Sunday, September 13, 2009

84% contained

4LAKids: Sunday 13•Sept•2009
In This Issue:
BOTH SIDES OBJECT TO LAUSD 'CHARTER' PLAN: Teachers union says there are legal problems while those looking to take over campuses cite boundary rules
2 NEW L.A. ARTS HIGH SCHOOLS ARE A STUDY IN CONTRASTS: The schools opened for business this week...
CORTINES & VILLARAIGOSA: Boyarsky, former LA Times editor - equates Cortines with 'Manager', Villaraigosa as 'Owner' - of a ball club.
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!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
Quite a week. Labor Day. First Day of School. President Obama's speech to school kids. Eight new schools opened - including the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, the first of the Ambassador/RFK-12 schools …and the high school the mayor's partnership "found a way to steal" from LAUSD. (That's not my word, I just agree with it.) The 9/11 Anniversary. The anniversary of the Metrolink train crash. The memorial for the fallen firefighters in Dodger Stadium, even as the fire continues to burn - 84% contained. The return of the Space Shuttle. Dodgers and Angels both #1. The legislature extends their last day into the next one and pass a lot of legislation round about midnight - and accomplish very little is so doing. The state budget is still $200 million out of balance; the City of LA's budget is $405 million out of balance. LAUSD's is balanced… precipitously dangling over the futures of children. -- somebody call Child Protective Services.

We are 84% contained; 16% comfortably numb.

We take it all in stride, not getting too puffed up about the good things and not throwing open the window and shouting that we're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore about the bad.

Sooner or later we're going to have to.

Or maybe it doesn't interest anyone outside of our small circle of friends.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES (9/13): The Hysteria Alert has been raised to Code Silly.

Lock up your sons and daughters, dangle those tea bags from your earlobes and keep your sets tuned to Fox News for emergency instructions: Unbelievable as it sounds, the president of the United States is telling schoolchildren to play fair, work hard and stay in school.

Do not, we repeat, do not remain rational. Wait for our instructions, and we will tell you what next to fear.

Paul Tellstrom

Word butchery by smf for 4LAKids

Normally 4LAKids likes to select and redistribute entire articles bu someone/anyone else. - but I haven't found a short concise article about the QEIA situation with either State specificity or/and LAUSD focus - or any news content about the current status of the bill. (The LA[centric] Times' two sentences this AM makes SB 84 look like LAUSD pork.) So I have elected to cut-and-paste from SANTA ANA SCHOOLS MIGHT CUT $11 MILLION MORE FROM BUDGET by Fermin Leal in the Orange County Register and SCHOOLS OPEN FACING $140 MILLION SHORTFALL by Connie Llanos in the Daily News (both cited following in the News that didn't fit section.)

The QEIA shortfall was about $402 million this year to 139 school districts statewide. 2009-10 state budgeteers had eliminated (the lege speak is "swept") QEIA funding - which repaid a debt constitutionally owed under Prop 98 to the state's schoolchildren by the state - by substituting federal stimulus windfall. Thank you Uncle Sam. Except uncle didn't go for it: the stimulus is supposed to be new funding - not debt repayment!


"The funding loss, caused by a complicated funding swap in the recently enacted state education budget, affects school districts in California that receive Quality Education Investment Act, or QEIA, state funding.

"QEIA funds came from the 2006 settlement agreement following the California Teachers Association lawsuit against Gov. Schwarzenegger. The settlement authorized repayment of $2.7 billion in funding owed under Proposition 98 to California school districts that serve high concentrations of low-income students, minorities and English learners.

"Lawmakers and educators blame unclear and faulty language in the new state budget approved this summer. The intent of the budget writers was for federal Title I funds to offset the $402 million in QEIA funding cut from district budgets, they said. However, the funding formulas for QEIA and Title 1 are different, and now most of the state's QEIA schools are ineligible for the Title 1 funds.

“When we were awarded statutory QEIA funding in 2007, it meant that (our schools) could rely on this funding for assistance in improving academic instruction and achievement in some of our neediest schools,” said [Santa Ana] school board member Rob Richardson.

"It also presented an opportunity to lower class sizes and focus on improving results in core subject areas,” he said. “Instead, the state has rescinded that revenue stream this year and essentially is expecting the school district to fill the hole from our general fund, and that’s not acceptable.”

"On Tuesday, state lawmakers said they plan to introduce emergency legislation this week to correct a budget funding loss to the state's lowest-performing schools.

That legislation is SB 84 (Steinberg)


"[LAUSD| officials say state lawmakers have given them a vexing math problem to start the year: Subtract about $140 million - the equivalent of closing down seven high schools - from this year's budget.

"The hit, which looks certain unless emergency legislation proposed this week passes, comes as the district is still smarting from $869 million in cuts over the past year.

"'It just doesn't seem we ever get out of the quicksand,' LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said Tuesday.'I feel like I did when I started here in December ... just one deficit after another.'

smf: In the marathon legislative session Friday the emergency bill (SB 84 - a delightful little piece of "Gut-and-Amend" - which is legislative cut-and-paste as defined by Torquemada) bill came up and passed the Assembly ….after being held hostage to a bit of fillibustery over the 710 Freeway Extension (known in Northeast LA as The NIMBY Toll Road & Tunnel Project) and the Senate passed it later in the evening (Ayes 25. Noes 11.). Hooray.

• I don't know anyone who's actually analyzed the final language, so celebrating may be out of order.
• As QEIA was a negotiated settlement to a lawsuit against the governor one wouldn't think he would veto it - or line item veto dollar figures - but that is dangerous non-thinking!
• And the legislation, to work, requires the (Democrat) Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) and the (governor's appointed /ie: Republican) Director of Finance (DOF) to agree on a determination that… (etc.) They need to reach this decision by March 1, 2010. The school year ends in June.


'' 'We are glad that this problem may be fixed,' said Megan Reilly, LAUSD's chief financial officer. 'However, we won't believe it's fixed until it's really fixed.' "

SB 84 (Steinberg) An act to amend Section 39 of Chapter 2 of the Fourth Extraordinary Session of the Statutes of 2009, relating to education finance

BOTH SIDES OBJECT TO LAUSD 'CHARTER' PLAN: Teachers union says there are legal problems while those looking to take over campuses cite boundary rules
By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

09/12/2009 -- Los Angeles Unified officials have released the first draft of a controversial reform plan that outlines how nonprofit groups might ultimately operate up to 250 district campuses, but some groups Friday criticized the proposal as anti-parent choice and anti-teacher.

Under the district's recently approved School Choice Plan, charter schools, the Mayor's Schools Partnership program, the teachers union and other nonprofits can apply to run up to 250 new and underperforming district campuses.

In announcing the first draft of the plan, Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he welcomed vigorous debate and looked forward to hearing from all sides.

"This is a road map to get people's ideas," Cortines said. "The fact that both (charters and union members) are uneasy over the plan lets me know the process is balanced."

Among Cortines' recommendations:
# LAUSD would start receiving applications to run the new and underperforming schools by October and expects to have all final decisions made by January.
# Applicants must be nonprofit, public organizations that can prove they have the financial capacity and skills to run a successful school.
# School operators must enroll all the children who fall within the attendance boundary of each new or underperforming district school that is up for grabs.

While the powerful teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, and charter school leaders criticized parts of Cortines' plan, they pledged to help the district work out the kinks.

Among its chief concerns, UTLA said the draft proposal was illegal because it did not guarantee certain teacher hiring provisions. UTLA leaders also said the plan moves too quickly to hand over schools and fails to provide adequate time for the union to put together bids for the schools.

"This is clearly anti-teacher and anti-community," UTLA President A.J. Duffy said.

"To have a (proposal to operate a school) done by the end of November in 60 days, that truly engages stakeholders and creates a bottom-up plan, is not possible so we are going to get a lot of one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter plans from charter schools and from the mayor's partnership."
Out of bounds
While charter school leaders are generally happy with the plan's overall mission of placing low-performing schools under better management, they objected to Cortines' attendance boundary requirement.

They say it would force them to break a tenet of the independent public school movement: Giving parents the right to choose a charter school outside their neighborhood if they are not satisfied with their local school.

"The issue of parental choice is at the heart of the charter movement," said Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter School Association.

Charter schools are publicly funded, but they do not have to adhere to state or district restrictions. They also use a lottery to enroll children and do not restrict admission to those children within a geographic boundary.

Wallace said that admitting students on a lottery basis is a requirement for federal grant funding available to the alternative schools. Some of the grants issued for start-up cash can be for as much as $700,000.

Cortines expects to present a final draft of the plan to the board sometime in October.

"None of these schools are for sale," Cortines added.

"This provides us with an opportunity to have the best education plan possible be implemented on behalf of the children of this district."
Legal concerns

Last week, UTLA sent a letter to the district listing several legal concerns with the current plan.

In the letter, UTLA attorneys argue the plan is illegal because it doesn't hire the teachers that were guaranteed jobs at year-round campuses that will be relieved by the new campuses. If charters operate the new schools, they are not required by law to hire union teachers.

The letter also says that if existing campuses are going to be converted to charters, they must comply with existing charter law that requires a majority of teachers at the campus support the conversion.

Duffy said UTLA wants more time to bid for the schools. Currently, UTLA plans to submit proposals for schools using the pilot school model - that allows administrators to enforce more flexible schedules with their employees and only hire teachers who believe in the school mission.

Over the next month, Cortines will take suggestions. He also said not all 250 new and underperforming schools would be eligible to be bid for over the next few months. For example, only the 29 new schools that will be completed by the fall of 2010 will be open to the bidding process. Based on the most recent state standardized test scores, Cortines will create a list of the underperforming schools that would be eligible for takeover.

"It will not be 250," Cortines said.

"This is not about politics or about who knows who or preferential treatment or who can yell the loudest."

The discussion draft of the superintendent's proposal - previously published on 4LAKidsNews

2 NEW L.A. ARTS HIGH SCHOOLS ARE A STUDY IN CONTRASTS: The schools opened for business this week... on a $232-million shiny new campus, the other in rented space in a small church. Both have high hopes.

●●smf's 2¢: Of all the business models that can be wisely and/or unwisely applied and/or misapplied to public education, the hostile takeover is the ugliest. And in the arts?
But this is Hollywood. Read on, gentle readers….

By Mitchell Landsberg | Los Angeles Times

September 10, 2009 -- One occupies $232 million worth of serious architecture on a promontory overlooking downtown Los Angeles. The other rents cramped space in a South L.A. church.

One has an address that shouts prestige, with neighbors that include the city's Roman Catholic cathedral and the Music Center. The other is across the street from an apartment building for the recently homeless.

Two new high schools for the arts debuted this week -- a rare enough feat in a down economy. Despite the vast differences in their circumstances, it may be too early to say which of the two has the most potential to nurture the next generation of artists and performers.

The Los Angeles Unified school at 450 N. Grand Ave., perched across the 101 Freeway from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, was years in the making and is housed on one of the most expensive and widely praised campuses in the nation. Yet it is only now shaking off more than a year of controversy and false starts in its launch to become the flagship of the district. The Fernando Pullum Performing Arts High School at 51st Street and Broadway may have the feel of something hastily thrown together out of spare parts, but it is led by one of the city's most respected music educators and has the support of such big-name artists as Kenny Burrell, Jackson Browne, Bill Cosby and Don Cheadle.

Adding a twist to the relationship between these two fledgling schools is this: Fernando Pullum, a charter school run by the Inner City Education Foundation (and named after the music teacher who heads the foundation's arts program), doesn't plan to stay in its rented quarters for long. It has its sights on an eventual takeover of 450 N. Grand.

"When our performing arts school is doing one amazing thing after another . . . . people will say, 'Why is this school in a small church on 51st and Broadway instead of at 450 N. Grand?' " said Mike Piscal, chief executive of Inner City schools.

Charter takeovers are not unheard of -- in the last year, two L.A. Unified high schools have converted to charter status, under which they are independently managed and freed from day-to-day oversight by the district. But Piscal will get no encouragement from L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon C. Cortines.

"I don't think so," Cortines said Wednesday when asked if he could envision a charter takeover of the district's crown jewel. "It bothers me that people are looking at our new schools and sort of salivating. I don't see them looking at the Manual Arts and the Muirs and the Jeffersons and the Fremonts” -- a list of some of the district's oldest, lowest-performing schools.

However the competition plays out, both arts schools opened in a burst of optimism and magnanimity. They were among a host of new schools opening in Los Angeles this fall, both charters and traditional public schools. Among them were two new elementary schools at the Mid-Wilshire site once occupied by the Ambassador Hotel, the first of several schools planned for the property.

There was an almost giddy feeling Wednesday morning as students streamed onto the Grand Avenue arts campus for their first day of school.

"We're very excited," said a beaming Rex Patton, executive director of the school, still known only as Central High School #9 for the Visual and Performing Arts.

The downtown school, on the site of the former school district headquarters, had a difficult birth, with years of debate over who would attend and how the students would be selected, and nearly a year of recruiting difficulties before an administration team was put in place in May. All that was set aside as students and parents roamed the campus, poring over schedules and looking for unfamiliar classrooms.

"It's beautiful," marveled Magali Arriaza, who was dropping her ninth-grade daughter at the gate. "Beautiful."

"We've waited a long time for a school like this," added another mother, Judith Martinez, who drove her son, Eric Marquez, from East Los Angeles, where his neighborhood school is Roosevelt High. She said he is a singer and dancer who previously attended Millikan Middle School’s performing arts magnet in Sherman Oaks. "This area hasn't had any kind of school for kids interested in the arts," she said.

The school had enrolled 1,279 students in grades 9, 10 and 11 as of Monday, Principal Suzanne Blake said (there will be no senior class until next year). In the ninth grade, she said, the school hit its targeted balance of 70% students from the surrounding neighborhood and 30% from elsewhere in the district. In the upper grades, she said, the mix was closer to 60% to 40%.

The geographic balance was the result of a political compromise on the Board of Education between those who believed the school was promised to the surrounding neighborhood and should serve only its children, and those who believed that such a landmark campus should serve the best young dancers, musicians, actors and visual artists in the city. Another debate turned on whether students should be admitted on the basis of ability.

In the end, students were admitted on a first-come, first-served basis, although Blake said the school naturally attracted those with an interest in the arts.

If the physical facility was the initial draw for many at 450 N. Grand, the magnet at the Fernando Pullum charter school was . . . Fernando Pullum. An award-winning teacher and musician who spent many years leading a music program at Washington Prep High School, Pullum was recruited to the Inner City Education Foundation two years ago and has a modest goal for the new school that carries his name.

"This is going to be the best school in the entire world," he assured about 135 ninth- and 10th-graders at an opening-day assembly Tuesday in the sanctuary of the school's new home, Paradise Baptist Church. The school will add 11th and 12th grades in the coming years. Pullum said the school will measure success by the number of students who go on to college, not by how many become stars.

Among the assets that Pullum brings to the school is an iPhone filled with contacts from the entertainment industry, where he moonlights as a working musician. Already, he has aired radio ads for the school featuring Cosby and Cheadle, and has commitments from institutions that include the Creative Artists Agency, UCLA, the Grammy Foundation and the Music Center.

"Wherever he goes is where I go," said the Creative Artists Agency's Michael Yanover, who has brought such celebrities as Roger Daltrey of the Who, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and Oscar-winning director Taylor Hackford to work with Pullum's students in the past.

Plans have already been announced for the artists Jackson Browne and Fishbone to appear at the school this month as part of the John Lennon Educational Bus Tour. Browne has volunteered at Pullum's schools for years, and Pullum plays in Fishbone's band.

Pullum's counterparts at 450 N. Grand have lined up their own list of arts-world partners, including the Music Center, Colburn School of Music, Museum of Contemporary Art and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, suggesting a continuing eagerness by the creative community to fill in the gaps in schools' arts classes.

Although existing arts schools -- and there are a number in Southern California -- might be expected to resent the new faces on the block, Principal Leah Bass-Baylis of the CHAMPS Charter High School of the Arts in Van Nuys said she welcomes them. "There's such a dearth of opportunity for quality arts education," she said. "You know, I think of everybody as partners."

In a city this size, Bass-Baylis said, "there's enough to go around. There are definitely enough kids to go around."

CORTINES & VILLARAIGOSA: Boyarsky, former LA Times editor - equates Cortines with 'Manager', Villaraigosa as 'Owner' - of a ball club.

ny Bill Boyarsky in LA Observed

Depending on how you look at it, school superintendent Ramon Cortines' schedule for implementing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s school reform plan is either a great way of getting parents involved or a classic example of bureaucratic delay.

Curious about how the mayor’s plans to turn over 250 Los Angeles public schools to charter organizations, I went to the Los Angeles Unified School District web site and found Cortines’ implementation plan, contained in a letter to teachers and staff.

Amid all the criticism of the district from Villaraigosa and others, people forget that Cortines is the mayor’s guy—or at least was. He was Villaraigosa’s education advisor, and then was sent over to take the reins from a failing superintendent.

Since becoming superintendent, of course, he has assumed control of the districts many teachers and bureaucrats and can’t insult them in the media, like the critics do. It’s sort of like being manager of a fractious baseball team while working for a headstrong, know-it-all owner. Joe Torre, formerly of the Yankees and now in charge of the Dodgers, knows all about this.

The school district, non-profit charter organizations, unions, a teacher collaborative or other non-profit groups, said Cortines, can seek to run a charter school. In other words, any group, except for a profit-making organization, can come up with an idea for one of these schools, which are part of the district but are free from many of its rules.

If you want to start one, you first need community support. It’s unclear how such support will be determined, except Cortines speaks of community meetings. I’ve been to enough of those to know they can quickly turn into shouting matches—or worse—between hysterical parents, implacable neighborhood activists, and anyone who just happens to wander in.

After passing this obstacle, a charter school founder must then win approval by department bureaucrats. If that happens—think an IRS audit—then you go back to the community. If the community approves again, the plan goes to Cortines, and if he approves, to the board, which makes the final decision.

“Parents and community members need more information and time,” Cortines said. I agree with him on that. But this process could take years.

Meanwhile, I found a report that sheds some light on charter school performance compared to non-charters. It comes from Ed Source, a non-profit founded in 1977 by the PTA, the League of Women Voters, and the American Association of University Women.

Based on an analysis of various 2009 California test scores, Ed Source said charter high schools score “moderately higher” than non-charters, outscoring them in English but not in math. Middle schools charters beat non-charters but the “differences (are) relatively small.” Charter elementary schools score lower than non-charters.

In addition, there are all sorts of models for charter schools around the state, ranging from home schooling to academic boot camps.

Being a parent is never easy, but figuring out all this out and making the best choice will be really tough.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
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Cortines: LET PRINCIPALS, TEACHERS DECIDE ON OBAMA’S SPEECH. 89 of the district's more than 800 schools will be ..

LINKS TO: The news that didn't fit for Sept 13

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 an elected repreprentative on 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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