Sunday, March 22, 2009

My name is Ethan.

4LAKids: Sunday, March 22, 2009
In This Issue:
L.A. 3rd GRADER BASKS IN THE GLOW OF A PRESIDENTIAL MOMENT: At town hall meeting Ethan Lopez asks President Obama a question about teacher layoffs
Compromising past promises / Compromising the future: NEW BUDGET RULES LOOSEN UP SCHOOL FUNDING
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.
"Hi, my name is Ethan. President Obama, our school is in big trouble because of budget cuts . . . 25 of our teachers have been fired . . . to get pink slips."

From the top of the page in The Times and on the YouTube video third-grader Ethan faces the President of the United States of America: 8 years old, unsmiling, deathly serious in his white shirt and striped tie, microphone in hand, speaking his truth to power.

Immediately below Ethan's story is another story: "Real Transparency Will Be Tricky with Stimulus Funding".
Welcome to the conundrum.

President Obama promised Ethan that he was doing everything he could to protect teacher's jobs and modernize schools. Modernization isn't Ethan's problem; he attends one of LAUSD's modern new schools. L.A. schools have infrastructure; it's structure they lack.

All the new and modernized schools in the world won't help Ethan or his classmates if they don't have teachers. 27 of the 43 teachers at Ethan's school, 63%, have been sent pink slips. And despite the fact that President Obama is doing everything he can to protect those teacher's jobs it doesn't seem like the powers that be at LAUSD are doing their part.

Every other major urban school district in the nation has made plans to spend their anticipated stimulus funds to save jobs. Not LAUSD. On the contrary, District budgeteers seem intent on "Rightsizing" first – following Superintendent Cortines' Plan of a decade ago – the first time he was here – and holding the stimulus in reserve. Cortines argues that class size really doesn't really matter unless you can reduce it to about 17:1. 25:1 in Kindergarten? Is that what rightsizing is?

This brings us to the transparency piece. LAUSD may be many things, but none of them are transparent or communicative. School board members complain that they are not informed. Principals and teachers wonder what's going on. A letter is sent home in backpacks and that's 'communicating with parents'. Communication happens when all sides are actively engaged in the dialog …or 'dialogue' for traditionalists and English majors. It doesn't matter how it's spelled, it isn't here.

• Last week memos announced that an entire category of employees will be eliminated: Assistant Principal/Elementary Instructional Specialist. A school-based (as opposed to central or local district office) position created by Cortines himself back in the day: "a distinguished group of educators selected to serve as trailblazers as we embark on a journey to dramatically improve achievement for every student in the District and to change the culture within our schools". A few days later there was an announcement the jobs would be saved. Followed by a budget worksheet implying that the category will be preserved but the employees might have to go. Budgeteers and bean counters hide behind terms like FTE (Full Time Equivalents). Teachers and staff are not fractional assets – they are flesh and bone folks with families and jobs and hopes and dreams. Sometimes one longs for the transparency of the Bush-Cheney White House.

• A Friday afternoon briefing planned for LA area congressional staff on how LAUSD intends to spend the stimulus was abruptly canceled as unnecessary. Briefing congress is unnecessary‽ How transparent is that?

The Teachable Moment/Accounting 101: ►If you anticipate income and you know how much it is and when you will get it, you budget it. The federal budget stimulus is that sort of asset. ►Another rule says you don't budget money when you don't know how much it will be and/or when and/or if you will get it. Hypothetical Rich Uncle Gene or Aunt Jackie might leave you money in their will … but again they might not. They could change their mind, they might outlive you. The federal budget stimulus is not that sort of asset.
But current thinking in LAUSD seems to be looking at it that way.
• "We don't know how much it will be."
• "We don't know when we will get it."
• "It's only one time money."

This is somewhere between sticking one's head in the sand and balderdash. While we don't know how much $ will be coming in to the decimal point, we do know to a reasonable certainty the minimum; while we don't know the exact instant the electronic cash transfer will take place we do know the window. Unless the superintendent rejects the funds like the governor of South Carolina that $ IS coming in – probably with a greater certainty and sooner than the state budget money. The state budget – which all current LAUSD budget assumptions are based upon – is subject to the whim of the governor's May Budget Revise, the caprice of the legislature and the will of the electorate re: the May 19 ballot measures. That budget, lest we forget, has a foundation in a quicksand of already disproved revenue projections; whether or not it was based on good will or good governance is a purely rhetorical discussion. [see: NEW BUDGET RULES...]

On Monday there was a meeting at the White House with of the Council of Great City Schools – a coalition of 67 of the nation's largest urban public school systems. At the roundtable discussion urban educators peppered Education Secretary Duncan and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president, with questions about the stimulus plan, which includes about $100 billion in new education funding. While the superintendents and school trustees met at the White House, staff met and compared notes on how they intended to spend the federal stimulus. Every district save one had a plan in place. Cincinnati had a plan, Fresno had a plan.

At a board meeting last week Boardmember Canter was making an appeal for non-Title I schools – whose parents pay the most taxes and get the least return. Making her point that non-Title I schools are not just a Westside or West Valley phenomenon she said she'd looked it up and every board member has at least one non-Title I school their district. To which Board President Monica Garcia said: "I do?"

Gentle readers, nobody needs or benefits from the current level of frustration or dismal employee morale over the dire fiscal situation of LAUSD. We are not alone; every school district in California is threatened by the state budget crisis. Every school district in the nation faces the global economic meltdown. In the next year school districts will go bankrupt and fall under FCMAT monitored state receivership. That is inevitable.

No one benefits from parents being uninformed or board members being under informed. No lesson is learned by the pink slip in the registered mail. No progress is made by any of us being kept in the dark/left on the sidelines/kicked to the curb. No child is educated by the sniping and rancor – or by my hyperbole and metaphor.

The District needs to set aside the Cortines Plan of 1999 and the 100 Day Plan written by the consultants 81 days ago. Both are based on other times and other realities. We need to turn on the lights and take a good hard look at where we are and far we are from where we need to be. We must remember that the enemy is ignorance. The solution is not money and the solution is not data. The solution is information, the destination is knowledge and the pathway is hard work.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! – smf

More than you ever wanted to know about FCMAT: The Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team.

L.A. 3rd GRADER BASKS IN THE GLOW OF A PRESIDENTIAL MOMENT: At town hall meeting Ethan Lopez asks President Obama a question about teacher layoffs

By Seema Mehta | LA Times

March 21, 2009 — Ethan Lopez became an instant celebrity at his Los Angeles elementary school Friday, the day after President Obama selected the 8-year-old to ask the final question at a town hall meeting. Media crews filmed the boy and his family while the school principal and teachers gushed over his question about teacher layoffs, and classmates cheered.

The moment was not lost on the third-grader.

"I felt very excited," he said. "I never talked to the president of the United States before. And then we got to meet him!"

It was perhaps the most moving few minutes at Obama's session in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday. After taking questions from several adults, the president announced he had time for one final question and said it should come from a young person. As many people throughout the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex gymnasium frantically waved their arms -- some entirely too old to qualify -- Obama chose Ethan, dressed smartly in a crisp, white shirt and striped tie.

"You look good in that tie," Obama said.

The small boy stood up and said, "Hi, my name is Ethan. President Obama, our school is in big trouble because our budget cuts . . . 25 of our teachers already have [received] pink slips."

He then handed the president a folder full of letters written by his classmates at Frank del Olmo Elementary School in Koreatown.

Obama told Ethan that he was doing everything he could to protect teachers' jobs and modernize schools, citing the economic-stimulus package. "I want you to get a first-class education," he said.

After the town hall ended, Ethan and his mother, Myrna, were whisked backstage, where they met the president and shook his hand.

"It was the experience of a lifetime," Myrna Lopez said.

She said her son showed interest in the campaign last year. He voted for Obama in an online Nickelodeon poll and accompanied his mother to the voting booth. But she was stunned that her normally timid son stood up and asked the president a question in front of several hundred people.

"I was surprised because he's very shy," she said. "I was very impressed."

Television crews descended on the school Friday morning, and Ethan's classmates relived the moment on video. It was a heady dose of attention for a school where more than 90% of the students receive free- or reduced-price lunches, an indicator of poverty, and nearly two-thirds are learning English as a second language.

This month, the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is grappling with a nearly $700-million shortfall over the next 18 months, notified 9,000 employees, including 5,500 teachers, that they could be laid off.

At Del Olmo Elementary, 27 of the school's 43 teachers have been given notices that they could be terminated.

If the layoffs are finalized, carefully created relationships among the school's teachers and the community will be harmed, Principal Eugene Hernandez said.

He was proud that Ethan tried to call attention to the matter.

"For a child to get up in front of the massive audience and to ask a question, I think that's very brave," he said. "It made me feel very proud -- we want our kids to have good self-esteem and feel confident. . . . He was not afraid to speak his mind and ask a curious question. That was good."

Photos and video of Ethan Lopez speaking truth to power.


By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | Los Angeles Newspaper Group/Daily News

A welcome back assembly was held for six teachers and administrators at Taft High School on Friday after the group spent weeks off-campus during a district investigation of alleged student hazing.

Taft's principal, assistant principal, dean, two teachers and the campus police officer returned to work Thursday and were greeted Friday by a crowd of excited teachers, students and parents who were glad to see them back on campus.

"The investigation is over," said Principal Sharon Thomas. "We've been cleared, and we are all very happy to be back to work with our students and their education, which is where we should be."

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he could not elaborate on the details of the investigation because state law prohibits him from discussing personnel matters.

The district's chief also emphasized that the incident had made employees more aware of the "procedures and requirements for reporting either the suspicion of or actual issues that involve the health and welfare of young people," he said in a written statement Thursday.

District officials declined to identify by name the employees who were reassigned last month, but other district sources have told the Daily News they were Thomas, Dean Barbara Haskin, Assistant Principal Marc Strassner, volleyball coach Arman Mercado, teacher Lisa McKeon and campus police officer Malcolm Norrington.

Four male students were also suspended last month for the alleged hazing incident involving the boys volleyball team. Some students said the incident involved a sex toy.

During the time that the teachers and administrators were gone, staff and students from Taft hosted several protests in an effort to return them to the school.

Doug Lasken, an English teacher and debate coach at Taft for the last 10 years, said the school was in a "mood of celebration" Friday.

"We knew there was no cover-up and no neglect," Lasken said.

"This was just a procedural matter. Nothing you would call wrongdoing. ... We are just so glad to have them back."

[In a separate case] LAUSD officials also reassigned three administrators at Porter Middle School last month after they allegedly used a student in an unauthorized drug sting.

District officials said the administrators are still reassigned to a nonschool site while the Los Angeles Police Department continues its investigation.

Compromising past promises / Compromising the future: NEW BUDGET RULES LOOSEN UP SCHOOL FUNDING
By Laurel Rosenhall and Robert Faturechi | The Sacramento Bee

Originally Published: Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009

Summer school. Art and music. Classes for gifted children.
Buying textbooks. Training math and English teachers. Tutoring students for the high school exit exam.
For decades, a large portion of California's school funding has been strictly designated for such categories.

Not any more.

In the budget deal crafted last week, the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger combined many of the pots of money known as "categoricals." The result is that for the next five years, principals and district administrators will have more spending flexibility than they've had in recent history.

It's a move education reformers have been pushing for years, saying a bit more freedom with the checkbook would help schools meet their students' needs.
The new state budget cuts about $2.4 billion from schools this year and changes the payment terms of another $5 billion. The reductions get even deeper next year, when schools will face an additional cut of $400 million.

About $1 billion of the cuts will be taken out of categorical funding – which makes up one-third of the money California spends on education and funds more than 60 individual education programs.

Categorical funding became popular in the 1960s as politicians tried to help disadvantaged children by spending money specifically on them and ensuring the additional cash didn't wind up in teachers' paychecks, according to a new report by UC Berkeley's law school.
As categoricals proliferated over time, however, they created a bureaucratic web of obligations for educators, who couldn't target funds where they were needed most. Money for buying new technology couldn't be used to buy books for a library. Money for checking kids' teeth couldn't be spent on counseling. Money for training principals couldn't be used to train a teacher.

"Principals said they spent a God-awful amount of their time filling out compliance forms," said Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley education professor who surveyed principals for a recent study.

"They've got to keep receipts, keep billing information. … Principals become mini-bureaucrats rather than working with teachers and being in classrooms."

The findings led him to recommend – in the massive "Getting Down to Facts" report Schwarzenegger released with fanfare in March 2007 – that the state consolidate categorical funding.

And that is just what the new plan does. It collapses 42 categorical programs into one block of money, and trims it by about 15 percent, or $1 billion. Schools can now use that money for any purpose.

"They could do less on school safety and more on career tech," said Jennifer Kuhn, director of K-12 education with the Legislative Analyst's Office. "They can do less counseling and have smaller class sizes. They can do less adult ed and more K-12 ed."

Or, she said, they can skip spending on those programs and give teachers a raise.


COMPROMISING PAST PROMISES/COMPROMISING THE FUTURE: Under the "Budget Compromise" reached in Sacramento on Feb 19, Schools can now use money from these categorical programs for any purpose:

• Summer school/supplemental instruction
• Regional Occupational Centers and Programs
• High school counseling
• Specialized secondary programs
• Immediate intervention/underperforming and high achieving/improving schools programs
• Gifted and talented education (GATE)
• Mathematics and reading professional development
• Principal training program
• American Indian Early Childhood Education Program
• California Indian education centers
• Adult education
• Education technology
• Deferred maintenance
• Instructional materials
• Community day schools program
• Bilingual teacher training program
• National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification Incentive Program
• California School Age Families Education Program
• California High School Exit Exam
• Center for Civic Education
• Teacher dismissal apportionments
• Charter schools
• School safety
• Class size reduction, grade nine
• International baccalaureate diploma program
• California Association of Student Councils
• Pupil Retention Block Grant
• Teacher Credentialing Block Grant
• Professional Development Block Grant
• Targeted Instructional Improvement Block Grants
• Library Improvement Block Grant
• School Safety Consolidated Competitive Grant
• Physical Education Block Grant
• Arts and Music Block Grant
• County Office of Education Williams Audits
• Certificated Staff Mentoring Program
• Oral Health Assessments
• Commission on Teacher Credentialing

Schools must continue to pay for these programs with categorical funding:
• Child Development
• Child Nutrition
• Economic Impact Aid
• Special Education
• Home-to-School Transportation
• After School Education & Safety
• Class Size Reduction, kindergarten – third grade
• Quality Education Investment Act


The plan has the potential to revolutionize school funding in California, said Michael Kirst, a Stanford education professor and former state Board of Education president.
But it doesn't do away with categorical funding altogether. About 20 categorical programs remain intact, including some of the biggest – special education and K-3 class-size reduction.

Because the restrictions on many of the biggest categorical programs have not been eased, the new flexibility won't help cash-strapped districts very much, said David Gordon, Sacramento County's superintendent of schools.

The changes might have been more useful during a time of surplus, he said. But without money, flexibility is of little use.

"To me it's more like, 'Do you cut your arm off or your hand off?' " Gordon said. "We have a bare-bones program already going in. That basic core – the reading, the math and so on – is something you can't trade off."
Other educators said the eased restrictions will give them some welcome wiggle room.

Patrick Godwin, superintendent of Folsom Cordova Unified, expects the relaxed rules will allow his district to avoid painful staff cuts.

"The district here already had a strong music and arts program," Godwin said. "So we'll be able to use those monies to keep more counselors or keep more electives in the high schools."

by David Macaray | Counterpoint Blog

There’s a myth circulating out there that not only threatens to ruin the reputation of America’s school teachers, but has the potential to side-track any realistic hopes of education reform. It’s the assertion that “powerful” teachers’ unions are responsible for the decline of public education in the United States in general, and California in particular.

Propagators of this myth claim that the reason test scores of American children have sunk so low in recent years is because our public school teachers are too incompetent and lazy to provide adequate instruction.

Moreover, because the teachers’ unions are so domineering and evil—because their leaders will do anything to maintain union hegemony, including not allowing demonstrably inferior teachers to be fired—school administrators are powerless to act.

You hear these charges everywhere. Arianna Huffington, the late-to-the-party liberal and celebrity blogger, has been echoing such claims for years. For Huffington to be riffing on the state of public education is, in itself, remarkable, given that she lives in Brentwood, her daughters attend prestigious private schools, and the closest she’s ever come to an inner-city school was the day she accidentally drove by one, causing her to hastily lock the doors and windows of her Prius and speed away.

On Friday, March 13, comedian and uber-liberal Bill Maher joined the attack on his HBO show. In one of his signature tirades, Maher, a California resident, railed against the “powerful” California teachers’ union, accusing it of contributing to the crisis in public education by not allowing the school district to remove incompetent teachers.

Maher came armed with statistics. He noted with dismay that the U.S. ranked 35th in the world in math, 29th in science, and that barely 50% of California’s public school pupils manage to graduate from high school. He blamed the teachers for this.

Although every teacher in the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District), has a college degree and a teaching credential and managed to survive the scrutiny of a lengthy probationary period, Maher piously maintained that these teachers were unqualified to run a classroom.

Granted, Maher is a professional comic trolling for laughs, and not a “social scientist” dispensing wisdom, so we shouldn’t be looking to this man for enlightenment. Still, considering his liberal creds (from the environment to civil liberties to corporate mischief to drug law reform), it was demoralizing to hear someone this hip say something so stupid and simplistic.

Maher made a huge deal of the fact that, because of the union’s protective shield, less than 1% of California’s tenured/post-probationary teachers get fired. Although this ratio clearly outraged him (he appeared visibly upset by it), had he taken five minutes to research the subject, he’d have realized that this figure represents the national average—with or without unions.

In Georgia, where 92.5% of the teachers are non-union, only 0.5% of tenured/post-probationary teachers get fired. In South Carolina, where 100% of the teachers are non-union, it’s 0.32%. And in North Carolina, where 97.7% are non-union, a miniscule .03% of tenured/post-probationary teachers get fired—the exact same percentage as California.

An even more startling comparison: In California, with its “powerful” teachers’ union, school administrators fire, on average, 6.91% of its probationary teachers. In non-union North Carolina, that figure is only 1.38%. California is actually tougher on prospective candidates.

So, despite Maher’s display of civic pride and self-righteous indignation (“We need to bust this union,” he declared), he was utterly mistaken. The statistics not only don’t support his argument, they contradict it.

Fact: During the 1950s and 1960s, California’s public school system was routinely ranked among the nation’s finest. You can look it up. More significantly, the teachers in those classrooms were union members. The same teachers who were winning those awards for excellence belonged to the “powerful” teachers’ union. Let that sink in a moment: Good schools, good teachers, big union.

Which raises the question: Has anything else changed in California (and the rest of the country, for that matter) in the last 40 years to lead one to believe there might be causes other than labor unions to explain the drop in graduation rates? Have there been any significant changes in, say, cultural attitudes or demographics?

For openers, how about the disintegration of the American family and the decline in parental supervision/involvement? Being a good student requires discipline, application and, perhaps, a certain level of respect for authority. Have we witnessed any “breakdowns” in these areas over the last 40 years?

Or how about the rise in urban poverty? Or the hollowing-out of the middle-class (the average worker hasn’t received a pay increase, in real dollars, since 1973)? Or the assimilation of non-English-speaking immigrants? Or the decrease in per capita funding on California public education? Or the chaos created by school boards arbitrarily mandating wholesale changes in “educational ideology” every two years (LAUSD has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on consultants)?

Ask any teacher, child psychologist, sociologist, or real estate agent, and they’ll tell you the same thing: As a general rule, good schools are found in good neighborhoods, and bad schools are found in bad neighborhoods. Simple as that.

Moreover, people know this “formula” to be true. Not only is the promise of good schools one reason why people with kids buy homes in good neighborhoods, it’s not uncommon for parents in California to lie about their home addresses in order to get their children assigned to better schools.

An experiment: Try moving those “good” teachers from decent school districts—where the kids show up each day, on time, prepared, bright-eyed and attentive, having completed their homework, having eaten a nutritious breakfast, etc.—to one of those South Central LA shit-holes, where crime is rampant, neighborhoods are ravaged, families are in crisis, and 40% of the students live in foster care.

See if these “good” teachers, by virtue of their innate “classroom abilities,” are able to improve the test scores of these stunted, overmatched and underprivileged kids. See if these “good” teachers can do what a generation of parents themselves, and society itself, can’t seem to do; see if the graduation rates in these depressed communities rise significantly.

And, as part of that same experiment, move the “incompetent” teachers to these healthy, self-sustaining districts and see if the students in these schools don’t continue to score significantly higher, even with the “bad” teachers now running the show.

Fact: Oregon has a good public school system. So do South Dakota, Vermont, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine and Washington, among others. Is that because the folks living in these states are exceptionally bright? Is it because their teachers are extraordinarily talented?
Or is it because these school districts are stable, relatively homogeneous, and don’t face a fraction of the challenges facing California?

For the record, the teachers in these aforementioned good schools are overwhelmingly unionized. Oregon and Washington teachers are 100% unionized; Wisconsin is 98%; Connecticut is 98%; etc.

Also, comparing the scores of American students in foreign countries is a bit misleading. The United States was not only the first nation in the world to offer free public education, it was the first to make it compulsory.

In the U.S., by law, you must attend school until at least age 16 (some states have even higher age requirements). That means our national average is going to incorporate test scores of every kid from every background in every neighborhood in the country.

In India (where I once lived and worked), great emphasis is placed on education; accordingly, India has a decent school system, one that scores well. But school attendance is not mandatory. Indeed, India has 400 million people who are illiterate. One wonders what their national test scores would be if those many millions who can’t read or write were factored in.

Fact: Teachers can be fired. Who honestly believes a teachers’ union—whether in California, Oregon or Connecticut—has the authority to insist that management keep unqualified teachers? Since when does a labor union dictate to management? Since when does the hired help tell the bosses what to do? The accusation is absurd on its face.

Fact: During the first two years of employment, any teacher in the LAUSD can be fired for any reason, with no recourse to union representation and no access to the grievance procedure. Two full years. If the district doesn’t like you for any reason, they fire you. No union. No grievance. Nothing. Could any arrangement be more favorable to management?

Yet, the myth persists, the myth of the Unqualified Teacher. Instead of identifying the real problems facing California’s schools (daunting as they may be), and trying to solve them, people stubbornly insist that thousands of our teachers—every one of them college-educated, credentialed, and having survived two years of scrutiny—need to be fired.

Let’s be clear; no one is suggesting that all teachers are “excellent.” Obviously, you’re going to find marginal workers in any profession. But, realistically, how many “bad” teachers could there be?

Surely, America’s colleges, universities, and credentialing system can’t be so hideously flawed that we no longer trust their output—that our teachers aren’t worth a damn. Moreover, if it’s the unions who are protecting them, why does South Carolina—where 100% of the teachers are non-union—fire only one-third of one-percent of them?

Fact: The fault for unqualified teachers remaining on the payroll lies entirely with the school administrators. These overpaid, $120,000 a year, gutless bureaucrats want us to believe that we live in a world turned upside down. A world where, fantastically, the bosses answer to the employees.

Arguably, the problems facing America’s public schools are staggering. But because politicians are essentially spineless—fearful of doing or saying anything that would risk antagonizing their “base”—they refuse to address the real issues. Instead, they play little mind-games with the voters. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s where we stand.

And if television personalities like Arianna Huffington and Bill Maher honestly believe all this anti-union propaganda being circulated, they’re more gullible than we thought.

● David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright (“Borneo Bob,” “Larva Boy”) and writer, was a former labor union rep. He can be reached at

●● smf's 2¢: The forgoing, lest one misses the point, is a rant. 'Tirade' is the writer's own word. His insensitive language and characterization of schools in South Central demean his own argument.

4LAKids would never rant …except as follows: The author in his championship of teacher's unions takes the Union (as opposed to the Company) line, re administrators: "These overpaid, $120,000 a year, gutless bureaucrats……"

C'mon, "administrators" are principals; there are so few principals out there that didn't come from the ranks of teachers the number isn't worth mentioning. In unionized school districts in unionized states (read "California") these administrators are universally former teachers/teacher's union members - they are craftspeople in the same trade, practitioners of the same art; brothers and sisters in solidarity with the mission: educating young people.

There are good ones and bad ones and indifferent ones and ones who define excellent.

Joseph Wambaugh in one of his early police novels has a character say that a 'real' policeman cannot trust any other policeman who rises above the rank of sergeant; one supposes that means a 'real teacher' can't trust anyone above the 'rank' of chapter chair. That may explain why so few teachers turn out and vote in the union leadership elections – even though conventional wisdom and data show union members are more likely to vote in national elections - and the union polling takes place at their schoolsites.

The artificial 'us v. them' hierarchy gets in the way and gives teachers' unions a bad name. There is little room and no time for labor v. management in public education; it must be education v. ignorance or the battle is lost.

There are many, board members even, in LAUSD that believe that UTLA Contract is the governing document of the District, miraculously found in Moses' back pocket when he descended from Sinai. It is not. There are many in LAUSD who believe that the District is run from UTLA HQ at Wilshire and Berendo – or that important things happen at District HQ at Beaudry and Third – or from eight local district HQs or 900 principals' offices. For the most part all are wrong on all counts.

The only important things that happen happen between the ears of 700,000 students prompted and guided and coaxed by 48,000 classroom teachers. All the rest is support, paperwork and administrivia – petty politics and adults-acting-like adults – and I mean that in a disparaging way.

Do teachers unions have too much power? Perhaps.
Do teachers unions try to exercise (the political science word is 'project') more power than thy have? Undoubtedly.
Look at how successful the teachers unions in California were at preserving education funding in the current state budget.

And are politicians essentially spineless? The writer - like this one - can't be wrong all of the time!

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
REAL TRANSPARENCY WILL BE TRICKY WITH STIMULUS SPENDING: Following the money will be the hard part
Saturday, March 21, 2009 2:42 PM
Obama says he wants the public to know exactly where the stimulus aid is going. But watchdogs complain that the White House disclosure guidelines have loopholes. By Paul West | The Baltimore Sun | From the Los Angeles Times March 21, 2009 — Reporting from Washington — Barack Obama says unprecedented transparency will be a hallmark of his presidency. But following the money in the stimulus...

Saturday, March 21, 2009 1:39 PM
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY A long-awaited federal study finds that an estimated 32 million adults in the USA — about one in seven — are saddled with such low literacy skills that it would be tough for them to read anything more challenging than a children's picture book or to understand a medication's side effects listed on a pill bottle. Though many communities are making strides to tackle...

U P D A T E D: CALLING THE IRONY POLICE: A letter from Superintendent Cortines dated Feb 7th, 2000
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 3:23 PM
“I wish you the best of luck as you embark on this most exciting initiative.” 3pm - 18 March: The Superintendent rescinded his proposal to eliminate the APEIS's this morning according to knowledgeable sources. A Victory well won! Now let's save arts and gifted and PE and bilingual ed and the futures of 700,000 special gifted artistic wonderful kids! - smf Last week Superintendent...

Monday, March 16, 2009 5:05 PM
from ●●smf's 2¢ — It's dumb data, but at least none of the 100 are in Southern California - let alone LAUSD! …and the equally suspect 100 Best follow! (19 in SoCal, 1 in LAUSD) NeighborhoodScout® is one of those Real Estate Listing Services that attempt to show Where the Livin' is Easiest, Best, Safest, Whitest, etc. ...

CENTRAL REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #14 IN ECHO PARK: The adults push and shove …and the children + the voters + the taxpayers + the school (and $16 million) are potentially left behind.
Monday, March 16, 2009 2:21 PM
by smf for 4LAKids Much has been made about Central Region Elementary School #14 — which was conceived and designed to relieve overcrowding and gets kids off the bus, out of multitrack year 'round calendars and into schools in their neighborhood. The process at CRES#14 was not all that...

PINK SLIPS FOR ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS: Putting a name and a face and a school and 679 students on the bottom line
Monday, March 16, 2009 9:26 AM
Pam Tronson writes: Dear fellow elementary school parents, This week, all of the...

LIVE FROM AN UNDISCLOSED LOCATION: The Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles, the governing body of the Los Angeles Unified School District
Monday, March 16, 2009 12:11 AM
From the meeting of March 10th,2009 — following testimony from parents who were ushered in and out of the room one by one to speak to the lack of parent involvement in budget and reduction in force (layoff) discussions. Note: The board, by policy, does not respond directly to public comment transcribed from KLCS – the cast, in order of appearance...

The news that didn't fit from March 22.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Tuesday Mar 24, 2009
South Region Elementary School #12: Pre-Demolition Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Miramonte Elementary School - Auditorium
1400 E. 68th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90001

• Wednesday Mar 25, 2009
Valley Region Enadia Way ES Reopening: Open House
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Enadia Way Elementary School
22944 Enadia Way
West Hills, CA 91307

• Wednesday Mar 25, 2009
South Region Elementary School #11: Pre-Demolition Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Loren Miller Elementary School
830 W. 77th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90044

• Thursday Mar 26, 2009
South Region Elementary School #3 and South Region Middle School #2
Construction Update Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Martha Escutia Primary Center
6401 Bear Ave.
Bell, CA 90201

• Thursday Mar 26, 2009
South Region High School #4: Construction Update Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Dominguez Elementary School - Multipurpose Room
21250 S. Santa Fe Ave.
Carson, CA 90810

*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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