Saturday, February 14, 2009

Washington, Lincoln and Darwin walk into a birthday party...

4LAKids: Sun., Feb 15, 2009 President's Weekend
In This Issue:
NATION'S SCHOOLS WOULD GET $106 B FROM FEDERAL ECONOMIC STIMULUS: CA's deficit means education cuts still loom, but federal money would narrow the gap
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.
NO ONE WANTS TO READ a blow-by-blow of a talk radio exchange, but with apologies to Mick+Keith: You don't always get not what you want …but you just might get what (I think) you need.

Patt Morrison was debating Dan Walters Friday afternoon on KPCC about all things budget+stimulus. Patt (The LA Times) and Dan (The Sac Bee) are print journalists - and good ones - but Dan wasn't necessarily buying what Patt was selling: that Sacramento legislators are-or-have-been misbehaving. Dan contends they are following the program - behaving as well as can be expected …given the circumstances.

That's a bit too knee-jerk wishy-washy for me - and out of character for the usually cranky Walters. The Lege are products of circumstances of their own device; under the influence of Kool-Aid of their own making. They are part+parcel of a sad design: Polarized politicos with attention spans as short as their term limits – their eyes by necessity fixed on the next prize/job/election/appointment.

John Kobylt of KFI's John & Ken (and a red-meat talk show personality) weighed in assigning blame to politicos of all stripes for allowing their leadership to negotiate in secret and emerge from behind the curtain with The Done Deal Solution.

OMG: He's right! As in correct.

AND HERE'S THE SMOKING GUN OF MISBEHAVIOR: Amongst the cuts is $181 million in cuts for prison healthcare.
• The Federal Courts have already dinged California for $8 billion in prison healthcare underfunding. That's a court order, reflected nowhere in this budget.
•• The governor and the attorney general are busy trying to keep the prisons out of federal receivership.
••• so the solution is to slash 10% million from prison healthcare? Gentle Reader, there's misbehavior, there's deliberate disobedience …and there's contempt of court.

The voters and the legislature have had a recent infatuation with the California prison system. Three strikes. Indeterminate sentencing. The move to try anyone 16 or over as an adult. All have led to prison overcrowding and underfunding. (Where have we heard that pairing before?) And if the California Teachers Association is the special interest/strange-bedfellow of the Dems, the Prison Guards Union is the same for the GOP. Both are the kind of friends that keep on giving …long after you wish they'd stop.

• The courts now propose to release as many as 55,000 prisoners because of overcrowding.
• 55,000 is one-third of the total prison population …it's that pesky ⅓ – ⅔ split again!
• Additionally there's the $8B healthcare thing. The prison population - with so many lifers - is growing older; increasing medical costs.
• Corrections and rehabilitation is more than building cells and hiring prison guards - just like there's more to building schools than classrooms and teachers.

Welcome to another dead-end in the same old labyrinth. ¡Onward!

ONE HUNDRED DAYS AGO the governor called the Lege into special session to address their failed budget effort of 85 days previous - a budget so bad even shaky Wall Street investment bankers wouldn't buy it. The budget they are prepared to foist upon us this time has all the earmarks of that 85 day wonder. The smoke+mirrors and rosy projections are now bolstered by digital effects, countdown clocks, the federal stimulus package and - in case you missed it - subsidy/tax breaks for the entertainment industry. ["HEALTH SCARE OF THE WEEK: DOES TV DAMAGE TEEN BRAINS?" – that's got to be worth tax relief!] Were it not for the Obama stimulus (and the fact that everyone's calculator needs a battery and can't handle digits beyond tens of billion$) it wouldn't balance at all.

Much is reliant on dubious voter approval of (un)certain tax hikes and clever fiscal manipulation of the lottery - and on voter endorsement of an already-thrice-rejected spending cap …What part of "No³!" is it they don't understand?

As long as the 1/3 superminority holds the rest of us – and the future of the State of California – hostage we remain Stuck on Stupid.

The anguished minority holds that California is the nation's most heavily taxed state; this is hogwash. Democrats admit we are the 17th most heavily taxed state; Republicans contend we are the 6th – neither is in the highest 10%.

Both Red and Blue California has grown rich and prospered on the Pat Brown era investments in education and infrastructure; we have surfed that wave as far as it can take us. Unless we reinvest in our own future and that of our children we will be reliant on the stimulus of others — who will be delighted to sell us the products and services we should be making with our own labor and creativity …had we the workforce and the education and the vision.

ON MONDAY I ATTENDED A CANDIDATE FORUM between two contenders for School board Seat #4 - the seat currently held by Marlene Canter.

STEVE ZIMMER is lifelong teacher and guidance counselor; blessed with true entrepreneurial spirit and vision.

MICHAEL STRYER is a second career teacher by way of international business and finance; a guy who's met a payroll and knows how to read a balance sheet and P&L statement - scarce qualities in LAUSD.

• Dedicated and accomplished educators both would be assets on the Board
• Both would break up the local districts; not to recentralize but to bring real control to local school sites.
• Both espouse the value and interactivity between the high school/middle school and elementary school — and educators and parents and students — seeing middle school as the battleground for the hearts and minds (and future) of students.
• Stryer's profile notes that the candidate's two children (a parent on the school board) attend private schools.
• Zimmer has managed to garner the support of UTLA, the mayor and the charter schools organization — a Kumbaya moment meritorious in itself!
• If the race was for Chief Financial Officer I'd lean the other way — but4LAKids is endorsing Zimmer.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

►Dumb School Board Tricks: STUDENT EXPELLED FOR FAKE RIFLES [The Week | Feb 20, 2009]
A Colorado high school senior faces expulsion for having three fake rifles in the back of her car, even though she’s a member of the Young Marines drill team. Marie Morrow, who has a 3.5 grade-point average, uses the wooden rifles during drill practice. But school-district policy prescribes “mandatory expulsion” for any student found with even life-like facsimiles of weapons. “You have to remember,” said a district spokeswoman, “these rules were implemented in the years after Columbine.”

Watching a lot of TV during adolescence, an alarming new study has found, can change a normal brain to a depressive one. The study, which tracked more than 4,000 adolescents as they grew up, found that for every extra hour a teen spends watching TV or playing videogames on an average day, he or she is 8 percent more likely to develop depression as an adult. Study author Dr. Brian Primack says that teens’ experiences help shape their developing brains, and that being parked in front of a screen often replaces positive social, academic, and athletic activities that give kids a sense of mastery and self-respect. Instead, he tells the Los Angeles Times, TV teaches kids to be passive, and to judge themselves against fictional characters whose looks and accomplishments seem out of reach.

Patt Morrison | Friday, Feb. 13| BUDGET BATTLES REDUX w/ Dan Walters, Bob Stern. Jean Ross & John Kobylt (LISTEN)

NATION'S SCHOOLS WOULD GET $106 B FROM FEDERAL ECONOMIC STIMULUS: CA's deficit means education cuts still loom, but federal money would narrow the gap
By Seema Mehta and Jason Song | From the Los Angeles Times

February 13, 2009 -- The massive federal economic stimulus package hammered out by Congress this week contains about $106 billion earmarked for education, an unprecedented expansion of federal spending into the nation's schools. District officials throughout California, bracing for another round of painful state budget cuts, were grateful for a new infusion of funds.

The money would pay for, among other things, special education, school repair and retaining teachers who might otherwise be laid off.

"It's one of the most exciting things we've heard about in a long time," said Chris Eftychiou, spokesman for the nearly 90,000-student Long Beach Unified School District, which stands to gain tens of millions of dollars over the next two years.

"Usually, it's just cuts, not additional revenue."

But officials noted that with the state budget facing a nearly $42-billion gap next year, cuts still would be necessary.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest, faces a nearly $677-million shortfall next year and expects more cuts the following year. But the district is in line to receive nearly $1 billion in federal aid over that time.

"I hope the federal government is going to come through, but . . . it's not large enough to fill the deficits we're going to have," said Megan K. Reilly, L.A. Unified's chief financial officer.

The House and the Senate passed competing versions of a massive federal plan to shore up the nation's economy in recent days, and as they tried to reach a compromise, education spending was one of the main sticking points. Congressional leaders reached a $789-billion agreement Wednesday that is expected to be voted on and sent to the president's desk in the next few days. Details were still emerging Thursday, and many local districts have yet to figure out exactly how much they stand to gain.

The compromise provides tens of billions less for education than an earlier House of Representatives plan, but more than the Senate version.

The compromise includes $53.6 billion for a nationwide state stabilization fund, which includes $39.5 billion earmarked for local school districts that could be used to prevent teacher layoffs. Some of that money could be used to modernize buildings, but not to build new ones.

Additionally, more than $12 billion is included for special education, and $13 billion for the schools that serve the nation's neediest children. Money is also set aside for state student-data systems, teacher-quality grants, education technology, Head Start preschools and other programs.

Some educators say that although they had hoped the earlier House plan, which included by some estimates $148 billion for education, had survived intact, they were pleased.

"Overall, we're supporting the bill," said Joel Packer, director of educational policy and practice at the National Education Assn., which represents 3.2 million teachers, administrators and others. $106 billion "is a substantial increase in education funding. To put that in perspective, the current [discretionary] budget of the U.S. Department of Education is $60 billion."

Critics counter that it is a gross expansion of federal power into education, traditionally a state and local matter.

"This would really tip the balance of power in American education toward Washington," said Dan Lips, a senior policy analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. "More decisions will ultimately end up being made here."

Lips added that education spending would do little to create jobs.

"If we're looking to stimulate the economy, simply dramatically increasing federal spending on education isn't the right solution," he said. "This is basically an education budget offering dramatic increases buried in an economic stimulus package."

But state officials say that a long waiting list makes school construction among the fastest ways to create jobs. In California, according to the state Department of Education, there are 886 approved school projects on hold because of budget difficulties.

At San Francisco Unified School District, which passed two school construction bonds in recent years totaling $790 million and has a $1-billion capital wish list, officials were eager to learn how much money would be available for school modernization.

"We have projects that are shovel-ready," said Nancy Waymack, director of policy and operations at the 55,000-student district. "The modernization and repair money would be . . . not just an investment in schools, but [would create jobs] for the local economy."

The other unknown facing Waymack and other district officials is the state budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

California legislators are still negotiating the state spending plan. Under the current proposal, the state finance department estimates that schools and community colleges would lose $3 billion in funding, but others put the reduction at nearly $8 billion. Districts would, however, have discretion over how to spend funds currently earmarked for specific programs such as class-size reduction.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the state budget proposal does not rely on increased federal funding and that staff must still determine how the new funding can ease the state's budget woes.

"We need to determine, No. 1, how much California will receive, and No. 2, what amount of flexibility we will have in terms of being able to spend it," he said.

Districts warned that although the federal funding would help, the state needs a long-term solution.

"I will take every dollar that they can send us, given the precarious financial situation," said Ron Lebs, a deputy superintendent at the 51,000-student Capistrano Unified School District in Orange County. The district has a $500-million budget, has cut $31 million in spending over the last three years and is preparing to slash another $22.5 million next year.

"My concern is while this helps immensely and I am very grateful for it," he said, "when [it ends] in two years, then we're back where we started."


●●smf's 2¢: The Economic Stimulus Package will provide about a billion dollars over the next two years to make up for the $450 million in cuts already cut in LAUSD and another $400 million anticipated mid year/this year. So $850 million of the billion is already accounted-for and spent in year one …and it's a two year plan. Then, like the assistant superintendent above says, we're back where we started.

Stay tuned. Parents will be asked to help make up for some if the shortfall with bake sales and fundraising.

Mostly we will need to write, e-mail, phone, visit and fax our legislators and tell them what we really think. And hopefully what we think is the Education, Safety, Health and Well Being of our children is their most important job!


By Dan Smith and Kevin Yamamura | Sacramento Bee

Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009 -- Legislative leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have reached a tentative deal to close the state's projected $40 billion budget gap, according to sources close to the negotiations.

Staff members are working out some drafting issues, one source said, but a vote is scheduled for Friday.

The plan includes $15.8 billion in spending cuts, $14.3 billion in taxes and $10.9 billion in borrowing, according to a budget outline obtained by The Bee.

Leaders are counting on federal stimulus money as the package approaches closure in Washington. If California receives at least $10 billion, more than half of that money -- $5.5 billion -- would eliminate the need for a short-term loan, while $1.8 billion would eliminate taxes and $1.2 billion would eliminate spending cuts.

The plan would raise sales taxes by 1 cent on the dollar, increase income taxes across the board and hike the vehicle license fee from the current 0.65 percent of the vehicle's value to 1.15 percent. The taxes would last a minimum of two years. If the federal stimulus money arrives, the income tax increase would be reduced.

The proposal would cut the state's dependent credit in half, raising taxes for parents and those who take care of elders.

The deal asks the Legislature to approve whatever deal is struck between Schwarzenegger and state employee unions to save $1.3 billion, whether through furloughs or other means. Administration officials have been bargaining with labor unions over the governor's twice-monthly furlough plan, which began last week.

While businesses were unable to obtain rollbacks in labor provisions related to meal breaks and overtime pay, they scored victories on tax code changes. A major shift in how the state calculates each company's sales could save businesses an estimated $650 million in state taxes. Republicans also have asked for a $2,000 tax credit per each new employee hire.

The budget package relies on $10.9 billion in borrowing. State leaders are counting on a plan to borrow against future California Lottery revenues, which also would require voter approval. The lottery proposal, passed last year in the Legislature, estimated that California would receive $5 billion in the next fiscal year for budget relief, but it is unclear whether the state could obtain as much money given the economic downturn and tight credit market

The state would obtain another $5.5 billion in short-term loans with no defined way to pay it back by 2011. If the state receives more than $10 billion in stimulus money, it would not seek those loans.

The plan would cut $8.6 billion in K-14 education funding, but under the deal lawmakers would ask voters to change state law to restore that money for schools. The proposal also reduces money for California State University and the University of California by 10 percent.

Schwarzenegger would score wins on environmental changes to stimulate construction, under the plan. The proposal gives the state unlimited authority to use public-private partnerships for state transportation projects through 2017. It also authorizes a limited number of projects to use a process that combines the design and construction phases of projects, a change opposed by the state's public engineers' union. And the proposal exempts eight major state highway projects from environmental review while allowing for an expedited permitting process.

Legislative leaders met with Schwarzenegger until late Tuesday night and have tentative plans to convene today. Both Republican caucuses have scheduled lunch meetings.

Senate Republican leader Dave Cogdill said he could not guarantee votes, but told his members that the deal is as good as they're going to get. "I've negotiated it to the point where I think it doesn't get any better," he said today, emerging from a private GOP caucus. "We're waiting to see all the language and all of that so I'm not ready to commit who the votes will be at this point."

Other legislative leaders were more vague.

Asked to confirm a tentative agreement, Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines responded with a short e-mail saying simply: "Sorry ... I can't say anything buddy."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, speaking to the Sacramento Press Club luncheon, said there was a "common framework" for a deal with some details to be worked out.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said, "We're very close and I'm optimistic that we'll have a vote before the week is over."

But Bass declined to confirm a deal, saying that language must be drafted and there are several "loose ends" to be tightened.

"I've been in this position now, it seems like every week for the last five weeks," she said. "And, you know, we get back in the room and something blows up."

As a trade off for new taxes, Republicans demanded that the deal include a limit on future state spending. Under the tentative agreement, the restriction would require the state to place money into a rainy-day fund after reaching a limit determined by state revenues over a 10-year period.

Voters would have to approve the spending limit, likely in a special election later this year, and it is particularly controversial among education groups who constantly seek more state money for schools. Concerned that the state's powerful teachers' union would try to kill the spending restriction at the ballot, budget negotiators included a provision that would extend the new taxes to five years if the spending cap passes.

Steinberg told the Press Club the spending cap would not include Proposition 98, the 1988 ballot measure that guarantees levels of state support for schools. School spending, he said, would still increase along with future revenues.

Economists have estimated that California could receive at least $10 billion in federal stimulus relief for schools and social services. That money could offset some proposed budget cuts in those areas, depending on how much California receives.

Steinberg said the state is counting on "significant" money from the federal government from the stimulus package that is approaching closure in Washington. That money, he said, could offset some proposed budget cuts, depending on how much California receives.

Republicans and Schwarzenegger also asked for business-friendly changes in environmental and labor laws, emphasizing that looser regulations would help the economy rebound in California. While sources said unions have been successful in fighting labor changes, the deal exempts some major state highway projects from environmental review to hasten construction.

Steinberg said a deal must be approved this week to head off postponement of 145 Caltrans projects, "massive" layoffs of state employees and a further lowering of the state's credit rating.

Asked if large-scale layoffs could be averted, Steinberg answered, "Things are moving in a positive direction."

The leaders have been especially tight-lipped about details of the budget elements, fearing too much advance knowledge will allow interest groups to mobilize and pressure lawmakers. One of the most powerful labor groups, Service Employees International union, launched an attack this afternoon after early reports of a deal.

"The cash crisis is real and needs to be solved with new revenues," said Courtni Pugh, SEIU executive director. "It is not an acceptable trade to fix this year's budget by destroying our future with deeper cuts made permanent by a budget cap."

A Teamsters official recently threatened to launch a recall against lawmakers who vote to approve a relaxation of labor rules. The California Republican Party next week will consider a resolution to censure any GOP lawmaker who votes to increase taxes.

Jim Sanders, Shane Goldmacher and Aurelio Rojas of The Bee's Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.



By The Associated Press

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 -- Here is some of the language that emerged Wednesday as lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to forge a compromise on the state's budget deficit. Democrats want to bring a budget package to a vote on Friday.

Additionally, lawmakers were waiting to see how much federal money California would receive under the stimulus bill that appears headed to President Barack Obama's desk. It could change how much money the state would have to borrow to get through the next fiscal year.


• Raises between $12 billion over two years or $14 billion over five years through a variety of taxes. Under the proposal, the higher taxes would be in effect for two years. However, Republicans would allow taxes to stay longer — nearly five years — if voters approved a state spending cap.
• Increases the state sales tax by 1 percent for two years or five years.
• Raises the fee for licensing vehicles to 1.15 percent of market value, up from the current .65 percent. A portion of the fee will be dedicated to law enforcement.
• Adds a 12-cent gasoline tax.
• Imposes a one-time 5 percent surcharge on people who owe personal income tax in 2009.
• Reduces the amount taxpayers can claim on dependent care credit to the federal level of $100 instead of $300.


• Reduces education spending by $8.6 billion over two years, likely forcing schools to lay off teachers, slash salaries and postpone spending on construction and textbooks purchases. However, the proposal would give districts greater flexibility in spending money that is normally dedicated to specific programs.
• Continues a two-day-a-month furlough for 238,000 state workers, trims overtime pay and eliminates Lincoln's Birthday and Columbus Day as paid state holidays, saving $1.4 billion.
• Cuts prison medical budget by 10 percent to save $181 million.
• Eliminates the state's annual cost-of-living increases for recipients of the state's welfare-to-work program known as CalWORKS to save $79 million.
• Eliminates the state and federal cost-of-living increase for seniors and disabled people receiving Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment for a $594.1 million savings.
• Unless the federal government provides extra state aid, the legislative leaders have agreed to make further reductions to the courts; Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program for the poor; CalWORKS; in-home support for seniors; and other social service programs by $948 million.


• Asks voters to approve a $10 billion plan to borrow against the lottery's future revenues over the next two fiscal years.
• Asks voters to temporarily shift $227 million in voter-approved funding from Proposition 63, the state mental health fund, to pay for a low-income child development program known as the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program.
• Asks voters to redirect $608 million in First 5 money for early child development to other children's programs.


• Imposes a limit on the amount the state can spend each year based on state revenue over the previous 10-year period. Money above that amount would be saved in a rainy day fund.


• Asks voters to modify Proposition 98, the voter-approved minimum school funding guarantee, to protect education funding when state revenue rebounds after lean budget years.


• Grants tax credits for small businesses, corporations that operate in multiple states and movie studios to encourage production within the state.
• Removes environmental hurdles for some transportation projects through 2010. Allows the state to expand partnerships with private companies on projects such as toll roads.
• Exempts environmental reviews for selling surplus state property.

• EL CAMINO REAL HIGH SCHOOL WINS 2009 LAUSD ACADEMIC DECATHLON COMPETITION: Eight Additional LAUSD Schools Invited to Compete in State Contest

LAUSD Press Release

February 12, 2009-- Los Angeles –El Camino Real High School tonight was crowned winner of the Los Angele sUnified School District’s (LAUSD) 2009 Academic Decathlon competition, leading all LAUSD schools with a top score of 48,790.8 points. The highest score possible is 60,000.

Members of the winning team are: Wenelia Baghoomian, Matthew Janowski, Priyanka Kumar, Christopher Dinh, Olivia Herrera, Rebecca Todd, Daniel de Haas, Andrew Fann and Vincent Kudelka. The team coaches are: John Dalsass and Stephanie Franklin.

The decathletes will go on to compete in the 2009 California Academic Decathlon, scheduled March 13-16, in Sacramento.

Eight additional teams from the LAUSD will join El Camino Real High School’s decathletes at the state competition based on their impressive top scores that earned them invitations as wild card teams. Those schools are:
• North Hollywood High School (46,986 points),
• Marshall High School (46,740.2 points),
• Palisades Charter High School (46,490.8 points),
• Granada Hills Charter High School (45,762.9 points),
• Garfield High School (44,970.9 points),
• Crenshaw High School (43,620.3 points),
• Venice High School (40,741.1 points) and
• Los Angeles High School (40,359.1 points).

“I want to congratulate El Camino Real High School’s winning team and coaches for their hard work, sacrifice and pursuit of academic excellence, which has paid off with a well deserved win. Good luck to all of our schools headed to the state competition,” said LAUSD Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines. “I also applaud all of our students who competed and have been inspired to continue learning through this experience. And a special ‘thank you’ to all of the parents and families for supporting our decathletes.”

“I love decathlon students because they thirst for knowledge and push themselves to the limit. And this year, El Camino Real High School proved that the limit stops with them. Congratulations,” added Board President Mónica García.

The top scoring teams, and students earning the highest scores in this year’s competition, were honored with individual medals and awards at the District’s annual awards ceremony held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. A total of 64 high school teams, composed of 580 students, participated in this year’s contest.

Based on 10 events, Matthew Janowski, a member of the El Camino Real High School championship team, was honored as the highest scoring student in this year’s competition, earning 8,945.70 points. The highest number of points possible was 10,000.

“I’m really excited about the performance of all of our teams this year,” said Cliff Ker, coordinator, LAUSD Academic Decathlon. “I don’t think we’ve ever had as many teams do as well in the competition as they did this year.”

Matthew Janowski from El Camino Real High School and Anastasya Lloyd-Damjanovic from Marshall High School tied as winners of the Larry McCormick Memorial Award. They were honored for their top-scoring performance of 970 points each in the “Super Quiz” event. The award is named after the late KTLA news anchor Larry McCormick, who served for 12 years as the District’s “Quiz Master” at the annual “Super Quiz” relay competition.

South East High School’s Laura Koenig and Alex Varela were honored as this year’s academic decathlon “Coaches of the Year.” This year, Banning High School’s decathletes were recognized as the Districtwide “Most Improved Team,” with a 7,697 point increase over last year.

This year’s Academic Decathlon 10-quiz competition involved quizzes in speech, interviews (prepared and impromptu), essay, art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, social science and “Super Quiz” written and oral relay. The scores of all 10 quizzes were tallied together and the highest scoring team/school declared the winner of the 2009 LAUSD Academic Decathlon. This year’s study topic was: “Latin America with a Focus on Mexico.”

In the academic decathlon competition, each school team is comprised of nine students—three students from three different grade-point average (GPA) categories—Varsity (2.99 GPA and below), Scholastic (3.00-3.74 GPA) and Honor (3.75 and above).

The 2009 LAUSD Academic Decathlon awards ceremony will be broadcast on KLCS on February 22 at 3 p.m. and again on March 3 at 10 a.m. The “Super Quiz” competition will air February 15 at 2 p.m. and February 24 at 10:30 a.m.

Sandy Banks | LA Times

February 14, 2009 -- Steve Gebelein didn't know a plié from a pirouette.

But he knew how to install a ballet barre, construct "Alice in Wonderland" scenery and keep the snack bar stocked with treats at Gotta Dance, his family's Granada Hills dance academy.

His wife, Cindy, is the dancer, the visionary. But Steve was the glue that held the studio together and bonded it to the community.

And when he died suddenly last weekend, he left Cindy and their six children grieving, and a close-knit community reeling.

"A lot of us grew up with him," said 14-year-old Shayanne Ortiz, who has taken classes there for six years. "He seemed to be there 24 hours a day. He played the role of a second dad."

Or as Father Ramon put it in his homily Friday at the funeral Mass: "For Steve, family was the only thing that mattered. . . . And the dancers -- and everyone at the studio -- they were all his family."

Every community has people like Steve; unsung heroes who impact children's lives with their commitment, their patience and their dedication behind the scenes.

The soccer coach who doesn't give up on the kid who didn't make the team. The librarian who knows just what kind of books encourage a struggling student to read. The karate teacher who disciplines without breaking the spirit of a rambunctious kid.

Or the guy like Steve, who was never too busy to talk to a kid and saw every problem as an opportunity.

"He never lost his cool," recalled Maura Swanson, who moved her daughter from a more prestigious ballet school to Gotta Dance when it was just a one-room storefront in a tiny strip mall. "They were nice to everybody that came through the door," Swanson said.

Several years ago, Gotta Dance expanded by moving into an abandoned community theater across the street. But it's still a no-frills operation; it shares a parking lot with a pair of auto repair shops.

Thousands of girls -- and a handful of boys -- have taken lessons with the Gebeleins in the 14 years since Cindy took over the studio from a previous longtime owner. If you're a parent and live in the neighborhood -- and I know, because I do -- some kid you know has learned a Gotta Dance routine. Many students begin as toddlers and keep taking classes until they go off to college.
Steve handled everything but the dance lessons -- maintenance, payroll, schedules and performances. He organized the annual June recital. Swanson said he spent every year "backstage wearing a headset, covered with grime and sweat, surrounded by 85 noisy little kids and nervous 'dance moms' with their hair spray cans."

I never met Steve, but parents told me he was the kind of man who never met a stranger. A big guy with an easy smile, an endless stream of patter and a talent for making anyone laugh.

News of his death moved scores of people who knew him to post condolence notes on the studio's wall. "The mailman cried," Cindy told me, shaking her head in amazement as we sat in her bedroom and talked. "The grocery store ladies started crying when I told them."

She heard new stories of small kindnesses from former students and their parents. But Steve's best-known act of generosity is the one that launched their family.

The oldest three of their six children are former students whom Steve and Cindy rescued from an unstable family. "We didn't want them going into the system, so we got our foster care license so they could come live with us," Cindy said. Ultimately they adopted the girls, now 21, 18 and 16.

Like many businesses, Gotta Dance is struggling right now, as families pare budgets by dropping classes. Steve -- who also worked as a real estate agent -- had begun quietly letting students stay on even if their families fell behind in tuition. He spent late nights running spreadsheets and combing the studio's books for ways to cut costs and keep students coming.

His death has sent Cindy into a tailspin. The logistics, the finances and the parenting challenges. . . . How do you replace a husband who is also your business partner, best friend and source of perpetual optimism?

"I'm terrified," she told me. "I don't know how I can do this without him."

Her friends intend to let her know that she won't have to. They notified all 700 students of Steve's death, kept the dance studio open this week and had payroll checks drawn up so teachers got paid on time.

"We're trying to make a list of all the things Steve did, and find volunteers to pick up those responsibilities." Swanson said.

The list is long and keeps growing, she said. But this is a family with a strong community legacy. Steve's funeral on Friday put hearts at ease.

The sanctuary at Our Lady of Lourdes in Northridge was packed, every seat was taken and visitors stood in the back. Steve's father, Rick, from Philadelphia thanked the crowd and told a joke:

"This is just what Steve would have wanted. A full house, standing room only. Now, one more thing: How about a standing ovation?"

The congregation rose and applauded. And the funeral wound up the way it began, the only way it could have. With a dance performance.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
By Seema Mehta | Los Angeles Times -- February 10, 2009 -- One of the most sought-after tickets in Southern California, a permit to enroll a child in the academically acclaimed Beverly Hills Unified School District, may soon disappear.

• STAFF DEVELOPMENT FOR TEACHERS DEEMED FRAGMENTED: Training Still Tends to Take Place Outside Schools
Thursday, February 12, 2009 12:02 PM
By Stephen Sawchuk | EdWeek | Vol. 28, Issue 21, Page 7 11 Feb 2008 – Washington -- Although American teachers spend more working hours in classrooms than do instructors in some of the top-performing European and Asian countries, U.S. students have scored in the middle of the pack on a number of prominent international exams in recent years.

Thursday, February 12, 2009 11:50 AM
By Dakarai I. Aarons | EdWeek | Vol. 28, Issue 21, Pages 1,14 Published in Print: February 11, 2009 -- Urban school systems are large businesses, charged with running a wide range of noninstructional functions that typically don’t garner them much national notice. But now, thanks to the work of a coalition of big-city districts, their leaders are gathering data on those operations

Thursday, February 12, 2009 10:14 AM
Zachary Coile, San Francisco Chronicle Washington Bureau The final package, likely to be approved by week's end, will be less generous to California than the House version of the bill. But the state will still reap tens of billions of dollars for education, infrastructure, health care costs and other programs.

Thursday, February 12, 2009 9:05 AM
BY VINCE ECHAVARIA | The Argonaut Thursday, February 12, 2009 - As a 17-year educator, Steve Zimmer is hoping to apply his experience as a counselor and work with innovative classroom programs as a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education. Zimmer, who has spent his teaching career at Marshall High School in Silver Lake, is seeking the school board

Thursday, February 12, 2009 8:54 AM
LAUSD reaches three-year deal with teachers unions on health benefits Adolfo Guzman-Lopez | 89.3FM KPCC Listen February 11, 2009 -- The Los Angeles Unified School District and eight of its labor unions unveiled a tentative health and welfare agreement today that affects 250,000 employees, retirees, and their dependents. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 4:40 PM
KNBCNews BREAKING NEWS: 4:00 PM PST, Wed, Feb 11, 2009 AP - Jan. 29, 2008: Hundreds of Los Angeles Unified School District teachers and others take to the streets in a rally organized by their union, United Teachers Los Angeles, to protest state and local cuts to schools funding, in downtown Los Angeles.

• RALLYING FOR SCHOOL FUNDS: Educators, parents protest proposed budget cuts, citing kids as custodians of future economy.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 4:50 PM
Education Demonstrators rally Tuesday at Glenoaks Elementary School. Reducing school funding would “put an entire generation of children at risk,” which “threatens the future workforce and economy,” said California PTA President Pam Brady. (Alex Collins/News-Press) By Zain Shauk | Glendale news Press Feb 11 - NORTH GLENDALE — State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell rallied with state PTA

Thursday, February 12, 2009 9:17 AM
Peter Dreier | The Huffington Post Read More: California Education Coalition, California School Boards Association; Association Of California School Administrators; Parent Teacher Association, California Teachers Association, Education; Budget; California; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Schools, Superintendents, Taxes, Teachers, Politics News

Monday, February 09, 2009 12:18 PM
George Skelton, Capitol Journal | LA Times February 9, 2009 -- From Sacramento -- California state government is collapsing. It has been for years, actually. Something needs to change drastically. As President Obama remarked last week at a congressional Democratic retreat: "If you're headed for a cliff, you've got to change directions." Sacramento is sliding fast toward the cliff's edge.

Monday, February 09, 2009 12:11 PM
L.A. Unified is required to provide space for charter schools, but many have been operating out of hotels and sharing campuses with traditional schools for years as unused campuses remain closed. By Raja Abdulrahim | LA Times February 9, 2009 -- More than five years ago, Ivy Academia's campus was a Hilton hotel. Students poured water from silver pitchers and teachers used ballrooms as classrooms

Monday, February 09, 2009 12:10 PM
Saying that things have changed at the celebrated campus, nearly 80% of faculty at the Accelerated School, near downtown, have turned in signature cards indicating a desire to join UTLA. By Howard Blume | LA Times February 9, 2009 -- A teacher-driven effort to unionize a celebrated Los Angeles charter school has, for the first time, extended the reach of the powerful local teachers union

Monday, February 09, 2009 11:34 AM
By Melissa Pamer, Staff Writer | Los Angeles Newspaper Group 2/9/09 -- After taking an unexpected turn last year, the race to replace Marlene Canter on the Los Angeles school board assumed an unusual dynamic: It became teacher versus teacher. Two candidates have remained in the contest, following surprise signature- gathering glitches that knocked out potential front-runners

• SANTA ANA SEEKS TO EASE HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS: The current requirement of 240 credits, one of the toughest in the state, leaves students little room to retake failed courses. Officials hope lowering it to 220 will decrease the dropout rate.
Sunday, February 08, 2009 1:28 PM
Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times - Brito David, left, and Eldi Urquiza, both 15, learn woodworking at Valley High School in Santa Ana. By Tony Barboza | Los Angeles Times February 8, 2009 -- While high schools across the state are toughening their graduation requirements to prepare students for college, one of the state's largest school districts is planning to make it easier for students to graduate

Sunday, February 08, 2009 12:53 PM
OpEd in the Los Angeles Newspaper Group By Richard J. Riordan, David A. Lehrer and Joe R. Hicks February 8, 2009 -- Los Angeles is often referred to as the "entertainment capital of the world," with ample justification. The studios, stars and multimedia companies located here are truly the source of much of the world's diversions. Last week, however, the city was entertaining the world for...

The news that didn't fit from Feb 15

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Wednesday Feb 18, 2009
Valley Region Span K-8 #1: Pre-Demolition Meeting
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Olive Vista Middle School - Auditorium
14600 Tyler St.
Sylmar, CA 91342
*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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