Saturday, July 18, 2009

Out of the loop

4LAKids: Sunday, July 19, 2009
In This Issue:
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

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PUBLIC SCHOOLS: an investment we can't afford to cut! - The Education Coalition Website
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
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"Make no mistake: The pain of discrimination is still felt in America," President Obama told the audience at this week's national NAACP convention.

"Race," someone opined at the Sotomayor hearings, "is a lie about a lie."

Words like equity and equality, phrases like 'equal access' and 'achievement gap' dance around the semantic periphery of race. The very ugly discussion this week about denying the citizenship of children born in this country to undocumented parents - and the debate at city hall about the 'complexion of the community' in Van Nuys v. Sherman Oaks were certainly about race.

The 'us v. them' at Ritter Elementary School over teaching summer school in Spanish only – and offering no classes in English – is about race. Not about racism – maybe not even discrimination -- but certainly about insensitivity.

If you run insensitivity through the thesaurus you get selfishness and thoughtlessness and inconsiderateness and tactlessness and inattentiveness. Neither discrimination nor prejudice ...but guilty nonetheless on all counts.

The student population at Ritter: API 664, ranked 1 (lowest) on the state's 1-10 API scale, and PI year 6 -- needs all the help and sensitivity they can get – 76% Hispanic, 23% African-American, 83% free and reduced lunch. Test scores, API and PI and socio-economic breakdowns are only data and children are not data points. 100% of the kids at Ritter need 100% of the help they can get. That is the promise made and not kept by the Mayor's Partnership.

The abrupt cancellation of the "low-quality" dual-language immersion education program in place at Ritter ( a decision made at City Hall and not in the community) and the subsequent attempt to make up for it with this Spanish Only summer school program demonstrates more desperation and compliance than reform – and utter insensitivity to the underlying Black and Brown tension in the community.

"If America is a melting pot then somebody forgot to tell the inhabitants of Los Angeles." said a movie review of the film "Crash". The hiccup at Ritter doesn't compare with the Watts Riots or Rodney King …or the wholesale lynching of somewhere between 18 and 23 Chinese one night in 1871. It comes closer to the Student Walkouts of '68. Those lessons may not be forgotten …but they are not well remembered. The truly tragic voice of King himself – flawed almost beyond redemption – speaks to us from 1992: "Why can't we all just get along?"

4LAKids followed but did not report the Ritter story last week in the LA Wave – that was a mistake.

This week's article in The Wave ('Bottom Line', below) gives us this quote: "Ramon Cortines, superintendent of the LAUSD, said Monday that he and his district have no jurisdiction over the mayor's Partnership Schools and, consequently, are not in the loop about anything they do."


If LAUSD doesn't have jurisdiction over the mayor's partnership schools – or i-Divsion Schools and/or the ever increasing number of charter schools - who does? These are public schools spending the public's money educating the public's children.

The so called School Choice Resolution being debated at the Board of Ed proposes to give choice to the communities …to run the newest - the 'choicest' schools. When the school building program is complete and all the new schools delivered only 10% of LAUSD kids will be in new schools. What about the rest of the schools, what about the rest of the kids. The ones that don't get chosen first. The ones that need all our help.

And ultimately, who IS in the loop? Who exactly is accountable …and to whom?

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

7/18 5 PM► The AP Reports A BUDGET DEAL POSSIBLE SUNDAY. Don't hold your breath... when the deal IS made it will not have been worth waiting fpr.

By Betty Pleasant, Contributing Editor | Los Angeles Wave

July 16, 2009 -- As the result of last week’s column [link follows] on the “Spanish only” summer program at John Ritter Elementary School, LAUSD board member Marguerite LaMotte presented a motion at Tuesday’s board meeting calling for access and equity for all students in the school district.

The motion, which was co-authored by board members Richard Vladovic and Steven Zimmer, specifically addresses the revelation that a four-week summer school session for Spanish-speaking students only is under way at the Watts-area Ritter School while no summer instruction is being provided to English-speaking students.

The Ritter School is one of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Los Angeles schools — a group of 10 public schools carved out of the LAUSD system and given to the mayor to operate.

A furor has erupted in the city’s non-Spanish speaking population over Ritter’s special summer class, especially in light of the fact that no elementary and middle school summer classes are being provided for public school children anywhere else in the district, as they were all canceled because of the district’s catastrophic shortage of funds.

The Rev. Eric Lee, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Los Angeles, was livid when he learned of Ritter’s Spanish-only summer school, and vowed: “We’re going to do something about this.” He said he spoke with Marshall Tuck, the CEO of the mayor’s Partnership Schools system, and listened to his explanations for the program.

“It still doesn’t make any sense to me,” Lee said. “If they were committed to have a Spanish-language instruction program, then they should have at least had an English-language instruction program as well.”

Lee, along with Adrian Dove, head of the California Congress of Racial Equality, met with the Black Education Task Force on the issue Monday and Lee said the group is demanding that Partnership Schools amass enough resources to have an English-language summer school at Ritter.

The National Association for Equal Justice in America (NAEJA) is scheduled to take up the Ritter summer school issue at its membership meeting Saturday, and the Urban Roundtable has issued a scathing indictment of the separate, but in-no-way equal, educational activity under way at Ritter and has vowed to fight it.

Ramon Cortines, superintendent of the LAUSD, said Monday that he and his district have no jurisdiction over the mayor’s Partnership Schools and, consequently, are not in the loop about anything they do. “But I want to make it plain that I never have believed and do not now believe in ‘separate but equal’ anything — certainly not a separate education,” Cortines said.

LaMotte, the only African-American on the LAUSD school board, angrily denounced the goings-on at Ritter.

“The Partnership Schools are still district-owned schools and are subject to all laws and policies of all district schools,” LaMotte said. “It is unacceptable and unconscionable that this has occurred in an LAUSD school. Although Partnership Schools have greater flexibility in their operation, this does not give them the right to discriminate in any way, and I personally, apologize to the students and parents who were denied access and appeal to the district and the Partnership to publicly do the same."

As to the LaMotte/Vladovic/Zimmer motion, it reads as follows:

“Whereas the alleged incident at an LAUSD IDesign Partnership School and other incidents have brought to light the disturbing reality that racism and social injustice continue to exist in the educational community, as well as the community at large; and

“Whereas, the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state doctrines, such as the California Constitution demand and guarantee equality of treatment, social justice, protection of civil rights and freedom from racial discrimination; and

“Whereas, the Los Angeles Unified School District is involved in a process to transform schools to improve student academic achievement and social behavior by having all students college prepared, career ready and performing at proficiency and advanced levels. Therefore, be it

“Resolved that the LAUSD Board of Education publicly recognizes its responsibility as the governing board of one of this nation’s leading educational institutions to serve as committed advocates for equality of every student, to be champions of social justice and civil rights and to hold accountable all parties involved in IDesign [Partnership] and the transformation process to adhere to these same access and non-discriminatory standards; and be it finally

“Resolved that a statement of agreement with the district’s position on access and equity will be specifically incorporated in all MOU’s and signed by all parties prior to the approval/acceptance of any LAUSD partnership or joint venture involving students.”

This resolution will be debated by the school board at its Aug. 25 meeting.


By The Associated Press from EdWeek Online

July 17, 2009 -- New York -- Saying that civil rights leaders from decades past paved the way for his election as the nation's first black commander in chief, President Barack Obama paid homage to the NAACP Thursday and advised members that their work remains unfinished as the group celebrated its 100th convention.

Obama's remarks, steeped in his personal biography as the son of a white mother from Kansas and black father from Kenya, challenged the audience — those in the room and those beyond — to take greater responsibility for their own future.

Obama said a "first rate" education was the right of all Americans, and promised to make the United States the leader in granting college degrees by 2020.

"We want everybody to participate in the American dream," Obama said. "That is what the NAACP is all about."

He urged parents to take a more active role, residents to pay better attention to their schools and students to aspire beyond basketball stars and rappers.

"I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers," Obama said. "I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court justice. I want them aspiring to be president of the United States."

With that line, Obama drove the hotel ballroom audience to its feet.

Throughout his comments, Obama sought a balance, contending that the government must foster equality but individuals must take charge of their own lives. It was reminiscent of earlier Obama speeches, calling on fathers to help their children and adopting a tone that at times seemed drawn from the pulpit.

"We have to say to our children, 'Yes, if you're African-American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face," Obama said, returning to his tough-love message familiar from his two-year presidential campaign.

"But that's not a reason to get bad grades, that's not a reason to cut class, that's not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands."

Today, Obama said, it is not prejudice or discrimination that presents the greatest obstacles for blacks, but rather structural inequities— in areas such as education and health care. Still, he said discrimination persists — and not just for blacks — and chided those who may contend otherwise.

Obama traced his historic rise to power to the vigor and valor of black civil rights leaders, telling the nation's oldest civil rights organization Thursday night that their sacrifice "began the journey that has led me here." He also prodded them to look beyond simply African-American rights.

"Make no mistake: The pain of discrimination is still felt in America," the president told the friendly audience that erupted in standing applause and the occasional "Amen" during his remarks.

Rousing his audience, Obama offered his most direct speech on race since winning the White House, a mix of personal reflection and policy promotion. He had worked on the address for about two weeks and revised it until shortly before he spoke, his aides said, underscoring the importance of his message and his audience.

Implicit in his appearance was that he is seeking the backing of the powerful NAACP and its members for his ambitious domestic agenda. He also is careful not to forget a groundswell of black voters who reshaped the electoral map, although they didn't singularly deliver him to the White House.

Painting himself as the beneficiary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's work, Obama cited historical figures from W.E.B. DuBois to Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr. to Emmet Till to explain how the path to the presidency was cleared by visionaries.

Despite the racial progress exemplified by his own election, Obama said African-Americans must overcome a disproportionate share of struggles, including being more likely to suffer from many diseases and having a higher proportion of children end up in jail.

"They're very different from the barriers faced by earlier generations. They're very different from the ones faced when fire hoses and dogs were being turned on young marchers," Obama said. "But what's required to overcome today's barriers is the same as what was needed then. The same commitment. The same sense of urgency."

Obama expanded his message of equal rights beyond the black communities. He said many Americans still face discrimination and suggested the NAACP — looking to declare a mission for its second century — might embrace a broader mandate in coming years.

© 2009 Associated Press - Material from the McClatchy-Tribune News Service was included in this report.

●●smf's 2¢: The media drumbeat for Boardmember Flores Aguilar's resolution to hand over operation of new schools to the communities they serve – a lovely concept conceptually – opened the week. With the Mayor, The Camber of Commerce, The Times and the Daily News on board – and an alphabet soup of community activists clamoring, on-script and on-message – how could it be wrong? It was a done deal except for tallying the votes. The Parent Revolution aka The LA Parent Union aka Green Dot packed the board room with the usual suspects in new blue T shirts; a chorus of charter school parents outside the purview and jurisdiction of the school board telling it what to do on behalf of parents who actually have kids in LAUSD.

The media says it was union opposition that stopped the steamroller. But in truth it was the-truth-well-told-that held it up. Oh sure, the school employee unions were heard from - …but so were the building trades. Jackie Goldberg spoke of how it isn't the new schools that need fixing, but the old ones. Parent voices said that NCLB actually gives the superintendent and the Board of Ed the authority to do the things they propose here at failing schools: Why fix the ones that aren't broke yet? The Bond Oversight Committee chair pointed out that this massive repurposing of bond funds was being made policy without consulting them as is required by law. The superintendent made his lack of support quite evident.

Board President Garcia fumed. In her world four votes make things happen. But truth be told, despite the urgency the four votes weren't there. Nor can, I submit, even a unanimous vote of the board overrule the vote of the people in five different school bond elections. Otherwise, the hypothetical proposed by Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs in her hearing of LAUSD v. Villaraigosa would come to pass -- and schools could be given over to Jiffy Lube to run.

Nor was the urgency urgent enough to forgo the board's planned August recess.●


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

7/14 -- The Los Angeles Unified school board is scheduled to vote today on a bold plan that would transfer the power of deciding how new schools operate from the district to the community.

With some 70 campuses set to open in the next three years, the plan would invite proposals from community members including educators, charter operators and union leaders. Parents and community members would then decide on the proposals, including whether they want a magnet, pilot, charter or other type of school.

"This resolution is an effort to try something new and desperately needed," said LAUSD board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who wrote the plan.

"We've found a way to include those people most involved in determining how we get academic (success)."

Supporters of the controversial plan say it is part of a much-needed reform effort that takes decision-making out of the hands of bureaucrats and special interests and puts it in the hands of parents and the community.

But critics fear it would take on more reform than the district is ready to handle, at a time when the district is struggling to survive financially.

The plan, entitled "Public School Choice: A New Way at LAUSD," is a key shift in the way the district does business, said Ben Austin, who was involved in writing the resolution and is executive director of LAUSD's Parent Union.

"The collective decisions of hundreds of thousands of parents doing right by their own child gets us to a better place than where we are now ... completely captured by bureaucrats and special interests," said Austin, who also works for Green Dot, a charter school operator that runs 17 schools in LAUSD and has pushed for the takeover of several low-performing district schools.

"There are risks associated with change, but a whole lot more risk associated with the status quo."

Union officials, however, worry the plan could unleash a competitive bidding process among private sector school operators that would ultimately lead to the demise of the district.

"What this district and this board is doing, is doing away with their responsibility and giving public schools away to the private sector instead of the district holding bureaucrats' and middle managers' feet to the fire," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

"They did not get the help of every union to build schools (only) to give them away to private enterprise."

LAUSD has more than 150 charter schools, the largest number of any district in the nation.

Duffy, who echoed the sentiments of several district employee unions, including Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, said while the idea of giving more power to parents and educators seemed novel, failing to take the steps in a strategic manner could lead to "mass chaos."

"Reform needs to be done in a logical sensible sequential way," Duffy added.

Modeled after similar initiatives in Philadelphia, Oakland and New York City, the Public School Choice resolution is rooted in an idea of turning around failing schools and encouraging healthy competition.

Matt Hill, an aide to LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines, also said the plan mirrors many of the reforms laid out in the school chief's "First 100 days" plan.

"This began as a strategy to replace very large high schools that had very low graduation rates," said Melody Meyer, spokeswoman for the New York City department of education. Since the program launched in 2002, New York has opened 400 new schools, a majority of them failing schools that were reformed and reopened.

"Now, at our new schools, we consistently graduate about 75 percent of our kids in four years," Meyer said.

Districtwide, New York has also seen its overall graduation rate increase from under 60 percent to 66 percent since the start of the new school plan.

But unlike the Los Angeles proposal, New York instituted its plan in phases, starting out with only failing high schools and rolling it out slowly to all new schools.

Also, in New York there is a cap on the number of charter schools that can be opened, and they only have two models for parents to pick from - either a district school or a charter.

LAUSD board member Tamar Galatzan expressed her hesitation to sign off on a resolution that fails to explain the details of such an ambitious plan.

"This resolution taps into a desperate need for reform at L.A. Unified, and I wholeheartedly agree reform is not happening fast enough," Galatzan said.

"I just want to make sure reform isn't messier than the underlying problem. I have a lot of questions about how this process works: Who exactly is the community? ... What criteria will the community use to weigh competing proposals?" Galatzan asked.

The resolution specifically calls for the creation of a new position, to be paid for with foundation funding. Hill said a local organization has pledged to fund this and other reform efforts included in Cortines' plan, but he said he could not yet disclose the name of group.

If approved, district staff would develop the criteria that will be used to evaluate school proposals, with the goal of rolling out the plan by the fall of 2010.

►INNOVATION AND THE LAUSD: A proposal to let groups bid to run 50 new L.A. schools is just the kind of fresh thinking the district needs.

LA Times Editorial

July 14, 2009 -- An attention-piquing item on today’s agenda for the Los Angeles Unified school board: a resolution to allow the operation of 50 newly built schools over the next four years by assorted groups, inside and outside the district. Charters, organized labor, parent organizations and community associations could submit plans to run the schools, with the district picking from among competing proposals.

To be frank, this idea, advanced by board Vice President Yolie Flores Aguilar, comes with all sorts of pitfalls: In a school district so politicized, there are too many opportunities for choices to be made on the basis of favoritism rather than merit. The district already does a lackluster job of tracking charters; how will it monitor these experimental schools? The proposal also raises worrisome questions about borderline organizations that might campaign to run a school.

We like it anyway.

In fact, Flores Aguilar's proposal is one of the most intriguing ideas to come along in many years. Without creating upheaval at existing schools, it opens up a portion of the district to groups that might reinvent local education. Its fair-minded provisions allow the teachers union, which has long complained about charter schools, to show that a teacher-managed school can do better. The district itself can propose running any of these schools, giving staff incentive to think creatively. And instead of sticking charters with the most rundown facilities, Flores Aguilar would let them share equally in the district's bond-funded construction, as state law decrees.

There has been significant push-back from United Teachers Los Angeles, concerned that charters, which are enormously popular with parents, would have the edge in this competition. Expect pressure today to delay Flores Aguilar's resolution.

That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, and if it happens, we would like to see the time used to develop stipulations that ensure fairness and accountability. There must be objective criteria for judging applicants and assessing their performance. Managers of these schools should have tight deadlines for improvement as well as clear guarantees of freedom to operate with minimal interference. Schools that fall short must not be allowed to stumble along for years; the district needs well-defined procedures and timelines for reclaiming them. Not acceptable, though, would be using a delay to water down the proposal, which is what happened during the postponement of former board member Marlene Canter's resolution to streamline the firing of the worst teachers. Fear -- and even lack of confidence in the district's adeptness -- cannot be used as an excuse to block innovation.

►L.A. UNIFIED DELAYS BIDS ON SCHOOLS: Plan to let district, charters and other groups compete for new facilities draws union opposition.

By Howard Blume | LA Times

July 15, 2009 -- Faced with unrelenting union opposition, the Los Angeles Board of Education put on hold Tuesday a proposal that would have allowed charter operators and other outside groups to bid for control of 50 new schools scheduled to open over the next four years.

The plan, led by board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, would have made available, through a competitive process, new schools that are part of the nation's largest school construction project. The district could compete to run these campuses, along with independently run charter schools, the mayor's office and other institutions and nonprofit groups.

The biggest prize would be the collection of schools at the Wilshire Boulevard site of the Ambassador Hotel, one of the nation's most expensive school construction efforts. Charter operators see in the resolution a chance at new school facilities that are largely unavailable to them now. Some supporters also perceive the motion as a first step allowing the takeover of any school regarded as "failing."

"Choice is an important lever for change and innovation, both of which are needed," Flores Aguilar said. "This resolution is in response to the growing chorus for change and reform."

Part of that chorus was in attendance at Tuesday's board meeting. But board members were tuned in at least as closely to the critics.

"You've made a 'yes' vote to choice [into] a 'no' vote to labor and that is what is what we are opposed to," said Adriana Salazar, the business representative for Teamsters Local 572, which negotiates for about 3,500 district employees, including plant and cafeteria managers. But she said later that her union might see things differently if these campuses remained under contract with district unions. Most charter schools are nonunion.

In a letter to the board, seven unions, including Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, called the proposal "an insult to these children and their families to outsource education to charters and other private entities."

Board member Richard Vladovic co-sponsored the resolution, but he's also a traditional ally of Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which backed his bid for office. At Tuesday's meeting, he told Flores Aguilar that he supported the "concept" of the resolution, an apparent tactical retreat, and joined a general call for change.

Board President Monica Garcia, also a past union ally, stuck with Flores Aguilar, saying she was prepared to support the plan. Garcia and Flores Aguilar have been recent targets of recall threats by activists with United Teachers Los Angeles. It's not clear how serious this threat is.

United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy said he saw the hand of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in the effort -- as a way to get more schools under his control.

The mayor's office said it strongly supports the resolution, but Villaraigosa's school board allies could not reach a majority vote this week.

Flores Aguilar vowed to accept ideas and revisions but not a dilution of her proposal.

District Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, who has his own reform plan, was notably noncommittal, but said he would work to reach consensus with the school board.

Parents and others spoke for and against the measure during a nearly two-hour debate.

"It's criminal what's happening right now," said George Cole, who represents Bell for a coalition of cities in southeast Los Angeles County. The district "ought to be prosecuted for educational malfeasance."

Cole has been among civic leaders who sought out Flores Aguilar after watching new schools open and immediately produce low test scores and high dropout rates.

"Right now schools can be open forever and fail forever," said charter parent Corri Tate Ravare, a vice president for charter operator ICEF. She pledged community support for board members who stood up to opposition: "We got your back."

The resolution is expected to return to the board Aug. 25.


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

7/15 -- Facing opposition from employee unions and some community leaders, the Los Angeles Unified school board postponed voting Tuesday on a controversial plan that would let the community decide how new schools operate.

Board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who authored the proposal, said she would delay the vote until next month's board meeting to get feedback from her colleagues and community members, but she fully intends to move forward with the plan.

"I will in no way accept in my resolution a watering down," Flores Aguilar said. "The next step of our work has to be about choice and competition."

Focusing on the 70 new schools that LAUSD expects to open in the next three years, Flores Aguilar's plan would open the campuses to a bidding process among educators, community organizations, parents and charter operators. Parents and community members would then have the power to decide which school model fits their campus best under the plan.

Opponents complained that the proposal left out existing schools that are failing.

"They are responding to the community groups who have applied political pressure while ignoring the hundreds of parents who have worked so hard on their school sites for years to try to improve their schools," said Bill Ring, a long-time parent advocate.

Declining to endorse or support the resolution, LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he supported the idea of taking the plan and enhancing it to include all schools, taking a special look at schools that have failed to meet their federal and state standards in testing.

Under No Child Left Behind, schools that have failed to meet these standards can be shut down and restaffed, or given to charter operators.

Jackie Goldberg, a former LAUSD board member and community leader, also raised concerns that using the district's construction bond funds could be a violation of the law, if charters could receive new campuses in a competitive process. Her statements were echoed by the district bond oversight committee. As written, charter schools have a cap on the amount of funds they can receive from the district's construction program.

"If you're going to open this process to everyone, then let the games begin with program improvement schools. They need it the most," Goldberg said.

Board member Steve Zimmer also asked to add an element to Flores Aguilar's plan that would allow for an 11-member panel, consisting of board members, parents, union members and community leaders, to meet to discuss how all schools could be included and how current district options could be better used to provide parents more choice.

Appearing frustrated by the postponement of the vote, LAUSD board president Monica Garcia urged opponents of the plan to bring forward a different option - and quickly.

"In my world, four votes make things happen," Garcia said. "I want to know now we are doing everything we can to improve this district."

In the eyes of many parents, like East L.A. resident and mother of two Alejandra Mu oz, improving the district now requires more freedom of choice. "For many years we have been working to make our school better and still our kids are failing and dropping out," she said.

complete taxt - The Flores Aguilar Resolution: PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE: A NEW WAY AT LAUSD

By Diana L. Chapman | Random Thoughts column in CityWatch: an insider look @ LA

I have a sickening and increasing fear of the new education revolution that has charter schools popping up everywhere in Los Angeles– especially now that our mayor has endorsed this as the gateway to fixing public schools.

It stems from scary stories like this:

High School senior, Aurora Ponce, a class president, straight “A” student headed for a UC university, sat in a silent protest regarding enlarging class sizes and the elimination of college prep courses at her charter campus. After she did so, the Accelerated School (several South Los Angeles charters) suspended her for two days and tried to bar her from giving a valedictorian speech.

Scores of protests forced the charter to allow her the opportunity she deserved.

Two teachers, during Black History Month, put together a program to remember 14-year-old Emmett Till, hanged in 1955 in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. The program included placing a wreath down for Emmett at Celerity Nascent charters.

The 7th grade math teacher, Marisol Alba, and co-teacher, Sean Strauss, were both fired. School officials declared that telling Emmett’s story was too horrific for young students.

I signed the petition to rehire those teachers. This is the type of program I don’t only expect – but demand from good teachers.

These Los Angeles stories, and many others like them around the nation, bother me deeply that we are murdering our public education system and leaving behind our American values as individuals; the right to protest, the right to free speech, the right to learn about tolerance – which we’ve always learned at schools. And more so, the right to learn our history.

During my junior high school years, I learned about Native American Indians living on reservations, the brutality of the Civil Rights Movement and about the Klu Klux Klan. Not once did I believe these stories were too much for me to learn. In fact, those lessons helped shape me and taught me tolerance.

I want our children – our future – to be analytical and to know our history – no matter how dark it is. If we avoid the Emmett Till story, will we ignore slavery too? How about the Lincoln assassination? Should we discuss JFK then? What about the Holocaust?

Even when charter test scores are high, I wonder what we eliminate: perhaps we destroy the concept of students thinking for themselves.

I gagged when I read about the American Indian Public Charter schools in Oakland.

These students live with strict military-style discipline at the school and achieved some of the highest test scores in the state – 976 – out of a 1000 on the API (Academic Performance Index). Mostly, strict academics are part of the structure such as math.

But my question is: at what costs? While public schools are teaching to the tests as well, teachers are often chagrined by this and continue their attempts to instill values, tolerance --- and our history. Maybe then we won’t repeat some of the same ugly mistakes we’ve already made.

As a parent, I took a short dip in and out of a charter school in San Pedro for my son, Ryan. It definitely was not the school for us for a variety of reasons, but in particular odd discipline policies and the amount of control the principal and executive director had was bothersome.

After that, the only recourse was to go to the board. And students were not encouraged to speak up.

We didn’t make it past the first semester, especially after Ryan was disciplined with an eight hour in-house suspension for wearing the wrong shirt to school. At this point, I decided this campus just didn’t fit us. It did, however, suit other students who blossomed and flourished at the smaller school.

Still, what I fear most coming out of charters is the cookie-cutter approach to teaching, especially at charters that are wedded to the basics, and want to squash what their students say out loud.

It’s almost a dumbing-down of students, intimidating them to not speak out vocally or become the way most of us are as Americans: believing we have the right to speak.

Jose Cole-Gutierrez, heads all 156 charter schools for Los Angeles Unified which currently serves 60,000 students.

In the end, charters have wound up operating similar to public schools – some are excellent, some are average and some have failed.

What they did offer the school district is a need for competition, Cole-Gutierrez explained and for parents -- options.

The school district does not, in essence, manage day-to-day operations, Cole-Gutierrez said, but what has come out of the charter movement – which this district has the highest number of than any other in the nation – is offering choice to parents.

The district now offers magnet, pilot and smaller learning communities to its students and the district now has “the competition we need at all schools. We need to compete and give better choices,” he explained.

“We continue to be committed to high quality choices, providing charter schools with the autonomy allowed under the law and the accountability for which they are responsible,” the administrator emailed me.

David Kooper, the chief of staff for LAUSD Board Member Richard Vladovic, agreed and said the district will move toward forming small schools to compete against charters.

The small schools, which may reside on currently large campuses, will have their own counseling office and administration.

“We’ve decided to go with smaller schools and help them establish their own identity,”

This is good news – because like most of education’s ills, charters are only a part of the solution.

• Diana L. Chapman was a journalist for 15 years with the Daily Breeze and the San Diego Union. She can be reached

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
“…and that’s the way it was.”
smf for LAKids As a passionate insider – the least trustworthy of reporters – I cannot allow the most trusted one to pass without notice. Walter Cronkite was of the generation one of his colleagues called the greatest.

By a MetNews Staff Writer | Metropolitan News-Enterprise [edited by 4LAKids] Friday, July 17, 2009 -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday announced the appointment of new superior court judges. Included in those tapped to fill local vacancies are LAUSD Assistant General Counsel Stephanie M. Bowick.

PROP 98 IS TESTED AGAIN: In the tug of war over state's deficit, Schwarzenegger would like to suspend it. The California Teacher's Assn. wants reassurances.
By Eric Bailey | From the Los Angeles Times July 17, 2009

School Transportation News DIAMOND BAR, Calif. (July 16, 2009) — Los Angeles Unified School District will replace 260 of its oldest diesel buses with new CNG and propane vehicles following a $43 million vehicle replacement grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District

CALL TO ACTION: Save Early Education [don’t let the feds so what we didn’t let the state do!]
from[k]now A subcommittee in the House of Representatives took a BIG step backward last week when it came up $900 million short of President Obama's proposed early education budget.

EDUCATION SQUABBLE STALLS CALIFORNIA BUDGET DEAL: Schwarzenegger offers his promise that school money would be restored when the economy rebounds. Democrats want it in writing
By Evan Halper and Eric Bailey |LA Times Online -- Fresh off a disappointing evening of budget negotiations that halted amid simmering frustration, legislative leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed to forge ahead today in hopes of settling on a final package

LA Daily News Editorial 16 July 2009 -- HERE'S an apparently controversial statement: Communities should decide how to operate their local schools.

CALIFORNIA COLLEGE CRUNCH: Budget cuts, fee hikes, forced days off -- the Cal State system is under siege + UC system: Lay-offs, not pay cuts
Budget cuts, fee hikes, forced days off -- the Cal State system is under siege.

by Howard Blume | LA Times LA Now blog 1:45 PM | July 15, 2009 -- California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed said that what passes for algebra in high schools is really “algebra light,” and characterized as “outrageous” that school districts don’t require more of their students.

By Dan Walters | Sacramento Bee Wed, Jul. 15, 2009 -- National Public Radio is running a series of broadcasts this week called "California in Crisis”. And NPR is not alone.

By STU WOO | The Wall Street Journal JULY 16, 2009 - California leaders say they are near a compromise on fixing the state's $26 billion budget shortfall, signaling the end of a weeks-long impasse that has forced officials to issue IOUs to keep the state out of default.

Text Story by: Associated Press Posted on by: Dennis Lovelace Los Angeles ( - The head of the Los Angeles teachers union says talks are under way that could lead to the rehiring of 2,000 teachers laid off in June.

by Howard Blume | LA Times LA Now blog 11:33 AM | July 14, 2009 : Los Angeles teachers would surrender some compensation in exchange for preserving jobs under terms being negotiated between the teachers union and the Los Angeles Unified School District, T

Op-Ed By John Perez | LA Newspaper Group/Daily News Sunday, 12 July 2009 -- DURING 36 years as a teacher and union leader in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I ran across teachers who clearly should not have been at the head of a classroom. They were, however, far fewer than commonly thought.

a lawsuit has been filed today in Superior Court. On Monday morning, July 13, 2009, at 8:30 A.M. Superior Court

The news that didn’t fit from July 19

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


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...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.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.

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

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD. He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee and the BOC on the Board of Education Facilities Committee. He is the president of his neighborhood council. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • 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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