 billion to $25 billion in total tax breaks.

Officials at Wells Fargo declined to comment.

The subsidies come at a time when California is facing a severe budget shortfall.

It will be at least three years before the banks exhaust their tax breaks and the state collects that revenue again.

Late last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called for billions of dollars in sales tax increases and new taxes on retail sales, services, oil companies and car registrations to help close a projected deficit of $24 billion through mid-2010.

The governor also called for billions of dollars in cuts to schools, healthcare, law enforcement and other state programs.

Education officials said the governor's plan would force them to shut down schools in the middle of the academic year. >>> ARTICLE CONTINUES - follow link below>>>

►GOLDMAN SACHS URGED BETS AGAINST CALIFORNIA BONDS IT HELPED SELL: The Wall Street titan's activities could have harmed taxpayers, officials say

By Sharona Coutts, Marc Lifsher and Michael A. Hiltzik From the Los Angeles Times

November 11, 2008 -- Goldman, Sachs & Co. urged some of its big clients to place investment bets against California bonds this year despite having collected millions of dollars in fees to help the state sell some of those same bonds.

The giant investment firm did not inform the office of California Treasurer Bill Lockyer that it was proposing a way for investment clients to profit from California's deepening financial misery. In Sacramento, officials said they were concerned that Goldman's strategy could raise the interest rate the state would have to pay to borrow money, thus harming taxpayers.

"It could exaggerate people's worries about our credit," said Paul Rosenstiel, head of the public finance division of the treasurer's office.

Such worries would tend to drive down the price of California bonds. That, in turn, would drive up the interest rate the state and its municipalities pay to borrow money. An increase of a single percentage point on a $1-billion bond issue would cost taxpayers an additional $10 million a year in interest.

That's especially troublesome at a time of severe budget turmoil and tight credit. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has warned that the state could run out of cash as early as February.

• Experts say Goldman's actions, while not illegal, are inappropriate. "You act in the interests of your clients. You don't screw them, to put it bluntly."

• Goldman collected millions of dollars in fees for bringing CA bonds to market and finding buyers. Then it marketed a financial instrument known as a credit default swap that is essentially an insurance policy against a bond default.

• Goldman has been a leading dealer in municipal credit default swaps, along with sub-prime mortgages - the cause of the meldown.

• Over the last five years Goldman has earned about $25 million in underwriting fees from California issues.

>>> ARTICLE CONTINUES - follow link below>>>

Edited/Truncated articles continue in A STATE WITH A BUDGET, A GOVERNMENT WITHOUT A CLUE, the 4LAKids blog about the state budget crisis

MAKING CHARTER SCHOOLS MEASURE UP - The L.A. school board needs a stricter policy when approving or renewing charter schools.
Opinion by Tamar Galatzan from the Los Angeles Times

November 14, 2008 - When historians write the story of public education in Los Angeles at the beginning of the 21st century, they may well dub this the Decade of the Charter. Since 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District has added about 120 independent charter schools and another 12 that are affiliated with the LAUSD -- more than any other district in the country.

Last month, the L.A. Unified Board of Education's Charters and Innovation Committee finally kick-started its attempt to catch up to this exploding movement. It began discussing how to revamp the policies that govern such schools, with the expectation that recommendations will come to the full board for a vote next spring.

This debate marks a pivotal point. As a school board member since July 2007, I have been extremely uncomfortable with the loose and inconsistent manner in which we consider charters for approval or renewal. But without a strong policy on the books, the board has little alternative. If the district and the board don't adopt a strong and fair-minded policy that reflects well-considered instructional priorities, the credibility of the charter movement in this city could be severely damaged in the years to come.

Most egregiously, the district has never clearly defined the educational mission of charter schools. For example, if School A proposes a Swedish/English dual-language program, and School B is geared toward getting recent dropouts back in school, should we grant both charters? Under the current policy, our students' needs aren't driving such decisions, and most new charters just get approved.

Our so-called standards for judging charters' academic performance are hardly better. At a board meeting this year, I reluctantly voted to renew the charter of a school that was performing below stated expectations. Why? Only because the neighborhood schools were even worse. On another renewal, a colleague of mine shook her head and said a poorly performing charter school with 300 students was still better than a poorly performing comprehensive high school with 3,000.

But I am not convinced that such comparisons -- commonly used by the district -- are to the benefit of charter students. Charters should not be rewarded for simply out- performing their underachieving LAUSD counterparts. The philosophy of charter schools is based on accountability, and the district must hold them to their promises. Lack of accountability is not uncommon in the school district, but we cannot let it seep into the charter movement as well.

One more point to consider: Now that voters have passed the $7.2-billion school bond -- $450 million of which is slated for charter schools -- charters soon will be lining up for their share. Without a coherent charter policy, how can the district reasonably and equitably decide which applicants receive funds, and the amount?

Charters are already demanding buildings and classroom space, to which they are entitled under Proposition 39, passed by voters in 2000. But the LAUSD has more requests for rooms than space available, and everyone is angry about the manner in which the district allots what it can. The situation is such a mess that some people have proposed a moratorium on new charter schools. A policy that coherently delineates the rights of charters and noncharters under Proposition 39 would enable the district to more equitably and efficiently fulfill its legal requirements.

The LAUSD's next charter schools policy must up the ante. The guidelines should include mandatory academic benchmarks, a means of assessing whether innovation is in fact benefiting students and a non-intrusive mechanism for monitoring schools' financial health. It also must set out clear and fair standards for allocation of district space and resources.

Charters thrive on their reputation for sound fiscal management, educational excellence and the freedom to innovate. But their good standing will suffer in the eyes of the public if the market is flooded with schools that don't measure up.

It's time the district gets a good yardstick.

• Tamar Galatzan represents District 3 on the Los Angeles Board of Education

●●smf's 2¢: 4LAKids agrees with Boardmember Galtazan here but I anticipate major pushback from the charter community, which is fractious but unified in its opposition to the Board Of Education and District leadership. When the colonialists tossed tea into the harbour they tossed tea drinking, the king, parliament and that extra 'U' in too.

I fear the charter community in LA doesn't see itself as a partner in the education of Los Angeles schoolchildren - not as pilots for programs to be studied and replicated within the District but as a parallel and opposing movement. Charters see themselves as Us v. Them rebels leading a gallant fight against the Empire of Darkness and the Beaudry Death Star.

The District itself has done little or nothing to defeat this mindset. And charter organizations like ICEF and Green Dot go so far as to position themselves as shadow school districts - not unlike the Mayor's and LMU partnerships - carving out and dividing up turf east and west of the 110. And now that there's half-a-billion dollars in school construction bond money to be contended over the contention will only grow.

Perhaps there is room for the charter schools folks to clean up their own act - though true independent charter schools (and this is probably even more true of the so-called 'dependent' charters) have a stripe of anarchy a mile wide. Charters will fight any effort by the Board of Ed to set a defining Charter School Policy …that is exactly that kind of thinking they are pledged to defeat.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
Editorial from the Los Angeles Times: L.A. Unified needs a leader who can guide the school district through tough times. Brewer isn't the one.
smf doesn't agree, see below.

Mac Taylor forecasts that the state will need to close a $27.8-billion budget gap in the next 20 months. He calls for a smaller sales tax increase than Gov. Schwarzenegger has suggested.

Expanding its role as a leader in the green schools movement, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is not only saving energy, it is creating energy. LAUSD just weeks ago began construction to install one megawatt of renewable solar power at the Pico Rivera General Stores and Food Warehouse, with expected completion before the end of this year. This project is the first in the District’s program to install as much as 50 MW of renewable energy technology, including solar power, at schools and other facilities.

APOLOGIA (or not!)
Erroneous information published in 4LAKids last week was verbatum from School Board Member Galatzan's E-newsletter - and she is in turn quoting Senior Deputy Superintendent Ramon Cortines - so the error goes far deeper - and further up the food chain!


ICEF Public Schools — a charter school organization that serves the predominately African-American community of South Los Angeles — today announced that it has been awarded $2.1 million to support its effort to produce 2,000 annual college graduates from its “Education Corridor” in South Los Angeles.

Following are two stories, one of a scientific study of aggression in young men and the other the incomplete story of an unfortunate incident told four times. They are the same story – and before one jumps to the conclusion that’s it’s all football's fault, I refer you to "Seventeen Reasons Why Football is Better than High School" by Herb Childress. - smf

Brain scans of teens with a history of aggressive bullying behavior suggest that they may actually get pleasure out of seeing someone else in pain, researchers said Friday.


Eagle Rock High school nixes game with Belmont High

He is struck from behind during practice, allegedly by a disgruntled former player apparently upset about the firing of the previous head coach. Friday's game is canceled.


The news that didn't fit from Nov 16

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Monday, November 17 at the El Sereno Middle School Auditorium, 2839 N. Eastern Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90032 - 4 to 5 p.m.

Monday Nov 17, 2008
Ceremony starts at 11:00 a.m.
Location: South Region Elementary School #7
1536 E. 89th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90002

Monday Nov 17, 2008
Valley Region High School #4: Construction Update Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Location: Patrick Henry Middle School - Library
17340 San Jose St.
Granada Hills, CA 91344

Tuesday Nov 18, 2008
South Region Elementary School #10: CEQA Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Location: West Vernon Elementary School Auditorium
4312 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90037

Tuesday Nov 18, 2008
South Region High School #8: Site Selection Kick-Off Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Location: Maywood Academy High School
6125 Pine Ave.
Maywood, CA 90270

Tuesday Nov 18, 2008
Valley Region Elementary School #8: Construction Update Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Location: Morningside Elementary School Auditorium
576 N. Maclay Ave.
San Fernando, CA 91340

Wednesday Nov 19, 2008
Garfield High School New Auditorium: Schematic Design Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Location: Garfield High School - Cafeteria
5101 East Sixth St.
Los Angeles 90022

Wednesday Nov 19, 2008
Valley Region Maclay ES Addition: Construction Update Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Location: Sara Coughlin Elementary School
11035 Borden Ave.
Pacoima, CA 91331

Thursday Nov 20, 2008
South Region Elementary School #1: Construction Update Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Location:: 93rd Street Elementary School
330 E. 93rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90003

Thursday Nov 20, 2008
South Region Elementary School #9: CEQA Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Location: Stanford Avenue School - Auditorium
2833 Illinois Ave.
South Gate, CA 90280

Thursday Nov 20, 2008
Valley Region Elementary School #7: Construction Update Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Location: Strathern Elementary School - Auditorium
7939 St. Clair Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91605

*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 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 has served a PTA officer and 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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