Sunday, February 21, 2010


4LAKids: Sunday 21•Feb•2010
In This Issue:
PARSING THE PARCEL TAX: Yes, the LAUSD needs the money. But will voters go along? And what exactly would be funded?
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:
4 LAKids on Twitter
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.
A recent EdWeek blog article attacks the shibboleth “It's for the Kids” (acronym IFTK) and its tired sidekick "putting the interests of adults ahead of children”. We've all sworn on that stack of holy books, crossed our hearts and hoped to die. RIP IFTK.

Here's another acronym, born of endless meetings: MEGO – “My eyes glaze over”.

Blogger Rick Hess comes from the right side of the political spectrum, but he sees the danger in the Kool-Aid. He writes: “Pushed to consider revisions to No Child Left Behind that would relax NCLB proficiency targets, for instance, some high-ranking officials in the Bush Administration's Department of Education were prone to respond, 'So, whose child are you prepared to leave behind?'"

He continues: “Such variants of the IFTK genus are intended to stifle questions by flaunting moral superiority. Playing the IFTK card ignores the likelihood that no one is eager to leave anybody's kids behind and the reality that policies entail imperfect choices. By squelching honest dissent, IFTK excuses incoherent policy and practice in the name of moral urgency.”

'Urgency' – another word-as-a-weapon.

Hess proposes we presume that everybody cares (...or admit we can't tell the posers from the real deal) and discuss/argue/debate policies and practices instead. 4LAKids seconds the motion and calls the question.

An unnamed teacher writes the LA Weekly this week re: LAUSD's challenges : "The biggest obstacle is the district's bizarre 2003 decision that every child would take and pass traditional academics starting with algebra 1AB. As a teacher of algebra one and two, I can tell you that for some students, this is not teaching, it is miracle work. Universal mandatory algebra is a social experiment on the order of Prohibition or communism — beautiful in the abstract and a fiasco in reality."

The same can be said about the District's 2005 decision to commit to the A through G Graduation Requirements: Every high school graduate qualified - and by illogical extension destined - for the UC/CSU system. As is the mantra for 100% graduation.

Look back on the history of the highly touted and recently-cloned-in-LA Boston Compact. [Here: and here:] .Dreaming big should be encouraged. High Standards and Expectations need to be fostered. Opening the doors to opportunity and offering multiple pathways to myriad flavors of success is an absolute.

Every child can succeed. School reform is not impossible ...but universal mandatory success is.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

PS: [from Sacramento, a city maybe crazier than ours! And the airport code is SMF! What'sWithThat?] Supt. Cortines resignation from the Board of Scholastic rates more than a PS – but as off-putting as this apparently decade-long appeaence of a conflict of interest is, it not the biggest deal ongoing in LAUSD.

Next weeks decision by the Board of Ed on Public School Choice will be next week's biggest deal. True, Cortines' recommendations do not suggest selling (or giving away) the entire farm – but the cow has been traded and magic beans have been planted. Tuesday the Board of Ed makes its choice – the only choice that matters. Unless some judge steps in.

In future weeks The Budget will be the issue. And Layoffs. And Special Ed. And English Language Learners. And Adult Ed. And Arts Education. And Testing. The Crisis o' th' Week Club will overide/overrule/overwhelm the board that only wants to meet every two weeks.

Sooner or later Scholastic will return. The issues of the Read 180 program acquisition and ethical recusal – the history of who did what when and who knew what when remains unresolved. Cortines resigned from the Scholastic Board – but he remains a stockholder ...Schoalstic stock has increased in value 17!% in the year of his superintendency. The influence of textbook publishers in public education needs to be looked into. It's a national story worthy of 60 Minutes ...and this may be a start.


Fred Brill | Open Forum in the San Francisco Chronicle

Friday, February 19, 2010 -- Please. Slow down and listen before you take up your pitchforks. I am not a monster. I am merely an educator and a parent. I, too, have been complicit in allowing our education system to deteriorate.

The primary focus in education has been "equity" - addressing the low achievement of students of color, students of low socioeconomic status - but profound fiscal challenges are shifting our attention. Public school districts across the state are increasing class sizes, decreasing the length of the school year, eliminating professional development and eviscerating art, music, athletic and summer school programs.

We educators are fish swimming placidly, heedless of the political environment. Or maybe we are frogs in a pot of simmering water.

Maybe it's the unwavering "can-do" attitude of teachers that contributes to the state of affairs.

Raise our class size incrementally to 40? No problem.

No school nurses or counselors? Fine. We'll insert a needle into the thigh of a girl experiencing anaphylaxis, while consoling the boy whose father passed away.

No classroom materials? We'll pay out of pocket.

Fewer custodians? We'll teach in filth.

Cut our benefits? We'll take one for the team.

Maybe it is the parents who are to blame, especially those from wealthy communities. Rather than work to change a dysfunctional educational system, we ask: "What kind of check should we write?" We take care of our own.

Our elected officials struggle to pass a state budget, but they'll impose midyear budget cuts on school districts and delay payments, while refusing to pay interest on hijacked money. Is it ridiculous for the state to fully fund the mandates it imposes?

Our political system requires a two-thirds majority to pass a parcel tax, a tranquilizer we readily swallow to avoid the headache of dealing with the bigger problem. How about a simple majority of voters to impose a tax?

While California is the seventh-largest economy in the world, our per-pupil funding is 46th in the nation. What are the policymakers doing to address this educational crisis? Aside from patching together a state budget that is but a house of cards, aren't they supposed to pay attention to the system as a whole?

Doesn't a world-class education system necessitate an adequate revenue base?

Are we content to live in this state of mediocrity we call California?

I didn't become an educator to dismantle programs and services that support our students' learning. Never mind. Maybe it's better to enroll our kids in a private school. We shouldn't think about the water we are stewing in. It's so warm and soothing ...


by Howard Blume | LA Times/LA Now blog

February 18, 2010 | 9:11 pm -- The chance to operate 18 new campuses would be divided among competing bidders in a politically balanced way under recommendations released Thursday by Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines.

His recommendations are the next step in a process through which bidders from inside and outside the school district are competing to run the 18 new campuses as well as 12 persistently low-performing schools.

The main competitors include groups of teachers—often working with district administrators—versus independently operated charter schools, which are exempt from some rules that govern traditional schools.

In the end, each political constituency is positioned to get something, but there is also substantial disappointment--especially among charter school advocates.

The Los Angeles Board of Education is scheduled to make the final selections Tuesday and intense lobbying from all quarters has already begun.

Charter companies had bid mainly for new campuses. Most of the larger, better-known charter organizations got one school or part of one school, but charter advocates said Cortines should have gone further based on their record of running high-achieving schools.

Charters scored seven new small schools, some on campuses they would share with schools that are still affiliated with the school district. Proposals involving district teachers claimed 18 new small schools. A nonprofit controlled by the mayor also competed for a new elementary school and would get it, under the superintendent’s choices.

Among the existing schools, the biggest news concerned Jefferson High in Central-Alameda. Cortines opted for an internal reform proposal at a school where he handpicked the current principal. The loser in that competition would be the mayor’s team.

The mayor’s nonprofit, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, also lost to an internal plan at Griffith-Joyner Elementary in Watts, but would claim a notable prize: Carver Middle School in South Park.

The Youth Policy Institute will split San Fernando Middle School with an internal district team. The institute would keep its part of the school within the school system rather than making it a charter.

A handful of charter operators vied for an existing school and lost. Yet for most of the existing schools there was no competition; only an internal plan emerged. Cortines approved these but expressed strong reservations on some.

No San Fernando Valley school went to a charter, which dismayed charter operator Eugene Selivanov.

“A lot of us have been very skeptical of this process and I guess a lot of us were right,” said Selivanov, executive director of Ivy Academia. The “superintendent’s recommendations show that this was never a competitive process.”

Charter operator Mike Piscal called the split campuses a “half a loaf strategy.”

His ICEF Public Schools is supposed to share a middle school campus. He would run one small school and an internal district team would run two.

“From a practical standpoint, it runs the risk of muddling reform by putting three schools run by two separate operators on a campus built and intended to house one,” he said.

The new Torres High School complex will house five new small schools. Cortines wants to see two charter schools and three “pilot” schools. The pilots are internal, teacher-led plans for schools that are supposed to have much of the autonomy of charter schools

Former school board member David Tokofksy called the split campuses “educational Darwinism” that overlooks the importance of unity and collaboration to a successful school.

The teacher groups did well overall, but they could take issue with the recommendations as well. They had a claim to every campus because the teacher plans prevailed in every school-level advisory election among staff, parents and high school students.

Cortines, however, was not bound to comply with these results. He also examined analyses by professional evaluators and conducted his own review.

PARSING THE PARCEL TAX: Yes, the LAUSD needs the money. But will voters go along? And what exactly would be funded?

LA Times Editorial

February 18, 2010 -- The parcel tax proposal for Los Angeles schools is barely out of the gate and already it's limping. In an economy this bad, a new $100-a-year tax on each piece of residential and commercial property sounds like a lot of money to many property owners. In addition, parcel taxes in poorer school districts have fared badly at the ballot box lately. And even if it passes, the money would only begin to cover budget shortfalls at the L.A. Unified School District.

What's more, many voters remember that they recently approved a far bigger sum in construction bonds so that students could have uncrowded, sparkling, state-of-the-art classrooms.

There are some things to admire about the new tax proposal. Even if the money isn't nearly enough to make the district whole, the school board was right to keep the amount and duration moderate -- less than $400 million over four years, compared with more than $7 billion over a decade in the over-padded bond measure of 2008. We're glad the district moved decisively to place the measure on the ballot in June rather than November, even if its chances are weaker in a spring election. The district's shortages are immediate.

Although we are convinced of the need, that doesn't mean we are convinced about this particular proposal. We will be learning more about the measure in coming weeks, and hope to hear item-by-item specifics from district leaders on how this money would be spent; one of our chief objections to the bond was the vagueness about the projects that would be funded. We're not persuaded by assurances that none of the money from the parcel tax would go to administration. The budget is fungible; more money for the classroom means fewer cuts for administration. Besides, at least a portion of this money should go to the district's Office of the Inspector General for regular audits on whether it is being used well.

We also want to hear more about what the district has done and will continue to do in order to cut unnecessary expenses. In 2007, the board voted -- in a union-placating move and over the objections of then-Supt. David L. Brewer, who said the district lacked the money -- to expand the hours and benefits of cafeteria workers at a cost of millions of dollars per year. Has the district done anything to cut back on those expenses? If not, will it?

If local voters are asked to give yet again to L.A. Unified, they have a right to ask what they would get in return.


from Rick Hess’ Straight Up EdWeek blog |

February 17, 2010 -- It's time to banish the phrase, "It's for the kids," (that's "IFTK" for those of you keeping score at home) from the edu-discourse, along with its insipid cousins like "it's all about kids," "just for the kids," and "we're in it for the kids." Actually, it's way past time.

Two things recently reminded how much I loathe IFTK. One was a terrific little essay penned by my old mentor, Harvard University's Dick Elmore. The other, which I'll take up tomorrow, was AFT President Randi Weingarten's painful interview recently on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show.

Elmore bracingly terms "We're in it for the kids" a "monument to self-deception." He argues, "Public schools, and the institutions that surround them, surely rank among the most self-interested institutions in American society"--with school boards "training beds" for would-be politicians, superintendents sketching grandiose visions and then fleeing for cushier positions, and unions sacrificing student interests in the name of teacher job security.

"It's for the kids" is a phrase that encourages obfuscation and posturing. It allows self-interest to hide behind self-righteousness and vapid sentiment. It also imposes real costs.

First, the rhetoric of "it's for the kids" makes it easy for serious disagreements about policy or practice to devolve into name-calling and questions of motive. If I'm "in it for the kids" and you oppose my stance on teacher licensure, desegregation, charter schooling, or merit pay, it can be easy for me to assert (and maybe even assume) that you're not in it for the kids. This fuels ad hominem attacks and makes it more difficult to find workable solutions.

And, honestly, I can't see why motive much matters. I couldn't care less whether my doctor loves me; I just care whether she's any good at her job. If someone is in it for the kids, for the adoring news coverage, or for a buck, all I really care about is whether they deliver. If they do, terrific. If they don't, their noble motives don't matter.

Enough for now. Check back tomorrow if you want to catch the second half of this little tirade--and a few choice quotes from the Weingarten interview.

It’s tomorrow already?:
from Rick Hess’ Straight Up EdWeek blog

February 18, 2010 -- Yesterday I railed that the "it's for the kids" (IFTK) mantra turns substantive disagreements into name-calling. If I'm "for the kids" and you disagree with me on tracking, testing, or whatever, it follows that you're "against the kids." (As an aside, Knowledge Alliance honcho Jim Kohlmoos wryly asked whether it wasn't IFTK that led me into teaching. Straight up: nope. Cold-hearted guy that I am, I just enjoyed the instruction, the kids, and the content. But, it was easy enough to play along and mouth IFTK banalities just like the next guy. And that's the problem.)

The IFTK lingo becomes a reflex that stifles honest debate and cogent thinking. This brings us to AFT President Randi Weingarten's recent interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show. Pressed by tough questions, the razor-sharp Weingarten illustrated how IFTK helps turn important discussions into vapid and disconcertingly stupid ones.

Asked, "Why are the teachers union held in such disregard?" Weingarten responds (in a bit of a non sequitur), "I think what's happened is that, since the economy has changed so much, everybody really wants to make sure we help all of our kids."

Told, "But the perception is that you all over the years have put job security in front of the welfare of the kids," Weingarten says, "Teachers want to help kids succeed ... But we need to help, all of us, take more responsibility to make sure all of our kids get a decent education."

Asked, "What's the central complaint of the teachers union about charter schools?" Weingarten counters, "Look, the issue becomes: how do you help all kids?" A minute later, she adds, "The issue becomes: how do we help all kids succeed? The issue in terms of the charter schools were, we want to make sure that they're taking the same kinds of kids that all other public schools have."

Weingarten's parting comments? "We want to do a great job with kids. That's what it's about." Just to be clear, she elaborates, "But it is about how we help the kids. And teachers want to help the kids." Randi Weingarten is smart, savvy, and engaging. I've got to imagine it was as painful for her to mouth that pabulum as it was to listen to it.

This isn't just about Weingarten, by any means. Pushed to consider revisions to No Child Left Behind that would relax NCLB proficiency targets, for instance, some high-ranking officials in the Bush Administration's Department of Education were prone to respond, "So, whose child are you prepared to leave behind?"

Such variants of the IFTK genus are intended to stifle questions by flaunting moral superiority. Playing the IFTK card ignores the likelihood that no one is eager to leave anybody's kids behind and the reality that policies entail imperfect choices. By squelching honest dissent, IFTK excuses incoherent policy and practice in the name of moral urgency.

So, here's a wild idea. Can't we just presume that everybody cares (or admit that we can't tell the posers from the real deal) and just argue policies and practices instead?

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS REPORT ON THE PSC ELECTIONS: from the Los Angeles LWV Yahoogroup As most of you know, the ...

UNITED TEACHERS LOS ANGELES PROTESTS SCHOOL DISTRICT REFORM: dogwelder/Flickr CC | Protesters gather in front of t...

DOWN WITH PARENT POWER: by Jay Matthews in the Class Struggle/Education blog of the Washington Post February 19, ...

COMPLACENCY ADDS TO THE FISCAL CRISIS IN EDUCATION: Fred Brill | Open Forum in the San Francisco Chronicle Friday...

LAWMAKERS TO LAUNCH BIPARTISAN EFFORT TO REWRITE NCLB: By Nick Anderson | Washington Post Staff Writer Thursda...


Friday, February 19, 2010 12:32 AM

PSC | Cortines: “LAUSD SHOULD BE IN CHARGE” - District would run most schools under reform plan: By Connie Llanos,...

Update: L.A. UNIFIED HEAD QUITS BOARD OF SCHOLASTIC INC: Ramon C. Cortines says he is cutting his ties to the ed...


THE SUPERINTENDENT’S “STATE OF THE SCHOOLS” …I MEAN “DISTRICT”: The bullet points and press release: by smf for 4L...

PARSING THE PARCEL TAX: Yes, the LAUSD needs the money. But will voters go along? And what exactly would be funded...

“IT’S FOR THE KIDS” NEEDS TO GO!: from Rick Hess’ Straight Up EdWeek blog | February 17, 201...

Me-too photo-Op School Reform?: COMMUNITY LEADERS SIGN LA COMPACT TO REFORM LAUSD SCHOOLS: By Connie Llanos Staff ...

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


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. He is an elected Representative 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 as 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.