Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nothing new here.

4LAKids: Sunday, November 30, 2008
In This Issue:
Phoebe Smolin, a senior at Hamilton High School, writes A LETTER TO THE COLLEGE BOARD
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 failure last week of the 'lame duck' (now 'dead duck') special legislative session does not portend well for the future of the California budget or California public education. The opportunity for some bi-partisan/post-partisan doing-the right-thing disintegrated into politics-as-(un)usual gamesmanship and posturing. Accompanied by the usual name calling and the Kindergarten Cop himself slandering the name of mischievous and scholarly five-year-olds alike by calling the misbehaving legislators 'kindergartners'.

A new legislative session takes office Monday. December 1 in Sacramento. Some new faces face the old challenge - hopefully armed with new resolve and not the old tired rhetoric … optimistically equipped with a desire beyond wishful thinking.

Let me say this and hold my piece/peace: the Republican "No New Taxes" pledge and the Ed Coalition "No Cuts to Education" pledge are two similar waterfowl in the brace of deceased ones. That does not mean Republicans are dead or that the teachers/administrators/school boards/union/PTA folk are DOA — only that those lines in the sand are behind us all, swept away in the tide of red ink.

I usually close these rants with the word 'onward'. That is the direction we must follow — forward realistically for the children of this state - forward progressively with viable, sustainable solvent school districts with practical plans and agendas operating in state with a budget, sufficient revenue and a plan and a hope for the future.

Because those kids are the hope and the future.

¡Onward/Hasta Adelante! - smf

Editorial | La Opinión

Nov 29, 2008 -- This year's California legislative session ended with too much pain and too little glory. The efforts of Governor Schwarzenegger to take advantage of a special session to address the deficit crashed against a legislature incapable of rising to the challenges it faced.

It is clear that part of the problem in approving the budget is the Republican governor's difficulty in obtaining even minimal support within his party's ranks for his proposed budget. But how to explain what happened this past Tuesday, the date when an alternative budget was to be voted on, when five members of the Assembly and two state senators failed to even show up. Some of those who were absent chose to continue on their international trips loftily ignoring the efforts being made in the emergency session in Sacramento.

Now it is left to the new legislative session, which starts this Monday, to find a solution to the deficit, estimated at $28 billion by the middle of 2010. The possibility of some outgoing legislator breaking with his/her party to support a budget that increases taxes and cuts expenses has disappeared.

There's more. The prospect of an agreement between Democrats and Republicans seems to have taken a step backwards. The Republicans are repeating their same old offer that brought us to a long standstill a few months back by agreeing to an increase in taxes in exchange for easing labor laws, diluting environmental regulations and giving tax credits to the private sector.

The irresponsibility of the legislature has caused a missed opportunity that will cost Californians dearly.

Opinion by Aleksandra Ilicheva | Santa Monica City College Corsair

November 28, 2008 -- "Education is the best investment," helpful advisors always tell prospective college students.

This sentiment, apparently, is not shared by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the face of an economic crisis, students were the first to suffer through program and tuition cuts. Now as the state undergoes one of the worst crises yet, the effects on the students could be devastating. In fact, the majority of spending cuts that Schwarzenegger proposes would be directed at schools, colleges, and universities.

It is hard enough being a student. At community colleges especially, many students have to balance their studies with work and family obligations. An increase in tuition, elimination of a night class, or a financial aid source could put some over the edge. In an interview two weeks ago (The Corsair, Nov. 14) Santa Monica College President Chui Tsang mentioned the possibility of a tuition increase to $30 per unit before this summer. Whatever the exact consequences be, Tsang said it will have a significant impact on the school.

Last week, the UC and CSU systems announced plans to cap enrollment of their freshman classes, which would likely have an effect of bringing more students to community college campuses. This influx could serve a source of revenue, or it could mean more students cramped into increasingly larger classrooms and programs short on staff and supplies.

High school students will also feel the pain. According to the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 29), Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) could lose $440 million in budget cuts. LAUSD District Supt. David L. Brewer was quoted saying that the district would consider putting billboard on schools near freeways, to make up for revenue deficit.

At least high school is still doing what it's supposed to: preparing kids for college. With their spirits crushed early in the game, students in their desolation will not expect as much from their "college experience."

So what is the government doing about all this?

Apparently nothing. The budget battle has been going on for months, and it only feels more and more hopeless with each passing week.

Schwarzenegger has managed to come up with a plan that pissed off everyone: a tax hike here, a spending cut there, now everyone dislikes him even more (if such thing is possible).

Among the proposals: the aforementioned war on education, severe cuts to Medi-Cal services, car tax increase (the yearly registration fee), sales tax increase by 1.5 percent.

The sad part is the controversy in the state government over the proposed tax increases. People of California, during the Nov. 4 election, already showed their willingness to pay higher taxes for a good cause, even during economic hard times.

Voters have approved all three bond measures on the state ballot (Proposition 1A for high-speed rail, Proposition 3 for children's hospitals, and Proposition 12 for veteran assistance), Los Angeles County bond measures Q and J, sales tax increase measure R, and SMC renovation bond measure AA.

Most of these bond measures deal with education and infrastructure, and through the vote, the public showed its belief that the government should be spending more money on those causes. Why does the governor, then, try so hard to go against the wishes of the citizens?

One could argue that such cuts to education are inevitable due to such a giant deficit, over $11 billion. This gap, however, could have been smaller. Back in the summer, LA Times reported on the extremely high cost of firefighting in California.

Currently, after the fires raged over past weeks, the cost has exceeded its allocated budget of $236 million. State's fire policy has long been criticized for its inefficiency, not to mention dubious ecological soundness.

Also, the federal government and President George Bush have done us all a favor. The $700 billion bailout plan for banks and financial institutions also included a tax cut for banks, such as California-based Wells Fargo. The loss of this revenue will cost California up to $2 billion.

Thus the students were made sacrificial lambs of the economic crisis, all children left behind. Like the rest of the majority of population of this state and country we, the students, run the risk of losing jobs, housing, free time, if not having lost it already. Still I hope that we will not passively let our education be taken away.

We cannot surrender to the notion that the government is trying to impose on us; that we, the future of this country, have no future.

Phoebe Smolin, a senior at Hamilton High School, writes A LETTER TO THE COLLEGE BOARD
from the LATimes Homeroom Blog

November 25, 2008

Dear College Board,

It’s over. My long-running battle with you and the numbers you seek to define me by is finished. As my final act of surrender, I seek to prove, once and for all, that your tests say nothing about me or any creative student who submits to them.

First of all, to assuage my terrible relationship with math, every day for one month last year I went to my math teacher at six o’clock in the morning to mend it. I go to one of the top and most intense magnet schools in Los Angeles, take challenging classes, and am in the top 10% of my class. I read because I love to read, not because I’m forced to. I respect my teachers and I am absolutely addicted to learning. I am in multiple clubs and hold several leadership positions. I voluntarily wake up early and stay out late on Saturdays to protest for equal rights. I do community service around my city and around the world. I’m highly curious about everything. I play three instruments and write my own music. I have amazing friends from multitudes of cultural backgrounds and I am simply and enthusiastically passionate about living — qualities that don’t amount to a College Board number.

High school trains us to find our own voices, to figure out in our own innovative ways how to make a difference. Colleges advertise themselves as wanting to accept individuals willing to challenge themselves and be involved in their communities. How, then, does it make sense to judge us each by the same exact test?

College Board, I have taken your SAT twice, both times receiving the same score. The first time, I spent a fortune for a tutor, the second, I didn’t. Now, my results on that test can very possibly negate my exceedingly hard work and great grades I’ve earned over the last four years. They have the possibility of diminishing evidence of the radiating passion I have for learning and living. My results on this money-hungry test will tell the institutions I want to attend that I am not good enough; that I am not “prepared for college,” as you so kindly script in your introduction to the test, even though I am positive I will do just as well or even better than anyone who is paired with a higher set of numbers than mine, and my teachers would agree.

I understand that money is an issue to you. But I feel that it’s becoming the sole reason you administer this test. Today, for example, I wrote the College Board to ask a question about one of my Subject Test scores. In response, I was called a “customer” — not a student, not a person, but a customer. If that is not enough evidence for the nature of this test, then I don’t know what is.

Your numbers do not reveal a person who wants every opportunity to learn, to contribute and to change the world. While all other aspects of my life assure me of my abilities, your test negates them. For $45, you invalidate my commitment of hard work and you do the same for millions of high school students around the world who contribute great things but are not wired to do well on your tests. So, College Board, I hope that you hear me and those I speak for. Rather than treat us as customers who fill your coffers, regard us as the inspired students you claim to cultivate.
Thank you for listening and I hope to hear from you soon.

Phoebe Smolin

• Phoebe Smolin, a senior at Hamilton High School, is a mixture of dedicated student and laid-back human being. When in school, she is active in all of her classes as well as involved in various clubs including Youth Task Force and Nevians. She also writes for Hamilton’s literary journal. Outside of school, she takes part in political protests, plays various instruments, takes pictures, travels, and, of course, writes for The Homeroom.

• Next week the PUC plans to consider whether Expo Line planners have taken adequate steps to protect students at two campuses along the route.

By Steve Hymon | From the Los Angeles Times

November 28, 2008 - A state authority is set to decide next week whether transportation planners have done enough to make the Expo Line safe as it passes two South Los Angeles schools.

Some residents and school officials want the rail line to either be put underground or on a bridge near one or both schools.

Builders of the $862-million line say that would unnecessarily drive up costs and probably delay a transit system that could open by 2010 and provide an alternative to the Westside's traffic congestion.

The rail line follows a long-dormant right-of-way along Exposition Boulevard and will eventually connect downtown Los Angeles, USC, South Los Angeles, Culver City -- and one day Santa Monica.

But the tracks are slated to run next to the Foshay Learning Center and Dorsey High School.

The Exposition Line Construction Authority, the agency created to build the project, wants to set up rail crossings at street level outside the schools. Community activists and the Los Angeles Unified School District contend that children will be at risk of being run over or killed if the street level crossings are allowed.

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to take up the matter. The five-member commission has two decisions to make: whether to allow the tracks to cross Farmdale Avenue outside Dorsey and whether to allow the tracks to cross atop an existing pedestrian tunnel next to Foshay.

Last month, a commission-appointed judge suggested an alternative. Judge Kenneth L. Koss recommended that pedestrian bridges be built over the tracks next to both schools and that Farmdale Avenue be closed to vehicle traffic at the tracks. The commission now has the final say.

All sides have expressed concern with the pedestrian bridges, saying that it's not wise to put that many students in such a small space. Transit officials still want to build the street-level rail crossings -- contending that they're safe.

"They're going to end up with a project that hits people," said Damien Goodmon, who is leading the community effort on behalf of the Fix Expo Campaign.

Goodmon said that building trains at street level is not only dangerous, but also ties up traffic and forces officials to run trains so slowly that people won't want to take them.

Many proponents of the train say Goodmon and others have exaggerated the street-crossing dangers and created a "folklore" in South Los Angeles about the Expo Line.

"They're saying we're going to build something that kills kids," said Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, a member of the construction authority's board. "It's not something in the realm of possibility. They don't have the substance to carry their own arguments."

Expo Line officials say they will take pains to make the train safe. Construction authority chief Rick Thorpe said the agency would slow trains from 55 mph to 10 mph outside Dorsey immediately before and after school hours and also post security guards on both sides of the crossing gates to keep students from ducking under and dashing across the tracks before trains pass.

That's not enough, say safety consultants for the school district and residents. The problem, in short: Children will be children.

"Kids' risk perception at different age brackets is different than adults'," said Najmedin Meshkati, a USC professor of civil engineering who studies causes of transportation accidents. "They are more prone to risk."

School officials put it this way in a legal brief to the Public Utilities Commission: "Under crowded conditions, as would be expected at the at-grade crossing, students frequently misbehave, pushing other students and inciting fights."

School officials and advocates point to the fact that the Expo Line already plans to have four major bridges and a tunnel separating the tracks from streets along its route. The area near Dorsey and Foshay -- made up predominantly of Latinos and African Americans -- deserves the same safety features that are being built in other parts of South Los Angeles and in Culver City, they say.

Over the last two years the cost for the Expo Line has risen from $640 million to $862 million. Goodmon and school officials say that the line has been able to cope with rising costs, proving that more money can be found when needed.

Thorpe said that bridges and the tunnel were built to mitigate traffic concerns on the largest streets along the Expo Line route. Environmental study of the pedestrian bridges, rail bridges or tunnels and rerouting traffic off Farmdale could mean that the rest of the line would sit completed while a year or more is spent replanning the sections of track near the schools.

Light rail lines that run at street level have become increasingly popular in the United States because they are cheaper to build than subways. Trains operating down the middle of streets are found in parts of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Denver and Portland.

Although most operate without incident, light rail lines in the United States killed 60 people in collisions between 2002 and 2006, according to the Federal Transit Administration.

Critics of the Expo Line plan also say safety problems along the Blue Line light rail between Los Angeles and Long Beach suggest they have reason to be concerned about street-grade trains.

The Blue Line has killed 26 people in vehicles and 65 pedestrians since opening in 1990, and there have been more pedestrian deaths in the last five years than in the Blue Line's first five years. Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials say that 20 of the pedestrian deaths were suicides.

MTA officials say that safety features have been added over the years, and they're working to install more equipment to keep people off the tracks. They also say that only one pedestrian death has occurred on the Gold Line, which was built to higher safety standards than the Blue Line, since its 2003 debut. They say that death was a suicide.

"If everybody listens to what we tell them to do, you won't have one fatality anywhere," said Abdul Zohbi, the system safety manager for the MTA. "Any system is as safe as users make it."

No matter how the PUC rules, legal action may follow. Even the planned second phase of the Expo Line, from Culver City to Santa Monica, has generated controversy.

A Westside group called Neighbors for Smart Rail has helped South Los Angeles residents with the Dorsey and Foshay issues.

The goal, members say, is to set a precedent should the second phase of the Expo Line be routed on an existing rail right-of-way near the Westside Pavilion.

If so, they want the train to go over or under busy streets for traffic and safety reasons. Another group, Light Rail for Cheviot, suggests that the other group doesn't want the train going through its neighborhood and is trying to drive up the costs.

Officials suggest that the real problem with the Expo Line is unrealistic expectations.

"Transportation is always a complex and difficult thing to do, and money always comes in fits and starts," said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, a member of the Construction Authority Board. "It's easy to talk about the perfect approach. But that will not happen."

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources

As the population of high school graduates declines nationwide, Midwest and East Coast colleges are hoping to attract California students to keep their enrollment numbers steady.

LAUSD PAYROLL FIASCO (Thankfully) COMES TO AN END …though hearing about it never will!

November 27, 2008 -- A costly, 20-month saga of futility and frustration came to a formal close Wednesday when the Los Angeles Unified School District announced that it had settled a dispute with the contractor that installed its payroll system, which overpaid and underpaid tens of thousands of teachers and other employees by tens of millions of dollars.

The district said the company it had hired, Deloitte Consulting, agreed to pay $8.25 million and forgive $7 million to $10 million in unpaid invoices, for a total settlement that was roughly half the amount the district said it spent to fix the rogue system. In addition to those costs, the district sustained many millions of dollars in other losses related to the payroll problems.

“BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS TO QUALITY PRESCHOOL”: live satellite conference and national strategy session – Wednesday morning Dec 10

Registration is free!

Los Angeles
KCET Studio
Wednesday, December 10 at 9:30 AM


November 25, 2008 -- The nation has 8.6 million children who lack public or private health insurance and 1.3 million of them are in California, Families USA, a Washington-based advocate for expanded health access, says in a report based on new census data.

California, the nation's most populous state, is just behind Texas in the numbered of medically uninsured children, Families USA says, and at 12.5 percent has the nation's 12th highest rate. Texas is No. 1 at 20.5 percent.


Castelar Elementary in Los Angeles has been without a library since 2002, forcing students to walk to the nearest public library every time they need to use one.

In the 1970s, the school's small library and auditorium were combined to create a larger Los Angeles City Public Library. It served both the community and the school well until 2002. That's when the public library was moved to a brand new facility on the corner of Hill and Ord streets in L.A.'s Chinatown.

The district was supposed to replace the school's library, but the project has been tied up in the design phase, and now the budget has doubled


Dissatisfied with the students' performance, county supervisors vote to create three charters within the system and dismiss school board member. Camp teachers question whether the shift would bring improvement in students' skills. smf questions whether this is constitutional …or legal.


Parents and teachers protest Ritter Elementary elimination of dual-language program

November 24, 2008 - Teachers and parents from Ritter Elementary School will demonstrate outside the school on Tuesday November 25 at 1:30 p.m., to protest the elimination of their Dual Language Program.

For the last 4 years Ritter has participated in a Dual Language Program in which Spanish speaking and English speaking children learn together being taught all of their subjects in both languages. National studies have revealed that children who participate in dual language program substantially outscore their fellow students on state tests.

Ritter Elementary is one of the 10 schools in the mayor's partnership. One of the promises of the Partnership was a commitment to collaborating with parents and teachers in organizing the schools' curriculum and governance. Parents complain that this promise was not kept when the program was suspended without notification of parents.

The news that didn't fit from Nov 30th

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Monday Dec. 1, 2008
Ceremony starts at 10:00 a.m.
Central Region Middle School #7
1420 E. Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90011

Tuesday Dec. 2, 2008
VALLEY REGION BYRD HS Reconfiguration: Construction Update Meeting
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Polytechnic High School - Auditorium
12431 Roscoe Blvd.
Sun Valley, CA 91352

Wednesday Dec. 3, 2008
Ceremony starts at 3:00 p.m.
South Region High School #2
6100 S. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90001

Wednesday Dec. 3, 2008
VALLEY REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #10: Construction Update Meeting
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Sutter Middle School - Auditorium
7330 Winnetka Ave.
Canoga Park, CA 91306

Thursday Dec. 4, 2008
SOUTH REGION HIGH SCHOOL #12: DTSC Remedial Action Plan Public Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m.
South Park Elementary School
8510 Towne Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90003

Thursday Dec. 4, 2008
SOUTH REGION HIGH SCHOOL #9: CEQA Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Bryson Elementary School - Auditorium
4470 Missouri Ave.
South Gate, CA 90280

Friday Dec. 5, 2008
Ceremony starts at 3:30 p.m.
Valley Region Elementary School #12
9301 N. Columbus Ave.
North Hills, CA 91343

*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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