Sunday, February 24, 2013

3½ Mayors

Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids:Sunday 24•Feb•2013 Special Oscar Preview
In This Issue:
 •  OUTSIDE/INSIDE/NO INTEREST@ALL?: 2 attempts at sanity from Steve Lopez + UCLA/IDEA
 •  HUGE SPENDING GAPS BETWEEN SCHOOL DISTRICTS, STUDY FINDS: South San Francisco spends less than $7K per student, across the bay Sausalito spends $29K
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  OUR CHILDREN, OUR FUTURE: What will California schoolchildren, your school district and YOUR School get when the initiative passes?
 •  Follow 4 LAKids on Twitter - or get instant updates via text message by texting
 •  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.
®EFORM GOT ITS START IN LA WITH MAYOR RICHARD RIORDAN: A millionaire venture capitalist who made his fortune in leveraged buyouts, supermarket investments and Hot Wheels and Barbie - marketing to kids (see Consuming Kids: Protecting Our Children from the Onslaught of Marketing & Advertising He was fed up with LAUSD’s dysfunctionality (it still is) and figured it needed an injection of business-school know-how.

Along with UCLA business guru William Ouchi (whose scholarship on school reform brought us “Making Schools Work” - the bible for school reform the ®eformers cite but rarely follow) Riordan set out to buy the best school board his money could buy. He pretty much was pretty successful at it – getting Genethia Hayes and Caprice Young and Mike Lansing elected – along with support for loose-cannon David Tokofsky. (Not that loose cannonage is a bad thing – school boards are not men o’ war!)

Riordan’s board – which was initially proposed to support Superintendent Zacharias – dispensed with Zacharias and brought Ramon Cortines in as an interim replacement and Roy Romer as the permanent. Roy is a Democrat and Riordan a Republican – but the non-partisan poles in LA politics are rarely Red v. Blue. They are Developer v. Treehugger, Busing v. Non-Busing, Growth v. No Growth, Westside v. Valley. In other words: We pick sides+issues on the playground and it’s Us. v. Them.

The first time I ever spoke with Riordan he was big on the “F” word. Not that F word, or even “Failure” – he was for “firing” incompetent teachers, principals and bureaucrats. And not all of them. “Just fire a few and the rest will fall into line.”

I don’t remember that lesson from business school. I think I learned that from a boy’s vice-principal in junior high on the application of corporal punishment back in the Golden Age of California Education.

Anyway, Riordan’s enlightened philosophy of ed. reform brought about the ®eform v. UTLA bipolarity. But it wasn’t always that way …and it didn’t have to be.

The real hope for real reform bloomed briefly. For a brief moment there was LEARN.

For eight years the Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now - a reaction to proposed wholesale breakup of the District - born of the extremely unlikely partnership of Riordan and UTLA President Helen Bernstein thrived. LEARN brought parents, teachers, administrators and the community together on governing boards of 375 schools - nearly half of the LAUSD.

As third-leg-on-the-stool LEARN partner Mike Roos said in a 2006 interview:
"All the ideas that are currently being proposed [mayoral control, reconstitution and corporate charterization] suffer from the lack of genuine community engagement."
"Ours was a much different approach. We brought everybody we possibly could into the room, but we really were very quiet until we were ready with a consensus plan. There were very few dissenters.
"We found that if you're locked out of the room, it just breeds contempt and suspicion and it devolves trust. We went the opposite way. Everybody was in the room - parent groups, leaders in the business community, leaders in the nonprofit community - we had every organization head that had anything to do with children."

But Cortines – and after him Romer - didn’t believe in LEARN’s decentralization. Roos left, Bernstein was killed in an accident and Riordan left office.

Riordan’s efforts continued into the Hahn administration …though Jimmy Hahn isn’t one of our title 3½ mayors.

UTLA picked off Hayes and then Caprice in subsequent elections. Riordan’s infatuation with Tokofsky (“David is the Winston Churchill of LAUSD.”) evaporated. But Romer served on, maintaining that LAUSD’s main problem was overcrowding and until that was solved transformation was impossible. Romer’s strength was passing local construction bonds and building an effective team to built, fix and modernize schools. And them doing the job.

Meanwhile up in Sacramento Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa passed the largest state school construction bond in history and snuck a merit-pay/teacher evaluation law past the teachers’ union – from which he had come.

In short order the teachers’ unions pounded a stake through the heart of merit pay/teacher evaluation – and the Advancement Project sued to get LAUSD students (and the building program) their part of the state bond.

Out of office Riordan wasn’t as effective. UTLA gained a board majority. And Hahn gave way to Villaraigosa (Mayor #2) …and all hell broke loose!

MAYOR TONY whimpered that other big city mayors ran their school districts. In LA the city council actually runs the city, so Tony must’ve figured he’d have time on his hands – so he went to Sacramento and convinced his former colleagues to give him LAUSD to run. He briefly co-opted UTLA and got their support.

While we are letting Tony be Tony, let me be frank:

• LAUSD was by then operating the biggest public works program in the nation, building over 125 new schools and fixing up the rest. $20 billion was in play. Builders and developers have been running Los Angeles since the first draft of the movie “Chinatown” was written in the LA Times in the 1920’s. Those builders were supporters of Tony – and they wanted a piece of that action!
• Just because you write it on a legal pad doesn’t mean it’s legal. The California Constitution was and is explicit: Municipal governments cannot operate public schools. The courts (Superior, Appeal and Supreme) ruled that the Constitution trumps Mayor Tony’s desire to be like the other big city mayors. He lost.

Tony then set out to do it like Riordan did. He bought his own school board …though in true Hollywood fashion: With someone else’s money! Romer was forced out. The old board brought in David Brewer as superintendent – but Tony’s picks: Richard Vladovic plus “Tony’s girls”: Flores, Galatzan and Martinez complemented Tony stalwart Monica Garcia and grabbed the majority. The departure of Tokofsky brought the advent of Steve Zimmer – a more introspective loose cannon.

(David and Steve both were teachers at Marshall High School – as was Bernstein. There is something at Marshall that encourages independent thought – something to consider when choosing a high school for your child or an education leader for your slate mailer.)

Tony’s majority gave him and his supporters what they wanted. He got some schools to run in his PLAS partnership. He forced Brewer out and got to bring in Cortines again. He wrote some school district policy from word processors in city hall for a while – and new schools were given away to charter operators and other supporters. Charters were awarded piecemeal. He looked the other way and developer friends made a killing at LAUSD’s expense and strong leadership in the Facilities Division was replaced by folks a little less independent and a bit more compliant. Along the way Mayor Tony managed to pass the biggest local school construction bond in history (….this is a theme!).

But slowly UTLA clawed its way back, picked off a board seat and won some and lost some in the collective bargaining arena. Villaraigosa & Co. forced Cortines out and replaced him with John Deasy – handpicked and well trained by both the Broad and Gates Foundations. Reformers forced some change through the courts. And essentially, nobody got everything they wanted.

Huge change is ahead for both LAUSD and The City of Los Angeles. Villaraigosa is termed out as is a majority of the city council. One seat is open on the Board of Ed – and two others are contested. Zimmer has upset the charter school community subset of ®eform Inc. for asking that they be accountable - and they are out to get him. The spectacularly unpopular Monica Garcia is challenged by a clutch of little-knowns – but if a runoff is forced Monica will be in real trouble.

THIS BRINGS US TO MAYOR #3: MICHAEL BLOOMBERG OF NEW YORK CITY – who has donated a million dollars at Mayor Tony’s request to perpetuate Tony’s majority. Mayor Mike is a billionaire philanthropist and he invests his philanthropy in all kinds of things – mostly good – in bought-and-paid-for social engineering/checkbook politics. He doesn’t like smoking in public places. He doesn’t like large sodas, salty foods or transfats – all are illegal in NYC. Not discouraged – illegal. He gives money to local candidates nationwide who oppose NRA policy. He also runs the schools in New York City with a single will and an iron fist; no school board and no parental involvement – “If parents don’t like the way I run the schools they can boo me at parades.”

AND MAYOR #3½?: SACRAMENTO MAYOR KEVIN JOHNSON – a former basketball star and charter school operator who’s having trouble holding onto the basketball team in his city. He is married to former District of Columbia chancellor Michelle Rhee, the Dragon Lady/Tiger Mom of ®eform Inc. “Johnson is facing increased scrutiny over his repeated infractions of financial disclosure rules, especially as they involve education initiatives tied to his wife's work.” []

On Monday in an interview with Charlie Rose

ROSE: Do school boards need more power?
RHEE: Well, I would say no to that question because school boards in my opinion, I think that school boards in this country have been very susceptible to the political process, so often times, and they certainly haven't moved us forward...
ROSE: So what would you do to change that?
RHEE: Well, I'm a big believer in mayoral control of schools, I operated under that model. []

This week Michelle gave a quarter of a million dollars to Mayor Tony’s Coalition to Perpetuate Mayor Tony’s Agenda, 2013*. But how do I really feel?

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

* Real Name: Coalition for School Reform to Support García, Anderson and Sanchez for Board of Education 2013


By Susan Frey, EdSource Today |

February 22nd, 2013 :: Against the backdrop of a national survey showing half of teachers experiencing “great stress” on the job, the head of California’s teacher credentialing commission says that stress levels among the state’s teachers are likely to be even higher.

“I would think California would be at the forefront of this group (of stressed-out teachers) and teachers’ stress levels here even higher,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of Education at Stanford University’s School of Education and chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. “California’s teachers are undoubtedly stressed and very concerned about the level of support for children and schools and teachers in this society.”

The 29th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, the most authoritative gauge of teacher attitudes, was released this week. The MetLife report is based on the survey responses of 1,000 teachers across the nation, reached by phone in October and November 2012. It indicates that teacher satisfaction is at its lowest level in 25 years. Teacher satisfaction peaked in 2008, just before the Great Recession, with 62 percent reporting they were very satisfied. But that number has been dropping ever since, to just 39 percent this year.

The report noted that budget decreases were associated with lower morale and greater stress among teachers. Some 51 percent of teachers feel under “great stress” at least several days a week. Stress levels are greatest for elementary school teachers, with 59 percent reporting “great stress” compared with 35 percent in the 1985 survey. Teachers who work with low-income students and who are in schools that have to cope with budget cutbacks experience even more stress.

California teachers have had to endure five years of sustained budget cuts, which they’ve experienced in numerous forms: massive layoffs, unpaid furlough days, freezes on cost-of-living increases, and the trimming or elimination of support programs, professional development and class preparation time. At least 30,000 teachers have lost their jobs in California over the past five years – some 10 percent of the teaching force. But as EdSource’s “Schools Under Stress” [] report noted,

Just the threat of layoffs can demoralize staff, with a rippling effect in classrooms and throughout a district, potentially affecting student academic outcomes. Thus, even when teachers are rehired, the issuing of layoff notices can inflict significant damage on the culture of a school.

During the same time period, teachers have collectively been the target of relentless criticism, including from the Obama administration, that they are a major cause – and in some cases, the major cause – of low student achievement. That, Darling-Hammond said, has also contributed to plummeting satisfaction levels.

“The huge dive in teacher satisfaction has to be correlated with the teacher bashing that’s been going on for the past four years – beginning at the White House,” said Darling-Hammond. “Teachers are dealing with racial issues, poverty, violence, homelessness. Then they are subjected to a continual refrain that ‘teachers are the problem, let’s get rid of the bad teachers’ without acknowledging society’s role in taking care of kids.”

Ellen Moir, executive director of the national New Teacher Center, which works with new teachers to help them become more effective, is worried that the low satisfaction rates and high levels of stress reported by teachers could have a dampening impact on attracting – and retaining – new teachers. The MetLife survey, she said, “is particularly worrying given there is a need to recruit 2 million new teachers into the profession over the next 10 years. It highlights how important it is to make sure every new teacher gets the support he or she needs to improve student learning and to remain committed to teaching.”

Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association (CTA), said the survey results are not surprising considering the combination of budget cutbacks and the inability of teachers to control what they teach in the classroom.

Teachers want to “instill a love of learning” rather than preparing students for tests, he said. “Teachers are not supported in doing what they know is essential and right in maintaining and sustaining positive learning environments for kids. Teachers believe what they are being forced to do is counterproductive, and they feel complicit in it.”

Vogel said elementary school teachers experience higher levels of stress because high school teachers, who generally report to a department chair, feel more in control of their classroom. Besides having to teach all the subjects, elementary school teachers are much more responsible for the psychological well-being of their students, he said.

Despite dipping satisfaction levels, teachers appear to be embracing the Common Core state standards. More than two-thirds of the teachers surveyed (69 percent) reported feeling “confident” or “very confident” in the new standards, and 71 percent agreed that the new standards will better prepare students for college and the workforce than their state’s prior standards. And 93 percent felt that their colleagues had the ability to teach to the new standards.

Martha Infante is a history teacher at LA Academy Middle School in South Central Los Angeles and a member of the Educator Excellence Task Force appointed by Superintendent of Public Instuction Tom Torlakson. She said teachers are always willing to implement new approaches like the Common Core standards. But she said the many unknowns teachers face, including the imminent introduction of the Common Core, contributes to the stresses they feel. “We don’t know what’s coming next,” she said. “We don’t know where the profession is headed.”

••smf: I have a lot of fun speaking truth to power and being snarky with the powers-that-be. My commitment to the safety, health and wellbeing of children in paramount – but the emotional strain and stress upon classroom teachers and school staff caused by the total war upon their profession by the flavor-of-the-week reformers and corporate privatizers concerns me greatly.

No one becomes a teacher for the money, fame or glory – being a teacher is a calling and a mission. The absolute and total lack-of-respect shown to educators – the constant meddling, tweaking, budget cutting, bashing, furloughs, name calling and all the rest brings a toll. That this war is being waged by “philanthropists” extends irony into Orwellian doublespeak. 1984 is so 29 year ago.

Morale is at an all time low. Respect from the powers-that-be is missing. Job security is absent. When a teacher gets a RIF notice (Not the final layoff notice but just that notice that says you MAY be subject to RIF) your credit rating goes to zero. Your self worth with it. The only uncertainty is uncertainty itself.

When it seems like no one respects your work how can you respect yourself? “You became a teacher? What were you thinking?”

The words “Failure” and “Bad Teacher” are hand grenades tossed into every dark space the would-be change agents can find – they are hateful words as loaded as any epithet hurled at anyone who is different in race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. They are markers of ignorance when the real enemy is ignorance itself.

I am not arguing for neither political correctness nor the status quo here. There are teachers who teach badly and there are educators who do bad things. There is failure out there. Neither is acceptable.

Bad things happen in the name of teachers unions and school reform. But name calling to effect policy change is hateful and the war itself is harmful.

And the children are watching.

The 29th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher

OUTSIDE/INSIDE/NO INTEREST@ALL?: 2 attempts at sanity from Steve Lopez + UCLA/IDEA
…almost certainly too little/too late.


Themes in the News by UCLA IDEA/Week of Feb. 18-22, 2013|

02-22-2013 :: Are Los Angeles schools unduly influenced by “outside interests”? How about “inside interests”? Or maybe, no interest at all?

According to Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers of Los Angeles, “voters do not need outsiders deciding who is best to sit on the LAUSD Board of Education" (Los Angeles Times). Those outsiders include nationally prominent, deep-pocketed figures and spokespersons such as Washington, D.C. public schools ex-chancellor Michelle Rhee and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They and other “reformers” want more charter schools, less involvement of teachers and the community, and minuscule participation of unions in the operations of public schools. Their agenda is not primarily focused on Los Angeles, but rather national. Bloomberg has made a $1-million contribution to the L.A. races, and Rhee’s organization has put in $250,000, which she said could advance school reform statewide (Los Angeles Times).

But these outsiders are also joined by a fair number of Los Angeles “insiders”—locals-with-money—who are lining up behind school board candidates who support Superintendent John Deasy. Deasy has made it clear that he believes that many teachers, along with their union, are serious obstacles to better education and that he needs the tools to fire and transfer teachers and proceed with reforms. The tools include tough teacher evaluations, school transformations, charters, “choice,” and more (Los Angeles Daily News). On the other hand, many teachers and community members believe that Deasy pays too little attention to schools’ lack of and distribution of resources and that he tolerates incompetent and arbitrary district-level management. Many believe that Deasy’s first option for improving low-performing schools is to close them and blame the teachers.

The teachers’ union has shown in recent elections that it is not without resources to mount a campaign. It can raise money from its members that allows it to sponsor some TV ads and send mailers. But perhaps more important, the union has numbers. It exerts the greatest strength when its members are knocking on doors.

And what of Los Angeles parents and residents? How are they shaping the school board election? How do they enact power?

Maybe the most salient figures regarding both the last and forthcoming school board elections are the voter turnouts. The turnout for the last (2011) school board election was 7.41 percent. In other words, 92.59 percent of eligible voters declined a role in determining who would decide on the district’s programs and curriculum, leadership, labor relations, and more. More than $2 million has been raised already for current candidates competing for the very few votes that will be cast in three of the seven available seats in the next board election.

It’s hard to pin down exactly why LA (non)voters show so little interest in school board elections. Perhaps they believe that their vote just doesn’t matter. In the last few decades fewer of the fundamental decisions that affect students’ experiences have been made at the local school district level. School funding, curricula, and standardized tests are increasingly decided from afar by the state or the federal government. Nonstop funding crises have overshadowed the occasional positive news. Or possibly the public has become wary of the logic and data behind many “magic bullet” schemes that dominate education “reforms” locally and nationwide; for example, charters, school reconstituting, standardized testing, union-busting, and so on.

Whatever the cause for voter disaffection, voter turnout matters. If high voter turnout signals public interest in and commitment to local schools, low voter turnout speaks to a crisis of legitimacy. Low turnout means that there may be very little relationship between what elected representatives hope to do and what most of their constituents want them to do. It means that organized money—whether it comes from outside or inside the district—will have undue influence on the democratic process. The problem here is not simply that we diminish democracy when we privilege fundraising over voting. Campaigns characterized by huge donations and tiny turnouts may leave the appearance that those with a financial stake in decisions before the school board have too much sway over the composition of that board.

We can admire and sympathize with elected public officials who must constantly struggle to balance their responsibilities and allegiances to a) the public; b) the advocates whose campaign support (ideas, money, energy) is necessary for election; and c) the officials' personal perspectives and values that might in any one case differ from others'. These tensions are inevitable and, in the larger scheme, productive—but not if the voters (or some smallish representation of them) are so weak as not to enter into the "balancing act."

So how can potential voters be persuaded to make their way to the polls in greater numbers than before? School board candidates, their supporters, and members of the press need to build a case for why voting in this election matters. They all have a responsibility to talk about not just the issues that divide, but also the shared value of engaging in the democratic process. The next 10 days represent a teachable moment.

The stakes are great for selecting leaders who can work together respectfully; doing the hard, daily grind of making difficult decisions to improve schooling without wrecking the good and powerful work that is already underway and without undermining the legions of school personnel who are doing outstanding work against difficult odds.
The wealthy New York mayor's $1-million contribution to the Coalition for School Reform is helping fund attack ads in L.A. that distort the truth and misinform voters.

By Steve Lopez, LA Times columnist |

February 23, 2013, 4:55 p.m. :: If you're like me, your mailbox is getting stuffed with political mailers.

What to do?

The best course of action is to take a shovel and dig a hole in the backyard, toss the mailers in and set them ablaze.

At best, they're filled with useless simplifications and generalizations about candidates and issues, and a lot of them contain gross exaggerations or distortions, if not outright lies.

If you live in Los Angeles and it seems like you're getting more of this junk than ever, it's because millions of dollars are being spent by committees to either support or demolish candidates for City Council, mayor and school board. Not only for mailers, of course, but also for equally vapid and nasty TV ads. This is how democracy works, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court, which lifted limits on so-called independent expenditures, thereby turning elections into cash-driven free-for-alls in which candidates are almost beside the point.

Take the current campaigns for seats on the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education. Three spots are up for grabs, but this is less an election than a local skirmish in a national war that's raging over control of public schools. In the current battle, the local teachers' union and its allies are taking on the "reformers" and their supporters, some of whom live far, far from Los Angeles.

I kept hearing last week from readers who were having conniptions over New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $1-million donation to the local Coalition for School Reform. They said he should mind his own business, and they called this another example of an attempt by rich guys to privatize public schools, or at least turn them over to their charter school cronies.

Actually, it was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who helped shake down Bloomberg. But I called Bloomberg's office to find out if he was aware that at least part of his money is being spent to distort the truth and misinform voters, which I'll explain in a minute.

"Mike Bloomberg is proud to help level the playing field on behalf of children and their families," a Bloomberg spokesman responded. "The union may not like it, but they should get used to it because he is just getting started."

That's more than a threat; it's a live grenade.

To be honest, I welcome anyone — including outsiders — whose goal is to improve public education. But the conversation has become so philosophically and politically polarized that it's hard to know who, if anyone, is acting most purely in the interest of kids.

On the contentious issue of charter schools, I think it's fair to say some do pretty well and some don't.

And although some of L.A. Unified's shortcomings can be blamed on union inflexibility, some is also due to administrative inefficiency and to parents who don't pay enough attention to their kids' academics. And all those problems are dwarfed by the fact that California is near the bottom when it comes to school funding.

I'd like to see more union give on teacher evaluations, work rules and tenure. But I'd also like anti-union forces to quit scapegoating teachers, because we owe the majority of them a debt of gratitude.

In Los Angeles, the stakes are high because L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy seems to have convinced enough people that he may get ousted if this election doesn't go his way, even though that's an unlikely, long-shot scenario.

Deasy is a creative and effective leader who ought to keep doing what he's been doing, for the most part. But I don't agree with him on everything, and I don't think we're well served if everyone on the board stands up and bows every time he speaks. That goes the other way too. It'd be disaster, for sure, if everyone on the board were a union lackey.

That brings me to incumbent board member and former teacher Steve Zimmer, who has been nobody's stooge. Zimmer, at times, has tried to bridge differences among the warring parties, winning supporters and making enemies on both sides in the process. But there's a price to pay for independence, it seems. Zimmer is under attack by the Villaraigosa-aligned Coalition for School Reform, which supports Zimmer's opponent Kate Anderson. They see Anderson, an attorney and L.A. Unified parent, as more inclined to butt heads with the union and more likely to support Deasy.

Even some of his supporters say Zimmer can be an angst-ridden, hand-wringing worrier who takes too long to decide where he stands. But I respect his answer to that charge.

"I've spent my life immersed in these issues, and when a game-changing vote or policy issue comes up, I damn well should wring my hands."

And it's not as if Zimmer is rabidly pro-union and anti-Deasy. He's proclaimed his support for the superintendent and has ticked off the union because of it. But in a game of lesser evils, the unions have thrown in their lot with Zimmer, which has made his opponents all the more determined to drive him out.

The way I see it, we've got two capable people running who both seem to care passionately about L.A. Unified's 600,000-plus students. But politics being what it is, campaign strategists on each side have polluted mailboxes and airwaves with exaggeration and distortion. It's a dirty game, and you either sling mud or get buried alive.

Are you paying attention, kids?

The hit pieces on Zimmer are paid for in part by Bloomberg, whose name is on mailers, and the stink bombs dropped on Anderson are paid for in part by United Teachers Los Angeles.

If you'd prefer to make up your own mind about who Zimmer and Anderson are, or if you want to learn about the candidates for the other two seats, you can watch all three debates at

And as for the junk mail headed your way in the next two weeks, you know what to do with it.

HUGE SPENDING GAPS BETWEEN SCHOOL DISTRICTS, STUDY FINDS: South San Francisco spends less than $7K per student, across the bay Sausalito spends $29K

by Howard Blume, LA Times |

February 19, 2013 | 5:26 pm :: Vast inequities still exist in education funding across the nation, contributing to an academic achievement gap that separates the students at well-funded schools from those who attend campuses with fewer resources, according to a report released Tuesday

The funding disparities are “as wide as ever despite decades of effort,” said Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, a Stanford law professor who co-chaired the Equity and Excellence Commission, a federal panel that examined funding and other issues over two years of research and testimony.

Analysts have frequently put California near the bottom of states in education dollars when the cost of living is factored in, but the report found that there also are huge spending differences within the state.

School systems that spend less than $7,000 per student include South San Francisco Unified and Gilroy Unified, south of the Bay area, said Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who compiled data from the 2009-10 school year.

At the other end of the spectrum, Sausalito Marin City School District spends $29,000 per student. Other relatively big spenders include Mendocino Unified ($21,000 per student) and Pacific Grove Unified near Monterey ($17,000 per student).

L.A. Unified spends about $11,063 per student, about $300 less than Beverly Hills, but Beverly Hills also benefits from substantial city support and parent fundraising — and serves a much lower percentage of students who are learning English or who belong to low-income families.

Besides calling for funding equity, the commission report supported President Obama’s call for more early childhood education. It also called for improving the effectiveness of teachers and principals, through such measures as higher salaries and improved training.

The commission was established by Congress and organized under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Education.


Deepa Fernandes | Pass / Fail : 89.3 KPCC

February 21st, 2013, 6:00am :: Just one week after promising to inject funds into early childhood education in his State of the Union address, President Obama is warning that the Head Start program will instead face cuts if lawmakers fail to reach a compromise over the budget.

Advocates for early childhood education warn sequestration would have an immediate effect on Los Angeles’s poorest families.

“We’re estimating that, statewide, sequestration would amount in 6,000 children being cut from head start services,” said Rick Mockler, Executive Director of the California Head Start Association. He said families that rely on the program for childcare and other services could lose that help overnight.

“Head start children are the most vulnerable children in the state of California," Mockler added. "They come from the absolute poorest families."

Congress has until March 1 to reach a deal to avoid automatic across-the-board spending cuts.

Head Start funds come from Washington and are funneled through large local agencies that pick which programs and pre-school centers to support.

Locally, it's hard to know how cuts will ultimately affect services, said Laura Escobedo, of the Los Angeles County Office of Childcare, which focuses on quality child care. She says the county office that oversees spending, Los Angeles County Office of Education, would decide how much it could absorb and how much to pass on to providers.

“We don’t really know what it means for us at this stage,” said Kostas Kalaitzidis, a spokesman for the county office of education. He called it a “very complicated affair.”

The Child Care Resource Center is already cutting back on expenses to prepare for the worst. The center operates 18 Head Start centers serving 1,500 children in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and the Antelope valleys. Its president and CEO, Michael Olenick, expects a $300,000 cut between March and June should sequestration go into effect.

“We’re not sure if we’ll be able to continue the school year through June or if we’ll have to end the school year early,” he said.

The Child Care Resource Center has already lost 20 percent of its operating budget over the last two years due to statewide budget cuts to early childhood programs.

The lack of certainty about whether more cuts are around the corner is hard on his staff and parents who use the center's services.

“What makes it so difficult is that it's hard to know whether to believe it or not, given that the last two fiscal crises have been overcome," Olenick said. "So is it really going to happen or is this just another fire-drill?”

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
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EVENTS: Coming up next week...

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: • 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 Brown: 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.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT. THEY DO!.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served as a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • 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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