Sunday, March 26, 2006

Another brick in the wall

4LAKids: Sunday, March 26, 2006
In This Issue:
 •  UC STUDY SEES 'HUGE BARRIERS' TO COLLEGE: It finds high schools deficient on counselors, course work.
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

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.
In college I was trained for a career in political science � this served me well when I became an unwitting cog in the show biz dream machine. However Hollywood politics is nothing compared to the political dynamic I later found in public education. There is no political microclimate like a modern urban elementary school �where the interests of parents, children, teachers, central office, community and principal meet everyone else's plans, interests, curricula and agenda � with nothing less than the future in play!

The lessons unlearned or forgotten from the principal's office, staffroom, parent center and classroom play out on a larger scale in the hallways, cubicles, conference rooms and the board room at school district HQ. Mix well with union politics and a large dose of big-city-meets-small-town government � stir in billions of dollars (when billions aren't nearly enough!) � shake with a hefty dash of ambition and ego � and you have the adventure we living out in LAUSD.

OUR MAYOR PLANS TO SORT THIS WHOLE SORRY MESS OUT. Never mind that there are other sorry messes on his plate. Never mind that other mayors in dissimilar cities but with similar visions � mayors who actually had discretionary funds to infuse into schools � have not been successful in anything other than taking over the schools.

Taking over schools is politics, improving performance is education.

The data is there: Test scores, accountability, drop-out rates and outcomes hover at unacceptable before and after mayoral takeover in New York and Chicago.

The UC/ACCORD & UCLA IDEA Study [UC Study, below] reports below that schools in California are failing across the board in preparing kids for higher Ed. The mayor is sure to add this report to his litany of failure. So will Senator Romero, Assemblyman Richman and the LA Times.

But drill down; take a look into the survey. Take a representative Assembly District � the 43rd. I pick the 43rd because it includes LAUSD, Glendale and Burbank Schools. I pick the 43rd because my child goes to a school in it � I said 'representative', I didn't say 'random'!

� Hoover High in Glendale graduated 80% of year 2000 9th graders in 2004. This is outstanding!
� Marshall High School in LAUSD graduated 69% of year 2000 9th graders in 2004. Not as good? Except that 68% of those year 2000 Marshall 9th graders graduate having met the A-G requirements, they took and passed the classes and are prepared and qualified for admission to CSU and UC. Only 21% of Hoover Grads met that standard.

I bring this up because, criticism from the mayor, senator and newspaper editorial boards notwithstanding, LAUSD is five years into a reform program that is already demonstrating progress. We have a long way to go �but we have come a long way. Marshall High School, overcrowded, year-round-calendar, 87% minority/73% Free and Reduced Lunch is representative-if-not-typical � but it is exemplary of what LAUSD can, is and must be doing!

Test scores throughout LAUSD are improving, across the board. LAUSD has made a commitment to require that all LAUSD High School Grads meet the A-G requirements described above. And Jeannie Oakes � the author of the UCLA IDEA study � is a member (along with a lot of other of the 'right folks') of the LAUSD A-G task force!

Mayor, leave the kids alone.


►VILLARAIGOSA, OTHER MAYORS DISCUSS L.A. UNIFIED TAKEOVER: He seeks advice from the leaders of Carson, South Gate and other cities served by the district.

By Duke Helfand, LA Times Staff Writer

March 24, 2006 � Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and leaders from several neighboring cities met at City Hall on Thursday to strategize about a mayoral takeover of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Villaraigosa pledged to give his counterparts from Carson, South Gate, San Fernando and other cities served by L.A. Unified a hand in drafting legislation that would open the door to him controlling the schools.

The district's 727,000 students come from Los Angeles and 26 smaller cities, whose leaders want a role in a possible Villaraigosa-led school system.

Villaraigosa said that any takeover plan must have a "voice that includes proportionality and decentralization."

The Los Angeles mayor and the other officials also echoed a call for an independent "financial and performance" audit of the school system.

City Controller Laura Chick has sought to audit L.A. Unified, a move district leaders call unnecessary.

The mayors and council members of the neighboring cities said their meeting with Villaraigosa was productive, even though it did not yield specific power-sharing proposals.

"We're waking up to the fact that the bureaucracy has to be pared down," said Carson Mayor Jim Dear, who works as an L.A. Unified teacher part time.

Councilman George Cole of Bell said his city and others southeast of Los Angeles share a common perception of neglect at the hands of the school system. He hoped the budding collaboration with Los Angeles would change that.

"This meeting was a positive first step to repair a system that is badly broken," Cole said.

Los Angeles schools Supt. Roy Romer defended the school system, saying it has accomplished far more than critics recognize. Among other things, he said, the district has built new schools, introduced full-day kindergarten classes and raised elementary school test scores.

"There are massive changes occurring in this district," Romer said. "It is not complacent. It is not status quo. It is not overloaded with bureaucracy. We're remaking the face of Los Angeles. And it's not [the mayor's] structure that is doing it. It is our structure."

Romer said that an outside audit would duplicate several independent reviews already underway. Two existing audits, he noted, are looking at district finances, and a third is examining the district's organization.

Romer threw an olive branch to the officials from the 26 cities, saying he would meet with them and seek their ideas on how to make the district as transparent as possible.

►ANTONIO GETS SCHOOLED: The mayor�s vision of L.A. schools encounters reality
by David Zahniser � LA Weekly

March 22, 2006 - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa didn�t drop any huge policy bombshells during his three-day Mayoral Takeover tour of New York City�s public-education system. There was a friendly meeting with a teachers� union representative, a tour of a high-achieving school and the obligatory photo ops with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who now runs his city�s school system.

Each leg of the tour seemed to reinforce Villaraigosa�s belief in his No. 1 policy objective � taking over the Los Angeles Unified School District, a sprawling bureaucracy that encompasses more than two dozen cities stretching from the San Fernando Valley to South Gate.

The problem was, Villaraigosa had upstaged himself days earlier by announcing � or letting slip, depending on whom you ask � that he planned to keep the elected school board after months of talk about appointing them.

Villaraigosa, who first told a state legislative panel last June that he wanted to handpick each of the board�s seven members, suddenly had a new, more nuanced message: Appointing school-board members would deny the voting rights of the 26 other cities in the school district � and, by the way, the idea wasn�t polling so well, either.

Despite the rewritten plot, the mayor managed to stick to the outlines of his original script. He still promised to diminish the school board�s power, even if its members are chosen by the electorate. And he still wants the power to hire and fire the superintendent, as well as oversight of the district�s $6.8 billion operating budget, and maybe even some decisions on the curriculum.

�It�s about saying that one person should be in charge, so that when things go right or wrong, you have one person to blame,� Villaraigosa told KCRW�s Which Way L.A., shortly before flying back to Los Angeles. �Right now you have seven people that point the finger at one another and don�t take responsibility for the fact that half the kids are dropping out of school.�

The irony is, the six school-board members � M�nica Garc�a won�t be installed until after the June 6 runoff � have been largely united in their opposition to the mayoral takeover, and in defending the district�s slow but steady progress in raising test scores and building schools. Almost in concert, board members quickly dissected Villaraigosa�s latest school proposal, saying that it would allow some educational decisions to be dictated by City Hall and others left to L.A. Unified.

School-board member Mike Lansing said such a concept would disperse responsibility, not focus it.

�To me, it would almost be like... the school board picking the police chief, the director of the DWP, the head of Rec and Parks and the rest,� said Lansing, who represents communities on the southern end of the district. �That doesn�t make sense. It wouldn�t hold anybody accountable. We would blame them for making bad selections [of L.A. Unified staff], and they would blame us for making bad decisions.�

The response was even harsher from the Los Angeles Times, which has pressed its editorial foot on the accelerator in the drive toward a mayoral takeover. Even before Friday�s policy shift, Villaraigosa had a somewhat complicated relationship with the city�s largest newspaper, vowing at various moments not to let the paper bully him on the issue of school reform. By the time Villaraigosa showed up for his first appointment in New York City, the newspaper had lobbed its own grenade � an editorial demanding that he go all the way on a mayoral takeover or drop the issue entirely. [A is for Accountability � next]

At regular intervals, the debate has been propelled forward by the two public pronouncements from Villaraigosa � first during his mayoral campaign, when he said he wanted �ultimate control� of the district, and again in June, when he told a state legislative hearing headed by L.A.�s Democratic state Senator Gloria Romero that he wanted the power to select the school board. Those statements have driven the mayor�s policy agenda and dominated the campaign of the March 7 school-board election, where the candidate endorsed by Villaraigosa � M�nica Garc�a � garnered 47.3 percent of the vote.

Villaraigosa actually sped up his takeover bid earlier this year, saying he�d decided to seek control more quickly after viewing a poll from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor that showed him with an 82 percent approval rating. Last week, Villaraigosa said his polling apparatus had produced another key finding: Voters actually like the idea of electing their school-board members � even though, in practice, few of them show up at the polls to do so.

Los Angeles Councilman Alex Padilla, who assembled a 30-member commission to change the governance of L.A. Unified, said he fears the debate over the school district is becoming too dominated by Villaraigosa, whose larger-than-life media presence dramatically increased the civic interest in education. Skeptics also point out that Villaraigosa, who is being touted as a candidate for governor in 2010 or possibly even a vice presidential nominee in 2008, has not committed to a full eight years as mayor and could easily be gone within two years after a mayoral takeover.

�Let�s not confuse mayoral control with Antonio control,� Padilla told the council on Tuesday. �If the city and the school district move in the direction of mayoral control, that�s a systemic change... and would we be as excited about this proposal if it was Mayor Hahn, if it was Mayor Riordan?�

Villaraigosa, For His Part, argued that he is the one with the urgency to improve the district. To hammer his point home, the mayor pointed out that Los Angeles provides the district with 88 percent of its students. Representatives of the 26 other cities that make up L.A. Unified counter that they make up one-fifth of the district�s residents. And they sent strong hints to the mayor that he shouldn�t enhance his powers at the expense of an elected school board.

�We just don�t want to be run over,� said West Hollywood Councilman Jeffrey Prang.

Lost in the shuffle, yet again, is the 30-member Commission on LAUSD Governance, which has been studying such proposals as expanding the size of the school board and raising the annual salaries of school-board members beyond the paltry $24,000 they currently receive. Councilman Jose Huizar � a former school-board member himself � said last week that the commission is evenly divided, with one-third supporting mayoral control, one-third supporting a full-time school board and one-third seeking a massive decentralization of the district.

Villaraigosa will send his in-house attorney, Thomas Saenz, to the commission to lay out the mayor�s current views on school governance. That could be just the ticket to finally lure television and print reporters who have missed the commission�s eight months of deliberations but found a way to travel with Villaraigosa to New York.

The mayor won�t be there, however. On Thursday, he will make his own pitch to the mayors of the 26 other cities that belong to the school district. If nothing else, the debate has prompted Prang to propose one microscopic reform � dropping �Los Angeles� from the name of the school district.

�If we called it �Metropolitan Unified,� people would know it�s not tied to one city or another,� he said.


Editorial - from the Los Angeles Times

March 20, 2006 - Wn mayors take over complex urban school districts, suddenly there is one clear line of authority � and accountability. That's one of the best reasons to advocate mayoral control for the schools in Los Angeles, where parents complain that no one listens to their concerns, voters are unsure who is responsible for the schools' shortcomings and decision-making gets stalled in endless board discussion and micromanagement.

The model for mayoral control advocated Friday by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, though, threatens to muddle things further, not clear them up.

The mayor proposed a kind of split-powers arrangement with the school board. The elected board would continue but with more narrowly defined responsibilities, which the mayor has not yet specified. The mayor would be able to hire and fire the superintendent and would oversee other school matters, such as the district's budget.

So who's really in charge? Even the superintendent is bound to be uncertain on that question, and parents and the public will be downright befuddled.

Moreover, the board will not give up powers easily. Even if its authority were officially limited, board members would seek as much involvement as possible. They didn't run for public office to take care of housekeeping chores, and their constituents didn't elect them to be weak players. The greater the board's power, though, the lesser the mayor's.

Unlike mayors who run schools in other cities, such as New York or Chicago, Villaraigosa faces a complicated legal landscape. The district's strange boundaries, spilling over city lines into more than two dozen other municipalities, create barriers to change. Why should the voters of, say, Carson, which has about 17,000 students in the district, cede control to a mayor they did not elect? The mayor obviously sees keeping an elected board � which gives people throughout the district a chance to vote, as they do now � as the way around this dilemma.

It's a noble attempt, but it's practically unworkable. It may be no more realistic to suggest that the mayor ask the state to give him full administrative authority and reduce the board to an advisory role. Yet that's the way the governance system works in other cities with mayoral control: There is one person clearly in charge, with one clear mission. Mistakes are still made, of course. But they can generally be corrected more quickly.

Under the partial-control model that Villaraigosa has suggested, it's easy to imagine the board pointing to the mayor as the source of problems, while the mayor complains that his plans are being undermined by the board. Parents and lobbying groups will ask the board members they elected for help if the mayor denies their requests (and will ask the mayor if ignored by the board). As the district seeks a replacement for retiring schools Supt. Roy Romer, candidates would undoubtedly size up a confused situation like this and say: No thanks.

Villaraigosa is in New York today to see how strong mayoral control works. The best lesson he could learn from Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Go for full charge of the schools � or none at all.

▲LETTERS TO THE LA TIMES: Mayoral control of L.A. school district

� The mayor wants to control the Los Angeles Unified School District, but he has yet to spell out in detail what he plans to actually do with such power. The issues facing the classroom � the place where education actually happens � are enormous, but this only skims the surface of key concerns. It doesn't touch on the bigger issues that affect education outside the classroom, such as poverty, crime, lack of parental support and so forth. It's these issues that the mayor needs to focus on; that's where he could make a difference. That's what he was elected for and why I (to my chagrin) voted for him.

Phil Brimble
Los Angeles

� The Times is right on point in its analysis of school governance needs for the Los Angeles Unified School District. A key purpose of mayoral control is streamlined accountability: a single entity responsible for boosting the academic success of 741,000 schoolchildren.

L.A. Unified desperately needs leadership that instills confidence and consistency, not further confusion. Any hybrid leadership scheme would only exacerbate the tangled octopus of school governance wherein everyone points fingers and no one takes responsibility. Leaders cannot straddle the fence on this one. It's all or nothing.

Gloria Romero
State Senate Majority Leader
(D-Los Angeles)

� Mayoral control, New York and Chicago have utilized the coaching model in schools. Taxpayers in Los Angeles probably don't know that L.A. Unified has had the coaching model in place at the elementary level for seven years. At my tiny school of 300 students, we have one principal, two assistant principals, two half-time literacy coaches, a half-time math coach and a coordinator � seven administrators to oversee a staff of 18 teachers. We have seven highly paid administrators who never teach but who spend the day pretending to be experts. The coaching model is a fantastic waste of money.

Why not hire qualified teachers and expect them to teach? Is there a shortage? Why not let the experts fill the gap and teach? They can model their expertise instead of pulling teachers out of classrooms to tell them how to teach.

Will Olliff
Richland Avenue Elementary
School, Culver City

� The mayor's plan is not the answer. Giving the mayor total control over the district's billion-dollar budget and the appointment of the people to run its daily operation, choose its curriculum and chart its future is too much power to give one man. Besides, how long will he be the mayor � three more years? What happens when his political ambitions take him elsewhere? Villaraigosa may be an honest, hardworking man, but will the next mayor have our children's best interests at heart?

Tom Iannucci
Los Angeles

� smf piles on: The LA Times' dueling Op-Ed Page format [The editorial board on the left(!) everyone else on the right(!!)] has never seemed more polarized than on this issue �witness the following from Saturday's 'Op' ...and Stern is a "pro-voucher" reformer, not a theoretician I often agree with!


by Sol Stern, Editor of City Journal

Residents of Los Angeles and other cities in the L.A. Unified School District are understandably frustrated by the sorry state of their public schools. But before they turn over control of the school system lock, stock and barrel to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, they ought to consider the New York City experience with mayoral control. It's not quite as rosy as Villaraigosa would have you believe. [article continues - see link below]

►Original City Journal Article: CITY�S PUPILS GET MORE HYPE THAN HOPE | Test scores show little payoff for mayoral control.


UC STUDY SEES 'HUGE BARRIERS' TO COLLEGE: It finds high schools deficient on counselors, course work.

by Eric Stern � Sacramento Bee Staff Writer

March 23, 2006 - High schools statewide are not providing enough counselors or college preparatory courses to adequately prepare students for four-year universities, according to a University of California report issued Wednesday.

"These aren't just speed bumps. These are huge barriers on the pathway to college," said Jeannie Oakes, director of UCLA's Institute for Democracy Education and Access and author of the College Educational Opportunity Report.

California ranks 37th in the nation in a count of students who receive bachelor's degrees within six years of completing high school, Oakes said.

Researchers at UCLA and the UC All Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity used the study to call for a boost in education spending, although increases in K-12 state spending are largely restricted by funding formulas. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed spending $40 billion, or about one third of the state budget, on K-12 schools next year.

"So many students begin high school saying they want to go to college," Oakes said. But the decision is often taken away from them because of lack of guidance or insufficient course offerings, she said.

"There are not the opportunities there to pursue their own dreams," Oakes said in a conference call Wednesday with reporters.

The study shows that California has the worst counselor-to-student ratio in the country - one counselor for every 790 students, or almost three times the national average. Teacher-student ratios also are higher in California, the study says.

Researchers also said more than a quarter of California high schools assign improperly trained teachers to college prep courses, particularly math classes.

A more rigorous curriculum is appropriate for all students, even those not college-bound, Oakes said. But for those attending a state university, "many students show up at the door with the paper qualifications but aren't prepared to do the work," she said.

One in eight schools in California faces all three "roadblocks" - limited access to counselors, lack of college prep courses and ill-trained teachers, said John Rogers, associate director of the UCLA institute involved in the study.

Those problems are four times more likely to occur in high schools serving minorities, the poor and immigrants still earning English, Rogers said. The study did not identify those schools.

College officials have already taken notice with outreach programs to steer low-income and first-time college-bound students toward the UC and California State University schools. But they are fighting a proposed $7 million state budget cut to keep those programs intact.

Community colleges also are trying to help struggling students catch up. The Sacramento-area Los Rios Community College District began a tutoring and intensive counseling program this year for "at-risk" college students in the 18-20 age group.

"They have huge barriers to overcome and they're not prepared for college," said Brice Harris, the Los Rios chancellor.

UCLA I.D.E.A. 2006 College Educational Opportunity Report


San Jose Mercury News Editorial

The clock is down to the last tick for tens of thousands of high school seniors in California. Wednesday was their final, and, for many, agonizing chance to pass the high school exit exam in time for a diploma this spring.

Their struggles have created a quandary for their school boards. Trustees must decide what, if anything, districts should do for students who fail the exit exam but have enough credits to graduate. The state says they won't get a diploma, but do they deserve something else?

Milpitas Unified says yes. Trustees will award a certificate of completion, because ``these students deserve a public celebration that recognizes the significance of their achievement.''

The district next door, East Side Union High School, says students who fail the exit exam will be excluded from all graduation activities and will get no ``diploma lite.'' Each of them will receive an individualized plan detailing their options to pass the exam: summer school, adult-education remedial courses or, if they choose, an extra year of high school.

East Side Union's message is blunt and firm: Students should take the exit exam seriously, because life's doors will close for them if they don't. But a more subtle policy, like what Sunnyvale's Fremont Union High School District has adopted and San Jose Unified trustees will consider tonight, might be the wiser one.

Some Fremont Union students with credits to graduate will get a certificate of completion and walk at graduation, but only after going through some hoops. They must have taken the exit exam several times, and have taken an online or after-school remedial program. They must meet face to face with an administrator who will explain that a certificate of completion technically is worthless.

Under San Jose Unified's proposed policy, students with enough credits to graduate also must have taken Saturday or after-school exit-exam prep classes. If they take a summer class and pass the exit exam, they can then swap a certificate of completion for a diploma.

The exit exams tests 10th-grade English skills and math through beginning algebra. Students must get 55 percent of the questions right.

Although the state is projecting that 10 percent of seniors won't pass it, many of these students won't have the credits to graduate anyway. The number of students for whom the exit exam will be the only barrier to a diploma is smaller: an estimated 60 students, or 3 percent of the class of 2006 in San Jose Unified. (Special-education students are not required to pass the exam under a one-year state exemption.)

The proportion will be greater in East Side Union, which is projecting that 339 students with enough credits -- 6.5 percent of seniors -- won't pass the exit exam. But that's still smaller than the 484 seniors who have passed the exam but lack credits.

More than half of those who haven't passed the exam are students still learning to speak English. This week, Mercury News reporters Luis Zaragoza and Becky Bartindale profiled some of the struggles: the recent Philippine immigrant at San Jose High who gets A's and B's but can't pass the English section; the math-phobic girl from Fremont whose parents have spent thousands of dollars on math tutors.

Those stories are heart-rending. And yet, by forcing students to focus on skills they lack, the exam has had a powerful impact.

The overriding question is how best to motivate students to take the exit exam seriously. Will East Side Union's hard-and-fast policy scare kids straight or lead some to give up early and drop out? Would allowing seniors who haven't passed to party with their peers and walk on stage send a conflicting message?

It's too early to tell. But districts can learn from each other, and they should be willing to alter their policies next year, based on what they find.

▲smf notes: According to The Los Angeles County Office of Education about 90% of LA county school districts have addressed the problem of those students who meet all graduation requirements yet fail the CAHSEE, usually by granting Certificates of Completion and allowing students to participate in graduation ceremonies. LAUSD is not among them.

By Lisa M. Sodders, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

3/20/2006 -- For the first time in 13 years, Taft High School in Woodland Hills won the California Academic Decathlon on Sunday and will go head to head with some of America's sharpest young minds at the national meet next month in Texas.

Taft Coach Art Berchin led the nine-member team to an emotional victory over two-time national champ Moorpark High School and perennial Woodland Hills rival El Camino Real High, which won the national title for the fourth time last year.

Taft's decathletes - Zachary Ellington, Michael Farrell, Farhan Khan, David Lopez, David Novgorodsky, Julia Rebrova, Atish Sawant, Dean Schaffer and Monica Schettler - leapt from their seats into a jubilant group hug after hearing their team named state champ at an awards ceremony at the LAX Marriott Hotel.

"It was worth giving up literally everything to get to this moment," said Ellington, 18, of Woodland Hills. "I have never looked more forward to giving up six more weeks of my life to more studying."

But Berchin said the victory won't be complete until after the team takes the national title at the U.S. Academic Decathlon in San Antonio, Texas, from April 26 to 29.

"It's a moment in time because we have a national competition to enter," Berchin said modestly. "We're going to do our best to represent California - particularly since the other (California) teams put in so much time and effort. We want to show them the same kind of respect by doing well at nationals."

Taft, a two-time national champion that had the highest regional score in the nation going into state competition, scored 50,912.4 points in the 10-subject academic competition out of a possible 60,000 to clinch the title. Taft beat out 54 other teams from around the state over two days of competition that ended Saturday.

"I'm in awe," said California Academic Decathlon state director Ken Scarberry, who noted that Taft's state score is again believed to be the highest in the country. "I know we've got the best team going (to nationals)."

Last year, Taft also won the regional competition only to come in second place at state to El Camino, which then went on to win the 2005 national competition.

But not this year. El Camino came in second, with 49,101.5 points.

Taft team member David Lopez, 16, of Woodland Hills, noted that he and five of the nine team members were on last year's team, making this year's victory all the more sweet.

"It's so surreal," Lopez marveled. "Two years of work has paid off. That's what makes this victory so much more valuable: we know what defeat feels like."

Los Angeles Unified School District schools dominated the competition, winning eight of the top 10 positions. Two-time national champion Moorpark High School, of Ventura County, came in third, followed by Edison High School of Fresno; Granada Hills Charter; Los Angeles High School; Palisades Charter; North Hollywood High School; two-time national champion Marshall High School; and Garfield High School.

Los Angeles High School also was named as the overall winner of the written and oral relay portions of the Super Quiz, and Edison team member Elspeth Hansen received a standing ovation when she was announced as the highest-scoring individual student in the state with 8,917.9 points out of a possible 10,000.

"They gave everything they had, and as a coach you can't ask for anything more," Lissa Gregorio, one of the El Camino coaches, said of her team. "Taft is an amazing powerhouse of a team and they will represent California well, and they'll bring home another championship for California."

California has won 12 of 24 national competitions, including eight victories for LAUSD teams. Marshall High School won in 1986 and 1994, El Camino Real in 1996, 2001, 2004 and 2005, and Taft in 1988 and 1993.

In accordance with El Camino's long-standing tradition, Gregorio also revealed the secret motto, this year written in Gaelic, on the back of the team's black satin jackets: "Eternity was in our lips and eyes, bliss in our brows' bent," a quote from "Antony and Cleopatra," one of the plays the teams studied.

Throughout the two ceremonies - one for Division I, another for the smaller Division II and III schools - parents were giddy with pride, eagerly snapping photographs and videotaping their children receiving their medals.

Frank Rebro, 55, of Woodland Hills, was overwhelmed with joy as his son, El Camino student Franciscus Alex Rebro, 17, received nine medals, including a gold medal for the highest varsity student score in Division 1.

"He's achieving my dreams for me," said Frank Rebro, who fled Czechoslovakia in 1969 after the Soviet Union invaded, to settle in California.

"I'm speechless," the proud father said. "I cannot express in my heart - that this country has the ability to provide for and recognize kids who are gifted and give them the opportunities to advance in their future life."


HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
▼LOCAL MAYORS BACK LAUSD AUDIT: Lomita, Carson and Gardena officials aren't as excited about Villaraigosa's plan to take over the district.

By Brandy Underwood, DAILY BREEZE [LAX to LA Harbor]

25 March �While South Bay mayors aren't exactly rushing to support Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's takeover of the Los Angeles Unified School District, they are endorsing his call for an independent audit of the LAUSD.

The mayors shared their concerns about LAUSD at a meeting hosted Thursday by Villaraigosa at Los Angeles City Hall.

Many indicated they want to chisel away at what they say is a behemoth school-system bureaucracy that has at times limited their ability to control what happens in their community schools.

"We need some representation," Lomita Mayor Don Suminaga said.

"We need a way for our city to be placed in a position where we can have some say in our city's schools."

Some South Bay mayors resisted backing a takeover by Los Angeles' mayor, though others echoed Villaraigosa's call for city control of the schools. The district serves 26 cities in addition to the city of Los Angeles, and there has been criticism that a Los Angeles takeover would disenfranchise the other cities.

Representatives from 16 of those cities attended the meeting.


►VICA BACKS LAUSD BREAKUP: Bills would create 15 or more districts

by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

March 25, 2006 - The influential Valley Industry and Commerce Association plunged Friday into the political maelstrom surrounding school reform by endorsing legislation calling for breakup of Los Angeles Unified into at least 15 smaller districts.

The group that represents about 300 corporate members across the San Fernando Valley area supports the identical bills proposed by Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Granada Hills, and Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, to split the 727,000-student district by 2010 into districts with no more than 50,000 students each.

VICA's support, coming at a time when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is getting ready to unveil his own reform plan, is a sign of growing support for structural change in the way local schools are run.

"There's no question about it. It's a school reform symphony and the more people there are on the same page singing the same song, we're more apt to get something done," said VICA Chairman Bob Scott, who said they're looking for a meaningful reorganization of the district.

"We have the charter-school movement going on. We have the possibility of mayoral control and breaking up/reorganizing the school district. There are a lot of ideas out there with varying degrees of merit, but we all agree that something has to be done."

▲ smf opines: Poor thinking never goes out of style. Perhaps this proves that when someone comes up with a bad idea, someone else can do worse. Is this a subplot by the Mayoral Control Conspiracy to complicate things �or does it complicate their thing?

Are the legislators proposing to break up all school districts of more than 50,000 students? And how willing are the 300 members of VICA to pay taxes for school construction, modernization and repair in the 14 (or more) school districts they will have no vote in? Do the letters BB, K, R & Y ring a bell? That is precisely what they are advocating.


California Chronicle - Labor Desk

March 23, 2006 - (Los Angeles) � Delegates to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO voted unanimously Monday night to support efforts to name Central High School # 10 after the late Executive Secretary-Treasurer Miguel Contreras. A similar resolution was also approved to name East Los Angeles High School #1 after the late Congressman Edward Roybal.

As part of it�s efforts to encourage the naming of school site #10 after Contreras and site #1 after Roybal, the Los County Federation of Labor has started a letter writing campaign. Through the campaign, they are encouraging union members and the public to write letters to the members of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education urging them to support such measures.

�Very few dedicate their entire lives to serving working men and women who need it the most, said John Connolly, National President of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. �Miguel and Congressman Roybal were some of those few, therefore it�s fitting that these school sites be named after these great men.�

Contreras began his career in the labor movement at the tender age of 17 in Dinuba, California where he and his family became United Farm Worker (UFW) activists after laboring in the fields for years. Due to his strong leadership skills and natural organizing ability, he caught the eye of UFW founder Cesar Chavez, who asked Contreras to join his union staff - eventually leading him to become a union negotiator. During the years, Contreras moved up the ranks, becoming International Trustee of H.E.R.E. Local 11 in Los Angeles, and eventually the first Latino Executive Secretary -Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. It was under his leadership, that the federation eventually became one of the strongest and politically effective in the country.

�Miguel had a contagious type of passion for the issues affecting working families in Los Angeles, and throughout the country� said Marvin Kropke, Business Manager for IBEW Local 11. �He had a special way of motivating people to fight for what was right for workers. Whether it was making sure they received living wages or health care, Miguel was there motivating people to care. It would be all too fitting to name Los Angeles High School #10 after a man who did so much for the working families of Los Angeles.�

Congressman Roybal began his career serving the residents of Los Angeles in 1949 when he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council. During his tenure on the council, he gained attention for his vote against the Subversive Registration Bill, which required a written oath as a measure of loyalty for employment purposes. In 1962, Congressman Roybal was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first Latino to be elected from California since 1879.

On Tuesday, March 28th the LAUSD is expected to decide on a date for when they will take this matter up for vote.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...

■ Tuesday Mar 28, 2006
6:00 p.m.
Leland Elementary School - Student Cafeteria
2120 South Leland Street
San Pedro, CA 90731

■ Wednesday Mar 29, 2006
Please join us to celebrate the completion of your new classroom building!
Ceremony will begin at 1:00 p.m.
Bryson Elementary School
4470 Missouri Ave.
South Gate, CA 90280

■ Thursday Mar 30, 2006
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Virgil Middle School
152 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004

■ Thursday Mar 30, 2006
6:00 p.m.
Wilmington Park Elementary School - Auditorium
1140 Mahar Avenue
Wilmington, CA 90744

*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
[office vacant] � 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.


►C A L L � T O � A C T I O N ◄

AB2560 � SCHOOL HEALTH CENTERS IN THE NEWS: It�s our time for action!

Dear CSHC Friends,

This is an exciting time for school health centers in California! This week the San Francisco Chronicle published two editorials on school health centers and on April 4th, AB2560: The School Health Centers Act of 2006 will be heard in the Assembly Health Committee.

Have you written your letter of support for AB2560? If so, thank you.
If not, we encourage you to share these editorials with your organization and with others to keep the momentum going and to generate letters of support for AB2560 before the hearing on April 4th.

The first editorial, �UNHEALTHY KIDS CAN'T LEARN: Definition of school reform must include health care� appeared on Sunday, March 19th, 2006 featuring two of Oakland�s school health centers at McCastlemont and McClymonds high schools.

The editorial:

� HIGHLIGHTED services offered and
� SUGGESTED that the Oakland school district needs to focus on children�s physical and mental health as part of the vision for school reform; and
� CONCLUDED that funds from a potential $435 million bond measure for school building improvements and construction should be earmarked for building comprehensive clinics at Oakland schools.

The second editorial, �LINKING HEALTH AND SCHOOLS� appeared on Thursday, March 23, 2006 and featured Balboa Teen Health center, the first school health center in California.

This editorial:

� DESCRIBED school health centers as an �obvious benefit to a student's physical and mental health, playing a crucial role in promoting academic success.�
� ENCOURAGED California to provide state support to school health centers; and
� SUPPORTED Assembly Bill 2560, calling it �an important first step toward getting schools more involved in promoting student health, which in turn is essential to their academic success.�

Congratulations to California�s school health centers! We�re on a roll!

Please share these editorials with your organization and with others to keep the momentum going and to generate letters of support for AB2560 before the hearing on April 4th.

Thank you for your support.


The California School Health Centers Association promotes the health and academic success of children and youth by increasing access to the high quality health care and support services provided by school health centers.

Questions or comments about AB2560?
Contact: Kristin Curran, Policy & Finance
Phone: 510-268-1160

Contact Information
phone: 510-268-1260

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.
� To SUBSCRIBE e-mail: - or -TO ADD YOUR OR ANOTHER'S NAME TO THE 4LAKids SUBCRIPTION LIST E-MAIL with "SUBSCRIBE" AS THE SUBJECT. Thank you.  � THE 4LAKids ARCHIVE - This and past Issues are available with interactive feedback at

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Environmental Impact of the Preschool Exit Exam upon NCLB, etc. PART II

4LAKids: Sunday, May 19, 2006 PART II
In This Issue:
 •  PTA WORKS TO SAVE RECESS: The National PTA is worried that the days on the playground might be coming to an end.
 •  ARE SCHOOL CAFETERIAS SLOWLY DYING?: LAUSD cafeterias are losing more workers and offering fewer quality meals.
 •  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.
►THE ABCS OF PRESCHOOL: Rich kids go private, so what's 'universal' about Rob Reiner's initiative?

Op-ed by Sandra Tsing Loh, LA Times

March 15, 2006 - With all the heat Rob Reiner has been getting for his universal preschool ballot initiative, I hate to pile on. After all, as a Toyota minivan Democrat and mother of two, I'm in favor of more preschool. Just don't tell me it's "universal" until your family joins ours in the vast whirling cosmos of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Given the way that affluent families already eschew L.A. Unified's totally free education � forbidding their spawn to get any closer to state-regulated instruction than they would to, well, the bus � Reiner's Preschool for All ballot initiative would really mean more preschool for the poor, but with a much nicer name. In the L.A. of 2006, the only true "universal" is a studio.

We've seen the dichotomy of public versus private schools � if you will, the bureaucracy versus the "lattetocracy" � in our own family's educational travels. Our eldest's school is in the first camp, being a Van Nuys magnet that abuts that supposed public school den of horrors known as � Birmingham High. (Which, never mind that depressing, four-part, front-page L.A. Times series on its dropouts, I still consider a decent school. On March 20, its excellent choir will perform at Disney Hall. So there!)

Our tattered but soulful L.A. Unified school is academically challenging and a veritable Ellis Island (my daughter is the only blond in her class of 22). Kindergarten runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. There's daily homework of reading, adding and printing entire sentences, and sentences�. Frankly, we're peddling as hard as we can to keep up with the immigrant kids, almost all of whom have had, yes, free preschool, which has been provided by the federal and state governments for years and more recently by our much-maligned school district.

There's what I call "the Head Start crowd" � Armenian kids who speak Armenian and Russian and are so adept with pencil and paper that they can practically fill out their own magnet-school applications.

There's the Latina mom of my daughter's friend, Precious. She teaches in the Los Angeles Universal Preschool program funded by Reiner's previous school initiative, Proposition 10. She believes in structure, discipline and homework twice a week � at age 4. Asians? Don't get me started! (The Bangladeshi architect mom already has her eye on Balboa Gifted Magnet! Academic Performance Index = 971! Yikes!)

Even some of our non-low-income kids have had free preschool. "How's that possible?" I asked one mother, amazed. "I don't know," she said, throwing her hands up in the air, in apology and confusion. "It was in Arleta."

Clearly our mistake was starting our preschool search on the south side of the tracks (Ventura Boulevard) in the offices of � oh, bane of the anxious middle-class parent � our yuppie pediatrician.

The preschools she recommended were Maggy Haves and the Neighborhood School, names wonderfully reminiscent of farms, chickens and Wallace Stevens' lone red wheelbarrow in the rain. (Other favorite L.A. preschool names include A School for All Children Great and Small, Little Dolphins by the Sea, Magic Years, the Nurtury and Wagon Wheel.)

Unfortunately for us, like hip restaurants, "recommended" L.A. preschools tend to be notable less for their universality than exclusivity. (Was our application rejected because our daughter didn't know her ABCs or because our area code was 818?)

We eventually did find a sweet, $400-a-month preschool affiliated with a church. Price-wise, for L.A., it's not an elite preschool, but it is overwhelmingly Caucasian, middle income and developmental. This means kids may follow a ladybug all morning if they feel like it.

Would Precious' L.A. Universal Preschool-trained mom approve?

Anthropologist Adrie Kusserow has done a fascinating study comparing preschools in upper-middle-class Manhattan with working-class Queens, which in L.A. terms parallels the differences between, say, Studio City and Panorama City. Perhaps the divide's not quite as stark as one example Kusserow cites in which a well-meaning, college-educated white teacher soothingly asks her inner-city brown student, "Don't you want to take your poetry book home?" and the boy says: "Oh, no. If my dad saw this, he would beat me."

But there are telling differences in educational philosophies. Working-class parents tend to favor discipline, homework and, if need be, drilling. For affluent parents of Little Dolphins, drilling = actual death of the soul.

However much Democrats love the word "universal" (with its refreshing intimations of Europe, the metric system and washed pine furniture), sadly, most politically progressive California parents I know don't much care for the word "public" (fluorescent lighting, chain-link fence, the Pledge of Allegiance). Their kids eat organic vegetables and make diversity collages in private school to the tune of $15,000 a year.

Their parents' beef with L.A. Unified? It's not the great numbers of poor Latino children, oh no. It's that such English learners must be taught via the (much too structured and creatively suffocating) Open Court literacy program�. And "Hayley is so bright I know she will be bored."

But I don't want to be too hard on my own party. Look, at least we have a preschool initiative. Many poor families are still on preschool waiting lists � their kids deserve a place. And if universal preschool is rigorously standardized, there should be plenty of space in them because, for affluent parents of fragile geniuses, when it comes to this particular free governmental service, it will be, "After you, my dear Alphonse."

Sure, this divide in cultures calls into question the national parents' movement that Reiner champions. On his Parents' Action for Children website, he writes: "Groups as disparate as gun owners and the elderly, lawyers and truck drivers all have the backing of major national organizations�. But what about parents?"

Yet the solution is within his grasp. Even Meathead could shed his blue-state celebrity taint if, come 2015, we see his kids marching, elbow to elbow with ours, straight into Birmingham. High.

▲"Scott, you're SO negative! If you're not for Prop 82 or handcuffing high school students who ditch class �what ARE you for?"

AN OFFICIAL 4LAKids ENDORSEMENT: Sandra Tsing Loh's one-woman show, "Mother on Fire," runs through April 9 at the 24th Street Theatre.


By George Skelton, Capitol Journal | LA Times

March 16, 2006 -- Let's clear up one thing: Filmmaker Rob Reiner's preschool ballot initiative would not raise taxes on the wealthy by 1.7%. It would hike them a whole lot more than that.

The increase gets contorted � by sponsors, by journalists � to 1.7% because the top income tax rate would be bumped up from 9.3% to 11% for most individuals making more than $400,000 and couples over $800,000.

Do the math. That's an 18% rate hike.

But because only taxable income over $400,000 � or $800,000 � would be taxed at the highest rate, the actual dollar increase would be less than 18%. For a single person making $700,000, according to the legislative analyst's office, the extra bite would be $5,100 � roughly 8%.

That's still a hefty hike, but one very few of us ever would have to worry about. The legislative analyst says people in this stratospheric bracket represent less than 1% of personal income taxpayers, although they send Sacramento about one-third of its $45-billion annual income tax revenue.

Do the math again: Reiner estimates his Proposition 82 would raise $2.4 billion annually. That's an average 16% hit on these taxpayers.

One other thing not to forget: Voters two years ago imposed an additional 1% tax rate on incomes above $1 million to pay for mental health services. So these people's rates, under Prop. 82, would rise from 10.3% to 12% � the highest state income tax in the nation.

The super-rich don't get a lot of sympathy, of course. And that's why the latest Field Poll shows 55% of likely voters supporting Prop. 82, with only 34% opposed.

But the point is, some Californians would be socked hard. We'd be tapping a coveted tax source and generating billions. And is voluntary preschool for every 4-year-old how we'd prefer to use that money, especially with the state still spending billions more than it's taking in each year?

Let's stipulate that preschool is good. It would be a desirable new government program. No argument here.

As Reiner noted to the Sacramento Press Club on Tuesday, "it's hard to debate" the merits of preschool. He pointed out that half of fourth-graders fail basic reading, and "quality" preschool has "a profound effect on how children function."

And to Reiner's credit, he has proposed a way to pay for his proposal � unlike then-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger with his after-school initiative in 2002, which merely raided the treasury and robbed other programs. Gov. Schwarzenegger intends to inaugurate his program next fall.

"If you're going to do something, do it and fund it," Reiner told the Press Club. "I don't think it's a healthy way to do things to strap the Legislature with burdens at a time when they may be having difficulty with budgetary concerns."

But that again raises the question: Shouldn't these higher taxes be used for balancing the state books? Or for existing K-12 school programs?

The anti-82 campaign has been firing off daily missives detailing what the $2.4 billion could buy: 69,000 full-time teachers, $8,400 worth of textbooks and supplies for each classroom, 3,300 new classrooms�.

But this Stop the Reiner Initiative outfit is being disingenuous. Funded by business and anti-tax interests, it wouldn't favor raising taxes on the rich regardless of the cause.

Indeed, it issued a report Wednesday by former Legislative Analyst William Hamm, now a private consultant, asserting that higher taxes on the rich actually would cost the state money because these flexible folks merely would shelter more of their income.

I'd like to test that thesis � but maybe not for preschool, and probably not through more runaway ballot-box budgeting.

Reiner's Proposition 10 in 1998 � a cigarette tax increase for early childhood development � was illustrative of how a well-meaning initiative can result in little public accountability and abuse of tax money.

The Reiner-headed commission that Prop. 10 created spent $23 million of public money for TV ads promoting Reiner's current cause: preschool. The ads ran while Reiner was launching Prop. 82.

"Serious questions were raised that go right to the heart of public trust," says Sen. Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno), an attorney general candidate who has prompted an investigation by the Sacramento district attorney.

Reiner could credibly argue that there are safeguards in Prop. 82 to prevent a repeat of Prop. 10's misuse. But first he'd have to admit there was misuse. And he refuses.

Asked if TV ads pushing preschool were a proper use of public money, Reiner replied: "Absolutely. Because it is mandated in [Prop. 10] that we use 6% of our money on public education."

He rationalized that the Prop. 10 commission had pumped $1 billion into preschool programs, and was merely educating parents about them.

"If I'm opening a business � in my business, it's a movie [and] you don't tell anybody there's a movie out there, you'd be an idiot," he said.

But that doesn't wash.

For one thing, the ads were targeted at swing voters without small kids, clearly with the goal of peddling the initiative.

Moreover, Prop. 10 contained only a one-word mention, in passing, about preschool. It wasn't included in any voter guide argument. There definitely was no voter mandate to promote a future preschool ballot measure.

So here comes a Reiner sequel, and it's a very expensive ticket. The producer needs to persuade us it's not just another "Groundhog Day."


By Daniel Weintraub � Sacramento Bee Columnist

March 16, 2006 - Rob Reiner seems like a smart guy who believes sincerely in his vision for how best to care for and educate California's youngest children.

But Reiner is also the latest in a long line of public officials so blinded by their own belief in the goodness of their cause that they begin to believe anything done in the service of that goal has to be right, and any criticism has to be from the forces of evil.

At a speech and question-and-answer session Tuesday with the Sacramento Press Club, the Hollywood director and political activist insisted there was absolutely nothing wrong with the children's commission he chairs using public money to persuade voters to embrace his belief in universal, state-funded preschool.

Reiner compared the two-year ad campaign, which cost tens of millions of dollars, to other state efforts to promote health insurance for kids or inform workers they might be eligible for paid family leave.

But there is a fundamental difference between those advertisements and the campaign run by the First 5 California commission, which was conceived and begun when Reiner was chairman (he recently took a leave) and designed in part by his own political advertising consultant.

The other state campaigns Reiner cites in his defense were meant to inform people about policies or programs already in place and which the people who saw the ads might be eligible to take advantage of.

The preschool campaign was something else entirely. It was designed from the start to change public opinion about a key public policy issue, to "create demand" for a new program and bring pressure on lawmakers to approve such a program or lay the groundwork for the very kind of initiative that Reiner is pushing now as Proposition 82 on the June ballot.

An October 2002 memo spelled out that strategy. It discussed polling and focus groups on the issue, lamented that there was insufficient public support for the commission's goals and described how an advertising campaign could build support for a greater government role in preschool. The same strategy was mentioned in the 2004 contract for one round of the ads, according to a copy of that contract quoted by Los Angeles Weekly columnist and blogger Bill Bradley.

Reiner notes that an earlier initiative he authored creating the children's commission - Proposition 10 in 1998 - included a provision setting aside 6 percent of the commission's budget for public education campaigns. And he says the ads in question were meant merely to inform parents that preschool was available to them.

"At the end of the day, we want people to use the programs we've got," Reiner said. "We want them to know how important it is."

But the strategy memorandum and the contract make clear the ads were about much more than parent education. They were even targeted to nonparents because polling had shown that childless couples might be more supportive of public preschool than parents of young children.

Reiner says he never saw that memo. But it's difficult to believe that he was not aware of the strategy behind a series of ads developed under his direction by his close associates to promote his vision. If he was ignorant of the intent, then he was an incompetent chairman. And the fact that even now, after he has been made painfully aware of the details, he still does not see a problem with the campaign, suggests he has a huge ethical blind spot.

In a nutshell, here's the problem: If the people who control the public purse can use tax dollars for a paid television propaganda campaign designed to persuade voters to give them more power and more money, then there is no limit on the use of public funds for political purposes.

Imagine, for example, if the leaders of the California State University system were unhappy that the Legislature would not approve a fee increase the university's managers believed was necessary to preserve their programs. Suppose the university concluded that the reason the Legislature wouldn't budge is that the public did not understand higher fees would be paid mainly by the wealthy, that low-income students would get financial aid and that the policy change would allow the system to admit more students than it otherwise could.

Under the Reiner Rule, the university would be free to use public money for an ad campaign designed to build public support for the higher fees needed to preserve and expand access to the university.

We all know the university would not and could not do such a thing. But there is little or no difference between such a campaign and the campaign waged by Reiner and his allies to win support for universal preschool.

The tragedy here is that Reiner is seeking to persuade the public to place more trust in government to handle the most intimate of issues, the education of our 4-year-olds. Yet his actions as a government official have served only to erode the very public trust he is trying so hard to build.

►smf piles on: In addition to Rob Reiner's unfortunate misadventures with the sprit-if-not-the-letter of the (no capital letters) campaign finance law (Was the 'campaign' to educate the kids in his First Five Program, or to promote the Prop 82 initiative campaign?) there are a couple of flaws in the Prop 82/Preschool for All Initiative. Cumulatively they add up to what school building planners darkly call "fatal flaws".

1. There is NO FUNDING FOR FACILITIES in Prop 82 to house the preschools envisioned; the funding is only for the operations and program � teachers and textbooks and hopefully finger-paint. The killer cost in LA will be classrooms; Prop 82 puts the costs of buying land and building classrooms onto the K-12 school districts and existing local and state school construction bonds. Can you say "Unfunded Mandate?" In LAUSD those funds are spoken for and the Superintendent has (perhaps imprudently) promised "no more bonds". The existing county-run/federally-funded Head Start Program cannot find enough classroom space, existing operations money goes unspent!
2. California doesn't even require Kindergarten! K is optional and appx 10% of kids don't go. Maybe we should require Kindergarten before we universally prepare kids for it?
3. This is another well meant initiative made up by do-gooder activists and put on the ballot by well-meaning petition signers aided and abetted by professional signature gatherers - not lawmakers! I am a well-meaning do-gooder activist and I support and applaud us and our good work! I like Rob's movies �but I know our limitations! Prop 82 not that much different from the flawed measures on the special election ballot universally defeated last November; if passed they become about The Unintended Consequences.

There is a cult of celebrity at work here: The debate has become as much about Rob Reiner as it is about preschool. The articles above mention preschool 43 times, Reiner 35, kids and children 25. I am for universal preschool but I don't go with the argument that this is not the only chance we will ever have for a universal preschool program. I believe that our lawmakers need to focus on this and do their job � a referendum on the ballot written by educators, lawmakers and parents - and read over by lawyers - would be infinitely preferable to Prop. 82.

Sandra Tsing Loh's one-woman show,"Mother on Fire," runs through April 9 at the 24th Street Theatre.


� Comunidad pide cuentas al LAUSD sobre el solar del plantel | Community requests LAUSD reports of the plant

por R�ger Lindo/La Opinion

�Es que el LAUSD oculta algo sobre el terreno donde se planea construir una nueva escuela? Es lo que afirman vecinos, padres de familia y la concejala Jan Perry, que ayer denunciaron negligencia y poca transparencia de parte del distrito escolar para informar sobre el hallazgo de sustancias contaminantes en el sitio donde se planea construir la Escuela Los �ngeles No. 4.

Is LAUSD hiding something on the land where construction of a new school is planned? That is the belief of neighbors, parents, families and Councilwoman Jan Perry, who yesterday claimed negligence and little transparency from the school district on informing of the findings of polluting substances on the site where they plan to construct to Los Angeles School No. 4.

La Opinion article/in Spanish:

▲The article above [and the KPCC story below] demonstrate a terrible dilemma that exists over envinomental concerns on school � or any � public construction in California. The egregious missteps of the Belmont Learning Center and South Gate projects � and the many hiccups at almost every building site � point out the quagmire of unknown and unknowable environmental concerns in building in LA. We forget that this city used to use the tar from the La Brea Tar Pits to pave its roads � the bones were a nuisance! Last year the Metro Gold line tunneled though an old Chinese cemetery without an environmental concern in the world!

I am on the Bond Oversight Committee, but the BOC doesn't monitor or review LAUSD environmental studies because we lack the authority and expertise.

In California the final deciding opinion in environmental concerns on government projects lies with the elected officials. The Board of Education commissions, reviews and approves all environmental reports; they are author, judge, jury and court of environmental appeals �and hopefully environmental steward. I'm not picking on the Board here, the City Council gets to decide on city projects and the MTA Board says "red light/green light on" tunneling though graveyards and historical sites.

This process is fundamentally and environmentally flawed. The elected body's interest is in building stuff and saving the taxpayer's money. Time = money and expedience must be their watchword. They pay the paychecks of the folks who write the study and then approve or disapprove the result. Environmental Impact Reports are mind-numbingly technical beyond comprehension � requiring post-graduate knowledge of chemistry, geology, engineering and the law. Understanding them has nothing to do with the skill sets of educators, politicians or policy makers. No elected body I have ever heard of has disapproved their own EIR. No Environmental Protection Agency reviews them. There are no California Environmental Quality Act Police. As long as the Board of Ed, the City Council or the MTA say that it's environmentally sound, it's legal. Whether it's environmentally sound or not. �smf

KPCC 89.3 | Adolfo Guzman Lopez | 03/17/2006

Residents say that the LA Unified School District say the LAUSD failed to warn them about toxic soil at a middle school under construction.

[ Audiolink: LISTEN ]


by Dick Iannuzzi, President, New York State United Teachers

March 16, 2006 - Here's a simple thought: State things accurately, evaluate them accurately and report your conclusions accurately. Perhaps I've defined the antonym for spin! It would certainly be a different approach than author James Frey took in his fictionalized memoir, A Million Little Pieces, featured in Oprah Winfrey's book club and later found to be what called "a million little lies." It seemed Frey's memoir � a record of one's life � was less than factual or, as he put it, "All the way through the book, I altered details."

Of course, Frey doesn't stand alone in the field of deliberate mistruths. Remember when President Bush stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln a few years ago and, referring to the war in Iraq , proclaimed: "mission accomplished?" We all know how accurate that turned out.

An astute contributor to, the American Federation of Teachers' excellent Web site and blog that focuses on the federal No Child Left Behind Act, observed that the president's sense of timing and appropriateness have not improved much since then. The clever AFT blogger recently posted:

"The president's Fiscal Year 2007 budget includes this facile phrase: 'With NCLB implementation largely completed ...' Hmmm. At the risk of exaggerating the importance of a few words, I have to ask whether anyone in the Bush administration truly believes implementation is 'largely completed.' If so, I guess we can move on to something else now."

Under the leadership of AFT Executive Vice President Antonia Cortese, the AFT has sought to bring the opinions and views of practitioners into the discussion of what needs to happen if NCLB is going to succeed. What a novel idea: Ask those who actually do the work about what is needed to get the job done! Combining the views of practitioners with the research and expertise of the national union and its affiliates, AFT has tried to address what needs correction in NCLB.

Both NYSUT and AFT recognize that NCLB, though disappointing so far, has at least put focus on our schools and on the important issue of raising student achievement. That's why we declined to take part in lawsuits that have been initiated in an attempt to overthrow NCLB. Instead, we're working with lawmakers at the decision-making table to ensure our members' voices are heard and that the problems are fixed so that NCLB can live up to its early promise.

We're looking for significant improvements because the problems are significant. As the AFT succinctly describes it:

"Guidance for states has been unclear, untimely and unhelpful, and the U.S. Department of Education's attempts to make the law more flexible have brought about only minimal improvements without addressing NCLB's larger flaws. Underlying all these issues is the pervasive problem of funding, which is far less than what was promised and far less than what is needed. The stakes are too high for our children to wait until the upcoming reauthorization (in 2007) before we begin talking about how to make positive improvements to NCLB."

AFT and NYSUT have identified four areas in the NCLB implementation that need to be fixed:

Funding: All the good intentions of NCLB are for naught without adequate resources to implement them. When NCLB was passed, Congress authorized funding to address its requirements.

Between 2002 and 2005, however, the gap between what Congress promised and what Congress provided for NCLB programs was $27 billion. Adequate funding should be used to lower class size, hire specialists in reading and math instruction, create mentoring programs, and provide other crucial supports to struggling schools and students.

Accountability: The formula that holds schools accountable, Adequate Yearly Progress, must give credit for progress that schools do make. It should distinguish between effective and ineffective schools. As a measurement of success, AYP is a failure. It doesn't measure the yearly progress of the same students over time, and there is no evidence that a school making AYP does anything to close the achievement gap.

School improvement: Interventions are needed to improve student performance when that performance has been appropriately measured and found to be lacking. However, NCLB-required "interventions" � sanctions � for schools that fail to make AYP are punitive.
They fail to provide the resources or the time necessary to make improvements. Instead, funding is diverted to Supplemental Education Services providers whose qualifications are inadequate and inconsistent. The March 8 New York Times reported that companies "offered New York City principals thousands of dollars for school projects, doled out gift certificates to students and hired several workers with criminal records" in their rush to land lucrative contracts as SES providers.

Staff quality: Ensuring that all students are taught by teachers who know how and what to teach is a goal that NYSUT and AFT share with NCLB. The highly qualified teacher requirements of NCLB, however, do not take into account special circumstances of middle-level teachers, special education teachers and teachers in schools that do not provide an environment for high performance. Meanwhile, NCLB fails to adequately address the needs of School-Related Professionals.

Educators in New York state, of course, know what it takes to strive for � and achieve � higher standards and accountability. We've been doing it for almost a decade.

In fact, it could be argued that NCLB testing took a page (not successfully, because it increased the quantity rather than quality of tests) from New York 's ELA and math testing in grades 4 and 8 that were implemented beginning in 1999. While the results aren't yet where we'd like them to be, our students are making progress.

More recently, we've also demonstrated that we can work within the parameters of NCLB to provide successful programming that outpaces what's happening in other states. For example, the Rochester Teachers Association and the United Federation of Teachers offer federally funded SES programs for students in targeted schools.

They do so by providing vastly improved student-to-teacher ratios and certified teachers in the students' own school buildings. This is in contrast to many of the for-profit, private SES providers that have resorted to giveaways and bribes to entice students to an often-inferior program.

NYSUT has never ducked issues of standards and accountability. To the contrary, the union has been their champion on the state level and, with AFT, nationally as well. But efforts to hold our schools and our students to higher standards must be fair and attainable. They must make sense. That's why the union is enthusiastically working with AFT to "get it right" with regard to NCLB.

Together, we are insisting that the Department of Education:

� focus on closing the achievement gap;
� set challenging but realistic student achievement goals;
� establish a process that judges school effectiveness by measuring student progress over time;
� acknowledge and make decisions based on student subgroups;
� ensure tests are reliable and accurate;
� establish appropriate interventions; and,
� make qualifications for SES providers more rigorous.

This is just a partial list, of course; the AFT "Let's Get it Right" Web site provides more details. But it's clear that there's much to be done to ensure NCLB meets the high expectations many of us had for it in the early part of this decade.

NYSUT will continue to lobby for meaningful changes to federal education policy and funding. You can help. Fax a letter to your representatives in Congress at, telling them you oppose President Bush's federal budget proposal, which again fails to provide the financial resources needed to make NCLB work.

At the same time, sign the AFT's electronic petition at letting Congress and the administration know it's time to fix NCLB once and for all.

With your input, we've determined the problems with NCLB. You should be � and need to be � part of the solution for NCLB to get it right.

Sign the AFT's electronic petition at

PTA WORKS TO SAVE RECESS: The National PTA is worried that the days on the playground might be coming to an end.
►smf opines: In the school-reform-at-all-costs laser focus on reading and math and improving test scores � on squeezing every last dollar out of the school budget and every last minute out of the instructional day � the adults sometimes put the program of No Child Left Behind ahead of the goal of leaving no child behind.

They (whoever 'they' are!) just plumb forget about the kids and what's best for kids.

Following is an example of just that happening. And not a just an isolated school or two. At 40% of elementary schools in the USofA. And if you think it's preposterous and 'can't possibly happen here', remember that two years have already been eliminated from high school PhysEd in California. 'They' say that's to accommodate increased class loads for college bound students.

Here's the algebra: TIME SPENT ON PE OR RECESS = MONEY. That's what 'they're' saving.

►PTA WORKS TO SAVE RECESS: The National PTA is worried that the days on the playground might be coming to an end.

From the Associated Press & WUSA News (Washington DC)

March 13, 2006 � (AP) � The PTA is backing a national initiative called "Rescuing Recess," which encourages elementary school students to write letters to state and local leaders, asking them to keep recess as part of every school day.

Today at Brent Elementary School in Southeast, DC dozens of students were turned loose on the playground with jump ropes and rubber playground balls. That came after they learned that, according to the PTA, 40% of the elementary schools in the U.S. have either eliminated or are considering doing away with recess.

Keya Cooper of Northeast says her son Nicholas needs recess during the day because otherwise she thinks he'd be bored with a lot of built up energy.

►PTA Press Release: Recess Is At Risk, New Campaign Comes To the Rescue

ARE SCHOOL CAFETERIAS SLOWLY DYING?: LAUSD cafeterias are losing more workers and offering fewer quality meals.

by Joshua Pechthalt, Vice President, California Federation of Teachers

As a product of LAUSD, I vividly remember going to nutrition and lunch and eating good meals that were prepared daily by a cafeteria staff. In fact, when I later worked in a kitchen at a summer camp, I got to know two women, Emma and Louise, who worked as head cooks in LAUSD cafeterias during the school year. Both these women were skilled in preparing delicious, wholesome meals for large numbers of people, and I got to see firsthand how these school district employees excelled when they had the resources they needed.

Unfortunately, what has happened since my school days of the �60s and early �70s has been the de-skilling of cafeteria workers, the elimination of cafeteria positions, and the near elimination of quality meals at the school sites. In the past couple of years, this has become particularly apparent. At my home school, Manual Arts, there is virtually nothing available for lunch unless you sign up for it earlier in the day. Once-thriving cafeterias have become moribund, and the implications go far beyond getting a good meal during the workday.


Many cafeterias now only reheat and serve prepackaged food sent by the District. The limited and less-than-appealing menu served to students now seems to be the norm in most student and faculty cafeterias. At Manual Arts and probably in many other schools, teachers have stopped going to the faculty cafeteria because there is little from which to choose. With fewer people buying lunch, school site administrations and the District have created the conditions for eliminating cafeteria workers.

This in turn allows the schools and the District to avoid paying health care benefits to those cafeteria workers who qualify and instead contract out to Pizza Hut and other vendors who pay minimum wage and no health care benefits. In some cases catering trucks have become the food providers for school faculties.

The downsizing of jobs in school cafeterias has also meant fewer jobs in many communities. While these jobs did not pay high wages, they were nevertheless unionized, paid above minimum wage, and offered health benefits for those employees who worked enough hours.

At one elementary school in East Area the elimination of cafeteria workers has resulted in the school site administration pressuring an instructional coach to help clean tables in between lunches.

For students, fewer cafeteria workers has meant longer lines to buy food and then only a few moments to wolf down meals. Lunch and nutrition at many schools is a race against the clock as students rush around campus trying to get something to eat and then gulp it down in their remaining few minutes.

No wonder many students eat little or nothing at all during the school day.


The planned downsizing of faculty cafeterias has also made it more difficult to build a sense of community among faculty and staff. Back in the day, as we say at Manual, the faculty cafeteria was a lively place where beginning and veteran teachers could chat, share ideas about the classroom, talk union business, or just exchange movie reviews.

Clearly the calculation on the District�s part is that cafeteria workers and the hot, nourishing meals they provide are expendable luxuries. How ironic that an educational institution that promotes the notion of a community of learners has no real notion of what it means to create a community. As adults we certainly promote the idea of meal time being an important part of the day for families to share and discuss. And yet that activity is seen as nearly irrelevant in the District and in the workplace. As a response, I know many teachers who have given up on the idea of going to the cafeteria and instead stay in their rooms and often open them up to students. While creating an important place where students can meet and chat, these teachers have unfortunately isolated themselves from the other adults with whom they work.

Functioning cafeterias where nutritious meals are creatively prepared and served should be the norm in the District, not the exception. At most large workplaces (and our schools are such places) a good cafeteria is a vital part of the workplace.

If we are to take seriously the notion of school reform, then I believe we have to look at all aspects of the school experience. A school culture that forces human beings to scramble across campus to get some food before it runs out and then forces you to shove it down your throat so you can scamper back to class is the opposite of what we should be creating at our schools. Decent meals with time to eat should be part of our vision of a nurturing, learning environment. If you think this is unrealistic or too idealistic, the next time you have to go to LAUSD headquarters at Beaudry, be sure to stop in at one of the two bustling cafeterias.

There you will have your choice of homemade soups, salads, cooked-to-order meals, sandwiches, and anything else you might want. Apparently quality meals with time to eat for District administrators are a priority but for students and teachers, oh, well, better rush down and get that remaining baloney sandwich.

▲This article appeared originally in the November 11, 2005 United Teacher, the newspaper of United Teachers of Los Angeles (aka The Teachers' Union). The author brought it to my attention in response to 4LAKids' rant on March 12 about the sorry state of children's health, nutrition and physical fitness in LAUSD and California. Mr. Pechthalt is currently writing an article about the need to improve Phys Ed in LAUSD � stay tuned. And, in fairness, there is currently only one cafeteria at LAUSD HQ �the other one is being remodeled! �smf

EVENTS: Coming up next week...

►Tuesday Mar 21, 2006
Gratts New Primary Center: Pre-Demolition Meeting
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Gratts Elementary School � Auditorium
309 Lucas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017

►Tuesday Mar 21, 2006
Valley Region Monroe Span K-8 Addition: Schematic Design Meeting
Please join us for a community meeting regarding the design of Valley Region Monroe Span K-8 Addition.
At this meeting we will:
* Present schematic design drawings
* Receive community input on the design of the project
6:30 p.m.
Monroe New Elementary School #2
8855 Noble Ave.
North Hills, CA 91343

►Wednesday Mar 22, 2006
South Region High School #6: Presentation of Recommended Preferred Site
Local District 8
At this meeting we will present and discuss the site that will be recommended to the LAUSD Board of education for this new school project.
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Washington Preparatory High School Auditorium
10860 S. Denker Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90047

►Wednesday Mar 22, 2006
Valley Region High School #4: Presentation of Design Development Drawings
Please join us for a community meeting regarding the design of the Valley Region High School #4 project.
At this meeting we will present the design of the new school and discuss the next steps in the school construction process.
6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Patrick Henry Middle School (Independence Hall)
17340 San Jose Street
Granada Hills, CA 91344

*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
[office vacant/stay tuned!] � 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.

� GET INVOLVED! Click on the [LINK] below to send a letter to the California legislature encouraging them to fully release Prop 98 funding to the California schools.

"To the Honorable Legislators of the State of California:

"California is in a severe budget crisis. It is the driving force behind the decision to once again suspend Proposition 98. We as concerned citizens of California urge you to not suspend Proposition 98 or defer its obligations to future years. Education already holds a large I.O.U. from the State of California.

"The outcome of suspending and deferring Proposition 98 is that it does not provide California Public Education the proper amount of funding and attention it needs so that our children can be competitive in the future global environment. In addition, as the cost of living in California continues to outpace the national average, it is even more important that California Public Schools offer children a superior level of education in order to continue to attract top talent for California businesses. Without a solid state educational system, top talent, and their families, will seek employment outside of California causing businesses to either relocate or rely on outsourcing to find qualified candidates. Rather than compromising education, we, as concerned citizens ask the Legislatures of the State of California to respect and abide by the entire essence of Proposition 98.

"Thank you for taking the time to consider the issues of inequity and inadequate funding for public education. We are confident that you will do what is necessary to address these needs as you deliberate the use of State revenues in developing a balanced State budget."

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.
� To SUBSCRIBE e-mail: - or -TO ADD YOUR OR ANOTHER'S NAME TO THE 4LAKids SUBCRIPTION LIST E-MAIL with "SUBSCRIBE" AS THE SUBJECT. Thank you.  � THE 4LAKids ARCHIVE - This and past Issues are available with interactive feedback at

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