Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gloom+Doom and Happy Thanksgiving

Onward! smf SchoolBoard!
4LAKids: Sun 21•Nov•2010 Thanksgiving Furlough
In This Issue:
STATE BOARD OF ED TAKES ON EVALUATIONS: Another plan challenges layoff rules
A PATH TO COLLEGE: Allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition shows compassion and common sense.
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

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PUBLIC SCHOOLS: an investment we can't afford to cut! - The Education Coalition Website
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
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FIRST A STORY: In my life I've been a filmmaker and a producer and a writer; and occasionally a director in the film+TV+advertising industry. I have location scouted and production managed and gripped and gaffed, propped and art directed. I have been a cameraperson and sound recorder. I have raised thousands of flies and mosquitoes to be eradicated on-cue/on-screen by now-illegal chemical pesticides - reserving a special place for myself in the karmic pecking order.

I do not believe one is defined by one's employment. In real life a parent and a husband; I wish I were better at those things. I am a storyteller - you, gentle reader, may wish I were better at that.

I MET A YOUNG WOMAN LAST WEEK, she was working at a counter in the grayest building imaginable: the city elections office downtown. As I am a candidate I needed to define myself (in three words or less) for the ballot. In the moment "Father. Husband. Storyteller" did not occur to me ...and that may not be a definition that gets votes. I settled on Parent Advocate; a definition a bit more true than that of Parent/Educator assumed by my fellow candidate and principal adversary - whose educational qualifications comes from his current employment as chief of staff to the school board president.

But this story is not about either of us, it is about the young woman in the elections office.

As she led me through the administrivia of rules and qualifications and signatures required, explaining and educating, her skill and ability at that became apparent: she's a teacher out of the classroom.

She had once been an elementary school librarian in LAUSD - a position unjustly defined by the bureaucratic hierarchy (in three words or less) as "Library Aide". She had been good at it and she knew it; a teacher in that most important classroom in the school. She maintained the catalog, shelved the collection and she put the right books into the hands of young people. She taught children how to do research, encouraged independent thinking and cultivated independent thought.

But the unfairness of the job title, the economy, the misplaced priorities, the dearth of enlightened leadership in the highest level and the seniority system conspired against her Skill, Talent and Commitment. Over time she had her hours reduced to part-time and she lost her benefits. By cuts and reductions her library, her school and her students lost their librarian and the Elections Division got a very good clerk ...and an Educator.

On Wednesday December 1st that story will repeat itself ad infintum. The dominoes of RIF will fall: Reduction-in-hours, seniority bump, reassignment, transfer, loss of benefits, etc. Library hours will be reduced, some school libraries will close, doors will be locked, books will never be read (...or may be lost - which is worse?). People will go to other jobs -- children will lose.

This will happen in libraries and in plant manager rooms and in the front offices of schools Yes, it will happen in central offices too. Good people are losing their jobs, this is very sad. Good children are losing an opportunity for education. That is tragic. And hopefully not the end of the story.

MIXING THE MESSAGE: Gloom, Doom + Happy Thanksgiving

Last week Superintendent Cortines sent out Thanksgiving greetings: To Parents and the Public he started out: "In these tough and discouraging times of budget cuts, layoffs, larger classes and fear of future financial hurdles, I remind myself and others to be grateful.

"An old song comes to mind…. 'Accentuate the positive…Minimize the negative…Latch on to the affirmative…' I must have been seven or eight years old when Bing Crosby sang that song on the radio. But, the message is just as current today." []

Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen and der Bingle notwithstanding, Cortines' very different Nov. 18 Letter to the Employees [] eliminates the positive, opening: "As truly hard as this year has been, we balanced the 2010-2011 budget with negotiated give-backs and agreed-upon lay offs. The reality is that 2011-2011 will be an even more difficult year." There is no hope this message, no 'keep up the good work', no holiday greetings. It's pretty much a roadmap of 'my way or the highway'.

Happy Thanksgiving. I'm all for frankness and honesty, but if the message to the public is "accentuate the positive" and the message to employees is "abandon all hope" I think we have either a recipe-for or a diagnosis-of schizophrenia. Manic depression. Bi-polar disorder. Not the messenger, but5 certainly the message.

Cortines goes on with the bad news in his KPCC interview with Patt Morrison, [Preparing for tough times at the LAUSD: layoffs, furloughs, budget cuts coming for the beleaguered district |] describing the challenges ahead - which includes the current school board that "insists" he stay on to write the 2011-2012 budget - while conceding that the upcoming school board elections may produce a very different school board majority with very different priorities. One would hope.

He continues in the KPCC interview to savage the teacher's union: "I think the rank-and-file of teachers understand the problem but I think some of the leadership of UTLA are not in touch with the real world and not in touch with what teachers are doing - and what they are doing without - in the classroom."

I have much respect for Ray Cortines. But his role as superintendent to date has been to undo - through cuts and policy - the progress and reforms implemented by Superintendents Romer and Brewer; his mission is a back-to-the-past-do-over. Cortines disassembly of the district's Facilities Services Division (the nations' largest and most successful public works project), the failure to support the districts' Magnet Schools Program (its most successful and popular education/school choice reform), and the near-elimination of the nationally recognized Arts Education Program are cases in point. Leadership shows in times of adversity; successful leaders rally the troops and build morale - defining and redefining the mission and goals. That is not happening.

Q: What would’ve happened had Cortines stayed at LAUSD in 1999 in his first go-round?
A: We are seeing the answer - and I don't see how anyone can be happy with it.

The Board of Ed has two statutory obligations: they select the superintendent and they approve and oversee the district budget. This next budget will be one no one can really approve - and the superintendent who will implement it - whether that will be John Deasy (the superintendent-in-waiting) or someone else appointed by the 2011-2112 Board of Ed - will NOT be Ray Cortines. Cortines wrote a plan in 1999 as outgoing superintendent and his successors did not follow it. We have Einstein's definition as a reinforcement of Marx's dictum that "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce": "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

I mean not to join the gloom+doomer soothsayers.. Let us be truly thankful for our families and friends and our health and the bright and brightening young people who surround us. Let us support them going forward - and each other. This is supposed to be a time of hope and thanksgiving and let us go there.

Thank you, each and every one of you, for everything you do for kids everyday.

¡Onward. Adelante! - smf


A CALL TO ACTION/SAVE THE DATE: NOV 30th: Right after the Thanksgiving holiday (aka: THE GREAT THANKSGIVING FURLOUGH OF 2010!) LAUSD is planning to lay off hundreds of essential district employees, and bumping thousands of others, who keep our schools running properly.

Plant managers and elementary school librarians will be the workers primarily effected -; Students will be the persons potentially most harmed by the unintended consequences of these unconscionable cuts.

Next week's 4LAKids will contain detailed specifics and horror stories about the cuts and their potential impacts.

Parents, Community Members and Students need to work side by side with UTLA and other district unions to demand that the district abandon their outrageous plan which threatens the health and safety of students and the adults who work with them.

Protest Layoffs at the LAUSD School Board Meeting
333 S. Beaudry
Tuesday, November 30
3:30 - 5:30 pm

Protest Flyer and Information (please print and circulate)

STATE BOARD OF ED TAKES ON EVALUATIONS: Another plan challenges layoff rules
By John Fensterwald - Educated Guess |

11/15/10 - Against claims that it is exceeding its authority, the State Board of Education boldly waded last week into two controversial policy areas: teacher layoffs and teacher and principal evaluations. It did so even though a majority of its members, including President Ted Mitchell, may soon be out of office, with appointments set to expire by early next year.

On Wednesday, the board voted to proceed with a proposed regulation that would carve broad exceptions to laying off teachers based on seniority ­– the standard process. It did so on the same day that the Legislative Analyst’s Office projected a jaw-dropping $25 billion state budget deficit for next year, raising the likelihood that huge cuts to K-12 budgets once again will result in teacher layoffs in many districts. Even so, it’s doubtful that the State Board’s layoff regulations can be passed and enacted quickly enough to alter how districts handle the process next year. By law, districts face a March 15 deadline to notify teachers facing possible pink slips.

The proposed regulations would create broad exceptions allowing districts to deviate from layoffs by seniority – in ways that the Legislature has so far declined to enact. In the last session, legislators killed a bill pushed by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg that would have spared schools with API scores in the bottom 30 percent from strictly seniority-based layoffs. Teachers unions lobbied heavily against that bill.

The State Board’s initiative coincides with the expected settlement of a suit filed against Los Angeles Unified over disproportionate teacher layoffs at three low-performing, low-income middle schools where there had been a constant churn of new teachers year after year. In granting a preliminary injunction, siding with lawyers for low-income students, a Superior Court judge cited a rarely used clause in state law that, he said, “expressly allows” a school district to override seniority rules when layoffs would interfere with children’s fundamental right to equal educational opportunity.

The State Board seized the same wording to justify its proposed regulations. They wouldn’t exempt low-performing schools, per se – or tell districts how to conduct the layoffs. Instead, they would permit districts to consider a number of factors when deciding how layoffs in particular schools should be done. They would consider API scores; attendance, truancy and dropout rates; rates of teacher turnover; the use of evaluations to remove ineffective teachers; as well as policies to retain effective teachers.

Low-income schools, where a disproportionately high percentage of teachers are inexperienced – and vulnerable to layoffs – have borne the brunt of layoffs. The intent is make layoffs fairer, and to spare those schools in the midst of a turnaround strategy from further disruption.

Undersecretary of Education Kathryn Gaither, representing Gov. Schwarzenegger, expressed support for the proposals. As expected, teachers unions’ lobbyists attacked it as anti-union and an overreach of board authority. But other organizations that would be more be sympathetic to the goals also questioned the vagueness of the wording and the lack of explicit correlation of factors such as the dropout rate to elimination of teacher seniority.

Sherry Griffith, lobbyist for the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), worried that the regulations would leave districts open to being sued whether or not they chose to deviate from seniority-based layoffs. She and Bill Lucia, president and CEO of the advocacy group EdVoice, encouraged the Board to work together with the Legislature; Lucia said that would be the only way to possibly pass something by March 15.

The board, with member James Aschwanden opposed, voted to put the proposal out for public comment, with the anticipation that there would be changes.
Teacher evaluations

The board has little direct authority over teacher and principal evaluations. Teachers’ rights and evaluations procedures are determined by state law and local negotiations. But the State Board is hoping to use public awareness and indirect leverage to bring about reforms.

The least controversial proposal (except for the California Teachers Association, whose lobbyist objected to this, too) is to create a web site on evaluations that will promote best practices and share information. The State Department of Education already has posted a preliminary site.

The Board received more criticism for proposing to require districts to include information on how they do teacher evaluation as part of their annual Student Accountability Report Card, or SARC, a one-page summary of data on every school. Districts would have to state how they do evaluations; whether the evaluations are used for compensation, reassignment, tenure and removal; and how many teachers were given each rating. Under the current system, most teachers receive perfunctory high ratings.

Griffith of ACSA objected that this would be an unfunded mandate and that only the Legislature has the authority to decide what is included in the SARC. But Board Executive Director Nicolas Schweizer responded that the cost to districts would be minimal and that the federal government is likely to mandate that districts collect and make available the same information that the Board would require. Districts already had to make this information available as a condition for receiving federal stimulus money.

By far, the most contentious and interesting idea would grant districts the opportunity to seek potentially broad waivers from state regulations if they revamped their staff evaluation systems to meet a number of conditions. They’d have to be used to identify teachers who need improvement; to improve instructional practices; and to provide the basis for granting tenure, removing bad teachers, promoting effective teachers, and restructuring schools. For core academic subjects, 30 percent of an evaluation would have to be based on improvement in student test scores – the same standard used in the state’s Race to the Top application. An independent committee would decide which districts or schools would be entitled to waivers.

The power to obtain waivers from onerous regulations could be a powerful incentive to move unions and administrators into agreement over the evaluation process. John Deasy, deputy superintendent of Los Angeles Unified, who is leading the district’s negotiations on the issue, praised the Board for using a carrot instead of the customary stick.

But even board members were skeptical – or unclear about how the waivers would work. Would districts be restricted to waivers that affected only the evaluation process, or broad waivers in unrelated areas? Who would serve on the committee, and what would their charge be?

Liz Guillen of Public Advocates indicated she would be concerned if districts could seek waivers from protections for low-income students. CTA lobbyist Ken Burt accused the Board of choosing sides in an area subject to negotiations and doing an end-run around formal regulations.

Judy Pinegar, who runs the state Department of Education’s waiver office, was clearly miffed that the State Board had not consulted the Department before presenting the plan, and then waiting until three days before the meeting to release it.

Mitchell said that the proposal was similar to the streamlined waiver process granted to districts that achieve an 800 or better API. But Mitchell, who chaired an LAUSD task force on evaluations, couldn’t muster any support on the Board for the proposal as written.

The idea’s not dead, however. It’s likely to return, with changes, at the Board’s next meeting.

Themes in the News for the week of Nov. 15-19, 2010 by UCLA IDEA

19 Nov 2010 - Higher education holds an exalted position among California residents. According to a report released this week by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), nearly all Californians think a college degree is important to the quality of life and economic vitality of the state. Another 63 percent said college was necessary to being successful.

A majority of those polled believe the University of California, California State University and community colleges are doing a good job educating students. But, at the same time, they are worried that budget issues and decreased funding will make it difficult to retain this high-caliber education for all eligible students. A majority of parents—and 72 percent of Latino parents—are concerned about paying for college. And 73 percent think high prices are keeping qualified students from attending college all together.

The public is split on taxes. Roughly half (49 percent) would agree to increase taxes to support higher education, but most would rather pay more than increase student fees. The PPIC survey also found support for UC to recruit more out-of-state students as money-makers for the system, as long as this didn't mean fewer spaces available for residents. Out-of-state students pay about $23,000 more than resident students. Currently, non-residents are capped at 6.5 percent of the student population, and this will raise to 10 percent. Supporters of the increase claim the amount of slots open to residents wouldn't diminish (Education Week).

Even if enrollment numbers are not affected, access will be even more restrictive now that both the UC and Cal State systems approved tuition increases in recent days. The Cal State Board of Trustees increased tuition by 15 percent—with a 5-percent increase to take effect this year and 10 percent next year (Los Angeles Times). Then, the UC Regents increased tuition by 8 percent, or $822, next year (Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, KPCC, Associated Press, Daily Bruin). These increases follow a 32-percent hike for both systems last year.

“Students every year are paying more and more for an education that they’re getting less and less from,” said Jared McCreary, 23, a fourth-year UC Riverside student. “You still see a lot of students struggling, having to take out loans, working multiple jobs.” (KPCC).

Both university systems said the hikes were necessary to continue the high-caliber education they offer. At the Cal States, the increase will mean more classes and more sections. But Douglas Domingo-Foraste, a Cal State Long Beach professor, said the increases would likely keep more students from completing a degree in four years (Los Angeles Times).

“So many students and their families work two or three jobs to be able to afford college, and I think the people on the Board of Trustees have no conception of what it’s like to be on the margin,” Domingo-Foraste said. “When a student can’t take a class because they’re having to work more, you’re providing less access.”

The burden will be hardest for students with few financial aid options. Immigrant students without legal paperwork, can’t receive state or federal grants or student loans. Many get by with multiple jobs and some have to take breaks from school to save up enough money (Los Angeles Times, New York Times Magazine).

There was some good news for many students this week when the California Supreme Court ruled that undocumented students could continue to attend public colleges and universities at resident-tuition levels (New York Times, Ventura County Star). In 2001, the state had passed AB540, which allows students who attended three years of state high school and graduated to be eligible for the lower rate. However, this law was challenged, and the result was uncertain until this week. The law also applies to some students, such as those in California boarding schools, whose families live in other states. By keeping the status quo California avoids adding another hurdle to those that already exist.

The existing challenges facing students interested in attending California colleges are substantial. The state's colleges are increasingly more expensive than many California students can afford. The question facing Californians is whether to support the universities with more tax dollars or place the increased burden solely on students and their families by increasing tuition.

A PATH TO COLLEGE: Allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition shows compassion and common sense.
LA Times Editorial |

November 17, 2010 - In a decision that could have ramifications for higher education across the country, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that illegal immigrants who attend state high schools for at least three years and graduate can continue to pay the lower, in-state tuition rates at California's public universities and colleges. The decision, which reverses a lower court ruling, is a huge victory for many deserving students who otherwise might have been unable to afford a college education

Under federal law, states must provide a free K-12 education to illegal immigrants, which, by some estimates, costs California close to $3 billion. We agree that this is a moral imperative. But we also wonder what the sense would have been in investing heavily in thousands of students, inspiring them to excel, and then putting higher education out of their financial reach.

Economically, it makes sense to encourage these students to go to college; if they become successful professionals, business owners and taxpayers in California, they will contribute to the state's coffers. Morally, it also makes sense; it would be unfair to penalize children who arrived in this country as minors and had no choice in the decision to come, and who themselves committed no crime.

California is one of 10 states that provide in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, an indication of the extent to which states, in the absence of guidance from Congress, have moved to address the educational, economic and social needs of the immigrant populations within their borders. The 2001 California law can reduce the cost of a community college education by $4,400 a year and the cost of a UC education by as much as $23,000. The class-action lawsuit contesting the law was brought by out-of-state students who argued that the requirement that they pay higher, nonresident fees while illegal immigrants in California pay in-state tuition violated federal law.

It is true that federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving college benefits based on residency. California's law, however, is based not on residency but on whether the student attended and graduated from a high school in the state. The justices ruled that because nonresidents who meet that standard also are eligible for in-state tuition, there is no conflict. That includes U.S. citizens who attended high school in California but whose families live elsewhere, and those who attended California boarding schools. Two similar lawsuits are pending in Texas and Nebraska.

The decision is only a step in the right direction. Both supporters and opponents note that there is an inescapable conflict brought up by the law: Once armed with college degrees, these students cannot be legally employed. Congress can and should correct this by passing the DREAM Act, which would set students who meet certain post-secondary requirements on a path to citizenship. California recognizes the importance of these young immigrants to our future, and the nation should too.

●● smf notes: Here two stories from EdWeek and Teacher Magazine are worth following, whether oir not you agree that merit pay is the answer to all problems charter schools/vouchers and/or privatizing don't solve - especially if you take Ray Cortines' argument that "UTLA leadership is out of touch with reality" into consideration.

Just because it is said, printed or even who said it doesn't make it right or wrong - only repetitious.

Q: If we do pay more money to good teachers where do we get the more money we pay them?

Raise taxes?
Bake sales?
Eliminate high school sports?
Gates seems to suggest that we increase class size, thereby eliminating other teachers.

And - gentle readers - we once had merit pay for teachers in this state.(AB1 - Villaraigosa [D - Los Angeles] - 1999 ) It was eliminated in budget cuts too.



HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
LAUSD CANCELS ANOTHER CONTRACT: Deal would have paid $90,000 for 66 days of work: By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer...

LAUSD TEACHERS, STAFF HAND OUT LEAFLETS PROTESTING LAYOOFS: By Melissa Pamer Staff Writer- Daily Breeze | http:/...

SUPERINTENDENT CORTINES’ “ALL EMPLOYEES” LETTER OF NOV. 18: ‘As truly harsh as this year has been …2011-2012 wil...

DISTRICT RELEASES SCHOOL EXPERIENCE SURVEY RESULTS [Disaggregated 'School Report Card' data] + ●●smf's 2¢: from ...





AWARD STUNS THIRD-GRADE TEACHER: Tamara Garfio of Maywood Elementary is one of 60 instructors nationwide to rece... 7:16 AM Nov 18th via twitterfeed

UC, CAL STATE TUITION INCREASES: Survey shows public concern, 13 arrested @ Regent’s meeting + more: Californian...


THE ‘BLACK MALE CRISIS’: Why We Mean So Well but Do So Badly: by Karen Pittman, SparkAction |




High School Sports: L.A. UNIFIED WILL NO LONGER RUN THE CIF CITY SECTION - The move by the school district to ce...

THE DATABASE DEBACLE: The state has failed for years to develop a system that can calculate real dropout rates a...

EVENTS: Coming up next week...

There will be a community meeting at Washington Irving Middle School at 6m on Monday November 22 at 6pm to discuss the Public School Choice options for New Central High School #13 (Taylor Yards). Everyone who lives in Northeast Los Angeles (in the Marshall, Eagle Rock and Franklin HS families of schools) - in the neighborhoods of Atwater Village, Arroyo Seco , Cypress Park , Eagle Rock, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Heritage Square, Hermon, Highland Park, Montecito Heights,
Monterey Hills, Mt. Washington, and Silverlake is expected to attend.

"They stole our community college campus, let's not let the same thing happen happen to our new high school!"

Irving Middle School, 3010 Estara Avenue at Fletcher Avenue
6 PM Monday Nov 22


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! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: • 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 and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. 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.
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