Sunday, April 24, 2016

So 400 years ago

4LAKids: Sunday 1•Jan•2016
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The royal coincidence of the death of Prince and the 90th birthday of HM The Queen cannot go unremarked upon.

Neither can the 400th anniversary of the seeming simultaneity of the deaths of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra on April 23, 2016.

Cervantes was the father of the novel, Shakespeare the father of the modern English language as an art form.

(OK, technically April 23, 1616 in Madrid was ten days apart from that same date in Stratford-upon-Avon due to differences in the Julian and Gregorian calendars; but differences between legend and fact are always decided in legend’s favor.)
“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!” ― Cervantes, Don Quixote

“Goodnight sweet Prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”/“I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain.”


LAST FRIDAY I was invited to address the LAUSD Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) Parent Advisory Committee (PAC); those parents elected and appointed to represent parents and advise the Board of Education on the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) – also known as the District’s 2016-17 Budget.

Here is what I said:

I have been struggling with what I am going to say today. The other day I was folding laundry, thinking this over. I assure you, no matter what ones health is – how good or how dire – the laundry doesn’t fold itself.

Thank you to the PAC for inviting me.

Thank you all for listening to me.

I want to especially thank Rowena Lagrosa for letting me and empowering me to speak. Rowena and I go back quite a while; she was the director at Mt Washington School where I first practiced my parent activism… and she actually encouraged me to expand my vision+disruptive efforts to the bigger district.

Rowena got me appointed to the Central District Algebra Textbook Selection Committee as the sole parent rep – a job for which I was strangely+uniquely qualified… because in high school I took Algebra I three times!

The topic assigned me today: “Effective and Constructive Parent Engagement on the LCAP: Present and Future” is quite a mouthful and quite a topic. There’s plenty of water under that bridge, present, past and future.

I am an old guy, invited to share an historical perspective – and none of the history is all that good.

Parent Engagement and Parent Involvement are like a bacon-and-egg breakfast:
• The Chicken is involved.
• The Pig is engaged.

LAUSD says a great deal and indeed says great things about parent+community involvement+engagement.

It creates great policy. It fills binders with it. It fills shelves with the binders. (Dr. V – Schoolboard member Richard Vladovic has said – and I have oft repeated: “Nobody fills binders with policy and shelves with dusty binders better than LAUSD!”

It delivers not so well – not through lack of trying – but through lack of follow through. Compliance+Commitment are opposite ends of a broad spectrum.

And when the money gets tight – parent and community services get cut.

And when the leadership at the top lacks a commitment to involving and engaging parents and the community – the real community, not organizations with “community” in their name – the PCSB gets outsourced and rightsized and decentralized.

Once the PCSB was across the street from District HQ; now it it’s a couple a miles away. And the HQ building itself is unfriendly+unwelcoming to parents and all visitors. Parking is problematic at best. And if you are handicapped, forget about it.

Parent Community Involvement and Engagement hit a low under the superintendency of John Deasy and the PCSB chieftaincy of Maria Casillas. Parent groups were disbanded, especially if they were reticent to get with the program. Groups like PTA were ignored.

We parent leaders were disrespected.

Grass roots membership organizations were out of favor, an alphabet soup of AstroTurf single-issue organizations with agendas that agreed with the powers-that-be were favored.

We parents share a common experience. We all first cross that threshold with a small hand in our hand – we come to the school and the District bringing our greatest treasure.

We are met with chain link and a sign that threatens what will happen if we visit the premises without registering with the principal, citing board rules and the criminal code.

Where is the sign that says “Welcome Parents”?

When we come into the office were are greeted with “What Do You Want?” Rather than “How Can We Help You?”

The real question needs to be: “How Can We Help Each Other Help Kids?”

I am all for Parent Centers – but not if they are to be The Place Where Parents Belong.

We belong anywhere we can help. In the classroom. On the playground. Having conversations about our kids and all kids in the office and the staffroom and at the local district and at every floor of 333 S. Beaudry.

Of course, we parents are capable of being real pieces of work. I can be cranky – I have been what Superintendent Romer called a burr in the saddle. We as parents – and especially those of us who are leaders – need to practice some parenting skills – and that means encouraging the District when it does well. We cannot be a succession of three minute public speakers who criticize the district at every meeting …or that’s all we will ever be.

Which brings us to the LCFF, The LCAP and the work of the PAC – now and into the future.

The Local Control Funding Formula is a positive step …but it is NOT the much needed School Finance Reform California needs.

I am here as a representative of the California State PTA, of which I am a former Board of Director. I was Vice President of Health – perhaps because they didn’t have a V.P. of Falling Apart Healthwise.

Half the people on Beaudry think that I am the PTA. “This is Scott, he’s the PTA.” Half the people in California PTA think that I am LAUSD. These are not easy hats to wear; it ain’t easy being me.

We in state PTA, a membership organization with almost a million members – representing six million California schoolchildren – look upon LAUSD as the a ton gorilla in the room – or maybe the dead skunk in the middle of the road.

LAUSD is ten percent of California’s educational establishment. A tenth of the budget. A tenth of the effort. Easily 25% of the drama.

We in PTA, me in PTA, want the LCFF to succeed in LAUSD because if it doesn’t it sets a dangerous precedent and other districts might emulate LAUSD and we’re off the hell in that handbasket.

You in the LAUSD PAC: Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

The Parent Advisory Council you serve upon is a Deasy-era attempt at compliance with the LCFF.

From Dr. D’s viewpoint it was a minimal effort, one in which most of you have put your maximum effort – only to be initially rewarded with threats and intimidation.

I don’t think many of us doubt that the attempt was made for the District to Advise the PAC, not the other way around.

Over the past three years things have gotten better, though not good enough. Thank you for your insistence and perseverance and good work.

The whole world is watching. The job before you, in addition to weighing in and making some noise about the LCAP process AND this year’s budget outcome – is to establish a place for the next Parent Advisory Council to move forward from – and to ultimately succeed.

For the kids.

For the cosmically unfortunately named Unduplicated Pupil Count.
For Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students.
For the English Language Learners.
For the Foster Kids.
For Every Child.

Ultimately you need to speak for all the children with one voice. Moving forward. Relentlessly Onward!

Thank you …and do good work!


ON MONDAY EVENING I attended the annual meeting of the Hollywood High School Alumni Association, of which I am a member. It was a meeting full of adult conflict and insults: real+imagined. Governed not by Robert’s Rules of Order …but by Stanislavski’s Method …wherein as much drama as can possibly be inserted into the proceedings is, the motion is seconded, accusations of past felonies are repeated and lawsuits are threatened. Nobody asked my opinion and I shared it anyway, complicating the complications.

Bear in mind I am under doctor’s orders and prescription medication. When I am reasonable late-at-night it is me – when I am not so it is morphine.

“Trust in me
Just in me
Put all your trust in me
You're doin' morphine.”
- Michael Jackson – Blood on the Dance Floor/HIStory in the Mix

The HHSAA is a generally senior bunch re-living our past high school glories from a far remove; most have us have been getting the senior discount on our McCafe for a decade.

“(If you'd like to see it, I've been keeping a log of department meetings ranked according to level of trauma, with a 1 indicating mild contentiousness, a 3 signifying uncontrolled shouting, and a 5 leading to at least one nervous breakdown and/or immediate referral to the crisis center run by the Office of Mental Health.)”
― Julie Schumacher Dear Committee Members |

At the meeting I was blessed to sit next to young alumna, a Hollywood High graduate from a year or two back. Before the meeting dissolved into name-calling and parliamentary chaos I had the good fortune to chat her up. She’s a Latina, a college student at a CSU on a pre-dentistry track, filled with hope and living the American Dream on a shoestring – thankful for the small scholarship the HHSAA bestows upon deserving graduates.

(The HHSAA does do good work, we just fight about it while doing it!)

She is a Dreamer - bilingual+biliterate - undocumented since her entry into this country as a toddler. Her parent’s status is complicated.

She is living the HHS motto - Achieving the Honorable - a precious gift from Mexico to this country and fie on those who would send her back!

(Dante reserves the Ninth Circle of Hell for those who betray trust and hosts who betray guests)

“Imagine a place so terrible, so absolutely destructive that you have no better option than to put your child in a tiny boat and travel across an entire sea in an attempt at escape. We’re so completely isolated from the true terror in this world that we can’t even relate to that level of devastation.”
— Summar Kawas on The New York Times’s Facebook page, responding to an article about Pulitzer Prize-winning photos of the migrant crisis in Europe. |

So it is.

¡Dream Onward/Sueño Adelante! - smf

by Maura Walz | KPCC 89.3 |

April 21 2016 :: A California appeals court has dealt another blow to education advocates arguing the state's system of funding schools is unconstitutional.

In a 2-1 decision issued Wednesday, justices upheld a lower court's decision to throw out the case, which is a consolidation of two lawsuits, Robles-Wong v. California and the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. California. The plaintiffs in the case included high-profile education groups, including the California Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), the California Teachers Association and the state's associations of school board members and administrators.

Both lawsuits had argued California's state constitution gives students not just a right to access education but also a right to a "quality" education. They said the legislature has not given schools enough funding to make this level of quality possible.

But justices said the plaintiffs were reading too far into the constitution's language.

"Rather, the constitutional sections leave the difficult and policy-laden questions associated with educational adequacy and funding to the legislative branch," wrote Associate Justice Martin Jenkins in the majority opinion.

In a statement, the plaintiffs said they'll likely attempt to take their case to the state Supreme Court next.

Appeals Court Opinion

By Sonali Kohli, LA Times |

April 22, 2016 :: Magnet schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District accepted fewer than half of students who applied for the 2016-17 school year.

The district received about 44,000 applications to attend magnets, which are themed schools that are open to all students, regardless of where they live. Magnets are among the only schools for which the district provides transportation, because they were created as a way to help desegregate the district.

The numbers come as L.A. Unified tries to keep students in traditional public schools and stem decreasing enrollment. The high interest in magnets shows that those types of schools could be a way to bring students back, school board member Richard Vladovic says. Many students have left the district for independent charter schools, which are publicly funded but can be privately run.

The district might be losing students who get waitlisted to charter schools or other districts, said Vladovic. “I’m absolutely convinced there is a flight of children," Vladovic said at a budget committee meeting Tuesday.

Currently, about 101,000 students attend independent charters in L.A. Unified, and around 542,400 attend traditional schools and affiliated charters. And there's an effort by advocates and philanthropists to pull half of L.A. Unified students into charters in the next eight years.

Because the demand is so much higher than the number of spots available, students gain admission to magnets through an intricate lottery system. Students can earn points for every year they apply to a magnet school and get rejected, and they get points for already attending a magnet school. For example, when applying for a middle school magnet, you get points for finishing fifth grade at an elementary magnet.

Some of the most in-demand schools get thousands of applications every year.

Not all the parents applying want their children to attend the following year—at least some apply to the most popular schools every year expecting to get wait listed, but that allows them to rack up points that will count in their favor when they apply to the school they want.

Schools receive funding on a per-pupil basis, so losing students to independent charters means losing thousands of dollars per student.

Expanding magnets might be a way to keep those students in L.A. Unified schools, Vladovic says. Students on magnet wait lists are "the most vulnerable to leave the district" because they're looking for options other than their neighborhood schools, he said in an interview after the Tuesday budget meeting.

The district did not immediately provide data on how many students who are rejected from magnets attend an L.A. Unified school the following year and how many leave the district. The Times has submitted a public records request for that information.

Magnet schools that share their campuses with neighborhood schools could use extra classrooms to whittle down their wait lists, Vladovic said.

"This isn't going to grow enrollment," Vladovic said. "It's going to stop the decline."

The district already expands magnets wherever there is room and demand, said Keith Abrahams, the head of student integration services. There are 146 magnets that share campuses, and 52 with their own campuses.

Some of the most popular magnet schools, though, don't have room to expand.

“We try to open up as many seats as possible every year," Abrahams said. “Our most oversubscribed magnets are full, dedicated magnets."

This fall, 16 new magnet programs will open with about 5,800 seats, and 14 schools will expand by one to three teachers, adding 515 spots.

The Academy for Enriched Sciences recently moved from sharing a campus with another elementary school in Woodland Hills to its own space in Encino, said Amy Petry, the school's magnet coordinator.

For 2016-17, the school, which opened in 2010, will add two kindergarten classes, Petry said.

“The reason we did expand is because parents were asking us," Petry said. "They were the ones kind of driving the decision.”

by Deepa Fernandes | KPCC 89.3 |

April 19 2016 :: A new report estimates that the economic toll on Los Angeles County from the loss of
funding for thousands of preschool seats later this year will be almost $600 million annually.


Funding for nearly 11,000 preschool seats is going to run out in June when Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) loses its backing from the public early years agency First 5 L.A. But the report, by the independent research organization the Institute for Child Success, looked at the impact beyond lost educational opportunities.

ICS included in its analysis the preschool seats that LAUSD announced last year would be ending this June through a program called the School Readiness Language Development Program (SRLDP).

“The cost of cutting high quality pre-K in Los Angeles county will exceed the program dollars saved,” said ICS executive vice president Joe Waters.

LAUP currently spends $59.1 million on preschool contracts that fund 11,000 seats. After the First 5 LA funding expires, LAUP's budget will drop from $93.5 million to $29.9 million.

LAUP commissioned (and partly funded) the ICS report to investigate the broader economic impacts of the loss of preschool seats. Joe Waters said LAUP only provided program data his researchers requested and had no editorial input into the reporting process.

The report’s findings, released Tuesday, examine three main areas where the act of a child attending preschool will trickle into the local economy and provide a boost.

It starts with the employment of teachers, aides, cooks and other staff at LAUP funded centers. The report calculates the money these childcare businesses and employees will spend and finds the loss of this purchasing power will be a hit to the local economy.

Secondly, the report calculates the money that will be lost because parents might no longer work due to the loss of their childcare option. This will also mean less buying power and less money spent in the local economy. “When [childcare] is unavailable parents are unable to go work or they have to piece together childcare arrangements, it becomes a great burden on working families and the consequence of that is reduced productivity and reduced economic activity in the broader community,” Waters said.

Finally, the report also calculated longer term economic impact based on researchers' belief that children missing preschool are less prepared for elementary school and may never really catch up, leaving them “unprepared for college or the labor market,” the report states.

“By 2020, two-thirds of U.S. jobs will require at least some post-secondary education," the report states. "But, at present, only 19 percent of L.A. County 11th graders are ready for English coursework at a California state college and only 13 percent are prepared for college coursework in math.” Without preschool, children may be even less successful in school leading to a future of low paying jobs, which also impacts economic activity and productivity.

The report also finds the impact of the cuts will have a disparate impact on women of color who make up the majority of workers in the childcare field impacted by the cuts. Childcare businesses, Waters said, “are often lead by women and started by women, and minority women at that.”

Waters said many of the women of color run centers have been successful because they provide a tailored “service that families need [and families] often want to seek out a center that speaks to them culturally and that’s part of their community.”

Advocates have lamented that losing so many preschool seats will also decimate the childcare infrastructure of the county. “This is not just about the economic impact,” Waters said, “it is also about the quality of the childcare infrastructure in L.A. County.”

Waters predicts workers will leave the childcare field if they can’t find work.

“It will be very difficult should replacement funding become available to move those workers back into childcare jobs a year or two down the road because they might not still necessarily be available in L.A. County," Waters said. "Then what we are left with is a very poor infrastructure should replacement funding become available and what remains will be of lower quality.”

As KPCC has reported, the terms of the First 5 L.A.’s funding to LAUP have been known for some years, and the First 5 L.A. Board reiterated last year that there would be no further renewal funding for the preschool seats.

Since then, LAUP executives and staff have been working with its network of preschool providers to find alternative funding, including support to apply directly for state funding, said LAUP's chief executive officer Celia Ayala.

State preschool contracts from the department of education are being announced and some of LAUP's providers have been selected to receive funding.

LAUP also began targeted work with local school districts and preschool providers to lobby for Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) dollars to be directed to early education slots. “The good news story is that for over 4,000 children we have found other sources of funding," Ayala said.

Yet she laments that thousands of seats will not be refunded come September. “It’s a sad sad day,” Ayala said, “when you have to think about taking apart something that is so wonderful and so beneficial especially to children.”

Here's a map of all of the preschools in L.A. County with LAUP contracts set to expire in June

By John Fensterwald | EdSource Today |

April 20, 2016 :: Since the low point of funding during the recession, Californians surveyed expressed increasing confidence that K-12 schools are preparing students for choices after graduation, although they indicated schools are doing a better job with readiness for college than the workforce.

Seven months before the November election, substantial majorities of likely California voters said they would support extending Proposition 30, the temporary income tax on the wealthiest state residents, and passing a proposed $9 billion school construction bond, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California. ►

PPIC’s 12th annual extensive poll on Californians’ view of K-12 education also revealed that majorities believe a teacher shortage is a big problem and funding for K-12 schools is too low. Among other findings:

• Expressing strong support for state-funded preschool, twice as many Californians said they favor directing a potential state budget surplus to fund preschool than to pay down the state debt;
• Most of those surveyed said their local schools are doing an excellent or good job of preparing students for college but they are very concerned that students in low-income areas are less likely to be ready for college.
• Californians are sharply divided over the Common Core, with slightly more adults supporting the new academic standards than opposing them.
• In almost every area of questioning, African-Americans were the most pessimistic ethnic and racial group when asked about the quality of schools and prospects for change.
• Overall support for how Gov. Jerry Brown has handled public schools has increased steadily since he took office, but his approval rating for education is still under 50 percent, and a quarter of adults say they don’t know enough to say.

Telephone interviews were conducted earlier this month with 1,703 adults in California, half on landlines and half on cell phones. The margin of error ranged from plus/minus 3.5 percent for all adults to plus/minus 7 percent for public school parents. Representative numbers of non-registered and registered voters, including those likely to vote, Democrats, Republicans and Independents and racial and ethnic minorities participated.


Funding for K-12 schools has increased sharply during the past three years, mirroring the state’s economic recovery after big cuts in funding during the recession. However, 60 percent of Californians said that there is not enough funding for their local schools. More women (69 percent) than men (53 percent) and Democrats (73 percent) than Republicans (42 percent) said that’s the case.


Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget would raise K-12 per student spending to $9,571, about $200 above the pre-recession level – when adjusted for inflation.
Poll shows residents split on whether to extend tax increases

The percentage is actually higher this year than when the question was asked during the recession, noted Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. Now that there is more state revenue, Californians are pausing to think about how the money should be spent, including on schools, he said.

Two revenue options likely will be on the November ballot: Prop. 30 and a state construction bond. Among the subset of likely voters, 63 percent favor the bond and 32 percent oppose it, with 4 percent undecided. Among all adults, including non-registered voters, the support is 76 percent in favor, 21 percent opposed.

Brown has said he opposes a state-funded school construction bond because it doesn’t meet his conditions.

The Prop. 30 initiative, which supporters are now gathering signatures for, would extend the income tax increase on individuals earning more than $250,000 and couples earning $500,000 or more. Among all Californians, 64 percent support the extension, 32 percent oppose it and 4 percent are undecided. Among likely voters, 62 percent back it, 35 percent oppose it and 2 percent haven’t decided. By party affiliation, 82 percent of Democrats support it while only 32 percent of Republicans do.

Brown has not stated his position on extending Prop. 30. “The governor’s approval rating is high, and his opinions will matter to voters” come Election Day, Baldassare said.

School districts do have the option to bring in additional money through a local parcel tax, and about 1 in 8 districts have passed one. Asked if they would approve a local parcel tax, 52 percent of likely voters said yes, 43 percent no and 5 percent gave no opinion. However, parcel taxes require at least a 66 percent majority for passage; asked if they would favor lowering the threshold to 55 percent, only 44 percent of likely voters said that would be a good idea.


Eighty-nine percent of all Californians, and 86 percent of likely voters viewed preschool as very or somewhat important to a student’s success in school, and 63 percent of all respondents favor spending a state surplus on additional state preschool funding. However, only 52 percent of likely voters favor using a surplus for preschool funding, with 46 percent saying it should be used to pay down state debt.

Seventy-four percent of all of those surveyed and 71 percent of likely voters said that affordability of preschool is a big problem or somewhat of a problem, and 81 percent of all Californians also said that they are very or somewhat concerned that low-income students will be less likely to be prepared for kindergarten.


Asked about a teacher shortage – a new PPIC line of questioning – 81 percent of all Californians say it is a big problem or somewhat of a problem. Given several options to attract new teachers to K-12 schools, 45 percent of all Californians said they’d prefer raising the minimum salary for teachers, which is the most expensive of the choices, compared with creating a loan forgiveness program (21 percent), housing assistance (11 percent) or lowering the requirements for becoming a teacher (11 percent).

Turning to the issue of teacher quality, 84 percent of all Californians said they are very or somewhat concerned that there are fewer good teachers in schools in low-income areas compared with wealthier areas.
Asked to grade their local schools, 57 percent of survey participants gave A's and B's, but there were big variations by race and ethnicity, with twice as many Asians and Latinos than African-Americans giving high grades to their schools.

Asked to grade their local schools, 57 percent of survey participants gave A’s and B’s, but there were big variations by race and ethnicity, with twice as many Asians and Latinos than African-Americans giving high grades to their schools.


Two-thirds of all adults and three-quarters of public school parents said they know at least something about the Common Core, although 35 percent of public school parents said they were not provided information about the new standards in math and English language arts. Based on what they know, 43 percent of adults favor the standards, while 39 percent oppose them and 18 percent are undecided. More public school parents support them: 51 percent favor, 36 percent oppose. Reflecting a national split on the standards, twice as many Democrats support the standards (46 percent) than Republicans (23 percent).

“Reflecting the 2016 presidential campaign dialogue, Common Core is a politically polarizing issue in California today,” Baldassare said.

Nonetheless, 54 percent of Californians said they are very or somewhat confident that teaching the Common Core will make students college and career ready, and 57 percent said they are very or somewhat confident the new standards will achieve the goal of enabling students to solve problems and think critically.

Nearly three-quarters of public school parents expressed confidence that teachers are adequately prepared to teach the standards. (That view, however, is not held by teachers. In a survey last fall by the research and training organization WestEd, only a quarter of California teachers said they had been adequately trained in the new standards.)

More Latinos (55 percent) and Asians (48 percent) than African-Americans (37 percent) and whites (34 percent) said they favor the Common Core.


Three years ago, the Legislature approved Brown’s school financing reform, known as the Local Control Funding Formula, to shift control over budgets and spending decisions to districts and to provide more money for low-income students, English learners and foster youths.

Only 36 percent of public school parents said they have heard about the new law. However, half said they were provided with information about how to become involved with a key element of the new system: the creation of the Local Control and Accountability Plan for setting a district’s spending priorities. Only 4 percent of parents said they became very involved, and 14 percent said they were somewhat involved with the LCAP.

After being read a brief description of the funding formula, large majorities of Californians (65 percent) and parents (73 percent) said they are at least somewhat confident that the additional money will be spent on low-income children and English learners, and three-quarters of those surveyed said they expect achievement would improve for those students as a result.

— Sylvia Mendez, recalling her mother's words on her first day at the white school in Santa Ana

by Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil | LA Times |

April 20, 2016 :: As a child, Sylvia Mendez thought her parents' court case was all about a playground.

That's because in 1944, the bus would drop her off at the white school with the "beautiful playground." But she would have to keep walking down the street to the Mexican school — two wooden shacks on a dirt lot next to a cow pasture.

"We went to court every day. I listened to what they were saying, but really I was dreaming about going back to that beautiful school," Mendez said.

What Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez were fighting for was racial equality.

The family won the landmark case Mendez, et al vs. Westminster School District of Orange County, et al — laying the groundwork for school desegregation throughout California and the nation.

Sylvia Mendez, now 79, is a fierce advocate of her parents' legacy, traveling the country to tell a story that weaves together historic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Earl Warren and events including the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

"This is the history of the United States, the history of California," she said. "Mendez isn't just about Mexicans. It's about everybody coming together. If you start fighting for justice, then people of all ethnicities will become involved."

In the 1940s, Orange County's public parks, swimming pools, restaurants and movie theaters all were segregated, said Gilbert Gonzalez, professor emeritus of Chicano/Latino studies at UC Irvine. Houses often had restricted covenants, stipulating that they could only be resold to whites. And so-called Mexican schools were designed to Americanize the students — speaking Spanish was prohibited — and to train boys for industrial work and agricultural labor and girls for housekeeping.

"We weren't taught how to read and write," Mendez said. "We were taught home economics, how to crochet and knit."

In 1930, a group of Mexican parents in San Diego County had sued the Lemon Grove School District for forcing their children into segregated schools. The parents won in the first successful school desegregation case in U.S. history. But the Lemon Grove Incident, as it came to be known, didn't carry legal precedent for the rest of California.

When the Mendez family moved to Westminster in 1944 — leasing a farm owned by a Japanese American family that had been put in an internment camp — the children were turned away from the nearby 17th Street School. Thinking there had been a mistake, Gonzalo Mendez went to talk with the principal.

"He said, 'I'm sorry, Mr. Mendez, we don't have Mexicans here,' " Sylvia Mendez recalled. "Then he went to the superintendent of schools for Orange County, and he said, 'Mr. Mendez, four cities, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Orange and Westminster, have built two schools, one specifically for Mexicans, and they have to go to that school. I do not have the power to change it.' "

The campus she and her siblings were forced to attend was terrible, Mendez said. The books were "hand-me-downs" and the desks were "all falling apart." An electric fence separated the school from a cow pasture.

After reading about a successful Riverside desegregation case that challenged the rules barring Mexicans from public parks, Gonzalo Mendez hired civil rights attorney David Marcus.

"Let's not do this just for your children. Let's do it for all the children," Sylvia recalled Marcus telling her father. Gonzalo Mendez drove Marcus around Orange County looking for other plaintiffs who could join him in a class-action suit. Four others got on board — Lorenzo Ramirez from Orange, Frank Palomino from Garden Grove and William Guzman and Thomas Estrada from Santa Ana.

The case, which argued that the four segregated school districts violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection, attracted attention outside Orange County. Thurgood Marshall, at the time the chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wrote an amicus brief in support of Mendez. The Japanese American Citizens League, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the American Jewish Congress and the American Civil Liberties Union lent their support.

In 1946, Mendez won.

Some schools in Orange County started to desegregate. In Westminster, Sylvia Mendez said, schools were integrated by placing all the older children in the Mexican school and the younger children in the white school. "The white people got so upset to see their children in that horrible school, so they went to the superintendent and they closed it down," she said.

A year later, the ruling was upheld in federal court and, within months, Gov. Earl Warren signed legislation to desegregate California's schools — becoming the first state in the country to do so.

Mendez vs. Westminster would have nationwide ramifications.

The NAACP, which called Mendez a "dry run for the future," used much of the same legal reasoning in 1954 in Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark case that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. Marshall argued the case before the Supreme Court, which by then included Chief Justice Warren, who wrote the unanimous decision that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Sylvia Mendez went on to graduate from Santa Ana College; she worked as a registered nurse for 33 years.

In 2000, a new high school in Santa Ana was named after the family — the Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez Fundamental Intermediate School. In 2007, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the case. And in 2011, Sylvia was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

"When I got it I couldn't stop crying, because I was thinking finally my mother and father are getting the thanks they deserve," Mendez said.

●●smf’s 2¢: It may have escaped the LA Times notice (not being a charter school and all) but in 2009 the Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School/Learning Center – a new LAUSD high school – was dedicated in Boyle Heights.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Tues. April 26, 2016 - 2:00 P.M. :: THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION – Agenda:

Thurs. April 28, 2016 – 10 A.M. :: APRIL MEETING OF THE BOND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE – Agenda:

*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: • 213-241-8333 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or the Superintendent: • 213-241-7000
...or your city councilperson, mayor, county supervisor, state legislator, 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. Volunteer in the classroom. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child - and ultimately: For all children.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE at

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

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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