Saturday, May 19, 2007

O wotta week it wuz!

4LAKids: Sunday, May 20, 2007
In This Issue:
Wednesday: MAYOR'S SCHOOL BOARD ALLIES PLAN THEIR REIGN - Newly elected Richard Vladovic and Tamar Galatzan help relay Villaraigosa's vision.
Friday: MAYOR JETTISONS SCHOOL TAKEOVER: Court case moot with new board
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
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.
• MONDAY…who can remember Monday? The Governor's May Budget Revision came out …sharing billing with the AALA newsletter article on charter schools: "When compared to regular public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, an analysis of the 2006 Base Performance Index (BPI) demonstrates that regular public schools of comparable size are outperforming charter schools in the District."

• TUESDAY Superintendent Brewer published his Times Op-Ed (below) defending his actions, answering his critics and promising progress to come. Stay tuned.
Also Tuesday The New Yorker published its profile on Mayor Villaraigosa (also below).
And Tuesday was the election; 6.13% percent of the eligible electorate in 29% of the school district decided the future of the district – in an election the mayor of Los Angeles portrayed as a battle between a status quo of failure and the future of the city – or at least his mayoralty. A 68.5% majority is on the cusp of a landslide but in a 6% turnout that mandate is more of a whimper. One feels a perverse inclination to do the math – the votes in the Valley cost the mayor and his supporters about $92.75 each.

• WEDNESDAY the triumphant board-elect held a media event and promised to work together on the mayor's agenda – a little get together that would be illegal under the Brown Act/Open Meetings Law had they actually been in office.

• THURSDAY the Charter School community filed suit against the school district; asking in essence for the courts to rule that charter demands for space in local schools take precedent over the needs of regular students and regular programs at district schools.

• And FRIDAY the mayor dropped his suit against the school district – giving up on AB 1381 – but claiming AB 1381 still lays out a "framework" for reform. Never mind that every single provision of AB 1381 has been adjudged unconstitutional by two different courts. And those of us who are not so quick to forget remember that "Framework" was the title for version 2 of the mayor's takeover plan.

Of course there is great necessity for getting along and for ratcheting down the rhetoric — the mayor's candidates did win the election whether widely or narrowly. Where we agree we must agree to agree -- and where we disagree we must agree to work towards agreement. We should've been doing this all along.

Progress is a journey that never ends and denial is the longest river. We must go forward and leave bygones behind; we have little choice. But David Tokofsky is right too: "The public should not forget the one and-a-half years of human energy and public funds lost on AB 1381; AB 1381 caused many opportunities to partner and change our schools in Los Angeles to be lost."

Balance. – smf

"The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are truly a wise man."

What if they had an election and hardly anyone came? The results.

▼GOVERNOR'S SPENDING PLAN SHOWS DEFICIT: Budget fully funds education under Prop 98 formula, new school funding for security & career technical education ...with strings attached

by Edward Sifuentes — Staff Writer, North County Times | San Diego & Riverside Counties

May 19, 2007 – North County – In his revised state budget released Monday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger no longer claims his plan would erase the state's ongoing spending deficit.

The $145.9 billion proposal is slightly larger than the $143.4 billion plan he unveiled in January. It would increase spending in education and curb funding for some social services. But unlike his January budget, which he said was balanced, the plan would leave a $1.4 billion deficit, Schwarzenegger said.

That is down from double-digit deficits when he took office in 2003, he said.

"We did it by growing our economy and exercising spending restraint," the governor said during a news conference. "We have been very careful and very responsible."

The governor's proposed budget, known as the May revise, kicks off a yearly sprint to the June 15 deadline for the Legislature to approve the budget. Schwarzenegger is supposed to sign the budget bill into law by June 30, a deadline that has often been missed by the Legislature.

Overall, the governor's plan would increase general fund spending by about 1.6 percent, from $102.1 billion to $103.8 billion. That's slightly higher than the $103.1 billion in spending Schwarzenegger proposed in January.

A balance of nearly $4 billion carried over from the current fiscal year allows the additional spending. Schwarzenegger's revised spending plan contains no tax hikes.

Critics, including some Democrats who hold the majority in the Legislature, said the governor is paying back the state's debt at the expense of poor families and disabled people.

The governor's budget would set aside more than $2 billion in reserves and pay down debt early. He plans to do so by selling the state agency that administers federally backed student loans, reshuffling gas tax revenue and tobacco settlement money and slowing down social service spending.

Under the new plan, the state's welfare system would receive an increase that's $500 million less than expected, and would forego some cost-of-living increases next year.

"This budget is mean-spirited," Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles said in a prepared statement. "I am saddened and disappointed that the governor has returned to an agenda that reminds me of the 2005 special election, with a budget that punishes middle-income and low-income families."

The proposed budget would suspend cost of living increases for CalWorks, the state's welfare-to-work program, a move that would save the state $140 million, according to the Western Center on Law and Poverty, an advocacy group for the poor.

In January, the governor's office had predicted that revenue from higher local property taxes would offset mandated increases in public school spending.

That calculation appears to have been off, with the governor's office now estimating nearly $900 million in additional education expenses in the coming year. Under a complex funding formula, higher-than-expected state tax revenue in April also increased the amount owed to schools.

Brett McFadden, a budget analyst for the Association of California School Administrators in Sacramento, said the proposed budget would fully fund elementary and secondary education under the spending formula. It would give schools new funding for security and career technical education, but the extra money would come with strings attached, he said.

"It's not the best budget proposal for K-12 education," he said. "But it's not the worst."

In county government and transportation, local officials said the budget was largely status quo.

County of San Diego officials said the governor's May revise did not contain any worrisome changes.

"No show stoppers," the county's chief financial officer, Don Steuer, said Monday after county officers reviewed the plan.

Funding for transportation, business and housing would jump more than 20 percent over the current year's spending levels, largely as a result of the infrastructure bond measures California voters approved in November.

Specifically, Schwarzenegger is proposing to permanently shift responsibility for paying for school buses from the state's general fund account for education to the public transportation fund. The shift would entail moving $827 million out of the transit account next year. The governor also is proposing to pull money out to retire former transportation bonds and fund shuttle services for the disabled.

Brad Weaver, spokesman for Riverside Transit Agency, said the shifts shouldn't affect bus service in Southwest Riverside County because the agency does not rely on that fund.

"But any talk of funding cuts to public transportation is unsettling," Weaver said. "Public transportation has to be a priority."

Schwarzenegger proposes to spend only $1.2 million on the proposed 700-mile statewide high-speed rail project that has languished for more than a decade now. But California Department of Transportation Director Will Kempton said that does not mean the governor wants to kill the project.

Kempton said the governor wants to put off the project until after the $19.9 billion transportation bond program is well on the way to delivery.

Schwarzenegger is proposing to spend $11.5 billion of $19.9 billion approved for transportation over the next three years, including $4 billion in the budget year, Kempton said.

The accelerated plan for spending bond money is good news for freeway projects along Interstates 15 and 5 in North San Diego County, and Interstate 215 in Southwest Riverside County, transportation officials said.

And the public transit portion could help keep the Sprinter light rail line between Oceanside and Escondido on track by covering potential cost overruns, said Gary Gallegos, executive director for the San Diego Association of Governments, a regional transportation agency.

The bad news is the revised budget, like the governor's first draft in January, proposes pulling more than $1 billion out of a state fund that pays for bus and train operations, Gallegos said.

"He was literally giving transit money in one pocket and taking money away from another pocket," Gallegos said.

The budget is available for viewing at



from the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Newsletter for the week of May 14, 2007

Charter schools have become the latest fad in public education. They follow a long line of reform efforts from Shared Decision Making to School-Based Management. Each reform movement has had its share of success due to believers who chose a shared philosophy. However, reform movements have also died because the reform effort could not be replicated throughout the educational system because of many factors such as funding, institutional belief systems, logistics, and motivated leadership.

Ralph E. Shaffer and Walter P. Coombs, professors emeriti at Cal Poly Pomona, wrote the following in a Los Angeles Times editorial on April 19, 2007:

"Can charter schools in Los Angeles do a better job than conventional ones? A good deal of anecdotal evidence inflates charter schools' accomplishments. But test scores raise doubts.

"The 2006 Academic Performance Index (API) incorporates standardized test results into a score between 200 and 1,000. The statewide average for grades 2-11 is 721. LAUSD conventional schools, with 95% of the district's students, scored 700. LAUSD charters, with only 5%, did only slightly better at 708. That's an insignificant difference considering that charters have a selected clientele, siphoning off kids with the most engaged parents.

"Charter mania won't end soon. Too many advocates benefit from the system. Leftists see charters as a way to promote their agenda. Right-wingers use them to advance 19th century educational theories.

"But in our zeal to try something new, we've created a competing educational system that is largely unregulated and potentially disastrous. Turning over our schools to self-proclaimed reformers and for-profit business is a sure-fire way to end California's proud history of free, universal public education."

AALA would add to the comments above that charter schools also have the power to waive restrictions that plague regular public schools. These restrictions increase the so-called bureaucracy of the districts through legislative action.

Despite the unfair advantages of charter schools, when compared to regular public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, an analysis of the 2006 Base Performance Index (BPI) demonstrates that regular public schools of comparable size are outperforming charter schools in the District. There are 201 elementary schools listed in the API Index that have enrollments of 400 or fewer students who participated in the API testing. The average API index for the 201 schools is 781. What does this prove? Basically, smaller enrollment is better in terms of student achievement across all geographic locations and socioeconomic groups in LAUSD, and smaller District schools similar in enrollment to charter schools are performing at levels higher than charters.

AALA supports quality public schools, be they traditional district schools, schools of choice or charter schools. However, we do object to unfair comparisons. Many of our schools have impacted enrollment including the need for year-round schedules. As the construction of new schools continues, the scores attained in the smaller schools referenced above will be more easily attained by the scaled-down schools. Secondary schools are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to downsizing due to the overcrowded nature of most campuses. No other school district in California or the nation, for that matter, has high schools with 5,000 students and middle schools with 3,000 students.

At every school in LAUSD, large or small, we have principals, assistant principals, teachers, and other employees who are dedicated to raising the achievement level of all students despite overcrowding and other limitations. Yes, we should praise the smaller schools for their achievement, but let us not forget the thousands of students in larger schools who are also receiving an education that prepares them for postsecondary careers. And, yes, charter schools serve a role, especially in regard to serving as pilot studies in the use of waivers to change State bureaucratic restrictions. However, when some charter school leaders try to compare their schools with traditional schools for political purposes, we should point to the 201 schools in the District and change myth into reality. Let's put the resources where they are needed, in public schools, to enrich the programs that serve the vast majority of our children.

▼IT ISN'T ALL BAD AT L.A. UNIFIED: Supt. David L. Brewer says fixes for the embattled school district are coming soon.

by David L. Brewer III – Op-Ed in the LA Times. Brewer is superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

May 15, 2007 — THOSE READING about the Los Angeles Unified School District over the last few weeks may be excused for believing that not a single thing is going right and that nothing is happening to fix what's wrong.

A report came out pointing to a "rampant" lack of accountability throughout the organization. Inefficient implementation of a new payroll system resulted in some employees being paid incorrectly or sometimes not at all. Teachers at a struggling high school voted to convert to a charter school. Dropout rates continue to hover at unacceptable levels.

My purpose here is not to defend against any of those challenges or criticisms. I'll reserve the right to take on those issues later. Rather, I'd like to shift the debate to a more productive discussion of the key ingredients for true systemic reform: evaluation, execution and teamwork.

I commissioned the highly critical report conducted by Evergreen Solutions because I wanted an independent evaluation of the district to determine what was broken, why and what to fix first. It was not intended to be balanced; it was intended to be critical. It achieved its purpose — providing a roadmap for the path forward.

So why hasn't L.A. Unified (or any major urban school district in the country, for that matter) transformed all of its schools into high-achieving academic institutions? The reasons are many. However, the chorus of local and national criticism is focused on the wrong thing — people performance rather than systems and processes.

I have watched smart, hardworking L.A. Unified employees labor heroically to educate our children with only a modicum of success. W. Edward Demings, a leader in the field of organizational management, was right: 80% of the dysfunction in organizations is a result of the failure of systems, not people.

For example, too many functions that should be interrelated are instead isolated from one another, which results in fragmented and inconsistent outcomes. Thus, without transformational systemic changes, 100% turnover of the people would yield the same results.

We are retaining Evergreen and hiring some outside experts to assist us in resolving the most onerous systemic problems, and in June, we will present our proposed solutions. We also are creating a division to spur innovation from within the system and to create models for every school in the district. We are developing a comprehensive, rigorous and coherent curriculum aligned to California standards. We are making a systemic change to provide continuous learning and development opportunities for all of our staff — from teachers to support personnel — to improve performance. We are establishing an Office of Parent and Community Engagement to empower parents and to foster synergistic partnerships with civic, faith and community-based organizations.

Urban school districts are shot full of holes from silver bullets. The pressure to "do something now" is immense, often leading to underdeveloped programs that do not work, resulting in cascading pressure to "do something else." I will not be caught in this vicious, failing cycle. The reforms I put in place will transform the system because the old way of trying to fix our ailing schools will take longer than any of our lifetimes.

Today, an election is being held for two school board seats. Conventional wisdom says that this election is a referendum on the district, the outcome of which will determine the balance of power on the school board and, thus, the future of L.A. Unified.

However, as I approach my six-month anniversary with the district, I know that the work I face tomorrow will be the same regardless of the election outcome. We must move from criticism to collaboration, blame to burden-sharing and acrimony to accountability. No matter who is on the board or even, for that matter, who sits in the superintendent's chair, our children need parents, district employees, communities, the media, unions and civic and political leaders to put adult agendas aside and work together to improve student achievement.

So to the querulous critics, you have two choices: Join the team or get out of the way.


EXCERPT FROM THE MAY 21, 2007 NEW YORKER PROFILE: "FAULT LINES: Can Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Keep Control of L.A.’S Battling Factions?

by Connie Bruck [link to full article below]

Villaraigosa’s self-image retains vestiges of his tough youth—an audacious risk-taker, cool and unflinching, who punishes his enemies and meets the biggest challenge. In Los Angeles, education was that challenge. Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that imposed radical tax limits in California and engendered many other anti-government initiatives, has brought about a severe erosion in public services, particularly education. In the nineteen-sixties, California was among the top ten states in annual per-pupil spending; today, it is thirtieth. In the Los Angeles school district, more than sixty per cent of the students are Latino, and forty-one per cent of elementary students speak limited English. Many are children of undocumented immigrants; some live in garages, sheds, and attics, and move to a different neighborhood, and a different school, every few months. According to one study cited by the mayor’s office, more than half never graduate from high school.

Mayoral control is in effect in New York City, Boston, and Chicago, among other places, and has been seen as a management remedy for failing schools, on the ground that it is easier to hold a mayor accountable than a largely anonymous school board. Although results in these cities have been mixed, high-profile mayors like Michael Bloomberg, who ended thirty-two years of school decentralization in New York, and Richard Daley, who took over the Chicago school system in 1995, have been praised for their efforts. But Villaraigosa faced significant obstacles that they did not. Both the Los Angeles City Charter and the state constitution stipulate that the schools be controlled by an elected school board. And the very contours of the Los Angeles Unified School District are daunting; the district serves twenty-six municipalities, in addition to the city of Los Angeles. “The district has over six hundred thousand kids, over eleven hundred school sites, seven billion dollars in a general school fund and nineteen billion in a construction fund,” a friend of Villaraigosa’s said. “It’s too much for the mayor to control.”

Some of Villaraigosa’s political advisers agreed, telling him that it was an unwise political gamble, since he was unlikely to achieve results, and certainly not before his anticipated run for governor in 2010. Not even the vehement opposition of [California Teacher's Association political strategist] John Hein, who, Villaraigosa told me, has “one of the great strategic political minds in California,” could dissuade him.

When, during the mayoral campaign in early 2005, Villaraigosa proposed that the mayor should run the schools, Hein called him and said, “ ‘You know how C.T.A. feels about mayoral control. Why would you want to go against your friends?’ ” Both Hein and Villaraigosa knew that the California Teachers Association was critical to Villaraigosa’s future. Ordinarily, the union stays out of mayoral races, but Villaraigosa told me that the teachers’ unions contributed heavily to his 2001 race and his 2005 race. (“A million!”) Hein explained, “Antonio has always been considered one of us.” (Villaraigosa believed that the C.T.A. was investing in him as a future governor, who might free the state from the restraints of Proposition 13.) Villaraigosa was evidently afraid of angering Hein, but unwilling to relinquish the idea. Hein says, “Antonio promised me he didn’t really mean what he had said. Then he gave a speech—in which he said the opposite of what he’d told me.” Hein says that he called Villaraigosa and told him to lose his phone number. They did not speak for several months.

The rupture worried Villaraigosa, and he began to vacillate. But, just as he had underestimated Hein’s power, he failed to anticipate the pressure from supporters on the other side of the schools debate. In July, 2005, shortly after his inauguration, the L.A. Times editorial page—which had endorsed him for mayor—began to complain: “The new mayor of Los Angeles boldly proposed taking over the local schools, and then skittered away from the idea. . . . Enough waiting. Enough seeing.” Eli Broad, a Villaraigosa supporter, is deeply interested in education reform, and he promoted a bill in the legislature providing for mayoral control. Broad and Bill Gates, through their respective foundations, recently committed close to sixty million dollars to create a campaign, “ED in ’08,” to make the national education crisis a priority in the Presidential race. And Broad, who has been generous to Los Angeles in large, important ways—saving the Disney Concert Hall project, donating sixty million dollars to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—is accustomed to deference. Although Villaraigosa agreed with the mayoral-control bill’s objective, he didn’t think much of its chances and refused to lend his prestige to it. That angered Broad. Villaraigosa told me, “Broad is such an armchair quarterback! I said to him, ‘Look, I’d never tell you how to make money. But I know the legislature.’ ” Villaraigosa also felt that Broad had instigated the pressure from the Times.

In early October, approaching the end of his first hundred days in office, Villaraigosa attended a meeting with the Times editorial board, whose members criticized him for his inaction on the schools, according to a Villaraigosa aide. An adviser said, “My impression is that, when the rich and powerful and the L.A. Times are pounding on you in a synchronized way, most elected officials yield. Early on, Antonio put a rope around his neck with his comments about a mayor taking over. The more he got in, he saw the impracticality. But he thought, How can I look like I’m not deviating from what I said? When push comes to shove, I’m committed.”

Villaraigosa decided not to confront the legal obstacles head on. He might have tried to amend the City Charter with a referendum, for example, but polling had shown that mayoral control of the schools was not popular. Instead, he decided to go the legislative route in Sacramento, which he still considered his domain, and where Fabian Núñez, an ally, was Speaker. He announced the broad outlines of his plan in his State of the City address, in April, 2006, and Núñez and Schwarzenegger enthusiastically endorsed the idea. But the California Teachers Association made its strong opposition plain. By June, when it was time for the bill to be introduced, it seemed to Villaraigosa that the C.T.A. had cowed much of the legislature. “They had that place locked down,” he said recently, with evident admiration for the union’s display of raw power. “I couldn’t get a resolution that said, ‘His name is Antonio Villaraigosa.’ I mean, they had it locked down!”

Villaraigosa was chastened, and since it wasn’t in the C.T.A.’s long-term interests to see Villaraigosa politically harmed, Hein came to his rescue. He helped Villaraigosa make a deal with the local teachers’ union, which was incorporated into the legislation. Mayoral control was replaced by a mayoral partnership with the superintendent, the school board, and a council of mayors (the representatives of the twenty-six municipalities that, along with the city of Los Angeles, make up the school district). Teachers would have more to say about the curriculum—something they had long sought—and the mayor would assume control of a cluster of three underperforming high schools and their feeder schools.

A Times editorial attacked the compromise, saying that Villaraigosa had “caved,” and Eli Broad wrote him a letter saying that he would not support the bill. Villaraigosa remained obstreperous with Broad. As he recalled, “We kind of got into it, and I told Eli, ‘You know, you’re used to directing mayors. You don’t direct me!’ I said, ‘How many billionaires are there in this town? Six, seven, eight? There’s one mayor. I’m going to tell you right now—this is all I can get, and this is going to be a war!’ ” (Broad says that he had no recollection of this conversation.)

Representatives of the school district were overwhelmed by the power of the Mayor, the Speaker, and the C.T.A. Many legislators agreed that the bill was a badly flawed and probably unconstitutional amalgam, but they were loath to vote against it. African-American political leaders were particularly critical. It had been shaped without their help, and some saw it as a further instance of Latinos’ taking control. In addition, “it was not good public policy, and not very well thought out,” according to Mark Ridley-Thomas, a state senator who has known Villaraigosa for more than twenty years, and was one of the few African-American politicians to support him in his 2001 mayoral campaign. Villaraigosa lobbied Ridley-Thomas aggressively, but he abstained. Villaraigosa also met with Maxine Waters, but she was angry about not having been consulted earlier. “You should run something through your allies,” a friend of Villaraigosa’s told me. “It’s a big problem with him. He thinks people will think it’s right because he has done it.”

The battle for votes seemed to bring out Villaraigosa’s rougher edges. He can appear almost menacing when he wants to—holding someone’s hand too long, drawing too close. At a reception in Sacramento one night, according to someone who was there, he greeted a man allied with the school district—and then, leaning in toward him, grasped his tie and slowly tightened its knot. (Villaraigosa’s office has denied that this happened.)

In the end, the bill passed by a tiny margin, and a large photograph of an exuberant Villaraigosa appeared on the front page of the Times. But, after all his deal-making, the result was the antithesis of what he had originally sought. Control of the schools was spread among dozens of officials. Lines of authority were obscured. The superintendent now essentially had multiple bosses—the board, the mayor, and the council of mayors. Villaraigosa had spoken emphatically about the need for accountability. But, if that was the measure, the system was far worse than before. And a few months later, in December, a Superior Court judge ruled that the legislation violated numerous provisions of the state constitution and the Los Angeles City Charter. Rather than seek a settlement with the school district, Villaraigosa proclaimed, “I don’t quit!” He focussed on the school-board elections in March, convinced that if he won a majority the school board would give him the cluster—three schools and their feeder schools—that the court had denied him. He poured large sums of money into the elections, but they were indecisive, and runoff elections will be held on May 15th. Even if both his candidates win, he will have only a 4–3 majority. And that underestimates the likely independence of at least a couple of the new members. “Folks around town are saying, ‘Once Antonio gets his people on the board—’ Well, that is nineteenth-century boss thinking, and that just doesn’t exist anymore,” A. J. Duffy, the president of the local teachers’ union, said.

At this point, Villaraigosa seems eager for compromise, and an agreement is evidently being discussed in which he could be given just a single school, perhaps followed by a second one, a year later, if he is deemed to be doing well with the first. It is a modest proposition. This, or some other form of mayoral partnership in the schools, almost certainly could have been negotiated from the start had Villaraigosa chosen to do what he does best—use charm and conciliation to bring everyone to the table. “He could have gone to the district and said ‘Look, it’s your district, but I want to help you make it work,’ ” a friend of his told me. “But he was too caught up in this idea of mayoral control, in being part of this list of mayors, like Mike Bloomberg and Richard Daley, who are so successful—without any real consideration of the legal strictures and the politics.”

FULL ARTICLE — Profiles: FAULT LINES: Can Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa keep control of L.A.’s battling factions? by Connie Bruck|The New Yorker|5/21/07

Wednesday: MAYOR'S SCHOOL BOARD ALLIES PLAN THEIR REIGN - Newly elected Richard Vladovic and Tamar Galatzan help relay Villaraigosa's vision.
by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer | Daily News/Daily Breeze

Displaying their unity and flexing their political muscle, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's four allies on the LAUSD board appeared together Wednesday as they promised a bold new era of leadership, innovation and collaboration for the school district.

Their visit to the troubled Ninth Street Elementary School in downtown Los Angeles served as a victory lap for Richard Vladovic and Tamar Galatzan, who were elected Tuesday to represent the Harbor Area and the San Fernando Valley, respectively.

It also symbolized their budding partnership with board members Yolie Flores Aguilar, who was elected to the board in March, and Monica Garcia. Both share the mayor's vision of reforming and improving the 707,000-student district.

"What the four of us have in common is a vision for reform and a sense of urgency," said Galatzan, a career city prosecutor and the mother of two young children.

"The goal and the measure of our success has to do with educating kids, and everything we do comes down to whether it helps our students and our schools.

"The problems can't be solved by the district alone. The only way we're going to be able to move forward and tackle some pretty difficult challenges is to seek out partners, and that includes the mayor."

When the new members take office in July, they said, their priorities will include increasing accountability, reducing bureaucracy and granting local schools more authority over budget and curriculum. They also want to provide more support to charter schools.

"The leadership of the board is about meeting all the needs and being bold and aggressive in a coordinated effort," Garcia said. "We want to have behaviors, attitudes and actions that are about serving children and families so that we get to better graduation rates."

The board also is widely expected to give Villaraigosa oversight of a cluster of low-performing schools - something he'd hoped for under a state law he drafted that was later invalidated by the courts.

With control of the board hanging in the balance, Villaraigosa poured resources into the campaigns. Still, there was low interest among the electorate, with just 6 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

In the District 7 race, Vladovic got 54percent of the vote to challenger Neal Kleiner's 46 percent.

The mayor's four-member board majority supports his vision for promoting charter schools as a way to spur student achievement and raise the graduation rate.

That puts them at odds with the current board and with the teachers union, which have been slow to embrace the independent campuses.

Frustrated with the board, officials with the charter movement have said they will file suit against the district, claiming it has violated Proposition 39, which requires charter and public schools to be treated equally.

Garcia said the board should negotiate with charter leaders about sharing facilities in a district that's experiencing declining enrollment in some areas and overcrowding in others.

"I think there's a deep desire to better organize ourselves with the charter community. … We've shown we can work together," she said.

And in what may foreshadow friction with UTLA, the new board members said they want to negotiate longer-term contracts with teachers.

Villaraigosa was out of town Wednesday and could not be reached. However, his education adviser, Marshall Tuck, said the mayor is prepared to work openly and collaboratively with the district.

"What the mayor can do is help bring talent, resources, innovative ideas and efforts to engage families and communities in schools."

• The separate lawsuits filed by two education companies accuse the district of violating state law mandating that it make facilities available.

By Howard Blume, LA Times Staff Writer

May 18, 2007 — Two of the city's more successful charter-school companies sued the Los Angeles Unified School District on Thursday, alleging that the school district has failed to make space available for their students as required by law.

Two separate suits, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Green Dot Public Schools and PUC Schools, assert that the school district violates state law that stipulates "reasonably equivalent" facilities for charter schools.

L.A. Unified insists its policies are legal and that it offers space where it can in an overcrowded system.

Charter schools are independent public schools that are freed from many regulations and in turn are expected to improve student achievement. State law requires L.A. Unified to approve any sound charter school proposals, but they don't come with ready-made campuses. Already, 103 charters operate here, more than in any other school district.

L.A. Unified has provided furniture, fixtures, portable classrooms and temporary quarters benefiting more than 11,000 charter school students. An additional 2,300 are in new district buildings. And 15 schools that converted to charter status have kept their campuses. But thousands of the more than 42,000 charter students are still wanting.

PUC, which opened the first of its seven schools in 1999, has never had a district home, said co-founder Jacqueline Elliot. One location is a rented former private school where students cross a busy boulevard between classes. Another is a dirt lot with portable buildings slapped on top.

Once she was offered Highlander Road Elementary, a West San Fernando Valley school closed because of declining enrollment, Elliot said. That was miles from most students' homes, "but I said yes. I was so excited. It was a real school at last," she said.

That offer was rescinded, she said.

Officials have calculated that refurbishing Highlander would cost millions, which they judge an inefficient use of limited funds. Highlander became an issue in the school board race, when challenger Tamar Galatzan, who won her election this week, called for the school to be made available to a charter.

"I'm very hopeful that when the new board comes in we'll be able to reach a settlement quickly, if not before they come in," said Caprice Young, president of the California Charter Schools Assn., which also is a party to the lawsuits.

She said legal action made a difference elsewhere, including San Diego Unified, which now collaborates more closely with charter schools. "Districts and charter schools need to share the pain," Young said.

But school district general counsel Kevin Reed said that charter schools are asking to be better than equals. Giving them their desired contiguous space at a single location would force neighborhood children in regular schools onto buses and year-round schedules.

Despite a booming construction program, 141 overcrowded regular schools will still operate year-round next year; 7,000 students will be bused out of their neighborhoods.

"We're disappointed that they filed," Reed said. "We're all facility-starved in L.A."

Green Dot and the school system are also at loggerheads on another front. Last week, a majority of tenured teachers at Locke High signed a petition seeking the school's conversion to 10 small Green Dot charter schools.


Friday: MAYOR JETTISONS SCHOOL TAKEOVER: Court case moot with new board
by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Friday that he will not appeal a judge's ruling that his LAUSD-takeover plan is unconstitutional but will work instead to take advantage of the "unprecedented opportunities" offered by new district leadership.

[smf 2¢ – That would two rulings and four judges]

His announcement came during a morning news conference at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, where he and his former Los Angeles Unified School District adversaries shared hugs, kisses and laughter - an event that stood in sharp contrast to the acrimony that's marked the past 18 months.

With the election Tuesday of his two reform candidates to the school board, Villaraigosa said he believes he can work through the system rather than through the courts to solve myriad problems in the district.

"This has been a tough and contentious year," he said.

"We've had debates. We've had arguments. We've been to the Legislature. We've been to the courts. We've been to the ballot box. We've enjoyed victories, and we've shared defeats.

"Today we're here to declare together that the time for debate is over. With this superintendent and this board in place, I am confident that we can forge the partnership envisioned by the Romero Act."


The Romero Act - or Assembly Bill 1381 - was authored by Villaraigosa and the teachers union and would have given him partial control of the district.

It was passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor but declared unconstitutional after the LAUSD filed a challenge in court.

An LAUSD official estimated Friday that the district spent more than $1 million battling the Romero Act.

Villaraigosa formed a private political committee to promote his effort and spent more than $1.1 million in contributions to help get the bill passed last year. He also spent at least $11,000 in taxpayer money, much of it in travel for his staff.

While it was ultimately unsuccessful, Villaraigosa said Friday, AB 1381 created a framework for working with the board and Superintendent David Brewer III to develop an immediate action plan.

Their efforts will center on setting higher standards for students; creating small and safe schools; reducing bureaucracy; reinvigorating the curriculum; involving families and communities; redirecting more money to classrooms; and creating partnerships with businesses and community groups.

The mayor is likely to be given oversight of a cluster of low-performing schools, where he can launch a pilot project to improve student achievement.*

Reforming Los Angeles' public schools became a key priority early in Villaraigosa's administration, when he blasted the LAUSD for lagging student test scores and a dropout rate he pegged as high as 50 percent.

"I will not accept the status quo, and neither should you," Villaraigosa told the United Chambers of Commerce luncheon Nov. 17, 2005, prompting school board member Julie Korenstein, who was in the audience, to storm out of the meeting room.

But Korenstein stood front and center with the mayor Friday, saying she and other board members were looking forward to working with Villaraigosa.

"I think it's going to be a new day. ... I believe we can partner with the mayor," she said, patting Villaraigosa on the hand.

"It's time to lay down the sword and it's time to work together."

School board President Marlene Canter said she considers herself aligned with the mayor's four allies on the board - current member Monica Garcia, along with Yolie Flores Aguilar, Tamar Galatzan and Richard Vladovic, who will take office July 1.

"It's a new beginning. How great it is that we can take now our collective energies and passion and commitment and values and desire and every skill that we have and put them all forward together for the kids," Canter said.

A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, also was present for the event along with City Council members Wendy Greuel, Jose Huizar and Richard Alarcón.

Duffy, who worked with the mayor in drafting AB 1381, said the teachers union wants to be part of the team.

"UTLA and its 48,000 members are committed to partnerships with the mayor, with the district, with parent community groups and with the business groups around the city ... and we will move ahead together," Duffy said.


The only discordant note Friday was sounded by David Tokofsky, who is being replaced on the board by Galatzan.

He did not attend the news conference but issued a statement saying the city's proper role in education is providing public safety, building affordable housing and developing adequate recreational facilities.

He also blasted the mayor for the lengthy and costly fight over AB 1381.

"The public should not forget the 1 1/2 years of human energy and public funds lost on AB 1381," he said. "AB 1381 caused many opportunities to partner and change our schools in Los Angeles to be lost."

Staff Writers Harrison Sheppard and Rick Orlov contributed to this report.


* CALIFORNIA STATE CONSTITUTION: Article 9 • § 6 • 3: "No school or college or any other part of the Public School System shall be, directly or indirectly, transferred from the Public School System or placed under the jurisdiction of any authority other than one included within the Public School System." Exactly what part of "no" or "directly or indirectly" does the mayor, The Daily News or the board-elect fail to understand?

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Monday May 21, 2007
SOUTH REGION HIGH SCHOOL #13:CEQA Scoping & Presentation of Design Development Drawings
6:00 p.m.
Charles Drew Middle School
8511 Compton Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90001

Wednesday May 23, 2007
GROUNDBREAKING: Athletic Facilities Upgrade
Please join us to celebrate the groundbreaking of athletic facilities upgrades at Banning High School!
Ceremony will begin at 1:00 p.m.
Banning High School
1527 Lakme Ave.
Wilmington, CA 90744

Wednesday May 23, 2007
Construction Update Meeting
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Le Conte Middle School
1316 N. Bronson Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-893-6800


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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