Saturday, February 28, 2009

Don't Panic Yet.

4LAKids: Sunday, March 1, 2009
In This Issue:
NO UNIFORM VIEW ON SCHOOL UNIFORMS: L.A. Councilmember Jose Huizar promotes school uniforms for LAUSD schools.
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
COLLEGE AID DEADLINES + 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.
Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" is about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. It is also about - and inextricably linked to - the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950's. I first saw The Crucible in a student production at Hollywood High School. Centuries removed from Salem and a decade from McCarthy I learned about Salem and McCarthy and human nature in the darkness of the theater. [see: 'Chatsworth High Cancels Fall Play, But Spirit Lives On in Young Actors' ] It was lesson I'd heard before, Chicken Little redux. Ancient and not-so-ancient history and Golden Books have only so much to say. At the time it was all so much metaphor and long-ago. It was The Sixties and we were so far beyond all that!

The circles of the metaphor complete again and witch hunts continue; suspicion and overreaction is a dark force as much a part of the human condition as antimatter not-so-obviously is of the cosmos.

The Rooney Affair - a nadir of adult misbehavior (and inapropos response) towards children has triggered a culture of zero tolerance - of 'never again!' - with hard-and-fast rules and irreversible consequences within LAUSD. The trouble with zero tolerance/no exceptions is always the unforeseen. There is always the student with the steak knife; the drill team member with the wooden rifle.

Of late there have been a number of incidents, some well publicized, some not, of alleged adult misconduct. Teachers and administrators are summarily removed from their classrooms and schools and 'reassigned': banished to hidden cubicles in educational Siberias to read the paper, do crosswords and/or soduko from 8 to 3. While the District investigates the charges and allegations. For months on end.

I am not referring to people like Steven Rooney; Mr. Rooney (not guilty until adjudged otherwise) is in jail awaiting trial. I am not going to weigh in here about the misdeeds or lack thereof of any these individuals. I am not in a position to judge - some of them are my friends. I am arguing for my friends because that's what friends do.

But I am going to rail about the process. Every one in the Reassignment Gulag are professionals - instructed not to contact students or professional colleagues - whose reputations are subjected to question, rumor and innuendo. "We're not supposed to talk about it, but…" Some are fodder for the media. And some are the sort of excellent educators who really make a difference in the lives of students. Some are accused not of inappropriate behavior but of failure to follow process; administrival violations of someone else's interpretation of the rules. And some did dumb stupid things.

Their investigations are handled by individuals who do so in addition to their other duties - at the same time as those duties are increased by budget cuts. And, I might add, when those duties are added to by the absence of the alleged wrongdoers from the scholl and classroom.

There is a rank suspicion of of CYA and a whiff of office politics about all of this - and of damage control. Or undoing past wrongs done in other times. Let us remember: LAUSD is "us".

None if this is injustice on the scale of the Inquisition or of Dickensian proportion. But the parallels are there to be drawn. We can do better. Please let us proceed, not with haste - but deliberately - to professional outcomes.

DATA DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION/BEAN COUNTERS COUNTING THE MAGIC BEANS: In a domain awash with new books about Ed Reform Dr. W. Norton Grubb from UC Berkeley posits that when we link money to outcome we may be using the wrong tools to measure the wrong things. The challenge is neither about funding nor data. It’s beyond numbers …about more compound, complex and abstract factors. See K-12, A New Formula for Success.

ALL THE REST IS ABOUT THE BUDGET AND THE ELECTION. My advice here is to vote like the future depends on it. It does.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf


LAUSD News Release

February 26, 2009 — Los Angeles — The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) faces a cumulative $894 million budget deficit for the 2008-09 and 2009-2010 school years, Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines told members of the Los Angeles School Board on Thursday during a special meeting on the District’s dire fiscal picture.

“As we explore all options, we are cutting the Central Office, Local Districts and other offices first. Teaching and learning happen in the classrooms and we are doing everything we can to minimize the impact of these cuts on classrooms but the severity of the current situation requires us to look at everything. As we right-size and restructure this District, we will continue to give priority to our schools and provide our students with the instruction they need to continue making progress,” he said.

Among the Superintendent’s recommendations:
• A 30 to 50 percent reduction of funding for the District’s Beaudry headquarters and the eight offices of the local district superintendents.
• Reduction in management positions and staff throughout the District.
• Reduction in leased space for administrative offices.
• Reduction in maintenance, custodial and transportation services.
• Potential reduction in some educational programs.

LAUSD Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly elaborated on the specifics of the District budget, provided a timeline and gave an update of the state and federal budget as well as the stimulus funds expected from Washington, D.C.

“We are in survival mode, but we will do everything we can to minimize the impact on our classrooms,” she said.

The school board is expected to vote on proposed March 15th notifications at the next scheduled meeting, Tuesday, March 10th.


By Miriam Hernandez | KABC-TV

Thursday, February 26, 2009 -- LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The L.A. Unified School District is facing a new budget crisis, the result of cuts to education in the new state budget agreement. District officials are struggling with some painful decisions.

At Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters, employees brace for the pink slips. Fifteen-hundred people will get notifications by mid-March.

"We're fearful, so you know we have to start saving for that three months," said LAUSD employee Cheryl Lindsey. "Who has that three-month salary that they say you should have in the event you do get laid off?"

The chief financial officer gives dismal figures to the school board. Classrooms will be hit, but the emphasis will be on non-teaching personnel.

"Out of classroom support staff Mr. Cortines mentioned, we have become aware over 5,000 certified are out of the classroom," said LAUSD Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly. "We are looking very hard at that before we go into the classroom."

School funding is pegged on the state budget. Ninety percent of school money comes from Sacramento. The recent slashes leave LAUSD with a shortfall of $894 million.

And that is only for now. Over the next three years, the gap could widen.

"We need to be sensitive because I will be recommending sending notification to a great many employees and I want us not to confuse notification with losing a job," said LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

The superintendent encourages older workers to take early retirement. That would spare some jobs. Decisions are being made under pressure. The teachers union just signed a deal to preserve hard-fought health benefits. They say that deal could be tabled if teachers are cut. Yet some teachers see the writing on the wall.

"Some people are looking to move, I know a couple of my friends are moving," said teacher Elizabeth Isralowitz. "Other teacher friends are moving back to the East Coast, where they're not laying off teachers, and hoping to get their jobs back over there."

Cortines urges workers not to panic yet: "Because the district will be different when we finish this process at the end of June going forward to the next year."

from the Los Angeles Newspaper Group

Thursday, February 26, 2009 - Five long-shot challengers to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tackle everything from crime to transportation to the environment for the upcoming March 3 election. 4LAKids picks up their comments on SCHOOLS - because its 4LAKids - and MEASURE B AND THE ENVIRONMENT - because kids tell us that is the issue!


MEASURE B AND THE ENVIRONMENT: I can't think of anything special the Mayor has done for the environment.

And Measure B is literally organized crime by the Mayor and the IBEW. They are trying to cram this bad idea down people's throats and sneak it by the voters in a lightly contested election. The mayor and the IBEW have shown NO history of being trustable with this size of contract or this amount of money. Because it is no-bid and non-competitive, the cost will skyrocket. I am afraid if it passes, most of that money will disappear into the IBEW and the Mayor's pockets. Measure B is a huge tragedy in the making. Some people are going to vote for it. It should get ZERO support.

SCHOOLS: The Mayor has no business trying to run the schools. He needs to stay out of it.

It is true that many schools here are underperforming, but the Mayor has no "magic touch" with anything and needs to stay away.

I think the LAUSD is too large and might benefit from being broken down into more manageable parts.


MEASURE B AND THE ENVIRONMENT: The mayor has a huge carbon foot print flying around the world and doing anything but his job.

He even flies to Palm Springs

Measure B is a way to bankrupt the DWP and force it to be privatized. It doesn't allow for open bidding and it is exclusively for one union. I think it is a bad measure and would suggest people vote against it.

SCHOOLS: I will have to evaluate my relationship with each school on an individual basis. I would support the schools by visiting them and speaking with our local children, but leave the leadership of the LAUSD to do their job.


MEASURE B AND THE ENVIRONMENT: You'll have to be more specific about the claims he makes about environmental achievement regarding the DWP. If he's referring to Owens Valley, I believe that project was begun under the prior administration as a result of the city losing a lawsuit.

As for the "clean trucks" program at the ports, that program is tied up in court because Villaraigosa insisted on including an unreasonable and unnecessary requirement in that program: employees only.

He refuses to let independent contractors participate. That is unfair, and show he puts special interests (reserving trucking work for union employees) above the public interest (clean air).

I support solar power, but oppose Measure B for several reasons. First of all, it unjustifiably grants the DWP a monopoly or near monopoly. This serves no legitimate public interest, and would needlessly drive up costs.

Second, Villaraigosa never bothered to compare the costs of this proposal to alternatives like wind power and nuclear. Third, voting for Measure B is like signing a blank check: It would commit us to 400 megawatts of solar power, regardless of how expensive or impractical it turns out to be. That's a bad idea in the best of times; it's a horrible idea in a recession.

SCHOOLS: The City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are two completely separate governmental entities. Villaraigosa wasted about a year of time trying to take over the LAUSD. In accordance with our state constitution, the courts ruled he could not do so. If I'm elected Mayor, I will obey our constitution, not try to take over the schools. As for the Mayor's supposed involvement with a handful of schools, I would put an end to that charade. Once I'm elected Mayor, Villaraigosa can run for school board.


MEASURE B: The DWP in not in a position to handle the work required in Measure B. The immediate challenges to service and the safety of IBEW members preclude them from diverting any resources away from the job at hand.

The push to replace the failed and aging transformers which lead to the massive black outs in Los Angeles last summer have a very significant flaw. They failed to replace the conductors leading into the transformers.

The line workers have already been told to expect massive demands for overtime due to the crisis which will be on us when the demand goes up.

Every year line workers are injured due to failed wooden poles which are in many cases 50 years old. These injuries result in costly Workers Comp claims not to mention the health of the IBEW member. No on Measure B.

LAUSD and the Community Colleges are already installing Solar. Lets expand on the industry already in place and create training and jobs in the Solar field right here in Los Angeles.

SCHOOLS: I disagree, he has NOT failed to take over LAUSD. His unconstitutional frontal assault with AB1381 failed as a result of a legal challenge but his end around assault succeeded. The political transformation of the school board was a result of the Mayor raising $2 million for Tamara to win her seat. Once in place the new President ("All politics is racial") Monica Garcia and new board members set about to sabotage the former Superintendent David Brewer and replaced him with the Mayor's man Ray Cortines. The take over is complete.

As Mayor my position will be to provide a safe environment around the school. The politics have been very detrimental to the learning environment. Until such time we have a city free of challenges, my focus will be on the responsibility of the city not the school district.

●● smf's 2¢:There are ten -count 'em- ten candidates on the ballot including the mayor. He has refused to debate any of them because he feels assured he will win handily in the primary. He's right about probably winning; he's wrong about not debating. It's nice HE feels assured …it's dangerous if WE THE PEOPLE do. Yes, the long shots would gang up on him - but there's plenty to gang up on. Gangs to start. Measure B. And L and R. AB1381. Mirthala Salinas. A Million Potholes/A Million Trees/Ten Thousand Policemen. His relationship with developer Richard Muerelo. Q: Does a public official's frequent flyer miles belong to him - or to the people?

Antonio Villaraigosa says he's kept his promises; it depends on how one defines "kept". [from "KEEP." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (intransitive verb) 3d: to refrain from revealing ]

• Mayor: ABT - Anybody but Tony. smf is voting for David Hernandez.
• School Board 4: Steve Zimmer
• School Board 6: Louis Pugliese
• Measure B: 9 out 10 candidates, Laura Chick and 4LAKids agree: NO.

► Headlines that made us catch our breath: MAYOR STEPS DOWN OVER CARTOON (LATimes 2/28/09)

Alas, another mayor; another city.

smf/4LAKids is no fan of Antonio. Read what his fans say.


By Howard Blume | from the Los Angeles Times

February 27, 2009 - A looming costly rematch between the mayor of Los Angeles and the teachers union over control of the school board has fizzled into a guarded truce.

The result is a low-key election that finds Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the potent United Teachers Los Angeles endorsing the same candidates despite uncertainties about how they or their backers hope to guide reforms in the nation's second-largest school system.

Issues looming over the race include the proliferation of charter schools and the role of teachers in helping to run campuses.

On the ballot Tuesday are three of seven Board of Education seats for the Los Angeles Unified School District. One race is all but settled: In District 2, which circles the city's core, school board president Monica Garcia is running unopposed. The other two races could be dictated by the union's financial backing, especially because the mayor and other powerful players have remained largely on the sidelines.

For the mayor, the detente avoids a bruising fracas with a union whose support (along with that of other unions) he would want in a potential bid for the governor's office. The union still is spending money on the school races, but because it does not have to fight Villaraigosa, it can save funds for other politicking and to augment a strike fund as protracted contract talks continue.

A political war nearly was engaged in District 4, which stretches across most of the Westside as well as the southwest San Fernando Valley and much of Hollywood.

Attorney and longtime Democratic consultant Ben Austin was bidding strongly for the support of Villaraigosa, former Mayor Richard Riordan and billionaire education philanthropist Eli Broad. Some union leaders distrusted Austin's employment with Green Dot Public Schools, the charter organization that, with Austin's help, engineered the conversion of Locke High to a charter school that is no longer represented by the union. The impending slugfest evaporated when Austin failed to qualify for the ballot because of a campaign snafu.

In anticipation, however, of a well-funded Austin campaign, UTLA leaders united behind teacher and community activist Steve Zimmer, even though, they said, they also respected Mike Stryer, another teacher in the race.

The UTLA leadership wants its horse to win, in part, to send the message that union support remains crucial. And, in relative terms, its money dominates. On Zimmer's behalf, the union has poured in $258,618 so far, according to city records, the largest independent-expenditure campaign for an office in this municipal election. Zimmer had a comparatively modest $58,376 in donations under his own control. Stryer's total of $71,596 includes his own $30,000 loan.

Hollywood resident Zimmer, 38, is a 1992 Teach for America recruit who has become a fixture at Marshall High in Silver Lake. Besides teaching at Marshall, he founded and runs the Comprehensive Student Support Center to provide health services to students and their families.

Stryer, 47, has a varied career that includes developing international sales and marketing strategies as a senior executive at Applause (which made toys under license with Disney) and Variflex (which makes in-line skates and other recreational products).

Stryer's passion for education prompted a career change, he said. He's taught social studies-related courses for six years at Fairfax High. Stryer emphasizes his corporate financial background as a needed attribute on the school board.

Zimmer contends that his budgeting experience with nonprofits and service agencies is more directly relevant.

In District 6, in the eastern San Fernando Valley, Nury Martinez, 35, offers deep local political roots and union sympathies. In 1989, as a San Fernando High student, she led a rally in support of striking teachers and, at a January union rally, she pledged to "do it again" if teachers don't receive a fair offer. She worked in a succession of campaigns and political field offices -- and won election in 2003 to the San Fernando City Council. Since 2007, she's been the executive director of the local nonprofit Pacoima Beautiful, whose grant-funded efforts include an environmental education program for high school students. UTLA has spent $27,824 in support of Martinez to date.

Her opponent, former L.A. Unified teacher and Sun Valley resident Louis Pugliese, 58, teaches education courses at Cal State Northridge and served on a local charter school board. He's also an appointee to the city's Commission for Children, Youth and Their Families. Pugliese, who ran two years ago for the board when he lived in another district, touts his deeper experience in education. He filed suit unsuccessfully to remove Martinez's ballot designation as "environmental educator."

The mayor has endorsed Martinez and Zimmer.

Any outcome will leave intact a 2-year-old majority generally allied with Villaraigosa.

It was the current board that gave the mayor the right to spearhead reforms at 10 campuses that opted to take part.

And these board members also have nurtured ties with UTLA, which raises unsettled questions. Union President A.J. Duffy said he'd like a cap, for example, on the number of charter schools, which are public schools run independently of the school district. The mayor's broad support base includes civic and education leaders set on rapid charter expansion.

Duffy also wants to unionize the vast majority of charters that are nonunion, which also worries key Villaraigosa supporters.

The union and the nonprofit that runs the mayor's schools also have clashed -- civilly, so far. The union contends that the mayor's team has not yet fully honored a pledge to give teachers substantial authority at schools.

OBAMA PUTS SPOTLIGHT ON EDUCATION DEFICIT: He wants U.S. to have highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

by Frank James | from the Los Angeles Times

February 25, 2009 — Reporting from Washington — President Obama on Tuesday laid out a series of challenges for the nation to meet in job training and college attainment, part of an effort to give every child a "complete and competitive education."

The president, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, said his administration would provide the support needed to give the U.S. the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. He said there was a vital need for Americans to complete more years of education if the nation is to compete globally.

"Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma," Obama said. "And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.

"This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education -- from the day they are born to the day they begin a career."

By one measure used by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2005 the U.S. had a 76% high school graduation rate, putting it behind Hungary, Greece, Ireland and the Slovak Republic. To change that trend, Obama made the extraordinary call for Americans who presumably haven't finished high school, or only have high school diplomas, to commit to getting an additional year of school.

"And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship."

Not surprisingly, educators welcome Obama's address.

Jonathan Schorr, partner at San Francisco-based NewSchools Venture Fund, which aims to improve public education, said, "That is terrific; anything that moves us in the direction of more of our students attending college is welcome and recognizes the economic realities we're living in."

Nancy Shulock, executive director of the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy at Sacramento State University, said, "We're finally picking up on the urgency of the educational crisis in this country."

Meeting Obama's goal of making the U.S. the world leader in college graduates by 2020 would require a major push. According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of American adults of all ages with a four-year bachelor's degree was estimated at 17.1%, based on a recent three-year survey ending in 2007.

Obama also said that if Americans commit to community service, "we will make sure that you can afford a higher education." Though he didn't offer details, he mentioned legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). Called the Serve America Act, it would make ServeAmerica Corps participants eligible for educational awards.

A BIGGER FEDERAL ROLE IN COLLEGE FUNDING: The proposal would tie Pell Grants to inflation for the first time and make the government the direct lender for all federally backed student loans.

By Gale Holland | from the Los Angeles Times

February 27, 2009 -- The government proposes to take on a greatly expanded role in making college affordable and in ensuring that students earn degrees or credentials.

Pell Grants would be tied to inflation for the first time since their inception, providing annual raises for recipients. The grant program also would be turned into a entitlement program with guaranteed funding, like Social Security or Medicare.

"We're ending the era of zero responsibility, and making an investment critical to our economic future," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a conference call with reporters.

Pell Grants are the bedrock of college aid, but soaring tuition and fees over the last two decades have eroded their value. Twenty years ago, the grants covered 50% of the cost of education at a public college, including room and board, and 20% at a private college. By 2008, the figures had slipped to 32% of public college costs and 13% of private costs.

President Obama also proposes that the government become the direct lender for all federally backed student loans, ending subsidies to private lenders and saving the government $4 billion annually.

The subsidized program provided $56 billion in loans to 6 million students last year. The government's direct loan program provided $14 billion in loans to 1.5 million students.

Kevin Bruns, executive director of America's Student Loan Providers, opposed the proposal, saying guaranteed loans from private lenders had been "a rare source of stability for families. Now is not the time to talk about abolishing them."

Obama is seeking to significantly boost Perkins loans, which colleges award to students with unexpected expenses. The money had been allocated to a limited number of institutions under a formula that favored older, more established private colleges and excluded community colleges, said Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst for the College Board.

Under Obama's proposal, that money would be available to 2.7 million students at all 4,400 higher- education institutions.

The president resisted calls to raise loan limits, which some analysts said could trigger spiraling tuition or over-borrowing.

In another initiative, the president is seeking $2.5 billion to partner with states in programs to keep college students on track until they finish their education.

Just under half of the nation's college students obtain a degree or certificate, Baum said.

Obama also called for simplifying the complicated financial aid application process, but he did not say how he would do it.

Several analysts said they are waiting to see details in what could be the pivotal element in the plan.

"If they don't simplify the system, it will never be as effective as it could be," Baum said.

Many higher-education advocates praised the budget proposals.

"It goes beyond anything any of us could have wished for," said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Assn. of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, and a frequent critic of higher-education funding schemes.

"It's visionary," he said. "You'd have to go back to Lyndon Johnson to find a commitment to education like this. This isn't just more money, it's intelligently spent money."

STUDENT LOAN COMPANIES' SHARES PLUNGE ON OBAMA PROPOSAL - The president's budget plan calls for direct government funding of student loans, cutting out private industry.

by Tiffany Hsu | from the Los Angeles Times

February 27, 2009 -- President Obama's proposal for direct government funding of student loans -- cutting out private industry -- sent shares of Sallie Mae, Student Loan Corp., Nelnet Inc. and other college loan companies plunging Thursday.

For-profit vocational schools, such as Corinthian Colleges Inc., DeVry Inc. and ITT Educational Services Inc., also saw their stock prices drop. Their students often rely on government-backed loans from private lenders.

Currently, students needing funds typically borrow money directly from the government or from banks and other lenders such as Sallie Mae that issue loans subsidized or backed by the government.

Obama's budget proposal for the 2010 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, calls for cutting out the middlemen by eliminating subsidies to lenders. The administration believes that the move to the Department of Education's Direct Loan Program could save more than $4 billion a year.

Analysts said the proposal was another blow to the nearly $90-billion student loan market. Lenders have struggled recently with a credit crisis and accusations of manipulative policies, spotty disclosure and deceptive practices. In some cases, for example, lenders have pretended to represent schools' financial aid offices.

Although some analysts said the proposal might not survive its trip through Congress, it seems to indicate that private student lenders are facing an uphill battle with the new administration.

Sallie Mae, known officially as SLM Corp., saw shares dive $2.59, or 31%, on Thursday to $5.80. Nelnet Inc.'s stock plummeted $5.83, or 54%, to $4.91. Student Loan Corp., a unit of Citigroup Inc., dropped $11.63, or 22%, to $41.51.

Sallie Mae worked closely last year with the government to ensure that students had access to federally backed loans without putting the burden on taxpayers, said Al Lord, SLM's chief executive. The company manages a $169-billion student loan portfolio and services more than 10 million borrowers.

"We are committed to delivering and servicing federal student loans, regardless of their funding sources," he said.

Student Loan Corp. argued against the Obama proposal, saying that "healthy competition leads to choice, innovation and high standards of service."

Nelnet contended that student loan programs should "maintain the benefits of choice and competition, and should not contribute significantly to the national debt."

Private companies lent $78 billion to students in the 2007-08 school year, said Mark Rodgers, a Citigroup spokesman.

Shares of several owners of private colleges also dropped Thursday, although experts said they were unsure whether Obama's proposal was to blame.

But the suggested shift away from government-backed private loans isn't a crippling move, said Lorena Valencia, who runs the financial aid program for ITT Tech in Torrance. Most of the students get loans from Sallie Mae or its competitors, she said, but the school also provides information on direct government loans.

"Since we present all the options to students and leave the choice to their discretion, there wouldn't be either a positive or negative impact on the school," Valencia said.

The timing is not good for some private lenders who have been hobbled by loan defaults after graduating students fail to find jobs in the worsening economy, said Emily Peters, a personal finance expert for consumer website

"Financing for student loans has fallen through the cracks in the last few months, with higher default rates and struggling companies," Peters said.

"This is definitely changing the landscape for a whole industry already in flux, though there's still a potentially strong market for private loans."

NO UNIFORM VIEW ON SCHOOL UNIFORMS: L.A. Councilmember Jose Huizar promotes school uniforms for LAUSD schools.
By Gloria Angelina Castillo, Eastern Group Publications Staff Writer (Eastside Sun, Northeast Sun, etc)

February 26, 2009 -- The streets near Luther Burbank Middle School in Highland Park become a river of blue and white at the end of the school day. Luther Burbank is one of several schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that requires students to wear uniforms—but other schools could soon follow if Councilman Jose Huizar (CD 14) has his way.

On Feb. 18, Huizar introduced a motion to call for the City’s support of a school uniform policy in LAUSD.

“There are many benefits for having uniforms at schools,” Huizar told EGP by phone. “When I was on the school board I noticed a difference between schools that did not have uniforms and those that did.

Those that did were more orderly, more purpose driven and had better academic achievements. The administration and teachers also felt more comfortable and less concerned with gang activity,” he said, explaining why he thinks uniforms are a good idea for L.A. schools.

Huizar says school uniforms avoid gang colors on-campus, and non-student gang members from blending-in with students. The councilman also says the school uniforms make good economic sense for parents who are struggling to afford the basics of food and shelter. But most importantly, he says school uniforms help teachers and students focus on academics.

For Luther Burbank Middle School Principal John Samaniego, the sea of blue uniform clad students walking home after school primarily means safety.

“When they walk home after school that’s when most problems occur—if they’re not in uniform,” Samaniego told EGP.

Samaniego, who just last year was principal at an elementary school near downtown Los Angeles says he was not a school uniform advocate until he became principal at the middle school, now he sees “the validity.”

“In middle school and high school there is a meaning for wearing a black shirt,” he says. “It means you’re going to get in a fight and you can’t see blood on it.”

●●smf's 2¢: I am wearing a black shirt as I type these words. Now I know why.

But the Vice Principal at Benjamin Franklin High School, where Luther Burbank Middle School students will later attend, is not too enthusiastic about the idea of requiring his students to wear uniforms.

Vice Principal Jorge Garcia says enforcing uniform rules is not easy. “I know that at [Luther] Burbank Middle School they’ve had a little bit of a problem getting kids to wear the uniform.”

Garcia said 95 percent of his students follow Franklin’s dress code, but five percent break the rules and wear hats, spaghetti straps and show mid-drifts.

“We don’t allow gang related attire,” Garcia said. “But there is a small percent that always break the rules.”

While uniforms are not something to dread, Garcia said it would be a “little bit of a task [to implement and enforce].”

Samaniego agrees that enforcement is difficult: the school’s dean spends a lot of time being the school-uniform police, and that is not his job.

He says last year parents could opt-out of the school uniform requirement, but this year they changed the system to one of “loaners” in which students who do not come to school in the appropriate shirts can borrow one. Currently, the Luther Burbank uniform is the same for boys and girls: a white-collar shirt or a royal blue t-shirt, with navy blue pants or denim jeans.

Samaniego says it is the parents who come to school meetings who are the most supportive of the uniform requirement, and adds that uninvolved parents are the ones who do not make their children wear their uniforms.

“It’s cheaper to wear the uniform,” Samaniego said. “It’s the initial investment that’s the hard part. But parents need to just realize that the investment will last the whole year and be the more feasible route.”

Huizar says state law requires local school districts that adopt a school uniform policy must provide help to students who cannot afford them. He says he is confident the private sector will step up to help provide uniforms for low-income students.

Almost 10 percent of public schools in the country use school uniforms and the result has been an increase in academic achievement and a decrease in violence and disciplinary problems, according to a Huizar press release.

Hilda Ramos was among a group of adults parked last Friday on Meridian Street waiting to pick up students. She was there to pick up her sixth-grader grandson Victor Lopez and his friend.

“I think it’s better,” Ramos says about the uniforms. “That way they know a responsibility—because that’s what it is, a responsibility—to come to school in a uniform.”

She says Luther Burbank’s uniforms shouldn’t be a burden if parents are willing to look for discounts.

“Depending on where I shop, but the cheapest place I’ve found the shirts is at Fallas Paredes for $5.99,” Ramos said.

She says that they should use uniforms at Franklin too.

“They can avoid gangs coming over and starting problems,” Ramos said.

Her grandson Victor says he sometimes doesn’t want to wear a uniform but he would like to continue the school uniform policy at Franklin.

Anthony Cruz, 23, wore a uniform when he went to Berendo Middle School (near downtown). His two younger sisters currently attend the two schools in Highland Park. One is in the seventh grade at Luther Burbank and wears a uniform; the other is in the eleventh grade and does not.

“They have never complained,” Cruz said. “There’s nothing bad about uniforms, it can work both ways.”

Cruz says uniforms help keep “certain things in check.”

“Especially in this area,” states Cruz who believes that wearing the wrong thing could make students targets of nearby gangs.

Gang violence is the reason why City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo says he has come out in support of school uniforms.

“School uniforms by themselves will not solve all school safety problems, but they are an essential contributing factor to discipline and safety,” Delgadillo said in a press statement.

According to Rick Coca, Director of Communications for Huizar, several local schools in Northeast Los Angeles require uniforms, including: Aldama Elementary, Rockdale Elementary, Annandale Elementary, Garvanza Elementary, San Pascual Elementary, Yorkdale Elementary, and Toland Way Elementary.

Schools in Boyle Heights that require uniforms are: Breed Elementary, Sheridan Elementary, Sunrise Elementary, Stevenson Middle School, and Hollenbeck Middle School. Roosevelt High School is scheduled to use school uniforms starting next year, according to Coca.

Huizar said all of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Partnership for LA Schools require uniforms.

●●another 2¢: I like Jose Huizar but I recommend he look up that part of the state constitution about how city councils can't run school districts. There's some interesting recent case law on that provision that came into effect after he left the Board of Ed. A motion to call for the City’s support of a school uniform policy in LAUSD is a waste of his, his staff's and his colleague's time and wastes the taxpayers money …and irritates the curmudgeons in the blogosphere

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
Taft High School rally in support of Principal Sharon Thomas, who was among six employees reassigned this week for allegedly not reporting a hazing incident in a timely matter.

Picking up the threads of 'Quilters' by Sandy Banks


"Between my memories of my experience there and the experiences I've had as the parent of a student in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I'm not at all surprised to learn that the administrators at Porter may have bungled an attempted drug sting"

The State Legislative Analyst’s Office has prepared a summary and analysis for each of the six measures. The Secretary of State has now posted the ballot summaries, arguments for and against, and other information.

Prensa Latina/ The Cuban Press Agency

In a new book W. Norton Grubb from UC Berkeley posits that when we link money to outcome we may be using the wrong tools to measure the wrong things

National Review: OBAMA GIVES FAILING SCHOOLS A PASS, The day of reckoning has arrived — except for teachers’ unions.




Countdown: THE COMING BALLOT FIGHT + CONSTITUTIONALLY UNCONVENTIONAL - The political establishment is already starting to gear up for the budget-centric special election on May 19



…and apparently spelling doesn’t count at the Daily News



The news that didn't fit from March 1st

COLLEGE AID DEADLINES + EVENTS: Coming up next week...

by Assembly Education Chair Julia Brownley | from the AD41 Newsletter

California’s economy depends on its ability to compete on a global level. That means investing in an educated workforce. Yet, some of our brightest young people don’t see a college education in their future only because they lack funds for tuition and expenses. That’s why I teamed up with the Los Angeles Unified School District last month to send out recorded phone messages to 48,214 high school seniors notifying them of this opportunity to get free cash for college. I also had my District Office contact all the other school districts in the 41st AD to offer assistance in getting the word out to their seniors on this important state grant program that is still funded. Cal Grants are one of the smartest ways to get cash for college. It’s money you don’t have to pay back. And it’s guaranteed. If you know a high school senior, recent graduate, or community college transfer student who meets the simple academic, financial and eligibility requirements, he or she just needs to submit two forms by March 2.

All the information is available online at

smf adds: Monday is also the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) deadline


Wednesday Mar 04, 2009
Valley Region High School #9: Groundbreaking Ceremony
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Valley Region High School #9
at Robert Fulton College Preparatory School
15020 W. Saticoy Street
Van Nuys, CA 91405

Wednesday Mar 04, 2009
South Region High School #7: Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) Hearing
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Gage Middle School
2880 E. Gage Ave.
Huntington Park, CA 90255

Thursday Mar 05, 2009
Esteban E. Torres High School (East LA HS #2): Fun Fence Art Exhibit
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Hammel Elementary School
438 North Brannick Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90063

*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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