Friday, July 03, 2009

"Oyez, Oyez, Oyez"

4LAKids: Sun., July 5, 2009 Independence Weekend
In This Issue:
MUSICAL LIBRARIANS: A Letter to the Superintendent
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.
"All persons having business before the Honorable, the Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Board is now sitting. God save the School District and this Honorable Board!"

The 150th annual meeting of the LAUSD Board of Education was convened at 1PM on Wednesday July 1st, the beginning of the academic year, the fiscal year and the budget cycle. Dickens could not write it was the best of any times …while not the beginning of the end it could well be the beginning of somewhere in the middle of the end. This is an actual emergency; listeners are advised to stay tuned.

THE FIRST TIME (OK, the second time) Antonio Villaraigosa ran for mayor he relied upon a watershed television spot that depicted a frightened metaphorical figure running through metaphorical woods - fleeing some metaphor or another. The commercial, which purportedly cost a million dollars - mimicked the low-budget box office phenomenon "Blair Witch Project" which purportedly cost $22,000. The narration - underlain with heavy breathing and underbrush trampled underfoot - suggested that Mayor Hahn (the metaphor of the first part) was running from his 'responsibility' to save and reform LAUSD …and had shockingly never visited school district headquarters.

Wednesday, four and a half years later, fresh from being reelected and re-inaugurated - Mayor Villaraigosa finally publicly visited school district headquarters himself. He was there to witness the swearing-in of what another pun-dit (sorry) has called "his school board 'mayority'"(sorry). And despite the legal opinions of the Superior Court, the Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court - we was there to preside. Seated not in the audience with the other political notables - but up on the dais - in the big seat in the middle, framed by his superintendent and his board members.

Mayor Villaraigosa's forays into public education in his first term have been spotty.
• His AB 1381 takeover of LAUSD was thrice ruled unconstitutional.
• His first attempt to name the superintendent was thwarted and he had to play the ugly political card to prevail.
• His partnership with UTLA slip-slides-away whenever his will is put to a vote of the membership.
• The jury is still out on his Partnership for LA Schools …although the jury is polling 1 for to 8 against with 1 undecided.
• He has managed to get a sympathetic school board elected, but like all school boards fractiousness has prevailed over unity.


STEVE ZIMMER's appeal to the better angels of Angelinos soared. His call was to join the inclusive chorus of "We" over the exclusive divisiveness of "Me" and "I" – "My Program", "My Job", "My Child", and "My Demands". Zimmer recognizes schools as families of teachers and parents and students and office staff and cafeteria workers and administrators; as parts and centers of Communities. We are all LAUSD.

NURI MARTINEZ presented another metaphor: The Latchkey Child she was and the similar children she sees everyday going to-and-from-schools. She is loss focused on the We and more on That Child – not a bad thing. She is more experienced as a politician (city councilmember and mayor of San Fernando) than Zimmer; his experience as an educator is long and wide and deep. There are two learning curves here; the apogees and parabolas will tell.

MONICA GARCÍA, reelected to the board and as its president asked that we "not let the gloom of the budget interfere with the mission of reform" – accompanied with her oft-repeated call for a 100% graduation rate. 'Good Enough' never is; 'Adequate' ain't, Every child can and shold succeed - but the national average graduation rate is 69.2%; the highest in the nation is New Jersey at 82.1% ...and NJ just added algebra and science to their grad requirements last month!

Zimmer has called earlier for stability over reform – already the cracks appear

Mayor Tony and Parent Revolutionary-in-chief Ben Austin – and a matching t-shirted chorus of Parent Revolution rank-and-filers besieged the public comment -- buying none of the "We are LAUSD" speechifying. Their message was unmistaken and strident: "You are LAUSD …and here are our demands!"

[The Parent Revolution - if you need a scorecard - is the Los Angeles Parents Union - itself a wholly-owned-subsidiary of Green Dot Public Schools - newly repackaged and re-branded in new blue t-shirts. Their message is: "Clean up your act LAUSD or we will take over your schools …just like Green Dot took over Locke" In the PR canon Locke is 'post-revolutionary']

WHEN THE BOARD MEETING RECONVENED after a repast of punch, decadently chocolaty brownies and petit-fours the issue of the Charter for Birmingham was addressed. (See: "LAUSD Votes To Convert Birmingham High School to a Charter + The Brüno Sideshow") And almost immediately the board dissolved into the LAUSD board so well known and unloved.

The two new Boardmembers immediately voiced dismay that they hadn't been adequately briefed on this, the first issue before them. This may have been due to the fact that the charter petition had been postponed repeatedly - first from early May and then to last week– to be decided by the previous incarnation of the board. Then - in a flurry of agenda postings: A last-minute cancelled meeting (in the last term) and a hastily called special meeting (in this one).

But - for whatever reason: Lollygagging, Occupied-otherwise-on-the-budget, Politics-as-(un)usual (someone counted the votes), or just plain dumb (Brüno) – the vote was delayed to Wednesday

In the end Zimmer abstained for lack of information, and Martinez voted for the charter anyway.

And so the Charter for Birmingham was approved. Happy Independence Day Patriots!

Not that it matters but 4LAKids believes this was the right decision …although until the voice of parents, the community and students is a factor in conversion charters our enthusiasm is subdued.

Meanwhile: Keep Calm and Carry On.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

CORRECTION: 4LAKids reported last week that the entire summer session program at the LA Community College District has been cancelled. The summer sessions at LACCD are divided into two sections, only the second section was cancelled. We similarly reported that the budgeteers in Sacramento were considering eliminating the Community College program; what was suggested is elimination of state funding for community colleges. That was suggested by gloom-and-doomers in a catalog of worst option possibilities.

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

2 July 2009 -- The Los Angeles Unified school board voted to convert Birmingham High School to a charter Wednesday, ending a long and bitter battle between teachers and parents at the district's largest campus.

The board also made Birmingham's journalism and communications magnet a separate campus, housing about 500 students.

The 5-2 vote came a day after Birmingham's principal and athletic director, lead petitioners of the charter, were disciplined for their approval of student athletes being used in a racy GQ magazine photo shoot featuring "Bruno" star Sacha Baron Cohen.

With the charter approved, the district no longer has the right to discipline Birmingham principal Marsha Coates and athletic director Richard Prizant, since neither will be employees of LAUSD.

"I will support this charter," said school board president Monica Garcia.

"But I have a big issue. ... It is unacceptable for kids to be used. To the board of this have a big deal on your hands. The public trust has been violated on this campus."

The charter plan was launched by Coates and approved by 80 of 120 teachers at Birmingham last fall. Supporters hope to bring reform and more financial freedom to the school, but over the last six months opposition to the plan grew while accusations of foul play, intimidation and harassment flew between different factions on campus.

Teachers and students at the Daniel Pearl journalism magnet program on campus
opted out of the charter with an OK from district staff.

Other teachers, including the union chair, also tried to convert part of the school to an "iDesign" campus, under the district's branch for innovative schools. That plan would have split the campus in three - with a charter, magnet and iDesign high school.

Coates, who will be the principal of Birmingham Community Charter High School scheduled to open this August, did not say whether she'd be willing to have a third school on the 80-acre campus.

"I would have to look at the legalities," Coates said.

She added that she would be willing to listen to plans and "heal" her campus.

After approving the charter board members engaged in a lengthy discussion on addressing concerns by the 40 teachers who had pushed for the iDesign school, and who had signed a petition promising to ask for a transfer from the school if their proposal was rejected.

The board instructed LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines to continue working with those teachers.

The iDesign school would be called the Institute at Birmingham for the Humanities and Social Justice.

IBHS supporter and spokesman Steve Shapiro, who is married to a Birmingham teacher, said he feared the action was too little too late.

"Unless the board makes a move to approve a plan in the next two weeks all these teachers will transfer and be dispersed...and IBHS is dead," he said.

Board member Tamar Galatzan, who voted in favor of the charter, said she hopes the Birmingham case would help highlight the need for more school options for LAUSD schools.

"Right now the only option for schools who want to innovate is to go charter," Galatzan said.

"The district created an innovation division but this example proves that plan didn't work."

●●smf’s CORRECTION: The Birmingham campus, the largest high school campus in LAUSD, is not really in danger of being separated into three schools because the campus was already shared by three schools. In addition to Birmingham High School the campus is occupied by Mulholland Middle School and High Tech Los Angeles Charter High School – another charter school. Plus the Local District I offices, a school police sub station, etc.


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

July 1 -- Birmingham High School administrators will be disciplined for allowing student athletes to appear in a suggestive GQ magazine photo shoot with "Bruno" star Sacha Baron Cohen, Los Angeles Unified officials announced Tuesday.

While parental consent was granted for the April 16 photo shoot, LAUSD Schools chief Ramon Cortines said the forms lacked "specificity" about the nature of the photos.

●●smf's 2¢: 10.2 Miles from Hollywood and Vine - There has been some bad taste here - and some poor judgment. Bruno/Borat star Sasha Baron Cohen is an agent provocateur in the arena of bad taste, and everyone from the football team to the principal to the 24th Floor of Beaudry has been the victim of as powerful a piece of Hollywood Press Agentry as we've seen in this town in decades. A publicity shoot for the movie in GQ magazine has become a cause celebré (or perhaps horriblé) and LAUSD has been played like a rube by the Hollywood hucksters.

You can't buy publicity like this for an upcoming movie release!

Cohen's brand of humor is about provoking predicable overreaction from self-appointed guardians of propriety and good taste – the folks H.L. Mencken called the ‘boobsgeoisie’ - and Superintendent Cortines has predictably overreacted like a small town school official in a Marx Brothers movie.

Cortines said "appropriate personnel action" would be taken against Birmingham's principal, Marsha Coates, and athletic director, Richard Prizant. But he said personnel matters were confidential and he could not specify the disciplinary actions.

"Rules were broken. The principal is ultimately responsible, but I also hold accountable the athletic director, who is also the school's filming coordinator and was present when the pictures were taken," Cortines said.

"I also want parents to know that this district will allow no one to take advantage of our students."

District officials said they did not know if Birmingham students will also appear in the "Bruno" film, due out July 10.

Officials also expect to learn more about how the film shoot was allowed to occur when they speak to students who return to campus in the fall. The Office of Inspector General is also looking at whether GQ's publishing company, Conde Nast, gave the school any donations above and beyond any payments given to the school for filming on campus.

"I also believe the film and production companies share some responsibility," Cortines said adding that he plans to ban the companies from filming on any district property for a year.

A spokeswoman for Seliger Studios, which organized the photo shoot, could not be reached for comment.

“We are not going to impose reform,” Arne Duncan said of the Obama administration’s plans on education reform


By Jason Song | LA Times

July 3, 2009 -- Reporting from San Diego -- The country's top education official challenged teachers unions Thursday to embrace historically controversial ways of promoting teacher effectiveness, including offering merit pay and evaluating instructors based on student test scores.

"You must become full partners and leaders in education reform. You must be willing to change," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the National Education Assn. at its annual meeting in San Diego.

The proposals are particularly charged in California, where such suggestions typically are met with fierce union resistance. In fact, a state law prevents districts from using California student performance data to evaluate or compensate teachers.

Duncan's audience was slightly more welcoming than in the past. Dennis Van Roekel, president of the 3.2-million member NEA, agreed that reform was needed, especially in teacher evaluations. And many rank-and-file union members at least politely nodded during Duncan's speech, a change from last year when President Obama -- then a candidate -- was roundly booed by the same convention when he discussed merit pay.

Not that the crowd was won over Thursday. "Quite frankly, merit pay is union-busting," said one educator to loud applause during the question-and-answer period.

Audience members cheered when one teacher questioned the merits of linking student test scores to teacher evaluation or pay.

When one NEA member shouted angrily at the mention of merit pay, Duncan said, "You can boo [but] don't throw any shoes, please."

Duncan has mentioned many of these ideas while traveling the country addressing educators, but Thursday was his first speech focused on teacher quality. And he made it before a potentially antagonistic audience.

Still, he said the Obama administration wants to work in partnership with the unions to ensure that students have the best teachers. "We are not going to impose reform but rather work with teachers, principals and unions to find what works," Duncan said.

He also advocated changing tenure rules, saying protecting poor teachers hurts students and effective instructors.

He also made it a point to say that charter schools -- independent, public schools that are free of many school district regulations and restrictions and often are not bound by union contracts -- should be treated the same as regular campuses.

"Charter schools are public schools, and they should be held to the same standards as everyone else," he said.

A group in the California section of the audience booed loudly when Duncan praised Green Dot Public Schools, which independently operates more than a dozen schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District with union contracts. David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Assn., called the anti-Green Dot contingent a "vocal minority."

Duncan pointedly advocated using student test score data to assess teacher effectiveness. "It's time we all admit that just as our testing system is deeply flawed, so is our teacher evaluation system."

Test scores should not be the sole measurement of teacher quality, Duncan said, and any merit pay needs to be shared on a campus-wide basis. When he headed the Chicago public schools, Duncan oversaw the creation of a program that rewarded some schools for increasing student achievement, which was measured partially by test scores, by giving extra pay to all employees.

Unions agreed to the program, said Duncan, who added that rewarding only individual teachers was wrong.

"You cannot pit teachers against each other. Such programs will always fail," he said.

He also said that administrators need to be given more support and training, but if they are ineffective they "need to find something else to do."

Van Roekel said he was willing to work with Duncan and the Obama administration because they appear to understand the complexities of reform and of using testing data to evaluate teachers. But Sanchez said he did not favor using that data.

"It shouldn't be on the table," he said.

Sanchez said that local unions need to negotiate their own contracts, but that he doesn't believe merit pay should be a bargaining point. Still, he said he was pleased that Duncan was reaching out to unions.

When reform "comes from the top down, it never works," Sanchez said. "We need to be inclusive."


By Stephen Sawchuk | Ed Week Online

July 2, 2009 -- San Diego -- Teachers’ unions must be willing to reconsider seniority provisions, rework tenure provisions, and work with districts to create fair ways of incorporating student-achievement growth in teacher evaluation and compensation, the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said today.

Although the Obama administration has put an emphasis on both performance pay and evaluation in recent months, Mr. Duncan’s speech to members of the National Education Association comes as the clearest sign yet that the U.S. Department of Education will likely put federal funding behind initiatives that incorporate student data as one of several measures of teacher performance.

Speaking before 6,500 officials and local delegates of the NEA, who are meeting here for the union’s annual Representative Assembly, Mr. Duncan underscored compensation, evaluation, and tenure reform as crucial to improving the quality of the education workforce.

“I believe that teacher unions are at a crossroads. These policies were created over the past century to protect the rights of teachers, but they have produced an industrial, factory model of education that treats all teachers like interchangeable widgets,” Mr. Duncan said. “When inflexible seniority and rigid tenure rules that we designed put adults ahead of children, then we are not only putting kids at risk, we’re putting the entire education system at risk. We’re inviting the attack of parents and the public, and that is not good for any of us.”

Delegates applauded Mr. Duncan’s calls for continued federal funding for education, better training for administrators, and for improved teacher-mentoring experiences. But in an indication of the challenges that the federal government will face as it pushes for reforms to compensation and evaluation, they booed and hissed through those parts of Mr. Duncan’s address.

The speech is the fourth Mr. Duncan has given on the core principles in the education-stimulus bill. Much of it echoed President Obama’s rhetoric on teacher professionalism from the campaign trail and from his November address on education.

Like the president, Mr. Duncan sought to reassure teachers that he would seek reforms to the teaching profession in collaboration with them. Nevertheless, the speech underscores that the Obama administration is pushing hard on areas that have long been sensitive for teachers’ unions, a shift for the Democratic party that Mr. Duncan seemed to acknowledge.

“You can boo, but just don’t throw any shoes, please,” Mr. Duncan quipped midway through his address.


The issue of performance-based pay and evaluation continues to concern the nation’s largest teachers union. During a town-hall style question-and-answer period, a number of delegates questioned Mr. Duncan on those elements.

“I’m encouraged to hear you say that evaluation should never be based entirely on test scores…[but] in too many cases, our state boards of education, our local boards of education are not getting that message,” said one delegate.

Others were more frank about their dislike for performance-based pay.

“Quite frankly, merit pay is union-busting,” said another delegate, to applause from her peers.

NEA policy on pay allows only for bonuses for teachers who earn advanced certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. It does not endorse higher salaries for math and science teachers, for teachers serving in hard-to-staff schools, or for performance-based pay. State and local affiliates are free to experiment with such plans, but cannot receive support from the parent union to do so.

While praising the national board program, Mr. Duncan said unions must work to consider other types of compensation reform.

“School systems pay teachers billions of dollars more each year for earning credentials that do very little to improve the quality of teaching,” he said. “At the same time, many schools give nothing at all to the teachers who go the extra mile and make all the difference in students’ lives. Excellence matters, and we should honor it—fairly, transparently, and on terms teachers can embrace.”

Through the economic-stimulus legislation, the Obama administration put an additional $200 million into the Teacher Incentive Fund, which requires grantees to use “objective measures” of student performance in awarding teacher-pay bonuses. So far, 34 districts, states, and nonprofit organizations have received TIF grants.

President Obama proposed investing an additional $487.3 million in the FY 2010 budget cycle. But that plan could face pushback from key Democratic senators, who expressed skepticism about the program in a recent education subcommittee meeting.

Mr. Duncan did not elaborate on what requirements districts and states will have to address to be eligible to compete for the funds. Many potentially controversial questions remain, such as whether the districts receiving the grants would have to bargain the pay programs collectively with their local unions.

NEA officials said earlier this year that they would prefer the Obama administration increase funding for the Title II teacher-quality state grants rather than put additional funds into TIF. That program provides funds to every state and can be spent on initiatives such as class-size reduction or professional development, in comparison to the narrowly defined and discretionary TIF program.

MUSICAL LIBRARIANS: A Letter to the Superintendent
Ramon C. Cortines, Superintendent
Los Angeles Unified School District
333 S. Beaudry Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017

June 30th, 2009

Dear Mr. Cortines,

I read with interest your latest column on the LAUSD website on your preference to be an educator, not someone whose priority has had to be a balancer of books.

Today, apparently, is my last day employed in the Library at the school in the community where I live. I have been transferred out (because of my seniority status and, we believe, because our small, successful school recently has been deemed as having too few students to support a 30-hour Library Aide) to a school about ten miles away, in another city whose location I had to “Google”, where I will continue to be employed 30 hours a week.

I have been associated with the school since my daughter began first grade there, almost 19 years ago. Since then, she has graduated from Berkeley and is en route to the London School of Economics. During this time, I have been an active member of PTA (becoming President and serving on the Board for several years). I have contributed, far too many hours to track, to the school’s landscaping: writing beautification grants, planting trees, building outdoor classroom areas, erecting benches, advocating for more greenery and helping the students petition (successfully) to save a large tree last year.

I know that I make a difference in the lives of students and staff at my school - as do many, many other dedicated Library Aides throughout the District – and I am proud of that fact, not shy. We know the children from the time they arrive in Kindergarten. We are among the very few adults that the Kindergarteners know on campus. We are able to influence their first forays into literature in a positive way. And, let me make it clear that we are not “Aides” in elementary schools. There is no one to “aid” on site. We are, by default, Librarians.

We get to know the students, their abilities, their struggles and their progress. We encourage, cajole and reward. We give advice on book selection, give guidance towards relevant books and explain how books are located. We monitor Reading Programs (ours is the Accelerated Reader program, whose database and Quizzes I manage). We assist teachers with research projects and Internet access. We assess our Collections and run Book Fairs to find funds to purchase books when there are no Title 1 funds to do so. We catalog and track down missing books. We accept books returned to us while in the parking lot and we are delighted when students stop us in the hallways to spontaneously announce how many chapters they have read of their current book. Oh, and we check in and out books and shelve them, too.

Frankly, with the goodly amount of lead time available, whomever it was that made the decisions to cut Library hours, lay off Library Aides and to make radical transfer arrangements for those with seniority, failed to consider the most appropriate, humane and beneficial way to do so. Not only that, many principals had no idea their Library Aide was about to be replaced or taken away (my Principal learned about the transfer the day after I received notice, which was a few days after the last day of school) and some Library Aides had no idea their job was in jeopardy. Neither do some principals even know if there will BE a Library Aide working in their school in the 2009-2010 year.

To double the workload of a Library Aide who is working in a school with fewer than 550 students, by allocating them two library collections, two student bodies and all that this entails, is asking a great deal – particularly for the pay scale. This idea was ill-conceived enough. Yet, to transfer a Library Aide out of his/her community, without input from the employee and either principal, to a similar position far away, is worse – because, taking away the only person who knows how the Library functions in tandem with the school is bound to cause serious disruption to the school community, the staff and the students.

Would it not have been more acceptable, and less disruptive, to have contacted those with seniority and asked whether they would: A. Prefer to stay where they were for 15 hours a week and take on a new school library in addition or, B. Prefer to move to a 30-hour position out of the area? All LAUSD employees have an LAUSD email address and I recall receiving an email just this year asking whether I would opt for early retirement. So, it seems to me this poll could have been taken quite simply and efficiently.

Could it not have provided better continuity for our schools, amid a reduced level of access to books, if this had been done? As it is, one can only envision that these sea changes were accomplished by pinning two lists on a wall: a list of names of those with seniority and a list of schools with 30-hour positions and employees without seniority. Further into this vision, one can imagine staff lining up with darts and launching them at the lists, in order to avoid making considered, humane decisions.

All week, I have been reading (and contributing to) email messages sent by distraught Library Aides. It has been distressing to hear stories of women laid off or having to relocate not only themselves, but also their children, to other schools far away from their local communities and families.

I believe this strategy needs to be reassessed and rectified for the benefit of our students, their access to literature in an era where literacy is a focal point, and for the Library Aides who make a difference in the daily life of so many.

To quote you, Mr. Cortines, when you express your wish on the website, “A veteran educator, I prefer to help our students read more books.” You’ve got it! That’s our goal, too.

Please help us out of this mess and let us renew our collective commitment to literacy with all the Library Aides intact – back in their existing school sites. It’s the right thing to do and I think you can get it done.

Thank you for your consideration,

Yours sincerely,

Clare Marter Kenyon
Mount Washington Elementary

●●smf's 2¢: UPDATE: I was advised on Wednesday by District staff that this policy decision to relocate librarians and library aides to different schools has been rescinded by the superintendent - and that Ms. Marter Kenyon's position at her school has been secured.

This has not been confirmed.

Also unknown is whether less senior librarians/library aides will be retained and whether all libraries will be staffed. I believe that the library is the most important classroom in the school and needs to be staffed by a qualified, professional dedicated librarian.

by Betty Pleasant, Contributing Editor | Los Angeles Wave

Jul 1, 2009 -— THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA IS RAPIDLY APPROACHING THE POINT WHERE IT CAN NO LONGER PROVIDE A PUBLIC EDUCATION FOR ITS CHILDREN. Owing to the state's dismal fiscal condition, the Los Angeles Unified School District passed a terrible budget last week that will entail laying off teachers, foregoing purchasing textbooks and other learning materials, increasing class sizes, eliminating summer school and full-day kindergarten and curtailing other educational services, which are the very stuff of schools. Yet, during that same week, the LAUSD broke ground for the construction of another new school — Central Region High School No. 16 located at 54th and San Pedro streets! What's wrong with this picture?

For more than 10 years now, the LAUSD has been on a frenzy invoking its eminent domain powers to displace residents and businesses from their neighborhoods so it could build all manner of fancy new state-of-the-art schools on every piece of land it saw — never mind that the district's school-age population has been dwindling all the while. Last week's dual LAUSD acts are an obscenity because we're facing a situation where we can have more schools than we have teachers!

What is the point in building new schools when we won't have teachers to teach in them, students to go to them, textbooks and materials to use in them and educational services to provide in them? The LAUSD has $20.1 billion (yeah, billion) in its New School Construction and Modernization Program for new schools, but it has virtually no funds to educate children in them. Why do we need to pass a "parcel tax" to pay teachers? Why can't some of that construction money be used to buy teachers and counselors and nurses and a decent education for our children in the schools we already have?

I asked these questions of people who are supposed to know, and they said: "School construction funds are bond money (from measures BB, K, R and Y) passed by the electorate through the initiative process for the sole purpose of building and repairing school facilities and they cannot be used for anything else." I asked: Why not? I was told: "The initiatives that created the bond measures were worded that way and that's what the people voted for and enacted into law."

I asked: Can we, the people, change our mind? Can we say we need teachers and educational programs now more than we need new schools and can we, therefore, divert some bond money to where it's needed most? I was told: "Yes. The people can do anything they want." Whoa! I then asked: How do we do it? I was told: "Through the same process that created the bond measures in the first place. You need to write a carefully constructed initiative that, in dire financial circumstances such as these facing school districts today, would allow school construction bond funds to be used to pay teachers and deliver educational services. Then get enough people to sign it so it can go on the ballot and then campaign to get the people to vote it into law. That sounds like a long, hard process, but people do it all the time."

People who know how to write ballot initiatives need to get together and get busy and start crafting this one post haste, because it is an abomination before God for us to be building schools and laying off teachers and delivering a rank, regressive, substandard, 20th century education product to our 21st century kids while we have our hands on $20.1 billion! Shame on us!

●●smfs 2¢: I'd agree with the question here: " What is the point in building new schools when we won't have teachers to teach in them, students to go to them, textbooks and materials to use in them and educational services to provide in them?" - IF the premise was correct …but it isn't entirely. WE DO HAVE STUDENTS TO GO INTO THE SCHOOLS WE ARE BUILDING - at the end of the current LAUSD building program 200,000 (2 out of every 7) LAUSD students will be attending class in temporary portable bungalows. A few of those "temporary" buildings date from the Great Depression - they have their WPA plaques to prove it. "Relocatable" bungalows I remind everyone are the FEMA Trailers of Public Education: – they are substandard inadequate classrooms.

The other point is about repurposing bond funds to teacher salaries.
1. This is irresponsible economic policy - one does do not use thirty year bonds to pay annual salaries!
2. The voters have voted those funds for one thing - with the language of the measures expressly forbidding paying salaries. What is proposed here is to change the language of the law to an Orwellian extreme and say that black-is-white-and up-is-down. "That which is expressly denied is hereby encouraged."
3. The state constitution similarly forbids what the writer proposes.

The short term simple solution is this:

I. The Board of Ed needs to put a measure on the ballot abandoning or amending Measure Q to an amount closer to the $3 Billion figure actually needed in the short-term foreseeable future for school modernization and repair – before the powers that be became obsessed with passing the Largest School Construction Bond in History. This would free up some debt limit and relieve the taxpayers of bond obligations. This measure should specifically lay out a concrete plan for expenditure …not be a wish list of what may be done when-and-if.
II. The Board of Ed needs to work cooperatively with the legislature and/or California voters to obtain the simple majority or 55% threshold for school local parcel taxes.
III. The Board of Ed needs to put such a parcel tax on the ballot – again clearly laying out how the money will be spent, limiting salary increases, committing themselves to sound fiscal policy, independent oversight and to transparent sunshining of collective bargaining.

There is much more to be done: A constitutional convention, a bonfire of the Ed Code, the two-thirds rule, revisiting Props 13, 39 and 98 -- but the items above are in the immediate purview of the Board of Ed.

• IT'S A FLOOR FIGHT! — Rep. Maxine Waters got into a shouting and shoving match with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.) June 25 over Obey's refusal to appropriate $1 million to the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center, at 10925 S. Central Ave. A dispute broke about between the two on the House floor when Waters questioned Obey about his failure to allow the funding and he bellowed at her: "I'm not going to approve that earmark!" Obey, who is attempting to ban "monuments to me" in funding project requests, angrily told Waters: "I am not going to fund your request because you are attempting to circumvent my rule not to fund any project named after a member."

In seeking to explain the altercation and to rally her colleagues' support for the center's funding, Waters argued that the funding would serve an official program in the poorest part of her district — and the nation — and that the center was named for her before she got to Congress. Waters wrote her colleagues: "At a time when unemployment in California and nationally is at record highs, and the recession is more like a depression for the Black and Latino residents of Watts, it seems we would want to fund and support a successful program like the center, which is a national model for employment training opportunities." She said she told Obey it was unfair to fund private, affluent schools and other groups while denying a successful program serving an impoverished community. She said Obey became angry with her and shouted that he didn't care about her plea and would not fund her request "and an angry exchange ensured between us." Thus, the shouting and the shoving.

• AT THE COUNTY LEVEL — Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas last week, the Board of Supervisors called for lowering the two-thirds majority requirement for the Legislature to pass the state budget — a requirement that has caused California's annual budget morass for as long as anyone can remember. Ridley-Thomas' motion, approved on a 3-2 vote, instructs the county chief executive officer to work with the county's lobbyists in Sacramento to reduce the threshold, a change that would require voters to amend the state Constitution.

• THE LOS ANGELES CENTER FOR ENRICHED Studies (LACES), located in school board member Marguerite LaMotte's 1st District, has been named by Newsweek magazine 44th among the nation's top 50 public high schools. Over the years, LACES has received numerous honors and distinctions as both a National Blue Ribbon School and a California Distinguished School. Needless to say, it has a student wait list that stretches from here to Mars.

• THE STUDENTS, STAFF AND PARENTS OF 186TH ST. ELEMENTARY School in Harbor Gateway recently joined Rep. Waters, Councilwoman Janice Hahn and the International Children's Choir in launching the "Colors of Love and Peace" children's book, a 40-page publication containing student-created artwork and messages to promote love, peace and healing to children in hospitals around the world. The book features a foreword written by the Dalai Lama, who was inspired by the students' art projects. He called it a "bright, cheerful and practical expression of concern for others."


11:53 PM ANDYG WROTE ...
I have to question your assertion that LAUSD has their "hands on $20.1 billion". First, I don't know how you got to 20.1... but I know the $7B that was approved just in November is not "in hand". That's not the way bonds work. Bond issuances typically are made once every 2-5 years to get as many projects moving as the market/taxation limits allow at that time. This depends on assessed property values and Prop 39 limits on bond-indebtedness.

Ms. Pleasant - You raise a very good point about the use of school bond dollars to help fund some basic elements of our educational system. As a former member of the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees, we faced this same problem with use of our bond dollars. In such a tough ecconomic (sic) time, it would have been nice to have the flexibility to use such dollars for much needed educational funding. Thanks for bringing this issue to light.

●●smf's 2¢: "It would be nice…"? The LACCD actually did overbuild beyond their capacity to operate the LACC VandeKampus in Glassell Park. I'm sure their counsel and the LACCD Bond Oversight Committee pointed out the error in this wishful thinking.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
by Seema Mehta | California Briefing Los Angeles Times
July 1 -- Scores of school districts across California, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, may not be able to meet their financial obligations because of state budget cuts, according to data released Tuesday by the state Department of Education. School districts must file reports showing their financial health to the state, and the number of districts that the state deems to be at risk of insolvency has quadrupled.

Nineteen districts will not be able to meet their financial obligations for the school year that just ended, or the upcoming school year, without making drastic cuts, including El Rancho Unified and Wilsona Elementary in Los Angeles County. Eighty-nine districts, including big city school systems in Los Angeles, Oakland, Santa Ana and Sacramento, are in jeopardy of not meeting their financial obligations in the school year that just ended or the two upcoming years.

"Billions of dollars of state budget cuts to education have left local school districts with deficits that local school boards and administrators are attempting to address," state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said in a statement.

"The decisions they have been forced to make are heartbreaking. . . . These are choices no educator in California wants to make. But the alternative is bankruptcy and entering state receivership."



Today is the day. Do lawmakers and Gov. Schwarzenegger reach a meeting of the minds , or do they issue an invitation to Controller Chiang to issue IOUs?

The California Senate on Monday approved a Democratic budget-balancing plan that faced a certain veto from Gov. Schwarzenegger

SPECIAL EDUCATION LEGISLATIVE ALERT: Language being voted on in California that you need to be aware of, changes that are pending

ON GRADUATION DAY, ANOTHER VIEW OF THE LAUSD: L.A.'s public school system is plagued by budget cuts, layoffs and low test scores. But as my daughter and her classmates received their diplomas, there was also something to celebrate.

TO FIX THE BUDGET, FIRST FIX THE STATE: Six simple steps for remodeling the government.
George Skelton: Capitol Journal | LA TIMES


By Gary Toebben |The L.A. Area Chamber, together with nearly 100 of our members, recently traveled to Sacramento on our annual advocacy trip with an agenda to recover, reform and rebuild California.

The news that didn’t fit from July 5th

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


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

...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• 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 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.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.