Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nuttin' for Christmas

4LAKids: Wed, 31 Dec. 2008 24:00:01
In This Issue:
Coda: 24:00:01
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.
by David L. Brewer III & Scott Folsom

A week ago Friday and again last Monday the governor called for a state budget to be out of the legislature and on his desk by Christmas; Christmas was last Thursday.

It is now almost New Years and no budget.

One of us remembers the annual holiday pageant at our daughter's elementary school. Mrs. Smith's Third Grade performed the same musical number every year through gap-toothed smiles, singing their hearts out. "I'm Getting Nuttin' for Christmas, Mama and Papa are Mad…" Well, six million children in the state of California are on the verge of getting Nuttin' and its time for the Mamas and Papas of the electorate to get fighting mad.

PUBLIC EDUCATION is not about school districts and school boards and teacher's unions; public education is about six million California schoolchildren. Unless there is a rescue package from Sacramento, children are going to bear about one-half the cost for state government's economic woes.

All of the proposals "debated" in Sacramento in the recent 'dead and lame duck' legislative sessions had huge cuts in the middle of this school year to local school budgets. Cuts affecting your local school, your child's classroom, every single kid in every school in the state in every legislative district – red or blue. 85% of school district budgets are labor costs; in any scenario teachers and staff will be laid off.

Under the Republican “No New Taxes” proposal - a poorly disguised rewrite of Proposition 76 rejected by the voters in 2005 - California's children would pay $4.4 billion to balance the budget in the form of reduced education in the second half of this year. LAUSD’s share of this: a whopping $440M in addition to the $427M it’s already cut this year. Many schools and school districts could run out of money and be forced to close three weeks early.

Under the Governor's proposal the hit was only half as bad; fewer schools run out of money - or they run out later. They would close in May or June rather than April. LAUSD’s share: a less whopping $220M. Half as many teachers and staff will be given pink slips. However that Prop 76 language - with long-term consequences guaranteeing education underfunding in perpetuity - would be the cost for "compromise."

HERE IS WHAT WE PROPOSE IN THE FIRST DAYS OF THE NEW YEAR: a Self-Help Rescue Plan for the State Budget and California Public Education - a somewhat enlightened and not so draconian two phased approach requiring statesmanship instead of political gamesmanship.


PHASE ONE – Right Away:
• A return of the Vehicle License Fee – up to $6B per year in state revenue.
• Perhaps additional revenue increases: a temporary sales tax hike, a loan against future lottery income, etc.
• Flexibility to temporarily relax of K-3 Class size reduction from 20:1 to 25:1 while reducing 4-5 class sizes from 30+:1 to an average of 25:1 during the period of this crisis – LAUSD’s savings $70M per year. (Perhaps retaining full day Kindergarten programs at 20:1)
• Flexibility with categorical mandated funding (e.g., Arts & Music, Professional Development, Physical Education, etc.) allowing school districts some flexibility on how this money is to be spent - with transparency and accountability. These cuts to last for three years or as long as there is a budget deficit crisis, whichever is longer - and a strategy to return to current funding levels and make good the reduction in future years. (There is no magic forecast in 3 years, school districts are required to budget three years out and this simply recognizes that reality.)

PHASE TWO - Once the Short Term Plan is in Place for This School Year:
Immediately begin to address medium-term solutions for the '09-'10 state budget - including a 55% threshold for local parcel taxes. Statesmen must sit down with budgeteers and educators and constituents to initiate real budget and education funding reform; the first of which would be a constitutional amendment permitting school districts to place parcel taxes on their local ballots requiring a 55% vote - the same supermajority as the school construction bonds. This returns a measure of local control and local accountability for some school funding.

And California must look to the new administration in Washington for relief, $50 Billion more federal tax dollars are collected in California than are returned in government services. We are not looking for a bailout as much as for equity.

Ultimately, there needs to be long term solutions. Begin serious discussions addressing the 2/3 majority needed to pass a budget. Need to seriously reconsider provisions of Proposition 13 that caused this state to sink from the top 10 in education funding and performance to 47th in the nation. Realign the state’s budget to a two-year budget process.

The prognosis is not happy, but it need not be dire. The human face we need to put on this is that of the Child and six million California public schoolchildren. Being a kid is not easy; this is a huge adult problem that need not be theirs.

These are hard times. We are not asking for miracles from this budget or this legislative session.

But Christmas is past and the children of this state deserve a lot more than nuttin'.

• David Brewer is the outgoing Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and the publisher of this blog & e-newsletter.


Gentle readers, thank you all. Thank you Admiral Brewer for your service in the Navy and for sailing these stormy seas the past few years with us/for kids.

Happy New Year, Fair winds and a following sea ...and ever onward!

...But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne

- smf

Sing along: "I'm Getting Nuttin' for Christmas"


By George B. Sanchez, Staff Writer | Daily News/Daily Breeze

December 30, 2008 -- Kindergarten classes could grow to nearly 40 children. Some 55 million meals for poor students might not be served. Art classes will likely be history. And hundreds of teachers could lose their jobs.

That's the bleak outlook for the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2009 as officials face $400 million in cuts next month and further reductions in state funding. The $400 million comes on top of a series of other cuts, taking the total to nearly $1billion this school year.

While districts across the state have managed to avoid a large number of layoffs so far, LAUSD officials say job losses are almost inevitable because salaries and benefits account for more than 80 percent of the district's $12billion budget. And most educators expect bad news to continue coming from Sacramento well into the new year.

"We are looking at hundreds, possibly thousands, of job cuts next year," said Megan Reilly, the LAUSD's chief financial officer.

District officials have been tightening belts for months as the state - hammered by steep declines in tax revenue from the withering economy - increasingly cuts back funding to public agencies.

A.J. Duffy, head of United Teachers Los Angeles, said the district's proposed cuts might be exaggerated, but he worries that not enough teachers understand the extent of the financial crisis.

Threats of teacher and other staff layoffs have been made in the past but have rarely come to pass. The last round of mass layoffs was more than a decade ago, Duffy said.

"The writing is on the wall," Duffy said. "The fiscal crisis is going to last for a couple years."

Los Angeles charter schools face the same loss of funds as a result of the state's financial position and must also explore how to scale back.

"It's going to affect everyone," said Gary Larson, spokesman for the California Charter Schools Association.

"Do we anticipate schools closing? No, not really, because of the demand. As long as the state continues to fund based on enrollment, charters should be able to hang in there."

In the fall, LAUSD officials began to describe how Sacramento's budget crisis will impact the district. Initially cuts were planned for the district's bureaucracy, with no clear impact on classroom instruction. But that's changed in the past two weeks.

By a district estimate, the LAUSD is now deficit-spending at a rate of about $70,000 an hour. The $400 million in cuts proposed for next month is designed to get through the 2008-09 school year, which ends in June. At least $200 million in cuts is expected for the 2009-10 school year.

Earlier this year, the district cut $472 million from its budget and eliminated 680 positions, many through attrition.

Incoming Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who will replace Superintendent David Brewer III on Thursday, oversaw many of the previous budget cuts. While working as senior deputy superintendent under Brewer, who was ousted by the board earlier this month after it agreed to buy out the remainder of his contract for $500,000, Cortines ran the LAUSD's day- to-day operations.

Since Brewer's contract buyout, Cortines has already presided over three budget-cutting meetings.

The school board will meet for the first time in the new year Jan. 13, when it's expected to take up the dire economic crisis facing the district.

In his first official report to the board as superintendent, Cortines will present a budget update.

In November, Cortines and Reilly announced 50 percent budget cuts for local districts and 30 percent cuts for departments at district headquarters.

Duffy said the recent promotion of Cortines will likely prompt midlevel managers and district headquarters bureaucrats to leave before layoff notices go out - and will hopefully spare severe teacher layoffs.

The district is preparing for the possibility of no state funding past February 2009, which would force it to cancel its 20-student-per-classroom limit in kindergarten through third grade, Reilly said. The state pays for a majority of the program - $200million - while the LAUSD covers an additional $80 million. To save money, the district is asking the state to allow class sizes to expand to 25 students.

While union officials doubt that state funds will entirely dry up in February, Reilly said raising the class-size limit would allow the district to cut 1,667 teaching positions.

If the district loses all its $280 million to pay for small class sizes, more than 5,500 teaching jobs could be cut and K-3 classes will likely jump to 37 students per teacher.

On Dec. 22, Cortines sent a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stating that the state's budget disaster means the district's free and reduced-price meal program will be cut nearly in half.


by Jason Song and Alicia Lozano, Los Angeles Times

December 29, 2009 --LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles school district has suspended a key arts program because of a spending freeze, a sign of what may be ahead for the state's largest district, which is facing a serious budget shortfall.

When the school board was forced to slash almost $400 million from this year's budget because the district received less than expected in state funds, it kept most of the cuts away from classrooms. But now the district may have to cut another $400 million, which could mean increasing class sizes, laying off teachers or providing fewer meals at schools.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials have even offered a $300 bonus to employees who take a survey to gauge interest in an early retirement program, which could save the district money in future years by reducing payroll and spreading out retirement payments.

L.A. Unified officials also instituted a spending freeze, which resulted in the abrupt postponement of the arts program. In a Dec. 12 e-mail, district administrators told arts instructors with the Arts Community Partnership Network to cancel all work immediately and that payments might be delayed, though work could begin again next month if the state resolves its budget crisis.

"We are all waiting for the state budget in January . . . and hoping for the best," said Richard Burrows, L.A. Unified's director of arts education.

Districts throughout the state are also making drastic cuts, said state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, who warned that eliminating arts and after-school-program funding could have dire consequences.

"We have to keep these students involved and engaged," he said. "Schools need to be more of the hub of the community, not less."

The Los Angeles arts partnership has been in place for six years and had a budget of about $8 million this year. The 80 participating groups include the Music Center and the Center Theatre Group.

None of the district's music teachers will be fired because of the freeze, but some of their programs might be affected, district officials said. The arts partnership spends $2.2 million on an instrument repair shop that services about 35,000 instruments a year.

"This doesn't just affect arts education, it affects the entire district," said Danielle Brazell, executive director of Arts for L.A., an arts education organization that oversees the arts network.

For smaller arts providers, the delay could be disastrous. The 24th Street Theatre, which has served 111 schools by taking students to shows and providing teacher training, was counting on receiving about $300,000 from the district, about half of its operating budget.

The group received only a fifth of that before the freeze was instituted, said Jay McAdams, the theater's executive director.

"It's a body blow," McAdams said, adding that he might have to lay off his three employees or even close the theater if the spending freeze continues.

Making the situation worse, McAdams said, he can't turn to charitable foundations for funding because of the economic downturn.

"It's like you call the fire department and all the engines are on fire," McAdams said.

Teachers and supporters have decried the loss of the programs. Some have started an on-line petition to pressure the district to restore the funds. Before Christmas, the group had gathered 417 signatures and had a goal of 1,000.

Alejandra Sinjay, a second grade teacher at the Bridge Street School near downtown, has been taking her students to the 24th Street Theatre for almost five years. Before going to see a show, her students take workshops so they are "not just sitting around not understanding what's going on," Sinjay said.

"It's the most well-spent Saturday there is," she said.

Others are worried that if enough small arts groups have to close their doors or lay off staff, it will be difficult to restart the arts program when the district again has enough funding.

"You can't say 'go play for a few years and then come back when we're ready', " said Mark Slavkin, the Music Center's vice president for education. "It takes years to build infrastructure."

District officials declined to discuss that possibility.

"I don't want to go there," Burrows said.

LAUSD Press Release

Los Angeles (Dec. 19, 2008) To determine the number of teachers, principals and other administrators who are willing to take early retirement, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is asking certificated retirement-eligible employees to take a survey by January 16, 2009.

Eligible employees who fill out retirement or resignation papers by February 13, 2009 will receive a $300 incentive even if the early retirement program does not go forward due to lack of interest.

“We are facing the worst budget crisis since the Great Depression, a financial nightmare that may require a reduction in the number of our employees next year,” Superintendent David L. Brewer III said. “We are doing everything we can to minimize the number of lay-offs.”

A reduction in staff is one of many options under consideration as the District cobbles together up to $400 million worth of budget cuts for the current academic year.

If sufficient interest warrants green-lighting the early retirement offer, full-time certificated employees who are either at least 50 years old with 30 years of service or 55 with five years would receive 40 percent of their 2009-10 base annual salary.
• For example, a teacher who earns $60,000 would receive a total of $24,000 over five years or longer. Stretching out the payments would be beneficial tax-wise for employees, and also give the District more time to pay for the retirement bonus. The early retirement payment is separate from the $300 declaration incentive for resignation or retirement.

“I am trying to protect jobs,” said Superintendent-elect Ramon C. Cortines. “I’ve got to do everything to save money, but if it is not cost-saving, I’m not going to recommend it.”

The plan, which is limited to certificated employees at this time, will proceed only if it is cost effective. Depending on the number of employees who take it, the early retirement incentive would be cost-neutral and result in future savings, according to Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly. The retirees either would not be replaced or their positions would be filled by employees who are earning a lower salary.

Elementary teachers are encouraged to apply because fewer will be needed when more students are assigned to the same class.

• Currently, the primary grades are limited to 20 students per teacher, but that number could grow as high as 29 pupils as a result of the budget crisis.

Interested employees have until January 16, 2009 to turn in a survey indicating their desire to leave the District. If accepted—and the program proceeds--they would retire at the end of the academic year, between May and August. LAUSD last offered an early retirement plan in 1992.

Coda: 24:00:01
It's gonna take a lot more than my two cents or the well meant bake sale money from PTA's throughout the District and up-and-down the state to lift the pall of Doom+Gloom. The current economic crisis, the states' funding calamity and the District's budget are very real. The wolf's at the door …and he doesn't need to huff 'n puff because he's got a jackhammer.

Duffy ('Layoffs loom for LAUSD' - above) says he thinks the crisis may be exaggerated – and God-willing he's right – but goes on to worry that not enough teachers understand the extent of the financial crisis.

• All building and modernization projects have been put on hold.
• Arts programs have been closed down.
• Spending freezes, hiring freezes, lay-offs and 'voluntary' early retirement.
• Class sizes of 29:1 in elementary – 29 five-year-olds per teacher in Kindergarten! – are being contemplated.
• The best we can expect – the best – is $200 million in mid-year/this-year/before-June cuts; $400+ million is a very real possibility.
• There are small school districts that have 3% set aside in rainy day funds; if the state doesn't send the money in February — 3% equals about a week of cushion. That doesn't cover the two weeks notice!

The governor threatened to lock the legislature up for the holidays - a hard thing for him to do while skiing in Idaho.

If the folks in Sacramento don't come up with a budget there will be no money to pay teachers after February - and no way to borrow it. The solution will be IOU's and pink slips or an unpleasant combination thereof. If they don't come up with a real solution there will be no real public education in this state next year. Meanwhile a-district-here and a-district-there will falter, sputter and close their doors in April, and May. Some may last until June.

How do you explain to a high school senior with 13 years in that school will close early this year? There's no money to complete the coursework; no money to pay the AP examiners, no money to buy diplomas? And after that it's 2009-2010.

ALL OF THIS IS DEPRESSING - but the destination is not depression. Action is what's needed. As David Brewer said above: "its time for the Mamas and Papas of the electorate to get fighting mad".

Mamas and Papas and Students and Teachers and Principals and School Staff and Voters and Community Members and Democrats and Republicans and Declines-to-State. Joe and Josephine and Jose the Plumber. There is an added second at the end of this year: 24:00:01 -- that is the moment to throw open the window and shout for all to hear: "We are mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore!"

Start at 24:00:01 (…or maybe its 23:59:60?) and repeat until we succeed.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
Controller John Chiang sends a letter to government agencies advising them who will not be paid if the state's cash runs out. Also on the list? Californians expecting tax refunds.

MAGNET SCHOOLS HAVE POWERFUL DRAW: Popularity of the alternative programs leads parents to make plans for their children at early ages.
Parents have analyzed test scores, toured campuses and narrowed down their options, and with the deadline just days away, all that's left is to file that application.
All this for kids who aren't even done with high school.

KPCC: LAUSD Cuts Arts Funding + UCLA education think tank sides with activists, draws criticism

A political cartoon Ted Rall

The news that didn't fit from 31 Dec 08

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-893-6800


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6387 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385

...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• Register.
• Vote.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent 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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