Saturday, April 25, 2015

WANT REFORM? PRINCIPALS MATTER TOO + Letters to the editor: The Importance of Good Principals


Want Reform? Principals Matter, Too

By WILL MILLER | Op-Ed Contributor to the New York Times |

Credit Thoka Maer>>

APRIL 17, 2015  ::  POLITICIANS and education reformers are fixated on the performance of teachers, but they often overlook another key ingredient for improving student achievement: principals. The problem is that great principals often don’t end up in the schools that need them most — those with poor and minority students. School districts, states and universities need to do much more to get outstanding principals into these schools.

A generation ago, good principals were efficient middle managers. They oversaw budgets, managed complicated bus schedules and delivered discipline. That started changing in the mid-1990s. Today’s principal needs to be much more focused on the quality of teaching in the classroom.

Take Clayborn Knight, principal of Nesbit Elementary School in Tucker, Ga., where more than 90 percent of his 2,100 students live in poverty. Mr. Knight arrives by 6 a.m. to form his game plan for the day and handle administrative matters so he can help teachers improve instruction during the rest of the day. He roams from classroom to classroom to observe teachers, give them informal feedback and present model lessons.

Dewey Hensley, the former principal of the J. B. Atkinson Academy for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Louisville, Ky., where nearly all of the roughly 400 students were living in poverty, used data to get teachers to own their students’ performance. He lined a wall in the staff room with photos of teachers and color-coded charts showing whether their students were at grade level, below grade level or significantly below grade level. Once one of Kentucky’s lowest performers, his school doubled its proficiency in reading, math and writing.

Kimberly Washington, principal of Hyattsville Middle School in Hyattsville, Md., zeroed in on behavior that interrupted teaching and learning — students who were hanging out in the halls and coming late to class. She instituted uniforms, got extra help for misbehaving students and celebrated students’ accomplishments at rallies. Creating a positive culture helped cut suspensions by 90 percent from one year to the next.

Without strong principals like these, student achievement won’t improve. My organization, the Wallace Foundation, has spent a decade and a half working with states and districts nationwide, including the districts where these exemplary public school principals operate.

We also commission research on school leadership. In the largest of these studies, covering 180 schools in nine states, researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Toronto concluded, “We have not found a single case of a school improving its student achievement record in the absence of talented leadership.”

We need a bigger pool of outstanding principal candidates; we need to get them into the schools with the greatest challenges; and we need to support them on the job. Right now, that’s not happening in enough communities.

Most principals start out as teachers. They typically earn master’s degrees in educational administration, but many university principal training programs are “inadequate to poor,” according to a study by Arthur Levine, the former president of Teachers College at Columbia University. Would-be principals take classes in general management, school laws and administrative requirements, with little emphasis on how to improve teaching and student learning. The head of the University Council for Educational Administration estimates that only 200 out of the 500 university preparation programs for principals are effective.

New principals are often thrown into these tough jobs to sink or swim with little assistance from their districts, prompting many to quit before they can turn things around. On average, principals nationwide stay at a school about three to four years. That’s less than the five to seven years recommended by the Minnesota-Toronto researchers who conducted our study of school leadership.

It’s hard to think of another profession where so little attention is paid to leadership. Organizations like the military, corporations and universities invest heavily in their leaders. If we’re going to do this in public education, a lot has to change.

In Congress, lawmakers debating reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act need to make principals a priority. Currently only 4 percent of federal dollars for improving educator performance is spent cultivating principals. Federal policy should fund improved training and mentoring for principals and require the equitable distribution of effective principals to schools with the greatest needs.

States should be much tougher about which university principal training programs get accredited and about principal licensing requirements.

University programs should selectively admit outstanding candidates who really want to become principals, not teachers looking for a credential to get a pay raise. The University of Illinois at Chicago, which has participated in our foundation’s meetings, has made its curriculum for principals much more challenging. It carefully screens applicants, who get hands-on experience during a full-year internship, as well as three years of on-the-job coaching by former principals. U.I.C. reports that schools led by these principals outperform comparable public schools in Chicago on measures ranging from keeping freshmen on track for graduation to standardized test scores to actual graduation rates.

School districts need to groom many more outstanding school leaders, in part by making sure they get proper training, but also by matching principals’ strengths with schools’ needs. It should become routine to provide new principals with mentors for several years.

Great teachers are essential but not enough. They need to be led and developed by great principals. As the federal government, states and local districts work to turn around schools, we need to figure out how to get more people with the right training and support to take on one of the hardest jobs in America.

Will Miller is the president of the Wallace Foundation.


The Importance of Good Principals

letters to the editor of the new york times |

APRIL 23, 2015


<<Credit Daniel Lima

To the Editor:

Re “Want Reform? Principals Matter, Too,” by Will Miller (Op-Ed, April 17):

Regarding school principals, as a 30-year veteran of New Haven public high school teaching, I’ve “seen ’em come and seen ’em go.” I fully agree with Mr. Miller’s emphasis on reforming the building of leadership and putting more focus on recruiting, developing and retaining strong principals. But I would urge inclusion of three more steps toward this reform:

1. Define clear leadership traits, expectations and a performance rubric for principals.

2. Give parents and faculty a voice in the selection of principals. One of the first challenges a new principal faces is gaining trust with stakeholders. Knowing that their representatives were part of the candidate screening process helps historically distrustful faculty and parent groups share responsibility for school leadership success.

3. Grant principals the primary say in selection and retention of her or his leadership team.

Want reform? Expand career advancement opportunities for great teachers, along with identifying and mentoring great vice principals and principals.


Branford, Conn.

To the Editor:

“Want Reform? Principals Matter, Too” was on target. The job of a principal has changed dramatically in the last 15 years in terms of responsibilities, accountability and work hours.

And yet, despite this relatively new focus on the principal as the instructional leader rather than as a building manager, the education-government complex continues to focus on teachers with a dearth of funding for principal training.

The bipartisan Senate proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would improve the recruitment, preparation and retention of school leaders in high-need schools. The bill allows states to reserve up to 3 percent of Title II funds for principal training. Both my organization, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, and our national union, the American Federation of School Administrators, support this bill.

My organization has also been at the forefront of preparing the next cohort of school leaders through our Executive Leadership Institute. Years ago, we recognized that the “system” was failing to help school leaders as their duties expanded. The institute helps fill that void through workshops, yearlong programs and individual mentoring.


President, Council of School

Supervisors and Administrators

New York

To the Editor:

I am very pleased to see the deficiencies of school principals finally receiving some attention. If more teacher performance reviews were conducted by competent administrators, there would be far less demand to evaluate teachers by student test scores, and far fewer inadequate teachers granted tenure.

In my experience as a teacher, too many principals are appointed to their positions based on nepotism and social connections. Many applicants seek administrative positions not for higher pay, but to escape the classroom, where their limited skills make teaching too challenging, too stressful and too unsatisfying.

Their idea of educational leadership consists of parroting back whatever “new” idea they heard about at the latest administrative conference. They play favorites, and reward their favorite teachers with the students most likely to succeed. They care far more about classroom discipline than genuine learning, so a quiet classroom full of children filling in the blanks on “dittos” of scant educational value is considered preferable to a more boisterous room where intellectual adventure is taking place.

Best of luck to Will Miller and his organization, the Wallace Foundation. Better principals will help new teachers achieve mastery, reduce teacher turnover and build the kinds of schools our children need and deserve.


Shirley, N.Y.

Friday, April 24, 2015



by JCM | The following is from California Dept of Eds federal update e-mail from advocates Brustein & Manasevit on federal issues

24 APRIL 2015 :: With Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) saying he wants to put legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) on the Senate floor before the Memorial Day recess, lawmakers are positioning themselves to offer amendments on a number of controversial issues.

Several amendments submitted during Committee markup of the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) were ultimately withdrawn by their sponsors in favor of floor consideration, including an amendment from Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) which would create a Title I “portability” option. This option would allow States to set up systems in which funds are allocated to districts and then to schools – including charters and private schools – based on their population of Title I-eligible students. There is a similar provision in the House’s ESEA reauthorization bill (which is still awaiting a final vote), but Congressional Democrats and President Obama have spoken out against it.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) offered an amendment regarding data which she also withdrew with the intention of reintroducing during debate on the floor. Her amendment would require cross-tabulation of student assessment data across various reporting categories. While cross-tabulated data does provide more information for teachers, principals, and analysts, it represents a significantly increased burden for data reporting.

A version of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination because of a student’s actual or perceived gender or sexual orientation, was offered as an amendment in Committee by Senator Al Franken (D-MN). Franken also quickly withdrew this amendment with the intention of reintroducing it on the floor. And both Franken and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) say they will bring up amendments on bullying – an issue that failed to gain traction during markup – in floor debate.

But not all the potential floor amendments come from Committee members. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation on Tuesday which would roll back some of the current testing requirements under ESEA, making such tests a requirement only once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school. Tester has said that he plans to raise that legislation as an amendment during debate on the ECAA.

While some of these amendments will be offered during floor debate with the blessing of Alexander and Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), others threaten to slow down consideration of the bill or even stall it entirely. As the Title I portability provision in the House bill was mentioned in President Obama’s veto threat, Scott’s portability amendment could prove to be a poison pill for the Senate bill – and Senators will have to consider these kinds of implications carefully if they wish to see the President sign a reauthorization bill into law.

  • Resources: Lyndsey Layton, “Sen. Jon Tester Seeks to End Annual Standardized Testing,” The Washington Post, April 21, 2015 |

AALA explains it all for you: LAUSD AND UTLA REACH A TENTATIVE AGREEMENT …but what about “Me too?”

smf 2cents


The administrators’ weekly newsletter puts the proposed new contract between UTLA and LAUSD into pretty fair perspective with the least amount of drama.

from the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Weekly Update | Week of April 27, 2015 |

23 APRIL 2015  ::  The Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers Los Angeles reached a tentative agreement in contract negotiations on Friday, April 17, 2015.

The agreement must be approved by both the LAUSD Board of Education and the UTLA membership.

●●smf: The Board approved the deal unanimously on Tuesday. UTLA rank+file vote between May 1 – 7.  If ratified, the Board of Education will ratify at their meeting on May 12.

The parties agreed on a three-year, $607 million dollar contract that includes a multitiered evaluation system, summer school, reduced class sizes in 8th and 9th grade English/Language Arts and mathematics classes, increased counseling services and a multiyear salary structure.

The agreement was reached after seven months of sometimes contentious negotiations and a declaration of impasse, initiated by UTLA, which led to mediation and a successful agreement. Both sides expressed pleasure that an agreement had been reached.
A 10.36 percent salary increase covering several years is part of the agreement. Details may be found in the second bullet below.
According to the District’s press release, the following are the key components of the agreement: 

  • A 3-year agreement covering 2014-2017 with limited reopeners in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 which includes a salary reopener. 
  • A 4% on-schedule salary increase effective July 1, 2014; a 2% on-schedule salary increase effective January 1, 2015; a 2% on-schedule salary increase effective July 1, 2015, and a 2% on-schedule salary increase effective January 1, 2016. 
  • A 3-level final evaluation system, which will allow for additional flexibilities through the CORE Waiver.
  • Additionally, a joint committee will be created with the certificated bargaining units to help with the development of the improvements to the teacher evaluation system. 
  • $13 million for class size reduction to English Language Arts and Math in grades 8-9.
  • An additional $13 million will be provided to increase secondary school counseling services. 
  • Continued protections for the District for budgetary uncertainties. 
  • A class size committee to explore options and strategies for further reducing class sizes. 
  • A more efficient grievance processing system that requires informal discussion prior to the filing of a grievance. 
  • Additional leave options to promote wellness among employees. 
  • Greater collaboration with UTLA in the assignment process. 
  • Substitutes will be provided additional rights to a meeting with representation.



AALA members are aware of the “me too” clause in the contractual agreements between AALA ( and other bargaining units)  and LAUSD that allows a union the opportunity to reopen salary negotiations should the Board approve a higher raise for another union. In light of the agreement with UTLA, Dr. Judith Perez, AALA President, sent the following communication to Vivian Ekchian, LAUSD Chief Labor Negotiator:

Consistent with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the District and AALA dated June 27, 2014, I am requesting that the District schedule negotiations with AALA.

On page 2 of the aforementioned MOU the following is noted “…should the Board of Education approve a higher general percentage increase on the base salary table for another group of employees, AALA will receive comparable treatment.”

AALA is interested in quickly addressing and resolving the “me too” clause matter on behalf of our membership.

Members should be advised that before any negotiations between AALA and the District can begin, the ratification of the District’s agreement with UTLA must take place. According to staff in the Office of Labor Relations, UTLA members will vote on the proposed agreement between May 1 – 7. Votes will be tallied and announced on May 8, 2015. If ratified, the Board of Education will consider it for adoption at their meeting on May 12, 2015, and since all Board Members have voiced support for the agreement, we assume it will pass. Once adopted, AALA can initiate the formal negotiation process with the District which should result in administrators being offered a salary agreement that is on par with their colleagues in UTLA.

VACCINE LEGISLATION PROPERLY PUTS PUBLIC HEALTH ABOVE PERSONAL BELIEFS: Vaccinations shouldn't be an issue. Get them or get out of school. Don't jeopardize other kids

California legislators shouldn't let misguided parents sway them against vaccinations bill

Vaccine legislation properly puts public health above personal beliefs

George Skelton / Capitol Journal | LA Times |

Vaccination bill

<< Opponents of SB 277, which would end the "personal beliefs" exemption, attend the Senate Education Committee meeting where the panel approved the bill. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

23 APRIL 2015  ::  Ask most rational people what their No. 1 priority is and, I suspect, they would answer good health.

Love, friends, money, freedom, a good education, a productive life — they're all right up there. But none outranks health.

So it's pathetic that more legislators aren't fully embracing a bill that essentially would tell parents: Vaccinate your kids against infectious diseases or they won't be allowed in school where they could jeopardize the health of other children.

The bill's only exception: Parents whose children have a medical condition — a weak immune system caused by leukemia, for example — that might not tolerate a vaccination. They can get a doctor's note and be excused from the shots.

You parents who won't permit vaccinations because of a personal belief, well, you're free to practice that belief any way you'd like — as long as it doesn't threaten other people's kids.

Americans do have freedom of religion — but not the freedom to jeopardize the health of other Americans.

That's the way it should be, anyway, and how a bill struggling through the Legislature would make it in California.

The measure, SB 277, finally cleared the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday on its second try. A week earlier, it stalled when committee members worried that it would deny unvaccinated children their education rights.

The bill would eliminate "personal belief" as a legal excuse for refusing to have children vaccinated before they enter school.

Under compromise amendments — which semi-satisfied legislators, but not the bill's opponents — unvaccinated children would have broader options for education besides single-family home-schooling. They could join other families in creating a private home-school. Or they could use existing independent study programs run by local school districts.

The bill still must clear two more committees. If passed by the Senate, it would face a tough fight in the Assembly.

Gov. Jerry Brown is sending signals he'd be inclined to sign the bill.

"The governor believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit," says Brown's chief spokesman, Evan Westrup. "And any bill that reaches his desk will be closely considered."

The bill is jointly authored by Sens. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a pediatrician, and Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), a former school board president whose father had polio as a child.

Tianna Hazard, of Oakland, wipes tears from her eyes as she and her daughter, Livi, 9 months, leave a Senate committee hearing on the vaccine bill. (Rich Pedroncelli, AP)>>

Besides polio, kids are required, before entering school or child care, to be immunized for such communicable diseases as diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping cough, chickenpox and hepatitis B.

But California has the "personal belief" exemption that increasingly has resulted in parents refusing to inoculate their children. Besides a religious belief, many are scared that vaccinations can cause other ailments.

Many mistakenly believe, for example, that a measles shot can lead to autism — a discredited theory promoted in 1998 by a lying researcher. His study later was retracted by the journal that published it. And many studies since have shown there is no link between vaccinations and autism.

Statewide, the immunization rate for kindergartners is roughly 90%, according to the state public health department. But in some mountain counties — Humboldt, Mariposa, Nevada, Tuolumne — it's down into the 70s. And in some pockets, it's in the 50s, a place ripe for disease spreading. The rate has been gradually declining in recent years.

Experts say that low vaccination rates fueled the measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in December, sickening 157 people and inspiring the legislation.

"Each year we're adding to the number of unvaccinated," Pan says. "If it gets low enough, that's when disease is able to spread. Because so many people haven't experienced these diseases, they don't know how serious they are."

Relatively few people today remember the frightening polio epidemics before the Salk vaccine was introduced in 1955. There hasn't been a case of paralytic polio in the United States since 1997. Credit polio shots. But the disease continues to ravage people in 10 countries. So it still can be transmitted to unvaccinated Americans by foreigners.

During the Senate Education Committee's fiery hearing last week — attended by hundreds of angry parents — a polio survivor told about being stricken at age 7. She urged passage of the bill, speaking in a voice apparently weakened by respiratory problems.

Later, she was mocked on Facebook by two opponents of the bill. "Lisa" referred to "the hysterical polio survivor" and added: "Poor woman needs emotional therapy." "Annika" responded: "Polio was really DDT poisoning."

Polio has been around thousands of years; DDT about 80.

"The level of vitriol [over the bill] is the highest of any I've experienced," Pan told me. He and Allen both have received death threats from opponents who claim they have a parental right to not vaccinate their kids.

OK. But we also should have a right to keep them away from other school kids.

In 1951, before there was a vaccine, more than 10,000 Americans were afflicted with paralytic polio. I was one. My strong single mom guided me through the ordeal. She was a saint.

But if there had been a polio vaccine that she had prevented me from receiving, I never would have forgiven her.

Parents who won't allow their children to be vaccinated are — let's put it politely — misguided. That's their problem — and their kids'.

The Legislature should gather enough courage to make sure it's not also everyone else's problem.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


in the Blue Room, next door to the Board Room | 333 South Beaudry | bring your lunch




LA Unified board calls meeting to approve contract offered to teachers

by Vanessa Romo in LA School Report |

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of UTLA

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of UTLA

April 20, 2015 3:02 pm  ::  The Los Angeles Unified school board is meeting [Tuesday] afternoon in private to vote on approving the contract agreement negotiated with the 35,000-member teachers union, UTLA, that gives district teachers a 10.4 percent raise over two years.

What that translates to in dollars is a work in progress. Tom Waldman, the district spokesman, told LA School Report today that the district’s chief financial officer, Megan Reilly, is developing a breakdown of the costs in tiome for tomorrow’s meeting.

The closed session had not been on the scheduled but was quickly arranged to put the deal before the seven board members for a vote.

Reilly has spent the last several months warning the board to observe fiscal restraint. She has has told the members that any raise above the district’s earlier offer of 5 percent would put the district at risk of financial ruin.

In a presentation to the board on March 11, she reported that LA Unified is facing a budget deficit of $113 million for the 2015-16 academic year. The district also issued 609 possible lay-off notices for next year for a savings of nearly $51 million.

Further, the board sent an interim report to the Los Angeles County of Board of Education last month, saying that based on current projections LA Unified may not be able to meet its financial obligations. That report, which projected a deficit and recommended millions of dollars in cuts left blank a section which projected any additional costs for future labor agreements. (See here).

To further complicate matters, Superintendent Ray Cortines has not yet presented his draft budget — typically offered in early April, nor has Gov. Jerry Brown presented his revised budget, usually made public in May, that could bring the district $2 million more dollars than it is expecting. In short, board members may be asked to approve the contract with the teachers without knowing exactly how the district will pay for it.

The deal completed late Friday night still needs to be ratified by teachers, and it remains unclear when that will happen. A statement on the UTLA website says only, “Voting on the TA will take place at school sites soon.”

If agreement by union members follows an approving board vote tomorrow, the deal goes back to the board for final approval.

In addition to a 10 percent salary increase over two years, the district agreed to spend an additional $26 million to hire more teachers and counselors. But that budget falls way short of funding UTLA’s earlier demands of hiring 5,000 additional school employees including teachers, nurses, librarians, and counselors.

The new deal leaves out other long-standing UTLA demands that were fundamental to the “Schools LA Students Deserve” campaign, including:

  • A $1,000 stipend for all members for instructional and support materials, which district officials estimated would cost $33.1 million
  • Compensation for professional development time paid at members’ hourly rate, projected at $12.8 million
  • Additional nurses, psychologists, secondary counselors, college counselors, librarians, and other student support services, which the district ballparked at $285.5 million

LA Unified leaves itself open to additional cost increases from other unions with which it has recently negotiated new contract deals.

At least two other of the district’s labor partners have so-called “me too” contacts, which means their members are entitled to get the same increases the teachers get. They include the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, a union with two bargaining units — one for the district’s 2,500 principals and assistant principals and the other for a group of 250 employees who serve in such positions as transportation directors and food service managers.

“The amount of compensation and the timelines are different from ours, and it will take some time for the district to propose a ‘me too’ for us,” said Dan Isaacs, administrator for AALA. “But our ‘me too’ clause with the district is solid. We’ll do an analysis to see what’s in the best interest of our members, and I’m sure the district will be fair with us.”

A group affiliated with the teamsters — cafeteria managers, office managers and plant managers — also have the “me too” deal.

The district’s service employees union, SEIU Local 99, which represents about 35,000 workers, opted out of its “me too” clause earlier this year when members approved a contract raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour for its lowest paid employees by 2015.

Among the non-monetary compromises reached between the district and the teachers with the help of a mediator is a new teacher evaluation system that would rate teachers on a three-tier system. It replaces a two-tier system, which prevented the district from being in compliance with the CORE Waiver, a federal funding program that could add $171 million over three years to district coffers.

Board member Steve Zimmer said he fully anticipates that board members will vote to approve the contract, which brings the teachers their first contract in eight years.

“We are going to hear from the superintendent and I anticipate he will have the full support of the board moving forward,” Zimmer told LA School Report.

Zimmer added that “the salary agreement is the definition of compromise.”

“It is the maximum we could do at this moment to show the most respect that we could possibly show in monetary terms for our teachers,” he said.

Board President Richard Vladovic was also optimistic.

“There’s nothing more valuable than our youth – and the people that are at our schools helping them day in and day out, are worth every penny,” he wrote in a statement. “I encourage my colleagues to vote yes with me on this much deserved agreement.”


Meeting Agenda



3 stories+1 cartoon +2¢+: “VOTERIA”: Pseudo Political Science, taken to an illogical extreme

AN ELECTION DAY LOTTERY DEMEANS THE VALUE OF VOTING: A nonprofit voter group has a plan to turn around traditionally abysmal turnout for a key election to the Los Angeles Board of Education …it's going to pay one lucky voter $25,000

“Gonzalez said his group has concluded that handing out a $25,000 cash prize is legal in California but would violate federal law  …what part of ‘violates federal law’ is so hard to understand?

Venture capitalist/Alliance Charter Schools board co-chair Antony Ressler, on the District 1 LAUSD School Board Election:  “10000 votes for School board race... Crazy that we have a publicly elected school board... This is NOT what democracy is supposed to be.   No one in LA cares    TR”  - e-mail to Jamie Alter Lynton on Jun 5, 2014, at 10:04 PM | WikiLeaks Sony Hack #126221


smf 2cents I am racking my brain and Googling like mad – and I haven’t found it yet: There was an absurdity by The Firesign Theater back in the sixties that followed the prompt: “Knowing that wrong thought creates electrical resistance, it seemed possible….”

The following is like that: Let’s muck about with the democratic process and make it better: What could possibly go wron9?

Nonprofit hopes $25,000 prize lures L.A. schools' District 5 voters

By Howard Blume | LA Times |

Voting prize

Low voter turnout is an ongoing problem. But a nonprofit thinks a $25,000 prize drawing could be a solution. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times)

20 April 2015  ::  Those who cast ballots in the race for District 5 in the May 19 election will be entered in a drawing.

The idea is the brainchild of Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.

"This is an experiment, a nontraditional out-of-the-box strategy" because "participation has gotten so bad," said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the organization, which focuses on increasing voter turnout, especially within the Latino community.

The March primary for the school board drew marginal voter interest in a citywide election that also failed to attract much interest.

Three board races are going to a May runoff. Southwest Voter Registration is especially interested in District 5, because about 57% of registered voters there are Latino.

Challenger Ref Rodriguez finished first against incumbent Bennett Kayser, who is seeking a second term.

Voter turnout was just under 12% in the area, which includes Los Feliz and Silver Lake as well as an economically diverse range of Latino neighborhoods, including the cities of southeastern L.A. County.

The most notable dividing point between Kayser and Rodriguez is over independently managed charter schools, which are exempt from some rules that govern traditional campuses.

Kayser has tried to limit their growth; Rodriguez co-founded one of the largest charter organizations, People Uplifting Communities.

"If overall turnout is higher, it's hard to say what the effect would be," said Dan Chang, who directs a political action committee that has endorsed Rodriguez. "If there is higher turnout among Latinos, the conventional wisdom is that Ref Rodriguez will do better — a Latino candidate with a Latino surname."

Both campaigns pushed hard to win the Latino vote in the bitter, high-cost primary and said they are doing so again.

Gonzalez's nonpartisan group hasn't endorsed either candidate. And his lottery strategy could increase turnout among all ethnicities.

He calls the idea "voteria," a play on the Spanish term "loterĂ­a," for lottery.

In its current form, the area's voting boundaries were carved out with the idea of increasing Latino representation in a school system that is more than 70% Latino.

That hasn't happened.

Kayser is white, and that seat has had white board members for 16 of the last 20 years.

The nonprofit has never before given out money but has tried other incentives. To increase turnout in the 2004 presidential race, it held drawings to give away a new car in each of four states: New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona. To enter, a voter had to recruit four others.

Gonzalez said his group has concluded that handing out a $25,000 cash prize is legal in California but would violate federal law. The plan is to publicize the contest through traditional media and social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

Other recent projects have included phone banking to turn out Latinas in the 14th City Council District who voted rarely or inconsistently, and regional training sessions for Latinos considering a run for office.

The nonprofit has teamed with Earth Day Network and the NAACP to launch a nationwide effort to mobilize a million voters over the issue of climate change.


Idea of an L.A. Voteria is gaining currency

Idea of an L.A. Voteria is gaining currency


Steve Lopez: Los Angeles Times |


Low turnout

Ellen Kotheimer of Venice votes by herself in June at the Los Angeles County Lifeguard station in Venice. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

19 Aug 2014   ::  The city Ethics Commission has proposed a cash prize lottery for those who cast ballots

Bob Stern, an ethics expert, says a cash lottery for voting is an experiment worth trying

The proposal to enter L.A. voters into a cash prize lottery, for the sake of increasing turnout, is easy to attack on numerous fronts.

My first reaction to last week's recommendation by the L.A. City Ethics Commission?


Or maybe it wasn't horror so much as anger that anyone would come up with such a sad little gimmick. Throughout history, people have sacrificed their lives for the right to vote, and now we have to offer jackpots to shake people out of their laziness and apathy?

"How DUMB!!!" one reader posted on the story by my colleague David Zahniser.

"Really???!!!" said another.

The lower the turnout the easier it is to manipulate and control the messages to individual voters. - Fernando Guerra, Loyola Marymount Center for the Study of Los Angeles

Aside from the problem of turning a civic duty into a commercial gambit, there's the obvious problem of attracting voters who don't know a councilman from a crossing guard. So I called Nathan Hochman, the ethics commission president, to hear his justification for a lottery.

"We are in a crisis," said Hochman, citing a steep decline in turnout for local elections between 2001 and 2013, when about 75% of the city's registered voters skipped the election won by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

"In a representative democracy, you want everybody to have a piece of ownership about their city government," Hochman said. And when too few people take part, "the system fails."

A commission formed by Garcetti and council President Herb Wesson had already looked at fixes, including the aligning of low-turnout local elections with higher-turnout state and national elections in even-numbered years. Another recommendation was for extended voting times, in which voters might have more places to cast ballots and several days to do so.VOTERIA-DEMOCRATS-websale[1]

Those are fine ideas, Hochman said, but it'll take years to implement them. The commission wanted to try something in the interim, on a trial basis.

He said commissioners considered the 90% turnouts in Australia, where residents are fined $20 if they don't vote. But commissioners preferred carrots over sticks, and the idea of a prize drawing came up.

cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz>

Nobody would be paid to vote. But by voting, regardless of how you vote, you might get lucky.

Hochman said roughly $65 million was spent on L.A. city elections in 2013 when you count independent expenditures and $10 million in matching funds from the city. So if you took just 1% of the $10 million in matching funds, Hochman said, or $100,000, you could probably boost engagement and turnout by randomly awarding four $25,000 prizes, or 10 $10,000 prizes, or any such combination.

Hochman began to turn me around, just a little, with that argument. If it's acceptable to spend the obscene amount of $65 million — much of it to extort and misinform with negative attacks — why is it unacceptable to spend a tiny fraction of that amount to get more people involved?

As we all know, there are lots of reasons people don't vote. They're lazy, or turned off by candidates or campaigns, or they don't believe their vote can make a difference in a city that can't trim a tree but every half-century. Or, understandably, they don't know the difference between the state controller and treasurer, or they can't figure out how anyone can be expected to know one judicial candidate from another.

But regardless, is powerball politics the best way to shake up the system?

I called local government watchdog Bob Stern, who favors several reforms, and was surprised by his take on the lottery idea. It's got pros and cons, he said, "but I like the idea of it as an experiment. Let's try it. Clearly it would increase turnout."

I had expected him to argue that cash prizes would invite too many know-nothings into the process, but he saw it differently.

"I agree with Hochman that people would pay more attention to it," Stern said, "and be more educated than they are now. And that's a good thing."

Wesson told me Tuesday that he's noncommittal but fascinated, pending legal review of a lottery. He said he wants to hear what neighborhood councils think, and also what non-voters have to say about why they don't vote, and whether a lottery would make a difference.

Fernando Guerra, who directs the Loyola Marymount Center for the Study of Los Angeles and headed the election reform commission formed by Garcetti and Wesson, said there are two main reasons turnout in local elections has dropped nationally.

First, the initial fights for African American and Latino representation among elected officials have already been waged. Second, the domination of Democrats and demise of Republicans has further decreased tension and drama.

"There's no magic wand" to address the problem, Guerra said, but he believes a lottery comes closer than anything. And he already has a name for it.


That's not bad. And Guerra said that rather than use city money for prizes, which would raise political and legal issues, he'd like to see nonprofits put up the cash as an experimental investment in greater civic participation.

It's a myth, Guerra said, that everyone who already votes is well-informed. Greater participation, he argued, will lead to more awareness of local issues and possibly undermine special-interest forces that now determine outcomes.

"The lower the turnout," he argued, "the easier it is to manipulate and control the messages to individual voters."

That certainly remains to be seen. But we have just witnessed a pitifully low turnout of 8% in a school board election, and Guerra predicts a paltry 15% turnout in city elections next April. That could double or triple, he suggested, if the lottery were in place and prizes evenly divided across city districts.

I still have misgivings. But I have to admit it'd be interesting to find out if he's right.


Editorial: Vote, and win $25,000: It's a losing idea

By The Times Editorial |

Voting in Los Angeles

A voter marks his ballot at a South L.A. polling location on election day last November. (Christina House / For The Times)

21 April 2015  ::  Frustrated by the appallingly low turnout in local elections, the nonprofit Southwest Voter Registration Education Project is planning a cash lottery — or voteria — to get voters to the polls for the Los Angeles Board of Education District 5 race. Anyone who legitimately casts a ballot in the May 19 contest between incumbent Bennett Kayser and challenger Ref Rodriguez will be automatically entered into the drawing. After the election is certified, the group will randomly select one person from the voting pool.

The winner gets $25,000. The losers are the people who still believe in the integrity of the democratic process.

This gimmick perverts the motivation to vote. It demeans the value of voting. And it's the most superficial pseudo-solution to a very real problem in Los Angeles, which is the pervasive civic malaise that prevents so many eligible voters from feeling truly engaged. In fact, the voteria only underscores the cynical view that people don't care about their local government anymore and the only way to get them to vote is to bribe them.

When the Los Angeles Ethics Commission floated a similar lottery proposal last year, The Times called it one of the worst ideas put forward in a long time. But even that was better than the voteria. Why? Because at least a city-sponsored contest would be clearly non-ideological and not aimed at influencing one particular election. The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project is a well-meaning organization with a long history of working to increase voter participation in the Latino community — but what if this cash prize ends up being advertised more heavily in the Latino community in District 5? What if it brings out more Latinos than, say, African Americans? Is it fair that one demographic has more of a financial incentive to vote? What if in the next school board election an African American group decides it should pay voters even more to turn out? Or a Republican group? Or the teachers union or a charter school group? This is a troubling precedent that could easily devolve into an arms race among interest groups trying to get out their votes to influence an election.

Yes, low turnout is bad. It allows the few to make decisions for the many, and that undermines the integrity of our representative democracy. Angelenos were so concerned about low turnout that they voted in March to move local elections to June and November of even-numbered years to coincide with gubernatorial and presidential elections. That is a meaningful reform that should boost turnout simply by capturing local voters who show up for higher-profile elections. Groups like the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project are right to look for innovative ways to engage voters. But dangling money in front of polling places is not the way to do it.



●● Someone else’s 2¢A 4LAKids reader with a JD degree (it takes all kinds!) writes : Don't quote me here, I'm just musing:

So they snaked past the Ca Election Code because they aren't explicitly urging the voting for one candidate over another (although they are quoted as saying they want to encourage Latino voter participation and Dan Chang muses over the effect of a Spanish surname):

18521.  A person shall not directly or through any other person
receive, agree, or contract for, before, during or after an election,
any money, gift, loan, or other valuable consideration, office,
place, or employment for himself or any other person because he or
any other person:
(a) Voted, agreed to vote, refrained from voting, or agreed to
refrain from voting for any particular person or measure.
(b) Remained away from the polls.
(c) Refrained or agreed to refrain from voting.
(d) Induced any other person to:
(1) Remain away from the polls.
(2) Refrain from voting.
(3) Vote or refrain from voting for any particular person or
Any person violating this section is punishable by imprisonment
pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for 16
months or two or three years.

And a lottery isn't illegal if you don't have to pay to participate, see CA Penal Code section

319.  A lottery is any scheme for the disposal or distribution of
property by chance, among persons who have paid or promised to pay
any valuable consideration for the chance of obtaining such property
or a portion of it, or for any share or any interest in such
property, upon any agreement, understanding, or expectation that it
is to be distributed or disposed of by lot or chance, whether called
a lottery, raffle, or gift enterprise, or by whatever name the same
may be known.

But what about the good, old-fashioned law against slot machines in California?  Isn't this scheme converting every voter machine in District 5 into a "mechanical device, upon the result of action of which money or other valuable thing is staked or hazarded..." and therefore subjecting every person who permits the placement of such a voter machine in place under her control to potential prosecutions for a violation of Penal Code section 330a?

330a.  (a) Every person, who has in his or her possession or under
his or her control, either as owner, lessee, agent, employee,
mortgagee, or otherwise, or who permits to be placed, maintained, or
kept in any room, space, inclosure, or building owned, leased, or
occupied by him or her, or under his or her management or control,
any slot or card machine, contrivance, appliance or mechanical
device, upon the result of action of which money or other valuable
thing is staked or hazarded, and which is operated, or played, by
placing or depositing therein any coins, checks, slugs, balls, or
other articles or device, or in any other manner and by means
whereof, or as a result of the operation of which any merchandise,
money, representative or articles of value, checks, or tokens,
redeemable in or exchangeable for money or any other thing of value,
is won or lost, or taken from or obtained from the machine, when the
result of action or operation of the machine, contrivance, appliance,
or mechanical device is dependent upon hazard or chance, and every
person, who has in his or her possession or under his or her control,
either as owner, lessee, agent, employee, mortgagee, or otherwise,
or who permits to be placed, maintained, or kept in any room, space,
inclosure, or building owned, leased, or occupied by him or her, or
under his or her management or control, any card dice, or any dice
having more than six faces or bases each, upon the result of action
of which any money or other valuable thing is staked or hazarded, or
as a result of the operation of which any merchandise, money,
representative or article of value, check or token, redeemable in or
exchangeable for money or any other thing of value, is won or lost or
taken, when the result of action or operation of the dice is
dependent upon hazard or chance, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) A first violation of this section shall be punishable by a
fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than one
thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not
exceeding six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
(c) A second offense shall be punishable by a fine of not less
than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars
($10,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six
months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
(d) A third or subsequent offense shall be punishable by a fine of
not less than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) nor more than
twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), or by imprisonment in a
county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and
(e) If the offense involved more than one machine or more than one
location, an additional fine of not less than one thousand dollars
($1,000) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000) shall be
imposed per machine and per location.

A stretch, maybe, but enough for someone/some organization to seek an injunction?

Saturday, April 18, 2015


By smf for 4LAKidsNews

18 April 2015 :: EdWeek reports that a spate of recent laws and policies intended to better protect the privacy of students' sensitive information don't go nearly far enough, according to researchers concerned about commercialization in public education. |

"Computer technology has made it possible to aggregate, collate, analyze, and store massive amounts of information about students," according to a new report from the National Education Policy Center, based at the University of Colorado, in Boulder.

"This has opened opportunities for private vendors to access student information and share it with others. Further, the computerization of student work offers opportunities for companies that provide education technology and educational applications to obtain and pass on to third parties information about students."

The report, titled "ON THE BLOCK: STUDENT DATA AND PRIVACY IN THE DIGITAL AGE” |   is the latest in a series from the NEPC on "schoolhouse commercializing trends." The group has consistently released reports critical of the private sector's role in public education.

“A trifecta of laws passed in California— especially the Student Online and Personal Information and Protection Act, or SOPIPA—were praised by the National Education Policy Council for their expansive definition of the student data to be protected and their restrictions on commercial use of student information.”

BUT THERE IS ALREADY LEGISLATION from $pecail intere$ts in the hopper in Sacramento to limit SOPIPA. To amend it into squishy meaninglessness.

Here are comments from an authority on online student privacy – culled from an email, his first+best appraisal of recent amendments to AB 817, not his last+final word. As a work in process I cloak the writer in anonymity:

“As amended, AB 817 would severely limit SOPIPA by creating broad exemptions to the definition of “K-12 school purposes.

  • These exemptions would leave sensitive student information vulnerable to privacy and security risks.
  • They would mean numerous operators collecting sensitive student information from students in schools are no longer subject to SOPIPA.
  • ·It would also vastly limit the sensitive student “covered information” protected by SOPIPA.

“Our students’ privacy and safety is not served by taking these broad categories of activities and exempting them from SOPIPA. Any app designed to help a student with helping K-12 students outside the classroom—or even standard school hours—could be considered an “extracurricular educational” product. “Enrichment opportunities” could be limitless. The law has not even gone into effect, but already it appears that certain players are looking for loopholes and ways out.

“These exemptions could give companies license to market to our students in schools and eliminate protections California decided to put in place for our students’ sensitive personal information. This is an example of precisely the kinds of results SOPIPA was designed to prohibit. Students deserve the school zone to be a privacy zone, a trusted environment where they can focus on learning.”

Friday, April 17, 2015


by Kelly Corrigan | The Burbank Leader – an LA Times publication |

Kemp resigns, scolds teachers, walks out of meeting before vote to hire Hill

Before the Burbank Unified school board hired new superintendent Matt Hill Thursday - despite opposition from teachers - board member Dave Kemp, himself a former BUSD teacher, tendered his resignation, said he was "appalled" by the teachers' behavior and walked out of the meeting.

April 17, 2015 | 8:29 a.m.  ::  During a heated meeting packed with teachers who opposed the Burbank school board’s proposed choice for the district’s next superintendent, the board made the hire in a 4-0 vote Thursday, but not before longtime board member and retired teacher Dave Kemp submitted his immediate resignation and walked out of City Council chambers,  saying he was ashamed of the teachers’ behavior.

Matt Hill, who replaces current Supt. Jan Britz, will begin his new post on July 1.

Many teachers, along with parents, who filled council chambers Thursday night, spoke against Hill’s hiring, in part, because he does not have any teaching experience or credentials. They also pointed to his role in a $130 million implementation of a student management system that failed at Los Angeles Unified, where he had two years remaining on his contract as LAUSD's chief strategy officer.

“I can hardly tell you how disappointed I am in the board tonight for putting us and the community in this position,” said Lori Adams, president of the Burbank Teachers’ Assn. during the public comment portion of the meeting.

She encouraged board members to continue their search for an “experienced” superintendent to guide the 15,000-student district, winning applause from fellow teachers.

A few days earlier, the teachers’ union asked the L.A. County district attorney's office to look into possible violations of the state's open meeting law, the Brown Act, regarding the potential hiring of Hill as the new superintendent.

District officials reported that Hill had been selected as a finalist for the position on March 15, but nothing was reported out of closed session from that day's meeting. Public officials are allowed to discuss certain matters behind closed doors — including personnel matters — but votes are required to be reported in the open afterward.

Under the Brown Act, actions taken in violation of the law are voided.

In response to the union’s allegations, school board member Larry Applebaum said the district has been “overly transparent,” and when two former superintendents, Greg Bowman and Stan Carrizosa, were hired, their contracts were not made public until the meeting where they were offered a job.

During the meeting on Thursday night, Burbank High teacher Diana Abasta said Hill’s contract, which includes a $241,000 base salary, was an “insult.”

“I have never been so disheartened,” she told the board. “And you make me feel that it’s not good enough to be a teacher because you can bring someone in without any experience.”

Many also had issue with Hill’s salary, which totals about $36,000 more than what is paid to Britz, who took the district’s helm in 2012 and whose salary was raised to $205,000 last year from $190,000.

“This is one of those times I feel you guys are making a serious mistake,” high school teacher Jerry Mullady said.

Also in the audience was a Burbank police officer in uniform, which is not typical during Burbank school board meetings.

A few people pleaded with the board to hold off on voting until two newly elected board members — Steve Ferguson and Armond Aghakhanian, who are expected to take their oath of office in early May — have time to weigh in on the hiring process.

The current board, however, began deliberating over the next superintendent in November after Britz announced in October she would retire at the end of this school year, after 40 years in education and about a decade at Burbank Unified.

“Common Core’s all about evidence and argument,” said Burroughs High teacher, Jill Sullivan. “Make your case. What has Mr. Hill done that is so special to you?”

However, before they offered their insight, Kemp, a board member for 12 years and a teacher in the district for many more years, stepped down from the dais and walked up to the podium as the teachers had, speaking during the public comment session not as a board member, he said, but as a citizen.

Because Kemp did not seek re-election this year, the night was his final meeting as a board member, along with board member Ted Bunch, who also did not seek reelection.

“I am absolutely appalled and ashamed by [this] mob mentality,” Kemp said during his seven-minute address to the teachers.

“This is unsuitable. And I am so unhappy that so many of my former colleagues decided how I’m going to vote on this situation,” he said, adding that he’s been “raked over the coals” over Hill’s potential hire.

Even so, as he did during Tuesday’s three-hour public forum with Hill, Kemp spoke in support of Hill, 38, describing him as “a terrific young man.”

“I’m so ashamed of the people I always thought were such good friends and former colleagues that meant so much to me, that at this time, I can no longer be a part of this. I’m tendering my resignation to Dr. Britz,” he said.

He then picked up his belongings, handed Britz a yellow slip of paper and walked out of the chambers.

Shortly after, school board President Roberta Reynolds called for a brief break, and within 10 minutes, the meeting resumed — without Kemp — for additional public comments.

Then Ted Bunch, who has also served on the board for a dozen years, said he empathized with Kemp’s reaction.

“He feels betrayed by you,” he said. “I can understand why Dave said, ‘The hell with it and walked out.’ You have no confidence in us. You listen to what the union says and you eat it up like it’s steak.”

Fellow board members went on to offer their insight into choosing Hill as a finalist after a national search that brought the board a total of 18 candidates, which they whittled down to five to interview.

“If you think that I have not spent dozens and dozens and dozens of hours going through binders this thick of people’s qualifications, doing due diligence and doing vetting… I didn’t just leave it to a search firm to do it,” board member Applebaum said. “I want somebody who’s going to lead the entire district to greatness. I believe Mr. Hill could.”

Fellow school board member Charlene Tabet said she was looking for a leader “who wasn’t just what we’ve always had,” adding that Hill “made me feel I needed to be a better board member if he was going to be our superintendent.”

Tabet said she thinks Hill could facilitate employees’ growth as well.

Out of the candidate pool, Reynolds said Hill stood out “with something different” than the others. “And honestly, I don’t think I’ve slept for four weeks because the decision is that important,” she said.

Board members noted that Hill would have a three-year contract and no cellphone or auto stipend, but they did not elaborate on their reasoning for setting Hill’s salary at $241,000.

After casting their vote approving his hire, the school board invited Hill to take the podium, at which point -- before he began speaking -- Adams and dozens of others, many of them teachers, abruptly left the chambers, leaving about 25 people who stayed.

“Tonight, even though it’s so difficult to have this experience, it means something that I knew when I started researching Burbank,” Hill said. "Every single person in this room tonight, and probably at home, has a deep conviction and passion for students. And this work is so challenging that we get emotional. It’s personal, and it should be because it’s every single one of our responsibilities to help those children.”

Hill recalled that when he first met Kemp, he said Kemp told him he wouldn't vote for him because teachers and others stated in early feedback that they wanted the next district chief to have been a teacher and a superintendent.

“But you know what he did? What we should do for every single human being? He said, ‘There’s something in you that I believe in. I’m going to hear you out. I’m going to listen. I’m going to give you a chance,’” Hill said.

“I didn’t know how he was going to vote today. He told me initially he wasn’t going to vote for me. Maybe he would have, maybe he wouldn’t. I don’t know,” Hill added. “The biggest disappointment I had today, and we’ll move on from it — we have to make sure that we do something different as a community, is we give every student and every adult an opportunity, and when they fail, we pick them up together. I am here to help, to lead, to serve, and I want to thank the board for seeing what’s in me and helping me realize the leader I can be.”

The board continued with its regular meeting, and adjourned about 12:15 a.m.


Matt Hill to be paid $241,ooo – current superintendent’s salary is $205,000 and started at $185,000

from schoolhouselive |

Watch live streaming video from schoolhouselive at


By Howard Blume | LA Times |

17 April 2015  ::  A top official from Pearson said Thursday that students would benefit if the Los Angeles Unified School District continued to use its curriculum on iPads and other computers.

The school district this week demanded a refund for the curriculum, which was part of a now-abandoned $1.3-billion effort to provide an iPad to every student, teacher and administrator in the nation’s second-largest school system.

Pearson, as a subcontractor to Apple, provided digital math and English course materials.

Sir Michael Barber

<< Sir Michael Barber, a top Pearson executive, says his company's digital curriculum could transform education in Los Angeles. (Pearson)

“First of all, I think it’s a brilliant product,” said Sir Michael Barber, the chief education advisor at Pearson. Barber called the Pearson system innovative and explicitly tied to new learning standards adopted by California and 42 other states.

“It’s got that emphasis on depth of learning as well as coverage,” he said. “You have to learn the ideas and then apply the ideas.”

L.A. Unified bought 43,261 iPads with the Pearson curriculum. The curriculum added about $200, for a three-year license, to the $768 price for each device. (The district purchased another 77,175 iPads under the contract without the Pearson curriculum to be used initially for state standardized tests.)

The iPad effort in L.A. Unified faltered from the start. Currently, the FBI is investigating the bidding process and the SEC has launched an informal inquiry into whether the district complied with legal guidelines in the use of bond funds for the devices and curriculum.

Pearson offered only a partial curriculum during the first year of the license, which was permitted under the agreement.

The product has not caught on in L.A. Unified. Only two schools of 69 with the devices use Pearson regularly, according to an internal March report from project director Bernadette Lucas.

The report cited a litany of complaints, including content that could not be fully adapted for students with limited English skills, a large group in L.A. Unified. The district also claims the curriculum lacks important features such as online tests and data on how and when students are using it. Another problem has been getting access to the online curriculum quickly and consistently.

"Any given class typically experiences one problem or more daily,” Lucas wrote in the report. "Teachers report that the students enjoy the interactive content -- when it's available. When it's not, teachers and students try to roll with the interruptions to teaching and learning as best they can."

The district characterized Apple and Pearson as insufficiently responsive to these problems.

Barber acknowledged that there have been difficulties and said that Pearson, Apple and the district shared responsibility as partners in the effort. But he added that Pearson is willing to work through such issues, and that students would benefit if the district stayed the course.

With such sweeping change, "you’re going to have glitches. You’re going to run into challenges," he said. In the long run, he predicted, Pearson’s product could help "transform teaching and learning."

"Once you get used to using these materials," he said, students and teachers will find them "very engaging, very empowering."

He added that the company is committed to making its materials prove themselves.

“All of our products should be judged by their impact on learner outcomes, not just their financial outcomes,” he said.

School board member Steve Zimmer, for one, was not ready to reconsider the district’s refund demand.

“Very simply, it’s not good. It’s not easy to use,” he said of the Pearson product in a Thursday interview on KCRW. “Give the taxpayers their money back.”


smf 2cents

  • Some light reading: “Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform: #7 – Sir Michael Barber, CEA Pearson
  • A little heaver reading: ‘The Incomplete Guide to Delivering Learning Outcomes’, outlines Pearson’s own efficacy programme and shares the company’s strategy and initiatives in its first phase. The report is authored by Pearson’s Chief Education Advisor, Sir Michael Barber, and SVP of Efficacy, Saad Rizvi, with a foreword from former Pearson Chief Executive Dame Marjorie Scardino*.   Download ‘The Incomplete Guide to Delivering Learning Outcomes’ as a PDF.


* Of “John+Marjorie” fame:

"Looking forward to further work together for our youth in Los Angeles!" Deasy wrote to Marjorie Scardino, then Pearson's CEO, on Tuesday, May 22, 2012, after hearing an initial pitch over lunch.

"Dear John, It's I who should thank you," Scardino replied. "I really can't wait to work with you."  |


Or quoting my favorite source, me: THEN, AT ABOUT 10:20 ON FRIDAY AM [Aug 22, 2014]  KPCC reporter Annie Gilbertson began reading some e-mails on the radio from folks at Pearson and LAUSD to each other – emails from a year before the iPads RFP was issued.

Reading emails on the radio. Who knew who entertaining that could be?

From Pearson CEO Dame Marjorie Scardino, DBE to LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, PhD on May 22, 2012: “My mind was racing all weekend, and I was so impressed by your intelligent and committed and brave hold on the moving parts of the opportunity. I really can’t wait to work with you. I would love to think that we could together do this so well that in your Sunday visits to prisons you won’t see one person who has been educated in LAUSD; rather, you’ll be meeting them as teachers, as contractors, as bankers (well, maybe not bankers), as poets all round the city.”

The gush seems like pre-coital sexting. I didn’t know whether to turn up the radio or stay tuned for the bodice ripping and the “Ooh John…, Ooh Marjorie…” There must be special pages in the Kama Sutra for folks with honorifics after their names. |


  • "The particular use of the bond proceeds is not material” (to investors), the district wrote.

  • Contract between LAUSD and Apple not being examined, only financials.


SEC launches informal inquiry into LAUSD's use of bonds for iPads

LAUSD iPad project

Students at Theodore Roosevelt High School received iPads as part of LAUSD's Common Core Technology Project. (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles Times)

By Howard Blume | LA Times |

17 April 2015 | 3AM  ::  The federal SEC has opened an informal inquiry into LAUSD's use of bonds for its iPad project

The federal Securities and Exchange Commission recently opened an informal inquiry into whether Los Angeles school officials complied with legal guidelines in the use of bond funds for the now-abandoned $1.3-billion iPads-for-all project.

In particular, the agency was concerned with whether the L.A. Unified School District properly disclosed to investors and others how the bonds would be used, according to documents provided to The Times.

District officials said they were optimistic that they had addressed the SEC concerns.

The news of the SEC inquiry came the same week that L.A. Unified officials demanded a refund from computer giant Apple over curriculum supplied on the devices by Pearson, which sells education services and materials worldwide. Pearson was a subcontractor to Apple under a contract approved by the Board of Education in June 2013.

That fall, problems immediately plagued the rollout of devices to campuses, and questions soon arose about whether Apple or Pearson had an unfair advantage in the bidding process. An ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI is looking into that matter. Current and former district officials have denied any wrongdoing.

Apple has not responded to requests for comment. Pearson has consistently defended its actions, including on Thursday, when top executive Michael Barber said that L.A. students would benefit if the district stayed the course with the company's product.

The SEC declined to comment and does not, by policy, confirm or deny investigations. L.A. Unified acknowledged meeting with an agency attorney.

The federal agency is charged with protecting investors and maintaining fair, orderly and efficient markets. Its enforcement division frequently looks into "misrepresentation or omission of important information about securities," according to the commission.

With the help of an outside law firm, L.A. Unified prepared a presentation, dated March 31, that outlined measures it took to inform the public and potential investors about how the taxpayer-approved bond funds would be spent.

"LAUSD was transparent regarding the program and its funding," and all necessary disclosures were made to the public, underwriters, rating agencies and investors, the district told the SEC representative.

The district also distinguished between the L.A. Unified bonds and different types of bond debt that are issued under other disclosure rules.

The L.A. Unified general obligation bonds are paid back over time through property taxes. Projects funded by the bonds have no role in generating revenue to investors, the district said.

"The particular use of the bond proceeds is not material," the district wrote.

California law allows school construction bonds to be spent on technology; districts also list the intended uses of bond funds in ballot materials available to voters.

L.A. Unified clearly designated funds for technology, but did not mention tablets. At the time of the district's most recent bond issue, in November 2008, iPads were still two years away from entering the marketplace.

But officials have maintained that tablets are a modern equivalent of the traditional computer lab and therefore a legal and appropriate use of bond funds.

A separate question has been whether the district acted properly in using bond funds to purchase curriculum on the devices. But that issue was not part of the district's presentation.

School board member Bennett Kayser said Thursday that legal questions regarding use of the bonds were not sufficiently examined before the project moved forward.

"I wish the SEC had looked into this over a year ago," Kayser said.

(Kayser did not participate in the original discussion or vote on the contract because he owned a small amount of Apple stock. He sold his holdings and emerged as a project critic, although he later voted to purchase additional devices for schools and for testing.)

The district's demand for a refund came in the form of a letter sent Monday to Apple.

L.A. Unified bought 43,261 iPads with the Pearson curriculum. The curriculum added about $200, for a three-year license, to the total price of $768 for each device. (The district purchased another 77,175 iPads under the contract without the Pearson curriculum to be used initially for state standardized tests.)

Pearson offered only a partial curriculum during the first year of the license, which was permitted under the agreement.

The product has not caught on in L.A. Unified. Only two schools of 69 with the devices use Pearson regularly, according to an internal March report from project director Bernadette Lucas.

The report cited a litany of complaints, including content that could not be fully adapted for students with limited English skills, a large group in L.A. Unified. The district also claims the curriculum lacks important features such as online tests and data on how and when students are using it. Another problem has been getting access to the online curriculum quickly and consistently.

Barber, Pearson's chief education advisor, acknowledged that there have been difficulties and said that Pearson, Apple and the district shared responsibility as partners in the effort. But he added that Pearson was willing to work through such issues.

With such sweeping change, "you're going to have glitches. You're going to run into challenges," he said. In the long run, he predicted, Pearson's product could help "transform teaching and learning."

"Once you get used to using these materials," he said, students and teachers would find them "very engaging, very empowering."

The iPad project was pushed by then-Supt. John Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October, largely due to fallout from the iPad effort and a faulty new student records system.


SEC questions LAUSD on use of bonds for iPad project

This Sept. 12, 2013 file photo shows then LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy looking on as students learn to use their new iPads at Chavez Learning Academy in San Fernando, Calif. Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News/File

By Christine Armario, Associated Press from the LA Daily News |

Posted: 04/16/15, 5:39 PM PDT | Updated: 7 AM 4/17/2015  ::  LOS ANGELES >> The Securities and Exchange Commission recently questioned Los Angeles Unified School District officials as part of informal inquiry into whether they properly used bond funds for a beleaguered $1.3 billion project to provide an iPad for every student.

Lawyers for the nation’s second-largest school district and an outside firm met at the SEC’s Los Angeles office in late March to answer questions about the use of bonds for the iPad project and whether officials had publicly disclosed how the funds would be used.

“They asked us to come in and present to them on the bonds themselves,” Thomas Zaccaro, a partner with the firm that presented information along with the district, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday. “All in all, we don’t see any issue with the disclosures.”

Both SEC and LA Unified officials declined to comment. The SEC does not routinely confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

Former LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy launched the initiative to provide an iPad for all of the district’s 650,000 students, but it faced trouble from the start. Students found ways to bypass security installations and freely surf the internet. Teachers said they hadn’t been properly trained to use the technology. Questions were raised after emails were disclosed showing Deasy had been in communication with vendors Apple and Pearson before the contracts were put to bid.

Deasy resigned under pressure in October. In December, FBI agents seized about 20 boxes of records form LA Unified as part of a federal grand jury probe.

On Monday, LA Unified general counsel David Holmquist sent a letter to Apple demanding it stop any further delivery of Pearson software and vowed to seek reimbursement for math and reading materials students have been unable to use. The vast majority of students still can’t access Pearson material on their iPads, Holmquist said.

Pearson declined to comment.

At the SEC meeting on March 31, Zaccaro said he and district officials showed that LA Unified had publicly disclosed bond use for computer hardware and software through investor presentations, presentations to rating agencies and to the public in board and county meetings. He also said because general-obligation bonds are repaid through county tax revenues, there is no connection between how proceeds are used and how they are repaid.

“There was a lot of public disclosure about the use of proceeds,” Zaccaro said.

Zaccaro said attorneys have not heard back from the SEC since.


US SEC investigating LA bond sale around troublesome iPad deal; Contract between LAUSD and Apple not being examined, only financials

MacNN News/The Macintosh News Network |

updated 08:49 am EDT, Fri April 17, 2015  ::  Adding a further level of complexity to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) failed iPad program, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has opened an "informal inquiry" to investigate if the school complied with legal requirements for bond usage in the purchase. The agency is reportedly examining if the contract was properly disclosed to investors, and if sufficient documentation was provided to insure the bonds were used legally.

The LAUSD believes that they have accommodated the SEC's investigation. The SEC has not commented on the investigation, but the LAUSD has confirmed meeting with an attorney from the agency, as reported by the LA Times.
The most recent bond agreement was established in 2008, well before the iPad existed. In the ballot for the bond agreement, the LAUSD spelled out funds for technology -- which the LAUSD considers that applies to iPads as well. The SEC is not investigating the contract with Apple and Pearson, but rather just the sale of the bonds to facilitate the troubled purchase.
The news comes the same week that the LAUSD made public that it was seeking a significant refund from Apple on the devices and educational materials, saying that "will not accept or compensate Apple for new deliveries of curriculum." The LAUSD appears to have not paid enough out yet to Apple to cover even the iPad hardware, let alone the problematic educational materials, but this has not been positively confirmed.
Apple is the primary contractor for its deal with the school district, with Pearson being the sub-contractor. Any refund, or legal obligation to the LAUSD would have to come from Apple, with Apple choosing whether or not to pursue Pearson for recompense.

by MacNN Staff


By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

4/14/15, 8:32 PM PDT | Updated: 4/16/15  :: Los Angeles Unified’s board agreed Tuesday to spend $185.9 million more on employee health care without requesting additional information in a move that prompted one board member to vow to vote against all high-dollar expenditures.

After Monica Ratliff’s request for extra information was rejected in a 5-2 vote, she voted against the health care spending and pledged to vote against all significant expenses in the future.

“I’m going to vote no on this,” Ratliff said. “And I’m going to continue to vote no on large monetary expenditures, because I think we are going toward a cliff.”

Ratliff said she fears the new plan for employee health care, which will cost the district’s general fund an additional $92.5 million over the next three years, will require layoffs and program cuts.

In 2015, the health care plan will cost $1.029 billion, increasing to $1.095 billion in 2016 and growing to $1.163 billion in 2017.

Among the information requested, Ratliff wanted to know how bankruptcy would impact the pension and health care of retirees.

LAUSD faces a projected $10.9 billion price tag for retiree health care over the next 30 years, requiring more than $890 million per year.

The most experienced former administrator on the school board, George McKenna, supported Ratliff’s effort to obtain additional information before a budget is passed, noting he has worked for a school district that went into bankruptcy.

“We need to know the budget. To not know it and not project it is fiscally irresponsible,” McKenna said.

McKenna, however, joined the 6-1 vote that agreed to the extra spending on health care.

Ratliff, one of two San Fernando Valley representatives on the seven-member school board, said she would approve the health care spending if additional information is provided before a budget vote in June.

Under the plan, premiums and co-pays will not increase for employees, Health Care Benefits Committee co-chair and Teamsters Union Local 572 representative Thomas Beatty said.

The Health Care Benefits Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the district’s various unions and one LAUSD-appointed member, recommended the plan.

Board member Tamar Galatzan opposed Ratliff’s request for the information, she said, because of the burden it would place on LAUSD’s number crunchers, who are working to create a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Earlier this year, LAUSD sent layoff notices to 609 employees, including teachers and counselors. Those educators could lose their jobs if the district fails to close its budget deficit.

The district is currently in contract negotiations and is hundreds of millions of dollars apart from its teachers union. The two sides will head back into negotiations today. United Teachers Los Angeles is demanding an 8.5 percent pay raise and more than 5,000 new educators, in part to reduce the size of classes.

Speaking at Tuesday’s board meeting, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl struck a positive note.

“We are encouraged by the conversations we’ve been having during mediation around a number of issues,” Caputo-Pearl said.