Sunday, January 27, 2008


4LAKids: Sunday, Jan 27, 2008
In This Issue:
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
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.
As usual, the education news for this week is a hodgepodge.

hodge•podge (hjpj) - n.
A mixture of dissimilar ingredients; a jumble.
[Alteration of Middle English hochepot, from Old French, stew; see hotchpot.]
– The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Noun 1. hodgepodge - a motley assortment of things
Noun 2. hodgepodge - a theory or argument made up of miscellaneous or incongruous ideas "the architect has a theory that more is less"; "they killed him on the theory that dead men tell no tales"

4LAKids has picked and chosen — choosing to lead with 2 articles from Edutopia - the publication of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. 4LAKids & Edutopia share three things: We are committed to quality public education, the publishers are a couple of baby-boomer filmmakers, and the publications are free. One is virtual; the other a slick magazine …George Lucas is a much more successful filmmaker than I! Jim Daly, Edutopia's editor challenges the presidential candidates to focus on public education and commends Eli Broad and Roy Romer's efforts in ED IN'08. Eli and Roy are no strangers to these pages and to us in LA — and they've got this one right! Richard Dreyfus ties up the Hollywood knot (and the Lucas connection - "American Graffiti"…remember?) …a bleeding heart bleeding red, white and true blue.

Following we have 2 from 2 Times: LA+NY. L.A. UNIFIED SCALES BACK BUILDING PLANS is a story that rolls out in headline type a story that has been the very public work of LAUSD for the past couple of years as the District came to grips with cost escalation in school construction, limited resources and declining enrollment. The Board of Education has been trying to downsize campuses in a "smaller-is-better" movement; the dollars are not stretching as far as the costs go up - and there has been a falloff in enrollment. These facts of life have discussed at every Bond Oversight Committee meeting and nearly every Board of Ed meeting for the past two years. However the reporting of facts (no matter how past tense they are) IS the news — and the NY Times piece: BUILDING COSTS DEAL BLOW TO LOCAL BUDGETS puts it into a national if not global perspective.

The current decline in enrollment is a short term demographic anomaly - nothing to do with education but instead reflecting the high cost of living and real estate in Los Angeles and the resultant drop in population. In the foreseeable future we will need more classrooms and seats, but building smaller schools is good thinking and good policy for now and long term. Our schools are too big as evidenced by this oft quoted factoid: Of the fifty largest middle schools in California, fifty of them are in LAUSD. There are other factors in play also - including the "we're all for public education …in someone else's backyard" advocated by the Right Site Coalition - self appointed champions of the Echo Park community who hold their meetings in Glendale.

Policy makers struggle similarly with building new schools near freeways: BOARD ACTS TO LIMIT NEW SCHOOLS NEAR FREEWAYS. LAUSD has many schools next to freeways, in many cases the freeways were built after the schools. The Catch 22's abound: the law says one cannot build new schools near freeways but not vice versa, the rules are never retroactive no matter how inconvenient the truth about air and noise pollution …and can LAUSD realistically set higher standards than the state's for school siting …and then collect state matching funds for the escalation in costs? The answer is certainly no.

Meanwhile the Bush Administration and their allies in Congress do their best to cut health care for kids , cutting Medicaid funding to school districts (LAUSD HEALTH SERVICES FACE CUTS IN FEDERAL FUNDING) and once again sustaining the veto of SCHIP ( HOUSE FAILS AGAIN TO OVERRIDE VETO OF SCHIP) Shame.

And in EdWeek, Randy Ross, the LAUSD Board of Ed's education policy guru poses the question: IS SCHOOL SUCCESS TRANSFERABLE?

HIGH STAKES TESTING: We are going to be awash on our telephones and the airwaves with politicos running for President from now through Feb 5th — next January 20th one of them will actually get the job! Ask them and yourselves what their plans and hopes and dreams for Public Education are. Listen for answers that don’t fall into neat sound bytes (…or bites - the linguists defer/differ).

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! —smf


► L.A. UNIFIED SCALES BACK BUILDING PLANS: Falling enrollment projections mean fewer and smaller schools are needed, district says.

by Evelyn Larrubia | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

January 23, 2008 — Declining enrollment has prompted the Los Angeles Unified School District to scale back its $20-billion school construction and remodeling program sought to relieve overcrowding and end involuntary busing.

The building program, which is paid for by four bond issues approved by local voters and state funds, is believed to be the largest public works project in the nation. But since the fall, the school system has canceled plans for 19 new schools and additions to existing campuses in South Gate, Bell, Van Nuys, San Fernando, Sun Valley and central Los Angeles, among other areas, citing new enrollment projections.

On Tuesday, the Board of Education downsized five new schools, eliminating more than 1,000 seats, and last year, the district decided against building seven others, also largely because of decreased enrollment.

"This is major," said board member Marguerite LaMotte, who appeared amazed recently when the board voted to shrink a proposed Maywood high school from about 2,000 classroom seats to 1,200. Even overcrowded nearby Bell High School, which the new school will relieve, has benefited from demographic changes.

Overall, the nation's second-largest school system now serves 694,288 students, down 7% from its peak in 2003 of 747,009 students. The drop stems from years of declining birth rates and increasing housing prices that have pushed poor and working-class families out of many gentrified urban Los Angeles neighborhoods.

A similar decline in students is being felt in other districts in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, a product of the sharp increase in housing prices over the last decade. Compton Unified has eliminated one of two planned elementary schools, partly because of decreased enrollment.

In Los Angeles, reducing the number of new classrooms will not, however, mean that the district will have a surplus of bond money, officials said. Construction costs have nearly tripled to $500 per square foot or higher since 2001, causing a shortfall. The district has cut more than $1 billion from school repair, technology and early education programs to make up the difference.

Guy Mehula, the district's chief facilities executive, has assured the board that the 80,000 seats left to be built still appear necessary. He has repeatedly pointed out that 200,000 children will be learning in portable classrooms even after the construction program is completed. The district expects enrollment numbers to begin to rise again in about five years.

But years of declines have provided ammunition to residents seeking to block new campuses. The downturn was cited by Van Nuys residents, who hired a lawyer to fight a new school that would have required tearing down residences. District officials sent a letter last month to property owners around Cedros Avenue, saying they had scrapped the school because "updated enrollment projections" have made it unnecessary.

Demographics were also among the arguments being used by residents of White House Place Primary Center, west of downtown, who are opposed to losing an unusual ecological housing village to a new elementary school. They said seats are empty at two schools that the new campus is slated to relieve and a third will be giving up students to the massive K-12 campus at the site of the former Ambassador Hotel.

Perhaps the costliest fight over declining enrollment is being waged over what the district calls Central Region Elementary School No. 14, in Echo Park, which has been tied up in court for more than two years. The proposed school was promised to voters in 2005, principally to remove chronically jammed Rosemont Elementary School from a four-track year-round schedule.

About 1,500 students then attended the campus, which has relied on a staggered calendar for more than a decade.

But Rosemont, now down to 964 students, switched back to a traditional September-through-June schedule in the fall. School principal Evaristo Barrett even circulated a flier in the neighborhood recruiting pupils to avoid losing teachers.

"Please tell your neighbors, family and friends that we are looking for additional students," he said in Spanish and English.

Christine Peters leads a vocal opposition group, the Right Site Coalition, which has filed court actions seeking to block construction of the $59-million campus. The district has already spent $26 million buying the 49 residences and six commercial lots on the site at Santa Ynes and Alvarado streets, mitigating contamination and designing the new campus.

"They just don't want to say: 'Oops, we're wrong,' so they're going to push this thing through regardless, just to save face," said Peters, a member of the city's neighborhood council for the area. "Their stated goal was to return schools to single track. It's done. All schools are in traditional calendars in Echo Park."

District officials insist the campus will be needed by the time elementary school enrollment picks up again.

"Enrollment in the neighborhood drops off and goes back up. It always recovers," said Tom Calhoun, central region development manager for the district. "We want to make sure that we plan for the long term."

He also said that Rosemont's capacity will ultimately drop to fewer than 800 students because the district plans to remove classrooms crowding the school's playground.

Calhoun said the proposed campus will make an ideal neighborhood school because 450 students live within a four-block radius and 150 more live across Alvarado Street. Those students now cross under the 101 Freeway to attend Rosemont. Hundreds more pupils expected to attend the 875-student campus could come from more than a mile away.

The project has been controversial from its first public meeting in 2004, when officials unveiled three proposed sites. Residents countered with nine alternatives.

"The feedback that we got from individuals was, No. 1, don't take any homes, don't build a school -- or limit the number of homes," said Lily Quiroa, a former district community relations official. The site was picked "because it limited the number of homes that were taken," she added.

Since then, enrollment has plummeted at Rosemont and other area schools, particularly at smaller campuses to the north. Elysian Heights Elementary School, which has lost 53% of its student body since 2001, combined kindergarten and first-grade classes in the fall.

"We never realized large families were going to be moving out," said Quiroa, who no longer works for the district. "Four years ago when we were looking for the site, the numbers were there, the need was there."

Even as enrollment changed, the district said the school was still necessary to relieve crowded campuses outside of Echo Park. Plasencia Elementary, for example, has been dropped from the list of schools the new campus was slated to relieve and has been replaced with Commonwealth Avenue Elementary and Lafayette Park Primary Center, more than a mile away.

The area's newly elected school board member, Yolie Flores Aguilar, said it's clear that gentrification is reducing enrollment but not enough to scrap the school.

Her predecessor, David Tokofsky, remains a stalwart supporter of the project.

"Rosemont is like an intestine. It's twisted and turned," he said. "There is no mother or father that you can think of who wouldn't prefer an elementary school of 400 to 500 kids than an elementary school of 850 to 1,250."

Retired attorney Francisco Torrero, also a member of the neighborhood council, said he can't count on the population dip's being permanent, given redevelopment and construction in the general vicinity.

"Who are me or Christine or anyone to tell the people who move into these places: No, you can't have children?" asked Torrero, a 30-year resident and father of a fifth-grader at Rosemont. "If you're going to wait 20 years when there's no money available with the state or the district to build a school, what will you do then? It's going to put you back on the same boat."


by William Yardley | New York Times

January 26, 2008 — SEATTLE — State and local governments in many parts of the country are struggling to pay for roads, bridges and other building projects because of rising construction costs, adding another burden to budgets already stressed by the troubled housing market.

The problems have come as many governments pursue ambitious projects to improve roads and airports, build schools and upgrade long-neglected water and sewer systems. Many of the projects were conceived when money from property, sales and income taxes was steady and interest rates low, but officials say the ground has shifted beneath their feet.

“Everybody’s scared,” said Uche Udemezue, director of engineering and transportation for San Leandro, Calif., which will soon put out a request for construction bids on a retiree center and a parking garage. “You don’t know what you’re going to find when you go out to bid.”

Costs have jumped for projects as varied as levee construction in New Orleans, Everglades restoration in Florida and huge sewer system upgrades in Atlanta. The reconstruction of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, a $234 million project, has been fast-tracked for completion by December, and state officials say it is too soon to know whether it will come in on budget.

The impact has been felt in different regions at different times, and not every project has been high-profile. In Oregon, high costs have forced the State Department of Transportation to slow the rate at which it upgrades roads and bridges. In Seattle, school building projects were put on a fast track this fall because of fears of cost overruns.

“We escalated our project schedule to get ahead,” said Fred Stephens, director of facilities and construction for Seattle Public Schools.

Nationwide, increasing costs first became a problem for some projects more than two years ago, and in some regions the rate of increase has dropped in the past year. But some regions are tighter than ever, and the pressure from the high costs can be more acute in the context of general revenue declines.

The list of culprits for the increases often depends on the rate of growth and construction in a particular region, with labor costs playing a role along with the rising prices of materials like steel and concrete, and asphalt, fuel and other petroleum-based products.

Experts say high costs are linked to competition from a global development boom, particularly in China and India; the housing boom in the United States; and the rush to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and other recent hurricanes that struck Florida and the Southeast. In the Northwest, public projects have competed with downtown construction surges in Seattle and Portland. Just across the Canadian border, hotels and highways are being built to prepare for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The costs have added to what has become an increasingly bleak economic forecast for many states and local governments. At least 25 states expect to have budget deficits in 2009, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which estimates the combined budget shortfall for 17 of the states at $31 billion or more. Many cities, too, see difficult times ahead as revenues wane and costs increase for wages, pensions and health care.

“We’re talking about all levels of government being in some revenue constraints at a time when the service costs aren’t going down,” said Chris Hoene, the director of policy and research for the National League of Cities.

In some places, the news is not all bad. Recent declines in residential construction are beginning to force contractors to be more competitive when they bid for government work. Yet some government officials see that as a dubious silver lining.

In Oregon, low bids for recent bridge projects came in at $18 million, about 10 percent below what the state had projected. That was unimaginable a year ago, but the relief is relative, said Tom Lauer, the major projects manager for the Transportation Department.

“We’ve been getting hit so hard that we’ve been pumping them up the last couple of years,” Mr. Lauer said of the state’s internal cost projections.

“I didn’t get a price break,” he said of the recent bid. “I may just have more predictable pricing. I still can’t afford to do other stuff.”

In Newcastle, a growing Seattle suburb, the situation is emblematic of the struggles confronting towns and school districts across the country. Two main goals prompted the improvements now under way on a main thoroughfare, Coal Creek Parkway. Widening a bottleneck on the road would help relieve congestion on nearby Interstate 405. And doing it with style — using steel on a bridge to evoke an old train trestle and installing landscaped medians between lanes — would send the signal that Newcastle is ready to do business.

Then the bids came back. “Slack-jawed,” said John Starbard, the city manager, when asked his reaction to the bids.

Mr. Starbard said even the project’s engineering consultant, CH2M Hill, was stunned when what they believed was a very conservative $38 million estimate in March 2007 was met with a low bid of more than $44 million for a mile’s worth of road and bridge improvements.

But waiting to build was not an option. The city had already received help from Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, and state lawmakers, as well as the State Transportation Improvement Board. It went back to the board and received $2 million more.

“It was a shared sticker shock, but they had seen this with other projects so they were not as surprised,” Mr. Starbard said of the board.

In Newton, Mass., a Boston suburb with a population of more than 80,000, the estimate for the new Newton North High School was $104 million in 2004. Four years later, the foundation is about to be poured and the estimate is now at least $186 million, said Jeremy Solomon, a city spokesman. Mr. Solomon said about $25 million of the increase involved changes to the original plan, for asbestos abatement, adjustments to the heating and air-conditioning system and other factors. Otherwise, he said, the increase resulted from rising building costs.

“We kind of got caught in a period where construction costs grew rapidly,” said Mr. Solomon, citing steel and fuel costs, among others.

The need for public improvements only grows greater. Costs are rising even as engineers across the country say infrastructure is rapidly decaying.

In San Leandro, a city of 78,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mr. Udemezue said the city could not afford to delay work on the parking garage and retiree center.

“We can’t wait,” he said, “because we don’t know if the prices are going to come down or go up.”

In the grading guide known as the Pavement Condition Index, zero is not far from a dirt strip and 100 is a fresh new roadway. When Mr. Udemezue began working for San Leandro 16 years ago, the average road ranking in the city was nearly 70. Now it is closer to 60, despite what Mr. Udemezue said were the city’s efforts to keep up maintenance.

Years ago, there was more money in the city’s general revenue stream that could be diverted to help with basic maintenance, which Mr. Udemezue said required about $5 million a year.

That general revenue now goes to other needs, like public safety, and the roads go wanting, with flat revenue from gas taxes and other declines leaving about $1.2 million to maintain roads each year. The $13 million retiree center and the $8 million parking garage have been affected, too, with the city dropping plans to build commercial space beneath the garage and reducing the space for social programs in the center.

Mr. Udemezue and others say they have heard that things may be stabilizing, but they cannot be sure.

Even in places where the rise of costs has slowed, said Ken Simonson, chief economist with the Associated General Contractors of America, “it’s dormant at best.”



by Lisa Friedman, Washington Bureau | LA Daily News

Article Last Updated: 01/23/2008 08:42:01 PM PST

January 24, 2008 - WASHINGTON - Los Angeles schools could lose up to $20 million - and be forced to close many of the region's school-based health clinics - under a plan by the Bush administration to stop reimbursing districts for certain Medicaid costs.

And Los Angeles Unified School District officials, in Washington this week protesting the new Medicaid rule, are taking the lead in what is shaping up as a national fight.

Local officials said about 150 organizations, including schools, hospitals and disability-rights groups across the country, have already met to protest the changes costing more than $635 million nationally.

Without that money, officials said, children with little or no health insurance would lose clinics their families have come to rely on for everything from tuberculosis tests and immunizations to parenting classes and nutrition guidance.

"There is no better place for children to get information, to get access to their medical needs, than their school," said LAUSD board member Yolie Flores Aguilar.

"It's where the kids are all day, and it's the place that parents trust."

Currently, schools receive Medicaid reimbursement for the cost of transporting disabled children who are unable to ride regular school buses.

They also receive reimbursement for a range of administrative activities such as enrolling students in Medicaid programs.

But for two years the Bush administration has sought to eliminate those payments.

On Dec. 21 - the day members of Congress left town for the holidays - Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt issued his decision that schools' activities are "not necessary for the proper and efficient administration of the Medicaid state plan."

The Los Angeles school system receives between $8million and $20million annually in such reimbursements - a fraction, officials say, of actual spending for the services.

Congress has temporarily blocked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid from cutting, but the reprieve will last only through June.

The ruling comes at a time of deepening deficits and dire budget cuts in California. The LAUSD is facing a loss of about $500million next year under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to reduce spending for public schools by $4.35billion.

LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer III said the combination will be devastating for children in the district, where about 27percent of students are uninsured.

The first major losses, he said, will be the district's 34 health clinics that get about 100,000 visits from students annually.

"The schools are the hub for access to needed care for many of our families," he said.

Bush administration officials said that while they sympathize with the belt-tightening, they do not feel that is a reason to continue federal Medicaid payments.

"Constrained local and state funding for education is not the basis for determining whether a cost is properly claimed under Medicaid," officials jointly wrote in defending the new rule.

Maria Gonzalez of Canoga Park said she can't imagine what raising her three children would have been like without the clinics. While she and her husband both work full time, health insurance used to be out of their financial reach.

So when her son was diagnosed with asthma at the age of 6, it was the staff at Christopher Columbus Middle School's clinic that provided medicine, made a house call to advise her how to cover mattresses and pillows, and taught her ways to prevent future attacks.

Now the parents have health insurance for the kids, but Gonzalez said she finds it comforting to know the clinics are there.

"If I ever had any other need, I could call them, and they'd tell me where to go," she said, adding that she will feel devastated if the clinics close.

Janice Lake, the facility organizer for three San Fernando Valley clinics that serve more than 3,000 kids, said the clinics save taxpayers money by teaching disease prevention and giving uninsured parents alternatives to rushing to hospital emergency rooms.

Mary Kusler, assistant director of government relations for the American Association of School Administrators, said the cuts will be felt nationwide.

"These proposed cuts are going to impact not only L.A. Unified, but small rural districts in Nebraska and suburban districts in New Jersey," she warned.


News Alert from the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools (CHHCS) @ George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.

January 24, 2008 - Trying again to get a reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through Congress, the House of Representatives yesterday failed by 15 votes to override President Bush’s veto of a bill that would have added $35 billion to the popular state/federal program over the next five years. This was the second veto, and the second time a veto was sustained, since the original SCHIP authorization expired last year. The 260 to 152 vote, in which all House Democrats and all but 42 of Republicans voted to override the President's veto, left the House 15 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a veto. Democratic leaders cited a current “sour turn” in the economy as an added reason to support the SCHIP expansion, and they vowed to bring the SCHIP reauthorization up again in this session of Congress. SCHIP is currently funded through March 2009 under emergency legislation passed by Congress last year.


by Evelyn Larrubia, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

January 23, 2008 - Making broad pronouncements about the need to protect the health of children in their care, the Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday restricted the district's ability to build schools near freeways and other sources of air pollution.

After a string of public speakers supporting the measure and impassioned debate, the board approved a resolution calling for the school system to study airborne pollutants up to half a mile from a potential site, rather than the current quarter mile requirement. It also seeks air quality health-risk assessments for all schools, including charter schools, although officials said it is unclear whether they could force the independently run but publicly-funded schools to do so.

"Basically I'm trying to push the envelope as far as we can," said board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who co-wrote the resolution with board member Julie Korenstein.

Flores Aguilar took on the issue after The Times reported in September that the district continued to build schools close to freeways, despite a state law discouraging it and recent studies indicating that children living near them showed signs of increased respiratory harm. About 60,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students attend campuses within 500 feet of a freeway.

The board also gave the superintendent a month to produce a list of schools where children are at the highest risk from air pollution and, by late March, to come up with a plan to reduce that exposure.

The board action does not change state law, which allows schools within 500 feet of major roadways despite the risks if the board finds the pollution "unavoidable" and overrides it.

However, Flores Aguilar said her resolution fixes a glitch in state law that did not require school systems to consider the effect of ultra-fine particles -- which researchers now believe carry the most noxious pollutants. Those particles are too small to be filtered by heating and air-conditioning systems.

Board member Tamar Galatzan, the lone dissenting vote, said that with budget cuts looming she couldn't support the proposal without a full financial analysis.

Officials said the district expects to lose $460 million in state funds next year.

But her fiscal argument lost to what board members said they felt was a moral imperative.

One after another, they said that they or a family member suffered from asthma.

"I so understand what it means to not be able to breathe," Flores Aguilar said, tearing up. She was born with a severely narrow trachea, requiring time in oxygen tents as a child.

Marguerite LaMotte said her family gave its life savings -- including LaMotte's college fund -- to a charlatan who promised to cure her mother's severe asthma. He failed. "I can do nothing but support it," she said.

District officials said it will cost practically nothing to extend the distance of air quality analysis. The costs of retooling existing schools to limit exposure are unknown. But the resolution does not require the work to be done, and Flores Aguilar said there may be grants available.

Supt. David L. Brewer, also an asthma sufferer, hinted that the funds could come from future bond measures if the community has the "political will" to protect children's health.


Last week 4LAKids reported (GRADUATING SENIORS: WANT TO GO TO COLLEGE? GET YOUR APPLICATION IN BY FEBRUARY 1ST!) the moving up to Feb 1 for all California State University application deadlines to deal with the anticipated budget crunch.

There has been a bit of flip-floppery - some campuses' deadlines have moved up to Feb 1 (from the original August 1) - some to March 1 - some deadlines have already come and gone!

WHICH CSU HAS WHAT DEADLINE? Visit here for a visual aid!

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
Los Angeles Times
Crenshaw High, south of Leimert Park, and Westchester High, on the Westside, will join the Innovation Division, a new reform initiative of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The results of school elections were obtained early Thursday evening by ... [more]

RedOrbit, TX
By Paul Clinton Parents and teachers at Westchester High School have voted to put themselves in charge of academic reforms in an effort to take the low-performing school where Los Angeles Unified couldn't. Working with Loyola Marymount University under ... [more]

San Jose Mercury News
Leaders of the University of California and California State University systems, as well as the California Teachers Association, are in the "no" camp. [more]

Los Angeles Times
President Bush created the Treasury Department's Office of Financial Education in 2002. On Tuesday, he unveiled the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, which will be co-chaired by investment guru Charles Schwab and Los Angeles-based ... [more]

Charlotte Observer, NC
The poster child of the new hard times is California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggests cutting (even in the face of rising costs) virtually every state program by 10 percent -- K-12 education, child-care subsidies, public parks and beaches, ... [more]

Link to the news that didn't fit!

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
7:00 AM to 05:00 PM
The second day of the LAUSD Academic Decathlon competition will take place at UCLA
Volunteers are still needed!
Contact Person: Cliff Ker/ 213-241-2901

*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: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6387 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385

...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 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.
• 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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Sunday, January 20, 2008

College bound.

4LAKids: Sunday, Jan 20, 2008 MLK Jr Holiday
In This Issue:
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
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.
by Steve Lopez from the Los Angeles Times

January 16, 2008 — She was headed down the wrong path and moving fast.

A 1.0 GPA in her first year of high school.

Zero ambition.

No role model.

No time for anything but taking care of younger siblings for an overworked mother who wasn't always around.

This story is about how Evelynn Santiago finally found her smile, a broad, lit-from-within glow that came from jumping all those hurdles.

The story begins, actually, with Mike Lansing looking out the window in San Pedro a few years back and seeing members of his Boys & Girls Club goofing off in the street when the nearby high school was in session.

"What's the dropout rate?" the former L.A. Unified school board member asked an aide.

About 50% of the kids attending the club don't finish high school, he was told.

"Then we're doing something wrong," said Lansing, who started the College Bound program in 2002.

"We had four seniors in the program the first year," says director Yesenia Aguilar. "And then eight the following year. And then 28. And then 44, and now it's just exploded. We have over 130 seniors this year."

The walls of College Bound's study room are plastered with college pennants. After-school tutoring and guidance are free, and the kids keep coming -- now about 500 of them in sixth through 12th grades. When kids get their college acceptance letters, their names and photos go up on a wall of fame.

Kids who go through College Bound are much more likely to finish high school. Their SAT scores are 78 points higher on average than non-participants'. And 86% of the seniors in the program have gone on to two- or four-year colleges.

Like Evelynn Santiago.

Evelynn was encouraged to forget about school so she could help out more at home, according to the grandmother who eventually took her in.

"I pretty much gave up," says Evelynn. Then she heard about College Bound.

"All we did was give her a path," Aguilar says.

This meant telling Evelynn she was intelligent and capable and free to decide for herself whether she wanted to graduate from high school and do something with her life other than settle for disappointment.

Aguilar drew up a list of the courses Evelynn needed in her last three years of high school and kept her on track. Evelynn feared that when her family moved to Harbor City, she'd have to drop out of the program. But the Boys & Girls Club athletic director, who had known her since she began hanging around the club as a 10-year-old, volunteered to drive her to and from College Bound each day.

"I had a similar family situation growing up," says Justin Owens, whose parents split up when he was young. "I think when she first had someone believe in her, that's when she started to turn it around."

As her 15th birthday approached, Evelynn had no doubt who should be her quinceañera godfather.

"I was kind of surprised because I didn't know I had meant that much to her," says Owens, who is African American.

He admits to having been nervous, because he didn't speak a word of Spanish, let alone know anything about the coming-of-age celebration. But he picked up enough of the language to get through the ceremony and be there for Evelynn.

"I felt like it was a responsibility I wanted, and it has helped me tremendously," says Owens, 25. "Until then in my life, it was always about me."

Evelynn says she worked harder than she ever had in school, and in 11th grade at Narbonne High in Harbor City, she began believing she might make it.

"I said, 'I'm going to do it. I'm going to go to college.' "

Five of the six schools she applied to last year were hours from Los Angeles. Evelynn wanted no family distractions.

But the days and weeks went by without a response from any of the colleges.

She waited, nervously, and waited some more. And finally she had a hunch.

Someone was tossing her mail before she could see it. Perhaps someone who wanted her to forgo college and stay home to help raise her younger siblings.

Evelynn asked the colleges to please send all correspondence to Aguilar's home, and last spring, the letters began arriving from college admissions offices in the California State University system.

Accepted. Accepted. Accepted. Accepted. Accepted. Accepted.

She was six for six.

Before making up her mind, she enrolled in a pre-college course at Sonoma State. Aguilar took her to catch the bus, and when they realized they had missed a connection, Justin Owens and another Boys & Girls Club employee, Johnny Walter, drove Evelynn all the way up north, just beating the clock to get her there in time.

Sonoma State was one of the schools that had accepted Evelynn, and she liked the feel of the place during that weeklong summer program.

This was it, she told herself. Nice campus, safe distance from home.

She chose Sonoma State over the other schools and began her freshman year in September, planning to major in criminal justice and dreaming of one day going on to law school.

"I absolutely love it," says Evelynn, who is home now on holiday break. She's spent her vacation working at a job where she's a natural.

She's a tutor in the College Bound program.

"I'm very proud of her," Owens says. "She's accomplished so much in a short time, and it proves that no matter what you have going on in your life, you can make it if you work hard and stay focused."

Bob DiPietro, principal of San Pedro High, says he has "nothing but positive things to say" about College Bound and its effect on his students. He'd like to be providing the service himself, but with more than 400 students per high school counselor, "and more education cuts looming," he needs help.

So does Lansing, whose fundraising mission never ends. He's trying to get College Bound expanded to the 26 other Boys & Girls Clubs that serve about 100,000 youths in the Los Angeles area, and anyone who wants to know more can see a video at

One day last week, before the high school kids began crowding into the room with all the college pennants, Evelynn and I drove over to see the grandmother she's now staying with near the Boys & Girls Club.

Maria Rivas had a stroke several years ago, but she couldn't afford to let it keep her down. She rides a bike every day to a physically demanding, low-paying job as a caretaker at a mental health center. As we sat in her kitchen, she talked about her move up from Mexico many years ago in search of a better life, and about the much-too-early pregnancy that put Evelynn's mother in a lifelong bind.

Evelynn will do better, Rivas said as afternoon light poured through the window. And a lot of the thanks, she said, goes to those good people who gave her granddaughter a push at the Boys & Girls Club. She said they have an open invitation any time they want a home-cooked meal.

▲ Thank you Steve Lopez for telling this story. Thank you Mike Lansing and Yesenia Aguilar and Justin Owens and Johnnie Walter and Bob DiPietro; you are that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens that Margaret Mead never doubted could change the world —The creative dedicated minority that Dr. King said almost always has made the world better. And to Evelynn Santaigo and Maria Rivas: Thank you for dreaming the American Dream and daring to live it.

Dream onward! - smf

California State Board of Education
Public Meeting Regarding Corrective Action Plans under
No Child Left Behind
Thursday, January 17, 2008, from 1 – 4 pm
Los Angeles County Education Center, Downey, CA

AGENDA: The purpose of this meeting is to enable members of the State Board of Education to hear from school districts and their communities regarding the framework for corrective actions under No Child Left Behind and its potential impact on them. This is one of three meetings that State Board of Education members will hold in California regionally this week, and the general public may also attend. There will be additional opportunities for public input before the Board takes action on this matter.
State Board of Education Members Presiding
Ted Mitchell, President
Kenneth A. Noonan, Immediate Past President
also present: State School Board Interim Executive Director Gary Borden and members of the Governor's education staff

• Welcome and Introductions
• Discussion of Corrective Actions for Local Educational Agencies in Year 3 of Program Improvement under No Child Left Behind


I attended this meeting in my capacity as Education VP of Tenth District PTA and a member of the LAUSD Superintendent's High Priority Schools Task Force.

The meeting was well attended, with school boardmembers, superintendents, assistant superintendents, senior staff and a smattering of parents from the PIY3 Districts in Southern California from as far away as Kern, Riverside and Diego Counties. LAUSD was represented by Senior Deputy Superintendent Donnalyn Jaque-Anton, Acting Chief Instructional Officer Robert Schiller, Julian Gorgoni from the legislative office, Zella Knight from the DAC and four other parents from the Parent Collaborative.

The meeting was not recorded and official minutes were not kept. Though it was a public meeting no one identified themselves as being from the press

The meeting ran long - until 5 o'clock, many stayed to the bitter end.

President Mitchell and Boardmember Noonan set out some parameters for discussion and laid out some of the Board's thinking in the introduction - describing the four levels of intervention the board anticipated - mandated by NCLB.
The state board's role was set in the law: Intervention is mandated under NCLB.

The board members promised all that each intervention for each of the 98 Districts (representing one third of California schoolchildren) would be specific to that district and its unique situation - there will be no one size fits all sanctions! The word "sanction" itself was not be used — but of course that was the word used in the official letters identifying the 98 districts - it was used in in testimony ...if not by the boardmembers.


1. Imposition of a DEIT (or DEITplus) [District Evaluation and Intervention Team] from Sacramento.
2. Creation of a DEIT in collaboration between the District, County Office and Sacramento.
3. A rewriting and revision of the Districts LEA (Local Educational Agency) Plan in cahoots with an outside provider.
4. Cooperative implementation of the existing LEA Plan in cahoots with an outside provider.

1. There will be one additional informal meeting like this one at the Superindent's Conference in Monterey next week - by statute this must be a public meeting.
2. All districts are encouraged to submit written information.
3. There will be a full meeting of the Board for discussion - either at the next scheduled board meeting or at a special meeting.
4. Once the Board decides on corrective actions superintendents will be contacted by telephone and given a chance to respond.
5. The Board will publish the intervention plans for a thirty day public discussion.
6. The Board will meet and vote on implementation based on the comment and the implementation can begin.

The testimony that followed was insightful and revealing - and pretty well stayed on a common theme.

• Unique³. Every District is unique, in a unique situation and faces unique challenges.
• Most school districts missed their goals by a small amount and only by a couple of criteria or sub groups. The most prevalent were:
• English Language Learner scores
• Special Ed/Children with Disabilities
– To a lesser extent:
* Participation rate by subgroup.
* Graduation rate
• The incompatibility of two different evaluation systems: AYP v. API/Benchmarks v. Growth/Federal v. State/Standards v. Progress/Apples v. Oranges as models confuses and confounds almost everyone.
• There are two ten-ton gorillas in the room that impede progress and loom over the entire process:
* THE STATE BUDGET CRISIS and impending across-the-board funding cuts, this year and next.
* NCLB'S UNFUNDED MANDATE imposes additional financial hardship. The State has $29 million put away for this implementation - that's $295,000 per PI Year 3 District.
> There was advocacy for California joining the lawsuit in the US Sixth District (Pontiac v. Spellings) - and not just from me - which challenges the unfunded mandate of NCLB.
> The State Board of Ed seems unwilling to go there.
• Much was made of California's huge number of English language Learners …and the Catch 22 that the federal law actually punishes success by not counting ELL students who become proficient in the formula they use to measure "success"
• The revolving door/absence of longevity of superintendents and principals places many players on the low end of the learning curve.
• There is a unrealistic challenge of 63 of the 98 identified PI Year 3 Districts coming up with ESEA Title One (Education for Disadvantaged Students) plans at the same time as ESEA Title Three plans (Language Instruction for Limited English Proficient and Immigrant Students) — when the two are often the same challenge but require different specific solutions.

• We are at the metaphorical meeting of Cinderella and Hippocrates, seeking to find the perfect solution that fits each individual district with the caveat: "First, do no harm"
• Most of the districts desire help and support.
• Whatever the solutions, we must look for reform through an instruction lens, not a compliance lens.
• Interveners must be qualified, experienced and expert.
• Corrective actions must be targeted thematically and specifically.
• Collateral damage and unintended consequences must be anticipated and avoided.
• The state itself must do better - NCLB is data driven, CDE's data collection and evaluation - and therefore support - is sorely lacking.
• A data system to identify lessons learned and best practices is needed.
• Researchers must be engaged.
• We are chasing a receding target as the funding vanishes.
• The State Board is committed to providing flexibility in funding and time.
• Reform begun and progress made must be recognized.
• Preschool opportunities must be increased

It becomes obvious that the Corrective Actions/Sanctions will be driven by external entities; both County Offices of Education and private and public for-profit and non-profit providers ("State Approved DAIT Provider Organizations") - more of the "applying business school models/practices and tools to public education" so popular with NCLB reformers. The guarantee is that someone will make money; the hope is that some schools and districts will improve.

The 'carrot and stick' NCLB reform has failed already, it was failed when it was Rod Paige's Texas Miracle of testing and data/smoke and mirrors. Houston is still recovering from Paige's superintendency. When the federal government failed to fund NCLB it was doomed no matter how well-meant the intent. Even with adequate funding NCLB's goals of 100% success are impossible to realize no matter how noble.

One district claimed to have made the list of 98 for violating a business school management model: "The Case for 20-70-10" which creates performance categories of the top 20%, middle 70%, and bottom 10%, and then manages them "up or out" accordingly. Educators are neither assembly line factory workers nor drones in cubicles. Students are not widgets — they are the customer, not the product.

'Decimate' is the word from the Latin for this.

Pronunciation: ˈde-sə-ˌmāt
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): dec•i•mat•ed; dec•i•mat•ing
Etymology: Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare, from decimus tenth, from decem ten
Date: 1660
1: to select by lot and kill every tenth man of
2: to exact a tax of 10 percent from decimated Cavalier — John Dryden>
3 a: to reduce drastically especially in number decimated the population>
b: to cause great destruction or harm to decimated the city> decimated by recession>
- from Merriam-Webster Online

It is doubtful that Congress will reauthorize NCLB as we know it. If Congress were to reauthorize and fully fund NCLB the President would veto the funding. The federal court in Michigan has the funding piece in their sights.

Meanwhile, as the ship lists to starboard and rapidly takes on water, Secretary Spellings and Governor Schwarzenegger engaged in a "politics as unusual" love fest over the governor's plan (a deck chair realignment in the planning phase - see above) to shore up NCLB …which is disintegrating before our eyes! (see: U.S. ED SECRETARY PRAISES CALIFORNIA'S NO CHILD PLAN)

The vaunted Year of Education will be spent beginning what will be undone in the first year of the next administration in Washington.

That being said we need to do our up-and-walking level best for the kids who deserve far better. NCLB gave us disaggregated data; it gave us proof positive that the Achievement Gap exists - and defined how bad it is. I'm not fond of the speaker but agree with the sentiment: We cannot allow the soft bigotry of low expectations to succeed — the proper name for that success is failure.

Failure is not an option; success is the only standard.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf


"We should not be cutting funding for K-through-12 education. Who in the world in America thinks we have too much money invested in public education? This makes absolutely no sense." - John Edwards on the California Budget, Jan 17.

See The Governor's State of the State 2008/Education

• smf notes: I didn't write the "California's No Child Plan" headline …but that explains the declining enrollment in our schools! The SacBee editorial board says the governor's cutting the budget during his "Year of Ed" is not as contradictory as it might seem. Schwarzenegger admits that "we need to put money into education, as much as possible" — as he cuts the budget 10%. How unseemly does contradictory have to be to qualify?


By JULIET WILLIAMS, Associated Press Writer | San Francisco Chronicle

January 19, 2008 — SACRAMENTO, (AP) — U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings on Friday praised California's plan to hold 98 failing school districts accountable under the No Child Left Behind Act and pledged to allow states more flexibility in implementing the law.

Spellings, in San Diego to meet education and business leaders, talked with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about his plan for the 98 California districts that face sanctions for the first time this year.

The governor has focused on his No Child Left Behind intervention plan as the state struggles with a $14.5 billion budget deficit, which has scuttled his larger plan for a year of education reform. It also forced him to propose cutting California's education budget by $4.8 billion.

The state's intervention plan would send teams of state experts into the districts to figure out what's not working and make varying changes.

Unlike previous initiatives in other states, California would implement a sliding scale of intervention actions depending on how poorly the districts have performed.

The most severe measures, such as replacing administrators or a state takeover, would be saved for districts that have consistently failed to raise achievement levels, particularly for black and Hispanic students.

"It is the raging fire in American education, this achievement gap that continues to plague us," Spellings told a business round-table at the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. "It's painful, it's uncomfortable to find out this stuff ... but we ought to have anxiety when only half our minority kids are getting out of high school on time."

The six-year-old federal law is credited with shining a light on the unequal quality of education. The 98 school districts listed as failing in California are those that have not met their benchmarks under the law for each of the past four years.

Other states also must take action against consistently underperforming school districts.

Spellings said the law is forcing schools to improve but conceded there have been problems, some of which will be addressed as Congress works to reauthorize it, perhaps this year.

Among the most promising changes, she said, has been the move to let more states measure the progress of individual students over time.

Under the current method, schools must compare different classes. For example, a fifth-grade class this year would be compared to the performance of the previous year's fifth-grade class in math and reading. School officials say that is an inaccurate measure and have sought to track individual students, although many states do not have enough data to do it.

But federal officials rejected California's approach, saying the state does not have an accurate way of tracking such progress. Spellings said new approaches must be rigorous and still aim to have all students proficient by 2014.

"We're going to have to pick up the pace. Any old growth every year is not going to get kids to grade level by 2014," she told the business forum.

Also Friday, Spellings sent a letter to states warning them they still must comply with the law, despite a recent court ruling allowing a lawsuit that challenges its funding.

She said her department will vigorously fight the Jan. 7 ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which revived a challenge to the federal law by allowing a lawsuit filed by school districts in three states and the nation's largest teachers union. The plaintiffs claim the No Child Left Behind law is an unfunded mandate.

"The Sixth Circuit's decision undermines the efforts we have made under NCLB to improve the education of our nation's children, particularly those children most in need," Spellings wrote to state education leaders. "If the decision stands, it would represent a fundamental shift in practice."

The Pontiac, Mich., school district, eight districts in Texas and Vermont, and National Education Association affiliates in several states filed the lawsuit. They argued that school districts should not have to comply with requirements that are not funded by the federal government.


►NOT GIVING UP: 'Year of Education' – tempered by realism
Sacramento Bee Editorial

Saturday, January 19, 2008 — Californians might be baffled by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's championing of 2008 as the "Year of Education" as he proposes to cut the education budget. But his approach is not as contradictory as it might seem.

Schwarzenegger sees a state budget shortfall of $14.5 billion as a "blip." And in fact, the current budget problem is small compared with the 1991 deficit during the tenure of Gov. Pete Wilson. The deficit is $14.5 billion of a $101 billion budget, compared with a $14.3 billion deficit of a $53 billion budget in 1991. Schwarzenegger believes all parties working together can solve the short-term problem without losing sight of the big issues facing the state.

So he's laid out a proposal for cuts, while saying he's open to other ideas: "If someone comes in with a better way, that's great. Let's find out what it is." He admits that "we need to put money into education, as much as possible." Let negotiations begin.

Schwarzenegger is straightforward that he wasn't able to launch as ambitious a rollout as he wanted for his 2008 Year of Education because the health care reform that he expected would be done in 2007 remains in negotiations. And, as he said Wednesday, you can't propose major education reforms, announce $4 billion in cuts and expect to get needed support from the education community.

So he sees 2008 as the year where California commits to education measures that have broad support: a world-class data system, a system for handling districts that persistently miss performance targets and creative public-private partnerships to address teacher shortages. Beyond that, he wants to use this year to bring all interested parties together to hammer out other reforms. Then, he says, we'll see a "big push" next year.

Despite the tough budget situation, Schwarzenegger's goals remain high for completing health care reform and launching an ambitious education agenda, a good thing for the long-term prosperity of the state. His approach is tempered by realism, but he's not giving up on bold solutions for California's education challenges. That's good news in a tough year.

Superintendent Brewer's Letter to District Employees re: the Budget Crisis.


• smf opines: The legislature and the governor ignored Ms. Hill's warning that AB1381 was unconstitutional. Twice. This is a chance to see if the lesson was learned. In fairness, it may be a bit late for a legislative or budget analyst... we may have to send this poor sad puppy straight to the puzzle palace!


Matthew Yi, San Francisco Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

Tuesday, January 15, 2008 — 04:00 PST Sacramento -- Despite deep cuts in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to bridge the state's $14.5 billion deficit, nearly half of his budget-balancing plan involves borrowing money, deferring debt payments and counting future tax revenue, according to a report released Monday by the nonpartisan legislative analyst's office.

The governor is proposing to issue $3.3 billion in bonds, delay a scheduled early payment on debt worth $1.5 billion and shift $2 billion of tax revenue that would otherwise be counted in the 2009-10 fiscal year to the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, the report says.

Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill questioned the shifting of revenues from one fiscal year to another.

"In our initial review, we have not yet been able to determine whether this proposal is a reasonable change in accounting practices or merely a convenient way to generate a one-time revenue bump," she wrote in her 23-page report released Monday.

H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the governor's Department of Finance, defended Schwarzenegger's plan, saying the $2 billion accounting change would simply bring the state's system of accounting in line with accounting principles largely used by publicly traded firms.

But some economists on Monday called it an accounting gimmick that wouldn't help solve the state's fiscal mess.

"This shows that even with the magnitude of the cuts that the governor has proposed, you can't solve the deficit with just the spending side of the budget," said Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project.

Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, said that such accounting methods plus additional borrowing would only exacerbate the problems plaguing the state budget.

"It sets in motion events that will require even more painful cuts later precisely because of borrowing and accounting gimmicks," he said. "The first law of holes is very important. If you're in one, stop digging. That means stop borrowing, stop Enron-accounting ... and start dealing honestly with the budget."

Just how the governor and the Legislature will solve the fiscal crisis could have immediate impact on California's credit rating.

Fitch Ratings, a credit rating firm in New York, on Monday changed California from "stable outlook" to "rating watch negative," which is a warning to banks and investors that the state has identifiable risks that could potentially lead to lowering the state's current credit rating of "A+."

Most Republican lawmakers favor budget cuts over tax increases. And the governor's proposed spending plan has plenty of cuts across the board, including those that would result in closing 43 state parks, releasing tens of thousands of prisoners and taking billions of dollars from public schools.

But Democrats argue that slashing the budget alone will not be adequate to bridge the deficit.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, reiterated Monday that all options need to be considered, including closing tax loopholes and eliminating tax credits.

The legislative analyst's report "is more evidence that we should focus on a real and comprehensive approach that makes sure California's expenditures balance with revenues, and that our priorities balance with our values," Núñez said in a written statement.

The analyst also argued that another way to shave the budget deficit would be to cut this year's education budget to the minimum level required by Proposition 98, which sets school funding levels according to the state's revenue.

And with the state tax receipts faltering as a result of the slumping housing market and the overall economy, the state's Prop. 98 obligation is expected to be about $1.5 billion less than what was already approved when the governor signed the budget in August.

Hill said she believes the cuts are possible without hurting classroom instruction by either eliminating or delaying unspent education budget items.

But that's a significant chunk of the budget to overcome, said Kevin Gordon, an education lobbyist.

"There's no doubt that when (the legislative analyst) recommends trying to absorb $1.5 billion hit in the middle of the school year, that's going to send chills down the spine of every educator in this state," he said.

The legislative analyst's report also called the governor's proposal for a spending cap and to potentially expand his powers to make mid-year spending cuts "flawed," arguing that the Legislature should maintain the power to control the state's purse strings.

Department of Finance's Palmer disagreed.

"We think that the Legislature's role would actually be strengthened if the cap were adopted," he said, noting that under the terms of the proposal, the Legislature would be called on to identified areas of priority when cuts would need to be made.

"The Legislature would have the first crack at crafting the kinds of spending cuts to be made," he said.

Hill also said that the spending cap is not needed because most of the cuts could already be made if policymakers could agree.

But Palmer said the governor believes "fundamental reform" is needed.

►BUDGET ANALYST CRITICIZES SCHWARZENEGGER'S PLAN: Governor's proposal cuts too deeply, report says. Bond rating agency warns of possible downgrade.

By Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

January 15, 2008 — SACRAMENTO — The state's chief budget analyst warned Monday that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposals for closing a $14.5-billion budget gap fail to properly prioritize how the state should spend its money, use questionable accounting methods and would be unnecessarily disruptive to schools and community colleges.

Legislative Analyst Elizabeth G. Hill, whom Democratic and Republican legislators look to for unbiased advice on fiscal issues, is particularly critical of the governor's plan to spare almost no agency or program in calling for state spending to be cut immediately by 10%.

"It reflects little effort to prioritize and determine which state programs provide essential services or are most critical for California's future," Hill wrote in a report released Monday morning. She also said the proposed spending plan cuts too deeply into state services, and she called on the Legislature to offset some of the governor's suggested reductions by raising fees and taxes or by scaling back existing tax breaks.

The report is the Legislature's first assessment of the proposed budget that the governor unveiled Thursday. That blueprint, which covers the next 18 months, would rely on a series of deep reductions in government services to bring the state's books into balance.

An emergency proclamation the governor signed last week forces the Legislature to cut spending immediately. If legislators fail to act on the budget within 45 days, they will be required by law to stop all other legislative business until they do so.

Soon after Hill released her report, a major bond rating agency put the state on notice that it was at risk of a downgrade. Fitch Ratings, expressing concern that the Legislature would balk at the steep cuts advocated by the governor, said failure to take action to balance the budget soon could lead to a downgrade of California's rating on approximately $43 billion of outstanding debt.

Administration spokesman H.D. Palmer said the Fitch warning "is as clear a statement as I have seen that there will be consequences for inaction."

Palmer defended the governor's wish to cut across the board as a rational approach that allows the state to avoid eliminating any government services altogether and achieves its goal without burdening Californians with big tax increases.

"It is designed to protect essential services by spreading these reductions as broadly as possible," he said.

Hill's report, meanwhile, also takes aim at a proposal in the governor's budget to raid $2 billion in projected tax revenue next year that normally would be reserved for the fiscal 2009-2010 budget. She asks whether the plan is "a reasonable change in accounting practices or merely a convenient way to generate a one-time revenue bump."

Palmer said the federal government and other states already use the accounting method in question.

The governor's proposal to cut school funding by $4.4 billion -- more than $300 per student -- "has several shortcomings," Hill wrote.

Hill said the governor and legislators should take back $1.5 billion in extra cash that schools were allocated this year above what they are guaranteed under the state Constitution. That would automatically lower the amount guaranteed to schools next year without requiring legislators to suspend the spending formulas approved by voters.

School groups were skeptical that Hill's plan would be any better for them than the governor's, saying that both would cut too deep and ultimately hurt students.

"Either way you go about it, there is blood on the floor," said Kevin Gordon, a lobbyist for hundreds of school districts.

Hill was also critical of Schwarzenegger's proposal to put a cap on spending in years when state revenues soar and save that money in a rainy day fund. She described the plan, which would also give the governor unilateral power to make program cuts when the state budget falls out of balance, as a power grab.

It "represents a serious diminution of the Legislature's appropriation authority," she wrote.

Administration officials said the proposal would allow legislators first crack at making the cuts, giving the governor authority to act unilaterally only if lawmakers failed to reach a consensus.

And legislators should be prepared for the state's finances to get worse before they get better, Hill said. The economic forecasts that the administration used to make its revenue projections are already 2 months old, she noted, and there has been a lot of bad economic news in the meantime.

Reaction to her report in the Legislature was mixed. Democrats applauded Hill's rejection of across-the-board cuts and her call for more revenue. Republicans embraced the report's call for swift action but reiterated that they would block any proposal that included new taxes.

Assembly Budget Committee Vice Chairman Roger Niello (R-Fair Oaks) said: "Raising taxes to pay for Sacramento's poor spending choices is not the answer."

As the budgeteers set to work to hack $450 million from the current LAUSD budget - and $4.5 billion-with-a-B from next year's - lets take a look a where we are now …or were as of February of last year - smf

Elementary Schools K-3 (All Schools) 20:1
Elementary Schools 4-6 (PHBAO* Schools) 30.5:1
Elementary Schools 4-6 (Desegregated Schools) 36:1
Middle Schools Academic Classes (PHBAO Schools) 32:1
Middle Schools Academic Classes (Desegregated Schools) 37.5:1
Middle Schools Non Academic Classes (All Schools) 40.5:1
High Schools 9-10 Academic Classes (PHBAO Schools) 32:1
High Schools 9-10 Academic Classes (Desegregated Schools) 37.5:1
High Schools 11-12 Academic Classes (All Schools) 40.5:1
High Schools 11-12 Non-Academic (All Schools) 40.5:1

* - smf: (PHBAO is Predominantly Hispanic, Black, Asian or Others. It is my favorite acronym to wrap political correctness around race. …if white folk are not "Others" what are we?)

SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS AND ASSISTANTS – Assigned based on the needs of students. Class size depends on the nature and severity of the students’ disabilities.

SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS – Assigned based on the type of school and enrollment. The Assistant Principal for Special Education is not included in the norm table below.
Elementary Schools 1-949 1 Administrator
Elementary 950-1,649 2 Administrators
Elementary 1,650-2,199 3 Administrators
Elementary 2,200+ 4 Administrators
Secondary 1-549 1 Administrator
Secondary 550-949 2 Administrators
Secondary 950-1,299 3 Administrators
Secondary 1,600-3,499 5 Administrators
Secondary 3,500+ 6 Administrators

OFFICE EMPLOYEES – Assigned based on type of school and enrollment. The norm for small secondary schools is under study.
Elementary Schools From 2 to 6 positions
Middle Schools From 5 to 11 positions
High Schools From 7 to 16 positions

CUSTODIAL NORMS – Assigned based on enrollment and square footage of the school site.

COUNSELORS – Assigned based on enrollment and TIIG status. New SB 1133 legislation provides extra funds and requires that selected high schools reduce their ratio to 300:1.
Middle School PHBAO From 1 to 8 positions
Middle School Desegretated From 1 to 6 positions
High School PHBAO From 1 to 10 positions
High School Desegregated From 1 to 6 positions

FOOD SERVICES – The Business Division determines how many staff are assigned to each site.

BUS DRIVERS – Assigned to routes not schools based on the number of students needing transportation in the special education, magnet, PWT, and Capacity Adjustment programs.Transportation is provided by both District and outside contractors.

LIBRARIANS – Assigned to every secondary school.

NURSES – Many schools purchase additional nursing time with their own funds. The District allocates:
Elementary Schools 1 day per week
Middle Schools 2 day per week
High Schools 3 days per week

632 sworn officers
150 school safety officers.

Look back gentle readers: Look at those class sizes beyond K-3 in elementary, middle and high school. Consider that the NEA optimum is 15:1 K-12! Counselors are not expressed in terms oif student:counselor ratio but the most recent California average was 954:1. One nurse day a week in elementary? Luckilly kids are only sick or fall from the apparatus or need their prescription meds one day a week! Librarians - the teachers who teach in the most important classroom in the school are nonexistent in the budget for elementary. The School police would like to double their size to protect kids and schools, instead they will probably not get vacancies filled.

And Class Size Reduction was promised in the most recent UTLA Contract.

Source: Staffing Schools For Success: Human Resources Committee Meeting February 22, 2007 & CDE website

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources

Application denied. Fox News reports that's what about 10,000 prospective students applying to the Cal-State University system will hear if their applications are not in by February 1st.

The already under funded system moved up their application deadline to cope with the Governor's recent budget cuts. [story continues]


The Associated Press reports he Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to pay a historic preservation group $4 million to drop a lawsuit and allow for destruction of the last building standing on the site where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.

The school system wants to build a new campus on the site where the Ambassador Hotel once stood but now only houses the dilapidated Cocoanut Grove nightclub, part of the hotel complex that once attracted such headliners as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. [story continues]


The Daily News reports San Fernando Valley schools are continuing to improve and generally outperform others in Los Angeles Unified, county and statewide on key student achievement tests, according to a new report released Monday.

The LAUSD's Valley schools and the Burbank, Glendale and Las Virgenes school districts all scored better than the LAUSD's average Academic Performance Index score of 655 in 2006-07, according to the report by researchers at Cal State Northridge. [story continues]


The Long Beach Press Telegraph said at a community meeting scheduled Wednesday, district planners will discuss demolition of a Long Beach warehouse to build a high school for Carson students.

The Los Angeles Unified School District's choice of location in the City of Long Beach approved by the board in April has riled neighbors and triggered a lawsuit from the city of Long Beach that could be decided in late February.

The high school with 67 classrooms and a sports stadium with 1,500 seats would be built at the 14-acre site at Carson Street and Santa Fe Avenue.would reduce crowding at maxed-out Carson High and Banning High in Wilmington. The school would open to 1,900 students in the fall of 2012. [story continues]

The news that didn't fit from Jan 20th

The four-year-in-a-row National Champion LAUSD Academic Decathlon will hold its regional competition

• Saturday, January 26, at Bravo Magnet High and
• Saturday, February 2, 2008, at UCLA.

Volunteers are needed for all events.

Come out and see some of the brightest and most dedicated students in the Nation. The volunteer application and additional information are available at

Or contact:

Cliff Ker
LAUSD – Academic Decathlon
333 South Beaudry Ave., 18th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Voice…… 213.241.2901
Fax …… 213.241.8039

Wednesday Jan 23, 2008
South Region Middle School #3: Site Selection Update Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Walnut Park Elementary School
2642 Olive Street
Huntington Park, CA 90255

Thursday Jan 24, 2008
South Region Elementary School #10: Site Selection Update Meeting #2
6:00 p.m.
Menlo Elementary School - Auditorium
4156 Menlo Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90037

*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: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6387 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385

...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 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.
• 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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