Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy New School Year! | Bonne nouvelle année scolaire!

4LAKids: Sunday, July 1, 2007
In This Issue:
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.
…and Happy Canada Day, eh?

• I'm going to open this 4LAKids with an unabashed commercial endorsement. There are lots o' programs out there for kids and students to travel abroad, in school groups, student exchanges, etc. These are great and if your kids get the opportunity – or if you can host an exchange student – by all means go for it! But if you can and if you can afford it I'm going to rant and rave about traveling abroad with your kids. Pack 'em up and go!

My little family just went to Spain on a tour (…a tour?) and I was prepared to be grumpy about it. It was a tour organized by Disney and I was worried about the "Mickey Mouse-ification" of travel and history. We – adults and kids ranging from tenish to college-bound – had a great time, visited places we never would have been able to find and learned stuff we never would've even thought about. Learning and bonding and wine with the meals; it doesn't get much better than that! In Spain – and especially Andalusia – it is possible to put a lot of current events into context. Spain fought its own version of the Crusades/Jihad on the home turf against the Muslim Moors for 781 years …the depredations of Napoleon and the Spanish Civil War are simply recent (if painful) hiccups against the backdrop of that history, etched into every cobblestone and woven into to fabric of the once, present and future España.

I spoke with some Spanish parents – and their concerns are the same as ours: How to best educate their children in the modern world? How can schools serve the needs of students, parents, employers and society when both parents – or the single parent – work? What about after school programs? How do you keep teenagers in school, engaged and safe? One morning as we were leaving our hotel in Sevilla I noticed a meeting of a Consejo de la Educación in the hotel conference room …but my wife dragged me onto the bus nonetheless. Probably just as well!

• Thursday the Supreme Court has reached one of their split/not-truly-a-majority "landmark" decisions re: public school integration, diversity and affirmative action …possibly-but-probably-not affecting LAUSD's Magnet and Permits with Transportation programs. LAUSD's program is court-ordered, the Louisville and Seattle programs are voluntary.

As to "what-were-the-Supemes-thinking?" see Orlando Patterson's 6/17 NY Times Sunday Book Review of SUPREME DISCOMFORT: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas by Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher. Or read the book.

Meanwhile, Ward Connerly, California's homegrown version of Clarence Thomas, litigates among us. Is LAUSD's Choices Program voluntary or involuntary, race-based or driven by choice …or chance? I really hope the District gets Sandra Tsing Loh to explain accumulating 'magnet points' to the poor judge!

• And Green Dot and the teacher's union are going to run a school together. In the Bronx. Isn't UTLA Pres. A.J. Duffy from the Bronx? Elsewhere in NYC a Brooklyn charter reels from nasty capitalist boardroom politics direct from Wall Street – merrily kicking parents to the curb along the way.

But it isn't about the money. Public education will be a better place with Rupert Murdock in charge!

• Thousands of students who attend year-round campuses will head back to school as new school year starts and new school board takes over tomorrow. Monday is the first day of school for students on tracks B and C at schools that operate on three-track calendars – this weekend is the B trackers 'summer vacation! Students on tracks B, C and D at four-track schools begin Thursday, July 5 – some of them get 6 whole days off for summer!

The LA Times Editorial Board recognized the need for a New School Year Resolution Saturday: "Put the education of children and young adults ahead of political power plays. Experiment. Assess. The issue is not whether Antonio Villaraigosa's school board will be better than the last or whether those who have impugned the school district's reputation get their comeuppance. Try whatever improves the minds of and prospects for L.A.'s students."

Hear, hear! Welcome to Yolie, Richard and Tamar; best wishes to David, Jon and Mike, Every one of those windmills are worth the battle!

Onward into the new year! / ¡Hacia adelante en el Año Nuevo! —smf

NY Times Sunday Book Review of SUPREME DISCOMFORT


By Mark Walsh | Education Week | Published Online:

June 28, 2007 - Washington - The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down race-conscious student-assignment plans in two school districts, but it stopped short of prohibiting all consideration of race in K-12 education.

The court ruled 5-4 that assignment plans in the Seattle and Jefferson County, Ky., districts that classified all students by race, and sometimes relied on race to achieve diversity in individual schools, violated the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

"For schools that never segregated on the basis of race, such as Seattle, or that have removed the vestiges of past discrimination, such as Jefferson County, the way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis is to stop assigning students on a racial basis," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in the main opinion.

His opinion was joined in full by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

But Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who joined only parts of the majority opinion, made clear that he would not go as far as the chief justice in prohibiting schools from using race.

In a lengthy concurrence, parts of which he read from the bench, Justice Kennedy said, "School boards may pursue the goal of bringing together students of diverse backgrounds and races" through means other than "systematic, individual typing by race."

Justice Kennedy said it would be permissible for districts to take race into account when choosing sites for new schools, when drawing attendance zones based on neighborhood demographics, in allocating resources for special programs, in recruiting students and faculty members "in a targeted fashion," and in tracking enrollment and performance by race.

"A district may consider it a compelling interest to achieve a diverse student population," Justice Kennedy said. "Race may be one component of that diversity, but other demographic factors, plus special talents and needs, should also be considered."

"What the government is not permitted to do, absent a showing of necessity not made here," he said, "is to classify every student on the basis of race and to assign each of them to schools based on that classification."

Justice Stephen G. Breyer read at length from his passionate dissent, which was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

"The last half-century has witnessed great strides toward racial equality, but we have not yet realized the promise of Brown [v. Board of Education of Topeka]", Justice Breyer said in a reference to the court's 1954 ruling that struck down racial segregation in public schools. "To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown. The plurality's position, I fear, would break that promise. This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret."


The high court waited until the last day of its term to decide Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District (Case No. 05-908) and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education (No. 05-915).

The court heard arguments in December on the constitutionality of the policies used by the two school districts to maintain racial diversity in their schools.

The 97,000-student Jefferson County district, which includes the city of Louisville, formerly was under a court-supervised desegregation plan. The district adopted a voluntary plan in 2001, after a federal court declared it "unitary," or free of the vestiges of past racial segregation.

Jefferson County's "managed choice" plan includes consideration of race for some student assignments to schools. The plan seeks to have a black enrollment of at least 15 percent, but no more than 50 percent, at each school.

The district's race-conscious plan was challenged by a white parent whose son was denied a transfer to his neighborhood school in 2000 on account of his race.

In July 2006, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, unanimously upheld most parts of the Jefferson County district's plan, ruling that it was narrowly tailored to achieve school diversity.

The 46,000-student Seattle district was never under court-ordered desegregation, but in 2000 adopted an assignment plan that it says uses race as a way to foster educational and social benefits in its classrooms. The plan calls for using race as one of several tiebreakers for the district's 10 high schools when certain schools are oversubscribed after 9th graders select their preferred schools.

The race-conscious policy was challenged in 2000 by several white families whose children were denied admission to a new neighborhood high school. The white families were later joined in the lawsuit by black families whose children were denied assignment to traditionally black-majority high schools.

In October 2005, a 7-4 majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, upheld the Seattle district's plan as narrowly tailored to achieve racial diversity.


The two precollegiate cases were to some degree the natural follow-up for the Supreme Court to the two cases it decided in 2003 involving the consideration of race in admissions to higher education.

In those cases, Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, involving the University of Michigan, the court upheld affirmative action in college admissions in principle and supported the idea that using race to promote classroom diversity was a permissible goal. The court upheld the Michigan law school's race-conscious admissions policy because it involved a narrowly tailored individual review of each applicant in an effort to achieve a critical mass of underrepresented minority-group members.

But the court struck down the main undergraduate-admissions policy at Michigan, which had automatically awarded bonus points to applicants from underrepresented minority groups.

The high court's embrace four years ago of promoting diversity as a rationale for the consideration of race was welcomed in K-12 education, where a student's race is considered in a variety of programs and circumstances. Some instances, such as acceptance to competitive magnet programs, are similar to college admissions. Others, such as in the Seattle and Jefferson County cases, represent broader efforts to maintain racial balance in schools.

Chief Justice Roberts—in a part of his opinion joined by Justice Kennedy, thus making it a majority—said the race-conscious programs at issue in Seattle and Jefferson County differed from the law school admissions program upheld in Grutter.

The racial classifications in Grutter were part of a broader assessment of diversity, and not simply an effort to achieve racial balance, the chief justice said.

"In the present cases, by contrast, race is not considered as part of a broader effort to achieve exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints," he said. "Race, for some students, is determinative standing alone."

Since that decision there has been a change in membership on the high court. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who was in the minority in Grutter, died in 2005 and was replaced by Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who wrote the opinion upholding the Michigan law school plan, retired early last year and was succeeded by Justice Alito. The latter change was significant to today's decision.


Despite opinions totaling 178 pages, reaction to the June 28 ruling was swift.

Outside the Supreme Court building, in the blistering sun of Washington in summer, several civil rights advocates who had backed the school districts' diversity plans argued that Justice Kennedy's concurrence went a long way toward tempering the majority opinion.

"This is more of a 4-4-1 decision than a 5-4 decision," said Theodore M. Shaw, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Charles Jr. Ogletree Jr., a law professor at Harvard University, said that while Justice Kennedy had problems with the two specific programs at issue, "there are situations in which districts would be allowed to use race."

"He's saying this is not the last word," said Mr. Ogletree, who is also the executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, which is named for a key legal figure in the battle against segregated schools that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education.

Roger Clegg, the president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a Washington-based group that filed a friend-of-the-court brief on the side of the challengers of the race-conscious policies, praised the decision.

"As America becomes increasingly a multiracial and multiethnic society, it also becomes more and more untenable to have laws that categorize our people because of race and national origin," Mr. Clegg said in a statement.

In a conference call with reporters shortly after the decision, the challengers of Seattle's race-conscious plan were exultant.

"We are relieved and vindicated by the ruling," said Kathleen Brose, a parent and the president of Parents Involved in Community Schools, which brought the Seattle lawsuit.

"Let us now focus all our energy and resources on improving our community schools," she said in a reference to schools with neighborhood-based enrollments.

Sharon L. Browne, a lawyer with the Sacramento, Calif.-based Pacific Legal Foundation, which assisted the challengers in both cases, said "the court made it clear that Grutter simply does not apply in K-12."

She acknowledged that five justices—Justice Kennedy and the four dissenting justices—would probably allow race-conscious decisions on selecting a site for a new school.

Far from being downbeat, however, officials in the Seattle district found much to like in the decision, because they believe it clarified the law. The district had suspended its race-based plan because of the litigation.

"We are very pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the value of diversity in public schools," Superintendent Raj Manhas said in an interview. "In addition to upholding the overall goal of diversity within our local schools, we are also gratified and very pleased that the Supreme Court went so far as to describe the types of actions that school districts may pursue within the limits of the constitution."

Mr. Manhas said that Justice Kennedy's opinion helps justify "some of the work we are already doing by investing more in some of the poorer areas of the city," such as providing the International Baccalaureate and international language programs to schools in those areas.

In Louisville, Ky., Pat Todd, the director of student assignment for the Jefferson County district, said the decision averted "the most grave scenario" that the district had feared from among the possible rulings, in which the majority opinion might have said there was no compelling government interest in continuing to integrate public schools.

Five members of the court—Justice Kennedy and the four dissenting justices—indicate "there is a continuing compelling government interest in desegregated schools," she said. "We felt that was a partial victory."

From their preliminary reading of Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion, Ms. Todd said, the district's lawyers believe it will be "absolutely critical in interpretation of what the [majority] opinion is going to mean" and will allow some race-conscious considerations in drawing school boundary lines, recruiting teachers, and crafting certain other policies.

The decision will not affect student assignments for the 2007-08 school year, for which "school assignments already have been made, budgets set, staffing done, and [for which] transportation is currently setting up the bus stops," Ms. Todd said. "We expect smooth and orderly opening of school."

She said the school system is confident that the U.S. District Court in the city, where the same judge who ruled in favor of the school district in the case will decide how to apply the high court's decision, will help ease the transition to an alternative student-assignment method.


►DON'T FORGET L.A.'S RACE CASE: Magnet school programs, threatened by state and federal lawsuits, provide the best chance for equality in education.

By Charlotte Hildebrand | LA Times Opinion | Ms. Hildebrand a freelance writer in Los Angeles, is writing a book about Meredith vs. Jefferson County Board of Education.

June 26, 2007 - Supreme Court decisions on two school desegregation cases are expected before the court adjourns. The rulings in both cases — in which white parents in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle challenged districts' desegregation plans — will determine whether school districts can continue to assign students to schools based on their race for purposes of integration.

While people in Louisville and Seattle are waiting on pins and needles, here in Los Angeles, we are hardly aware that this Friday, the Los Angeles Unified School District faces a similar legal challenge to its own desegregation plan.

In American Civil Rights Foundation vs. LAUSD, Ward Connerly's anti-affirmative action group will go up against the district in Los Angeles Superior Court. Connerly is the former University of California regent who authored Proposition 209, the voter initiative passed in 1996 that banned the use of racial preferences in state government, including school districts. In a 2005 lawsuit, he teamed with Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative public-interest law firm, to charge that LAUSD's magnet schools and Permits with Transportation program violate Proposition 209.

Magnet schools and the PWT program (which buses minority students out of their neighborhoods to more racially balanced schools) were created in 1977, in response to a 1976 order from the California Supreme Court that the district take "reasonable and feasible steps" to alleviate the harms of segregation. The district responded by crafting a voluntary student integration plan — voluntary in the sense that students participate on a voluntary basis — and has been under a court order to implement it since 1981, according to Peter W. James, the lawyer representing the LAUSD.

Connerly's group will argue that the district improperly and illegally uses race to determine which students get admitted to the magnets and PWT programs. James will argue that the LAUSD is still under a court order to desegregate. If the judge rules in Connerly's favor, the magnet program will be forced to reconfigure, perhaps using a race-neutral admissions policy, and the PWT program may cease to exist.

Desegregation may seem like an increasingly irrelevant aspect of the conversation on LAUSD reform; we are currently focused on standards and accountability rather than equality or access. In Los Angeles, we have as much diversity in our K-12 schools as we can handle, or so we imagine. Today, the LAUSD is 73% Latino, 11% black, 4% Asian, 3% Filipino and 9% white.

Yet issues of equal access have not gone away. Although the magnet program maintains a flexible racial balance, our neighborhood schools — following housing patterns and socioeconomic trends over the last 15 years — have become increasingly segregated. Watt's troubled Locke High School, where 85% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, is almost 100% black and Latino. This year only 41% of Locke's senior class graduated.

At the other end of the spectrum is Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet, east of downtown. It has similar numbers of students on free or reduced-price lunches but it is one of the district's most successful high schools. It's also one of the most diverse — 63% Latino, 17% white, 12% Asian, 7% Filipino. Bravo graduated 91% of its seniors this spring.

Do integrated classrooms make a difference to academic achievement? Do segregated classrooms cause students to fail?

These questions have no simple answers. Gary Orfield, who founded the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and now teaches at UCLA, explored the effect of lingering school segregation in a 2004 report he coauthored, "Brown at 50: King's Dream or Plessy's Nightmare?" His research showed that across the U.S., 88% of intensely segregated minority schools "face conditions of concentrated poverty, which are powerfully related to unequal educational opportunities."

The point of Brown vs. Board of Education was to close that gap. Yet for minority students stuck in pockets of poverty, underfunded urban schools don't provide the pathways to college or meaningful work that are indicators of "equal educational opportunity."

Racial diversity and equality are still crucial issues. The U.S. Supreme Court returned to Brown vs. Board of Education in 2003 when it upheld affirmative action admissions at the University of Michigan Law School. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, speaking for the majority, wrote: "Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civic life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized. The skills needed in today's increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas and viewpoints."

We want students to meet academic standards. And we want to hold schools accountable. To achieve both, we need to move the education conversation back to equality and access.

All students must have the opportunity to go to college, or to gain the skills needed for meaningful work.

In the LAUSD, it's those in the diverse magnet schools and PWT program who will be better prepared to live and work in a global economy and fast-changing world. We need to offer all students more choice, more connections, rather than fewer, as Connerly suggests. Integrated classrooms in Louisville and Los Angeles are the first places to begin.
►RULING ON RACIAL INTEGRATION CASE SEEMS UNLIKELY TO AFFECT LAUSD: Dissenting Supreme Court justices warn decision could weaken Brown v. Board of Education.

from Daily Breeze staff and wire reports

June 29, 2007 — Los Angeles Unified is expected to re-evaluate its racial integration plan following a U.S. Supreme Court decision Thursday that struck down such plans in two districts.

The court's 5-4 decision left the door open for the limited use of race to achieve diversity in schools, but some dissenting justices said the decision could weaken the landmark reforms of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school integration case.

The decision in cases affecting how students are assigned to schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle could imperil similar plans in hundreds of districts nationwide, and further restrict how public school systems may attain racial diversity.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials are reviewing the case with outside counsel, but at first glance they believe the new decision should have "no immediate effect" on the district's current court-ordered integration plan.

A separate, pending case against the district in Los Angeles Superior Court, however, could force changes.

LAUSD general counsel Kevin Reed said the district is operating under a court-ordered integration plan dating to 1982 that has already been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. That plan is "fundamentally different" from the plans of the two school districts subject to Thursday's decision, including that those districts were not operating under court-ordered plans.

"First, the majority of the court reaffirmed that race can play a role in student admissions in public schools," Reed said. "Five justices said race can play a role. Second, the case did not reach the issue of whether a court-ordered desegregation plan under a state constitution will be held to this standard or some other standard."

"Without definitive answers on that question, we are not in position to say we need to change anything tomorrow."


The district's integration plan, determined in Crawford v. LAUSD, consists primarily of two elements. The first requires the district to maintain racial balance in its 162 magnet programs, meaning no more than 30 percent to 40 percent of students are white. The second is it allows a voluntary busing program, under which a student who lives near a school that is considered racially segregated can enroll in an integrated school in another location, and the district will provide the transportation.

Locally, magnet programs have been bracing for the decision, said David Kooper, the magnet coordinator for South Shores Visual and Performing Arts Magnet in San Pedro.

There are 16 magnets in LAUSD's Local District 8, which runs from San Pedro to Watts and includes Carson, Gardena and Lomita.

"They're not condemning the magnet program," Kooper said. "We can still maintain ourselves as a magnet without race being part of the criteria."

LAUSD enrolls students in its magnet programs each May, after parents have applied in January. Ethnicity is used as one of the criteria for placement, said John Walsh, the district's assistant general counsel.


That approach may prove untenable.

"I would imagine it would be hard to defend using the race of the student in making the assignment," said Daria Roithmayr, a USC law professor. "I think they're done."

Reed acknowledged an outside group could argue that the new decision does affect LAUSD and file a lawsuit demanding changes, in which case it would be back in the hands of the courts.

The Pacific Legal Foundation already has a pending lawsuit against the district to overturn aspects of its integration plan. That suit is based not on federal law, but on the state initiative Proposition 209, which was approved by voters in 1996 and sought to end affirmative action in California.

That case faces a major hearing today in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Paul Beard, a senior staff attorney for the foundation, said the group is weighing whether the new Supreme Court decision will affect the case. If it does not have a direct legal bearing, he said, it at least reaffirms some of the ideas behind the group's suit.

"I think it does vindicate the principle behind Proposition 209, that racial balancing is not an appropriate means for achieving any kinds of goals the school district might have," Beard said.

"As far as the legal arguments are concerned, it won't have an impact directly on the case, because we are suing only under Proposition 209 and our state law thankfully is more protective than federal law on this issue."

The Supreme Court case was a result of lawsuits filed by parents to overturn integration plans in school districts in Seattle and Kentucky. The court split, 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts announcing the court's judgment. The court's four liberal justices dissented. The systems in Thursday's decisions employ different methods of taking race into account when determining which schools students will attend.


By David J. Hoff Walsh | Education Week | Published Online:

June 28, 2007 - Washington - School officials and traditional civil rights groups decried the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling today overturning policies intended to diversify student enrollments in the Jefferson County, Ky., and Seattle school districts. Meanwhile, others hailed the decision as a victory for those who say such initiatives create reverse discrimination.

One of Washington's most powerful Democrats called the decision "appalling." "Today's decision turns Brown [v. Board of Education] upside down and ignores decades of constitutional history," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement, referring to the 1954 decision that overturned segregation in public schools. "If this isn't judicial activism, I don't know what is."
See Also
Read the related story, "Supreme Court Rejects Use of Race in School Assignments."

People for the American Way, a liberal activist group, called the decision "a terrible blow for school districts trying to overcome our nation's long legacy of segregation and take seriously the importance of diversity."

The other side of the political spectrum celebrated. "Racist School Policies Get the Supreme Smackdown," wrote the Open Market blog, a project of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which advocates free markets.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, also approved of the decision. "That public institutions cannot be allowed to sort children based on race is consistent with the [U.S.] Constitution, was clearly established in Brown v. Board, and simply makes sense as a matter of justice. And it is good to see the court doing what it should in education, especially after so many years in which it and other federal courts required exactly the kind of racial engineering it prohibited today."

One supporter of measures to promote integration suggested that the court should not have "the last word" on the questions posed in the case. "Congress must act immediately to explore legislative solutions that further the goals of an integrated and quality public education for all students," wrote Cassandra Butts, the senior vice president for domestic policy at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-leaning think tank.

The Campaign to Restore Civil Rights, a coalition of groups that support efforts to diversify schools and other public institutions, said students recognize the importance of diversity and believe districts should be allowed to promote it. The campaign highlighted the winner of its recent essay contest, Jody Leung, who wrote: "Brown v. Board of Education paved the way for integration and the civil rights movement" and "made America a better place. … The time is now and we must encourage racial integration in classrooms."


On the well-respected Scotusblog, lawyer Tom Goldstein points out that Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's concurring opinion may have preserved K-12 districts' right to consider race in some school assignments. Justice Kennedy joined with four justices to form a majority saying that Seattle and Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, put too much emphasis on race in their school assignments. But the justice's reasoning, Mr. Goldstein wrote, suggests that "that school districts may account for race as one factor among many in student placement."

In its blog, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund highlights the factors that Justice Kennedy lists as possible ways districts could consider race in student assignments: "Such measures may include strategic site selection of new schools; drawing attendance zones with general recognition of neighborhood demographics; allocating resources for special programs; recruiting students and faculty in a targeted fashion; and tracking enrollments, performance, and other statistics by race."


by Joel Rubin, LA Times Staff Writer

June 29, 2007 — The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education on Thursday approved a $6.2-billion general fund budget for the coming school year.

The unanimous vote came after the seven board members peppered Supt. David L. Brewer and other school district officials with questions and concerns during lengthy debate that spanned two meetings this week.

The budget, which calls for the reduction and reorganization of several programs and departments in the mammoth school district in order to close a $95-million shortfall, still must be certified by county education officials. And until the state Legislature finalizes California's budget, which includes most of the funding public schools receive, allotments are still somewhat tentative.

Faced with growing public criticism, Brewer relented somewhat on a proposal to recoup nearly $5 million by charging after-school youth groups to use district athletic fields and facilities. He agreed to lower the fees that will be imposed and to use a sliding scale so groups that serve low-income children pay less.

Brewer also scrambled to appease some board members' concerns about his proposal to reduce at midyear the number of teachers assigned to those schools where student enrollment drops. To help administrators keep staffing levels stable at such schools, Brewer agreed to free up some so-called restricted funds and to allow schools to put aside money at the start of the year.


June 28, 2007

Please excuse this last minute appeal - I have just returned from vacation to discover that "Pay to Play" has - like a bad penny - returned to LAUSD as a budget cutting strategy.

Two plus years ago I delivered to the Board of Ed the following resolution from PTA, opposing charging fees for after school use of school playgrounds and facilities. Afterwards I apologized to John Liechty, who as the Beyond the Bell assistant superintendent was official advocate for the fees. I considered John the most knowledgeable and most "for kids" person at Beaudry - I was uncomfortable opposing him on this matter.

John looked at me square in the eye with his no nonsense glare and told me PTA and I was on the right side and his and the budget office's proposal was wrong; wrong for Beyond the Bell, wrong for LAUSD and wrong for kids.

With that endorsement I bring the resolution back to you - and suggest that subsidizing after school recreation programs is a mission not for program operators but for city government, private fundraising, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. The board rejected the proposal back ion '05, I ask that you do it again.

Scott Folsom
Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA



"…so that groups that serve low income children pay less?" How about nothing?

If this city can't come up with five million dollars a year – from the private and/or public sectors - so kids can play organized sports on school playgrounds after school and on weekends without charging volunteers, non-profits and/or the kids and their parents for use of facilities we the taxpayers already own Los Angeles deserves the gang problems we have and we are simply not worthy to be the great city we aspire to be. There are billionaires among us who find that kind of money in their washing machines after a couple of loads – or in the pillows of their couches. —smf

▲NO PAY TO PLAY: A Resolution of the Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA, California Congress of Parents, Teachers and Students, Inc.

By Jennifer Medina | New York Times

June 28, 2007 — Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school operator from Los Angeles, is seeking to expand into New York with the cooperation of the teachers' union.

Under the proposal, Green Dot, which is heavily financed by the billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, would open a high school in the South Bronx. The school, which must be approved by the state, would become one of only a handful of charter schools in the city to use a union contract.

The cooperation of the union, the United Federation of Teachers, is unusual. It has been lukewarm toward charter schools, many of which actively oppose unions. The schools are publicly financed but are largely free from the control of local school districts.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the teachers' union, said yesterday that she approached Steve Barr, the founder of Green Dot, to open the school because he favors working with unions.

"We have never been against increasing charters, but we were against the anti-union animus in some charter schools," Ms. Weingarten said. The union already runs two charter schools in Brooklyn.

The plan calls for all teachers to be part of the union, but their contract would be simpler than the citywide contract. The union and Green Dot have already reached agreement on the general terms and structure of their contract.

Rather than dictating the number of hours and minutes teachers must spend at the schools, it would just call for a "professional workday," they said. The contract could also eliminate tenure, but would set guidelines for when a teacher can be dismissed. Many charter schools can dismiss teachers at will.

Mr. Barr, who has sparred in recent months with school officials in Los Angeles over his aggressive plans for expansion of schools, said that he had turned down offers before to expand beyond California and that he had responded only because it was the union that had approached him.

"If it were the mayor or the chancellor, I probably would have said no," he said in an interview yesterday. "But to say that we are doing reform with the largest union is something very different. We can prove the unions and reformers work together."

►GREEN DOT PLANS A SCHOOL IN NEW YORK: The teachers union is to run the campus with the charter group, a setup rejected by United Teachers Los Angeles.

By Joel Rubin, LA Times Staff Writer

June 28, 2007 — Green Dot Public Schools, the upstart charter operation that has aggravated Los Angeles school administrators and union officials alike with its early successes and expansionist plans, has entered into what it hopes will be a less strident relationship in New York City.

Green Dot founder Steve Barr and Randi Weingarten, president of the powerful New York City teachers union, have reached an unusual agreement to open a jointly run charter high school.

The two are scheduled to announce the collaboration in a news conference at the union's Manhattan offices today.

The United Federation of Teachers' willingness to enter into an alliance with Green Dot seems certain to put pressure on United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents the roughly 35,000 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Although in recent months UTLA President A. J. Duffy has softened his caustic and dismissive attacks on Green Dot — and charters in general — he has repeatedly rejected the idea of a partnership with Green Dot.

Weingarten, in a telephone interview Wednesday, said she hoped the deal between the nation's largest teacher union and Green Dot would encourage Duffy to move in a similar direction.

"If you really actually believe in kids and believe in their success, those of us in education, we really shouldn't be in the sandbox fighting with each other. We should be … trying to figure out how to work together," Weingarten said.

Barr and Weingarten said the unusual collaboration should set an example, not only in Los Angeles, but elsewhere as well. Throughout the United States, charter schools are largely nonunion and, as such, have drawn the sharp ire of union leaders. Green Dot teachers, however, offer an exception, because they belong to a union, though not one representing educators in Los Angeles or New York.

Several weeks ago, Weingarten visited Green Dot schools in Los Angeles and met with Barr. The trip helped her decide to push ahead with the partnership, she said. Weingarten praised Green Dot's model, so far implemented only in the Los Angeles area, as one that has posted promising results while also giving teachers a considerable voice in making decisions on instruction and resources.

"When you go and see Green Dot schools, you see schools that really work for kids … in places where kids have not always been given the best chances in life," she said. "Teachers are treated as the professionals they ought to be, and they step up to act as those professionals as well."

Under the terms of the proposal, which requires approval by New York state education officials, Barr, Weingarten and several New York education and civic figures would sit on a board of directors that oversees the school. The South Bronx campus is expected to open in fall 2008 and will primarily serve Latino students from low-income families.

Weingarten and Barr said they expected the school to operate much like the 10 high schools Green Dot runs in the Los Angeles area.

Those schools are rooted in a set of basic tenets, including enrollment no greater than 500 students and a college-preparatory curriculum.

Although New York state regulations require that they wait until the charter is approved to work out details, Weingarten and Barr said they expect that the New York teachers will work under a labor agreement similar to the one Green Dot has with its teachers in Los Angeles.

Unlike the lengthy, proscriptive contract UTLA has negotiated with L.A. Unified that spells out a teacher's workday down to the minute and offers extensive job protections, Green Dot's contract is more straightforward. While giving teachers considerable authority and higher starting salaries, it calls for a "professional workday" and allows teachers to be fired for "just cause."

Conflict between UTLA and Green Dot has long been a barrier to serious discussions of partnership. Earlier in his first term as union president, faced with an explosion of charters in Los Angeles that ultimately drew hundreds of teachers away from district schools, Duffy hammered on the independent schools, questioning whether they produced better results and criticizing their labor practices.

As the largest — and most aggressive — charter group, Green Dot was a frequent target. Earlier this year, Duffy charged that the group "takes bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, idealistic people and works them to death."

On Wednesday, he dismissed the notion that an agreement between the New York teachers union and Green Dot had relevance to Los Angeles, saying that "the landscapes are very different." He emphasized that his criticism of charters has been driven, in part, by the frantic growth of charter schools here. New York City has considerably fewer of them.

Weingarten "is doing what she thinks is best for public education in New York City," Duffy said.

But the partnership announcement comes at a particularly delicate time for him. As he prepares to mount a reelection bid, Duffy is under pressure to assuage rising discontent among teachers chafing at the slow pace of district improvements at middle and high schools.

Last month, that frustration spilled over when a core of tenured teachers at Locke High School voiced support for Green Dot's plan to take over the South Los Angeles campus and convert it into several small charters. Since then, teachers from more than a dozen other L.A. Unified schools have contacted Green Dot to discuss similar actions, Barr has said.

Duffy readily concedes that, against this backdrop, he has struck a decidedly less confrontational tone on charters, now saying he would be willing to negotiate with Green Dot if two-thirds of the teachers at a school called on him to do so.

"I am listening and responding to the needs of my members," he said.


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Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is immediate past 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.
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