Sunday, December 31, 2006


4LAKids: Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 ¡Happy 2007!
In This Issue:
MAYOR CHARTS LAUSD COURSE: Appeal, election part of strategy
EDUCATION OVERHAUL URGED: Spending money on kids, qualified teachers at top of list
L.A. MAGNET SCHOOL MEETINGS HAVE A TWIST: Los Angeles parents find help with magnet school applications at seminars with a twist
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
RES•O•LU•TION – from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
[N] Pronunciation: "re-z&-'lü-sh&n
Etymology: Middle English resolucioun, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French resolucion, from Latin resolution-, resolutio, from resolvere
1 : the act or process of resolving : b : the act of answering : SOLVING c : the act of determining d : the passing of a voice part from a dissonant to a consonant tone or the progression of a chord from dissonance to consonance e : the separating of a chemical compound or mixture into its constituents f : the division of a prosodic element into its component parts g : the analysis of a vector into two or more vectors of which it is the sum
2 : the subsidence of a pathological state (as inflammation)
3 a : something that is resolved b : firmness of resolve
4 : a formal expression of opinion, will, or intent voted by an official body or assembled group
5 : the point in a literary work at which the chief dramatic complication is worked out
6 a : the process or capability of making distinguishable the individual parts of an object, closely adjacent optical images, or sources of light b : a measure of the sharpness of an image or of the fineness with which a device (as a video display, printer, or scanner) can produce or record.
Synonym see COURAGE

It's not much of a stretch, the all-inclusive "we" (Every one of us!) of LAUSD stands at the dawn of 2007 more-or less at the threshold of all those meanings.

1. We are beyond the first. The dissonance to date has been deafening; English Majors can delight in 'prosodic'; Theoreticians and Chemists are welcome to their analysis and separation of complexity.
2. If bureaucratic bloat is inflammation – we're working on it!
3. A New Year's Resolution to move onward and upward meets the third.
4. The court and Judge Javavs gave us the fourth.
5. With a bit o' luck the fifth is behind us.
6. And hopefully (cue the music) we can see clearly now!

And courage in the face of challenge is always welcome.

Reading below you sense how our mayor sees his half-filled/half-empty glass: A definitive legal finding founded on history, principle, and the state constitution is only "one person's opinion." A lawsuit resoundingly decided against him remains frivolous. He appeals to higher courts and also to the judge herself to let him proceed though she has ruled his proposal unconstitutional. He promises that the Council of Mayors will meet anyway. How about the Mayor meeting just once with the Board of Education?

We need resolution. One hopes it comes sooner-rather-than-later as higher courts refuse to take the case as correctly decided.

The mayor's refusal to acknowledge the legal handwriting-on-the-wall, and his 'damn the torpedoes' commitment to continue full speed ahead hiring staff for his ill-conceived, ill-founded and adjudged illegal attempt to take over the District and/or his Clusters of Schools defies resolution and prolongs the impasse. It muddies the waters and misspends the taxpayer's dollars. Enough already.

The mayor has other routes to pursue: He can attempt to pack the school board as Mayor Riordan did – a strategy that didn't work and not to be encouraged …but at least one that spends political money politically. He can attempt what he wants within the initiative process; his advisors in the have warned this might not work – but good grief – they've been wrong before!

The mayor's own counsel, Mr. Saenz, won a case for MALDEF arguing that that a school district the size of LAUSD actually promotes equity and equality. Now breakup is on the ascendant and previous work threatens to be undone by his current effort.

Gentle readers: The timeline of true educational reform in our cities cannot be driven by the urgency of the expedient or the election cycles and ambitions of the term-limited – but by the reality of the possible and (here's a concept): The best interests of children. To argue that we are well begun is not embracing the status quo but rather an acknowledgement of six years of hard work and truly extraordinary progress made. With much more hard work and progress to come.

Mr. Mayor, join us. And Happy New Year everyone.

Onward into '07! - smf

►MAYOR'S ARMOR TAKES A HIT: A ruling slapping down his school takeover plan shows he isn't invincible. But Villaraigosa is a savvy politician with more fight in him.

News analysis by Jim Newton, Times Staff Writer

December 23, 2006 - For months, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ran circles around the hapless leaders of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

They tried to argue that schools were improving; he countered that modest progress was not enough, that they were "failing" children. They schlepped to Sacramento to testify before indifferent legislative panels; he swept into the Capitol, his old home turf, escorted by his close friend, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez. They tried to enlist teachers unions on their side; Villaraigosa cut his own deal with labor and left the school board isolated.

But Villaraigosa's campaign for school takeover hit the wall Thursday, when Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs rejected it wholesale, tossing the centerpiece of the mayor's first year in office brusquely aside. Janavs not only concluded that the proposal was unconstitutional, she went so far as to adopt many of the school district's characterizations of the bill and of the district's progress in recent years.

"While the LAUSD faces numerous demographic challenges, LAUSD's test scores have risen in recent years at a rate of 150% of the state average, and LAUSD is fourth in the state in the percentage of schools that met or exceeded their Academic Performance index … ," Janavs wrote, language utterly superfluous to her ruling but implicitly chastising of Villaraigosa's efforts.

Now, with those denunciations ringing in the mayor's ears, the campaign moves precisely into the arena where Villaraigosa has the least control and where his greatest strengths— charm and energy — are of no use to him.

In his first comments about the ruling, Villaraigosa did not appear to recognize how fundamentally the debate has shifted. Villaraigosa defended the constitutionality of his proposal, but concluded by arguing: "More than that, I believe we have the people on our side."

But popular will — and Villaraigosa's ability to marshal it — have receded in relevance as his pitch for at least partial mayoral control faces judicial review, not popular vote or legislative action. There, its prospects are far less certain, and neither Villaraigosa's formidable poll numbers, his exuberant personality nor his legislative contacts are of much use.

As a result, school reform, once at the top of the mayor's agenda, now threatens to slip away.

Not everyone sees that as a terrible development for the mayor, at least in political terms. Duke University law professor and longtime Villaraigosa friend Erwin Chemerinsky, for one, notes that Villaraigosa may well prevail on appeal. And even if the mayor loses this battle, Chemerinsky added, he can credibly say to voters that he did all he could, only to be blocked by the courts.

Richard Alatorre, a former L.A. councilman and shrewd observer of city politics, agrees.

"In political terms, he can turn around and say: I did the best I could,' " Alatorre said Friday. "In the long run, I think the mayor wins."

That only protects the mayor's flank, however. It does not serve children or raise educational standards in some new way.

Because of that, Alatorre said he does not believe that Villaraigosa will fold, at least not easily. "It's a setback for him, but that's not going to deter him," the former councilman said. "He's just begun to fight."

Still, one clear casualty of this debate is the notion of Villaraigosa's invincibility. He has used that to great effect in the past year — sweeping past council members leery of his proposal to raise trash fees for hiring more police, chasing off contenders for City Council seats who fear taking on his friends, forcing the council to overturn its own support for a $2.7-million settlement to a former firefighter in a harassment case, even pushing school board member David Tokofsky out of the race for his own seat on the school board.

As of this week, that diminishment alone tilts the meter of Los Angeles politics.

"I think he went overboard in trying to avoid a vote of the people," said Allen Hoffenblum, a Republican political analyst. "I know a lot of people who agree with that judge."

Gary Toebben, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, sided with Villaraigosa on the school bill and acknowledged that this week's events represented a rare public drubbing for the mayor. But Toebben argued that Villaraigosa's willingness to take on the issue was more important than this ruling.

"In the private sector, we understand that you don't win them all," Toebben said. "In the public sector, you're expected to win them all." But that, he added, discourages public officials from tackling difficult tasks.

"We applaud the mayor," he said, "for taking risks."

There is, too, the question of what happens next outside the courts. And there Villaraigosa continues to hold some strong cards, for while the school debate now is principally being hashed out in court, it has not slipped the bounds of politics completely.

Villaraigosa is backing candidates for the school board in the spring elections, and the lawsuit may, oddly, bolster his hand there, as he can appeal to parents unsatisfied with the status quo and unhappy that the school district is blocking his efforts.

That supplies him with an issue and an electorate — and thus potentially moves the matter back into the realm of politics, Villaraigosa's home court. On Friday, even as they dusted off from Janavs' ruling, aides to Villaraigosa savored that prospect.

"I think there's no question that the judge's ruling clarifies the picture for voters," said Deputy Mayor Sean Clegg. "You have one side saying that the pace of change is acceptable…. And you have the other side, the mayor, fighting for fundamental change."


By Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa

December 23, 2006 - On Thursday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge struck down AB 1381, the landmark effort to reform the Los Angeles Unified School District that was set to take effect Jan. 1. The ruling represents a temporary setback for students and their parents, but if I have learned anything from a lifetime of overcoming obstacles, it is that success is the reward of perseverance.

After the court's decision, I directed the city attorney's office to prepare an immediate appeal. We don't have the luxury of waiting another year — or even another term — for a fundamentally different approach in a school district that loses as many as half its students before they reach graduation.

Put simply, the district is at a crossroads. Supt. David L. Brewer has indicated that he is prepared to take on the bureaucracy within L.A. Unified, to champion the idea that every child can succeed no matter his or her economic or ethnic background. Brewer's attitude is a refreshing departure from an insular culture that stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the gravity of the dropout crisis.

Opponents of our efforts claim that there is a manufactured crisis in student achievement. They just don't get it. Independent study after independent study put the high school dropout rate at 50%, and in some schools it is much higher. More than 35,000 students disappeared from the class of 2005 between the start of their freshman years and graduation day. Meanwhile, Los Angeles has more gang members than any other American city. It's hard to imagine a more pressing crisis facing our community than education.

If the higher courts rule as they should, AB 1381 will be found constitutional and will provide a historic opportunity for change and innovation. It gives the superintendent authority to reduce the bloated bureaucracy, and it offers new resources for the lowest-performing schools. By creating a partnership among elected officials — including the mayor — community leaders and parents, the legislation firmly rejects the outdated notion that school bureaucracy alone can tackle the most critical job of government: educating our children.

It is plainly and profoundly a responsibility that the entire community bears. L.A. Unified faces enormous challenges. Yet the structure governing the district was put in place at the beginning of the 20th century — about the time that the city's population reached the 100,000 mark. Today, there are more than 700,000 students and 75,000 employees in the district. While the isolation of the school district may have worked in the era of the Model T, it is demonstrably untenable today.

As this case goes to a higher court, I am confident that we have the law on our side. My office will continue planning to give the Mayor's Community Partnership Schools — the high schools and feeder schools that AB 1381 would put under my control — a running start when they open in the next academic year. We will engage parents, teachers, business leaders and members of the community in the selection, design, planning and administration of those schools to make them genuine incubators of innovation. We will continue to challenge business and philanthropy to stake their futures with the futures of our kids. We will continue to reach out to the mayors and elected officials of the communities that make up L.A. Unified, because we all have a role in the important work of education reform. And make no mistake: We will support leaders in the March school board elections who are committed to a vision of fundamental change.

The future economy of Los Angeles — and our ability to attract and retain middle-class jobs — hinge on our ability to improve our public schools. It's time for the entire community of Los Angeles together to face up to this defining challenge. Just as so many others did for me, I intend to fight for the students in L.A. Unified — and I will not be deterred.

smf notes: There is a surfeit of the personal pronoun "I" above, interchangeable with the not very inclusive "we/our/my". The constitutional mandate for separation of school district governance from city government was put in place not at the turn of the twentieth century or in the age of the Model T, but by a vote of the people in 1946 – and similarly into the City Charter of 2000. The Mayor is sworn to uphold both.


December 27, 2006 - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is way off base on the issue of educational reform. His plan doesn't look like it improves accountability in the Los Angeles Unified School District. It looks more like a Rube Goldberg contraption that will make a lot of noise, belch a lot of smoke and produce very little at the end.

There is nothing in his Op-Ed article that even hints at how the educational process will be improved by his reform. He takes a Rovian swing at the school bureaucracy, asserting that it alone educates students. With all his experience, he must know that bureaucracies can impede or facilitate, but they do not educate. It is also ironic that his legislation adds layers to the bureaucracy (the Council of Mayors) and creates additional structures that look like they diminish accountability (the Mayor's Community Partnership Schools). Villaraigosa has taken this thing in the wrong direction.

Los Alamitos

The mayor fails to understand that school reform is less a function of organization and structure and more about the critical transaction between student and teacher. It was Socrates who said that education could take place in a hovel as long as you have a teacher with something to teach and a student with the heart to learn. The ultimate solutions to the complex problems we face in education are not going to come from elected officials but through building the capacity of dynamic instruction and engaged learning, one classroom and one school at a time.

Moreno Valley

The mayor insists that improving public schools will bring more middle-class jobs. He has it backward. He as mayor needs to attract middle-class jobs and subsidize homeownership for the middle class, which in turn will bring middle-class families. These parents will insist on higher standards for their children's schools. This will lift the quality of education overall in the areas with so-called failing schools.

Long Beach

No matter who ends up governing Los Angeles' schools, students will not get the education they deserve until the state opens its purse and starts putting its money where its mouth is. California is one of the world's largest economies, and yet our per-pupil spending does not reflect this wealth. Our teacher-to-student ratio is dismal; we are third from the bottom. Make education a funding priority or spare us the charade.


MAYOR CHARTS LAUSD COURSE: Appeal, election part of strategy
by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

12/23/06 - His legal defeat just a day old, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa began his next line of attack Friday to gain partial control of L.A.'s school district, filing an appeal to a judge's ruling against his takeover proposal and beginning his campaign to get the people he wants on the school board.

Besides the appeal, the mayor's attorneys asked a judge to stay the Thursday decision that ruled state Assembly Bill 1381 unconstitutional. The bill would have gone into effect Jan. 1.

But it's Villaraigosa's vow to return to the battleground he knows best — politics — by backing his own slate of candidates for the Los Angeles Unified School District board election in March that will continue to give him significant leverage over the district if an appeal fails but his candidates prevail.

With four of seven seats up for grabs, Villaraigosa is in a position to win a majority vote on the board, which means his reform effort could still become a reality, one way or another, said Jaime Regalado, director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

"Even if the mayor loses, in some way he probably will still win if he gets majority support on the school board, which is very likely," Regalado said. "... What the school board doesn't want is to create an enemy in the mayor, who's a force in statewide politics and is going to higher places.

"If he wins a majority on the board, the board will be bending over backwards to try to create some role for the mayor, though it's too soon to tell what that role will be."

In addition to filing an appeal Friday with the state District Court of Appeal asking for an expedited hearing, legal advisers to the mayor were also considering a request to the state Supreme Court to take up the matter directly.


In the best-case scenario, Thomas Saenz, chief counsel for the mayor, said the appellate justices could hear arguments in January or February. The appeal has been in the works for several days in what Saenz described as "an abundance of caution" in preparing for a decision against the mayor.

Saenz said he also will be asking Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs — who made the Thursday ruling on the grounds that AB 1381 violated the state constitution, the City Charter and voter rights — to allow the law to go into effect Jan. 1 as the appeals go forward.

The appeal, the school board election and marketing are all part of Villaraigosa's offensive, he said.

"Our strategy has to be this — we've got to move through the courts, we've got to take this to the ballot box, we've got to continue to win the public opinion about education reform," he said. "... We want fundamental reform, but we can't be afraid to move along one step at a time."

Meanwhile Friday, both supporters and opponents of the mayor agreed on one truth: AB 1381 opened the dialogue for reforming the behemoth LAUSD.

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, announced that he will introduce legislation in early January to break up the district into smaller, more accountable and manageable ones.

"I sincerely applaud the mayor in his recognition that LAUSD must be reformed, but I do not feel that mayoral control affords parents and local communities the necessary accountability over their children's education," Smyth said. "Now that the courts have ruled AB 1381 unconstitutional, we must take the momentum generated and put together a viable plan that passes constitutional muster and provides parents and students of Los Angeles the best education possible."

Other leaders, including United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy, said they will not be deterred by the judge's ruling in their push to bring dramatic reforms to the district.

Duffy said his plan is to bring all the interests together, including the school board, the superintendent, the mayor and the union, to determine how to move forward.

Placing low-performing schools into clusters so they could be better monitored has been an idea Duffy has been championing for a year. He said this is something he will continue to pursue, but on a smaller scale than the mayor's plan. He said he will also look to support candidates for the school board who back the idea of greater local control over budget and curriculum at school sites.

"The only relevant issue here is getting all of the people involved to determine what school reform should be about, irrespective of control," Duffy said.


Superintendent David Brewer III said Friday that he's going to push his "transformation initiatives," and that many of his ideas are in line with Villaraigosa's. And regardless of AB 1381, he will continue to hold quarterly meetings with the mayors of all 27 cities the LAUSD serves.

"Politics is always going to be there, but regardless of politics, in the final analysis, we usually get it right," Brewer said. "The process has already started. Change is coming. I will not accept the status quo, and the board knows that."

Prior to the court ruling, Villaraigosa had repeatedly urged the district to drop its lawsuit challenging AB 1381 to prevent a prolonged legal battle that would get in the way of reform.

Now, others are calling for the mayor to end his effort to assume partial control of the schools.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, released a statement Friday calling the judge's ruling that AB 1381 is unconstitutional a "victory for educational integrity."

"A Villaraigosa school takeover would have been risky, chaotic and ultimately open the schools to contentious political control," he said. "Mayor Villaraigosa should scrap plans to appeal the decision and put an end to his failed and flawed effort to control the schools and do what he was elected and paid to do, namely, improve the quality of life in L.A. That is more than a full-time job."

When the ruling was announced Thursday, Monica Garcia, the sole Villaraigosa supporter on the school board, said she'd like to see the district still move to create the three clusters of lowest-performing schools Villaraigosa had proposed to oversee.


The key is to make members of the public understand that it's important who they choose to serve on the school board, since the decisions they make have consequences to the communities, she said.

If the district does not commit to an action plan for change, partnership and transparency, leadership for reform can come from the school board, she said.

"I think there are going to be candidates that challenge the existing system," Garcia said, specifically citing Yolie Flores Aguilar, who's running for the open seat that will be vacated by incumbent David Tokofsky. "The current board or the board after March 6, 2007, will have a strong voice in whether or not we engage in (clusters and) ... partnerships with City Hall and the business communities like we haven't seen.

"The question is, Are we bold ... or are we patient?"

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Re "Mayor charts LAUSD course" (Dec. 23):

12/26 - Again the mayor is at it for control. It seems that every day he is trying to have his hand on everything - taking over the school district and traveling to foreign lands on our money. Every day on the news, he is there in front of the cameras doing unnecessary things.

I never saw James Hahn, Richard Riordan or especially Tom Bradley work in this manner as mayor. It would be better if Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa just stayed in his office and did the mayor's job for the city - or better yet if he got out and repaired the ruts and holes in the streets as he said he would do.


12/24/2006 - It's no surprise that the judge ruled the mayor's LAUSD bill unconstitutional. Sen. George Runner and I warned of that likelihood from the beginning. The mayor's bill is not only unconstitutional but was negotiated as a patchwork of back-room political compromises with special interest groups that would have led to ambiguity and no real responsibility or accountability for reform of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

With a dropout rate of 50 percent, a bloated bureaucracy, and headed for bankruptcy because of $10 billion of unfunded retiree health care costs, it is long past time for real reform of LAUSD. A vote of the people for smaller districts with local control, with more input from parents, teachers, and the community, and true accountability are what's needed to bring real education reform to our schools and to our children.

Former Assemblyman, 38th District

12/25/2006 - It is no wonder that Mayor Villaraigosa kept failing the State Bar exam when he continues to argue that he has the law on his side regarding the takeover of the LAUSD. All he had to do was read the City Charter to realize that he does not have the authority as mayor to run the schools.

What he should have done was ask the voters of L.A. to amend the charter, giving him that authority, instead of trying an end run around the voters by going to the state Legislature, which under the state constitution cannot give the mayor any additional authority that is not authorized by the City Charter.

Pacific Palisades

EDUCATION OVERHAUL URGED: Spending money on kids, qualified teachers at top of list

by Juliet Williams, Associated Press

12/26/2006 - SACRAMENTO - At the same time they are being asked to meet ever-tougher state and federal standards, California's schools face long-standing, seemingly intractable problems.

Among them: Huge achievement gaps related to income and race, fewer teachers skilled in such areas as math and science, and a slew of complicated mandates to meet.

Politicians over the past decade have tried to tackle the problems but failed to solve the most persistent ones, even as education is cited by voters as one of their most important issues.

The latest to take on the challenge is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has convened a broad-based, bipartisan panel of experts to perform a comprehensive review of California's public school system. Its mandate ranges from reviewing the funding system to studying effective teaching.

Educators hope it will lead to long-lasting change.

"I don't see that we have a choice. I just think we're at the point where we've tinkered around the edges for so long. ... There's no more tinkering that can be done," said Russlyn Ali, director of Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based policy and research organization.


Ali also is a member of the Committee on Education Excellence, the task force Schwarzenegger appointed in April 2005.

The group is expected to start making recommendations to the governor and other state leaders in early 2007. Before then, it will receive a series of research studies requested by Democratic legislative leaders and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.

He said the academic review for the first time will try to estimate the real cost of a quality education for California students, including the 1.6 million English learners and 3.1 million who are considered poor. They represent half of all students in the nation's largest public education system.

O'Connell also hopes the research will persuade Sacramento decision-makers to set funding based on schools' needs, rather than fluctuations in the economy or the state budget.

California is spending a record amount on schools this year, but progress in closing its achievement gaps has been slow.

Nearly a third of the 6,000 schools that receive federal funding for poor students failed to make annual yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Only a third have met the statewide achievement goals, some of the highest in the nation.

Black and Hispanic students still trail their white and Asian counterparts by as much as 30 percentage points in English at nearly all grade levels, and the gaps are nearly as wide in math. Still, the state has some of the toughest standards in the nation.


Commission President Ted Mitchell said its recommendations for reform will be bold. They will range from cutting unproductive state jobs to measuring teachers' effectiveness at raising student achievement.

"Maybe for the first time we're ready for a complicated conversation," about education in California, said Mitchell, who is president of Occidental College in Los Angeles.

If the governor and the Legislature accept the recommendations, they likely will lead to an overhaul of the state's funding system, new legislation to streamline the complicated system of special programs and perhaps a constitutional amendment in the form of a ballot initiative, Mitchell told The Associated Press.

More than half of California's annual budget is dedicated to education, with spending forecast to balloon to $57.5 billion in fiscal 2007, about $11,000 per student. Much of that money is eaten up by bureaucratic oversight.

Mitchell said it already is clear that the state spends too much money administering education programs and not enough on actually delivering them to students. Ensuring that the existing funding is more efficiently spent could go a long way toward addressing some of the most pressing problems, he said.

"While each one (of the programs) had or has its purpose, together they really hamstring the ability of schools to make good and timely decisions," he said.

For example, principals are held accountable for meeting student achievement targets, but California's system of state-controlled funding gives them very little control over their own budgets to use money where they think it's needed.

Sen. Jack Scott, D-Pasadena, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, wants to streamline programs. He is seeking to give local school officials more control over hiring and spending decisions through several pieces of legislation he has written.

Scott said the state's first priority in considering changes should be teacher quality. It should ensure that all students have access to the best teachers, rather than having them concentrated in wealthier schools that already have high achievement rates, as they are now.

"I'm working very hard on this matter, because it may be the key civil-rights issue of the 21st century: What are we doing to address the unequal quality of teaching?" he said. "Here we have the students in the low-performing schools, many of them are English-language learners, they come from poverty homes, and yet we haven't distributed our teachers in such a way that the best teachers are teaching in those schools."

Mitchell agreed that good leadership, including school principals, is a core concern for the committee.

"Having an excellent teacher in the classroom is the heart of the matter, and making sure that in California we re-professionalize the labor force ... It's quite critical to our success," he said.


• What it will take, financially and otherwise, to make all California teachers "well qualified" as required under the No Child Left Behind Act. Every state in the nation failed to meet that goal last fall.

• Why the state has not accurately tracked high school dropout rates and how it can start doing so.

• How to recruit and properly train an estimated 100,000 new teachers California is forecast to need in the next decade, including making it easier for out-of-state teachers and mid-career professionals to obtain credentials.

Some suggestions, particularly ideas about measuring teachers' effectiveness, are likely to meet resistance from powerful interests such as the California Teachers Association.

The politically powerful union has resisted previous efforts to monitor teachers. It successfully campaigned against a Schwarzenegger ballot initiative during the 2005 special election that would have increased the time teachers had to wait to attain tenure, or job security, from two years to five. Voters rejected the measure.

by Joel Rubin, LA Times Staff Writer

December 26, 2006 - Iris Sanchez is stumbling toward high school.

With two weeks left before winter break started, the quiet eighth-grader was flunking math, science and history. She was studying little at home and missing classes.

She has, in short, the makings of a dropout.

But on a recent Tuesday morning, Iris was pulled out of her third-period class at Sepulveda Middle School and called to the counseling office. She slipped meekly into a closet-sized room and found herself face to face with Lauren Weiss.

Part tough-love sergeant and part mother figure, Weiss led Iris through a crash course on the pitfalls awaiting her next year.

"You've got to own your education, Iris. You've got to own it. In high school, when you see your grades going down, it is really important that … bells go off in your head," she said. "You go and you ask for help. Good students get help. All right?"

Iris is hardly alone. Every year, thousands of low-performing, unprepared students in the Los Angeles Unified School District move from middle to high school. There, with more rigorous high-stakes academics and intense social pressures, they can find it easy to fall behind, grow frustrated and give up.

It is a story line that school district officials say must be rewritten. After having focused for years on elementary and high school reforms, L.A. Unified leaders say they are turning their attention to middle schools in hopes of better preparing students for high school and thus stemming the district's alarming dropout rate.

"Middle schools have been overlooked," said Robert Collins, the district's chief instructional officer for secondary education. "We can't win the high school issues unless we do a better job in middle schools."

The problem is not limited to Los Angeles. Across the country, educators have struggled with how to teach adolescents in the awkward middle years. Briefly the subject of national debate in the late 1980s, middle school reform efforts have since slipped largely into the shadows.

In coming months, Los Angeles Unified officials are expected to ask the Board of Education for the go-ahead on aggressive reforms for middle schools. Even if approved, however, such reforms, which could include a longer school day, would take years to fully implement.

Until then, Weiss and the cadre of other counselors hired this year to work in some of the district's neediest middle schools are doing triage to identify and intervene with at-risk students.

"The idea of dropping out begins as a quiet secret in the minds of middle-schoolers," Weiss said. "If there isn't someone there who reaches them to bust that idea, it will grow and grow."

For a series of articles earlier this year, The Times spent eight months examining the dropout problem at a typical district high school. In interviews, hundreds of dropouts and struggling students echoed Weiss, saying middle school had done little to ready them for high school.

A failing grade in middle school, for example, rarely meets with any serious repercussions, but in high school, poor-performing students get caught in a downward spiral. They must pass classes to earn credits needed to graduate. With every class they fail and repeat, struggling students slip further behind.

The social and emotional transition from middle to high school can be rough. Often for the first time, high school students encounter a host of outside pressures — gangs, work and sex — that can push them to drop out.

Los Angeles school district officials announced a set of initiatives in February aimed at tackling the dropout crisis. As part of the effort, Weiss and other "diploma project advisors" were placed in low-performing middle schools. Another group was sent into troubled high schools.

Including Sepulveda in the northeast San Fernando Valley community of North Hills, 33 of the district's 74 traditional middle schools have the new counselors. They are expected to work with the students at greatest risk — in general, those who are failing at least three classes or who have serious discipline and attendance problems.

Sessions can last 10 minutes or two hours and can be businesslike discussions of study habits and grades or deeply emotional forays into a troubled student's family life.

Counselors connect students to whatever tutoring, psychological or social services they need. They press these students to take extra classes on weekends or vacations and attempt to open their eyes to the realities awaiting them in high school. They call parents and try — often futilely — to get them to become more involved in their children's education.

At Gage Middle School in Huntington Park, the job is daunting. More than 3,300 students from the poor, Latino immigrant community overfill the school. The seven traditional counselors on staff scramble to manage caseloads of about 500 students each, more than 40% of whom struggle to speak English.

After Gage, most students enter nearby Huntington Park High School. There, according to current state figures, slightly more than one in four will drop out.

There were so many students at Gage this year with at least three failing grades — 560 — that Diane Chavez-Palmer had to scale back when she arrived a few months ago. To make the workload manageable, she sees only the 150 students flunking four or more classes.

"If you're a doctor, you want to be in the emergency room, where it's nonstop and a little crazy," she said. "That's kind of what it's like here."

Most frustrating, Chavez-Palmer said, is the difficulty in getting students and parents to follow through on her recommendations for tutoring and other services. At a recent meeting, only 20 parents showed up.

There is little Chavez-Palmer and the other counselors can do to compel middle school students to work harder. A district policy requiring principals to hold back eighth-grade students who fail to meet minimal standards in English and math is largely ignored, said Collins, the chief instructional officer.

The small piece of leverage counselors do have over failing students — threatening to ban them from informal graduation ceremonies schools hold for eighth-graders — often does little to sway students.

"As long as I go on to the ninth grade," a 14-year-old boy shrugged when Diane-Chavez raised the prospect.

"You didn't pass the majority of your classes in seventh grade and went on to eighth. The same will happen this year," the blunt-talking counselor replied. "But what's going to happen next year? How many times do you think Huntington Park High School is going to allow you to do this?"

Weiss, who wrote a guidebook to high school for Sepulveda eighth-graders, often relies on sheer repetition to drum the realities of high school into the heads of the 83 eighth-graders on her rolls.

"Say that back to me: What happens if you fail a class in high school?" she said to 13-year-old Christina Duran as the two read a page from the guidebook.

"You repeat it," Duran said, her voice almost a whisper.

"What happens if you fail a class in high school?"

"You repeat it."

Weiss let the message sink in. Silence filled the tiny room as the two stared at each other.

Christina dropped her eyes to the floor. "I didn't know that," she said with a nervous laugh.

District officials heap praise on the counselors but are quick to acknowledge that deep and broad changes are needed to salvage L.A. Unified's middle schools. More than half of the roughly 158,000 middle school students tested either "below basic" or "far below basic" on state math tests last year, and 40% foundered at those levels on English tests. Moreover, 68 of the 74 middle schools are on a federal watch list for falling short of testing benchmarks, and 47 of those schools have been on the list for four or more years.

"We're not going to change things by trying harder at what we have been doing," Collins said. "This cannot be reform around the edges."

In response to the dramatic number of students failing math, the district this year scrapped its policy of requiring all eighth-graders to take algebra and created "algebra readiness" classes for struggling students.

Many unprepared students, however, are still being placed in algebra. This year at Gage, for example, one math teacher estimated that at least half of the 35 students in one of her algebra classes were failing.

A task force is compiling ideas that will be presented to the school board. It is likely to have the support of recently appointed Supt. David L. Brewer, who has repeatedly pointed to middle schools as one of the district's greatest challenges.

The task force, Collins said, has been looking for reform ideas at charter schools, primarily the high-achieving Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, schools, and the few well-regarded district programs.

Requiring students to repeat failed classes, overhauling the often subpar instruction the more-than 54,000 "English-learner" students receive and restructuring schools to allow teams of teachers to work with small groups of students are some of the ideas on the table.

The task force also is expected to recommend an increase to the length of the middle school day by one or two periods to help struggling students, a dramatic and expensive move that would require the approval of the teachers union.

"For too long, we have not been saying to middle school students and parents, 'These are our standards and this is our set of expectations…. It is expected that you're going to pass every class,' " Collins said.

"We cannot just keep pushing students along."

L.A. MAGNET SCHOOL MEETINGS HAVE A TWIST: Los Angeles parents find help with magnet school applications at seminars with a twist

by Ana Beatriz Cholo, The Associated Press

Dec. 26 – LOS ANGELES – In the cutthroat competition to get their kids into a public magnet school, some parents are turning to support groups and a stiff drink to help them through the process.

The support groups are for commiserating and to share tips on finishing a deceptively complex one-page application. The drinks, jokes one parent, are to numb the pain.

"You just want to break down weeping because you can't make sense of it," laments writer and performer Sandra Tsing Loh.

Loh organizes meetings called "Martinis and Magnets" based on her experience as a parent traumatized by the year she spent getting her young daughter into kindergarten.

Applying for a magnet school is a common theme among many middle-class parents in large districts across the country this time of year. It's usually not simple and admissions criteria vary by city.

For schools geared to gifted kids, admission is based on academic merit. For regular magnet schools, it's usually a lottery-based system that weighs factors like race.

In Los Angeles, for example, higher points go to applicants who live near an overcrowded school with a large minority population. A racially weighted lottery is used for magnets in Chicago.

In New York City, which offers the most varied educational choices for parents in the country, a thick book written by a former reporter is available to guide parents through the confusing maze of public schools.

Strategizing is important when it comes to getting into the best performing magnet schools, and it can take several years to finally break through.

Last year, the Los Angeles school district received 56,414 applications for 162 magnet schools. About 23 percent, or 12,932 students, were given spots.

One purpose of most magnet schools is integration. In Los Angeles, 30 percent of the slots are reserved for white students, said Donnalyn Anton, executive officer of education services for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

During the past year, officials have tried to simplify the magnet school booklet that describes the labyrinth of schools and the process of applying. Parents, including Loh, were enlisted to help make it clearer.

"We're not trying to make it something that will confuse people," Anton said.

More than a year ago, Loh and Christie Mellor, a fellow public school parent and the author of "The Three-Martini Playdate," came up with the idea of holding the seminars.

A small menu of educationally themed drinks is served at the meetings to help relax "sleep-deprived, hysterical parents," Loh said. One such drink is the "Roy Romer," named for the former Los Angeles schools superintendent a splash of candied ginger vodka with cranberry juice.

For this year's first meeting, more than 100 parents crammed into a small art studio. The expectation was to have a relaxed, casual affair, but the issues that surfaced were anything but.

A childless couple said they were thinking about having kids. One mom wondered if she should be testing her baby now. A dad with a Ph.D. couldn't figure out the lottery system, which is based on accumulating points.

Loh herself said she went through "a year of madness."

When her daughter was almost ready for kindergarten, Loh wasn't keen on the local neighborhood school because of negative perceptions about it fueled by other parents. But shelling out big bucks for a private school was not an option either.

She enrolled her daughter at the local school after seeing it for herself, but then a slot opened at a magnet school and Loh started her there instead.

Mellor's oldest son attends one of the most prestigious magnet high schools in the city, The Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies.

He got lucky, she readily admits. He had been on the waiting list but just as the family was about to leave on a summer vacation, the school called. It had a spot for him.

Mellor thinks if they had missed that call, it's likely her son never would have gotten in.

Eileen Kugler, a Virginia parent who wrote "Debunking the Middle-Class Myth: Why Diverse Schools Are Good for All Kids," said she applauds the effort but wonders if such cocktail parties might exclude some immigrant and low-income parents who may need more help.

"Once you name something 'Martinis and Magnets' you make it somewhat exclusive," she said. "It's going to attract a particular type of parent."

But Loh thinks it's the pushy, neurotic middle-class parents who will ultimately lead the drive to help improve public schools. When that happens, the upside is that all students benefit, she says.

A couple of weekends ago, a meeting held at an art studio was more discussion-oriented and not so nuts and bolts as in previous gatherings.

Still, acronyms and the jargon beloved by education bureaucrats were freely tossed around by parents in the know.

But not everyone there was in the know.

"This is confusing," Kim Smith said with a sigh as her 4-year-old bounced around next to her.

What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6387 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6383

• The Mayor: • 213/978-0600
• The Governor: • 213-897-0322
• 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.
• Register.
• 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.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Friday, December 22, 2006


4LAKids: Friday, Dec 22, 2005
In This Issue:
A MAYORAL SETBACK: Legislation giving Villaraigosa power over city schools may be flawed, as a judge ruled, but his goal is (in)correct.
TURNING AROUND L.A. UNIFIED: We’re not going to make progress reforming the nation’s most dysfunctional school systems until we address segregation
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
smf4LAKids: The political campaign - Scott Folsom for School Board!
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
Here is the meat and potatoes (tofu and quinoa) of Thursday's court ruling striking down the Romero Act of 2006 (AB1381 – Mayoral Takeover of LAUSD):

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that, for he reasons set forth in the Court's Settlement of Decision filed concurrently herewith, the Petition for Writ of Mandate is granted, and a preemptory writ of mandate shall issue under the seal of this court compelling Respondents/Defendants, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, State Board of Education, State Controller Steve Westly, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles County School Superintendent Darline Robles, and those public officers and employees acting by and through their authority to refrain from enforcing or implementing AB1381 in the execution of the course and scope of their official duties;

• The ruling holds that AB1381 VIOLATES STATE CONSTITUTION ARTICLE IX, SECTIONS 5, 6 AND 8 – dealing with the separation of municipal government from school governance.

• The ruling holds that AB1381 VIOLATES STATE CONSTITUTION ARTICLE IX, SECTIONS 14 – in that it is specific law addressing only LAUSD rather than a statewide law addressing all school districts.

• The ruling holds that AB1381 VIOLATES STATE CONSTITUTION ARTICLE IX, SECTIONS 16 AND ARTICLE XI, SECTIONS 3 and 5 – in that it interferes with local home rule and the Los Angles City Charter.

• The ruling holds that AB1381 VIOLATES STATE CONSTITUTION ARTICLE II, SECTION2 AND ARTICLE I, SECTION 7 – in that it interferes with the voting rights of citizens within the proposed Mayor's Clusters of Schools.

• THE INVALID PROVISIONS OF AB1381 ARE NOT SEVERABLE – acknowledging that it was not the intent of the legislature for parts of AB1381 to stand if others were struck down.

A link to the full ruling follows.

Judge Janov's ruling establishes important new legal precedent, no one has ever challenged the state constitution's mandate for a separation of powers between municipal government and school district governance; the reason why is because no one in California has tried it since the (PTA sponsored) amendment was made to our constitution sixty years ago.

The fight is not over.

While I can find nothing to disagree with in the judge's ruling it is not binding on higher courts – courts of appeal and the state Supreme Court can and may rule differently.

In yesterday's press conference a reporter asked if the school board would now be willing to allow the mayor to operate his Clusters of Schools in a "good faith" gesture – in essence asking the Board of Ed to go along with a now proven illegal and unconstitutional program in some sort of well meaning contempt of court and the state constitution.

Following is a LA Times Editorial published under the online headline: "Good riddance, Assembly Bill 1381. Now Villaraigosa should start pushing for what he originally wanted -- real control of the LAUSD."

The Times Editorial Board is historically of a mixed mind on the subject of mayoral control – perched between bipolar and simply wanting to have and eat the cake – but the dangerous thinking is contained in the opening premise that the mayor should run the schools and the ending position that a state constitutional amendment allowing him to do so is in order. That would be a constitutional amendment undoing every one of the constitutional guarantees the ruling has upheld. The contention that "they did it in New York or Boston or Chicago" is one which we Californians need to answer with the politically incorrect/parentally correct response: "Just because 'everyone else is doing it' doesn't make it right!"

Because, gentle readers, it's wrong in those places – and it's really wrong here! - smf

The Ruling ( a graphic PDF - large file)

A MAYORAL SETBACK: Legislation giving Villaraigosa power over city schools may be flawed, as a judge ruled, but his goal is (in)correct.
(parentheses inserted) Led into temptation and delirious with sugarplum overload I could resist editorializing "(parent)heses inserted" only so long! Sorry. -smf

LA Times Editorial

December 22, 2006 -THE MAYOR OF Los Angeles should run the city's schools. That principle suffered a legal setback Thursday, but it's a principle — embraced in other major cities across the country — that must not be abandoned. Mayoral control enhances the accountability of school systems by placing the most representative political leader in the city in charge of the one aspect of local government that the citizenry cares most about: the education of their children.

That said, a mayoral takeover of schools in Los Angeles was always going to be a steep uphill political battle — more so than in New York or Chicago — and it is hard to shed tears over Assembly Bill 1381, one of the most convoluted backroom deals to be struck in Sacramento in years.

Ruling on a constitutional challenge to the bill, Superior Court Judge Dzintra I. Janavs gave Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa a failing grade in his effort to pull most authority away from the elected school board, put himself and a Council of Mayors over a newly empowered superintendent and run a cluster of schools that could have as many as 75,000 students.

Unlike in other states where mayoral control of schools has been tried, California's Constitution requires that schools be governed only by "public school systems." The City Charter calls for an elected board to run the schools and for the mayor to stick to his municipal knitting. Then there is the issue of the district's boundaries extending into more than a dozen other cities.

Janavs interpreted the charter and the Constitution narrowly, refusing to buy into some of the mayor's maneuvers aimed at surmounting this challenge — such as the Council of Mayors, the survival of the school board and the notion that the mayor's authority over schools flowed through the existing county education office.

The judge held that the charter and the Constitution are clear on the separation of municipal and educational power, and that families that would fall within the cluster of schools the mayor would directly oversee under the bill were effectively being disenfranchised, as they would have no say about the transfer. She also rejected the mayor's argument that the cluster was more like a group of charter schools, saying his schools would not receive meaningful oversight from a public school agency, as charters theoretically must.

The key legal issue at stake here — for AB 1381 and any attempt to put a weak school system under stronger leadership — is how narrowly to define a public school system. Janavs questioned the mayor's legal team last week when they contended that the phrase was highly expandable. Could the police chief run the schools? In her ruling, Janavs drew the line at a literal definition of a school system. Another judge might well rule in favor of a more liberal definition but one within reasonable limits — which could include a mayor. Of course, the additional complicating factor remains that this is an attempt not simply to redefine the mayor's relationship with voters but with Los Angeles Unified School District families that live outside the city's boundaries. A districtwide vote could resolve that.

From the moment Villaraigosa forged his backroom deal with the teachers union, AB 1381 sadly was never about putting the mayor in a true governance position over the LAUSD. As the judge noted, the law split power and liability so ambiguously among him, other mayors, the school board, the superintendent and unspecified community leaders that it was hard to know who, if anyone, would be running the schools.

The mayor plans to appeal, as he should. In the meantime, while the legislation is put on hold, there will be a lot of talk about Villaraigosa's power to influence upcoming school board races and his ability to work in various ways with new Supt. David L. Brewer to improve schools, possibly even adopting charter schools to stand in for the cluster of schools the legislation offered him.

But all that is no substitute for true mayoral control, which the city needs. So Villaraigosa needs to start plotting Plan B in case he doesn't win on appeal: a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment to gain full mayoral control, as Thursday's ruling would require. He may want to pursue this option in any event, to lose some of AB 1381's more cumbersome compromises.

There is much news coverage and differing opinion out there – all quite healthy in our democracy, here is a CONSTANTLY UPDATED LINK to much of it


► WEALTHY SCHOOLS GET MORE - Report: Districts nationwide shortchange poor, minorities

by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

12/21/06 - Los Angeles Unified and other school districts nationwide give more money and assign more experienced teachers to campuses in wealthier areas, shortchanging low- income and minority students who need more resources to succeed, a national study released today says.

The report by the Education Trust also found that districts think the tax revenue they get specifically for low-income and minority students is sufficient, so they spend unrestricted funds on "extras" such as teacher's aides and full-day kindergarten at more affluent schools.

"The conclusions are downright frightening," said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust.

"At every level - federal, state and district - the decisions we make stack the deck against low-income kids and kids of color. These facts raise disturbing questions about our values in this country.

"While we're saying that if you go to school you can be whatever you want to be, we are essentially sucker-punching them at the same time."

The study also found that Los Angeles Unified spends more per-pupil than the statewide average for impoverished and minority students. At the same time, teachers who work in wealthier areas earn about $1,400 a year more than those assigned to impoverished campuses.

"If you consider sending more money to wealthier districts than to high-poverty districts bad, L.A. has the effect of making the state of California look better," said Eli Pristoop, data analyst for EdTrust.

"That said, this doesn't address adequacy of funding. It just looks at how L.A. compares to other high-poverty districts in the state of California."

There is a wide disparity in funding not only within states, but also among states, report co-author Goodwin Liu said.

Based on figures adjusted for cost-of-living and other disparities, the 10 highest-spending states in the country spend 50percent more per child than the 40 others, he said.


While California spends $5,743 per student, Vermont - with far fewer low-income and minority students - spends more than $9,400.

And in receiving the TitleI money earmarked for low-income students, California falls roughly in the middle of all states, although it has the most impoverished youths - nearly 1.3million.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is poised to assume a greater role over the district beginning Jan.1, has promised to lobby hard for a greater share of state and federal money for Los Angeles Unified.

"The Education Trust study underscores Mayor Villaraigosa's belief that reforming our public schools is the civil rights issue of our time," spokeswoman Janelle Erickson said.

"Not only do we need to cut the bureaucratic waste to move dollars back into the classroom, we need to shine a light on how our schools are funded, including TitleI, to ensure every child is given the education they deserve."

Educators may expound on the need to raise performance and close the achievement gap, but that's just rhetoric until there's funding equality, Liu said.

"Federal Title I money is supposed to level the playing field for low-income kids, but TitleI disproportionately benefits high-spending states," Liu said. "The program's state allocation formula ends up reinforcing rather than reducing funding gaps between wealthy and poor states."

School board member David Tokofsky said federal laws need to be changed to rectify funding irregularities.

"There's a formula problem," he said. "Congress making the rules 3,000 miles away is not going to understand the diversity of circumstances in our diverse nation, and certainly formulas created in 1964 are out of touch with the geopolitical realities and educational needs of kids today."


The EdTrust report also found that districts spend more unrestricted money on affluent schools, which also tend to get more-experienced teachers, co-author Marguerite Roza said.

"In most districts, wealthier, whiter schools have more senior teachers and few teachers turning over every year," Roza said. "If you put salaries aside, wealthier schools get more resources in terms of salaries and supplies."

Because powerful teachers unions may impede efforts to reassign their members, Roza suggested using pay incentives and bonuses to attract more-experienced teachers to less-desirable schools.

Tokofsky disputed the report's assumption that more-experienced teachers are better. "Their data perpetuates this polemic in a way that I think doesn't further legislative change but increases a general sense of victimization," he said.


In wrapping up its findings, the EdTrust authors recommended raising public awareness of the need to invest more tax revenue on education, allocate more money to impoverished students and distribute funds more equitably.

Finally, the report called for school districts to publicize details of their budgets, and how much money goes to individual schools and to target more of their resources to those schools with the biggest challenges.

"There are glaring inequities in the system," Liu said. "The policy predicate - and frankly the moral predicate - for making those changes is fairly compelling.

"These issues boil down to the politics of how you rearrange money going to members' districts."

• The Daily News takes a national problem and tries to make it local; Title One funding concentrates additional funding on the schools the article says are underfunded. LAUSD is reliant on Title One funding to achieve basic education; non Title One schools ("wealthy schools" if you would) are actually funded at a lower level and end up relying on PTAs and bake sales to make ends meet. The real question that everyone seems afraid to ask is how effective Title One funding is where it's spent? Some would actually make a case statistically that the more money a school gets the lower it performs! - smf


EdTrust Press Release

12/20/06 - (Washington, D.C.) – School finance policy choices at the federal, state, and district levels systematically stack the deck against students who need the most support from their schools, according to a report released today by the Education Trust.

The report, Funding Gaps 2006, builds on the Education Trust’s annual studies of funding gaps among school districts within states. For the first time the report includes data and analysis on:

• How federal Title I funds widen rather than narrow the education funding gaps that separate wealthy states from poor states; and,
• How funding choices at the school district level provide enhanced funding to schools serving higher concentrations of affluent students and white students at the expense of schools that serve low-income students and students of color.

“With the help of two noted scholars, Goodwin Liu and Marguerite Roza, this year’s funding gap report paints a fuller – and even more painful – picture of how funding choices made at every level shortchange low-income students and students of color,” said Kati Haycock, the president of the Education Trust. “And while fairer funding systems will not alone redress all of the inequities in our education system, getting the funding right—at every level—will begin to make real our national aspiration of a fair shot for every child.”


Goodwin Liu, Assistant Professor of Law at Boalt Hall School of Law and co-director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity at the University of California at Berkeley, analyzed the distribution of Title I funds and shows that the program’s state allocation formula reinforces rather than reduces funding gaps between wealthy and poor states.

Liu’s analysis finds that the state expenditure factor in the Title I formula results in highly unequal allocations of federal aid per poor child. For example, Maryland has fewer poor children than Arkansas but receives 51 percent more Title I aid per poor child, even though Arkansas dedicates more of its taxable resources to education than wealthier Maryland. Similarly, Massachusetts has fewer poor children and exerts less effort against its tax base to fund education than poorer Oklahoma, but receives more than twice as much Title I aid.

In short, Title I tends to reward wealthy states that can raise funds for education with relatively little effort while shortchanging poorer states, including those that make relatively greater effort to fund education.

“Poor children are concentrated in relatively poorer states. Instead of providing relatively more help to these kids, Title I provides less,” Liu said. “If we are serious about ensuring that every child in America meets high standards, then we must develop a federal school finance policy equal to the task.”


In the paper’s second analysis—an update of the annual Education Trust funding gap analysis –co-authors Ross Wiener and Eli Pristoop of the Education Trust examine patterns in state and local funding across districts in the same state . Wiener and Pristoop find that in about half of the states studied, the highest poverty and highest minority districts received fewer resources than the lowest poverty and lowest minority districts. On average, states and localities spend $908 less per student in districts educating the most students of color, and $825 less per student in districts educating the most low-income students as compared to what is spent in the wealthiest and whitest districts.

After a 40 percent adjustment – the same adjustment used in the Title I formula to analyze state funding policies to low-income students – six states have funding gaps between the lowest and highest poverty districts that exceed $1,000 per child: Illinois, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Based on the same adjustment, 12 states have funding gaps between highest and lowest minority districts that exceed $1,000 per child: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

However, other states—including Massachusetts and Kentucky – target more money to high-poverty districts, and use meaningful accountability measures to ensure that the funds are used to make real progress.

“Ignoring or condoning funding gaps only makes it harder to tackle the substantive problems and inequities in public schools,” said Wiener, vice president for practice and policy at the Education Trust. “There are many complicated issues in reforming the current system, but fairly funding schools is not one of them.”


The final analysis in the report looks at distribution of funds within school districts. University of Washington Research Assistant Professor Marguerite Roza shows that, despite district bookkeeping practices that make funding across schools within the same district appear relatively comparable, substantially less money is spent in high-poverty and high-minority schools.

Teacher salaries are the clearest example. Roza looks at salary expenditures in a variety of districts and finds troubling inequities in the allocation of this key resource among schools in the same district. For example in Austin, a city with one of the largest salary gaps, the gap in average teacher salaries between the highest and lowest poverty schools within the district amounted to $3,837. In a school of 25 teachers that gap amounts to $95,925 less per year for a low-income school; in a school with 100 teachers, the gap increases to $383,700 per year.

Roza’s analysis also shows that salaries are not the only problem: districts routinely assign a larger share of their unrestricted funds to lower-poverty schools, as well. Although districts distribute earmarked funds such as Title I mostly to higher need schools, they undercut the purpose of those dollars—to provide “extras” for low-income students—by sending a higher percentage of flexible state and local funding to lower poverty schools.

"The spending patterns and funding gaps within districts exacerbate educational inequalities for low-income and minority students. Sadly, these funding inequities are buried in widely accepted and outmoded district-level accounting practices,” said Roza.

Among the report’s recommendations:

• At the Federal Level: The state expenditure factor in the Title I formula should be eliminated, and Title I funding should compensate for differences in state capacity to fund education.

• At the State Level: States need to assess relative challenges across districts and ensure that funding is commensurate with the challenges, and set equity standards for all school districts.

• At the School District Level: Districts need to publish transparent budgets and allocation figures to provide for greater accountability of local spending patterns.

“The funding inequities documented in this report, though deeply ingrained in our education systems, are not immutable. We can and should change these distribution practices so they direct resources first to the areas of greatest need,” said Haycock.


TURNING AROUND L.A. UNIFIED: We’re not going to make progress reforming the nation’s most dysfunctional school systems until we address segregation

by Paul Cummins | Truthdigg, a Progressive Journal of News and Opinion

Dec 19, 2006 — LOS ANGELES — What would it take? To truly turn around Los Angeles Unified School District, a school system that is at once the nation’s second-largest and one of its most under-performing—even, as many have argued, the most dysfunctional in the country; what would it take?

Not a quick fix. Not a silver bullet. Not simply a new superintendent, not simply a new program—Open Court [] or LAEP [] —not simply more systems of accountability to raise test scores a percentage point or two for a few years. Not Leave No Child Behind, not raising the per-pupil expenditures by a few hundred dollars.

Not that all of the above cannot, will not or do not help. And not that all the above shouldn’t be supported. But before we think any given fix will work, we need to define the problems more accurately, more honestly and more profoundly. You don’t cure an illness by treating only the symptoms. Test scores are a symptom. Dropout rates are a symptom. So, too, are gang domination, early teen pregnancy and childbirth, drugs and eating disorders, and teen suicide. All are symptoms of a fractured society, and until we fully acknowledge the breadth and depth of these fractures, we will not “fix” any school district. William Faulkner, in his 1950 Nobel Prize speech, wrote, “… we have sustained our problems of the spirit so long ... by now that we can even bear it.” But bearing it is not solving it.

The problems of our schools, I believe, are problems of the spirit. Leadership which fails to acknowledge and confront that reality will fail, and we along with it. Our primary spiritual failure is our disregard for real community. In Los Angeles, we are a balkanized city. We have a Koreatown, a Chinatown, a Little Tokyo; we have districts that are predominantly Jewish or Armenian or Vietnamese or Latino and on and on. But this is not real diversity—it is simply separate groupings that have little to do with each other. We have schools that are 99 percent Latino, 99 percent African-American or 99 percent Caucasian.

But beyond and almost superseding this, we have rich and poor. The neighborhoods and schools that are predominantly rich are also predominantly white, and the predominantly poor in Los Angeles are not white. This is not a startlingly new observation, but the failure to deal with it and the inequities these societal divisions impose on our children and youths represent a major failure of our country. Raising test scores a few percentage points may make some people feel good, but it will do little to change the lives of the desperately poor, foster children, gang-controlled youths, incarcerated youths and other youths destined for the ranks of the dropouts, the unemployed, the homeless, the “permanently unemployed,” the victims of crime, drugs, rape, etc.

So, real solutions? First, acknowledge that we have thousands of throwaway children and youths in our big cities and rural slums. Two, acknowledge that the Third World is right here in our own country and that day-to-day tragedies occur under our societal radar screens. Three, make the funding of known solutions and successful nonprofit organizations and public projects our highest priority. Four, hold a series of public and privately funded national summits to evaluate and make action plans for attacking the problems referred to above. Nothing short of a national resolve will fix LAUSD and all the LAUSDs across the land. Our children warrant such an effort.

• Paul Cummins is executive director of the New Visions Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to catalzye change in American public education. Cummins co-founded Crossroads School (Santa Monica, CA) in 1971, the Crossroads Community Foundation in 1991, New Roads School in 1995, and was a co-creator in launching Camino Neuvo Charter Academy.


by Dan Walters | The Sacramento Bee

Monday, 12/18/2006 - The two-month hiatus between Election Day and January's kickoff of the annual cycle of lawmaking and gamesmanship in the Capitol has its own flavor — appropriately falling during the holiday season, when drawing up wish lists and making new year's resolutions are venerable human activities.

When Senate President pro tem Don Perata unveiled a scheme to expand health care last week, for instance, he was claiming a role in what politicians say will be 2007's biggest issue. And in doing so in December, Perata drew much more attention than he would in January.

Others are also floating notions on health care and other potential preoccupations next year — especially those that might involve large sums of money, such as fixing overcrowded prisons before federal judges take over the system.

And then there's education, California's largest public enterprise, costing state and local taxpayers upwards of $100 billion a year.

The governor has a Commission on Education Excellence that's supposedly conducting a comprehensive review of California's public education system, which Schwarzenegger says is in need of reform, and that's triggered efforts by others.

A coalition of foundations is financing research "to provide California's policy-makers and other education stakeholders with the comprehensive information they need to assess California's current school finance and governance systems."

There's little doubt that spending more money — a lot more money — on the schools will be one conclusion, but Children Now isn't waiting for the foundations. The children's advocacy organization has issued a call for spending more on schools, claiming that a new poll of voters finds that they want "a reform approach combining more funding with tighter financial accountability." But the poll apparently never asked voters whether they were personally willing to pay more taxes for schools.

Still another call for more spending emerged last week from the California Postsecondary Education Commission, in the form of a report by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems comparing the outcomes of California's three-level system with those of other states.

The study found that California is 33rd among the states in high school graduation rates, 31st in two-year (associate) college degrees, and 14th in bachelor and postgraduate degrees.

"The commission will work diligently to encourage state policy-makers to increase the amount of resources going to higher education..." said Howard Welinsky, the chairman of the commission. And what would it cost to bring California up to snuff, according to the study? Doubling the more than $11 billion that the state now spends on colleges.

When you add up the wish lists that advocates of health care, prison reform, K-12 education and higher education are writing this Christmas, it's pretty staggering. Covering those who lack health insurance would cost about $10 billion a year, raising California's per-pupil spending on K-12 schools to the national average would run about $6 billion more, the college folks want $11 billion more and fixing the prisons would take tens of billions of dollars in new construction and several billion more in annual operating costs.

A nice round number for just these wish lists (and there are others) would be perhaps $30 billion a year, not counting the $5 billion it would take to close the state's chronic budget gap. And who would pay to raise state spending by one-third? Voters rejected every one of the tax increases, even those on smokers, corporations and the wealthy, that appeared on the November ballot.

It's the Capitol, where visions of sugar plum fairies dance in politicians' heads.


The LAUSD School Board member on the mayor's power-grab, school reform, and the greatest job in the world

Interview with Dean Kuipers | Los Angeles CityBeat

Dec 21, 2006 - David Tokofsky is a good example of why our state constitution and our city charter require governance of city schools via elected school boards: He says things that might make legislators and their big-money backers squirm. Even before he announced on December 9 that he would not seek his fourth four-year term on the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Tokofsky was among the most vocal critics of Assembly Bill 1381, which gives some authority to govern the schools to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a hodgepodge of local mayors. In a December 15 editorial in the L.A. Times, Tokofsky fires both barrels at the mayor's power-grab, implying it's nothing more than a naked attempt to gain influence over billions in school contracting, saying, �This is the behavior of despotism, not enlightenment.

A former star teacher at Marshall High School, Tokofsky famously coached his school's team to win the U.S. Academic Decathlon, beating private school students with some of L.A.'s most challenged public-school kids. He says his departure from the board is due, in some part, to the passage of AB 1381, and this must give pause to those who remain. A state court judge is considering this week whether or not AB 1381 is unconstitutional, but whichever way that ruling goes, the significant improvements in scores, the construction of 150 new schools, and the passage of multiple new school bonds will now apparently only add luster to the star of Mayor Villaraigosa, rather than the poorly paid board members who actually made it happen.

'Dean Kuipers

CityBeat: Did Villaraigosa's plan to take some control of the LAUSD inspire you not to run for reelection?

David Tokofsky: It was an ingredient but it wasn't a dominant ingredient. Learning has more to do with liberty than taking control, so the whole rhetoric of taking control � and I think [the word Villaraigosa] used in the L.A. Times was 'jihad,' and sort of the Bush language of Iraq. It just made no sense. But that's not enough to take me out of running because I had a poll, and I did well. The poll showed tremendous support for me, which I didn't think was going to be that high.

CityBeat: If the polling was so high, why leave?

David Tokofsky: I like challenges and competition, but I don't like battles for battles' sake. And when you're putting up a budget of nearly $2 million to run for school board, and you know that the opponents have to raise three to four times that, you realize that's no longer about kids and curriculum. It's about power and money. I would win. But people can think of a lot better things to do with $10 million than stuff our mailboxes with fliers and our telephones with automated messages. I decided that family and health and other avenues in public urban education were more important.

CityBeat: We're all reading the tea leaves on the constitutionality of AB 1381. Does your departure indicate you saw something there you didn't like?

David Tokofsky: The question next week will really be whether one side or the other is appealing. It's all moving very fast. I thought it was incredibly arrogant [for Villaraigosa to] form this five-member educational [team to implement AB 1381] before the law's even resolved. When Verizon donated a million dollars to after-school programs and then stipulated it could only go to after-school programs in the mayor's experimental, unconstitutional district. It already raises the specter of why the voters in 1946 separated cities from school districts. They didn't want them in the business of schools, because cities have interests that can be more developer-based, not kid-based. It's like the usual suspects of political offices are inventing more games to play rather than accomplishments to effect upon our schools.

CityBeat: Was there a need for some kind of grand gesture like this to change the school district?

David Tokofsky: No, Marlene Canter says it all the time: You didn't need a law to work together. But in the end, there are a lot of conflicts. For example: the developer who wants to build an apartment complex at the very site we've identified to put an elementary school. Who's gonna approve the various permits? And in whose interest? If you're a city councilperson, we know that the insiders are the ones that butter your bread. [Assembly Speaker] Fabian Nunez started working for Miguel Contreras, who was, in fact, opposing the merger of the two. So, you probably could even find records in the charter question discussions of Miguel Contreras and Fabian Nunez stating that the two should not be together. We know it violates the state constitution, section 6 of article 9, where the voters put an amendment in to get cities out of the business of schools.

CityBeat: Do you think that part of the reason this is happening now is because Superintendent Romer and the board were already making pretty good progress?

David Tokofsky: Yeah, elementary test scores are dramatically rising, faster than any urban district in America and in California, the middle and high schools are doing better than California's average. Sixty-five schools have gone up and 80-plus more are coming. While it's really cool to kick the school board and the school district, it's probably politically wise to claim the credit for it.

CityBeat: What about the way AB 1381 was passed?

David Tokofsky: What about the voters? If this is a debate over whether the schools are rising to our expectations or not, let's have that debate and let's have that vote right here in L.A. Don't go to the back room, and, as the mayor said, bring along your pajamas. They didn't put it out in committee, they didn't let it bounce through the Senate and the Assembly properly, they didn't bring it to a vote down here in L.A. You have legislators from northern California who just said, "It's the speaker's bill, and he's from down there, so if he wants it, I better want it."

CityBeat: People are very disappointed that there was no vote here.

David Tokofsky: Absolutely. And, cynically, they probably polled that and found out that it wasn't gonna fly down here. So they probably went up there because they already knew the answer down here. So then you avoid the debate itself.

CityBeat: You have been working part time for Green Dot, the charter schools. Are they a way to further reform the system?

David Tokofsky: No. I think charters are good for research and development. The charters think they're escaping from something bad, and the mother districts think that the charters are rogue children who don't understand public education. I think both sides haven't come to the intent of what state Senator Gary K. Hart and Senator Tom Hayden hoped was the effect of the law, which was to encourage innovation without regulation to inform the mother ship more, and use that as an experimental lab, a skunk works. The founder of Green Dot says he hopes he'll be out of business very shortly.

CityBeat: I was shocked to find out school board members are only paid $24,000 a year.

David Tokofsky: But, actually, the more debilitating piece - and obviously, the $24,000 shouldn't be replaced by city council's $170,000, because that's just exploitative - but it's the loss of the retirement. If somebody's going to be a public servant, I don't think it would cause a serious problem to assist on the pension side. If it wasn't for externalities like that, I'd still be doing it. I always quote Bill Clinton: When he left the White House they asked him what he wanted to do and he said he wanted to be a school board member. He understood that at the heart of the quality of society is the success of our schools.

• Two weeks in a row and David gets an article in 4LAKids! How can we miss him if he won't go away?

As he gets ready to leave the school board and sets out upon the next phase of his career I hope he thinks about writing his own blog and/or e-newsletter; I'll read it and disagree with it a certain percentage of the time! I hope he seriously thinks about returning to teaching and Marshall High School.

The clerk in Judge Janovs' court was a Tokofsky student. David and I found ourselves in a saloon with others for a celebratory glass of wine last night — there too we met a former "Student of David". David was quick to point out that the student didn't learn to drink in David's fourth period Poli Sci class …but just as certainly he learned something important.

Thank you David and thank you teachers everywhere. Thank you Mr. Schaeffer in the sixth grade for encouraging me to write the class newspaper.

Onward. -smf

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Spend time with your kids, families and loved ones.
• Read a book.
• Go see a play.
• See the original "Miracle on Thirty-fourth Street" or "It's a Wonderful Life."
• Discuss these things with children - there ARE miracles and it IS a wonderful life!
• Give peace a chance.

What can YOU do?

• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6387 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6383

...or your city councilperson, mayor, 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.
• Register.
• 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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