Saturday, February 24, 2007

Follow what money?

4LAKids: Sunday, Feb 15, 2007
In This Issue:
ON THE MONEY - Legislative Analyst sounds budget warning
OFFICIALS OF CHARTER SCHOOL, LA UNIFIED MISUSED STATE FUNDS, SUIT SAYS: Former teacher accuses officials of improperly using state construction funds
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
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It’s always about the money or lack thereof.

The Governor promised public education a bright new wonderful tomorrow of increased funding last year. Money for arts education. Money for after school programs. Money to bring back programs cut earlier. Money to pay back money previously “borrowed”. Except the money isn’t really there, the economy isn’t really back and the Legislative Analyst (see: “On the Money”) says we really can’t afford the funding guaranteed to public education under Prop 98.

One of things we maybe can’t afford is proposed contract with the teachers union; a contact that – despite its claims, doesn’t really cut class size – it simply returns it to the levels of 2002. Take a look at the class sizes promised (see: Key Elements of Tentaive Agreement) – and then compare them to the class sizes in – oh, let’s say Madison, WI:

• Grades K to 5 – 13.41
• Grades 6 to 8 – 21.3 (academic subjects only)
• Grades 9 to 12 – 23.6 (academic subjects only)

• Madison spends $11,702 per student, Wisconsin $9,228; LAUSD $8,658, California $7,748 (US Census ’03-04)
• Madison has a graduation rate of 94% - undoubtedly calculated differently than California’s …because we don’t know what our graduation rate is!

The Madison schools website says: “Since the inception of SAGE (Wisconsin’s class size reduction program in K-3 to 15 in socio-economically challenged schools) the achievement gap between white students and African-American students on the state's Third Grade Reading Test has been virtually eliminated.” Nothing succeeds like success.

The Mayor and UTLA are spending money big time on the school board races (see: Mayor, Union Pour Funds into LAUSD Board Race +) — 4LAKids supports the candidates UTLA supports — but good grief, where does it end? And for that matter ….where does it begin?

And one more ugly little question about the money – but it needs asking. Johnathan Williams is undoubtedly the most qualified challenger in the school board races – but if he can raise $590,500 for his candidacy, shouldn’t he be reaching into his ‘surprisingly deep pockets’ to repay the construction loan on Accelerated School – the school he is co-principal and co-founder of? The legality of that loan is being questioned (“Officials of Charter School, L.A. Unified Misused State Funds, Suit Says”) — but no one questions that the loan currently in default. If Williams, already a State Board of Education member with an apparent conflict of interest, becomes an LAUSD boardmember – how aggressively will he work to recover the money owed LAUSD? Even if he recuses himself from the issue he places his colleagues into the conflicted position of voting for or against his interest. — smf

ON THE MONEY - Legislative Analyst sounds budget warning
Editorial from The Sacramento Bee

Saturday, February 24, 2007 - If you want to understand California's current budget troubles, then fire up your Internet connection, click to Google and search for the phrase "Google executives and capital gains."

Such a search will reveal that 14 of Google's top executives and directors sold $4.4 billion worth of stock in 2005. Because they acquired their shares at a low cost, these Google kingpins likely paid the California treasury about $450 million in capital gains taxes in 2006, according to an analysis by Thompson Financial.

Those windfall revenues, combined with other tax revenues that were higher than expected, allowed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers to skate through the last fiscal year without many tough budget decisions, such as cutting school spending or raising taxes. It's a different period now. According to Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill, the state will take in about $2 billion less revenue than expected this year and next.

The declining tax revenue, combined with overly optimistic assumptions by Schwarzenegger, could leave the state with about $3 billion less to spend in 2007-'08 than the governor projected, Hill said in a report released Wednesday.

The legislative analyst advised that lawmakers and the governor start cutting spending now, but it doesn't appear that anyone will quickly follow her advice. A Schwarzenegger spokesman says the administration's assumptions are sound, and it will wait until May to adjust projections. Apparently, the governor hopes that, in terms of tax revenues, April showers will bring May flowers.

We think Hill's note of urgency (sounded in her typically subtle Elizabethan manner) should be taken more seriously, along with her proposed solution for closing the potential budget gap.

To cut spending, Hill advises that lawmakers suspend optional debt payments that Schwarzenegger is seeking next year. That would save about $1.6 billion.

She also recommends reducing spending on public schools by about $300 million this year and using another $309 million in other funds to pay for school bus services. Hill makes a convincing case that lawmakers can make these cuts and shifts without hurting existing school programs, which would still get an increase in funding.

Savings of the sort Hill proposes would allow lawmakers to enact a budget that is less punitive to college students and welfare recipients than what Schwarzenegger has proposed.

Schwarzenegger wants to increase University of California tuition by 7 percent, and increase California State University tuition by 10 percent. Hill recommends a smaller increase so students are not funding a higher proportion of the UC and CSU budgets than they did in prior years.

Hill also offered an alternative to the governor's plan to end payments to children whose parents don't meet the requirements of the state's welfare-to-work program. She rightly recommends that the state send case workers to help parents meet the requirements, and only cut payments to children as a last resort.

A tough budget year? Not the worst we've seen, but it is still early. April will tell us whether the climate for state tax revenues will push up May flowers, or weeds.

▲ OK… 4LAKids doesn’t agree with Hill or the SacBee on the cuts to public education – mostly because those cuts are to repayments of money previously borrowed. The education of children of California is not a piggy bank, certainly not one to be stuffed with IOU’s!


►RAISE COULD THWART REFORM: Brewer's plans face funding test

by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

Feb 23, 2007 — When Los Angeles' powerful teachers union struck a deal last week for a 6 percent raise, it dealt a major blow to the authority of L.A. Unified's new superintendent, casting doubt on his ability to fulfill his promised reforms, local education leaders say.

Just three months after taking the helm as superintendent, retired Navy Adm. David Brewer III finds himself forced to cut $200 million from his budget to pay for the raises - money needed to fulfill his own visions of reform that include reducing the dropout rate, getting more kids into college and curbing school violence.

Brewer's situation is similar to that of his predecessor, Roy Romer, whose plans were thwarted when he had to find money to fund an 11.5 percent average salary increase.

That deal, in which some teachers got more and some got less, was struck shortly after Romer was hired in 2000.

"You can look at it two ways," said charter schools executive Caprice Young, who served on the school board during Romer's tenure.

"One is that cutting $200 million out of that operating budget requires such a deep change in the way that LAUSD does business that it gives (Brewer) an opportunity to make major reforms and major changes. Unfortunately, it's much easier to do that when you have some money and a cushion," she said.

"The other way to look at it is: He comes in and, instead of building, has to tear down."

Brewer said his staff has already identified some $100 million to be eliminated from the budget that takes effect July 1 but refused to offer specifics.

He also said he plans to hire a consultant to conduct a performance audit and recommend ways to reduce bureaucracy and make the district more efficient.

And he insisted that he - not the teachers union - is in control of the district and that he will not let the $200 million in budget cuts derail his own plans to improve student achievement.

"What you really want to do is transform this district in its existing financial construct," he said. "The district is in control of this, and not the union."

A.J. Duffy, president of the 48,000-member UTLA, said the contract agreement will give Brewer impetus to streamline the bureaucracy. He suggested that Brewer start by eliminating the eight mini-districts serving the far-flung district.

"If he cuts $200 million of fat, which is bureaucratic nonsense rather than programs, then he and I are going to be very, very collaborative and we'll be able to accomplish a lot together as partners," Duffy said.

The contract is for three years, but the district and the UTLA agreed on only the first year's raise. The two remaining years will be negotiated after the March 6 school board election, when four of the seven seats could change hands.


The UTLA's second- and third-year salary demands will depend on how much state funding is available, Duffy said, and whether the union believes there's fat in the budget.

Observers say the upcoming elections, Romer's retirement last year and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's effort to seize control of the district contributed to the UTLA being able to secure such a generous first-year raise.

"It's probably the best time for the union to be in negotiations: when they have an untested, very green superintendent who doesn't have his people, agenda and policy in place, and a school board reeling because of the attacks of last year and so concerned about getting the right mix and right majority (after the election)," said Jaime Regalado, director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

Sources close to the negotiations say the board - particularly President Marlene Canter - felt pressure to reach a contract before the election, before a scheduled strike-authorization vote, and before Villaraigosa could take advantage of labor strife to step in as a mediator.


But Canter emphatically denied that she felt unduly pressured and said the board simply wanted to stay focused on teaching and learning.

"I wanted to be able to resolve issues and move on to other issues. I think it was a good deal, it was a fair deal," she said. "This was really a success for everyone, including the district, to resolve this effectively and efficiently."

The contract, which still must be formally approved by the board and UTLA members, bumps the average teacher salary from $60,162 to $63,772 the first year, retroactive to July.

Providing full health benefits for teachers and retirees, the deal will cost taxpayers $300 million this year.

The district also will phase in smaller class sizes at specific lower-performing schools, which will cost about $343 million over three years.

School board member David Tokofsky also sees similarities between Brewer's quandary and the one Romer faced.

"By leaving a $200 million hole over the next two years, the superintendent has to concentrate as much on finding that revenue or cuts as he does on laying out his vision for the next five years," Tokofsky said.

"That can be horribly distracting and time-consuming and to the detriment of improved student learning."

Although Brewer had worked with unions during his 30-year naval career, he was ill-prepared for the political nuances of L.A.'s education system and the clout of UTLA, education leaders say.

"He's a well-meaning guy who came into a situation and walked into something that was possibly more complex than he had anticipated," Duffy said.

Regalado conceded that Brewer might have political difficulties initially but said the experience could serve him well in the long run.

"He's not experienced in running a school district, he's not experienced in the kind of politics that drives urban politics and urban school districts, and he was brought into a situation with a civil war," Regalado said.

"But it's a plus for Brewer to get something accomplished like this, even if it leaves him with some bags empty, having to find the money and having to come back to negotiate salaries once again."

Brewer's challenge, Regalado said, will be to "carve out his own territory" in a district facing a challenge by Villaraigosa, the growing popularity of charter schools and potential political upheaval if a new school board majority is seated.

"It's going to be difficult because of the stature of the other players," Regalado said. "I'm not sure he can't overcome it. We don't know enough about this person yet."


from UTLA/ interpretation is that of UTLA, a link to the full text follows.

• 6% increase, on the salary schedule, for 2006-7, retroactive to July 1, 2006.
• Most differentials receive the raise.
• Salaries subject to reopener negotiations in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009
• Differential for Library Media Teachers to be increased to $500 per semester.

• Reduction by two students in all grade 4-12 classes as follows: grades 4-5-6 starting
2007-2008, grades 7-8-9 starting 2008-2009; grades 10-11-12 starting 2009-2010; Special Education by the end of the 2008-2009 school year.
• District commits $70 million of EIA money for class size reduction in School Wide Program schools starting in 2007-2008.
• Establishes class size “flexible caps” for academic classes as follows: 35 students for grades 4-5; 41 students for grades 6-8, lowered to 40 starting in the 2009-2010 school year; and 42 students for grades 9-12, lowered to 41 starting in 2009-2010 school year.
• Establishes process for greater teacher and UTLA input into developing master schedules and for utilizing options when caps are exceeded. Administrator must provide written explanation for any decision rendered upon teacher request.
• A Joint Class Size Task Force established to monitor class size reduction and make recommendations, including district training on implementation. Specifically targets P.E. class size reduction as top priority for task force.

• Provides for a direct appeal to the Superintendent, UTLA President and a mutually agreed to third person if an SBM waiver is denied.
• This group's decision whether to allow or deny the waiver is final and binding.

• All members have right to mediation before transfer takes effect if UTLA determines transfer was related to protected union activity.
• For all other reasons, all members have right to mediation before transfer takes effect if jointly agreed by UTLA and District.

• Establishes a Joint UTLA/District Committee to identify items appropriate for negotiation during the life of this Agreement.
• Items not negotiated as part of this Agreement can be referred to the Joint Committee.
• The Superintendent and the UTLA President each select three (3) members of the Joint Committee who, starting 30 days after this Agreement becomes effective, will meet at least every other month.
• The Joint Committee has the power to reach tentative agreements to amend this Agreement subject to UTLA ratification and District approval.

• At the request of the substitute, the site administrator must hold a meeting to discuss the matter prior to issuing a notice of inadequate service.
• The substitute may be accompanied at the meeting by a UTLA representative or a person of the substitute's choice.

• Requires that teachers be notified as soon as feasible of a change in their tentative assignment.
• If notification is made late (within five (5) days before the first student instructional day),
teachers shall receive up to the equivalent of two days in paid status as preparation time for the
assignment. (The two days must be used by the end of the second week of student instruction).
• Permanent teachers request assignment before site administrators can assign non-permanent

• Amends the District's safety bulletin to require that site administrators provide keys to all school staff, including itinerant staff and substitutes for access to restrooms and assigned workstations.
• Refers other issues raised during negotiations e.g., gate keys, classroom communication systems to the Living Contract Joint Committee.

• Measures the 12-month period during which family medical leave can be taken from the individual employee's first date of leave instead of the beginning of the fiscal year. This change does not change in any way, the amount of family leave to which you are entitled or the reasons for which the leave can be taken.

SMALL LEARNING COMMUNITIES: Provides Lead Teachers with an additional conference period to perform duties.

COUNSELORS: Establishes special task force with specific deadline to give recommendations to Superintendent and the Board on granting due process to counselors and other issues.

The Full Text of the Tentative Agreement

►MAYOR, UNION POUR FUNDS INTO LAUSD BOARD RACE: Campaign finance records show more than $1.8 million spent in bid to elect candidates.

by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, Daily Breeze/Daily News

Saturday, February 24, 2007 — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Unified teachers union have spent more than $1.8 million during the past month battling for control of the district's board, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday.

In the mayor's campaign to replace two union-backed incumbents with his allies in next month's election, Villaraigosa's Partnership for Better Schools has contributed about $909,000 since late January, filings show.

During the same period, United Teachers Los Angeles kept pace by spending $900,000 to support its two candidates, incumbents Jon Lauritzen and Marguerite LaMotte.

The hefty contributions have set the stage for a crushing final eight days before the March 6 election.

Both sides are expected to pour even more funds into the matchups as Villaraigosa seeks district influence while his legislative effort to take partial control languishes in court. And his committee still has $900,000 on hand to spend on the three candidates the mayor supports -- Tamar Galatzan, Yolie Flores Aguilar and Richard Vladovic -- with last-minute television ads, mailers and automated phone calls.

If Villaraigosa wins either the San Fernando Valley seat or the South Los Angeles seat, it is widely believed he will have majority sway on the board.

Still, because of his close ties to the union, the battle for board seats is likely to be restrained.

While contributions for candidates backed by the mayor and the union generally mirrored expectations, candidate Johnathan Williams showed surprisingly deep pockets in his bid to upset LaMotte in South Los Angeles' District 1. Williams, who is not backed by either the mayor or the union, collected $590,500 from individuals and groups nationwide who support public school reform.

Williams, a leader in the charter school community, started the first independent charter school in Los Angeles, Accelerated Charter School. In 2001, it was named the best elementary school in the nation by Time magazine.

Campaign finance disclosures also revealed in one of the most hotly contested races -- Lauritzen's Valley seat -- that challenger Galatzan received about $877,500 from Jan. 21 to Feb. 23. About $780,000 of Galatzan's contributions came from the mayor's Partnership for Better Schools.

Meanwhile, $450,000 of incumbent Lauritzen's $485,450 in fundraising came from the UTLA.

In the second most heated race, District 1 incumbent LaMotte, another union-backed candidate, received $524,100 -- $450,000 from UTLA.

In the Harbor Area-based District 7, Vladovic has received about $142,250, including $100,000 from the mayor's committee.

Villaraigosa-backed Yolie Flores Aguilar, who's running for the District 5 seat being vacated by David Tokofsky, received $185,000 in contributions in the period, $95,000 from the mayor's committee.

►TWO SCHOOL BOARD RACES TOP $1 MILLION: Huge infusions of cash from a committee controlled by the mayor and the teachers union drive up the price tag for the District 1 and 3 seats.

By Howard Blume, LATimes Staff Writer

February 24, 2007 - The political dynamic of the mayor versus the teachers union — two supposed allies in school reform — is playing out in the financial statements of school board candidates, with the price tag on two races sailing past the $1-million mark.

Both money-heavy contests pit an incumbent backed by United Teachers Los Angeles and opposed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The mayor hopes to emerge with a board majority that will back his schools agenda. The union, meanwhile, wants to reward incumbents who delivered a 6% raise last month, with salary talks upcoming again.

The most direct confrontation has unfolded in District 3, in the west San Fernando Valley, where incumbent Jon Lauritzen, UTLA's candidate, faces city prosecutor Tamar Galatzan — backed by the mayor, and underfunded teacher Louis Pugliese.

As of Friday filings, Galatzan had received $807,701 from the Partnership for Better Schools, the Villaraigosa-controlled campaign committee, bringing her total to $915,127.

Lauritzen is second in fundraising, with $509,023, but his supporters point to a potential army of teacher foot soldiers. About $450,000 has come from UTLA, with much of the rest from other unions.

Four years ago, Lauritzen had less money than incumbent Caprice Young when he toppled her. The funding gap will probably be worse for Lauritzen this time. His campaign consultant, John Shallman, says he is planning a $500,000 campaign, about $200,000 less than last time.

The mayor's committee has reported $1.6 million in donations, with Galatzan as the biggest beneficiary.

The mayor's war chest relies heavily on large donations from major civic players and interests. They include $500,000 from Univision Chairman A. Jerrold Perenchio (who also gave $500,000 last year to another committee controlled by Villaraigosa); $100,000 from the home healthcare workers union; $100,000 from producer Stephen Bing and $25,000 from the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns Staples Center and is building the L.A. Live sports and entertainment complex.

And what happens without the support of either the teachers union or the mayor? Ask Pugliese. The answer would be $140 in contributions, a $6,000 personal loan and about $700 of donated postage. Pugliese has taken advantage of equal time offered at campaign forums, but they're frequently sparsely attended.

District 1, which ranges westward from South Los Angeles, is the scene of the other big-money contest, pitting incumbent Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte against local charter school operator Johnathan Williams.

Money from the mayor's committee is being kept out of District 1, with interested donors instructed by the mayor's allies to give directly to Williams instead.

Sources close to Villaraigosa say the mayor is worried that his committee's bankroll could backfire in neighborhoods with black voters distrustful of his school intervention efforts.

LaMotte will use her money to portray Williams' supporters as outsiders, which, by her campaign's definition, would include former Mayor Richard Riordan, who has donated $80,000 to Williams. Such characterizations helped LaMotte, a retired principal, defeat incumbent Genethia Hudley Hayes four years ago.

Williams' contributor list is salted heavily with charter school supporters. Leading the way is Reed Hastings, the Netflix founder who once headed the state Board of Education, who donated $100,000. Donations of $100,000 apiece came from Gregory B. Penner and Christy R. Walton, of Bentonville, Ark., both members of the family that owns the Wal-Mart chain.

Among the smaller contributors are Los Angeles charter school operators Roger Lowenstein and Steve Barr.

The $1,000 donors include former board member Young, who heads the California Charter Schools Assn.

She defines Williams' support as coming from the local and national "education reform community," while casting LaMotte as propped up almost entirely by a single vested interest: the teachers union.

UTLA has kicked in $450,000 of LaMotte's $543,639, with other unions filling in much of the rest, although she also has a roster of $100 and $200 contributions from community members and district employees.

Spending in District 1 is expected to surpass that of four years ago.

The two other races — which lack a teachers union pick — will be considerably less costly.

Villaraigosa intends to spend just enough to elect his choices. In District 5, which snakes north, east and south of downtown, he supports Yolie Flores Aguilar, chief executive of the county Children's Planning Council. She has raised $234,898, including $116,765 from the mayor's committee.

Her opponent, teacher and neighborhood council leader Bennett Kayser, has $23,428.

In the Watts-to-Harbor-area District 7, the mayor went with retired senior school district administrator Richard Vladovic. His total of $154,353 includes $106,131 from the mayor. His opponents are retired principal Neal Kleiner ($22,920) and union organizer Jesus Escandon ($3,548).

OFFICIALS OF CHARTER SCHOOL, LA UNIFIED MISUSED STATE FUNDS, SUIT SAYS: Former teacher accuses officials of improperly using state construction funds

By Joel Rubin and Evelyn Larrubia, LA Times Staff Writers

February 24, 2007 - Seven years ago, the Los Angeles Unified School District joined with a charter school to build a sparkling new campus in South Los Angeles. The deal, using public funds and private donations, was hailed as an ideal partnership.

But that transaction is coming under scrutiny. Several individuals from the Accelerated School and the school district were named in a lawsuit this week alleging improper use of state school construction funds.

Among those named in the suit is Accelerated's co-director, Johnathan Williams, who is running for a seat on the district's seven-member school board.

Neither Williams nor his campaign staff had seen the lawsuit, but campaign consultant Ace Smith called the litigation "a shameless political attempt to try to denigrate the fantastic work that's been done by the Accelerated School in South Los Angeles."

Williams could not be reached for comment. But Kevin Sved, who directs and founded the school with Williams, defended the deal to build the school. He had not read the lawsuit, but said lawyers for the school and district had carefully vetted the project at the time.

"The result," Sved said, is a school "providing free, quality education in an underserved section of Los Angeles."

The lawsuit was filed by Dennis Dockstader in Los Angeles Superior Court last summer but kept under seal until late last week. Dockstader, a whistleblower and former teacher, has made at least two similar, unsuccessful allegations against the school district, according to Michelle Meghrouni, a senior district lawyer.

Dockstader brushed aside allegations that the suit was politically motivated, noting that it was originally filed months before Williams declared his intention to seek office.

Dockstader would not further discuss the suit — or the other false claims actions he has filed previously.

False-claim suits seek the return of government funds from a person or entity that improperly used or obtained them. If successful, Dockstader and his legal team would be entitled to 25% to 50% of the recouped money, said attorney Mark Allen Kleiman, a false-claims specialist not involved in this case.

Such suits are filed under seal until the attorney general decides whether to dismiss, participate in or stand aside during the litigation. In this case, state prosecutors chose to let the suit proceed without their active involvement.

The lawsuit alleges that the land and construction contract violated numerous state rules and bidding requirements and seeks the return of all state money applied to the project, estimated in court documents at more than $12.5 million. Dockstader charges in the suit that, among other things, the school project was designed to bilk the state out of $2.8 million it paid the district to help defray the costs of the campus land.

According to the lawsuit and Los Angeles Unified documents, the district and Accelerated pursued and then abandoned the idea of Accelerated donating the land to the district. (The land had originally been given to Accelerated by the previous owner.) The district instead bought the nearly four-acre site at South Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The move qualified the district for the additional state funds, which were used to help build the modern campus. The suit argues that the state was defrauded of money for which the school district and Accelerated had no legitimate claim.

Williams was not named in the original complaint, which targeted only L.A. Unified, the Accelerated School and the Cal State Los Angeles Foundation, which held the title to Accelerated's land. But a recent state Supreme Court ruling barred litigation against government agencies, so attorneys working with Dockstader amended the list of defendants this week to drop L.A. Unified and add specific individuals, including Williams, his partner Sved and Jim McConnell, the former head of construction for L.A. Unified. McConnell declined to comment on the lawsuit.

When the construction collaboration was conceived, L.A. Unified desperately needed to relieve overcrowding and was eligible for millions in state school construction funds. Accelerated, for its part, had a ready plan for a new, larger campus, but was short on capital.

Ultimately, the project cost more than $50 million, said Eric Johnson, the president of Accelerated's board of trustees. He estimated that about $21 million came from state and district funds and $18.6 million from Accelerated's own fundraising. In addition, L.A. Unified lent $9.9 million to Accelerated, and the nearly $6 million paid for the land deal was also used to build the new campus.

Johnson said it was clear practically from the start that the best idea was to sell the district the land, then pump that money back into the project.

"Someone may have suggested that the land be donated, but clearly that's not the smart way to do it," he said.

The state will only pay so much for construction costs, based on how many pupils the school will serve, he explained. But it will pay for half of the district's land acquisition costs on top of that.

"Part of their job is to get as much bond money as possible," Johnson said Friday. "I think the school district would have been clearly remiss to structure it any other way."

Separate from the lawsuit, Accelerated has fallen behind on repaying the loan from the district. (It made its first payment in more than a year in December.) With more than $9 million still unpaid and the loan due in summer 2009, school district officials have said they are negotiating an extension for the balance of Accelerated's debt. They also emphasized that the terms of the loan do not impose any penalties on Accelerated for late payments.

In previous interviews, Williams has characterized attention to the loan issue as politically motivated.

Williams, 40, is running a well-funded campaign to unseat Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, the one-term incumbent who represents District 1 of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The school he co-founded was once named Time magazine's elementary school of the year. Accelerated's state-of-the-art campus opened formally in April 2005 and serves about 1,200 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

Charter schools are publicly financed but, in exchange for boosting student achievement, are free from many of the restrictions imposed on traditional schools.

State officials had no immediate response on whether they were fully notified about the land transaction or what difference that could have made.

"The Office of Public School Construction takes the allegations very seriously," said Rob Cook, a deputy director for the California Department of General Services, which supervises the construction agency. He said agency staff "will take a close look at this matter."

►CITY HALL, L.A. UNIFIED CLASH AGAIN: Deputy Mayor Cortines says a report tabulating dropouts is late and calls it an example of the Los Angeles school district's 'damn bureaucracy.'

by Howard Blume, LA Times Staff Writer

February 22, 2007 — Ongoing tensions between City Hall and the Los Angeles Unified School District flared in public Wednesday during an exchange between the mayor's top education advisor and the school board president. Deputy Mayor Ramon C. Cortines first accused the district of withholding a report on dropouts, then later, he and board President Marlene Canter sparred over the mayor's refusal to meet with her.

The back-and-forth, during an education forum at the downtown City Club, underscored the chill between Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Board of Education. The frosty climate has even affected contact between Villaraigosa and new schools Supt. David L. Brewer — who have characterized themselves as blood brothers on school reform. Their vaunted plan for weekly meetings has been dropped indefinitely.

Cortines brought up the issue of dropouts as an example of the district's inexcusably cumbersome bureaucracy.

"The district and the mayor's office agreed on a process and a protocol" for tabulating dropouts. Cortines said, adding that the first report was due at the end of January.

"The report is ready," Cortines insisted, but has been withheld, "because of the damn bureaucracy." There are "four layers of bureaucracy … so you still don't have it."

The mayor has cited high numbers of dropouts as a primary justification for trying to assert authority over district decisions, and the two sides have sparred over the percentage of dropouts. The most recent official district dropout rate, based on the state formula, is 24.1%. Some researchers estimate the actual number at more than 50%.

Neither Brewer nor Canter, who were both on the panel, responded at the time. In a later interview, they said that the plan has been to release the report sometime in February. Brewer added that his own concerns slowed things down — he was worried that some students might be counted more than once.

That issue is now resolved, he added, while declining to say when this month the report would be released.

The report in question will tabulate, on a monthly basis, which students are truant and for how long.

"It's going to be helpful to us in helping students stay in school," Canter said.

At the forum, Canter and Cortines clashed directly, if politely, over the lack of contact between senior officials.

"We would like to meet with the mayor and Mr. Cortines any minute of the day. We don't need legislation for partnerships," said Canter, referring to a Villaraigosa-backed law that would give the mayor some authority over schools pending an ongoing court challenge.

Canter commented that the mayor refused to include her, as school board president, in his proposed meetings with Brewer.

"Honestly, this is an adult issue that shouldn't affect kids," Canter said. "But in order for us to partner together we have to be respectful of the role that we have." The superintendent is "hired by a board. We work together as a team."

Cortines responded that the mayor should be able to meet alone with Brewer: "It is important, I think, that the mayor and superintendent meet and I think ultimately the board president would be included…. I'm not saying that the mayor's office doesn't have some blame also. What I am saying is that we have got to come together."


by Peter Schrag, Sacramento Bee columnist

Feb. 23, 2007 - QUESTION: Who are the five biggest California home buyers these days?

ANSWER: Garcia, Hernandez, Rodriguez, Lopez and Martinez.

No, this isn't a joke or a fantasy. According to Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California, those were the five most common names of California home buyers in 2005, the most recent year for which he has data. In the nation as a whole, four of the 10 most common home buyers' names are Latino. Five years ago it was two out of 10.

The story, of course, is evidence for a much larger point: Immigrants don't just "pile up'' as unskilled, undereducated burdens on the economy like so many Peter Pans who never grow up or change. They learn English, get jobs and buy homes.

And as boomers retire in the coming generation, those immigrants and their children represent the core of California's labor force and, ultimately, much of the nation's as well.

We therefore better see their education not as a cost but as an investment in the economy and as support for the boomers in their retirement -- helping to pay for pensions, Social Security and Medicare -- and giving them the wherewithal to buy the homes that for many boomers represent their largest chunk of savings.

There are about 200 seniors for every 1,000 working-age residents in California. By 2040, there'll be more than 350 for every 1,000. The numbers are even starker for the nation as a whole.

But Myers, in his important new book "Immigrants and Boomers: Forging a New Social Contract for the Future of America,'' due out next month from the Russell Sage Foundation, makes a set of other arguments as well.

• Mexico's fertility rate has declined from 6.8 births per woman in 1970 to 2.4 births in 2000, which is just above the replacement level, making it likely that in another decade or two, there'll be many fewer young adults to migrate.

• As immigrants, legal and illegal, have gone to other parts of the country, California's share, while still the nation's largest, has declined sharply.

• Meanwhile, the percentage of foreign-born residents both in California and in the nation, while still rising, is rising much less steeply than it did between 1970 and 2000 or had been forecast a few years ago. Some 27 percent of today's California residents are immigrants, which should taper off at about 30 percent in 2030.

• As the percentage of foreign-born residents who've been here 10 years or more increases, many more of them will become integrated into the middle-class economy and join the ranks of the Garcias and Hernandezes who are buying homes.

All this, of course, speaks directly to the national immigration debate, which, as Myers notes, is still stuck in a largely static view of immigrants.

"When immigration is a new event'' (as it is for much of the nation), he writes, "all the immigrants are new.''

That shocked Californians in the early 1990s, when voters passed Proposition 187, seeking to deny education and other public services to illegal aliens. It shocks people in Georgia, North Carolina and Iowa now.

And while illegal immigration, and sometimes any immigration, still angers some Californians, at least for now there's been a change in attitude. A survey last year by the Public Policy Institute of California found 58 percent of Californians regarded immigrants as an asset to the economy, while 35 percent thought they were more of a burden on public services.

The problem, as Myers notes, is that recent immigrants, though a declining percentage of the whole, "overshadow and mask the upward advancement of previous arrivals. Citizens have simply extrapolated past conditions into the future, ignoring the fact that settled immigrants grow older, assimilate and make economic gains.''

Many of the arguments about contemporary immigration echo arguments about Poles, Italians, Greeks and Hungarians of a century ago. They were of inferior stock, would never be educable, were prone to crime and disease and would contaminate the Anglo-Saxon stock that made the nation great.

There are major differences between then and now. There were more jobs for unskilled labor; there was no public social welfare system or any assumption that all young people had to finish high school and, in most cases, be educated for at least two years beyond. Because of geographical distance, ties to the old country were harder to maintain.

But what today we call Anglos includes all those Poles and Italians, some of whose descendants are now voicing the same complaints that other Americans made about their immigrant great-grandparents a century ago.

There are few unskilled jobs providing decent wages as in the first half of the past century. But the projections for the coming decades indicate a labor shortage both in this country and other developed nations that can be met only by immigrants from the underdeveloped world. And that, as Myers says, demands a grand bargain between generations and ethnicities, especially about education, like none that this country has ever made before.

by Susan Ohanian, Education Malcontent |

And Congress spake, "We are your masters who brought you out of the wilderness of teacher professionalism and into the house of direct instruction."

I. We are the State, which has brought students out of the wilderness of teacher-led classrooms and into the kingdom of test prep. Thou shalt have no other guidance before thee, and then it will follow as night follows day that No Child is Left Behind.

II. Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven images, not any likeness of anything that contradicts the Standards and their tests. For the State is a jealous god, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them who don't obey.

III. Thou shalt not take the name of the Standardistos, thy gods, in vain. For the State nor the testing company will not hold him guiltless that takes their name in vain.

IV. Remember the Standards and keep them holy. The State blessed the tests and hallowed them. Thy adequate yearly progress scores shall comfort thee.

V. Honor thy Standards, that thy days as teachers may be long upon the land of direct instruction which the State gives you.

VI. Thou shalt not kill Standardistos.

VII. Thou shalt not have intercourse with any other than thy lawful Standards and test prep materials.

VIII. Thou shalt not steal time away from the Standards and preparation for the State's tests for frivolous matters.

IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against the Standards.

X. Thou shalt not covet lesson plans of bygone times. Nor shalt thou covet libraries, books, recess, art, music, nor anything that went before.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Monday Feb 26, 2007
Please join us to celebrate the completion of your new classroom building!
Ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m.
Commonwealth Elementary School
215 S. Commonwealth Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004

• Tuesday Feb 27, 2007
SOUTH REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #11: Site Selection Kick-Off Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Loren Miller Elementary School
830 W. 77th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90044

• Tuesday Feb 27, 2007
VALLEY REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #14: Site Selection Kick-Off Meeting
6:30 p.m.
Columbus Elementary School
6700 Columbus Ave.
Van Nuys, CA 91405

• Wednesday Feb 28, 2007
SOUTH REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #12: Site Selection Kick-Off Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Miramonte Elementary School
1400 E. 68th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90001

• Wednesday Feb 28, 2007
Please join us at this public hearing to discuss the findings of the Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA). Immediately following the public hearing, we will hold the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) public meeting.
6:30 p.m.
Sutter Middle School - Auditorium
7330 Winnetka Ave.
Canoga Park, CA 91306
*Dates and times subject to change.

• Thursday Mar 1, 2007
CENTRAL REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #22: Site Selection Kick-Off Meeting
7:00 p.m.
The CenterPointe Club
6200 Playa Vista Drive
Playa Vista, CA 90094

*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 • 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! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor 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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