Sunday, January 17, 2016


4LAKids: Sunday 17•Jan•2016
In This Issue:
 •  LAUSD SUPERINTENDENTS: A little history
 •  CHARTERS, BUT OTHERS TOO: A better charter-school initiative
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
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 •  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.
This is the 600th edition of the weekly 4LAKids Newsletter; this is the 600th of these weekly essays and my vastly inflated 2-cents-worth, exploring the Week That Was in LAUSD+Public Education.

There was a looming $500 budget deficit in LAUSD in 2004; Roy Romer was superintendent, Jose Huizar was board president, John Perez was UTLA president, Michael O’Sullivan was AALA president, John Deasy was Santa Monica-Malibu supe and Michelle King was principal at Hamilton High School. Issue one was titled THE BUDGET, API SCORES & TESTING, MATH AND SEX [] …and I was obviously+obliviously preoccupied, fixated+obsessed with those things and in that order.

●●smf v.2004: “It's interesting that the amount LAUSD needs to cut from its budget exceeds the total the Bush administration proposes to add to the national education budget.

“The tragedy is that the district is intending to eliminate student psychological services and programs in a time when the county health department and the state is doing the same. LAUSD nursing services are already at one nurse-day-a-month at some schools! School nurses and psychologists are often the only medical and mental health professionals many LAUSD students ever see.”

Elsewhere in the same issue, under the lead: THE API SCORES ARE OUT!

●●smf v.2004: “What’s the fun of all this testing if we can't complain about the scores?

“I spent a couple of hours Thursday having the importance of all this explained to me and I’m afraid I still don’t really care. The exciting news, I’m told, is that test scores are going up and that low performing schools are doing better! The bad news is that though many schools in the lowest rank of API scoring have gone up – and some a lot – they are still in the lowest rank!”

●●smf v.2015: “Incremental Urgency: The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

LAST WEEK THE UNENDING SECRET MEETINGS AND THE WATER-COOLER RUMORS AND THE PRESS SPECULATION ENDED: Los Angeles has a new professional football franchise and a new superintendent of schools. Both were announced officially Tuesday. (LAUSD announced Monday, but the official stuff happened Tuesday.)

OK, Not exactly a new football team …the once-and-future LOS ANGELES RAMS. Of Inglewood; formerly of St. Louis. And Anaheim. And before that L.A. And before that Cleveland.

And not exactly a new superintendent, the interim supe (and heir apparent) got the job: SUPERINTENDENT MICHELLE KING. A natural born insider.

“Sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble
Tres bien ensemble”

Welcome home. The executive search firm and board of Ed looked far-and-wide and found one-of-our-own, one door to the left of the old superintendent’s office. Ms. King isn’t even changing offices; just the sign on the door.

Superintendent King is the third female superintendent in the history of the L.A. City Schools, the first in eighty-six years. Susan Dorsey, arguably the best superintendent in L.A. history was the second …and the L.A. Times forgot about the first |

THE LA TIMES, displaying its editorial independence (or is it ambivalence?) of the Eli Broad funded sponsorship of the Times’ own education journalism came down irresolutely on all sides of the fence on:
• King’s appointment:,,
• The School Board’s resolution opposing the Broad Charter Takeover Plan (without actually naming it!) School Board Gears For Battle On Charter Plan:
• The Charter School Association’s lawsuit against LAUSD: Charter School Group Sues LAUSD Over Construction Money -
• The naming of an executive director of (Broad’s/Not Broad’s) Great Schools Now nonprofit (formerly a lobbyist/strategist of The California Charter Schools Association) and the Broad Initiative itself.
Broad’s plan was to make half of LAUSD into charter schools; The Times’ editorial board’s ‘Let’s All Just Get Along’ compromise seems to support making half of LAUSD’s schools NOT charter schools! (see Charters, But Others Too, following)

Sure, Education Matters – but make no mistake: so does Eli’s money – whether invested at The Times or leveraged at Great Schools Now! Does anyone remember when journalistic independence was independent? When journalistic ethics were ethical? When you didn’t have to read the fine print about who is paying for what in your newspaper? When philanthropy was altruistic? …and non-profit didn’t require a tax attorney to figure it out?

THE SUPREME COURT HEARD THE FRIEDRICH v. CTA APPEAL on Monday; even the L.A. Times editorial board urged they show restraint [Should Nonunion Teachers Be Forced To Pay Dues? [] – but I’m not at all sure Justice Scalia is a subscriber. And I’m pretty sure the founding fathers and framers of the constitution didn’t envision teachers unions. (We must remember that the constitution was framed while Thomas Jefferson was out of town.)


“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
―Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

By Priska Neely | KPCC 89.3 |

January 13 2016 :: When the Los Angeles Unified board named longtime employee Michelle King the district’s newest superintendent Monday, board members cited her three decades of service to the school system -- years in which she worked mostly out of the spotlight, but built strong ties through her personal touch.

"She has an ability to build tremendous good will with the people she works with," said teacher Robert Coad, who worked with King at Hamilton High School on the Westside. She held leadership positions there for eight years.

On Tuesday, the day after King's appointment as new superintendent, Hamilton High staff was elated.

"Everybody has this sense that she cares about them," said Fran Rose, Hamilton's humanities magnet coordinator. He said King connected not just with teachers and other staff, but with parents and other stakeholders.

It's no small feat for a former principal to be so fondly remembered.

"It was always like no problem was too small," explained Marlene Zuccaro, director of Hamilton's academy of music and performing arts.

Librarian Rosemarie Bernier remembers like it was yesterday the day in 1997 she got her national board certification. King was her supervisor.

"I went in to tell her and show her my certificate," Bernier said, tearing up at the memory. "You know what she did? She grabbed my hands and we jumped up and down together because she was thrilled for me and she was thrilled for the kids."

During her acceptance speech Monday, King gave little policy detail, speaking mainly in generalities.

She said her goals are to increase parent engagement, improve access and equity for all students to a quality education, and better prepare students for college. She also pledged fiscal restraint, saying she will devise a budget strategy to support her aims.

She did make it clear that she intends to retain her personal touch as she takes on the district's top job.

"It is only by working as a team and a family that we can help our students achieve and thrive," King said.

LAUSD board president Steve Zimmer said in her interviews, King demonstrated a level of connection with the school district's work that went above and beyond what she was normally able to show in her job as an administrator.

Speaking on KPCC's Take Two on Tuesday morning, Zimmer said she had a passion for two major initiatives that the district has already begun to put in place: a major push to better prepare students for college and career and a slate of reforms to make school discipline policies more equitable and effective.

"What we had seen with Ms. King in the past is really the implementation side and we had not really seen her passion for these initiatives in the ways that she was able to talk about them through the interview process and the selection process," Zimmer said.

Before her appointment to the top job, King was the chief deputy superintendent of schools. She’s also held other senior administrative jobs during a number of tumultuous years in the district. In these jobs she focused on executing other people’s visions.

Now, the school board has tasked King to turning her passion into tangible results that the district has long-struggled to achieve. They include dramatically improving academic performance and convincing parents to keep their kids enrolled in traditional public schools.
Given the huge fiscal deficit the district faces in the coming years, King will be unable to please everyone. And a number of outside observers had hoped the board would pick an outsider who could bring new ideas to the struggling district.

But UCLA education professor Pedro Noguera said her insider knowledge could give her an advantage.

"It’s a big unwieldy system," he said, "so hopefully that means she won’t take a long time to get up to speed like a newcomer would."

As she takes the reins of this behemoth school district, Coad, the Hamilton High teacher, said King's move is not unlike when, in 2002, she was named principal after having spent five years as assistant principal.

"When she moved up to be principal, it was just a real relief," he said. Before she took over, the school – not unlike the district now -- was going through a volatile time. Lots of tension was brewing between the three programs that share the campus, teachers said.

"There’s a reassurance when somebody really competent in-house is promoted rather than somebody from outside who needs that time to acclimate or understand the school," he said.

King’s task now is to multiply her legacy at Hamilton to the district’s 900 schools and more than 640,000 students.

Rose, the humanities coordinator at Hamilton, said he thinks King is up for the job.

"After the upheaval, she was the calming influence and I think really turned things round at this school," Rose said. "And I’m hoping she does the same thing with the district."

THE LEGACY OF SUSAN DORSEY: The last time L.A. schools had a female superintendent was 1929

by Sonali Kohli, LA Times |

Jan 13, 2016 :: To find the last woman who ran Los Angeles schools before newly appointed Supt. Michelle King takes over, you would need to dig far back into the 20th century. The last female superintendent was Susan M. Dorsey, and she held the post from 1920 until the beginning of 1929.

Dorsey worked in the district for more than 30 years — so, like King, Dorsey was an insider.

Born in New York, Dorsey grew up on the East Coast and attended Vassar College before becoming a classics instructor, according to archived L.A. Times stories. Marriage brought her to Los Angeles. She taught Latin at Los Angeles High School beginning in 1896, became a vice principal and principal, rose to assistant superintendent and ultimately superintendent.

When she was appointed to the superintendent's job in 1920, she was the only woman to be superintendent in a U.S. metropolitan school district, according to The Times.

Unlike King, Dorsey’s appointment wasn’t unanimous — the board approved her hiring by a 5-2 vote, and chose her in part for her local ties, according to Times coverage of the decision. Her appointment “came as a complete surprise to everyone, including Mrs. Dorsey,” according to The Times, because “it was generally reported that she had declined the position.” A story about her appointment reported:

“She has been instrumental in instituting a number of reforms in the school system. She is regarded as progressive and is well acquainted with the local school needs.”

She earned $8,000 a year at first, the equivalent of $94,934.40 in 2015 dollars, and by the end of her tenure the salary had increased to $12,000. King’s superintendent salary hasn’t been finalized yet, but her current district salary is $303,505.

Dorsey’s district was very different from the one over which King will preside. At that time, Los Angeles had two districts: Dorsey’s was for elementary and junior high school students, and there was another for high schools.

Here’s a description from an L.A. Times story from December 1928 about her resignation:
“When Mrs. Dorsey assumed the duties of superintendent of the Los Angeles City School District in 1920 there were 141,744 students enrolled in 233 schools, to which 3,537 teachers were assigned, as against the seventy-five teachers employed when she began her teaching career in 1896.”

Now, all of the Los Angeles Unified School District has just under 650,000 K-12 students and about 26,000 teachers.

Dorsey oversaw much of the district’s physical growth at the time, implementing a building program that cost upwards of $700,000.

The Times story on her retirement notes: “The startling growth of the city and the amazingly rapid development of easy communication and quick transportation greatly complicated the duty of educators.”

One of the greatest challenges Dorsey faced was the city’s expansion. (King, by contrast, is facing a declining student population.) It is in part thanks to Dorsey that L.A. schools are as big as they are, as a Times story from November 1927, discussing her reappointment, read:

“Throughout the tremendous building program of the past seven years Mrs. Dorsey has always urged upon the Board of Education the importance of spacious grounds. It is through her foresight and vision that school sites range from five to thirty acres, as she always has insisted that Los Angeles must look to future expansion and that the children of its citizens must build strong bodies on its school playgrounds."

She also expanded adult education, and was at the forefront of bringing vocational education and technology into schools. Instead of iPads, though, her tech advancement was to introduce “radio instruction and construction” and “automobile mechanics and shopwork.” She even implemented some aviation classes.

She retired the day before her 72nd birthday, and this is how The Times, in a front page story on Dec. 7, 1928, described the board meeting at which her resignation letter was read:

“The white hands of the superintendent moved nervously and a deep flush overspread her face. Then the tears came and the head with its crown of snowy hair dropped. Mrs. Dorsey was witnessing the passing from her hands of a work to which she had given her best efforts, for thirty-two years.”
CORRECTION: For the record |
FEMALE SUPERINTENDENTS: An article about women who have led Los Angeles' public school system said that Michelle King became the second female superintendent and that Susan M. Dorsey was first. In fact, Dorsey was the second and King is the third. The first was C.B. Jones in 1880.

By Michelle Maltais and Sonali Kohli | LA Times |

One of the most salient headlines about the hiring of Michelle King as the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District is that she’s an insider -- a district stalwart who worked her way up the LAUSD ladder over a span of 30 years -- and not someone with a glitzy national name, such as a vice admiral in the Navy or a former governor.

The history of L.A. Unified’s leadership provides context to King’s appointment: The district is constantly revising its view on whether it needs an insider to stabilize the schools, or an outsider to shake them up. And history hasn’t settled the question of whether being an insider is a help, or a hindrance.

Over 45 years, the margin of insiders to outsiders leading the district was eight to five. Here is a timeline of the superintendents in recent history, how the board chose them, and how they fared:


Johnston was promoted from within the ranks of L.A. Unified. Before his appointment, he served as assistant superintendent for adult education, the focus of his graduate education. Observers saw his “young, energetic” personality as an asset to promoting renewal within the schools. He started in L.A. Unified as a math teacher and junior varsity baseball coach at Gardena High School.

His insider ties extended beyond his own LAUSD career. His dad, Ogden “Johnny” Johnston, had been warmly remembered as a wood shop teacher for nearly 40 years at Roosevelt High in East Los Angeles.

During his tenure as superintendent, he established the All-District Honors Band. As superintendent, Johnston also encouraged LAUSD schools to participate in what was then the new state academic decathlon competition.

Johnston still corresponds, by formal letter, with district leaders, offering his opinions and guidance.

● 1981-1987: Harry Handler - INSIDE
Handler had been serving as Johnston’s chief deputy when he was appointed superintendent. He joined LAUSD in 1952 as a substitute junior high math teacher, and later served as supervisor of guidance and counseling for junior and senior high schools. In 1968, Handler was named to the district's newly created post of director of research and development. He later became associate superintendent for instruction.

As The Times reported upon his appointment, “His selection is expected to please top district officials, who wanted to see the practice of promoting from within the ranks continued.”

Discord over desegregation was still brewing when he took office. The board Handler inherited was polarized, consumed with bitter busing fights and the aftermath of white flight by students and teachers. However, “Handler's most enduring legacy,” The Times wrote in an editorial the day he left office, “may be a school board that works in harmony.”
Britton had the distinction of being the first outsider appointed as LAUSD superintendent in nearly 40 years. He uprooted himself from a successful legacy as head of the Miami-Dade County public schools. In his seven years in Miami, Britton developed well-regarded specialty schools, including one for pregnant teens. He strengthened relations with the teachers union, developed a group of effective administrators and experimented with school-based management. It was that reputation and record that prompted his appointment in Los Angeles.

However, the complex political landscape of LAUSD was riddled with tough issues, making for a steep learning curve. He faced a combative teachers union and a fragmented board against the backdrop of an economic downturn. He was unable to translate his success in Miami to Los Angeles before he resigned in 1990. "We never found out what Leonard Britton could do for L.A. Unified because he never got a chance," former school board member Jackie Goldberg said. "He had a lot to offer."

Eventually, the board voted to buy out Britton's contract.

As a result of Britton’s perceived failure, the board abruptly ditched its ideas for bringing in a “fresh perspective.” Instead, they wanted, yet again, a leader more familiar with the district’s inner workings -- and functional turmoil. Described as “an LAUSD man through and through,” 38-year LAUSD veteran Antón succeeded the guy who beat him to the top job just three years earlier. He began his career as a teacher at Rowan Avenue Elementary School. Antón was the first Latino to head the Los Angeles school district, in which more than 60% of the 640,000 students were Latino.

Antón was admired for his fair, straightforward though demanding approach. Among his priorities were relations with parents and looking out especially for minority students in a system that did not always have high expectations of them.

Alas, his inside experience proved insufficient. In the middle of struggling to keep the district solvent despite multibillion-dollar budget deficits, Anton abruptly resigned after only 26 months on the job. On his way out the door, he cited a politically charged atmosphere that included a micromanaging school board and an activist teachers union.
Thompson was also an LAUSD veteran. He started as a math teacher in Pacoima nearly 40 years before becoming superintendent. He was the first African American superintendent to lead the nation’s second-largest school district.

In a farewell editorial about his tenure, The Times’ editorial board wrote that Thompson “deserves credit for his fiscal management, supporting the LEARN [Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now] reforms, getting the teachers to agree to a 3-year contract and stiffening high school courses.”

Thompson initiated a plan that aimed to boost academic performance by the year 2000, including measures such as ensuring all students can read by the end of third grade, enrolling most students in middle-school algebra classes and moving bilingual education students into mainstream English courses after five years. In addition to the ongoing budget and union battles, groups in different parts of the school system were trying to break away and form their own districts. After his nearly four-year tenure as superintendent, he said he learned that reforming a large school system is a job with no natural conclusion.
Zacarias was the fourth superintendent over the course of a decade, the first fluent Spanish speaker and the second Latino to run LAUSD. He had worked at every level in the system, including temporary preschool teacher, principal, regional administrator and on up. He started his LAUSD career in 1966 as a teacher at his alma mater, Breed Street School, later becoming principal there in 1975.

When he was appointed, Zacarias vowed he would improve student performance by making teachers and principals personally responsible for school achievement. On his way out, critics called his accomplishments incremental.

Ultimately, Zacarias was pressured into taking a buyout when a newly elected board decided to hire its own choice for district leader. Until Zacarias agreed to leave, however, loyal Eastside supporters staged protests on his behalf.

He was “widely regarded as an insider who was unwilling or unable to challenge colleagues with whom he spent his entire career,” according to a 2015 Times story.


The first time LAUSD brought in Cortines, he was hired on an interim basis. He arrived as a 67-year-old outsider who had led districts around the country, including Pasadena, San Francisco (his hometown) and New York. He had a reputation for standing up to board members and bulldozing through bureaucracy, in the name of what he deemed best for students. He was a nationally known educator, and a familiar figure in Pasadena -- where he twice headed the schools -- but new to Los Angeles Unified.

It seems that he was chosen for his ability to get the district running smoothly after Zacarias was pushed out. “If it's truly a cleanup operation to get the district ready for a long-term strategy, then I think he's excellent for this," a UC Berkeley education professor said when Cortines was hired.

He introduced a plan to cut central staff and reorganize, but wasn’t able to see it through in his six-month stint. Cortines also oversaw a back-to-basics agenda that focused on cleaning bathrooms and providing all students with textbooks. And he made all elementary schools adopt a phonics-based reading program. The board urged Cortines to stay, but he left “to avoid any impression that he'd been angling for the job,” according to a 2008 Times story.

● 2000-2006 : ROY ROMER - OUTSIDER

Romer was hired in part because he was the only one of five favored candidates who wanted the job,” reads a 2006 Times story published after the former Colorado governor left the job. He came in with the goal of implementing Cortines’ plan to decentralize the district, and to build new schools and facilities for the growing number of students.

Romer sometimes clashed with the board over union relations and over his otherwise-popular $19-billion school repair and construction project. He also had an antagonistic relationship with then-mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who frequently attacked the district.

Romer has had the longest tenure in the 21st century, and left of his own accord. "You have a whole lot of social and economic pressures,” he said in 2015. “Los Angeles is especially tough because it's so large, so diverse.”


The school board hired Brewer, a retired Navy admiral, during a leadership struggle over control of the school system with then-Mayor Villaraigosa. Brewer had no experience managing school districts and little preparation for the turmoil of L.A. politics or district infighting.

“In hiring Brewer, board members had opted for a non-educator -- largely because they sought a fresh thinker, unwedded to the bureaucracy, unafraid to make bold, even unorthodox moves,” reads a 2008 Times story.

One of his first moves was to commission a report detailing everything wrong with the district.

Brewer launched an innovation division and test scores continued their gradual rise during his term. Voters also passed a $7-billion school construction bond on his watch. But critics said he moved slowly and never mastered either L.A. politics or district bureaucracy. He was bought out for $517,500.


The second time the school board chose Cortines, they wanted the same bold moves they sought from Brewer, but from an educator who had become familiar with the district and who worked quickly and relentlessly.

Over 2½ years, Cortines trimmed the central office through layoffs and reorganization, managed budget cuts prompted by a statewide economic recession and oversaw a program through which groups from inside and outside the school system could bid for control of low-performing campuses. As a result, more independently run charter schools began to operate on district properties, sometimes sharing sites with traditional public schools. Cortines re-staffed some low-performing schools, requiring teachers there to re-apply for their jobs.

But for Villaraigosa and his allies, Cortines was not moving quickly enough. And in April 2011, Cortines agreed to step aside.

● 2011-2014: JOHN D. DEASY - OUTSIDER

Deasy came in with ties to local power players like billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad and Villaraigosa. He was familiar with Los Angeles as he had headed the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District from 2001-2006, though he hadn’t worked in LAUSD before Cortines hired him.

He was technically promoted from within, since he was Cortines’ top deputy for five months, but was hired with the understanding that he would soon take the top job. The board selected him with little to no outside input, and didn’t have a public search or application process.

Deasy pursued an aggressive agenda that included revamping teacher evaluations and ending the near-automatic granting of tenure to teachers near the end of their second year of work. He also took part in ongoing litigation to limit teacher job protections and to end the use of seniority as a basis for laying off teachers. In addition, he ordered administrators to sharply reduce the number of student suspensions.

His efforts were hindered by a persistent economic recession and deteriorating relations with a majority of board members and the teachers union. Critics blamed him for two technology debacles: a malfunctioning student records system and an aborted $1.3-billion effort to provide every student with an iPad. As with other recent superintendents, test scores rose incrementally.


By this point, Cortines had become the district’s go-to cleanup guy. The board brought him back even though his reputation had been tarnished by a sexual-harassment allegation dating from 2010. Cortines denied wrongdoing. After Deasy’s disastrous departure from the district, the school board wanted an experienced leader they trusted.

Cortines, by then 82, soon told the board he would stay only through 2015. In that year, he smoothed union relations, ended efforts to provide every student with a computer—calling it unaffordable--and oversaw the repair of the student records system.


Following a nationwide search, this week, the school board promoted the consummate insider. Board president Steve Zimmer presented her to Angelenos at a meeting on Monday, calling her a “daughter of our city,” in both Spanish and English. She is the first African American woman to lead L.A. Unified.

King started her career as a secondary life science teacher at Porter Junior High School in 1984. After serving as a principal, she served in a succession of district roles before winding up as chief deputy superintendent. She served as the No. 2 administrator for both Deasy and then Cortines in his latest stint.

She will inherit the problems that have plagued superintendents before her, and a few new ones. Enrollment is declining, the district faces a deficit, and there’s an effort to dramatically increase the number of charter schools in the city. Only time will tell whether her intimate familiarity with the district will help her succeed where others before her have failed.

Times Reporter Howard Blume contributed to this report.

CAVEAT: The Times receives funding for its digital initiative, Education Matters, from one or more of the groups quoted in this article. The California Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Los Angeles administer grants from the Baxter Family Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the California Endowment and the Wasserman Foundation to support this effort. Under terms of the grants, the Times retains complete control over editorial content.

●●smf’s 2¢: The Times fails to mention its not insignificant role in the rise+fall of these LAUSD superintendents.

CHARTERS, BUT OTHERS TOO: A better charter-school initiative
By The Times Editorial Board |

Jan 17, 2016 :: The controversial Eli Broad-backed initiative that was designed to double charter-school attendance in the Los Angeles Unified School District has been shape-shifting ever since an early draft was leaked months ago. The goal of enrolling half of the district’s students in charter schools within eight years has been dropped. Now, those involved in the planning say, no specific enrollment goal will be included in the eventual plan. Seed money would be disbursed not just to open more charter schools, as originally intended, but to help fund new high-performing district schools of all types — including magnets, pilot schools and neighborhood schools — using successful existing schools as models.

“There are all kinds of excellent schools in L.A. Unified -- just not enough of them, especially in neighborhoods where low-income students live.”

If that’s how things actually work out, it would be a real improvement on the original concept. There are all kinds of excellent schools in L.A. Unified — just not enough of them, especially in neighborhoods where low-income students live. Instead of perpetuating the war between charters and “traditional” district public schools, and creating sharp division and bad feeling throughout the district, a more encompassing effort to open and support good schools of all sorts would offer parents a true choice.

Here’s another change in the plan: Although it is still well-funded, it apparently won’t be quite the half-a-billion-dollar effort originally envisioned. Donations haven’t been coming in at that level. Though fundraising will continue, the numbers being talked about now are more like two-thirds that amount.

That could be part of the reason for the avowed change of mission. The original draft was widely criticized after The Times reported on it, and the backlash didn’t come solely from the teachers unions and other typical charter-school opponents. Community leaders also were unhappy about deal developed in private that could potentially harm traditional district schools. They worried that the district would be unable to absorb the financial losses from the creation of that many charter schools, as state education funding followed students to their new schools. The new, softer approach came partly in response to the widespread criticism — but it also might make fundraising easier by creating a more politically palatable school-improvement plan.

The realities involved in staffing so many charter schools also played a part. The state is already struggling with shortages of teachers and principals; even charter-school supporters fretted that the initiative might collapse under its own weight in the rush to find enough educators to staff 260 new schools. That’s especially true given that teacher turnover tends to be high at charter schools.

The original critics of the plan — the teachers union and its supporters — remain suspicious. They worry that the nonprofit Great Public Schools Now, created to carry out the initiative, will still attempt to flood the district with new charter schools. The non-profit’s own leaders say that most of the money raised would still go still into creating charters — which are more expensive to create because they often need to pay for their own campuses — but that they are sincere about providing seed money for large numbers of traditional district schools as well.

The L.A. Unified school board voted Tuesday on a resolution opposing the Broad plan, though it’s language was vague and the initiative itself was not specifically mentioned. But that won’t help the situation, and besides, there’s little the board can do, under current state law, to prevent a barrage of new charter schools. State law governs charter-school approval; the board can reject charter applications only on certain, narrow grounds, and their effect on public-school financing isn’t among those reasons. What the resolution might accomplish is to continue making this a politically divisive issue. Potential donors might then decline to join the effort, but would that really be helpful to students?

A better move would be to call on Great Public Schools Now to provide a place at the table for the district’s new superintendent, Michelle King, to participate in the planning process. If the new nonprofit organization hopes to overcome resistance in the community, it needs to be more open about its planning and it needs to open the process to public discussion — after all, whether charter schools or not, these are all public schools.

The new plan, if it moves forward, should include funding for for outside auditors to measure its progress and to make sure it is succeeding. The plan should also be dedicated to leveling the playing field by ensuring that new charter schools encourage enrollment of special-education students and foster children and students who might not otherwise know about or apply to charters. And it should focus on finding ways to prevent rapid teacher turnover. At its best, the initiative would not be about pitting charters against district schools, but rather about expanding the number of first-rate schools for the district’s most disadvantaged students.

▲DISCLOSURE: See CAVEAT in story above.

By John Fensterwald | EdSource Today |

January 11, 2016 | Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices were what news reports called hostile in their questioning of union lawyers Monday during arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that could undercut the financial stability and the political clout of public employee unions in California and nearly two dozen states (see news stories here, here, and here).

Ten teachers in California who declined to join their local unions filed the lawsuit against the state and the 300,000-member CTA, charging that a state law requiring them to pay fees to cover bargaining costs coerces them to support a union whose positions they disagree with, violating their First Amendment speech rights.

The plaintiffs want the court to overturn a four-decades-old court decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. That ruling said non-union employees don’t have to pay that portion of union dues that underwrites the union’s political activities, including the costs of backing candidates and lobbying governments on issues not related to working conditions and pay. But the court said that states could require all employees to pay “fair-share” or “agency” fees to cover costs related to negotiating working conditions and bread-and-butter pay matters, since the union represents members and non-members alike. In California, fair-share dues make up about 40 percent of a union member’s dues.

In their lawsuit, attorneys for the Friedrichs teachers argue there is no distinction between politicking and bargaining, because negotiating constitutes “political speech designed to influence governmental decision-making.” Rebecca Friedrichs, a veteran teacher in the Savanna School District in Anaheim, said she is forced to underwrite the union’s positions on tenure, layoffs and pensions with which she disagrees. Many fees-paying teachers “have moral beliefs and fiscal standards that place them on the exact opposite side of union politics,” she wrote in the Orange County Register.

Four of the court’s conservative justices had expressly invited a challenge to Abood in a related decision in 2014. In an ominous sign for unions, a fifth justice, Antonin Scalia, who had supported fair-share fees in an earlier decision, indicated Monday that he had changed his position.
“The problem is that everything that is collectively bargained with the government is within the political sphere, almost by definition,” including the decision by the government about whether to give pay increases, Scalia said.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said that mandatory dues “require that employees and teachers who disagree with those positions must nevertheless subsidize the union on those very points.”
In its brief, the State of California, which was named in the lawsuit, argued that it’s in the state’s interest as an employer to negotiate with one financially stable union representing workers’ interests.

The CTA and other public employee unions that filed briefs reiterated the court’s reasoning in Abood that mandatory fees prevent “free-riders” – workers who may be satisfied with the union but decide to save money by not contributing to it. Non-member teachers’ views are not suppressed by fair-share fees, they said.

“If we are going to have collective bargaining in the public sector, mandatory agency fees can serve important state interests without unduly burdening citizens’ speech,” California Solicitor General Edward C. DuMont told the justices Monday.

About 10 percent of the state’s teachers pay fair-share dues. But in Wisconsin, which eliminated the fair-share fees requirement in 2011, teachers union membership subsequently dropped 50 percent, the National Education Association reported last year.

The state argued that Friedrichs and the other plaintiffs never presented evidence that bargaining violated their political beliefs. Because the Friedrichs attorneys argued that Abood needed to be overturned for them to prevail, lower courts agreed to expedite their lawsuit without a trial.
The four liberal Supreme Court justices said there was no basis for overturning a four-decades-old decision that had been working well. Justice Stephen Breyer disagreed that mandatory contributions for representation in collective bargaining was not a core speech issue. Negotiating for wages, hours and working conditons is “pretty far removed from the heart of the First Amendment,” he said.
Unions have said that the teachers’ First Amendment argument is a ruse that’s part of conservative groups’ steady attack to weaken public employee unions’ influence and drain their treasuries.
CTA President Eric Heins, who attended today’s oral arguments, said that conservative justices’ antagonistic questions were expected but he didn’t conclude that the case was lost. Oral arguments are not a reliable prediction of a decision, he said.

The CTA has helped defeat three initiatives in the past 20 years that would have prevented unions from automatically collecting dues for political purposes. One of those initiatives, on the ballot in 2012, would have also banned contributions to political candidates.

“The Friedrichs lawsuit is an end-run around to the courts to try to win what opponents of unions have been unable to do at the ballot box,” Heins said.

• EdSource asked law professors and attorneys who have followed and written about Friedrichs v. California to share their perspectives on today’s oral arguments and how they may affect the outcome of the case. They are Deborah La Fetra, Principal Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation; Charlotte Garden, Associate Professor, Seattle University School of Law; and William Gould IV, Emeritus Professor, Stanford Law School.

Go here to read a transcript of the oral arguments

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources




‏@howardblume Jan 12: New L.A. schools Supt. Michelle King will earn $350,000/yr in contract thru June 2018, a $46,500 raise from her salary as No. 2.






EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee – 10 AM
Early Childhood Education Meeting –2 PM
Successful School Climate Committee – 4 PM

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Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and was Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and has represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for over 13 years. He currently serves as Vice President for Health, is a Legislation Action Committee member and a member of the Board of Directors 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 "WHO" Gold Award and the ACSA Regional Ferd Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award - honors 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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