Sunday, August 16, 2009

I hear that train a comin'

4LAKids: Sunday, Aug 16, 2009
In This Issue:
Report from the Districtwide Community Meetings: RE - BOARD RESOLUTION ON PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE -- ROUNDS ONE & TWO
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
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4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
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'FOLSOM PRISON' to me is way of getting my name spelled right. "Folsom …like the prison." is my introduction; it isn't "Bond …James Bond." …but it will do. 'Folsom Prison Blues' is the special ringtone on my phone for selected family members.

AT FIRST IT SEEMS FOLSOM PRISON HAS LITTLE TO DO WITH PUBLIC EDUCATION IN L.A. OR CALIFORNIA - unless you buy into the School-to-Prison or Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline theory. 4LAKids does, and it proves out in the following. That pipeline has been the largest infrastructure investment the Golden State has made over the past two decades - made at the expense of California's Early Ed, K-12 and Higher Education programs.

The California Corrections System is the largest program in state government, bigger than UC and CSU; Parks and Highways. Yes, Education and Public Safety and Social Welfare are larger Line Items in the state budget - but they are governed and run by local entities at the county, municipal and school district level.

Of course, in post Prop 13 California Sacramento controls the funding for those local entities - and the legislature, governor and California Dept of Education micromanage to the nth degree through the Ed Code and purse strings. But what it comes down to is that the largest program our dysfunctional state government runs - it mismanages catastrophically. And considering all the judicial intervention - maybe criminally.

I am not whining here on behalf of the poor mistreated felons out there, I am whining on behalf of us all: We the People - taxpayers and citizens and educators and schoolchildren in red and blue counties from Yolo to Imperial. For all the complaining from the complainers about the teachers union lobbying, the prison guards union makes CTA and the rest look like Amateur Hour in Dixie …and I apologize to little theater in Old South.

Read or listen to the following and you will quickly see a failure in education that percolates up and down the pipeline.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante!

- smf


Heard on All Things Considered | Copyright © 2009 National Public Radio®.

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block in Washington.

MADELEINE BRAND, host: And I'm Madeleine Brand in California, where many prisons have been on lockdown this week after a riot by inmates at one facility. More than 175 people were injured. It could not have come at a worse time for California's troubled and overcrowded prisons. The state is spending more than it can afford on prisons, and it has the highest recidivism rate in the country.

BLOCK: It wasn't always this way. NPR's Laura Sullivan spent a couple of days at California's historic Folsom Prison. She reports on how a state that was once the national model in corrections became the model every state is trying to avoid.

(Soundbite of song, "Folsom Prison Blues")

Mr. JOHNNY CASH (Singer, Songwriter): Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.

(Soundbite of applause)

LAURA SULLIVAN: It was January, 1968. Johnny Cash set up his band on a makeshift stage in the cafeteria here at Folsom Prison.

(Soundbite of song, "Folsom Prison Blues")

Mr. CASH: (Singing) I hear the train a comin'. It's rolling 'round the bend.

SULLIVAN: Half the prison's inmates watch him play, thumping their fists and cheering from the same steel benches now bolted to the floor.

(Soundbite of song, "Folsom Prison Blues")

Mr. CASH: (Singing) I'm stuck in Folsom Prison, and time keeps dragging on.

SULLIVAN: This morning that Cash played may have been the high watermark for the prison and for the California Department of Corrections. These men lived alone in their own prison cells. Almost every one of them was in school, or learning a professional trade. The cost of housing them barely registered on the state budget. And when these men walked out of Folsom free, the majority of them never returned. It was a record no other state could match. Things have changed.

Lieutenant ANTHONY GENTILE (Corrections, Folsom Prison): Drug activity, gang activity. It's kind of like a pressure cooker.

SULLIVAN: Lieutenant Anthony Gentile is standing in Folsom's cafeteria just before lunch, beneath chipping paint, rusting pipes and razor wire. Where a photographer stood 40 years ago and captured Cash's famous concert, an officer now stands in a metal cage.

Lt. GENTILE: He's armed with a Mini-14, which is the primary weapon, our last use-of-force option for lethal force. He has a 40-millimeter Exact Impact Round, and then he has a 38-caliber revolver as his personal defense.

SULLIVAN: There are now 15-20 assaults a week here at Folsom. And where all inmates used to mix, Folsom today is entirely segregated - in the cafeteria, on the yard and in the cell block - by race.

Lt. GENTILE: The problems tend to simmer and stay there. It creates somewhat of a mob mentality.

SULLIVAN: Folsom was built to hold 1,800 inmates. It now houses 4,427 men. It's once-vaunted education and work programs have been cut to just a few classes, with waiting lists more than a thousand inmates long. Officers are on furlough. Its medical facility is under federal receivership. And like every other prison in this state, 75 percent of inmates who are released from Folsom today will be back behind bars within three years.

To figure out how California could have gotten to such a place, you first have to start in Sacramento.

Ms. JEAN WOODFORD (Former Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation): Honestly, I - you know, I was very hopeful when I went up there.

SULLIVAN: Jean Woodford was one of four secretaries the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has had in the past five years. Woodford spent 30 years in the department. As secretary, she lasted two months.

Ms. WOODFORD: I thought it was all about the right policies and the right principle. It's really about the money.

SULLIVAN: California can't afford its prisons. Taxpayers are already spending as much money locking people up as they are in the state's entire education system. Experts agree the problem started when Californians voted for series of get-tough-on-crime laws in the 1980s. The population exploded immediately, from 20,000 inmates throughout the '70s and '80s, to 170,000 inmates. Jean Woodford was warden of San Quentin at the time.

Ms. WOODFORD: The violence just went out of control. And then the programs started going away. And then - I was there during an 18-month lockdown. It was just unbelievably horrific.

SULLIVAN: California wasn't the only state to toughen laws in the throes of the 1980s crack wars, but Californians took it to a new level: increased parole sanctions, prison time for non-violent drug offenders. Voters eliminated indeterminate sentencing, removing any leeway to let inmates out early for good behavior. Then came 1994's Three Strikes, You're Out. Even offenders who had committed a minor third felony, like shoplifting, got life sentences. Voters were inundated with television ads, pamphlets and press conferences from their governor, Pete Wilson.

Mr. PETE WILSON (Former Governor, California): Three Strikes is the most important victory yet in the fight to take back our streets.

SULLIVAN: Behind the efforts to get voters to approve these laws was one major player: the correctional officers union. In three decades, it has become one of the most powerful political forces in California. It has contributed millions of dollars to support Three Strikes and other laws that lengthen sentences. It donated a million dollars alone to Governor Wilson after he backed Three Strikes. And the result for the union has been dramatic. Since the laws went into effect and the inmate population boomed, the union grew from 2,600 officers to 45,000 officers. Salaries jumped from 15,000 in 1980 to today, where one in every 10 officers makes more than $100,000 a year.

Mr. LANCE CORCORAN (Spokesman, California Correctional Peace Officers Association): We have advocated successfully for our members.

SULLIVAN: Lance Corcoran is spokesman for the union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

Mr. CORCORAN: The notion that we are some prison industrial complex, or that we're recruiting felons or trying to change laws is a misnomer.

SULLIVAN: Campaign records, however, show much of the funding to promote and push for the passage of the laws came from a political action committee the union created. It's run out of a group called Crime Victims United of California. Its director, Harriet Salarno, says they are independent from the union. But a review of the PAC's financial records show the PAC has not received a donation from another group besides the union since 2004. The union's Lance Corcoran.

Mr. CORCORAN: We continue to support a number of victims' rights groups.

SULLIVAN: Why is the correctional officers union involved in victims' rights at all?

Mr. CORCORAN: There are people that think that there's some sort of ulterior motive. But the reality is is we simply want to make sure that their voices are heard. And so we support them with everything that we can.

SULLIVAN: But Corcoran acknowledges the union has benefited from the increase in the prison population after these laws passed.

Mr. CORCORAN: We've had the opportunity to grow, and that has brought with it both success and criticism.

Ms. WOODFORD: The union is incredibly powerful.

SULLIVAN: Jean Woodford said she stepped down as secretary of the Corrections Department when she found out the union had been going behind her back to negotiate directly with the governor's office. Secretary Roderick Hickman resigned for the same reason in February 2006.

Mr. RODERICK HICKMAN (Former Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation): The biggest problem was the relationship that I had with CCPOA, the union.

SULLIVAN: Hickman says the union was able to undermine efforts to divert offenders from prison and reduce the prison population.

Mr. HICKMAN: Maybe I was just impatient it wasn't going to go fast enough. But I think that they're still in the same place I left it. We were in a $8 billion budget, and now it's over $10 billion.

SULLIVAN: Today, 70 percent of that budget goes to pay salaries and benefits to the union and staff. Just 5 percent of the budget goes to education and vocational programs - the kind study after study in the past 10 years has found will lower the prison population.

(Soundbite of circular saw)

SULLIVAN: The metal and cabinetry workshop at Folsom feels different from the rest of the prison when you walk through the metal doors. Here in the shop on this day, a group a of black, white and Latino inmates are bent over a table, talking to each other, discussion measurements for a conference table. Inmate Derrick Poole is working on the legs.

Mr. DERRICK POOLE: When we're down here, we can get out of that prison politic thing, where we don't get along, we don't socialize outside the race. We can - we socialize with any race here.

SULLIVAN: Poole's spending nine years at Folsom for drug possession. In his life, he's been released from prison at least six times that he can remember. It hasn't worked out well.

Mr. POOLE: When I got out - you kind of lose your social skills, like, dealing with people. You already - it wasn't learned on the street. And then you come in here, and you're not learning. So now your mind is even more hollow, more empty.

SULLIVAN: Poole get very lucky this time, beating out hundreds of others to land a spot among just 27 inmates. When he's done, he'll be an accredited woodworker with his GED.

Most of the men in Folsom won't be so fortunate. Just across from the cabinetry shop, program administrator Jean Bracy sits in her makeshift office next to the welding class. She knows the statistics by heart.

Ms. JEAN BRACY (School Principal and Administrator, Folsom Prison): I have 1,797 inmates that read below the 9th grade level. Three hundred and ninety four of those read below the 4th grade level. When we put them back out on the streets, they're not employable.

SULLIVAN: And back on the streets is where 85 percent of all of California's inmates are going one day when their sentences run out. Bracy's only got a handful of vocational programs left, enough to reach less than 10 percent of Folsom's inmates. And the state plans to cut even that in half in the next few weeks.

Ms. BRACY: I think this is the worst I've ever seen it.

SULLIVAN: It only costs her about $100,000 to run these programs - not even a blip in a $10 billion-a-year prison budget.

Ms. BRACY: It's just not cost effective to throw men and women in prison and then do nothing with them. And shame on us for even thinking that that's safety. It's not public safety. You lock somebody up and you do nothing with them, they go out not even equal to what they came in, but worse.

SULLIVAN: The numbers bear that out, with 90,000 inmates returning to California's prisons every year. Compare that to the Braille program here at Folsom just above the administration building, where inmates learn to translate books for the blind.

(Soundbite of machinery)

SULLIVAN: In 20 years, not a single inmate who has been part of the program has ever returned to prison. This year, the program's been cut back to 19 inmates. Out on the prison yard, one of the oldtimers, an inmate named Ed Steward, or Lefty, sits in old chair in the only bit of shade on the dusty dirt field. He watches the inmates stand in groups by their race.

Mr. ED STEWARD: Nowadays, you know, the kids, they're just coming through like it's a little merry-go-round, like there's nothing to it.

SULLIVAN: Most of the inmates here on this yard aren't here for serious or violent crimes. The number of inmates in California's prison for murder, assault or rape has been relatively unchanged in two decades. The difference is this yard is now packed with drug dealers and drug users, shoplifters who stole something worth more than $500, car thieves.

All across this prison are signs of what this place once was, when administrators came from New York and Texas to find out how Folsom kept its violence so low and its inmates from coming back. There's the deserted shop where inmates used to train to be butchers. Its thriving medical facility shuttered. And hovering above the prison, China Hill: a now-barren field where inmates once trained to become landscapers. The prison can't afford to pay the teacher. Warden Michael Evans can see it just outside his office. Its meaning is not lost on him.

Mr. MICHAEL EVANS (Warden, Folsom Prison): If I have a dog and I put him in a cage and I beat them regularly, ultimately, they will bite me when I open that door.

SULLIVAN: Evans says after three decades working in corrections, he's come to one conclusion.

Mr. EVANS: I think that prisons should be a place where an individual has the opportunity to change if they choose to, and we move forward from there.

SULLIVAN: For now, California is at a standstill, unable to find the money to move forward with a different strategy, unable to move backward to a time when it didn't need one.

Laura Sullivan, NPR News.

●But wait, there's more: CHINO PRISON BLUES,0,2614583.story



By Howard Blume | LA Times

●● smf notes: There is substantial information in this story of which I – a member of the LAUSD Citizens' School Construction Bond Oversight Committee – am unaware. I find this unconscionable – but for me to opine at this time would be worse.

The Oversight Committee meets @ Beaudry at 10AM on Wednesday.

August 15, 2009 -- The Los Angeles Unified School District plans to sharply raise the property taxes of hundreds of thousands of L.A. homeowners because the recession has pushed down tax revenues needed to repay school bonds. The economic downturn has also caused a potential cash-flow crisis for the nation's largest school-construction program.

The district is allowed to raise taxes under little-known legal protections for bond holders. In essence, if revenues from property taxes can't cover installment payments for bond debt, L.A. Unified can raise tax rates, even if they rise above past projections.

The current rate is about $123 per $100,000 of assessed value. That's actually lower than the original projections, but the good news ends there.

Officials wouldn't reveal estimates for next year but, when pressed, said they expected rates above $200 by 2012. In an interview, L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines mentioned a rate of $207, though he didn't specify the year.

For a home worth the current Los Angeles County median assessed value of $325,300, the difference, using Cortines' figure, would be about $275. For a $700,000 home, the rise would probably exceed $550, for a total bond tax bill of about $1,450.

That money is needed, along with the local bond proceeds, to end year-round school schedules and return all students to a traditional September-to-June calendar by 2012, officials said. Under the $20.1-billion construction program, 80 new schools have been built, with 51 more on the way, and thousands of others have been repaired and modernized.

The weak economy has put the once cash-flush construction program in a bind, with some money tantalizingly out of reach and other dollars withheld. The state, in particular, could owe L.A. Unified about $1 billion in construction funds by year's end.

Sacramento isn't paying up because state financiers are focused instead on arranging short-term borrowing for California's coffers rather than bond sales, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance.

Meanwhile, L.A. Unified can't backfill with new local bonds even though voters have already approved them. The problem is that when property values drop, the district's legal debt limit also falls. That means the district can't use any of the $7 billion from Measure Q, which voters passed last year.

"Measure Q is dead until 2015 or 2016," said Cortines, whose contract expires Dec. 31, 2011. "So, Measure Q is dead in my lifetime -- my professional lifetime."

The increasing tax rates could also spell trouble for L.A. Unified's nascent effort to put a different kind of property tax before voters. A parcel tax could be used to pay for ongoing expenses, such as teacher salaries, but it must be approved by a two-thirds margin. The district this year laid off about 2,000 teachers and 750 other employees.

"I think people want to support schools," Cortines said, "but they could say, 'Don't tell me you're raising my taxes on one hand and you're asking for more money in a parcel tax on the other hand.' "

For future construction projects, officials have time to figure out alternative funding sources, said Guy Mehula, chief facilities executive. The options include arranging for builders or banks to front the money. The district would repay them with interest. "Nobody expected this economic meltdown to have this dramatic an impact," Mehula said.

For one school, the crisis was immediate. Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High School has been in four different locations in its five years, and was set to occupy a new $25-million facility this fall. Then the state put on hold $6 million needed to finish the job.

"There was no hint of this coming down -- it caught all of us off guard," said John Sun, who develops new schools for Green Dot Public Schools, which operates De La Hoya.

Stopping in midstream would have resulted in potential liability and additional costs, not to mention transporting the entire student body back and forth every day from their Eastside neighborhood to rented temporary quarters in an office complex downtown. L.A. Unified provided the bailout, transferring money from a charter-school project that was not yet able to break ground.

Critics say the decision to increase tax rates, which does not require a vote of the school board, comes at an especially unwelcome moment.

"The liability on individual property owners will go up at precisely the time when property owners can least afford it," said Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.

He predicted that this hit would not be the last and said other government agencies would probably follow suit to manage their own debt. "It's going to cause more foreclosures, and it's going to drag down the California economy," he said.

A year ago, officials used a rosy forecast to justify Measure Q, the school system's fifth bond issue since 1997. An analysis projected that property assessments would grow an average of 6% a year. Experts characterized that as conservative.

Rising home values gave officials confidence that they could keep tax rates relatively low and still pay annual installments on a school-construction debt that is at $8 billion and growing.

The district's analysis failed to adequately consider the possibility of a real estate downturn, even though fewer than 20 years have passed since the prior downturn and history suggests that changes in home values are cyclical.

The median market value in the county peaked for a single-family home at $510,000 in 2006; Then came the crash, lowering that figure by 2008 to $350,700.

Assessed values, on which homeowners are taxed, are more stable. Property taxes can rise only 2% a year for properties that don't change hands, so those values trail a rising market. But even here the unanticipated happened. For 2008, the median assessed value was $337,400; the 2009 value of $325,300 is 3.6% lower.

Among other effects, mothballing Measure Q means charter schools must wait to apply for hundreds of millions of dollars set aside for them. Paying for facilities is a sometimes crippling challenge for these public, independently run schools.

That situation raises the stakes in an ongoing struggle over who will have the right to operate the new campuses still set to open over the next four years. A motion by school board member Yolie Flores Aguilar would let charter schools and other outside operators compete to run these schools. Her proposal is scheduled for an Aug. 25 vote before the Board of Education.

"The only way charters are going to have to get space is to grab the new schools," Cortines said.

Cortines' letter re Bond Funding


LA Times Editorial

15 August - Billed as a town hall meeting, the gathering of selected parents in Boyle Heights this week more closely resembled a mayoral pep rally to promote the idea of opening 50 new Los Angeles-area schools to outside management.

We heartily support the proposal too, as one of the most visionary ideas to come along in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The resolution by school board Vice President Yolie Flores Aguilar, which the board will vote on this month, would allow organizations as varied as charter operators, parent groups and teachers unions to submit proposals to run any of the 50 schools scheduled to open in the next few years. With its emphasis on engaging parents in decisions about how their children's schools should be run, the measure could augur a new era of community involvement as well as pioneer novel educational ideas. We're also delighted to see Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa visibly involved in schools again, and spending time and political capital on student-centered reforms.

From the start, though, we have expressed concerns about whether school leaders could overcome their history of inside politicking and behind-the-scenes deal-making in order for the proposal to fulfill its promise. A couple of recent events offer worrisome signs that this isn't happening.

One was the town hall meeting, whose audience was largely collected through one of the main instigators of the 50-schools proposal, Parent Revolution, a coalition of established charter operators such as Green Dot Public Schools. These operators, as well as the mayor, are expected to gain control of many of the new schools.

Rather than holding a community event open to all, organizers literally locked out teachers and parents who oppose the proposal, while inside Villaraigosa cheered Flores Aguilar's resolution before 50 or so parents, many of whom wore Parent Revolution T-shirts. The mayor later defended the lockout, saying that opponents had disrupted a meeting the night before. There was indeed some minor rude behavior, but that's a poor reason to thwart dissent. Though Villaraigosa correctly says that it's hard to have a worthwhile conversation when one side is unruly, it's also hard to have a worthwhile conversation when everyone is saying the same thing.

Parent Revolution's leaders can pick their audiences if they like, but it erodes public trust -- and ours -- in a worthwhile proposal when an organization that stands to gain from it shuts out opponents. One father standing outside the meeting claimed that his son with special education needs had not been welcomed at Roosevelt High School, which is run by the mayor's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. By lending his presence to a closed meeting, Villaraigosa adds to the perception that the 50-schools proposal is a quiet agreement among political allies rather than a true attempt to include parents in educational decision-making.

Making matters worse was the school district's recent decision to transfer a brand-new high school in Boyle Heights to the mayor, without consulting parents or teachers and without board approval. The Flores Aguilar resolution is supposed to create a process for designating school management that is transparent, objective and based on community involvement as well as the applicants' record of running successful schools. At the same time, the district is giving a new school to a partnership that has one year of experience, and a rocky year at that, with no parental involvement or public discussion. If the district already is empowered to give schools to whomever it wants without public discussion or vote, the 50-schools resolution is redundant.

In all likelihood, the new school belongs with the mayor's partnership. It doesn't expand his reach in the school district; the campus was built to alleviate crowding and will enroll mostly students in the attendance boundaries already under the mayor's purview. But the way the transfer was carried out was dismaying; it makes Flores Aguilar's resolution look like window dressing for a plan to hand schools to powerful players.

It would be a shame to see a progressive idea fall victim to the usual shenanigans within L.A. Unified. The 50-schools resolution could help reinvigorate neighborhoods that have suffered for years with overcrowded, dilapidated, low-performing schools. But if it becomes another excuse to play the same old games, students will once again be the losers.

●●smf's 2¢:Well, YES! (Except the part about the most visionary idea to come along. etc.!) This is a plan to bring in outside operators (not parents and the community as envisioned in the charter law ) to operate 50 brand new schools under the charter law - which, masquerading as "choice", will create a lottery to determine who gets to go to the nice new school and who gets left behind. Special Ed and Special Needs kids need not apply. Of course in-the-know parents (ie: The Parent Revolutionaries) will get a free pass because they signed up early. The "select parents" like the ones in the meeting will be chosen. Actually, not "like" …those actual parents! This is not Grass Roots reform, it's Top Down Privatization of Public Education - from the board rooms and corner offices of Broad and Gates and Green Dot.

There is Choice… and there are The Chosen.

…and since when are Mayor Villaraigosa and Ben Austin 'School Officials"' This is even wackier than Angela Bass, the Superintendent of the Mayor's Partnership Schools billing herself as "Superintendent of Instruction, LAUSD" at Town Hall LA's Education Reform Conference.

Invitataion to Supertindent Cortines "Town Hall Meetings' (Teachable Moment: In real New England Town Halls decisions are made & policy is developed)

Report from the Districtwide Community Meetings: RE - BOARD RESOLUTION ON PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE -- ROUNDS ONE & TWO
by smf for 4LAids


August 10th -- Democracy is not a pretty thing. It's her cousin, Liberty, who stands all statuesque with the aquiline nose in New York Harbor.

Nobody bothered to tart Democracy up for the debut engagement of her cross-city tour at Griffith Middle School Monday night. Some people didn't get the word that the venue for gala premiere event: "Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines Invites You To Attend a Community Meeting to Discuss How The District Opens New Schools and Improves Low-Performing Schools' had changed from Roosevelt High School to Griffith Middle School …and it didn't help that the school police at Roosevelt weren't sure where Griffith was. (It's about twenty blocks east.)

Once at Griffith it just Democracy, warts and all. And the audience was hungry for something besides what was being served. Newly Minted Interim Local District Superintendent Robert A. Martinez started off right on time with Slide One of his PowerPoint …and made the mistake of asking for questions or comments right then and there.

There were a couple of hundred folks in the audience and a couple of hundred questions and comments - most generally centered on variants of the same three themes:

• The plan presented in the PowerPoint had the appearance of a done deal - based on models in New York, Chicago and Denver. Were the folks present, teachers, parents and community, being asked …or were they being told? And what exactly do New York, Chicago and Denver have to do with LA?
• Is this a plan to implement the Flores Aguilar "School Choice/School Giveaway" resolution before it is even voted on by the Board of Ed?
• There were few in the audience that support bringing in partners or charters or outside operators to run "their" schools. One charter operator spoke up - and one representative from the Parent Revolution spoke out - but for the most part the audience was not supportive of charters and/or the mayor's partnership or any outside operator operating their schools - and were pointed in their derision of Mayor Villaraigosa and Monica Garcia.

If it had been a dress rehearsal it wouldn't have been half bad - as a show it pretty entertaining. It was, however, nothing like the script. Much is said by the superintendent about transparency -- there's a joke in here somewhere about amateur night at the burlesque - let's just say we saw more than we were supposed to see.

• Was the crowd, probably about 300+, representative of the community? Who knows, it was the crowd that turned out on short notice.
• Were there a lot of UTLA members? Yes. Was it packed with UTLA members. No.
• Was it an ugly crowd? No. Was it boisterous and assertive and sometimes angry? Yes. It listened - though not always politely - to things it didn't want to hear. It cheered and booed.

Duffy from UTLA made it clear that the union was not 'involved' in process, only 'aware' of it.

Superintendent Cortines made it clear he was there to listen.

Some teachers made their grievances, as did some parents. Anyone who would say that the folks in attendance wrere accepting of the status quo has had a little too much sweetener in their own Kool Aid.

These are folks who give a damn about public education in their community …and they're not going to take very much more of the same-old/same old OR the new miracle cure for very much longer.

Which leads me to beat my drum about Relational Trust.

One down, six more to go …and why does the valley, with the two largest-in-size local districts, get only one meeting?


ON TUESDAY THE BATTLE FOR THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF LA SCHOOLCHILDREN - or a least for the fifty new schools about to be completed - went national.

* DIANE RAVITZ - a national figure in ed reform - wrote an OpEd in the LA Times opposing the Yolie Flores Aguilar school board resolution to offer up the new schools to charter operators and outside partners.
* MAYOR VILLARAIGOSA (not to be outflanked by his erstwhile ally Superintendent Cortines) held a "town hall" of his own and preached to a receptive choir (no nonbelievers need attend) about how the resolution was "the centerpiece of education reform for his second term." Hallelujah!
* LEONE HAIMSON wrote an article in the Huffington Post critical of US Education Secretary Duncan's meddling in New York City Schools - lobbying for mayoral control at the expense of community and parental involvement. I think it's safe to assume we'll be hearing about Arne Duncan's support of the Flores Aguilar proposal within a day or two.

The lines are being drawn in City Hall and Sacramento and Washington DC. And the voices from the classroom and the neighborhood school are being largely ignored.


MY COMMENTS YESTERDAY ABOUT THE FIRST OF CORTINES' TOWN HALLS - about how democracy isn't pretty - came back and bit me at the second meeting - held Wednesday eve at Maywood Academy in Local District #6. That meeting was MUCH MORE attractive and MUCH LESS democratic.

Marty Galindo's (the local district superintendent) presentation of the official PowerPoint went much better. We saw slides #1 and #2 - interspersed with stock photos of children and families (it was the very model of a modern presentation) - and the rest was left as a homework assignment.

I'm being glib, but I'm frustrated - and I'm not alone. This is supposed to be about a plan …and no plan - if there is a plan - was presented. Marty was honest about the progress and challenges in LD6 to date. "We have done many things right - but we just haven't done enough things right." Circumspection is not a plan.

The presentation done - or done away with - numbers were handed out and the community was called to the microphone to speak out, vent, comment, etc.

Gentle readers, this is NOT community engagement, this is not dialog. This is someone giving a speech and inviting a whole lot of other people to give their own two minutes on any subject. This is open mic at The Education Store.

The community did speak. They seemed ill-at-ease-with-or adverse-to charter schools taking over their schools. Even in the Southeast Cities, where the LA mayor has forged an alliance with the Southeast Cities Coalition, the people weren't at all interested in the LA mayor's Partnership for LA Schools (PLAS).

Often at meeting the most telling thing is who isn't who's at a meeting - but who isn't there.

• At meeting number two in the superintendent's road show there was again no school board member.
• As the LA Parents Union/Parent Revolution held their own "town hall" earlier in the day, they excused themselves.
• No one was there from the big charter operators who stand to gain the most. There were a couple of charter parents from small schools - the kind of schools the charter law envisioned - , but not from Green Dot or KIPP or ICEF or the Alliance for College Ready Schools. No one from the mayor's partnership - though a couple of PLAS parents spoke ill of that experience.
• Nobody from the Southeast Cities governments, the mayors and councilpeople who are ubiquitous at meetings in the area. Intentional or not, the meeting was scheduled on the same evening as the Maywood City Council.
• Where was Padres Unidos in their red outfits , the real voice of school reform in the SE cities?
• Marty listed as a failure that the auditorium wasn't filled - there were maybe 200 present. While Maywood is the third-smallest incorporated city in Los Angeles County it has about thirty thousand inhabitants and is the most densely populated municipality in California.

Superintendent Cortines, in the room, was silent as a sphinx. Listening is good, but it is not communicating.

THE PLAN AS OUTLINED calls for LAUSD to follow the lead of reform taken by New York, Chicago and Denver. Those places are not LA - and they haven't solved their problems. And LA already has more charter schools and partnership schools and pilot schools than all of them combined.

To what end? Reform isn't the goal, reform is the road.

We don't need to do something, we need to do the right thing. Show us a real plan. With goals and benchmarks and accountability.

ROUND THREE: WEDNESDAY'S PRESENTATION AT SEPULVEDA MIDDLE SCHOOL I didn't attend, but I understand it was even more controlled than Tuesday's. Thursdays, in Local District 4 was postponed.


Monday Aug 17 @ Hamilton High School
2955 S. Robertson Blvd, Los Angeles 90034

Wednesday Aug 19 @ Gardena High School
1301 W. 182nd St, Gardena, CA 90248

Thursday Aug 20 @ Bethune Middle School
155 W. 69th St, Los Angeles, CA 90003

The PowerPoint Presentation

All teachers are different, but we must still identify the link between what they do in the classroom and their students' performance.

By Randy Ross | OpEd at LA

• Randy Ross was director of educational policy for L.A. Unified's Board of Education from 2005-09. His August 14 His affirmative response to Diane Ravitch' s Aug. 11 Op-Ed article, "CHARTERS GET AN UNSATISFACTORY GRADE: L.A. could cheat students by turning 50 schools over to private operators" NEEDS reading! Unfortunately, this issue of 4LAKids is running short of bandwidth, pixels or hot air. So please follow the link below. Thank you!

Randy's website, which contains some of his writings, is at It contains 4LAKid's quote o' th' week - if not the year or decade: "I BELIEVE OUR FAILURE AT UBIQUITOUS TRANSFORMATION OF UNDERPERFORMING URBAN SCHOOLS IS FUELED BY CLUELESSNESS."

To order T-shirts write Randy or myself!


HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
CUT+PASTE: 2nd suit strikes at governor's budget cuts + CA board votes to drop healthcare coverage for 60K children + CA could lose federal education grants +1st Test for Principals: Getting Judged on Test Scores

HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES: Priest's Anti-Gang Program in Budget Crisis

HEAVY LIFTING AHEAD FOR 'RACE TO TOP' APPLICATIONS + California 'Firewall' Becomes 'Race to Top' Issue


By K. Lloyd Billingsley | Op Ed in the LA Daily News

SUMMER GRADUATION GIVES STUDENTS A SECOND CHANCE: LAUSD offers ceremonies for those late in completing coursework, exams


From City News Service: SCHOOL CHOICE


FREE ONLINE TEXTBOOKS NOW AVAILABLE: Ten high school math and science texts are announced. But critics say the materials fall short of standards and the real costs of using them -- in infrastructure and training -- weren't considered.

GOOD NEWS IN BAD TIMES - RAM: Forum Super Clinic finds super need in L.A. region + Steve Lopez

VILLARAIGOSA ADVOCATES LETTING OUTSIDE OPERATORS BID FOR CONTROL OF L.A. UNIFIED SCHOOLS: Under a bill introduced by School Board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, private operators could bid for control of 50 new campuses and hundreds of struggling ones.



by Leonie Haimson Executive Director, Class Size Matters in The Huffington Post

CHARTERS GET AN UNSATISFACTORY GRADE: L.A. could cheat students by turning 50 schools over to private operators

By Diane Ravitch | Op-Ed From the Los Angeles Times

Obituary: LEONARD BRITTON, 78; superintendent led L.A. Unified for three years. Success in the same post in Miami was not repeated in his tumultuous tenure in Los Angeles.

Report from the First of the Districtwide Community Meetings: RE - BOARD RESOLUTION ON PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE


The news that didn't fit from Aug 16

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.
• 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.