Saturday, December 06, 2008

An admiral when we need one.

4LAKids: Sunday, Dec 7, 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.
Rumors abound. The press is all over it. Conspirators conspire. There is drama on train platforms and tension and politics; behind-the-scenes intrigue, billionaires, betrayal, pathos and – absent sex and portentous organ chords – all the ingredients for a soap opera. [see The Puzzle Palace Coup, next.]

On Tuesday at 10AM the Board of Ed will discuss the future of Superintendent Brewer in secret closed session. It is a personnel matter - the Brown Act permits this.

Their closed session has a full agenda:

• They will discuss a pending legal case: Los Angeles Unified School District v. Coochie LLC, et al.
• They will discuss the price and terms for the purchase of land for three elementary schools and one high school: the eminent domain of people's homes and businesses - and hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.
• They will discuss with their labor negotiator the current state of ongoing contract negotiations with seven employee organizations (including the teachers union) and district represented employees and contract management personnel. Their labor negotiator is Superintendent Brewer.
• And, item # 2: Employee Evaluation: Superintendent of Schools
Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release
• They do this against the backdrop of the Global Economic Meltdown, the State Budget Crisis and a potential $400+ million mid year/this year budget cut. There is the inevitability of layoffs and potential of the District's insolvency and bankruptcy; the very real possibility that LAUSD may have to close down and send the kids home - their schoolwork incomplete - three weeks early this year for lack of funds.

The items on the last bullet are not on the agenda; they are not supposed to discuss them in this closed session. If they don’t, shame on them.

The board has allowed two hours for the work above. Less than that if they want to eat lunch before the 12 noon regular board meeting.

But before they retire into their inner sanctum they must allow public comment:

The public can address the Board at the commencement of the meeting on any
item that is described in this notice in the Board Room.

Surely, somewhere, someone must have something to say about all of this.

Even if it's – in the words of a bard of the sixties, to sing a couple of bars of Alice's Restaurant … and walk out.

Governing Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District
333 South Beaudry Avenue, Board Room
10 a.m., Tuesday, December 9, 2008

An admiral when we need one.

Above I described the current crisis: the Global Economic Meltdown, the State Budget Crisis and a potential $400+ million mid-year/this year budget-cut. There is the inevitability of layoffs and potential of the District's insolvency and bankruptcy. The very real possibility that LAUSD may have to close down and send the kids home - their schoolwork incomplete - three weeks early this year for lack of funds.

That crisis is real - it has very little to do with education; it has everything to do with economics and politics. The last two superintendents of LAUSD have not been educators; Roy Romer was the governor of Colorado and the chairman of the Democratic National Committee …in that role he got Bill Clinton elected president. And David Brewer was a Vice Admiral in the US Navy. It is conceded among experts in such things that the navy system - which moves officers among many assignments - produces the most qualified leaders. Peacetime naval officers navigate a sea of tactics and strategies, budgets and funding cuts, priorities, plans, goals, policy and reality, change and reform, personnel problems, life-cycle planning; training, drilling and testing – and yes: politics.

If you look at Brewer's Navy Bio you will see he's done a lot.

Q: But what qualifies him to be superintendent of LAUSD?
A: No one assignment.

Two citations jump off the page:

• In 1988, Vice Adm. Brewer was hand-selected by Adm. C.A.H. Trost, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), as Special Assistant for Equal Opportunity. In this capacity, Vice Adm. Brewer was the advisor to the Navy's top leadership, and the CNO's personal representative at equal opportunity forums nationwide.

• And From March 1999 to August 2001, Vice Adm. Brewer served as the Vice Chief of Naval Education and Training in Pensacola, Fla.

Everything he did from NROTC cadet to command of Military Sealift Command qualified him.

Q: But what has he done lately?

A: Test scores have improved, progress has been made. LAUSD's rate of improvement is better than any urban district in California in spite of the tooth-gnashing about the BTS payroll and the systematic federal underfunding of NCLB and Sacramento cutbacks. The voters approved Measure Q by overwhelming numbers - despite tepid enthusiasm from these pages and uniform Vote No recommendations from the media.

But mostly, Admiral Brewer has done what Pentagon Admirals do in Washington DC: he has walked the halls of the capitol in Sacramento and talked elected representatives into agreeing with him about expenditures and programs – about what's best for the children of Los Angeles. L.A. Unified is not the fair-haired child of California public education, but I do not doubt that if LAUSD needed an aircraft carrier he couldn't talk a majority of the legislators into voting for one.

I have been there, in those halls and conference rooms with him. (We met in what seemed to be a broom closet with one key staffer.) When politicians speak, other politicians and political staff argue: "Yes, but…" When Superintendent Brewer speaks, politicians listen.

Remember the global meltdown, the budget crisis and funding and program cuts? The skill set of a modern navy admiral is the skill set we need in the superintendent's office in LAUSD – and in the halls of Sacramento – today.

Admiral Haley gets the last word: "There are no great men, there are only great challenges ordinary men are forced by circumstance to face".

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

Brewer's Navy Bio

It started as a story in The Times…

Sources say school board is scheduled to discuss buying out contract of superintendent, who has handed over most authority to Ramon C. Cortines.
By Howard Blume and Jason Song | From the Los Angeles Times

…played out as a strange piece of light Machiavellian political theater…

The panel met in closed session on the schools chief, who is facing increasing pressure to resign. The absence of board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte complicated the deliberations.
By David Zahniser and Howard Blume | LA TIMES

… descended, through chaos, into farce…

Schools chief is defiant as board’s only black member denounces effort to remove superintendent
By Howard Blume, Jason Song and David Zahniser | LA Times Staff writers

December 3, 2008 - Embattled Los Angeles Schools Supt. David L. Brewer vowed Tuesday to stay on the job amid an abortive attempt to force him to resign as head of the nation's second-largest school system.

Brewer, a retired Navy rear admiral midway through a four-year contract, said nothing would change in his approach to the job.

"You will not see any difference in my behavior up until the last minute of the last day that I'm in this job," he said in an interview with The Times. "After 35 years in the Navy and working in life and death situations . . . you learn to basically compartmentalize."

Early this year, Brewer addressed criticism of his administration by bringing in veteran retired Supt. Ramon C. Cortines to manage day-to-day operations. That move was widely viewed as a positive. It failed, however, to repair critics' perceptions that Brewer's management skills are not equal to the task of navigating the Los Angeles Unified School District's politics and funding crisis.

Board of Education President Monica Garcia attempted to lead an effort to dislodge Brewer but it began to fall apart Monday when she failed to persuade a key board member to show up at the meeting.

Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte was attending a previously planned, weeklong meeting of the California School Boards Assn. in San Diego. Despite Garcia's entreaties, LaMotte declined to return.

Garcia and her allies were reluctant to act against Brewer, who is black, without LaMotte, the board's only African American member.

Garcia tried to reach LaMotte in person and even dashed to Union Station in an attempt to catch her before she boarded a 2 p.m. train Monday, an aide to Garcia said. The panting aide, running in high heels ahead of Garcia, reached the platform just as the train doors closed.

In an e-mail, LaMotte said she later received a "dastardly request" to return Monday "via train or chauffeured car."

The request came from Garcia, who also called other board members to alert them of a discussion about the superintendent's future. Board member Richard Vladovic, who is sick with pneumonia, struggled out of bed to make the meeting at Garcia's behest.

LaMotte judged the entire last-minute notification as questionable. She has long been suspicious of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his attempts to influence the school district through his alliance with Garcia and other board members he helped to elect.

"The futile attempt to have me do an immediate turnaround upon my arrival here was a disingenuous and unconscionable coverup to exclude me from this strategically and externally motivated plan," LaMotte wrote.

Villaraigosa would not comment.

LaMotte also apparently worked the phones. By 6:30 p.m. Monday, a rhetorical firestorm was erupting. One principal reported that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) asked her "to spread the word that there is a 'surprise' motion to be made tomorrow to ask Supt. Brewer to step down" while LaMotte was out of town.

In a widely distributed e-mail, the principal also talked of a campaign to flood board members and the mayor with e-mails and calls of protest.

Waters did not respond to a request for an interview.

Not all board members were thrilled by the unfolding events.

"I was distressed by the process," said board member Marlene Canter. "There are seven board members, and a conversation of this magnitude needed to take place with all board members" and not, she added, in such a hasty manner.

On Monday, Garcia tried to do what her office characterized as "outreach to civic leaders" to alert them of "an important issue" in the school district. Those on the list of more than 30 calls included elected officials and business leaders, including key members of the African American community.

Using a script approved by the district's lawyer, she told them that "there was going to be a discussion about the future of the district and the role of the superintendent," according to Garcia's office. Garcia's phone-banking began about 2 p.m., after aides said she had spoken with Brewer.

City Councilman Bernard C. Parks told The Times that, when his call arrived, he questioned Garcia about why Brewer was being asked to leave.

"She said 'It's an exempt position, so we don't have to have cause,' " Parks said. "I said, 'Is there a reason?' And she said, 'If you're asking me for a reason, it's that he's not moving fast enough.' "

Parks said he noted that district test scores have been improving and that Brewer inherited serious problems, such as a payroll fiasco, that were not of his making.

"I was shocked," Parks said. "It's just bizarre."

Parks has his own experience as a black civic leader forced out of a high-profile job. Former Mayor James K. Hahn declined to offer Parks a second term as police chief, a move that cost Hahn key support from black voters. Many of those voters switched to Villaraigosa, who defeated Hahn.

Villaraigosa is facing reelection in the spring, and Brewer's departure could be tied to the mayor. Villaraigosa's fundraising was instrumental to the election of the board majority that is apparently disenchanted with Brewer. Villaraigosa is said to be displeased with Brewer's performance as well.

By late Monday, Garcia realized that LaMotte wasn't budging.

Just before Tuesday's private meeting ended, Garcia asked Brewer and other staff members to leave, with the exception of the district's top lawyer, according to those present. Garcia then said that given LaMotte's absence, the item that she'd been planning to discuss would be postponed.

The board could take the matter up again at its closed-session meeting next Tuesday.

By George B. Sánchez, Staff Writer | LA Daily News
December 3 -- An attempt to oust Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent David Brewer III midway through his four-year contract hit a snag Tuesday when the board president, seeking his dismissal, failed to gather all seven members at a hastily planned session.

News of the closed-door meeting surprised and irritated some board members, including one who charged that board outsiders, such as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Mayor Richard Riordan, were behind plans to dismiss Brewer.

The superintendent's fate has been put on hold until next week, but it was unclear how the board might proceed. A simple majority could remove Brewer.

Talk of Brewer's possible dismissal has been circulating for months, but there was nothing substantive until school board President Mónica García informed her colleagues by phone Monday afternoon that his tenure would be discussed as part of Tuesday's regular meeting. Garc a did not return newspaper calls for comment.

LAUSD board member Marguerite LaMotte, who like Brewer is African-American, was in San Diego representing the district at the California School Boards Association conference. She fired off an angry e-mail to her board colleagues, accusing them of violating the Ralph M. Brown Act - the state's decades-old sunshine law - and conspiring behind her back to get rid of Brewer.

The board's decision to take up the issue in her absence was "a disingenuous and unconscionable cover-up to exclude me from this strategically and externally motivated plan," LaMotte wrote.

She refused to leave the conference to attend the meeting.

Brewer, who signed a four-year contract worth $1.5 million in 2006, has been criticized by many for failing to take charge of the nation's second-most-populous school district.

While his supporters point to improved test scores since he became superintendent, his critics say those improvements are not the result of any action by Brewer, whom they accuse of taking a back seat on major decisions.

A retired Navy admiral, Brewer was hired by the previous school board though he had no education experience. His arrival was greeted with skepticism from A.J. Duffy, the teachers union president, and disappointment from Villaraigosa, who has no official role in appointing the superintendent.

Though Brewer lately has been praised for meeting with state legislators to fight cuts to the education budget, his tenure has been marred by accusations of ineffectiveness. Critics say rather than step up to the challenge, Brewer simply responded to the complaints by hiring Senior Deputy Superintendent Ramon Cortines, at about $250,000 a year, to do the day-to-day managing of the district.

The action against Brewer is premature and inappropriate, said board member Marlene Canter, who was board president when the district hired Brewer.

"I never felt we should have had the meeting today," Canter said.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry said she was relieved the school board took no action Tuesday. Perry said this might give everyone involved time to step back and have a more open dialogue.

"I had just read that test scores were generally in an upward trend," Perry said.

Board member Yolie Flores Aguilar said she and her colleagues must consider buying out Brewer's contract.

"If he stays on, we pay," she said. "If not, is it worth the cost? Maybe that's the right decision to make."

Flores Aguilar expressed disappointment with Brewer over the dropout rate, teacher quality, elementary student reading rates and exclusion of parents as stakeholders. Canter said Brewer arrived with an extraordinary vision that he has been slow to achieve.

Board members said that for the past several weeks, they heard rumors of outsiders calling for Brewer's removal. But Flores Aguilar and Canter said they had never been contacted by Villaraigosa, Riordan or philanthropist Eli Broad.

Riordan said Tuesday that he had been aware of plans to force out the superintendent as well.

"I think he is a well-meaning person, but he has been unable to get the job done," said the former mayor.

He said Brewer should be leading district reforms, setting the tone and empowering principals to improve their campuses.

Canter said any outsiders attempting to influence the board should stick to their own responsibilities.

"There are seven of us that do this job," she said. "Anybody else doesn't understand the full complexities of this job."

…as the critics, pundits and the peanut gallery soon joined the fray:

• LAUSD's BREWER: Should He Stay or Should He Go?
TUE DEC 2, 2008 - 7-8PM on KCRW 89.9FM
Host: Warren Olney
• Connie Rice: Co-Director, Advancement Project in Los Angeles
• Earl Ofari Hutchinson: Nationally syndicated columnist, radio host, civil rights activist and author
• A.J. Duffy: President, United Teachers Los Angeles

Written by Kenneth Miller, Managing Editor | LOS ANGELES SENTINEL

KPCC RADIO NEWS | December 5, 2008 8:04 PM

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson | Daily News Op-Ed

All these stories and up-to-the-minute updates!

published in Urban Educator | November/December 2008

We—the leaders of America’s Great City Schools—envision a time in which the nation educates all our children, holds high expectations for them, appreciates their diversity, invests in their futures, and welcomes their participation in the American dream. We believe that you share the same vision, for it is one that is already being realized for many children. But for others— particularly those who are poor, African American, Latino, Native American, disabled or learning English—that vision is a cruel hoax.

Too many children attending our inner-city schools are likely to see a future marked by more second-rate jobs, jail cells, emergency rooms, and wasted ambitions than the country’s abundant wealth can hide. A nation that cared for its children, expected the best of them, appreciated their diversity, invested in their futures, and welcomed their participation in the American dream would not have let this happen. But happen it did, and now the pledge to banish inequality with all deliberate speed and ensure the civil rights of all has dissolved into decades of empty promises.

As a result, the nation is more fractured and uncertain as it faces some of the most profound challenges than it has ever encountered: economic upheaval, dwindling energy supplies, environmental collapse, income inequality, inadequate health care, out-of-control entitlement spending, international competition and conflict, rising unemployment, eroding housing markets, and more.

Public education cannot fix these problems directly, but it is at the heart of our nation’s capacity to do so. Yet, too often, our schools have reflected—even perpetuated—some of the problems that we face, rather than overcoming them and teaching all our children to the highest standards. Turning this situation around so that public schools are the engine of problem solving rather than being viewed as the problem itself is one of our highest priorities as urban school leaders. This priority, we believe, warrants the closest attention from the next President of the United States.

Urban schools, of course, are at the core of every national debate about the status and future of public education. There is no conversation about achievement gaps, accountability, teacher quality, school facilities, or parental choice that is not also about urban education. In this arena, every educational challenge is more pronounced and every solution is more elusive.

Still, within this arena, there exists significant energy, commitment, and progress on which the next President can build. We are proud of the fact that school systems in America’s Great Cities have seen steady academic improvement over the last several years. The proportion of our fourth-graders reading proficiently on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (popularly called “The Nation’s Report Card”) has improved nearly 30 percent since 2002, and the proportion of large central-city fourth-graders doing math proficiently has increased 40 percent since 2003, rates of gain that outpace those at both national and state levels. We have also strengthened our management and operations, improved transparency and accountability, and are working to regain the public’s confidence and trust.

We would not contend, however, that our progress has been sufficient. The overall academic performance of our urban school systems is below state and national averages, and our racially identifiable achievement gaps remain wide, although they are not much wider than those of the nation at large. Our students and schools remain the major focus of state and federal accountability initiatives. Our high school dropout rates are unacceptable. We need to accelerate gains in student achievement; close our achievement gaps; recruit and retain thousands of effective teachers; repair our buildings; and stabilize our leadership. It is a huge challenge, but a challenge that is critical to America’s future and the futures of millions of children.

We need a great deal from the next President of the United States in helping us meet these and other challenges, for we cannot meet them by ourselves. Here, specifically, is where we need your help.

FIRST, WE NEED A POSITIVE TONE IN THE NATIONAL DISCUSSION ABOUT URBAN EDUCATION. The divisive and destructive rhetoric about urban public education—and the singling out of public schools in the cities—must come to an end. We deserve to be criticized when we fail and acknowledged when we improve. But the gratuitous denigration of urban education is neither motivating nor effective, and it sends destructive messages to the inaccurate and counterproductive. We believe that the next President can help set the tone by framing educational reform as a national challenge.

SECOND, WE NEED A MORE COHESIVE NATIONAL URBAN POLICY WITH PUBLIC EDUCATION AT ITS CORE. The nation has lacked an urban policy for many years, a void that needs to be filled. Big- city schools and big-city mayors have worked hard over the last several years to forge stronger relationships and more coherent strategies for revitalizing our communities. Federal policy lags far behind in its ability to tie school reform and urban renewal together and to use one to strengthen the other. We believe the next President should help build this new cohesive national urban policy.

THIRD, WE NEED A SET OF AMERICAN EDUCATION STANDARDS THAT CLEARLY ARTICULATE WHAT THE NATION EXPECTS OUR CHILDREN TO KNOW AND BE ABLE TO DO. These standards should be competitive with those anywhere in the world and should lay out what is required of our graduates in order for them to take their rightful places in higher education and the increasingly globalized economy. The current 50-state system of standards is inadvertently lowering our expectations for student achievement and exacerbating our achievement gaps. It is time for the nation to move towards national standards in education, with state testing systems that are tethered to those standards.

FOURTH, WE NEED TO SUBSTANTIALLY AMEND NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND AND FOCUS ITS PROVISIONS ON RAISING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT and CLOSING ACHIEVEMENT GAPS. The Council of the Great City Schools supported No Child Left Behind because we thought it was important to pair the goal of universal access to education with universal proficiency. The great civil rights battles that many in our membership helped wage were not fought over access to mediocrity. These battles were fought over access to excellence and the resources to attain it. No Child Left Behind was an important effort in trying to bridge these goals, but it devolved into a poorly calibrated exercise in compliance with overly rigid and punitive measures that failed to take academic progress or growth into account and ultimately had little to do with raising achievement or narrowing achievement gaps. The next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should retain a focus on accountability and closing racial and language achievement gaps. But the next version of the law should move beyond labeling to provide more instructional emphasis, more technical assistance, better research on what works, and a higher level of financial support. The new administration should start by reviewing and suspending all regulations that go beyond the letter of the law.

FIFTH, WE NEED YOUR HELP WITH ATTRACTING, RECRUITING, AND RETAINING QUALIFIED AND EFFECTIVE TEACHERS AND LEADERS TO MEET THE CHALLENGES OF OUR URBAN SCHOOLS. No Child Left Behind mandates that we hire only qualified teachers, but does nothing to solve the obstacles that we face in finding these teachers. Urban schools cannot compete with wealthier school systems in pay or working conditions. Federal assistance—through methods such as alternative certification; induction programs; smaller class sizes; differential, performance, or incentive pay—is necessary to attract, recruit, and retain highly effective teachers and leaders for the nation’s urban schools. We also need help in developing workable strategies in federal law so that our best teachers serve in schools with students who most need them.

SIXTH, WE NEED ASSISTANCE IN ENSURING THAT OUR NATION’S YOUNGEST CHILDREN HAVE ACCESS TO EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. Many children from poor families enter school with substantial unmet medical, psychological, social, and academic needs. The research is quite clear that early childhood programs, if done with an emphasis on child development between birth and age four, can make a huge difference in the later success of students.

SEVENTH, WE NEED A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO REFORMING OUR LOWEST-PERFORMING HIGH SCHOOLS AND STEMMING OUR DROPOUT RATES. Countless studies have identified the schools and communities with high dropout rates, elevating the rhetoric around our nation’s high schools and demonstrating the impact of these schools’ failures to meet the needs of at-risk students. The next President can boost current efforts for high school reform even further by directing the federal government to devote more resources, conduct more extensive research, and disseminate new information on effective practices for turning around secondary schools.

EIGHTH, OUR FACILITIES ARE CRUMBLING AND IN SERIOUS NEED OF REPAIR, RENOVATION AND REPLACEMENT. The average school building across the country is close to 50 years old, and public schools are using an estimated 300,000 portable classrooms. Urban schools have fared even worse, and have long suffered from overcrowding, inadequate repair, and deferred maintenance. The impact of deficient facilities can be seen in areas from student performance to teacher recruitment and retention. Moreover, while local bond efforts have helped to improve learning conditions in urban school districts, state contributions are negligible and federal resources are almost nonexistent. Research has shown that a clean, safe, and modern learning environment is vital to help schools meet high standards, improve student test scores, and keep teachers and other instructional staff members focused on the children that they teach.

NINTH, WE NEED A SUSTAINED EFFORT BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO INCREASE FUNDING FOR THE EDUCATION PROGRAMS that serve the nation’s neediest students to reduce resource inequities across the country. Resource disparities undercut the ability of schools to teach all children to the same high standard. Despite educating greater numbers of poor students, English language learners, and children with disabilities, inner-city schools commonly have significantly less funding per child than the average suburban school. A slowing economy and the ensuing state and local budget cuts have exacerbated financial problems of cities. We encourage the next President to work with Congress to ensure that an ongoing increase in federal support is available for school districts to raise standards and implement and maintain successful instructional practices.

TENTH, WE URGE YOU TO CELEBRATE THE DIVERSITY THAT IS CENTRAL TO THE MISSION OF URBAN EDUCATION, AND IS AT THE HEART OF THE VALUES OF THIS PROUD DEMOCRACY. The Great City Schools represent the America of the 21st century, enrolling some 32 percent of the nation’s African American students, 26 percent of its Hispanic students, 29 percent of the nation’s English language learners, and 24 percent of its poor children. We urge you to use us—the nation’s urban schools—as a model of tolerance and inclusion and a focal point for continuing the nation’s dialogue on race and language.

FINALLY, WE ASK THAT YOU GIVE SERIOUS CONSIDERATION TO APPOINTMENTS IN YOUR ADMINISTRATION, PARTICULARLY THOSE TO THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, TO ENSURE THAT THEY INCLUDE PEOPLE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCE IN THE URBAN SETTING AND WHO REFLECT THE RACIAL AND LANGUAGE DIVERSITY OF OUR COMMUNITIES. The pool of leaders, managers, administrators, and instructional talent within urban education is outstanding. We also urge you to meet regularly with urban school leaders once you assume office to ensure that our respective efforts are moving in the same direction.

The Great City Schools are on record in support of raising student achievement, closing achievement gaps, and being accountable for results. We will continue to support these priorities, even when the challenges appear immense and success seems out of reach. We do so because we have seen these schools make progress and know that more is possible. It is vital that we succeed, given that our fortunes are tied inextricably with those of the nation and our urban children.

We ask you, as the next President of the United States, to work with us to make urban public education the best in the world. Thank you and best wishes as you assume the mantle of leadership as the 44th President of the United States of America.

William Isler
Chair of the Board
Council of the Great City Schools
Pittsburgh School Board

Carol Johnson
Council of the Great City Schools
Boston Superinendent

Dilafruz Williams
Council of the Great City Schools
Portland School Board

Carol Comeau
Immediate Past Chair
Council of the Great City Schools
Anchorage School Superintendent

Michael Casserly
Executive Director
Council of the Great City Schools

Review of the Organizational Structure & Operations of the Los Angeles School District - a report from the CGCS (Jan '06) 330pp.)

Dick Spotswood |Marin Independent Journal Staff Report

November 30 -- DUE TO THE LOOMING FINANCIAL DEPRESSION and decades of fiscal irresponsibly, California's state government is effectively bankrupt. The great danger is that a cascade effect will soon drag down not just the state, but some cities and counties.

It's now evident that our moderate Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is unable to pull the state out of the mess. It isn't so much his unwillingness to act, as an organizational and political landscape where leadership it is almost impossible.

The governor's weakness is matched by Karen Bass, the inexperienced new Democratic Assembly speaker, and Republican minority leaders at war with the governor and incapable of saying anything but "no" to every suggestion.

The only hopeful sight is incoming Senate President pro-tem Daryl Steinberg.

With a first-class intellect and a reputation as scrupulously honest, Steinberg is a standout in the Capitol wasteland. Lacking statewide ambitions, the Sacramento Democrat is one of the few key legislative players who sees the big picture and has his ego in check.

The question is whether the new Pro Tem has the political guts to level with Democratic-leaning interest groups, including the education establishment and public employees unions, to accept the fiscal reality that preserving existing public employment requires even more budget cuts.

Understand that the federal government has more alternatives at its disposal than does any state or municipality. It can borrow almost without limits and operate in a deficit mode during the near term. States, cities and counties, by their nature, need to operate with a balanced budget. When the money runs out, they literally shut down.

California faces a two-year $28 billion gap between revenue and expenses. A pessimistic state Sen.-elect Mark Leno reports that prospects are so bleak that California will soon sport the lowest credit rating of any state. That means an inability to sell bonds to finance recently approved infrastructure improvements essential to get California's economy back on track.

Raising taxes while simultaneously making Draconian cuts in services is inevitable. If the state doesn't do both soon, it will be broke by early spring. That will cause the next domino to fall.

Local governments, including Marin and its 11 municipalities, will lose state money essential in making their budgets balanced.

Thanks to hyper-partisan politics coupled with a bad law, California finds itself at an impasse.

This dysfunction is due to a legislature divided by colliding imperatives. Its majority consists of progressive Democrats beholden to public employees unions and governmental service recipients. The Demos have at least surfaced a proposal to cut services and raise taxes on a formula of $1 in cuts for $1 in new taxes. It's not enough, but it's a decent start.

The truth is that getting the state back in the black requires a "$2 of cuts for every $1 in new taxes" formula.

This political divide is magnified by a law "enjoyed" by only two other states. To pass a budget, two-thirds approval of both the state Senate and Assembly is mandated. Since neither party has the needed super-majority, gridlock inevitably results.

Crushing their credibility, Republican legislators refuse to propose an alternative budget outlining precisely where they would make the $28 billion in cuts they blithely advocate.

The way out of this maze requires at least one final concession by Democrats: Freeze state and local public employee compensation. Democrats like Steinberg can push such a hard choice only if Republicans reciprocate and acknowledge that targeted tax increases are a necessary price to pay for state solvency.

"Today, I am announcing a few key parts of my plan.

"FIRST, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won't just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.

"SECOND, we will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. Well invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and well set a simple rule - use it or lose it. If a state doesn't act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they'll lose the money.

6 Dec 2008

●●smf's 2¢: The part our legislators need to read most carefully is the use-it-or-lose-it: "If a state doesn't act quickly to invest … they'll lose the money." California is a state that doesn't have a budget. They labored for 85 days last summer and came up with a budget that unraveled in a month. And they now seem incapable of coming up with one. The federal government is not going to give or lend or invest dollar one in a state without a plan.

The complete radio address

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
DECEMBER 4, 2008 -- Harvard University's endowment suffered investment losses of at least 22% in the first four months of the school's fiscal year, the latest evidence of the financial woes facing higher education.
The Harvard endowment, the biggest of any university, stood at $36.9 billion as of June 30, meaning the loss amounts to about $8 billion. That's more than the entire endowments of all but six colleges, according to the latest official tally.
Their Budgets Squeezed, State Schools Cap Enrollment, Weigh Tuition Increases; Fears for Lower-Income Students
DECEMBER 3, 2008 -- As public colleges grapple with reductions in state funding, the prospect of reduced access to higher education is looking more likely.

SCHOL MEALS - Editorial in La Opinión
Dec 4, 2008 -- California’s fiscal crisis is reaching public school cafeterias, which feed millions of children from low-income homes every day. As in other cases, the services most needed in hard times are those most impacted by the lack of money.
The budget challenge facing the state is not just about increasing taxes and cutting spending to cover a deficit. It is also about achieving this goal without further damaging basic infrastructure…

By Susan Abram, Staff Writer | LA Daily News
December 3, 2008 -- California's public school students relied on 28 million more free or reduced-price meals this school year compared with last, a sign that the economy has made the school cafeteria the de facto kitchen table for kids whose families are struggling.

By Raegen Miller, Robin Chait | Center for American Progress
December 2, 2008 -- In recent years education reformers have focused a great deal of attention on strategies for enhancing teacher quality. This attention makes sense, as a growing body of evidence points to the overriding importance of teachers in promoting student achievement.

Why is a Los Angeles school (right in the middle of Watts) experiencing fewer referrals, improved student attendance, and an improved climate for learning? Educators point to the implementation of Second Step: A Violence Prevention Program as a key reason.
Committee for Children PRESS RELEASE

Editorial | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario)
Signs that the state budget cuts are reaching bone - not just fat - became painfully evident when the CSU trustees opted to accept 10,000 fewer students next fall in response to Sacramento cutbacks.

LOCKE HIGH SCHOOL’S PROGRESS: Three months into the school year, a troubled high school is making strides as a Green Dot charter.
Opinion from the Los Angeles Times
December 1, 2008 -- The lesson was polling. Math teacher Fernando Avila acted as pollster, the students as respondents and the four corners of the classroom their opinions: strongly agree, slightly agree, slightly disagree, strongly disagree. The topic: How Locke High School in Watts had changed since being taken over by charter operator Green Dot Public Schools.

• From a state without a budget, a government without a clue:

The latest on California politics and government from the SacBee
December 4, 2008 - As large as it is, California's projected budget deficit may be only the third worst among the states according to a new survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Arizona, with a projected 24.2 percent deficit next year and New York at 20 percent are deeper in the hole than California at 18 percent, the NCSL survey found. In terms of actual dollars, however, California easily leads the pack. Overall, NCSL says, states face $97 billion in additional budget deficits over the next 18 to 24 months and California, at $28 billion and growing, approaches a third of the total.

Choose the dumberest:
Football star shoots self in crowded NYC nightclub when pistol stuck in sweatpants falls and goes off
-or- from today’s
SacBee Capitol Alert: the California Lottery Commission meets today to discuss, among other things, lottery ticket sales, or lack thereof. Oh, and the commission will be asked to approve a $4.3 million contract with a Sacramento firm to do the final design for a new lottery headquarters.

The news that didn't fit from December 7th

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Thursday Dec 11, 2008
San Pedro High School New Gymnasium: Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony
Ceremony starts at 5:00 p.m.
Location: San Pedro High School
1001 W 15th St.
San Pedro, CA 90731

Thursday Dec 11, 2008
Marshall High School Track and Field: Community Update Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Marshall High School
3939 Tracy St.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

*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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