Saturday, August 23, 2014


Brustein & Manasevit - Federal Update email | Author: JCM

Friday, August 22, 2014 12:22 PM :: A new PDK/Gallup poll tracking the American public’s attitudes toward public education released this week showed growing opposition to the Common Core standards, as well as some of the education policies being pushed by the Obama Administration.

Overall, 81% of poll respondents said they had heard about the Common Core State Standards, with 47% saying they knew a lot or a fair amount about them. A total of 60% say they oppose the standards, but that opposition was heavily divided along party lines – 76% of self-identified Republicans said they opposed the standards, but only 38% of Democrats said they were against them. 

The reasons for opposing the Core were diverse – some poll respondents said they believed the standards limited teachers’ ability to teach what they thought best suited their students, and a majority of Republicans and independents said they did not believe the Core standards were challenging enough for students. A majority of Republicans, independents, and public school parents (and 45% of Democrats) agreed with the statement that local school boards – not State or federal governments – should have the greatest influence in deciding what is taught in schools.

Respondents were also generally skeptical about standardized tests. Fifty-four percent of those polled said they do not believe that standardized tests are helpful to teachers.

In addition, support for items on President Obama’s education agenda was lacking among poll respondents. Only 27% of those polled gave the President an “A” or “B” grade in rating his performance in support of public schools, while 27% gave him an “F” – his lowest overall score since being elected President. 

Again, support here divided largely along party lines with only 3% of Republicans expressing support for the President’s education agenda, compared to 61% of Democrats. Respondents criticized the lack of financial support to public schools in particular, with 32% calling it the biggest challenge facing public schools.


  • Lauren Camera, PDK/Gallup Poll Finds Rising Awareness, Majority Opposition to Common Core,” Politics K-12, August 20, 2014.
  • Valerie Strauss, “Obama Losing Public Support on Education Issues, New Poll Finds,” Washington Post, August 20, 2014.

Friday, August 22, 2014


L.A. schools Supt. Deasy was meeting with top execs from Apple – including CEO Tim Cook - and Pearson – including CEO Marjorie Scardino - before iPad deal

By Howard Blume | LA Times |LA Times

22 Aug 2014 | 10:21pm  ::  Senior Los Angeles school district officials, including Supt. John Deasy, had a close working relationship with Apple and Pearson executives before these companies won the key contract for a $1-billion effort to provide computers to every student in the nation’s second-largest school system, records released by the L.A. school district show.

The first deal, approved in June 2013 by the Board of Education, was intended as the initial step in a speedy districtwide expansion. Under it, all students, teachers and principals were to receive iPads from Apple that would be loaded with curriculum developed by Pearson. A year later, after pressure from critics and problems with the roll out, the timetable for the project was extended; other curricula and other devices also are being tried out at schools.

Deasy recused himself from the initial bidding process because he owned Apple stock, but the records indicate that he and other district officials had developed ties with the potential to benefit the firms.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has reviewed a report by the district's inspector general and found that there was no criminal wrongdoing in the bidding process.

No evidence has emerged from the records that Deasy tried to steer the results once the process began. But in the period leading up to the bidding, the district and corporate executives collaborated closely.

According to the documents, Pearson appeared to be directly involved with Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino in developing L.A. Unified's five-year technology plan, which was approved by the Board of Education in May 2012.

A May 24 email from Pearson executive Judy Codding to Aquino and another senior official is titled: “Creating a plan that merges Jaime’s team’s work and the proposed plan that emerged from the 5/18/2012 meeting.”

The email tackles the subject of how to pay for an online curriculum, especially one provided by Pearson.

In it, Codding writes: “Jaime, I think everything you said makes sense to me. Yes everything would come out of the textbook fund. The price would be just as you and I discussed,” Codding wrote.

Elsewhere in the email chain, Aquino asks: “Will our board support this expenditure in midst of massive layoffs?”

Aquino also wrote: “I am not sure if legally we can enter into an agreement when we have not reviewed the final product for each grade and if the materials have not been approved by the state."

Further, he said: "I believe we have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one.”

Deasy was one of the last to participate in that email exchange and made his comments after Aquino's. He thanks Aquino for his contribution, adding: “Understand your points and we need to work together on this quickly. I want to not loose [sic] an amazing opportunity and fully recognize our current limits.”

It isn’t clear which of Aquino’s points the superintendent is supporting.

In another email on May 24, Aquino writes to Deasy: “My major concern is that there are a lot of unanswered questions particularly financial/political/infrastructure implications. Let’s see what we can get resolved in our call with Judy.” He was apparently referring to Judy Codding of Pearson.

Deasy responds: “I am in agreement. I will call shortly about my pending talks with Apple.”

In a May 22, 2012, email, then-Pearson Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino tells Deasy how much he impresses her.

“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.”

Less than two months later, on July 2, Deasy updates Scardino about his meeting with Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple.

“I wanted to let you know I have [sic] an excellent meeting with Tim at Apple last Friday. The meeting went very well and he was committed to being a partner. He said he and his team will take 5 days to present a price plan and scope of partnership. He was very excited about being a partner with Pearson. I think it would be good for you to loop back with him at this point. I will reach out to you again in a week.”

In one communication, Pearson’s Codding argued that competitive bidding through a “Request for Proposals” process was unnecessary, but the school system decided otherwise.

The bidding period began in March 2013. Months later, three finalists emerged for the Board of Education to choose from. Each proposal included a device paired with an online curriculum. All three used Pearson for the curriculum. Two of the proposals were for iPads—one from Apple, one from a third-party vendor. On the recommendation of staff, the board approved the Apple/Pearson bid after a brief discussion.

The emails, documents and other records were released in response to requests under the California Public Records Act that The Times first made nearly a year ago. The district initially released some of these records only to KPCC-FM (89.3), which on Friday was the first to report on some of these disclosures. The district then released the documents to The Times.

On Thursday, The Times reported separately on the draft of a district committee report that found the bidding process to be flawed. The report concluded that district actions could have created the appearance that the process was unfair.

Deasy said Thursday that he could not comment on the report because he had not read it. He added that it had not been provided to him for review. He could not be reached Friday night for a response to the disclosed emails.

Aquino, who left the district at the end of last year, has declined requests for interviews.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment Friday. A Pearson spokesperson was unable to provide a response Friday night.


By Howard Blume | LA Times |

George McKenna

New L.A. school board member George McKenna is sworn into office by City Clerk Holly Wolcott at City Hall on Friday. (Jenna Schoenefeld)

22 Aug 2014 | 3:16 PM  ::  Veteran school administrator George McKenna took office Friday as the newest member of the Los Angeles Board of Education following a special election that could cost the school system an estimated $2.5 million.

McKenna, 73, won a hard-fought, expensive campaign last week against 34-year-old Alex Johnson, an aide to L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. According to the most recent campaign filings, money spent to elect McKenna totaled about $527,000, while dollars spent on behalf of Johnson added up to more than $1.4 million.

Johnson's backers included L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson, who presided over the brief special morning meeting in which the council certified the results and then watched the swearing in.

In the Aug. 12 election, 32,537 voters, or 9.5% of those registered, cast ballots. McKenna had 17,025 votes, or 52%, to 15,211, or 47%, for Johnson. Combined, the campaigns spent about $60 per vote.

"We had a very well run and clean election despite the turnout,” said City Clerk Holly Wolcott, who cited "biodegradable supplies at poll sites” as an advance that would be carried into the future. These included the signs posted at every polling station and the bags used to transport supplies.

McKenna could prove a pivotal vote in the nation's second-largest school system on issues such as contract negotiations, teacher evaluations and the use of technology in schools. He had the backing of the teachers union.

Johnson was supported by charter-school advocates and many backers of L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. Johnson, this week, accepted a nomination from Ridley-Thomas to serve on the board that oversees the L.A. County Office of Education.

Council members, including Wesson, rose to applaud McKenna, whose career as a local educator spans more than five decades, much of it as a senior administrator. Two years ago, the council had honored him at City Hall when he retired.

"I was content in my retirement--busy but content,” McKenna said when Wesson invited him to speak. McKenna said he never would have run for office except for two factors--the death, last December, of predecessor Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte and the urging of community leaders to fill her shoes.

McKenna spoke of school as the one place, under the law, that children must be. Every other law applying to children is about things they can't do, but school is a positive obligation for them, he said. Helping them succeed and remain safe is "your role as City Council people and my role as board member.”

The new board member wanted to be sworn in quickly so he could immediately receive board materials, including confidential items, to prepare for Tuesday's meeting. Standing by was Jefferson Crain, the executive officer for the school board, who immediately handed McKenna a binder with hundreds of pages of briefing documents.

At school district headquarters on Tuesday, McKenna will be sworn in again by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. And there will be a third ceremony at Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles, where McKenna once was a highly regarded principal.

McKenna is filling an unfinished term that will last about 10 months. He plans to run again for the full four-year term in an election scheduled for March.

Serving as a board member is the beginning and end of his political ambitions, McKenna stated.

"I’m not seeking another profession" other than education, he said. "This is what I know how to do better than most.”


Annie Gilbertson | 89.3 KPCC |

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy  speaks during a press conference at South Region High School #2 in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012.

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy speaks during a press conference at South Region High School #2 in Los Angeles, California February 6, 2012. Krista Kennell/AFP/Getty Images

22 Aug 2014  ::  Emails obtained by KPCC show Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy personally began meeting with Pearson and Apple to discuss the eventual purchase of their products starting nearly a year before the contract went out to public bid.

Detailed in dozens of emails, the early private talks included everything from prices - about $160 million over five years - to tech support.

"On behalf of those involved in Pearson Common Core System of Courses, I want you to know how much we are looking forward to our partnership with LAUSD," Pearson staffer Sherry King wrote the head of curriculum for L.A. Unified at the time, Jaime Aquino, in November 2012. "We have begun to work closely with your leadership to help make the transition to the  common core smooth for everyone."

Emails show Deasy met with CEO of Pearson in May 2012 and later told her it led him to have "excited" conversations with his staff upon his return.

After that meeting, Deasy and other high ranking officials exchanged emails about using Pearson as part of its transition to the new Common Core learning standards.

Emails show Deasy also met with Apple officials, in July 2012.

"The meeting went very well," he wrote to a Pearson official. He said Apple "was fully committed to being a partner."

Told about the emails, L.A. Unified school board member Steve Zimmer said the emails raise the question of whether administrators “made a decision in search of a procurement, rather than the other way around.”

He vowed to look into it.

“We have to make sure this is completely ethical and above board,” he said.

Reached by phone Thursday evening, school district officials said they were unprepared to comment on the email discussions between L.A. Unified and Pearson. They continued to decline comment Friday morning.

Pearson and Apple officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

Michael Josephson, of the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles, said it’s possible Pearson was the best choice and school officials didn’t mean to play to favorites - but it doesn't look good.

“You absolutely don’t want a situation where contracts are being steered to favorites,” he said. “It invites kickbacks. It invites skimming. It invites bribery. That’s totally unacceptable.”

A school board committee is currently writing a report detailing its concerns with the iPad project.

A draft version obtained by KPCC Thursday shows members of the Common Core Technology Ad Hoc Committee raise questions about whether it was proper for administrators to use school construction bond funds to purchase curriculum software. When licenses expire and devices fall out of date, the report notes, the district may no longer be able to pull from bond funds.
“The Committee is not convinced that textbook funds are adequate to replenish devices, purchase any necessary software licenses and purchase any textbooks that may still be necessary,” the report reads.

The report also calls out district officials for changing product requirements in the middle of the bid selection process.
“It’s impossible to determine to what extent the field of proposers was limited as a result of minimum requirements,” the report reads. Changes made in the “11th hour,” it continues, opens the “door to the appearance of manipulation."

Annie Gilbertson @AnnieGilbertson · 10:30am

#lausd officials discussed iPad contracts before bids. Stay tuned for BIGGER story next week … via @kpcc


by Howard Blume, - LA Times

Students explore iPads

STUDENTS explore the possibilities with their new LAUSD-provided IPads. A new report says the district inadequately planned the distribution of an iPad to each student. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times)

Aug 22 2014  5AM  ::  The groundbreaking effort to provide an iPad to every Los Angeles student, teacher and school administrator was beset by inadequate planning, a lack of transparency and a flawed bidding process, according to the draft of an internal school district report obtained by The Times.

The bidding process — and events leading up to it — were singled out for particular criticism. The report concludes that the district needlessly limited its options on price and product, and raises questions about whether the process was fair.

The much-anticipated analysis is drawn from public and closed meetings held over 10 months by a committee chaired by school board member Monica Ratliff. That panel, composed of parents, employee representatives and district officials, heard presentations, posed questions and gathered documents from experts and officials. Ratliff directed that the report remain confidential until committee members could provide input.

The Times obtained it from sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to release it.

The committee review stops short of accusing anyone of wrongdoing, but offers a carefully worded rebuke of the $1-billion-plus technology effort in the nation's second-largest school system.

While the report applauds the goals and potential benefits of the technology push, it details major problems in how the effort was carried out.

Among the findings:

  • The initial rules for winning the contract appeared to be tailored to the products of the eventual winners — Apple and Pearson — rather than to demonstrated district needs.
  • Key changes to the bidding rules were made after most of the competition had been eliminated under the original specifications.
  • Past comments or associations with vendors, including by L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, created an appearance of conflict even if no ethics rules were violated.

Last year's iPad rollout at 47 schools suffered a series of setbacks. In one, students at three campuses deleted security filters so they could browse the Internet — prompting officials to prohibit the iPads' use outside of school.

Still, many students and teachers expressed excitement about using the $768 devices and the opportunities they might offer.

Both the devices and the curriculum on them have been paid for with voter-

approved school construction bonds.

While the report is wide-ranging, it focuses heavily on the bidding that resulted in a $30-million initial contract for Apple in June 2013. That work was expected to expand districtwide by the end of 2014, but officials changed the plan after the rollout, pushing the timetable back and testing to see if laptops might be better for older students.

The report suggests that from the beginning district officials, including Deasy, made decisions that created an appearance of impropriety, clouding good intentions.

The superintendent recused himself from the bidding process because he owned Apple stock, which he has since sold. But he seemed to signal where his preferences lay in a promotional video filmed for Apple in December 2011, as a school pilot program using only iPads was set to start.

"We had decided to adopt iPad technology, as we were trying to provide ways for increasing student engagements," Deasy said in the spot.

Deasy said Thursday he could not comment on issues raised in the report until he had read it; he added that he has not received a copy.

In an interview last month, Deasy stressed his conviction "that every youth regardless of ZIP Code will have access to technology."

"I wanted this to happen as quickly as possible," he said.

The bidding process began in March 2013. The report questioned specifications for the bidding that seemed to describe the iPad without justifying why its particular features were necessary.

The device, for example, had to have at least a "10-inch multi-touch display."

"There is a danger that an appearance may be created that such specification was included for an improper anti-competitive purpose," the report says.

Other school districts have opted for less expensive devices, yet L.A. Unified was hardly alone in falling for the iPad, which dominates the tablet market in public schools.

The selection of Pearson to provide the online curriculum aroused similar controversy.

The report noted that the district insisted on a new curriculum that would align with recently approved learning goals adopted by California and most other states, known as Common Core. No one wanted a recycled curriculum masked by a fresh label.

Given the short time frame, only a major corporate player could promise to deliver a full new curriculum. But during the bidding, neither Pearson nor several other vendors had such a product to submit. The district based its decision on a small number of sample lessons, the report says.

The result was that the district cut itself off from vendors who had high-quality existing or adaptable materials. Going with them could have proved much less expensive and also would have permitted a more complete review of the product, the report suggests.

Pearson attracted extra scrutiny because Jaime Aquino, head of instruction at L.A. Unified at the time, had been an executive at a Pearson affiliate until he joined the district in July 2011.

District ethics rules required Aquino to refrain from any involvement in a Pearson contract for a year. But by the start of 2013, he was on the district's executive committee that oversaw the bidding process, in which his former employer had much to gain.

In testimony to Ratliff's committee, a midlevel district official defended Aquino's participation, insisting that no scoring was revised at the request of Aquino or the executive committee.

Aquino left the district at the end of last year, asserting that the school board was micromanaging the work of senior staff. He has declined interview requests.

Pearson products are ubiquitous across the education sector, but some of its business practices have come under fire. Last December, Pearson agreed to pay $7.7 million to New York state to settle allegations that its charitable foundation illegally drummed up business on behalf of the for-profit wing.

The foundation also was developing key connections in L.A. Unified. In July 2012, it subsidized a conference in Palm Desert on the new state learning goals, according to documents provided in response to a public records request by The Times.

L.A. Unified paid a reduced fee of $1,000 each for 50 employees to participate at no cost to them. Each also received an iPad "for district use."

When questioned by Ratliff's committee about the propriety of letting Pearson subsidize the event for L.A. Unified employees, district officials said it occurred before the bidding process.

Separately, Pearson was collaborating with the district in developing curricular materials, according to records reviewed by The Times. Some of the district staff involved later would be part of the teams evaluating bidders for the computer/curriculum contract.

In interviews, district staff said it wasn't unusual for L.A. Unified to work with private companies in developing materials or testing devices.

Officials amended the bidding rules after the process began, further creating a possible appearance of unfairness.

In June 2013, the school board had a choice of three finalists: All included a device paired with a curriculum. All three used Pearson. Two were for iPads, from different vendors.

District staff asserted that the Apple/Pearson bid was both the lowest in price and highest in quality.

The board approved the recommended deal with little discussion.

"An inherent risk in making such an eleventh hour change in specifications — after the field has already been whittled down to three finalists — is that it opens the door to the appearance of manipulation," the report states.

Later, officials told Ratliff's committee and The Times that the winnowing process was in line with legal standards, with the goal of getting a quality product at the best possible price.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office reviewed a report by the district's inspector general on the bidding process and determined that no criminal charges were warranted.


Annie Gilbertson | 89.3 KPCC |

Pete/ Flickr Creative Commons

20 August, 2014  ::  The Los Angeles County Office of Education is questioning the L.A. Unified school district's report on how it plans to spend new state funds targeted at disadvantaged youth - asking whether administrators are accurately accounting for past expenses.

"The district asserts $700 million dollars in 2013-2014 expenditures spent to serve and support low-income, foster youth and English learner (unduplicated count) pupils," wrote Marlene Dunn, Interim Chief Financial Officer for the county office, in an Aug. 13 letter to school board president Richard Vladovic. "We request the district provide rationale that supports the identification of these expenditures."

see this

The district has until the end of the month to respond, and the county's concerns could result in budget revisions for the current school year.

School board member Steve Zimmer said if the county's concerns put the budget at risk, the the school board will take it up its public meeting next week. So far, there are no plans to do so.

“I’m concerned about it," Zimmer said. "I’m not alarmed yet."

California law requires county offices of education to oversee the Local Control and Accountability Plans for each school district. In them, superintendents outline how they'll spend extra state funds to help disadvantaged students - and their goals. 

The district's budget for the new year that started this month is $7.3 billion - of which at least $837 million must be spent on foster, low-income and English learner students.


2cents small School board member Steve Zimmer should be alarmed, the allegation is that LAUSD is conflating  low income/ELL/foster special needs children with special ed children, There was no legislative intent in the Local Control Funding Formula to fund special ed.  No other school district in California spent their LCFF money this way.

The questions are not about this year’s budget, it’s about last year’s expenditures.

This may be money that may need to be paid back.

There were accusations that Santa Monica/Malibu USD played fast-and-loose with special ed when John Deasy was superintendent there and SMMUSD had difficulty extricating itself from that mess after he left.

And - at the risk of stating the obvious and pretending it’s news: California law requires county offices of education to oversee the budgeting and expenditure of every dime spent by each school district!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

IF YOU GIVE A KID AN iPAD: The ACLU is suing a school district in Massachusetts for letting only low-income kids take home school-issued tablets.

by Annie Baxter Featured in: NPR Marketplace Morning Report for Thursday August 21, 2014 |


Brad Flickinger/Flickr

Hear Radio Story

Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 05:45  ::  As iPads and other technologies make their way into more classrooms, unforeseen consequences are also on the rise. There's the need for more IT workers. There's the need for  bigger security budgets. And now, there's this: The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education over a policy that lets some kids take their school-issued tablets home, while others cannot.

Students who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program can bring the iPads home. The district website indicates other students may do so if they pay a fee.

“Students whose parents choose not to or can't buy this expensive device — they don't get to take it home,” says Laura Rotolo, staff counsel with the ACLU of Massachusetts. “They are at a distinct disadvantage in relation to the other students.”

Rotolo says the iPads must be provided to all kids for free if they're a core part of the curriculum.

The school district’s superintendent, Joseph P. Maruszczak, could not be reached for comment.

“I do think it is something that school districts, state legislatures and school boards need to consider in the future because there is an equity issue,” says Scott Himelstein, director of the Mobile Technology Learning Center at the University of San Diego.

Himelstein believes technology can ultimately give more equal access to education. But he says there will be growing pains — and more legal questions — along the way. Even when schools give all kids devices, he says, issues may arise if students lack equal access to broadband at home to complete homework assignments.

“Case law is slowly evolving in this, these things are being tested nationwide,” Himelstein says.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has asked the Mendon-Upton school district for a report on its iPad policies. It's due by the end of the month.

7 stories: A bunch of other California Education News…

from Rough&Tumble 

21 August 2014

  • School superintendent with unusually high compensation fired -- The Centinela school board voted Wednesday to dismiss Supt. Jose Fernandez, who came under the scrutiny of the FBI and Los Angeles County district attorney's office this spring for a compensation package that exceeded $750,000 last year. Sara Hayden in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 8/21/14
  • Cal State University system tackles escalating textbook costs -- Juan Salazar, a 20-year-old zoology major at Cal State San Bernardino, spends about $500 a year on textbooks. To cut costs, he researches professors online before enrolling in classes, then tries to take ones that don’t require pricey learning materials. Josh Dulaney in the Los Angeles Daily News$ -- 8/21/14
  • California graduates surpass those nationwide in college and career readiness -- Less than 30 percent of California's 2014 high school graduates took the ACT test, which assesses students for college and career readiness, according to a report released Wednesday. Theresa Harrington in the San Jose Mercury$ -- 8/21/14
  • More students take ACT, achievement lags -- California high school seniors outperformed their peers nationally in all categories of the ACT exam this year, according to data released Wednesday. Sara Hayden in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 8/21/14
  • Greenhut: Public schools use bill to quash a charter -- When the Legislature isn’t trying to solve outside problems — e.g., reversing climate change or calling for the Washington Redskins to change names — it often meddles in local affairs by passing bills that target specific situations in a legislator’s district. Steven Greenhut UT San Diego$ -- 8/21/14
  • NEA’s new president denounces testing -- In the midst of her first swing through California, the incoming president of the National Education Association praised the Common Core State Standards and California’s measured approach in implementing them while warning that the nation’s largest teachers union would fight efforts to use the new tests for the standards in ways that “harm kids” and punish schools and teachers. John Fensterwald EdSource -- 8/21/14
  • Summer ends before Labor Day for many kids -- For millions of California schoolchildren, the end of summer depends on where they live and attend school. Louis Freedberg EdSource -- 8/21/14


“The state kitty for school building and modernization is dry …. but, for Brown, this is the year for reelection, not school construction.”

Gov. Jerry Brown should spell out how he'd fund school construction


by George Skelton, Los Angeles Times |


The first day of instruction at Baldwin Hills Elementary School

L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy attends the first day of instruction at Baldwin Hills Elementary School in Los Angeles last week. It seems Gov. Jerry Brown doesn't like the idea of local districts relying on increasing state debt to build schools. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

21 August, 2014  ::  California governors have enormous power to shove around legislatures. And Gov. Jerry Brown has learned how to use it without working up a sweat.

Here's the latest example:

At the state Capitol, the notion of providing schoolchildren with adequate classrooms has always been akin to supporting motherhood. This year, a proposed school construction bond issue zipped through the Assembly and three Senate committees without a single "no" vote, 127-0.

There was no opposition, either among the politicians or the varied interests representing education, labor, business and anti-tax groups. Except, that is, for one naysayer: the contrarian governor.

  • If we continue to pass bond after bond, at some point it starts crowding out our ability to fund other priorities outside education. - H.D. Palmer, State Finance Department spokesman

Brown objected to piling up more debt, groused about how Sacramento dispenses the money to local districts and even questioned whether the state should be involved in helping to fund public school construction.

So legislative leaders basically said, "Oh, never mind." And they buried the bond bill last week just as it was headed to the Senate floor.

Now it's too late anyway, according to the secretary of state, to place the bond measure on the November ballot.

A governor is always tough to confront, especially when he's a member of your own party. It's risky to cross or embarrass the guy. He's intimidating. He can sign or veto your bills, line-item-veto money from a pet project and appoint you or a friend to a judgeship. He can listen to you or slam the door.

Legislative term limits have strengthened any governor's clout, particularly until lame-duck syndrome sets in. That won't be for a while in Brown's case. He's a virtual cinch for reelection in November. Now in his 12th year as a governor, Brown is skilled with all the power levers.

When Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) tried to pitch the governor on the school bond last week, Brown essentially told them: What is it about "no" that you don't understand?

For two years Brown has been issuing written critiques of the state school construction program, inserting these missives into his budget proposals. But he hasn't offered any concrete details about how he'd fix the system that he alone, apparently, doesn't like.

"We don't know where he is; it's a lot of vagueness," complains Dave Cogdill, president of the California Building Industry Assn. and a former Senate Republican leader. "Maybe the governor's got solutions he's not aware of yet."

Brown asserts that the system is "overly complex," requiring sign-off from not only local entities but also 10 state agencies. "It's cumbersome and costly," he says.

He wants some consolidation but doesn't say how.

Also, the governor says, local school boards aren't required to choose between classroom and construction spending. They're from separate pots of money. He wants to cover daily education and debt payment expenses under one budget, as the state universities have been required to do under his reign.

That makes sense and should be relatively easy to figure out.

Currently, Brown continues, state construction money is doled out on a first-come, first-served basis. He contends that gives an edge to large districts with lots of staffers who can race to Sacramento with funding applications.

OK, insert some priorities into the process.

Further, the funding goes out to old-fashioned school facilities and doesn't pay for "modern educational delivery methods."

Fine, tell legislators what you're talking about.

But mainly, it seems, Brown doesn't like the whole idea of local districts continuing to rely on increasing state debt to build and modernize schools.

The state currently is paying $2.4 billion annually on K-12 school bond debt, plus $600 million for community colleges and the universities.

In total, the state is paying $5.2 billion annually on all general obligation bond debt. Its outstanding debt is $76 billion. And there's $25 billion in authorized, but untapped, bond borrowing available.

All this is unsustainable, Brown argues.

"If we continue to pass bond after bond, at some point it starts crowding out our ability to fund other priorities outside education," state Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer says.

Replies the school bond author, Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo): "We can sell bonds for high-speed rail. That's OK. But he doesn't want to sell bonds to educate children."

You hear that a lot in the Capitol, but usually not on the record from a Democrat.

The bullet train bonds that Brown wants to sell total roughly $9 billion. The school bond proposal started out at $9 billion and got whittled down to $4.3 billion in the Senate Appropriations Committee. It was at that meeting last week that the Brown administration finally officially opposed the measure.

Actually, the governor had been whispering for months that he didn't want any bond issue on the ballot as he ran for reelection. But because of the drought, he was forced politically to accept a $7.5-billion water bond.

But the state kitty for school building and modernization is dry. The state, local districts and home developers ordinarily pay roughly a third each of the cost. But if there's no state money, developers kick in double. Cogdill estimates that will add more than $10,000 to the average cost of a new home.

That's likely to depress home building and set back economic recovery — in addition to harming school kids stuck in overcrowded or decrepit classrooms.

But, for Brown, this is the year for reelection, not school construction.

Hopefully, next year he'll decide exactly what he wants and use his power positively to get it done.


Alleged “improper calculation” and conflation of Special Ed with Special Needs students in accountability plan

By Thomas Himes,Los Angeles Daily News

Posted: 08/20/14, 7:37 PM PDT  ::  Los Angeles Unified officials will have to explain how they spent $700 million to help needy children last year, before county education officials approve a proposed three-year plan for additional state revenue.

In an Aug. 13 letter to the school board president, the chief financial officer of the Los Angeles County’s Office of Education asked district officials to provide their “rationale” in listing $700 million as being spent on children who are poor, English learners or foster kids.

Out of 80 school districts in Los Angeles County, the Office of Education has approved the state-mandated spending plans for all but five, including Los Angeles Unified.

LAUSD officials did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

Two nonprofit watchdog groups, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Public Advocates, complained about the district’s spending plan to both county and district officials.

The groups say LAUSD used “improper” calculations, which will deprive the district’s poorest students of $133 million in services this year and more than $2 billion during the seven-year period in which the state funding formula is in place.

In reviewing LAUSD’s spending plan, ACLU attorney David Sapp, said district officials wrongly counted about $450 million that was spent on special education students.

The district, he said, was already required by federal law to spend that money on special education students and should not count theexpenses as part of the state-mandated effort to direct more funding to students who are poor, living in foster homes or learning English.

“They’re artificially increasing their starting point, which means less of the money they’re going to get will go toward high-needs students,” Sapp said.

If the district’s plan is approved as currently proposed, it would give district officials discretion over how they spend the $137 million this year and the more than $2 billion from the state between now and Fiscal Year 2020-21, Sapp said.

The cash-strapped district is in contentious contract talks with its 35,000-member teacher union. The two sides are about $280 million apart on pay raises. Other bargaining units have agreed to pay-hike deals that are contingent upon school officials finding the funds to pay for them. Those efforts, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has said, will likely involve cutting plans to expand certain programs.

LAUSD is one of two school districts that the ACLU and Public Advocates raised concerns about. The other school system, Antioch Unified, has similarly been flagged by the Contra Costa County Office of Education, as the watchdog groups say poor children and English learners there will be shortchanged by about $6 million.

Out of 80 school systems that had their spending plans reviewed by the ACLU, Los Angeles Unified was the only one to include spending on special education students, Sapp said.

In many cases, he said, school districts didn’t identify how they came to the dollar amounts spent on poor students and English learners last year, because state law doesn’t require that level of detail.

“For most of the district’s I’ve looked at, we can’t tell what was included in estimates,” Sapp said. “To its credit, LAUSD spelled out what it was spending.”

LAUSD has until Oct. 8 to reach an understanding with the County Office of Education, he said.

“We’re hopeful this will be corrected prior to the October 8th deadline,” Sapp said.


Some L.A. Unified schools face packed classes, roaming students as new $20-million student database falters

By Stephen Ceasar, LA Times | LA Times

Alex Caputo-Pearl

"We don't have anything to gain from exaggerating -- we want the problem fixed," says teachers union President Alex Caputo-Pearl of LAUSD's new student tracking program. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Aug 21, 2014  ::  Los Angeles Unified spent about $112 million on an online student tracking program a decade ago but dumped it two years ago in favor of another one that promised a streamlined way to manage enrollment, attendance and grades for the nation's second-largest school district.

The new $20-million system faltered at some campuses just as the school year opened last week, prompting cries from teachers of packed classrooms, vagabond students wandering the halls and a lack of accountability for what went wrong.

Meanwhile, the school district says problems have been solved and that the system mostly is working.

United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union, has used the bungled rollout as a rallying cry and an opportunity to sharply condemn Supt. John Deasy.

UTLA has consistently criticized the district since the first day of school, likening the problems to that of the $1-billion iPad rollout, which also was beset by challenges and controversy at the start.

The issues with the computer database, known as the My Integrated Student Information System (MISIS), came as the union launched a campaign Wednesday calling for smaller class sizes, higher staffing levels and raises for teachers amid contentious contract negotiations with L.A. Unified.

L.A. Unified officials contend that the union is simply exaggerating the issues to score political points.

Teachers have described a litany of problems with the database. Some classes had more than 70 students enrolled. Rosters were missing or inaccurate. Students were without class schedules. Some instructors were forced to return to the old days and take attendance by hand.

"From the Valley to the Harbor, it's been nothing short of a nightmare," said Colleen Schwab, a UTLA vice president. "It's frankly unbelievable that this was allowed to be rolled out and affect so many students. It's a disaster."

Alex Caputo-Pearl

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl greets people after a news conference outside Palms Elementary in L.A., in which the teachers union called for smaller class sizes, fully staffed schools and fair compensation for educators. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)>>

Jay Gehringer, a computer science teacher at North Hollywood High School, also serves as the campus technology coordinator and has been assisting his colleagues in trying to navigate around the problems. Issues with the system were first evident during summer school, when report cards could not be printed and counselors had difficulty enrolling students, Gehringer said.

Once the school year began, it slowed to a halt. "You largely couldn't do anything in the system," he said.

Counselors could not access records to make sure students enrolled in the right classes to graduate. About 100 students without schedules were stranded in the cafeteria.

"There aren't enough directions, there wasn't enough training, the software doesn't work as advertised, and there are too many missing features right now," Gehringer said. "We just don't have the information to manage the school."

The information system was required as part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit that families of special education students brought against L.A. Unified in 1996. Among other issues, the district admitted to losing the records of a student, causing her to repeat 10th grade three times. As a result, L.A. Unified has been under federal court oversight in the years since.

Ron Chandler, the district chief information officer, said that with a massive undertaking such as this, some stumbles are to be expected.

"We do have issues, but the system is working and getting better every day," Chandler said. "This is going to be a blip we're going to get through."

Chandler said while the database has been slow for users, about 99% of students are now in the system and in class — a figure union officials strongly contest.

The district spent about $112 million developing another system with an outside vendor but it did not include all the features the district needed. In 2012, the district broke from the vendor and developed the software that is now in use. The previous version would have cost the district initially about $1.8 million with a 5% increase annually for maintenance.

Parents across the district will now be able to view and monitor their children's grades and attendance online, Chandler said.

"We're going to a better place with these systems and we knew that there would be a learning curve," he said.

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl addressed the issue at a news conference Wednesday at Palms Elementary school, where he announced a "school blitz" in which union officials will visit more than 400 campuses to discuss their negotiation demands with the district.

Caputo-Pearl bristled at the suggestion that union members were overstating problems with the system for political purposes.

"We're not exaggerating anything," he said. "We don't have anything to gain from exaggerating — we want the problem fixed."

At the request of Los Angeles Board of Education member Tamar Galatzan, the district's inspector general has begun an audit of the system's rollout.

NORWALK/LA MIRADA TEACHER’S MESSAGE: “Good luck with that!! …but I don't think she was too terribly bad.”

forwarded text message from someone in norwalk/la mirada unified

20 August 2014 :: Yes. Ruth Perez is/was the super. Good luck with that!! Apparently, not what I or others perceived to be super "teacher friendly." I can't really speak with a lot of authority. It was a shock when she got hired about 6 years ago. I heard the board wanted her to bust the union. Union did not like her, but I don't think she was too terribly bad.

NORWALK/LA MIRADA SUPERINTENDENT’S MESSAGE: “The District is about to embark on an exciting year with so many positive changes” …oh …and I’m outta here!


Norwalk/La Mirada Superintendent’s Message

by Ruth Perez, in |

Wed, Aug 20, 2014  ::  The lazy days of summer haven’t quite reached the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District as we are all busy at work to gear up for the upcoming school year, which is just around the corner.

This summer, the Board of Education voted to pass several measures that puts the District on an exciting new path toward improvements that will surely affect the performance and success for our students.

On June 30, the Board adopted the District’s Facilities Master Plan, which is necessary to prioritize our schools’ improvements for the foreseeable future. The master plan includes $600 million worth of projects that prioritize infrastructure to support new technology, modernization at our schools, new roofing at all District sites and other needs.

To help prioritize these projects, the Board also adopted the District’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). For about 50 years, the District was required to adhere to a funding system that left it with little choice as to where the money went.

However, under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula, the District is able to prioritize where funding goes, which is outlined in the LCAP.

The Board on July 21 also voted to put the Measure G: Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District Classroom Repair and School Safety Measure on the November ballot.

The $375 million bond, which a survey found was supported by a majority of voters, would go toward classroom repairs, safety upgrades, renovations and updates to science, math and computer lab technology, as well as physical education and athletic facilities.

As we outlined here in the Superintendent’s Update, the District is about to embark on an exciting year with so many positive changes.

If you have any question regarding the LCAP, the general obligation bond or any other District information, feel free to call the District office as (562) 868-0431.

- Dr. Ruth Pérez, Superintendent

Norwalk-La Mirada superintendent resigns to take job with Los Angeles Unified School District

By Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News |

Wed, 8/20/14, 10:19 AM PDT | NORWALK  ::  Superintendent Ruth Perez of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District has resigned to take a job with Los Angeles Unified School District as a deputy superintendent.

Perez, 51, who was paid $211,000 annually wasn’t available for comment.

Board member “Jesse” Urquidi said Perez had done a “fantastic job” since coming to the district in June 2009, succeeding Ginger Shattuck.

“In the last five years, we’ve gone up in our (test scores),” Urquidi said. “She raised the expectations of leadership. She set the bar very high.”

Urquidi said he’s not surprised that Perez is leaving.

“It’s not uncommon,” he said. “An average superintendent’s duration is three to five years. I’ve seen it before. As a board we have to adjust to it.”

Perez was the chief academic officer for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina before coming to Norwalk-La Mirada.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Dr. Ruth Perez accepts Deputy Superintendent position with Los Angeles Unified School District.

By Randy Economy | Hews Media Group-Community News

Dr. Ruth Perez accepts Deputy Superintendent position with Los Angeles Unified School District.  Randy EconomyDr. Ruth Perez, the popular Superintendent of Schools for the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District has accepted the position of Deputy Superintendent with the Los Angeles Unified School District, Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper can confirm.

Perez told HMG-CN in a phone interview on Tuesday night that in her new position at LAUSD she will be directly overseeing instruction for more than 650,000 students.

“I got an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Perez said.  “This is literally a dream come true, and I am beyond honored and Blessed to have this new chapter open up to me,” she said.  “This is a wonderful new life opportunity.”

In her new role, Perez will report directly to LAUSD Superintendent Dr. John Deasy.

Perez will begin her new position on Sept. 15, and her last day of employment with the NLMUSD will be on Thursday, Sept. 11.

Perez said that she informed the members of the Norwalk-La Mirada School Board last night about her decision.

“Today was a busy day, and I have begun reaching out to my entire staff here to let them know about my new job at LAUSD,” Perez said.

COUNTY OFFICE OF ED WITHHOLDS APPROVAL OF LAUSD LCAP, Questions spending on low-income, English learner and foster students

By Louis Freedberg | ED SOURCE TODAY |

August 19, 2014 |  updated at 11:30 a.m.  ::  The Los Angeles County Office of Education is withholding approval of the Local Control and Accountability Plan drawn up by the Los Angeles Unified School District pending clarification of the $700 million the school district says it spent last year on low-income students, English learners and foster children.

Los Angeles Unified is receiving additional funds for these three categories of high-needs students as a result of the state’s new funding law championed by Gov. Jerry Brown, and approved by the state Legislature a year ago.  As a result of the law, for the first time this year all California school districts and charter schools were required to draw up a Local Control and Accountability Plan, commonly referred to as an LCAP, by July 1.

The LCAPs were supposed to outline a district’s plans for improving education outcomes for high-needs children, and how it intends to target additional state dollars it receives from the state on services for those children.

The next step in the process is for county Offices of Education to review and approve the plans within their county’s boundaries, coinciding with county offices’ requirement to approve school districts’ annual budgets by Aug. 15.

LA Unified is only one of five districts out of 80 that the county has so far not approved. By last week, LA Unified’s plan was still “in process” of being approved, according to county education officials. “The LCAP is not disapproved,” county spokesperson Margo Minecki said in an email. “The approval is pending clarification from the district.”

lcff-lcap-lausd-countylet081314-p1-normalIn a brief letter sent to Los Angeles Board of Education President Richard Vladovic last Wednesday, county officials noted that the district said it had spent $700 million last year on high-needs children, and asked Vladovic “to provide (the) rationale that supports the identification of these expenditures.”


Based on complicated formulas set by the law, the amount a district spends in a prior year on high-needs children has an impact on how much it must spend the following year on those children.

Go here for a full explanation provided by the California Department of Education on impact of prior year funding levels.

Both county and district officials declined to provide any additional information about what the county’s concerns might be.  “We will respond to them at the appropriate time,” district spokesman Daryl Strickland said in an email.  The district has 15 days to respond to the letter.

But John Affeldt, managing attorney of Public Advocates, a legal advocacy firm that is heavily involved in state education policy, said he believes the county’s concerns about the $700 million it referred to in its letter has to do with LA Unified including nearly $450 million it spent last year on special education services.

In a June 6 letter to LA Unified School Superintendent John Deasy, Affeldt and David Sapp, director of education advocacy for the ACLU of Southern California, charged that the district should not have included special education funds as part of the $700 million it said it had spent on high-needs children last year.

If the special education funds were not included, Affeldt and Rosenbaum say the district should be required to spend an additional $133 million, on top of the additional $137 million the district is already  intending to spend on those children during the current school year.

Affeldt said yesterday that he hoped the county’s holding off on approving LA Unified’s accountability plan “will lead the district to remove special ed from their prior year expenditures, and add $133 million in additional funds for services for high-needs children.” He said that special education services are normally provided to all children, regardless of income or language ability , so that the costs for those services could not legitimately be counted as targeted services for the categories of children specified by the new funding law.

But without any comment from the district or the county, it is impossible to say at this stage whether the special education issue is at the heart of the county’s concerns.

on August 19, 2014.

Louis Freedberg covers education policy reform and is Executive Director of EdSource. Email him or Follow him on Twitter. Sign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Politco: PUBLIC SOURING ON COMMON CORE …at least as a brand

POLITICO Morning Education -

19 Aug 2014  ::  PUBLIC SOURING ON COMMON CORE: A new poll by Education Next finds support for the Common Core has dropped sharply, from 65 percent last year to 53 percent this year. The poll found an even steeper tumble among teachers: A year ago, 76 percent backed the standards; now, just 46 percent do. Outright opposition among public school teachers has more than tripled, from 12 percent to 40 percent. The poll also finds, however, that the public likes the idea of shared standards — so long as the question doesn’t mention the phrase “Common Core.” Even Republicans, who express the most antipathy to the Common Core brand, overwhelmingly like the concept. The poll:

Education Next also found skepticism about teacher quality: The average adult believes nearly one in four teachers deserves a ‘D’ or an ‘F.’ Even public school teachers see plenty of bad apples in their midst: They would give, on average, 13 percent of their peers poor grades. The poll also found that 41 percent of adults believe teacher unions have a negative effect on the local schools, while 34 percent say they have a positive effect. Those numbers have not changed from the last poll, despite an increasingly public campaign to undercut unions.


California Republicans want to reverse limits on school reserves

Kristin Olsen

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) wants to eliminate one of the most controversial parts of this year's budget -- limiting the amount of money that schools can put into reserves. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

By Chris Megerian LA Times |

19 August 2014  ::  California Republican lawmakers want to revisit one of the most controversial parts of this year's budget debate, proposing legislation on Monday to remove new limits on how much money school districts can keep in their reserve accounts.

The limits, proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, were inserted into the budget in the closing days of negotiations in June. They would only take effect under a narrow set of circumstances -- voters would need to approve a ballot measure for a statewide rainy day fund in November, and lawmakers would need to fill a portion of the fund dedicated to schools.

Nonetheless, the limits have angered education officials, who say the state would be dangerously limiting schools' financial flexibility. Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto), who wrote Monday's proposal with Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield), said school reserves could become "far inadequate from what's necessary to maintain financial health and stability."

Republicans could face an uphill battle in reversing the limits, which are strongly supported by the powerful California Teachers Assn. The union says schools should be forced to spend money in the classroom rather than "hoarding" it in reserve accounts. School administrators say the union is simply trying to make more money available during contract negotiations.

Olsen said she'll be working on winning over Democratic support for her legislation.

"Many Democrats and Republicans are like-minded, that this was the wrong direction to move," she said.


GOP: Reverse Budget Reserve Restriction On School Districts

by Ben Adler, Capitol Public Radio |

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Monday, August 18, 2014 | Sacramento, CA | PermalinkA new rule in this year’s California budget package is drawing anger from school districts – and calls from Republicans to overturn it.

Each year, the state recommends a minimum budget reserve for school districts. Now, thanks to a last-minute provision in this year’s state budget, there’s a maximum as well: either two or three times the minimum, depending on how big a district is.

To Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, that’s ridiculous.

“Just when we finally climbed out of that hole, we’re putting this on them, and saying – and now, you can’t build healthy reserves," says Olsen. "It’s not fair and it’s bad for students, and it’s bad for teachers alike,” she says.

But Democrats are defending the cap as “very reasonable” and say it would rarely be used.

“We want them to have a healthy reserve, just as we want the state to have a healthy reserve. We just don’t want them to be sitting on unnecessarily high amounts of money when that money should be getting into the classroom,” says Assembly Budget Chair Nancy Skinner.

The Republican proposal is unlikely to move forward in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.


By GLORIA ROMERO / Staff Columnist Orange County Register |

Desert Trails Elementary parents and guardians walk to file a petition in 2012 calling for their school, in the Mojave Desert town of Adelanto, to be converted to a charter school. The state's “Parent Trigger” law enabled the move.


Published: Aug. 18, 2014 Updated: 4:24 p.m.  ::  The “Parent Trigger” law I wrote in 2010, to empower parents to make sweeping changes in failing schools, has been deemed no longer available for parents to use in several California districts, including Los Angeles Unified. Under the law, if 50 percent of the parents sign a petition to choose a transformative option at a chronically underperforming school deemed eligible for transformation, the change can take effect.

It’s an empowering law, declaring a philosophical belief that parents should be the architects of their children’s educational futures, and that kids should not be left to languish in failing schools.

How could a California law, enacted by a majority of the Legislature, have just been vanquished? Why were the public – and legislators – not told, allowing us to immediately challenge the legality of that action? Even more stunning, I discovered that this decision had been made nine months ago, but had been kept quiet.

I learned about this during a meeting to discuss upcoming actions of my newly founded California Center for Parent Empowerment, and LAUSD lawyers mentioned that the Parent Trigger law could no longer be used in the district due to a waiver it received last year regarding federal educational requirements. The waiver, according to the counsel, enables not only LAUSD, but other “reform” districts to bypass the law.

Immediately objecting to their interpretation, I demanded a written legal explanation, and on Aug. 13, they wrote, “[Y]ou inquired as to the District’s position on whether the Parent Trigger option is currently available to district parents … . [T]he district’s position is that it is not.”

Their denial is based on the federal waiver, combined with last year’s passage of Assembly Bill 484, replacing the STAR testing program with a new state testing assessment system that put an end to schools receiving Academic Performance Index scores. They opine, “Through the CORE waiver, LAUSD schools are relieved from the requirement to take correction actions pursuant to … [federal laws]. Therefore, LAUSD does not have any school subject to corrective action … which is a requirement for a school to be ‘triggered’ under the … Act.”

With a signature, the right of parents to enact change was erased. While Supt. John Deasy articulated his support for the law, the district’s actions nullify it. Is their position legal? I have asked state counsel to pursue a legislative ruling. Other CORE school districts impacted are in Long Beach, Santa Ana, San Francisco, Oakland, Fresno, Sanger and Sacramento City.

Meanwhile, troubling questions abound: Who knew about this, and when did they know it? Why the silence? Sadly, even Parent Revolution, a nonprofit that has organized parents to use the law, remained silent. A letter from their director to LAUSD written last November – nine months ago – while disagreeing with the district’s position, acknowledges silence: “You stated that LAUSD would not go public with this position, but that when parents do exercise their rights under the law, LAUSD would, at that time, invalidate that petition on the basis that the district is not subject to state law.”

Why keep quiet? Essentially, the revolution would not be televised, the public kept in the dark. They knew of the invalidation even when Parent Revolution and LAUSD jointly proclaimed that parents had “averted” having to use the law and securing $300,000 to hire more adults at the  school. Was this a fake – an Argo-ized production?

Corruption runs rampant when government hides the truth. We should all be outraged by the suppression of truth. At least now we know.


2cents smallGloria Romero’s other claim to Education ®eform Immortality, AB1381 didn't work out all that well either, being declared unconstitutional by the Superior Court, the Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court. The two laws are polar opposites, one puts all power in the hands of the mayor the city of Los Angeles, the other in the hands of parents. Not all parents, mind you - only those parents who signed the petition. The petition that can be secretly circulated.  And you’re not allowed to un-sign the petition.

Gloria, now a columnist for the OC Register wraps herself in the ®eform agenda again.and pretends outrage as other ®eformers  (ie: John Deasy)  repudiate the law she wrote that only benefits one organization: Parent ®evolution – an unholy owned subsidiary of The LA Parents Union– itself an offshoot of Green Dot Public Schools. 


Another (and far more interesting) article in the same issue of OCR asks Have Badgers have returned to Orange County? Don’t badgers, like ®eformers, eat their young?



By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

Posted: 08/18/14, 9:01 PM PDT   ::  Although Los Angeles Unified teachers were told Monday they could use a scaled-back version, the district’s new computer system continues to be plagued by problems.

For instance, the recently abridged version of MiSiS eliminates seating charts from its attendance tracking, but reportedly still takes such an excessive amount of time to load that some teachers have opted to stick with paper logs.

“We encountered some challenges, but together we continue to get past the hurdles, with school-based staff voicing issues and our technical team working to resolve them,” according to a statement from Los Angeles Unified.

The district’s inspector general will launch an audit of the program and the circumstances surrounding its failures, district spokeswoman Ellen Morgan said.

The audit is in response to a request from school board member Tamar Galatzan, who represents parts of the San Fernando Valley. She wants to know how the faulty system was allowed to be deployed in a move that “severely crippled basic and essential services at every school and most departments in the district.”

“What I expect is if the district is going to roll out a new program that’s going to impact our schools, students and parents, that it’s rolled out properly,” Galatzan said. “I also think the board should have been given updates.”

Board member Bennett Kayser warned Superintendent John Deasy in a July 21 letter that the system was “causing major disruptions” at Bell High School, which operates on a year-round schedule.

While he noted his previous support for the system, which aims to centralize records by consolidating a number of existing programs, and acknowledged such efforts rarely go off without a hitch, the problem at Bell “seems well out of bounds as to what is acceptable,” Kayser wrote in his letter.

Despite his warning, the school district pushed ahead with launching the system. As a result, students were delayed in registering for classes as the system lost their schedules and records, along with other glitches that made MiSiS unavailable at times during the first week of school and Monday afternoon.

Counselors and school administrators were forced to revert to paper logs to schedule classes and enroll students. The district’s administration has yet to say how much money the program’s problems will cost in overtime.

Karen Wolfe spent the weekend before school opened at Marina Del Rey Middle School helping educators at her daughter’s campus manually assign classes in simple spread sheets.

Wolfe said there was no records to tell whether kids should be scheduled for advanced or remedial classes. Tracking the number of kids in a class, she said, was also time-consuming and difficult.

“They had no data to track these kids or know easily how many kids were going into a class; there were chair shortages,” Wolfe said. “It was very taxing. I sat at a computer and opened an Excel document and helped punch in the classes so there could be a roster for each teacher and schedule for each student.”

More than 20 years ago the district lost the records of a student with learning disabilities, failing to address her special needs and telling her to repeat the 10th grade for a third time.

District officials say they launched MiSiS this year to comply with the terms of a settlement made in federal court stemming from that incident.

While district officials could have rolled the program out over the course of the year, they decided to push forward with its launch on school’s first day, Aug 12.

The teachers’ union reported Monday that it continues to hear “horror stories,” as counselors still can’t schedule students’ classes in a timely manner or provide them with text books due to the system’s problems.

Additionally, up to 57 students have been assigned to a single class, as counselors can’t balance class sizes, according to a statement from United Teachers’ Los Angeles.

“It is time for the school board to demand accountability from the superintendent,” UTLA stated.

LAUSD trustee calls for probe of computer system

BY FERMIN LEAL /STAFF WRITER , Los Angeles Register |

Aug. 18, 2014 /Updated Aug. 19, 2014 9:26 a.m.  ::  A Los Angeles Unified School Board member is calling for an audit of the district’s much-maligned new student data system, saying it’s been riddled with problems since it launched on the first day of classes last week.

School board member Tamar Galatzan sent a letter to the district’s inspector general requesting the audit of the My Integrated Student Information System, known as MiSiS.

The system “has severely crippled basic and essential services at every school and at most departments in the district,” Galatzan said in the letter to Inspector General Kenneth Bramlett.

MiSiS was designed as a one-stop shop for teachers, principals and parents to track grades, class schedule, attendance and other records of the district’s 650,000 students.

Other critics of the system include school board member Bennett Kayser, counselors, teachers and the district teachers union, which called for the system to be delayed until next school year while the issues are resolved.

Reported issues include students not being able to get class schedules, teachers having problems accessing attendance sheets and the interface locking up when staffers are inputting data.

“I want to know why we deployed a system without safeguards in place to ensure it was working effectively,” Galatzan said. “We need to find out what happened.”

Kayser said he’s received multiple reports from schools that the system is causing major disruptions. Officials could not say how many of the district’s schools are experiencing problems.

“I have supported the implementation of MiSiS and know that such efforts seldom go smoothly,” Kayser said. “This, however, seems well out of bounds as to what is acceptable.”

Superintendent John Deasy last week said problems with the system are not as widespread as critics say they are.

District officials said Friday that fewer than 1 percent of district students had been affected by problems with MiSiS.

The district asked teachers to take attendance on paper for now and vowed to continue working to improve the system, according to a district statement.

“At times, the system has been slower than expected,” the statement said. “We are working around the clock to get the system running smoothly. We will not stop until the system provides the services that we expect.”


District breathlessly announces+spins implementation of  policy changes that have been ongoing at least five years


By JENNIFER MEDINA, New York Times |

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second-largest school system in the country, behind New York City, but has the largest school police force, with more than 350 armed officers. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

AUG. 18, 2014 | LOS ANGELES — After years of arresting students for on-campus fights and damaging school property, Los Angeles school officials are adopting new policies to reduce the number of students who are disciplined in the juvenile court system.

Under new policies expected to be introduced Tuesday, students who deface school property, participate in an on-campus fights or are caught with tobacco will no longer be given citations by officers from the Los Angeles School Police Department. Instead, they will be dealt with by school officials.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second-largest school system in the country, behind New York City, but has the largest school police force, with more than 350 armed officers.

A report last year by the Labor/Community Strategy Center, a civil rights group, found that students at Los Angeles schools were far more likely to receive a criminal citation than students in Chicago, Philadelphia or New York.

Several studies, including one released last year by the federal Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, have found that black and Latino students are far more likely to face harsh disciplinary procedures. A department study released this year found that black students faced more severe discipline as early as preschool: Nearly half of all preschool children suspended were African-American.

Michael Nash, the presiding judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Courts, who was involved in creating the new policies, said that the juvenile justice system was overtaxed, and that the changes would ensure that the courts were dealing only with youngsters who “really pose the greatest risk to the community.”

“There are enough studies that show bringing them into the justice system is really more of a slippery slope that leads to negative outcomes and poor futures,” Judge Nash said. “The people who are in these schools need to deal with these issues, not use the courts as an outlet. We have to change our attitude and realize that the punitive approach clearly hasn’t worked.”

Judge Nash cited examples of students who were sent to court for using profanity while arguing with a teacher.

“What is the court going to do? The kid is going to lose a day of school, and the family is going to get a fine they aren’t going to be able to afford,” he said. “What’s the point of that?”

Both Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have decried the negative impact of “zero tolerance” policies. National studies have also shown that students are more likely to drop out if they are arrested, and many advocates have long criticized harsh discipline as part of what they call the “school to prison pipeline.”

School systems in Northern California and Georgia have also made similar changes in recent years.

“We want schools to be a place where kids are pre-med or pre-jobs, not pre-prison,” said Manuel Criollo, the director of organizing at the Labor/Community Strategy Center, which has pushed for the changes in the district for years. “Students really have been profiled inside the school setting, instead of getting the help they need from school counselors.”

Students 14 years old and under received more than 45 percent of the district’s 1,360 citations in 2013, according to the Strategy Center. African-American students, who account for about 10 percent of the total population, received 39 percent of “disturbing the peace” citations, typically given for fights.

A citation is referred to the county Probation Department, which can then prevent teenagers from receiving a driver’s license. An arrest usually leads to a mandatory appearance in Juvenile Court for the student and his or her parents, and often a fine. Cases of arrested students are passed to the district attorney, who decides whether or not to pursue charges.

“We’re talking about schoolyard fights that a couple of decades ago nobody would have ever thought would lead to arrest,” said Ruth Cusick, an education rights lawyer for Public Counsel, a nonprofit group that helped draft the new policies. “The criminalizing of this behavior only goes on in low-income communities.”

In 2012, Los Angeles school officials stopped citing students who arrived late for class. That has reduced the number of citations for absent students by more than 90 percent, while attendance rates have largely stayed steady or improved, Judge Nash said.


LAUSD policy restricts use of citations, arrests

By Susan Frey | Ed Source |

August 19, 2014 | Students involved in relatively minor offenses on school campuses will no longer be cited or arrested under Los Angeles Unified’s new policy, which takes effect this school year and spells out alternatives district police officers must follow.

The policy, which was formalized in August, requires district police to refer students to school administrators or an off-campus city resource center if they are involved in crimes, such as theft, damaging school property, fighting, or possession of tobacco, alcohol or marijuana.

The policy also limits arrests for battery unless there is an injury that requires medical attention or a pattern of repeat offenses. Students who have committed battery would also be sent to a FamilySource Center or YouthSource Center (for older youth), which are staffed by the city and the district.

“Juvenile court should be the last resort for youth who commit minor school-based offenses,” said Los Angeles County Juvenile Delinquency Court Judge Donna Groman in a news release. She said schools are better equipped to address school-time behavior through restorative justice and other alternative means. “I applaud LAUSD and will ensure that the new policy is shared both nationally and statewide as a model response,” Groman said.

For the past couple of years, district police have informally been following this policy after community organizations and the federal government took issue with the disproportionate numbers of African-American and Latino students cited or arrested for relatively minor offenses, entangling them in the juvenile justice system at often young ages. In 2012-13, the L.A. school police department issued about 3,499 citations compared to 7,740 in 2011-12, said Zoe Rawson, a legal advocate with the Community Rights Campaign, which along with Public Counsel, a public interest law firm, has been working with the district to change the approach taken by school police.

“Citations were the response to almost anything that happened,” said Zoe Rawson, a legal advocate with the Community Rights Campaign.

“Citations were the response to almost anything that happened,” Rawson said. “Although they have been decreasing dramatically, we needed an official policy that spells out a process for how kids are referred to alternatives.”

Even though things are improving, Rawson said, in 2013 L.A. school police made nearly 1,100 arrests, with 94.5 percent of those arrested being African-American or Latino students. African American students made up less than 10 percent of the population, but received 31 percent of all arrests.

Some bad behaviors, such as possessing tobacco or stealing something worth less than $50, automatically will go to a school administrator, Rawson said. Administrators will be relying on restorative justice practices, where students have to make amends for the problems they have caused. For example, if a student used spray paint on a school wall, that student could be required to clean off the graffiti and apologize to the school community. More serious offenses could require the student to go to the off-campus resource centers, where counselors can determine what the surrounding circumstances are and deal with the root causes of the misbehavior. Students and their families can get help, such as enrolling in a substance abuse program.

In addition, if police need to arrest a student, the officer should consider ways to not disrupt the learning environment if students do not pose a threat, Rawson said. Instead of pulling a student out of class, for example, the officer could wait until the class was dismissed.

The new policy follows the passage of the School Climate Bill of Rights by the L.A. Unified School Board in May 2013 that “laid out a vision of where we want the district to go,” said Ruth Cusick, an attorney with Public Counsel. Police Chief Steve Zipperman “has been a good-faith partner at the table with us,” she added.

woman speaking at a podium surrounded by students

<<Credit: Courtesy of Shamar Theus | Bryanna Jones, a member of the Black Organizing Project, speaks to the Oakland Unified school board in support of limiting the police role on school campuses.

The policy is based on the idea of a “graduated response intervention model” promoted by a Georgia judge, Steven Teske, in a 2011 report. The model “recognizes that students that may have committed the same offense have different needs and different risk levels,” Cusick said. She pointed out that 45.5 percent of students receiving citations in the first half of 2013 were 14 years old or younger.

“These are children in need of support and resources rather than a school response that previously had been so harsh,” Cusick said.

However, L.A. Unified is not requiring that police officers contact parents or another adult chosen by the student before interrogating students, something that has been put in place by three other unified districts – Pasadena, San Francisco and Oakland.

“Unfortunately, we have nothing yet around interrogation and questioning,” Rawson said.

Susan Frey covers expanded learning, foster youth and adult education. Email her or Follow her on Twitter. Sign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.





LAUSD to decriminalize student fights, petty thefts and minor offenses

August 19, 2014 7:52AM  ::  The Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday is set to announce a major change in the way students are disciplined for some offenses. School police will no longer issue citations for most campus fights, petty theft and other minor offenses, but instead refer students to counseling and other services. Students involved in most fights – which make up about 20% of all student arrests – will be referred to city YouthSource Centers for counseling and other services. Students involved in minor theft or possession of alcohol, tobacco or small amounts of marijuana also will be referred to school or community officials rather than the criminal justice system.

L.A. Unified police to stop citations for most minor campus offenses

August 18, 2014- 11:23PM  ::  In a groundbreaking agreement, Los Angeles Unified school police will no longer issue citations for most campus fights, petty theft and other minor offenses but instead refer students to counseling and other services, district officials are set to announce Tuesday.  The decisive step away from punitive law enforcement actions reflects growing research that treating minor offenses with police actions does not necessarily make campuses safer, but often pushes struggling students to drop out and get in more serious trouble with the law.


LAUSD announcing new strategies for student discipline

August 18, 2014 2:18 pm


Cambios en disciplina para estudiantes del LAUSD

AUG, 19, 2014 9:00 AM EST ::  Un nuevo cambio en cómo se aplican las medidas disciplinarias a los estudiantes del Distrito Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD), y que ya ha sido puesto en marcha, será oficializado hoy cuando se realice el anuncio oficial. Las nuevas medidas buscan que la Policía Escolar tenga un menor rol en los recintos escolares, y además incorporarán protecciones a los estudiantes y alternativas al sistema judicial juvenil.


Los Angeles schools make discipline less harsh

August 19, 2014  :: Students at the nation's second largest school district will be shielded from prosecution and sent to administrators for low-level offenses as part of a sweeping reform to the way school police respond to bad behavior. Zoe Rawson of the Community Rights Campaign says students caught fighting or possessing alcohol or marijuana will receive interventions by a guidance counselor or school administrator, a shift that will prevent students, especially minorities, from becoming mired in the criminal justice system.