Saturday, February 18, 2006

Yes. No. Wait and see.

4LAKids: Sunday, February 19, 2006
In This Issue:
 •  L.A.'S COSTLIEST SCHOOL: District to finance magnate's arts vision
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  READING TO KIDS: Read to some kids the second Saturday morning each month. Make a difference. Change some lives (including your own!).
 •  The Blueprint for Effective School Reform: MAKING SCHOOLS WORK � Get the Book @!
 •  THE BEST RESOURCE ON CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FUNDING ON THE WEB: The Sacramento Bee's series "Paying for Schools."
 •  FIVE CENTS MAKES SENSE FOR EDUCATION- Target one nickel from every federal tax dollar for Education.
There has been a blizzard of announcements the week past from the Mayor about taking over the school district and from Assemblyman Richman on breaking up LAUSD. I choose not to go there, but if you click on the link below you may.

In a telling moment on the State of How Things Are in LA and LAUSD, the four candidates for the vacant Board of Education seat were lined up in debate. A debate - quite unlike most - held before a student body of Virgil Middle School; true stakeholders in the outcome.

One of the students asked each candidate: "Yes or No; do you support mayoral takeover of the school district?"

All save Candidate Monica Garcia, endorsed earlier by the mayor, said no. Ms Garcia said she would have to wait until the Mayor unveils his plan, in April �after the election.

The student reminded her that it had been a yes or no question.

The election is March 7th. "Wait and see" is not on the ballot. �smf

Google News Search: LAUSD Takeover & Breakup

By Peter Schrag � Sacramento Bee Columnist

February 15, 2006 - The legal challenge to the California High School Exit Exam filed last week was almost as predictable as the rising of the sun. There was no way the state was going to deny diplomas to thousands of otherwise qualified students without facing a suit. But it was still a shocker.

The suit's named plaintiffs include several Richmond High School seniors. One, Liliana Valenzuela, has a grade point average of 3.84; the suit says she's 12th in a class of 413 students. Another, Laura Echavarria, has a GPA of 4.0.

According to the complaint, both took the English-Language Arts part of the test three times and failed it each time. In addition, the plaintiffs include eight or nine at other schools who had high averages and got praise from teachers, but couldn't pass either the English or math part of the test.

What's going on here? The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court by Arturo Gonzalez of the heavyweight law firm of Morrison & Foerster, demands that the state allow the students, plus thousands of others who have met all other formal requirements, to get their diplomas this spring without passing the test.

Part of the explanation is that many of the high grades came in English Language Development courses for immigrants and others with limited English skills. One of the plaintiffs, who also attends Richmond High and who is also a Mexican immigrant, has only been in the country since November 2004. Can a student who's been here just 14 months and has trouble with English really expect - and sue for - a high school diploma? The ELD courses may be important steps to English literacy, but they're not the equivalent of regular English classes. Understandably, the schools want to encourage students to stay in school.

But to allow them to believe that they're academic successes when they can't read and write at the 10th-grade level - which is where the test is pegged - is a fraud on students, parents and the society at large.

Gonzalez is right that the state, from the governor down, has acknowledged that schools serving disproportionately large numbers of poor and immigrant students, students who face the greatest hurdles, have fewer resources, inferior facilities and fewer qualified teachers. How, he asks, can the system then punish them for its own inadequacies? In 2004, when the governor settled Williams v. California, a suit based on those inadequacies, the state promised to provide better resources, but that process - getting enough books, repairing buildings, reducing multi-track programs in overcrowded buildings - is barely under way. You don't grow thousands of qualified teachers overnight.

As detailed in Bee reporter Laurel Rosenhall's insightful recent stories, many have been in class with endless strings of substitutes; many attend the worst performing schools in California. Some can't get the remedial help they need. After two or three failures, many are deeply depressed.

Gonzalez says that if "we lose this case, many more will give up and drop out. We'll start losing the class of 2007."

Yet a victory would eliminate one of the most important elements driving schools and the state to provide the resources that will allow students to meet high academic standards. The failure of students with high grades to pass the exit exam seems itself evidence of the flabby standards the state is trying to end. Maybe they should be suing their schools.

The Legislature approved a bill last fall by Assemblywoman Karen Bass that would have allowed students to get diplomas by fulfilling a yet-to-be-determined state-approved alternative performance assessment. The governor vetoed it.

The suit cites the bill as evidence of the Legislature's concern about the effects of the exam.

California is just one of two states -the other is Texas - that doesn't allow otherwise qualified seniors to substitute some other assessment for the exit exam. Gonzalez points out that private school students don't have to pass the test. One mother, said Gonzalez, unsuccessfully begged her priest to let her daughter finish in parochial school.

The situation isn't quite as dire as the suit suggests. Although tens of thousands of seniors hadn't passed one or another part of the test at the start of this academic year, many of Gonzalez's plaintiffs had another chance even as he was filing the suit last week. Others will have an opportunity next month. That's too late for most four-year college applications for next fall, but in time for graduation. The court could decide the suit is premature.

Years ago, Al Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, suggested that there be two diplomas, one for those who passed a tough exit exam, a lesser one for those who hadn't. They could then all cross the graduation platform, which is what many of them really want. Ultimately, that may be the way things will go.

▲ According to the Los Angeles County Office of Education 80% of the school districts in the county have figured out a way for students who have passed all the graduation requirements but not passed CAHSEE to participate in graduation ceremonies. LAUSD is not one of them. - smf


By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

February 13, 2006 � After four years of complaints from parents, teachers and administrators about President Bush's No Child Left Behind education reform plan, a bipartisan commission is being created to take a "hard, independent look" at the law's problems and its promises.
The Commission on No Child Left Behind, to be announced Tuesday, will travel the USA, holding public field hearings and roundtables, culminating in Washington, D.C., in September.

The commission will send recommendations to Congress in advance of NCLB's expected renewal in 2007.

Supported by the Aspen Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, the panel will be co-chaired by former Georgia governor Roy Barnes and former Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson.

The law's "ideas and motives were good," Thompson says, "but the way it's implemented right now leaves a lot to be desired."

Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2002, NCLB aims to raise the basic academic skills of public school children. A cornerstone of Bush's domestic agenda, it focuses on closing the "achievement gap" with low-income students. But critics, including the National Education Association, American Association of School Administrators and the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, say it relies too much on testing and punishes schools with even a few students whose skills don't rise steadily year by year.

Those groups and others also say NCLB imposes new requirements, such as expanded testing, without giving schools enough money, and it does little to help schools hire good teachers.

Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington non-profit that extensively has studied NCLB, says its stringent testing requirements for disabled students and English language learners "don't make a lot of sense" to teachers.

NCLB is a "a grab-bag of good provisions and troublesome provisions. I hope that they would find some way of improving the troublesome provisions to save the good intentions of the act."

Now in its fifth year, the law also has been applied unevenly by the federal government, according to a study released today by the Civil Rights Project.

State legislators in Virginia and Utah have recommended repealing NCLB or exempting states from requirements, but Thompson and Barnes say the commission will not consider such proposals.

"Education leaders in the nation agree that it's a good approach," says Barnes.

Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor, says NCLB "caused some rancor out in the hinterlands."

He wants to hear from those on both sides. "It's time for somebody to take a real hard, independent look and make some recommendations."

A list of commission members was not available Monday but is expected to include a teacher, a civil rights leader, a former urban schools administrator and a corporate CEO, among others.

Barnes says the commission won't focus on funding, which is a "purely political" question.

"That is not the scope of this commission. That's a discourse that needs to take place, but not here," he says.

Jennings says funding is important.

Bush has proposed $3.2 billion in education cuts in his 2007 budget, just as NCLB's testing provisions kick in.

Bush is "signaling that in his view, it's a matter of just demanding (improvement) and not helping to pay for it," Jennings says.

Saying it's "the right time" to study the law, he hopes the commission finds ways to improve it. "If they're perceived as just being a commission to whitewash the problems of the act, they're not going to amount to anything."


by Dan Davis for the University Daily Kansan

Friday, February 10, 2006 � Many problems face our president. Yet, the most pressing threat to our way of life is that which is posed to our educational system. This threat comes from our own Congress in the form of the No Child Left Behind Act. The time has come to remove this blight from our educational system.

The first abuse of this law is its demand of 100 percent compliance by all students to score at advanced levels on standardized testing. This means that English as a Second Language and special education students are expected to score at or above the national average. To illustrate the harm of this plank in the gallows that is the No Child Left Behind Act, imagine this:

You have just moved to Portugal. After two months of attending school there, you are given a test over the finer points of the Portuguese language. If you do not score 70 percent or greater on this test, your school will lose its funding.

Is this fair?

The next problem with this legislation is its lack of a standard measuring tool. Each state can choose its own test, but all must make the same progress on these random tests. Therefore, the states with easier tests succeed, while the states with higher standards cannot make the same percentage of progress. This fallacy within the legislation punishes higher achieving schools. This failure to make required progress will then lead to the consequences of not reaching Adequate Yearly Progress.

The punishments for not reaching A.Y.P. are ineffective because they do little or nothing to change many districts. After two years of not reaching A.Y.P., Title I schools � those schools with the poorest students � must allow students to go to other schools in the district. This is all well and good if there is another school in the district at that level, but the punishment will do nothing of value in districts with only one school at certain levels. This provision will drive up costs in several districts by forcing busing from one side of a district to another.

No longer can we expect our students and educators to slave and toil with the yoke of the No Child Left Behind Act upon their backs. The time has come to stand up and fight this burdensome legislation. Because of its ineffective punishments, poor measuring tools and harmful practices towards students who need a little extra help; the No Child Left Behind Act will indeed leave all children behind.


Harvard Civil Rights Project finds that the program suffers from unevenly applied standards.

by Gil Kaufman,

Feb 14, 2006 �A new Harvard University study finds that President Bush's 2001 No Child Left Behind education act might need a new name, perhaps something like Not As Many Children Left Behind � Except Some Who Are Underprivileged or Minorities or Live in States That Don't Want the Results to Make Them Look Bad.

The study from the Civil Rights Project at the university, titled, "The Unraveling of No Child Left Behind: How Negotiated Changes Transform the Law," found that the program designed to level the playing field for all students sometimes benefited white, middle-class children over minorities in poorer regions. The program suffers from unevenly applied standards based on changes demanded by unhappy states, according to author Gail Sunderman.

"It was intended to help improve the performance of minorities and lower-income students and narrow the achievement gap, but I don't think we have any evidence of that," Sunderman said. "What we found was that rather than address those flaws outright, the Department of Education has adopted a political strategy to try and quell political opposition to the law that is growing on the local level."

In light of figures that showed that only 50 percent of black and Hispanic students were graduating from high school, the act was intended to create national standards that would lift the numbers across the board. But Sunderman found that with the exception of Vermont, every state had asked for changes or somehow bargained to reduce the number of schools and/or districts given a failing rating. In the case of Washington state, more than 18 changes were requested to the existing law.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, children in all racial and demographic groups have to boost their scores (using pre-determined goals) on standardized math and English tests every year, or else their schools will face sanction. In the worst cases, schools may be shut down.

"Because every state can get its own combination of changes to the act, there is no longer any clear uniform standard governing the program," Sunderman said. That has led to situations where schools in mostly white districts are able to avoid the penalties placed on those in largely poor or minority districts by taking advantage of the more than two dozen rule changes the states have requested.

Sunderman said many of those changes came as a result of the upsurge in schools that were tagged as "needing improvement" under the act, including some that were previously considered to be top performers. During the first two years of the act, the administration strongly rejected any attempts to alter the parameters of measurement.

"There's been a lot of pushback from the states, with a lot of them adopting resolutions voicing dissatisfaction with the law," she said. "Even Utah, a staunchly Republican state, has argued against it and tried to have it eliminated. The states are in opposition to the expanded federal role in education and the lack of adequate funding for the program."

The first shift in policy came after the administration realized that the small tweaks to the rules it made in 2003 and 2004 regarding the counting of students with disabilities and limited English skills were not enough to satisfy angry states. In 2005, a new version of the act was unveiled amid increasing criticism, with some of the strongest opposition coming from Republican states.

As an example of the kind of uneven rules being applied across the country, Sunderman said in some cases rural Midwestern regions were given extensions on deadlines for teacher qualifications that were not available to poorer rural areas with larger minority populations in the South.

The report concludes that the changes have helped reduce, temporarily anyway, the number of schools identified as needing improvement, while not necessarily raising educational standards.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that one of the act's hallmarks, its requirement that schools with consistently failing grades serving mostly poor children offer their students either a new school or private tutoring, is going mostly unused.

In New York City's school system, the nation's largest, less than half of the 215,000 eligible students sought free tutoring for the school year that ended in June 2005, according to the Times. And even with those low numbers, the city's participation rate is better than the national average. Across the country, about 2 million students were eligible for tutoring in the year ending 2004 and only 226,000, less than 12 percent, received it.

New York city and state officials could not identify the single reason why the program has failed, but pointed to many factors. Among them: too little federal money allotted for tutors, poor advertising to parents, too much paperwork and a failure to penetrate the neighborhoods with the highest number of underprivileged, failing students.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education could not be reached for comment at press time.


Full Report (60 pages)


by Rob Capriccioso, from

Feb. 15 - In an effort to shed light on the hows and whys behind students� success at completing college, the U.S. Education Department has released a new report called �The Toolbox Revisited."

The longitudinal study, which its author calls a �data essay,� explores the high school class of 1992 as it moved from high school to higher education and compares its success, favorably, to the high school class of 1982 tracked in an earlier report, �Answers in the Tool Box.�

Both reports provide support for efforts to improve the quality of high school curriculums and the participation in those curriculums of larger (and more diverse) proportions of students. New data indicate that progress is occurring � the eight and a half year graduation rate for the 1992 cohort rose to 66 percent, from 60 percent for the 1982 cohort.

The report�s author, Clifford Adelman, a researcher with the department�s Office of Vocational and Adult Education, says that the 8.5-year span is the appropriate one to look at, since there have been big changes in enrollment patterns and student demographics in recent years. A much larger proportion of high school seniors of all race and ethnicity groups continued their education into college, while postsecondary attendance patterns among traditional-age students have become far more complex, with more with nearly 60 percent of undergraduates attending more than one institution, and 35 percent of this group crossing state lines in the process.

Students� use of community colleges is also a big area of change and growth. �One out of eight undergraduates based in four-year institutions utilize community colleges to fill in pieces of their curriculum, and another eight percent �swirl� back and forth between the four-year and two-year sectors,� according to the report.

Adelman says that the academic intensity of a student�s high school curriculum still counts more than anything else in his or her precollegiate history in providing momentum toward completing a bachelor�s degree, but many high schools fall short on that score. Latino students, for instance, are far less likely to attend high schools offering trigonometry than white or Asian students. And students from the lowest socioeconomic status quintile attend high schools that are much less likely to offer any math above Algebra 2 than students in the upper economic quintiles.

�If we are going to close gaps in preparation � and ultimately degree attainment � the provision of curriculum issue has to be addressed,� Adelman says in the report. �The highest level of mathematics reached in high school continues to be a key marker in precollegiate momentum, with the tipping point of momentum toward a bachelor�s degree now firmly above Algebra 2.�

But high school preparation is only part of the story, according to the report, which indicates that colleges, universities and community colleges should do a �great deal more� to interact with and inject themselves into a student�s early collegiate world, calling on them both to strengthen their institutional policies surrounding academic advising and course scheduling services.

Along those lines, the report says that in order to foster completion of college, advisers should target every first-time student to complete no less than 20 credits by the end of their first calendar year of enrollment.

�We saw the same consequences in the original Tool Box, though now we understand better that the chances of making up for anything less than 20 credits diminish rapidly in the second year,� says Adelman.

The report also indicates that �excessive no-penalty withdrawals and no-credit repeats appear to do irreparable damage to the chances of completing degrees.� Based on his research, Adelman says that institutions should �think very seriously about tightening up, with bonuses of increased access and lower time-to-degree.�

�More than incidental use of summer terms has proven to be a degree-completion lever with convincing fulcrum,� Adelman adds. �It�s part of the calendar-year frame in which students are increasingly participating. Four-year and community colleges can entice students into fuller use of summer terms with creative scheduling.�

While the U.S. Department of Education commissioned the report, it does not purport to agree with all of Adelman�s opinions. �The views expressed herein are those of the author,� according to the report, �and do not necessarily represent the positions or the policies of the U.S. Department of Education.�

Upon release of the report on Tuesday, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings appeared especially keen on the high school aspects of the research, which mesh with the Bush administration�s recent budget proposals. �Students who enter college should be ready for college-level work. And it�s the job of high schools and middle schools to prepare them for it,� she said, tying this message to President Bush�s proposed American Competitiveness Initiative, which is intended to support rigorous instruction in math, science and foreign languages in the early grades and more challenging course work in high school.

REPORT: The Toolbox Revisited � Paths to Degree Completion from High School Through College

►SCHOOLS FACE 'DEATH SPIRAL': Districts must choose between students' needs, teachers' benefits.

USA Today Editorial

Febraury 14, 2006 - Until last week, Los Angeles school officials had thought their unfunded health care obligation for retirees was $5 billion. Then they scrubbed the numbers. The new estimate: $10 billion. That's bad news for taxpayers who will foot the bill and for children whose education will be limited by the cost.

At least Los Angeles' school leaders are trying to calculate their future debts. Most school districts have no idea what they owe retired or soon-to-retire teachers. Instead, nearly all plod along with annual budgets, signing labor agreements that ignore exploding long-term liabilities.

Thanks to generous contracts negotiated years ago, when health care costs were largely an afterthought, tens of thousands of teachers about to retire have been promised lifetime benefits for themselves and spouses, something available to very few of the taxpayers who pay the cost.

As health care costs soar, these contracts represent financial time bombs. They will leave schools with less money to hire teachers, less money for raises � less money for everything. The health care squeeze is �the single most important issue facing districts nationwide,� Tom Henry, a financial adviser to California schools, told USA TODAY.

New federal accounting rules are forcing them to do just that � ensuring that thousands of communities will receive the kind of news Los Angeles is getting.

School boards will pretend they are shocked: Who knew? The teachers' unions will claim they did nothing wrong. Politicians and taxpayers will demand accountability.

Unless or until there's a national solution to soaring health care costs (don't hold your breath), maintaining high quality of schools will involve taxpayers digging deeper, teachers being willing to make concessions, or possibly districts following the lead of companies that have filed for bankruptcy protection to shed pension obligations.

The teachers argue that in many cases, health care deals were offered in lieu of salary increases. They have a point, but the teachers are not blameless. Many contracts were negotiated with school boards elected with union backing.

In some school districts, teachers might have to start or increase medical co-pays. In others, they'll have to lose their district-provided coverage when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

Doing nothing threatens to send many school districts into what Henry describes as �a death spiral.� Already, health care benefits are smacking against budgets. Los Angeles sets aside $1,000 of its $5,500-per-student budget to cover health care costs for current and retired teachers. To cover the newly estimated $10 billion liability would require $2,087 per student.

The health care situation facing school systems mirrors the squeeze facing public and private employers more generally, as well as the financial strains on Social Security and Medicare as the baby boomers retire.

In all these cases, the sooner action is taken to bring promised benefits in line with revenue, the less painful the solution will have to be. That's a lesson schools can teach the rest of the nation.



By Juliet Williams, Associated Press Writer

Feb 15, 2006 - SACRAMENTO (AP) -- A moderate salary raise for new teachers boosts the chances they'll stay in the profession, but mentoring programs and training are even more effective, according to a new report.

Providing just $4,400 more in annual pay increases the chances an elementary teacher would stay by 17 percent, according to the report released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Teachers who were part of the state's Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program were 26 percent more likely to stay in teaching, according to the study, "Retention of New Teachers in California." The program costs the state about $3,370 per teacher.

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which co-sponsors the beginning teacher program, has found similar results, said its director, Mike McKibbon.

"It makes an enormous difference in setting up the first two years as place to learn and grow and get better, rather than the way we used to do it, which was kind of a rite of passage," McKibbon said.

Still, money plays a role. The report said teachers in better-paid districts were less likely to leave their jobs or transfer to another district.

The policy institute said nearly a quarter of new hires in California leave the profession within five years, a rate that will make it even harder to fill an anticipated teacher shortage of 100,000 in the next decade.

Unless the state does something to reduce the departures, about one-fourth of new hires will simply be replacing other recently hired teachers who have left public schools. That will leave fewer experienced, highly qualified teachers, the report says.

The report's authors used data that tracked teachers who earned their California teaching certification during the 1990s.

The support program for beginning teachers received about $88 million in state funding this year and has been supported by Democrats and Republicans, McKibbon said.

"To their credit, they've seen beginning teachers as a place for investment," he said.

Other programs to integrate teachers also have shown promise, such as internships in hard-to-staff schools and a program that moves teachers' aides into programs where they can earn a teaching credential. That program has about 2,500 students this year, McKibbon said.

Sen. Jack Scott, D-Altadena, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he was not surprised that the study found mentoring and tutoring programs to be effective.

"I'm convinced that teachers generally are not in the profession for money, and I think the more strengthening we can do, the more mentoring from seasoned teachers, the better," Scott said.

Earlier this month, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said he will sponsor legislation to spend $53 million for teacher coaches in the state's lowest-performing schools.

He also encouraged financial incentives to recruit teachers to work in those schools and said the state should reopen teacher-recruitment centers that were closed during budget cuts several years ago.

▲On the Net:
�Public Policy Institute of California:
�Commission on Teacher Credentialing:

L.A.'S COSTLIEST SCHOOL: District to finance magnate's arts vision
L.A.'S COSTLIEST SCHOOL: District to finance magnate's arts vision

By Rachel Uranga, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

A lavish performing-arts high school backed by billionaire Eli Broad would cost $172 million to build - double the original estimate and even more expensive than the Belmont Learning Center structure, the nation's costliest high school, says a new construction report.

Costs of the labor and materials have skyrocketed since the project, three years behind schedule, was proposed for the site of the Los Angeles Unified School District's old headquarters at 450 N. Grand Ave.

Officials defended the soaring price tag, which would total $208 million with land and site-preparation costs, saying they would have to spend even more to downsize the project or significantly change plans for the 1,700-student school, originally planned for completion in 2005.

"Nobody is happy that it's costing millions more than the last estimate, but I don't see any other way to go," said Scott Folsom, vice chairman of the citizens bond oversight committee that reviews the LAUSD's construction spending. "Occasionally public construction is to build the great, grand building - and this is it."

With completion now expected in 2008, the school will include a theater, a free-standing library and a tower at the gateway to a $1.5 billion Grand Avenue Civic Center development championed by Broad.

According to the new figures, the cost of constructing the arts campus would exceed the $132 million in building costs for the Belmont Learning Center, a badly bungled project downtown whose total price tag reached $300 million, which would make it the nation's costliest high school.

LAUSD officials originally planned to spend $54 million to convert their former administration building into a traditional high school to help relieve crowded conditions at other downtown campuses.

But Broad intervened, lobbying hard for a performing-arts school in the entertainment capital of the world. He was heavily involved in hiring Wolf Brix and Coop Himmelblau, renowned Vienna architects, to create a landmark campus.

In 2002, Broad committed $1.9 million for the school's operational budget. And last year, after being approached by Superintendent Roy Romer and former board member Jose Huizar, he contributed $3.1 million to ensure the construction of a 150-foot tower that serves no functional purpose but is key to the concrete building's stark design.

Since pledging the $5 million, Broad has not been approached for additional funding, said Karen Denne, a spokeswoman for the Broad Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education.

Meanwhile, the price tag kept rising - first to $81 million, then to $172 million, plus $36 million to prepare the site.

By comparison, the district plans to spend a total of $270 million to build three schools on the site of the former Ambassador Hotel.

The performing-arts campus is included in the district's $19 billion school-construction program, proposed to ease overcrowding and put all of the district's 775,000 students on a traditional calendar.

While some expressed concern that bond money would have to be allocated from other projects, others say the downtown school can be completed without affecting other plans.

"Whenever school costs go up dramatically like this, there is a lot of politics going on, and it leaves me a bit uncomfortable," said LAUSD board member Julie Korenstein, who supported converting the former headquarters into a campus.

"It causes me some alarm when you spend so much money on one school. Which ones do you leave off your list?"

However, LAUSD Facilities Director Jim McConnell said the district has created a $120 million contingency fund that will cover rising construction costs.

"We are putting nothing at risk," McConnell said. "This is the time to plant the flag for the school. It's the right time, the right school, ... and I think we've got to be unabashedly supportive."

But Tom Rubin, a consultant to the bond oversight committee, said he has become increasingly concerned about the cost overruns on school-construction projects.

"We have a lot more schools to build, and there has to be attention paid to the schools to come," he said. While high-profile projects have been scrutinized, many of the smaller schools have fallen below the radar.

But some officials say the debate about the cost of the performing-arts project obscures its prominence in a desperately needy area.

"It will complete Grand Avenue as the center for the arts in Los Angeles," said the school board president, Marlene Canter. "This community has suffered for far too long with severe overcrowding. They want this school."

The community itself is frustrated with delays in building schools downtown - first Belmont and now the performing-arts center.

"I am angry that people think that this community does not deserve a school of this caliber," said Richard Alonzo, local superintendent of the downtown and surrounding region. "If Mr. Broad were to offer any kind of support of this nature for a public school anywhere else in the city, people would embrace it."

▲ First: This project, which is expensive, fits within the school construction budget approved by the voters. The money is there � it fits within the overall program contingency. That cannot be said for the $5 billion unfunded pension and benefits obligation identified in the 'Death Spiral' story above.

I have said much already on this subject, but the Daily News may not have been listening. The role of oversight, defined in the California Constitution and the Bond Oversight Committee's Charter and Memorandum of Understanding is not of approval or control of the purse strings. It is to Review, Advise and Verify.

� REVIEW scheduling, budgeting, planning and construction of projects to be funded by the bond measure.
� Based on such review, the Committee will ADVISE the Board and public of their findings relative to scheduling, budgeting, planning and construction.
� VERIFY that work is completed and bond funds are expended in accordance with the bond measure.

The "scope creep" (if you will) of High School No. 9 from $56 million high School to the currently budgeted $117 million Visual & Performing Arts High School was approved by the Board of Education in August 2005 and ratified by the voters in Measure K on Nov 5, 2002. The decision to change architects from Martin to Coop Himmelb(l)au was questioned by the Oversight Committee when it was done; the Board approved over our objection � that is their right as elected officials.

The escalation in costs after the hiring of the architect has been beyond the Oversight Committee's purview. � Plan approval delays in Sacramento. � Unforeseen environmental hazards on a site the district has owned and occupied for decades (welcome to LA!). � And cost escalation and shortage of materials and labor triggered by the delay: Asian Tsunami, Katrina rebuilding, Iraqi War and Chinese Olympic Construction. Believe me, if the BOC had foreknowledge, oversight and control over those things it would have gone differently!

I have problems with the way the Visual and Peforming Arts High School project was presented and sold to the school district and the public, not with Eli Broad's vision. I have problems with the flavor of philanthropy practiced behind closed doors like a back room deal. I would have preferred Mr. Broad had come before the Board and the public and said: "I have a vision for a great school that combines arts and education for the schoolchildren of Los Angeles and here is a bunch o' money to help us all get there!' It didn't happen that way. But it's not too late!

Los Angeles has a history of building architecturally significant schools. The soaring gothic towers of Marshall High School and the late lamented LA High. The streamline moderne of Hollywood and Venice High Schools. In the post-WWII building program Richard Neutra designed cutting edge schools for LAUSD that shifted the global paradigm in school design in schools like Kester Elementary and Emerson Middle School.

In public architecture societies celebrate themselves; schools are the buildings where we shape young minds and build our own future. An important building housing the Los Angeles High School for the Visual and Performing Arts says how important the arts are to us as a society and a city and to our future. It says how important we think the young people in the school are �and how important their work is. �smf

HS#9: The Architect's Vision

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
� Tuesday Feb 21, 2006
Valley Region Hesby Span K-8: Construction Update Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Encino Elementary School
16941 Addison St.
Encino, CA 91316

� Wednesday Feb 22, 2006
Cahuenga New Elementary School #1
Project Update Meeting/Introduce the Principal
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Hollywood - Wilshire YMCA
249 S. Oxford Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004

� Wednesday Feb 22, 2006
South Region Elementary School #3: Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) Hearing
Please join us at this public hearing to discuss the findings of the Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA). The PEA determines if an environmental clean up action is necessary to ensure the health and safety of our children. We will be collecting your comments and questions regarding the PEA for this project.
6:00 p.m.
Ellen Ochoa Learning Center
5027 Live Oak St.
Cudahy, CA 90201

� Wednesday Feb 22, 2006
South Region High School #2: CEQA Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Meeting
LAUSD has completed a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this new school project. This report evaluates the potential impacts the project may have on the surrounding area.
6:00 p.m.
Edison Middle School
6500 Hooper Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90001

� Thursday Feb 23, 2006
Central Los Angeles High School #11 (aka Vista Hermosa)
Pre-Construction/Project Update Community Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Plasencia Elementary School
1321 Cortez Street
Los Angeles, CA 90026

� Thursday Feb 23, 2006
East Valley Area High School #1B: Design & Construction Update Community Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Lankershim Elementary School
5250 Bakman Avenue
North Hollywood, CA 91601

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213.633.7493
Phone: 213.633.7616


What can YOU do?
� E-mail, call or write your school board member: � 213-241-6387
Vacant Seat | Election March 7th | VOTE! � 213-241-6180 � 213-241-6388 � 213-241-6382 � 213-241-6385 � 213-241-6386 � 213-241-6383
...or your city councilperson, mayor, assemblyperson, state senator, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think!
Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
� Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
� Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
� Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
� Vote.

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

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
� 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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