Sunday, April 07, 2013

Worst practices, lessons not learned + glimmers of hope

Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids: Sunday 7•April•2013
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An English teacher I know and I were engaged in some sort of political debate. It was civilized debate, laden with metaphor and rife with paradox. As we are both essentially liberals it wasn’t much of a real debate – we were agreeing with each other vociferously.

Like the folk on Fox News. Or MSNBC.

We Americans need to find common ground he argued; “We need to stand up for our Third Amendment Rights!”

I of course drew a blank – moral guardian that I am I doubt if I could name all Ten Commandments in a sitting. (I can name all seven dwarfs….“Doc” is usually the forgotten one!) It helps that “Name the Dwarfs” is a common Trivial Pursuit challenge. The enumeration of commandments and amendments? Not so much.

The Third Amendment prohibits, in peacetime, the quartering of soldiers in private homes without the owner's consent

We all support that!

“Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us” is a specific indictment of King George III in the Declaration of Independence. Never mind that his majesty imported “large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.”

There is a name in international law for requisitioning civilian housing and property for armies of occupation. It is, SAT Vocabulary Word fans: “Sequestration”.

All the whackos who cling to their nineteen round Glock clips and 30 round AR15 + AK47 magazines are probably agreed that the current flavor of sequestration is A Good Thing. How can the Black Helicopter Patrol and revenuers+ gun confiscators of the ATF take our guns away if 7.6% of them are at the unemployment office?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I took the one I’m less baffled by.

Years back, when the Schools Funding Crisis was just a pup, benighted budgeteers in LAUSD attempted the sort of X percent-across-the-board-budget cutting currently unpopular but nonetheless-the-law-in D.C. It was a disaster – not an iceberg-raking-the-length-of-the-hull-in-the-North-Atlantic-without-enough-lifeboats disaster – but it certainly altered the course directly for the ice field!

The Rule of Folsom’s Thumb says one can assume that whenever any project or program is reduced by an arbitrary percentage, the specific amount reduced will have the greatest negative effect on the eventual outcome. You will always need the corners you cut later.

I assume that the budgeteers eliminated the gradual roll-out of the BTS/SAP Payroll back in 2007 in favor of a districtwide implementation to save the X% they had to save.

When Governor Schwarzenegger mandated across the board cuts in California he tried the same thing. In California the legislature stepped in and did their job – kinda/sorta – to avoid the worst of the worst.

Up until Friday afternoon the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 was mostly affecting the length of TSA screening lines at airports. But the plan was to shut down Air Traffic Control at 149 small airports like Santa Monica, El Monte, Hawthorne and Whiteman in Pacoima next week. What could possibly go wrong with unregulated take-offs and landings by amateur pilots in densely populated areas like those?

The really bizarre thing in the Sequester law is that it prohibits targeting cuts so as to reduce the impact, the cuts MUST be across-the-board. (This kind of fits with Grover Norquist's goal to starve the federal government cut-by-cut until it can be drowned in the bathtub.)The sequester seemed like a really good idea when the law was written because it was a law that was never supposed to take effect .
“In August 2011, bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate voted for the threat
of sequestration as a mechanism to force Congress to act on further deficit reduction. The
specter of harmful across-the-board cuts to defense and nondefense programs was intended
to drive both sides to compromise.” - OMB Report Pursuant to the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012(P. L. 112–155) -

The sequester was such a poisonous pill it would never happen! One hopes that next time the poisonous part involves congressmen having to wear funny hats or put ferrets in their trousers.

The lesson never learned is that the question “What can possibly go wrong?” will never be on the test.

What goes wrong IS the test!

WHEN “THE HOUSTON MIRACLE” BECAME “NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND” the miracle was that Houston School Superintendent Rod Paige - who became U.S. Secretary of Education – didn’t do time in a Texas prison cell for his cooking of the test score books back in HISD, But Molly Ivens warned us that “Politics in Texas is finest form of free entertainment ever invented”.

IN ATLANTA THE TEST SCORE RIGGING and out and out cheating (by adults) to cook standardized test score results rose above the usual Waste, Fraud & Abuse points manipulation. Indictments came down and arrests were made of the former Atlanta Superintendent (and former National Superintendent of the Year) plus 34 other staff and teachers - not for just cheating or fraud – but for Racketeering.

High-Stakes Standardized Testing in Atlanta was allegedly a criminal conspiracy and Organized Crime.

And other news sources report that Atlanta is the tip of the iceberg. In the past four academic years, test cheating has been confirmed in 37 states and Washington D.C.

MEANWHILE, ON THE WESTSIDE AND AT VENICE HIGH THE COMMUNITY IS UP IN ARMS over the continuing adventure of Magnets, Pilots and Charter Co-locations being forced on local schools.

WHILE AT WASHINGTON PREP a truly hopeful jewel in the community opened with the Community Wellness Center at Washington Prep.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf



Themes in the News: A weekly commentary written by UCLA IDEA on the important issues in education as covered by the news media. Week of April 1-5, 2013 |

04-04-2013 :: This sports adage, attributable to multiple sources, seems to excuse cheating as an admirable expression of one’s urge to win in competition. Evidently, school superintendents and other school personnel are as susceptible as sports heroes and lots of others who function in environments where winning delivers the rewards and rules the day. It’s in this competitive vein that our nation’s signature education program is called “Race to the Top,” not an admittedly less catchy, “Schools Must Teach Every Child Well.”

A months-long investigation into one of the nation’s largest test-cheating scandals culminated with a steady stream of almost three dozen educators surrendering themselves to authorities this week. Indictments came down against Atlanta Public Schools former Superintendent Beverly Hall, along with 34 other administrators, specialists, coordinators and teachers, on multiple counts of attempting to falsify students’ standardized test scores, including racketeering, fraud, and making false statements (Washington Post, New York Times, The Atlantic).

Atlanta’s cheating is believed to have dated back to 2001. Much of the investigation has focused on Hall’s heavy push to increase test scores at any cost. “Not only were the children deprived, a lot of teachers were forced into cheating, forced into criminal acts,” said Michael Bowers, former Georgia attorney general who investigated. “Now, granted, they did wrong, but a lot them did this to protect jobs” (CNN).

This is not the first test cheating scandal, and it may not even be the largest or most comprehensive (considering we only know the extent of Atlanta’s problems after the governor ordered an independent investigation). According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), cheating has been documented in 37 states and the District of Columbia. FairTest also noted a spectrum of ways that adults cheat on high-stakes tests, from blatantly giving answers to teaching to the test.

Atlanta provides an illustrative example of how a high-stakes testing culture distorts and then replaces an educational culture—what happens when incentives for high scores replace incentives for learning. In Atlanta, as elsewhere, those scoring incentives can lead to criminal fraud, gaming, and negligent representation.

Criminally fraudulent actions among adults include having students erase and fix mistakes, changing students’ answers after the test, telling students the right answers, or even letting other students take exams.

Gaming involves manipulating the schooling circumstances so the tests measure something other than what they are intended to measure—namely what students have actually learned. It could include teaching “test-taking skills,” such as reminding students to “fill in all the blank answers with choice ‘C’ before you hand in your answer sheet.” Sometimes schools encourage likely low-scorers to stay home on the day of the exam; or they might discourage special education or English learner students from attending the school. A common practice is to concentrate resources on “bubble” kids—students who are scoring just below “proficient”—while other students with higher or lower scores get less attention.

Negligent representation is when test scores are purported to measure something beyond the narrow capabilities of the test. For example, when students, teachers, or whole schools are credited as being successes or failures based on small score differences on narrowly constructed tests.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a joint statement with the head of Georgia’s teacher union, “standardized tests have a role in accountability, but today they dominate everything else and too often don’t even correlate to what students need to know to succeed” (Huffington Post).

The problem, as Weingarten writes, is not that test scores are not indicators of some level of learning; it’s that they are not indicators of everything. Standardized tests in math and English language arts offer little insight on students’ knowledge of science or social studies, let alone their capacity to solve novel and complex problems or to express themselves in persuasive and original ways. Nor do they tell us all we need to know about how well prepared students are for college or career. For this, we need multiple indicators of student learning.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s bill (SB 1458), which caps the use of standardized test scores at 60 percent of a school’s API score is a move in the right direction. There are on-going conversations in Sacramento about how to allocate the remainder, including the use of graduation rates. It will also be important to ensure that teachers and others have not only the data on how students perform, but also the resources and time to make use of the data for better instruction.

A broad assessment system that doesn’t favor single-dimension, high-stakes testing is a safeguard against fraud, gaming and misrepresentation. Such subversions of instruction and learning undermine the legitimacy of public education particularly for at-risk youth. Prosecuting fraud sends a powerful message to avoid getting caught at fraud, but it alone does not respond to flawed systems of student assessment or using tests to leverage education improvement.


AALA Update | Week of April 8, 2013 |

The educational wires have been buzzing lately about the recent indictment of Dr. Beverly Hall, the former Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, and 34 others on racketeering and other charges. The charges relate to the apparent changing of students’ answers on state tests to make them correct. An investigation began in 2010, with a scathing report released in 2011 that said the district had engaged in nearly a decade of systemic cheating-

Dr. Hall had been selected as the top education leader in the country by the Council of the Great City Schools in 2006 and national superintendent of the year in 2009 from the American Association of School Administrators because of the tremendous educational growth the district made under her leadership. Allegedly, more than 180 people were involved in the coordinated effort to change test answers, including almost 40 principals. Apparently, rumors of widespread cheating had been circulating for years when the governor opened a formal criminal investigation in 2010.
The Atlanta Journal - Constitution newspaper has done an extensive analysis (1.6 million records) of 2010 test results for 69,000 public schools in the country and has found high concentrations of “suspect” scores throughout.

The findings represent an unprecedented look at the integrity of school testing, which has seized center stage in national education policy. The paper does state that although their analysis does not prove cheating, it reveals that test scores in hundreds of cities followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating in multiple schools...In nine districts, scores careened so unpredictably that the odds of such dramatic shifts occurring without an intervention such as tampering were worse than one in 10 billion. (March 27, 2012)

The methodology that was used by the newspaper was based on statistical checks for extreme changes in scores and was advised by the American Institutes for Research. Big - to - medium - sized and rural districts had the highest concentrations of suspect tests and improbable scores were twice as likely to appear in charter schools.

But this article is not about Atlanta or cheating; it is about the extreme emphasis that is being placed on standardized testing by federal and state governments, necessitating the complete changing of teaching and learning patterns in the country. Test scores are playing critical roles in education policy and practice and educators have faced tremendous pressure to raise scores, at any cost. Due to No Child Left Behind, high-poverty schools have to deal with often unrealistic, relentless expectations to improve or be called failing and in many cases, be reconstituted or closed. Race to the Top and court cases now require that test scores and student achievement be an integral part of teacher and principal evaluations.

Poor test performance can ultimately result in districts being taken over by the state. Teachers’ and principals’ pay or continued employment may also depend on student achievement scores-

Federal policy over the past decade has set a continuously rising bar for districts with little or no guidance for reaching it. Education reformers push for districts to take a corporate approach and use student test achievement as the single most important measure of success.

Apparently, all that matters is results and in their view, results can most easily be measured by tests. r

This high school teacher’s statements, found on, wittily express what many educators are now feeling;

“First, we find the tests are sloppy, odd things, full of dumb questions and skewed so heavily to the lower-order memorization skills that were never that cool to begin with and have become nigh irrelevant in a Google age. Questions asked in April are about things not taught until May;
Eskimos are asked about mountain climbing and city kids are asked about skiing; and language learners take the same tests as native speakers. Furthermore, testing takes timer— a lot of it. At many schools now, a sixth of the year is given to standardized tests: A couple of days of test-taking skills prep before, a couple of days of testing, a day to go over the test to see what went wrong, repeat every six weeks.”

So while e the education reformers, with their ties to corporate America, big business and politics, continue to push their agendas and influence elections, what can the legions of educators around the country do?

David Bernstein, Executive Director of the David Project, has an article featured in Education Week (April 3, 2013) in which he suggests that we start building an alternative to the testing movement and show the country another vision for education.

We must stop merely criticizing standardized testing and start talking about something else, showing that returning to the old status quo is not acceptable but that the road to improvement can utilize multiple vehicles other than merely tests. It is an interesting article and makes some intriguing points that we, as educators, need to consider. We do need to stop articulating only what we oppose and become loud voices for what we advocate. We do want students to be college and career ready; we do support linked learning; we do want to educate all students to become productive members of society. If we do not speak up, those with the deepest pockets and less than altruistic motives will continue to hijack public education.



By Eric Hartley, Staff Writer, LA Daily News |

4/05/2013 10:44:24 AM PDT :: A jury convicted the founders of the San Fernando Valley-based Ivy Academia charter school Friday of embezzling public money and filing false tax returns.

Tatyana Berkovich and her husband, Yevgeny "Eugene" Selivanov, were charged with using $200,000 in public school funds for personal expenses and for a private school they owned.

Selivanov could face 19 years in state prison, and Berkovich could face 7 years, a prosecutor said. They're scheduled to be sentenced July 18.

After a three-week trial, the jury deliberated more than a week before reaching verdicts late Thursday. They were announced in court Friday morning.

Selivanov, 40, was convicted of 25 counts of embezzlement, misappropriation, money laundering and filing false tax returns. He was acquitted of a single count of money laundering.

The jury found Berkovich, 36, guilty of eight counts of misappropriation, embezzlement and filing false tax returns, but not guilty of eight other charges.

After the verdict, Judge Stephen A. Marcus said he believes Selivanov was "much more egregiously involved" in the crimes.

In an interview, one juror agreed, saying Selivanov's background in finance - he has an MBA - made it clear he knew what he was doing.

Evidence showed Selivanov handled most of the finances for Ivy Academia, while Berkovich was more involved in running the school day to day, the juror said.

The judge ordered both defendants taken into custody after the verdicts, and sheriff's deputies took them out a side door of the courtroom. But both were expected to be released on bail later Friday: $250,000 for Selivanov and $40,000 for Berkovich.

Selivanov's lawyer, Jeff Rutherford, said he plans to ask the judge to overturn the conviction and order a new trial. If that doesn't happen, he will appeal, he said.

"We are exploring all avenues in our ongoing effort to expose the truth, and I personally will not rest until I see justice done," Berkovich's lawyer, Nina Marino, said in an email.

Deputy District Attorney Sandi Roth said the convictions should send a message to anyone running an agency that uses public funds that there are "no exceptions" to laws against using that money for personal items.

During the trial in Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles, Roth said the Tarzana couple "did not live by the rules." Prosecutors said they used school funds for groceries, clothes, gift cards and a CD set on "how to avoid paying taxes," according to court documents.

Defense lawyers told the jury the couple made mistakes, but out of inexperience, not greed.

"There were no do's and don'ts of how to spend," Marino said in her opening statement. "There wasn't a list that said, 'OK, you're opening up a charter school, so these are the 10 things you need.' There was nothing like that."

The juror said the jury gave Berkovich and Selivanov the benefit of the doubt, assuming they might have made mistakes in the school's first couple of years.

But "it didn't get any better," said the juror, Delphina, a Whittier woman who would not give her last name. The evidence included years' worth of financial records and tax returns.

The jury concluded Selivanov used public money to pay personal debts, claimed losses that did not exist and failed to report some income on tax returns for years. Berkovich might not have prepared the returns, but she signed them and knew what was happening, Roth said.

Ivy Academia, a public K-12 charter school that opened in 2004, has 1,100 students on campuses in Canoga Park, Chatsworth and Woodland Hills. Selivanov was executive director while Berkovich served as president.

Before the school even opened, it was accused of breaking rules by using questionable enrollment methods. In the fall of 2004, students had to learn in a hotel ballroom instead of the school building because administrators hadn't gotten the proper city permits in time.

The criminal case stemmed from a 2007 audit that found money improperly mingled between school accounts and those of for-profit entities related to Ivy Academia.

In 2010, the Los Angeles County district attorney filed criminal charges, and Berkovich and Selivanov were put on leave. They resigned in 2011.

But one of their children still attends Ivy Academia, and the school's students have continued to perform well. The school has been among the top performers in the state on standardized tests.

But Delphina, the juror, said the case shows the need for more oversight of charter schools.

"What (do) they say?" she asked. "Too much rope, you can hang yourself."


Adolfo Guzman-Lopez | KPCC 89.3 Pass/ Fail |

April 5th, 2013, 2:29pm :: On Friday a jury convicted the founders of the Ivy Academia charter school in the San Fernando of embezzling public funds and filing false tax returns.

Eugene Selivanov and his wife Tatyana Berkovich founded Ivy Academia in 2004 as a state funded charter school. An audit three years later found the couple had not kept public money separate from its for-profit companies.

During a three-week trial, prosecutors alleged the couple used $200,000 in public funds to buy groceries, clothes and other personal items -- and to fund a separate private school.

The defense argued that the couple made mistakes based on their inexperience in running a charter.

The jury wasn’t convinced. It found Selivanov guilty of 25 felony charges and Berkovich of three felonies. Sentencing is set for July.

Selivanov faces 19 years in prison, and his wife seven and a half years.

Ivy Academia is still open. It serves 1,100 students at three locations in the San Fernando Valley. Selianov and Berkovich resigned from the school in 2011 after criminal charges were filed.


By Howard Blume, LA Times |

April 5, 2013, 11:00 a.m. :: Two local charter school operators were found guilty Friday of most charges after being accused of taking or misappropriating more than $200,000 in public funds.

Yevgeny “Eugene” Selivanov, 40, and Tatyana Berkovich 36, together faced 26 counts related to their management of public education funds in their running of Ivy Academia charter school in the west San Fernando Valley.

The charges included misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, false accounting, money laundering and filing false tax returns.

The couple was “using the charter school as their private piggy bank,” said deputy district attorney Dana Aratani.

The defendants, who are married, used school money to buy thousands of dollars in meals that they classified as business expenses or gestures to offer appreciation for teachers, prosecutors said. Other charges dealt with the reconfiguring of a lease on the school’s main campus. Prosecutors contended that the couple raised the rent on their own school as an illegal money-making scheme.

The couple started Ivy Academia in 2004 and managed it until 2010, when their arrest led to their resignation.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury convicted Selivanov, who faced more charges and had chief responsibility for the school finances, on nearly all counts. Berkovich was acquitted on some charges and convicted of lesser charges on some counts.

Defense attorneys, joined by charter school advocates, said the defendants were tried under rules that should not have applied to them. Charter schools are independently managed and exempt from some rules that govern traditional schools.

“We are here because of a fundamental lack of understanding of how a charter school operates,” said Nina Marino, the lawyer for Berkovich.

Defense attorneys argued that the couple’s spending and money management were legal under rules that apply to nonprofit corporations. And that prism should have been used to evaluate the case.

Selivanov faces a maximum sentence of about 19 years and Berkovich about seven and a half years, according to prosecutors.

Written by Sara Roos | City Watch |

22 Mar 2013 :: EDUCATION POLITICS - It seems that while Superintendent John Deasy gets famously mad, when crossed he gets pretty darned even as well.

Evidently there was an enormous rift in the political structure of the LAUSD board at their meeting of last Tuesday, 3/19/13. Signaled by the dethroning of long-time board chair Mónica García, Steve Zimmer’s surprising reelection early this month has realigned power behind-the-scenes. Reflective of this is the siting of a pilot school in his community with absolutely zero respect for the due process that governs these propositions.

Slated for approval as an agenda item ingeniously annealed to two non-controversial, exemplary projects each in separate districts, was a pilot school championed by Steve Barr, the provocative founder and former chairman of Green Dot Public Schools. His new venture, Future Is Now (FIN) Schools, shepherded a pilot school proposed for co-location on Venice High School’s campus (VHS), without ever informing a single stakeholder of this impending, irreparable change.

Apart from two individuals — the schools’ principal and UTLA chair — the entire VHS community of teachers, students, alumni, staff, at-large community members, families and administrators, was deliberately and systematically excluded from any awareness of, or involvement in, the planning of this pilot school.

Dr Deasy, the Executive Director of his Division of “Intensive Support and Intervention”, and Boardmember Zimmer all acknowledge publically that “mistakes were made” in the process of notifying and involving the targeted co-location community (VHS).

Meanwhile, community members of select charter schools in wealthier, adjacent neighborhoods were introduced to the proposal months earlier. As dozens of parents are visibly present on campus morning and afternoon, the pilot’s claim that it was unclear how to communicate with parents there is simply not credible.

Beyond the absence of notification is a little matter of rules controlling pilot school lift-offs. According to UTLA president Warren Fletcher, these schools have a strict protocol involving UTLA teachers in an iterative, collaborative development process, followed by at least a year-long trial run before any attempt at launching is approved.

The process was exemplified last Tuesday by testimony detailing one of the pilot schools’ multi-year, harmonious, collaborative development process that yielded 92.5% buy-in from community stakeholders before ever any approval was sought.

This is a harsh contrast indeed with the rubber-stamped approval of an untested hypothetical pipedream forced by the Superintendent and the pilot school upon the VHS community, all in a manner akin to something of an “inverse Sophie’s Choice”: chose us or else you’ll get a charter.

Such blatant disregard of process and stakeholders’ rights was emboldened by anticipation of replacing this district’s incumbent school board member with Kate Anderson, a parent-lawyer whose campaign was funded by the self-same deep pocketed entities supporting the creators of this very pilot school proposal. Steve Barr’s FIN draws from the Ford Foundation, The Moriah Fund, New Schools Venture Fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These entities are united by their effort to privatize public schools through “education entrepreneurs who are transforming public education”. Of passing note is the sycophantic synergy between language in the proposal for VHS’ proposed “entrepreneur-themed” pilot school, and the raison d’etre of its backers.

But Tuesday’s resurgence of an independent school board member rejoined the language of compromise and negotiation. Soon after upstaging John Deasy’s protective cabal of school board supporters, Steve Zimmer proposed an amendment to the pilot proposal that would be generally applicable to all pilot schools. It directed the Superintendent to make placement of the approved [pilot] contingent on approval of the school elected stakeholder governance council (SBM, ESBMM, SSC, Charter School Council, etc.). Community involvement must be guaranteed.

Now as events are unfolding rapidly, it transpires that this affirmation of unfairness about being held ignorant regarding matters vital to our community of thousands, was a short-lived victory of duration less than 24 hours. That is how long it has taken Dr Deasy to rally his on-site, hand-picked Reform-focused staff to manufacture an excuse to trash the spirit of this compromise.

At the end of the day on Wednesday, all VHS households received an automated call from the principal announcing an emergency meeting of its two governing councils called for the last day before spring break, Friday, March 22.

It is required that these bodies vote at that time on a matter they still know nothing about, on the relative merits of fracturing our venerable, beloved and diverse learning community in deference to a proposed pilot school, or instead in deference to some unknown charter school proposal. *

This is being termed “Deasy’s Revenge” in various circles. It is a maneuver of breathtaking vindictiveness. It disenfranchises the very spirit of the compromise language dictated by his own employers and our representatives, the LAUSD school board.

True, the balance of power shifted with the reelection of Steve Zimmer. But the political jockeying has not unseated Deasy yet, revealed here though perhaps not for the first time, as a dangerous ideological manipulator.

His operational rancor segregates everyone – teachers, students, parents, staff, inside their own fear and isolation. Such is the power unleashed by Tuesday’s seismic shift of political power among school board members.

Sometimes pushing a bully just a little bit is the most provocative move of all.

(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor.)

*smf: At the appointed time and place for the meeting there being no quorum present, no business could be conducted.

also see: LAUSD ISSUES OFFERS TO CHARTERS AT TRADITIONAL SCHOOL CAMPUSES. No charter petitions offered at Venice High, Mark Twain and Westminster

By John Fensterwald | EdSource Today |

April 5th, 2013 :: The chair of the Assembly Education Committee turned Gov. Jerry Brown’s comprehensive plan for education finance reform into bill form Thursday, ensuring that all aspects will get an extensive review, while raising the possibility that the plan may not pass in time to take effect July 1, as the governor wants.
Buchanan is worried that funding for some districts would stagnate while funding for other districts would increase at a much higher rate under a weighted student formula.

The introduction of Assembly Bill 88 by Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, was not unexpected. Legislative leaders for a year have called on Brown to present his Local Control Funding Formula, radically transforming how K-12 schools will be funded, into a bill that could be debated and vetted, rather than being considered as one huge addendum to the budget. Several months ago, a legislative staff member involved in education issues described their position as “no bill, no deal.”

Buchanan has been clear on this point. A former long-time member of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, she has been critical of the impact of Brown’s formula on middle-income districts like hers.

“We have been saying this is more than a budget matter,” said Rick Simpson, deputy chief of staff and education adviser to Assembly Speaker John Pérez. “It has to be considered by policy committees. The governor’s staff has not done anything to facilitate this matter so we thought we would give them a hand.”

Brown is proposing to simplify and make uniform and equitable a complex, nearly indecipherable funding system that includes dozens of compliance-driven state programs built on often outdated formulas. Brown would establish a base funding amount per student that varies by grade, and redistribute additional money – 35 percent of the base amount ­– to districts according to how many low-income students and English learners they have. Districts with significant concentrations of high-needs students would get money on top of the 35 percent, reflecting the challenges of educating children in high-poverty, non-English-speaking neighborhoods.

By the time full funding is phased in ­– Brown is aiming for seven years – districts with the highest concentration of high-needs students would get $3,000 to $4,000 more per student than districts with predominantly high-income students. No district would receive less that it gets now, and most would get considerably more, in part because Proposition 98 revenues are projected to rise substantially over the next four to five years.

Brown would also grant districts more power to determine how money is spent, permanently eliminating most categorical programs, while requiring districts to provide detailed, transparent accountability plans for parents and the public.

“This would be a sweeping change with a profound impact the way we fund public education potentially for the next quarter-century,” said Simpson. “Lots of questions will need to be answered.”


Brown would prefer that the Local Control Funding Formula be attached to his budget as part of the trailer bill, which details the statutory changes that the new policies would require. That way, he can negotiate the details as part of the budget process and limit review to the Legislature’s budget committees, which consider financial aspects, not policy.

Sending the reforms through policy committees – the Assembly and Senate Education Committees – creates potentially complicated timing and tactics. Passage of a budget by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, requires only a majority vote. Passage of a bill to take effect with the budget, under an expedited deadline, would require a two-thirds vote; that would be hard to get, even with Democrats in solid command of the Legislature, because support will likely fall along suburban-urban lines, not party lines.

Because school districts’ fiscal year also begins July 1, they need to know in advance how much money they can expect. Brown had proposed to commit $1.6 billion next year to start funding the formula.

It still may be possible to get the governor’s plan through policy committees in time, said Simpson, but “it would require a lot of effort to get it done.” Another option would be to delay the start of the funding for a year while working out details. “If the choice is between getting the plan done quickly or getting it right, I’d say take the time to get it right,” Simpson said. Simpson expects the Assembly Budget and Education committees to coordinate their efforts. Next Tuesday, the education subcommittee of the Budget Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, will hold its next hearing on the finance plan (go here for the agenda).

Jonathan Kaplan, senior policy analyst with the California Budget Project, who supports Brown’s plan overall, agreed that “there clearly is need for a robust review, but this must be balanced by moving expeditiously to get more money” to children targeted by the plan. “There probably still are ways to make it work” as long as the review doesn’t become a tactic for delay, he said.

State Board of Education President Michael Kirst, a professor emeritus from Stanford who co-wrote the paper on which Brown based his formula and advocates it, was unfazed by the latest twist. He said it was up to the Legislature to decide how to handle the proposal. “They have every right to consider what committee to put this through,” he said Thursday. But the Department of Finance’s position is that aspects of the Local Control Funding Formula must be included as part of the budget, he said.

Brown’s plan would eliminate dozens of “categorical” programs – teacher training, adult education, smaller class sizes among them – and advocates for those programs worry that without a funding requirement districts would no longer fund them. The funding formula would also shift decision making from Sacramento to local districts – a huge change in accountability. It would create funding differences of thousands of dollars per student. But time is tight, with three months before the start of the fiscal year, for Buchanan’s committee and the Senate counterpart, chaired by Sen. Carol Liu, D-Pasadena, to explore the impact of all of these aspects, plus alternatives.

In an interview with EdSource Today last year, Buchanan expressed broader concerns as well: Brown’s plan, she said, “should be handled through policy committees; but I also think, if you’re talking about such a major change to how we fund schools in the state of California, it’s more than just a bill. You need to really put some work into it, to determine, again, what is the cost to educate a child? Where are we now? Where do we want to be? And what’s the right path to get there?”

●●Background: Education Coalition Position Paper: The 2013-14 CALIFORNIA STATE BUDGET: from The Education Coalition |

BILL TEXT: Assembly Bill 88 [Buchanan, D-Alamo] As gut+amended (warning, sausage making in progress!)

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Education Coalition Position Paper: The 2013-14 CALIFORNIA STATE BUDGET: from The Education Coalition (see fol...

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: • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 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 Brown: 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. THEY DO!.

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 represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. 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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