|BY NAUSH BOGHOSSIAN Staff Writer|
LA Daily News
7/30/06 - Unlike Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's school takeover campaign, the last great effort to reform Los Angeles Unified used a grass-roots strategy to win control campus by campus.
For eight years, LEARN - Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now - brought parents, teachers, administrators and others together on governing boards of individual campuses, eventually organizing 375 schools, or nearly half of the LAUSD.
Launched by businessman-philanthropist Richard Riordan before he became mayor of Los Angeles, LEARN was headed by Mike Roos, a former state assemblyman and political insider.
The movement started with hundreds of civic and community leaders defining a plan over months of meetings and then taking the strategy out to school sites, where stakeholders spent long hours training and developing their own organizations.
But LEARN began foundering in 1999 after it was hit by a perfect storm of events: Roos quit, new Superintendent Ramon Cortines recentralized authority downtown, and visionary teachers-union leader Helen Bernstein was killed when she was hit by a car while campaigning for city charter reform.
Reflecting on the widespread backing of the public, political and educational leaders that LEARN had, Roos today sees sharp contrasts with Villaraigosa's top-down reform effort, brokered in a backroom deal with powerful teachers unions.
"All the ideas that are currently being proposed suffer from the lack of genuine community engagement," Roos said in an interview last week.
"Ours was a much different approach. We brought everybody we possibly could into the room, but we really were very quiet until we were ready with a consensus plan. There were very few dissenters.
"We found that if you're locked out of the room, it just breeds contempt and suspicion and it devolves trust. We went the opposite way. Everybody was in the room - parent groups, leaders in the business community, leaders in the nonprofit community - we had every organization head that had anything to do with children." (emphasis added)
At the outset in 1991, LEARN brought together 635 civic and community members to debate various ideas until they agreed on a plan they believed would effectively turn schools around.
Villaraigosa's original intent was to take over L.A. schools directly and turn the superintendent into an education czar with a mandate to give greater autonomy in some areas to local schools and the communities they serve.
But that unleashed the most heated debate on school reform since LEARN came on the scene, and has led to deals that have produced much less clear authority lines and prompted the school board and Superintendent Roy Romer to mount an aggressive campaign in defense of their record.
At the same time, it has created an opening for others to push their own agendas for local empowerment, including the mayors of smaller cities that are part of LAUSD and Steve Barr, head of the highly successful Green Dot charter high school movement.
Earlier this month, Barr launched the Los Angeles Parents Union to organize local communities to take over their neighborhood schools. Green Dot's goals include creating campuses with less than 500 students, setting high expectations for students, paying teachers more and giving parents, principals and teachers control over budget and curriculum at the school-site level.
Barr said the key lesson to learn from LEARN's demise is not to put all the hopes and dreams of the program on one person. He attributes the program losing steam to the death of Bernstein. A successful program, he said, needs to have the backing and involvement of the public.
"When she died, it seemed to take all the energy out. That's always a scary thing. You have to re-create yourself in other people. One lesson I've learned is if the main person is gone, can you create a sustainable organization?"
Amid criticism that the growing number of factions splintering off the LAUSD reform movement could stymie real change, those who have studied mayoral takeover believe it could have a positive impact by sparking dialogue and engaging the public.
Professor Francis Shen, a fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and co-author of a study five years in the works on the effects of mayoral-control school systems, sees the intensity of the debate in Los Angeles as potentially helpful over time.
Los Angeles is different from other cities like Boston, Chicago and New York when they were on the path toward mayoral control because there was more "unilateral movement and control working in partnership with a superintendent" to determine the best reform strategy, Shen said.
"Strong opposition is not new. What I think is unique about L.A. is ... the number of diverse interests that are coming to the table, but that's a challenge that I think is a necessary part of this sort of reform.
"The fact that all these people are involved is a good thing because people are putting their cards on the table and there's discussion, and it's happening in a way that hopefully will be evaluated year to year."
Ideas on the table, like Barr's parents union, is one of the direct and positive results of the mayor's proposed reform.
"Maybe it does complicate it, but it becomes an opportunity to shake things up a bit and look at opportunities that weren't there before," Shen said.
Without true community engagement, the reforms will fade into oblivion, Barr said.
"The only thing that's going to dislodge this is the vast majority of us - parents, taxpayers - have to rise up collectively. Then we can talk about some real reform. Until it happens, it's illusions and strategic diluting of bold ideas."
But true engagement of the community is still lacking, said John Rogers, associate director of UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.
"I think that you have a handful of players in L.A. who continue to take up most of the space on the educational landscape, and we don't have sufficient community voices and a structure in which those community members (can) be heard," Rogers said.
"The only way you create greater democracy and transparency in the system is through action from below. Different parent groups have to make their voices heard, and I think there's potential for that to happen."
Officials at the Mayor's Office said the reason for the deluge of proposals was because of the reform vacuum created by LAUSD over decades of resisting change.
Experts who have studied the legislation, Assembly Bill 1381, cite the mayor's proposed authority over three clusters of the district's lowest-performing schools as the most direct and palpable reform item in the bill, with direct accountability.
"I think the reason people are pushing these reforms is for decades the district has resisted any outside attempt or ideas for reform, whether with charter schools or small learning communities, and a defense of the status quo," said Nathan James, a spokesman for Villaraigosa.
"When you have collaboration between parents, teachers and the mayor, particularly in low-performing school clusters, I think the process will be open and people will be able to get involved, unlike parents feeling increasingly frustrated today that the district is unresponsive to parent concerns."
While agreeing that the debate being generated around education is a healthy one, Romer insisted significant reform already is taking place.
He cited the district's $19 billion construction program and adoption of a standard systemwide curriculum, to which Romer attributes five years of steady test-performance increases. He also listed new algebra reform and moving toward small learning communities.
"It is absolutely untrue, and for them to keep repeating it is pure propaganda," Romer railed. "In terms of reform, the reform we've made in building is radical, and that affects children and learning, and our reform in curriculum is radical. We have all kinds of reform. It is just not true that this is a status quo district."
LEARN-like school-based management still exists in some form at 557 of LAUSD's approximately 700 schools, said Shannon Murphy, spokeswoman for LAUSD.
District officials maintain that LEARN is still vibrant at their schools, having embedded in the system the idea of collaboration. It laid the groundwork for districtwide curriculum changes, which they credit for test score improvements.
"I think LEARN put a great foundation in place and instructional reforms that have happened districtwide over the last six years have been a wonderful complement to it," said Jim Morris, superintendent of Local District 2, who served as principal at one of the first LEARN schools in the district.
"It put some good structures in place and helped the district be in a place to talk about instructional reform. I think a lot of folks are excited about what we're doing instructionally right now. I think the excitement now is about teaching."
Those who were involved in the LEARN movement during its inception say that what exists today at LAUSD schools is a pale imitation of the idea's original intent.
"It was like the tragedy of a space shuttle exploding. Everybody who sees it understands that it exploded, but the rocket keeps firing and moving forward," Roos said. "That's what happened with LEARN. There are a lot of people who are still moving forward, not knowing they're not tethered to a deep and wide-based movement."
Monday, July 31, 2006
Playground Reform of the LAUSD
July 31, 2006
THE CHILDREN OF THE LOS ANGELES Unified School District are going overboard these days with rude behavior. Such name-calling, such insults.
Oops, sorry. Those aren't the kids. They're the grown-ups.
Understandable mistake. As legislation to carve up governance of the school district moves forward, the posturing has heated up to the point of political neener-neener. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa berates and belittles the district with questionable statistics. Superintendent Roy Romer delivers an over-the-line retort, likening the mayor to the architects of Japanese American internment. The mayor then reacts to this relatively minor miscue with dramatic outrage and demands a retraction. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger then has Villaraigosa's back with a quick verbal jab at Romer, implying that the superintendent deserves to be fired for the "horrible" job that's been done running the district.
The governor's staff needs to do a better job on prep — the point of the legislation is to disempower the fractious and glacier-slow school board, not the superintendent, who is leaving in September anyway after having made real improvements at the schools over the last few years. Those improvements, though, have been far from Romer's boast of being "spectacular." This is a district desperate for change, not fictitious accolades or poisoned barbs.
It can become easy to forget that underneath the verbal fireworks lurks an actual piece of legislation, and that it remains a step in the wrong direction. The bill comes before the state Senate Appropriations Committee in one week, and though Villaraigosa's office has been hard at work amending it, so far nothing has emerged that would move it in the necessary direction — true mayoral control of the schools.
Last week, the mayor's office released tentative amendments that were minor in nature, aimed more toward shielding the bill from opposition than devising a strong new structure for running the schools. A proposal to let the mayors of southeast cities take over a cluster of campuses, meant to drum up support from those mayors, appears to be failing. The smaller cities in the district are mostly opposing the bill.
Rather than setting up a broad policy to clear up the lines of accountability over the schools, every version of the bill so far muddies matters by dividing up responsibilities and micromanaging who gets to do what under which circumstances. This is one of those cases in which getting partway there — some mayoral control instead of full mayoral control — isn't a step forward but a retreat toward even more confusion and lack of progress. It could put off genuine reform for years.
This page continues to support real mayoral control as the best way to pull the schools from inertia and to inject swift, meaningful reform. We continue to hope the mayor will deliver that reform, instead of a bill that does more for childish politicians than for undereducated children.
smf notes"es: "Last week, the mayor's office released tentative amendments that were minor in nature....?" The mayor's office may have shown tentative amendments to the Times Editorial Board under a news embargo - but "released" is not the operative word! The mayor's amendments are the closest held secrets in politics!
Friday, July 28, 2006
On Thursday evening July 27th PTA District Presidents Linda Ross of Thirty-first District PTSA and Scott Folsom of Tenth District PTSA addressed the Assembly Education Committee hearing at
SCOTT: Honorable members of the Committee, Mr. Mayor, Governor Romer, Members of the Board of Education and fellow stakeholders in the education of the children of Los Angeles.
I am Scott Folsom, President of
We (note that first person plural pronoun) will hear a lot about LAUSD tonight, but we all need to agree on one fact: LAUSD IS ALL OF US: parents, educators, students, taxpayers, citizens and non-citizens, PTA members and not, mayors, politicians school board members — until we can get beyond the "us" against "them" we are stuck in neutral.
Linda Ross, from 31st District and I have been asked to give PTA's perspective in AB 1381. We have divided up the duties - but we are not playing good cop, bad cop. We are parents and parent leaders, not policemen. I am going to describe PTA's position on the legislation and Linda is going to give our vision of how we get from where we are to where we think we need to be.
Both PTA Districts – with 60,000 PTA independent volunteer members in LAUSD have taken an OPPOSE position on the legislation. California State PTA with over a million members up and down the state has also taken an OPPOSE position. It isn't that PTA doesn't welcome the mayor's ideas and innovation - or his passion and engagement – because we do. It isn't because we embrace the status quo, because we certainly don't. We just don't like the legislation as written.
The bill presents a number of areas of concern:
§ Meaningful Parental Involvement – The Bill presents no specifics on involving parents in decision making other than saying parents will be engaged. We welcome parent involvement and engagement – and admit that it is lacking in the current regime – but without specifics and a true commitment we fear more of the same.
§ Accountability – Accountability is a worthy goal if somewhat of a buzz word in the current debate. But the Mayor–Council-of-Mayors–Superintendent–UTLA–Board of Education model of AB 1381 presents a nexus of accountability with an extremely vague delimiting of authority — who-reports-to-whom is a spider web with invisible lines of authority in one of the graphic representations — and nowhere in the scheme of accountability does the word "parent" appear.
- Someone has to be accountable to parents, as – and, we agree with the mayor here – parents need to be accountable to someone.
- Additionally it is unclear to whom the Superintendent – with increased power and authority – reports.
- I also serve on the Citizens' School Construction Bond Oversight Committee, with constitutionally mandated oversight of the District's 19 Billion Dollar construction and modernization program. I have real concerns that AB 1381 changes by legislative fiat the constitutional authority, contract and memorandum of understanding between the Board and the Oversight Committee — and amends voter approved bond language about how and for what the bond funds are to be spent. At the worst bond funds might be misspent. At the very least the District's excellent bond ratings could be imperiled – bringing higher interest rates, less construction and a shortfall in the building program.
§ Constitutionality – The State Constitution is pretty specific that only constitutionally recognized educational entities hold authority over public schools and also that the legislature doesn't just lack the authority to target legislation at single school districts - it is forbidden to do so. This is a leftover from the reforms of 1912 when the legislature was seen as meddling in local school districts; it was a good idea then and it still is. Additionally,
§ Equity Issues for all Students – Beyond the equity issues for Special Education, Adult Education and Magnet Programs – unaddressed in AB 1381 – we have an additional troublesome concern: The Bill proposes to create a separate and unequal sub-district – The Mayor's Community Partnership for School Excellence - administered separately by the Mayor and others - for underperforming schools and to focus additional recourses on those schools without regard to the impact on other schools and students outside the pilot. The mayor is authorized to raise additional funds for these schools – again at the expense of schools and students not selected.
Even though AB 1381 addresses School Governance issues only in the Los Angeles Unified School District, California State PTA believes that there are state-wide implications. At the June 28, 2006 Senate Education Committee hearing, State Senator Denham attempted to amend the
LINDA: Honorable members of the Committee, Mr. Mayor, Governor Romer, Members of the Board of Education and fellow stakeholders in the education of the children of Los Angeles:
I am Linda Ross, President of 31st District PTA in the
As Scott said: This evening this Committee and the good people in the audience will hear from a number of well-meaning folks with the best interest of kids at heart. Make no mistake: Every speaker from every perspective on the issue of AB 1381 speaks to you with kids in their hearts.
Some of us are supporting Mayor Villaraigosa and AB 1381. Some of us believe the LAUSD School Board and Superintendent work well just as they are. Most of us fall somewhere in between. But all of us would welcome everyone to the dialog – and to the mission of making our schools the best they can be by working together.
Let me describe where I think we all agree:
· Whatever our position, we are sure that having “winners” and “losers” in this contest of wills is not in the best interest of our children and our schools.
· We see merit in an outside force, the Mayor, bringing his energy and drive to the complex issues facing our schools.
· Serious and prolonged under-funding has hurt our children; and while the challenges ahead cannot be answered by money alone, we want all the help we can get in reversing this systematic lack of resources.
· We are proud progress has been made.
· But too many students drop out, and too many are unprepared for a productive life in our communities in the 21st century.
We are not in agreement that AB 1381 is the only way to resolve this battle; much of the current rhetoric shortchanges progress made and lessons learned. Even if implemented –and if it survives the inevitable legal challenges - we are concerned that the new law will come too late for the Mayor to have input on the selection of the new Superintendent.
If AB 1381 doesn’t become law we don't necessarily want to lose Mayor Villaraigosa’s idea of trying innovative ideas on clusters of schools where student achievement remains very, very low. That is dialog that has merit and needs to be fully discussed.
Some of us, PTA among them, believe that an elected Board of Education is critical for parental and community input to decisions that affect our children.
What we are asking for is for Mayor Villaraigosa, the School Board, UTLA and the bargaining units representing educators, administrators and classified employees, along with us - parent and community organizations – to sit down at the table and negotiate a settlement.
We don’t want lawsuits, and we don’t want fighting and rancor for one or more years to come. We think that continued fighting is not going to help our children, especially when it seems to us that there is more agreement than disagreement among the parties. We think that some leadership, from all sides, is critical.
We know that feelings have been hurt. Many harsh and nasty things have been said on all sides. But as parents, we tell our children that, as grown-ups, we must put aside hurt feelings in the best interest of our children. We are urging all involved in this conflict to meet together and resolve their differences, for the children.
No one will get all that they want. But we think everyone can get what we need to go forward and make a difference in the lives of our children and in our communities. We need everyone to work together for our children.
We do not believe that anything will be served by continuing attacks on each other. And we think that resolution is possible if everyone, on all sides, put the children first.
Friday, July 21, 2006
VIEW ONLINE/DOWNLOAD: Superintendent Roy Romer's 2nd Annual State of the Schools Address as a Quicktime Movie [.mov PodCast Roy!]
The speech will be televised in its entirety on KLCS-TV (Channel 58) on the following dates:
Sunday, July 23 - 1:52 pm
Monday, July 24 - 7 pm
Tuesday, July 25 - 10 am
Thursday, July 27 - 10 am
Sunday, July 30 - 7 am
Tuesday, August 1 - 11 am
Thursday, August 3 – 10 am
Supt. Romer Lashes Out at Villaraigosa for Criticism
LA mayor, schools superintendent trade barbs over takeover plan
Sparks fly over LAUSD control
Japanese-American leaders demand apology from Romer
Romer Defends School District In Face Of Attacks
Other cities vassals in LA school plan
Villaraigosa Proposes Free Transit Week In LA
Romer accuses Villaraigosa of using 'propaganda'
Use it or lose it
Mayor pushes reform at first town hall talk
Where Did the Love Go?
Mayor To Discuss Schools Plan In Town Hall Meetings
LA mayor, schools superintendent trade barbs over takeover plan
LOS ANGELES - As Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa touted his proposal to take over city schools, the schools superintendent used his annual state of the schools ...
LA mayor, schools superintendent trade barbs over takeover plan
LA School Official Criticized After His Own Critical Remarks
LA mayor, schools superintendent trade barbs over takeover plan
Mayor, Superintendent Trade Barbs Over Takeover Plan
LA mayor, schools superintendent trade barbs over takeover plan
Mayor demands apology
LAUSD Superintendent Defends His Record
At Mayor Villaraigosa's Town Hall Meeting in Westwood last Thursday evening charter school advocate and would-be parent's union founder Steve Barr – speaking for the Mayor's Plan, chose to attack PTA – characterizing the organization and its meetings as monthly fights and shouting matches.
I've been to more than my share of PTA meetings, I've seen some where honest disagreements have broken out – democracy is like that.
But Steve, your child will never know a child with Polio. That's because PTA fought in the 1950's. You have seatbelts in your car because PTA fought in the '60's. Your child rides in safety in a car seat because PTA fought in the '70's. The federal government is engaged in Public Education because PTA fought. PTA fought for those Title One funds your Green Dot Schools receive. Poor children get free and reduced price school lunches and there are kindergartens in public schools because PTA fought. School Zones and Child Labor Laws and Parental Involvement ….and those infuriating safety caps on medicine bottles because we fought.
Week before last Governor Schwarzenegger recognized PTA's advocacy for the Arts, Music and Physical Education in California in an event at Hamilton High School …and came though with nearly a billion dollars in funding. And yes: Bake sales and after school programs and the Fall Carnival. All from those monthly fights from those meddlesome moms and dads.
There already is an independent parent's union - and it has grass roots locals at school sites, it has councils, districts and state organizations in every state. It has a national office. It has six million volunteer dues-paying members nationally; one million in
It is PTA ...and we are not just punch and cookies. Join the fight.
Los Angeles Tenth District PTA/PTSA
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
California State Board of Education | 916-319-0827
1430 N Street, Suite #5111
Sacramento, CA 95814
Sunday, July 16, 2006
By David J. Hoff | Education Week
July 12, 2006 -- The United States needs a fundamental change in the way it allocates money to public schools—something that will not be easy to achieve even though it is desperately needed, a bipartisan, philosophically diverse group of policy leaders is contending.
The ad hoc group—including three former U.S. secretaries of education, two prominent former governors, and many other well-known policymakers—says that schools' budgets should be based on per-pupil allotments that are weighted according to students' educational needs. And it rejects the widely promoted "65 percent solution," an approach that calls for districts to spend at least that percentage of their budgets in the classroom.
In its manifesto arguing for what is called weighted-student funding, which its leaders dub the "100 percent solution," the group says the method differs from prevailing budget practices that often shift resources away from the schools that need them most.
"The key change from traditional approaches is that money is allocated to schools not based on staffing levels or programs, or just the number of students, but on the characteristics of the students attending the school," the group of more than 70 says in "Fund the Child: Tackling Inequity and Antiquity in School Finance," a 67-page report released in June. "Students with greater needs (poor, disabled, or English-language learners, for example) receive more money as part of their allocation, allowing their schools to provide the education they need."
Among the signers of the proposal are Rod Paige and William J. Bennett, who each served as secretary of education under a Republican president, and Shirley M. Hufstedler, who held that post under President Carter. Other supporters include Democrat James B. Hunt Jr., a former governor of North Carolina; former U.S. Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., who once led the House education committee; and John Podesta, a White House chief of staff under President Clinton.
The group also includes former schools superintendents for Cincinnati, Seattle, and San Francisco—districts that have been using the weighted-student formula. The Houston Independent School District started phasing in a program that incorporates many of the group's ideas when Mr. Paige was the superintendent there before becoming President Bush's education secretary from 2001 to 2005.
LEFT AND RIGHT
"This is something that appeals to both the reasonable left and the reasonable right," said Chester E. Finn Jr., the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Washington-based think tank that organized the effort.
"For each, it solves a big problem without creating a new one," argued Mr. Finn, who was an assistant U.S. secretary of education in the Reagan administration, in which Mr. Bennett also served.
Under the weighted-student funding model, extra money is funneled to the schools that need it the most, answering liberals' complaints that education dollars are inequitably distributed, Mr. Finn said.
For conservatives who emphasize school choice, it ensures that a fair share of money follows students who enroll in public but largely independent charter schools—something that's not happening now, said Mr. Finn, citing research by his pro-charter Fordham Institute. (EdWeek: "Study Finds Charters Receive Far Less Aid Than Regular Schools," Aug. 31, 2005.)
Some prominent education leaders, however, take issue with the group's arguments for the method, which doesn't address efforts to increase the amount spent on schools or how to raise revenues for them.
"When you're talking about redistributing insufficient funds, it's not going to do any good," said Reg Weaver, the president of the 2.8 million-member National Education Association.
A New York City lawyer fighting to increase state spending on schools agreed that while the weighted-student funding formula does address schools' need to be adequately funded, it fails to explain exactly how it would improve student achievement.
"What we're concerned about is that people are going to talk about this as the panacea," said Michael A. Rebell, the director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University. "It's a step backward because it's so convinced of what the answers are."
The report also places too much emphasis on ways that weighted-student funding could supplement charter schools and choice within the public system, and glosses over the benefits of decentralizing district bureaucracies as an argument for weighted funding, said Tom Mooney, the president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, a 20,000-member affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
And it fails to explain how districts that adopted weighted-student funding would address issues such as teacher pay, he added.
Under weighted-student funding, the report warns, veteran teachers may be forced to transfer if their schools can't afford their high salaries because resources have shifted to needier schools, and teachers at schools with bigger budgets may get bonuses not available elsewhere. That would be a dramatic change from current practice that teachers would have a hard time accepting, said Mr. Mooney, who reviewed the report and decided not to endorse it.
"You can't force-march teachers to create some perfect distribution" of resources, he said.
Regardless of such complexities, states and districts are looking for new ways to finance schools to meet the ambitious goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act and state accountability systems, one state official said.
"Accountability is driving people to better understand what kind of investments it takes to close the achievement gap," said Paolo A. DeMaria, the associate superintendent for school finance for the Ohio Department of Education.
The Edmonton, Alberta, school system in Canada pioneered weighted-student funding in the 1970s under then-Superintendent Michael A. Strembitsky, who endorsed the "Fund the Child" report. (EdWeek: "An Edmonton Journey," Jan. 26, 2005.)
[smf notes: Edmonton is Bill Ouchi's favorite example district in "Making Schools Work"]
While the process of determining school budgets based on per-pupil allotments is not revolutionary, it does dramatically shift resources in most districts, said one researcher who has studied district budgets.
Most districts allocate resources to schools based on teaching and staff positions, said Marguerite Roza, a senior fellow at the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, in Seattle.
But that method usually skews budgets toward schools serving well-to-do students. For example, said Ms. Roza, teachers with the most experience—and thus the highest salaries—gravitate toward those schools, and parents in those schools are aggressive advocates for extra staff and resources. She chose not to endorse the reportbecause she wants to remain neutral on the topic.
With weighted-student funding, though, teacher salaries are part of schools' total budgets, and affluent parents face obstacles in arguing for additional resources for their children's schools. "It's hard for them to come down to the school board meeting and say, 'We deserve more than that school there,' " Ms. Roza said, because the school with more money has greater needs.
Because weighted-student funding does shift resources, districts that have adopted the method usually phase in the changes to blunt the initial impact, she said.
In Cincinnati, Mr. Mooney said, the district kept the existing teacher-salary schedule. When it came to accounting for teacher salaries in schools' budgets, each teacher's salary was counted as if it were the average for the district. That way, teachers did not need to change schools when the district switched to the weighted formula, said Mr. Mooney, a former president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.
For weighted-student funding to be successful, according to "Fund the Child,"federal and state officials also must embrace it.
But that would require them to change existing funding formulas that are often written to spread money across states and districts in ways that garner widespread support from lawmakers. The current formulas often favor the constituents of powerful legislators, regardless of whether schools in the areas they represent serve the neediest students.
"We're saying this [weighted-student funding] is the right way to do it, and we'll see if anyone wants to try this," Mr. Finn said in an interview. "We're not naive about" the political challenges, he said.
TARGETING '65 PERCENT'
In the political arena, the idea of weighted-student funding counters the so-called 65 percent solution, which is an effort to ensure districts spend at least 65 percent of their budgets on classroom expenses.
Texas and Georgia have adopted the 65 percent rule in the past year, and voters in Colorado and Oklahoma will decide the fate of ballot initiatives on such plans this fall. Promoters of the idea see it as politically popular, and it is designed to benefit Republicans. ("Group's '65 Percent Solution' Gains Traction, GOP Friends," Oct. 12, 2005.)
In a June 27 commentary in The New York Times, former Secretary Paige promoted weighted-student funding as the "100 percent solution" and called the 65 percent solution "one of the worst ideas in education."
Mr. Finn said the 65 percent solution is a bookkeeping exercise that doesn't force educators to address any of the academic challenges facing schools. "It's the equivalent of fast food," he said. "It fills your tummy, but it's not very nourishing."
The "Fund the Child" effort doesn't contradict the goals of the 65 percent solution, said Timothy F. Mooney, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based political consultant for First Class Education, the nonprofit group promoting the 65 percent solution.
"If 100 percent of the money followed the child to the school," he said, "you could still put 65 percent back into the classroom."
SIGNING ON: Former top officials are among those backing what is being called the "100 percent solution."
U.S. secretary of education, 2001-2005
William J. Bennett
U.S. secretary of education, 1985-1988
Shirley M. Hufstedler
U.S. secretary of education, 1979-1981
James B. Hunt Jr.
Governor of North Carolina, 1977-1985 and 1993-2001
Governor of Michigan, 1991-2003
U.S. secretary of the treasury, 2001-02
Member, U.S. House of Representatives, 1975-2001
President and chief executive officer, Center for American Progress; chief of staff for President Clinton, 1998-2001
Director, Education Trust
Founder, Broad Foundation
SOURCE: Education Week
complete list of signers:
Download the full report 'FUND THE CHILD: Tackling Inequity and Antiquity in School Finance" in .pdf format.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
MAYOR'S ALLY BEGINS NEW ROLE ON SCHOOL BOARD: Monica Garcia Brings Dissent To A Group That Was Unified Against A Villaraigosa Takeover.
By Joel Rubin, Times Staff Writer
Garcia, who was overwhelmingly elected last month to fill a vacancy on the seven-member board, was sworn in during a brief morning ceremony.
A close ally of Villaraigosa, Garcia is certain to complicate the dynamics on the board. For months, the often fractious board has united in its efforts to fend off Villaraigosa, who is trying to wrest away much of the board's authority.
In an interview this week, Garcia said that she supports proposed state legislation written by the mayor, the state's powerful teachers unions and allied lawmakers. The bill would reshuffle the district's power structure, including effectively giving the mayor veto power over the board's selection of the district superintendent.
Last week, Garcia sent a letter to some members of the state Senate Education Committee urging them to support the bill. "The existing governance structure has poorly served our local communities," she wrote.
And in her first comments as a board member, Garcia repeated her often-used statement. "We have to embrace change," she declared, in her usual booming voice. "We can absolutely do better by our children."
Villaraigosa lost what could've been critical support this week when the mayors of six cities with about 60,000 students attending the Los Angeles Unified School District came out against the proposed legislation — Assembly Bill 1381. In a strongly worded letter to their representatives in the state Assembly and Senate, the six mayors said Villaraigosa's plan would create a "diffused and confusing oversight structure" that would leave residents of their cities, all in southeast
The bill calls for the mayors from the 27 cities within the district to vote on the hiring and firing of the superintendent. But because 80% of L.A. Unified's 727,000 students live in
In a statement, Villaraigosa said he does not view the mayors' opposition as a setback. He acknowledged that, if the bill passes, he would have greater say in the selection of the superintendent but that he "recognizes that reforming our schools will require a partnership between schools and communities and will work to build consensus around the selection of the superintendent."
School board members have fought against the mayor's challenges to their authority, angrily rejecting accusations by Villaraigosa and his supporters that they are opposed to reform. They point to a successful overhaul of teaching in elementary grades and the district's massive school construction project as evidence.
Marlene Canter, who was selected unanimously Thursday to a second year as board president, acknowledged that Garcia's presence could confound the board's stance against the mayor's efforts to have some control over the nation's second-largest school system. "We have become really close over the last six months as we've united in opposition to the bill," Canter said. "I assume this is going to create some internal tensions that we'll have to deal with."
In recent weeks, the board has met in closed session frequently to strategize about how to counter the mayor's campaign, as well as to discuss its search for a replacement for outgoing Supt. Roy Romer.
In an interview, Garcia vowed to uphold the confidentiality rules board members must adhere to under the state's Ralph M. Brown Act, but indicated that she plans to maintain close ties to the mayor.
"I'm interested in him being part of this process," she said, referring to the superintendent search. "I have to because I see him as part of the solution."
Board members, including Garcia, all sounded positive tones Thursday, saying they were hopeful the schism over control of the district would not bleed into discussion of policy decisions facing the board.
Indeed, Garcia, 38, waded right into district matters. She joined union officials and members of the grass-roots group Acorn at low-performing
More pressing to Garcia, perhaps, is the board's controversial decision last year to require students, starting with the freshman class of 2012, to complete a rigorous course of college-prep classes to graduate.
As an aide to Jose Huizar, who was a school board member before joining the City Council, Garcia was instrumental in the initiative and has said she will now push strongly to implement teacher training programs and increase resources to ensure students are prepared for the requirement.
Also on Thursday, parents from throughout the district gathered to unveil the Los Angeles Parents Union. Steve Barr, founder of one of the city's leading charter school operations, formed the group in an attempt to offer parents a voice in the debate over reforming the district.
"Nothing big will happen in this city until you start organizing the parents," he said.
A call for smaller schools is the main platform of the group, Barr said. Using as a model his independently run Green Dot charter schools, Barr said the group will lobby for such things as campuses with no more than 500 students and increased freedom for teachers and principals to make decisions.
Times staff writer Michelle Keller contributed to this report.
LAUSD PARENTS DEMAND CHANGES:
By Alison Hewitt, Copley News Service | Daily Breeze
They were led by Steve Barr, founder of the charter school system known as Green Dot Public Schools, who said the union will not attempt to build more charter schools, but will use the lessons learned in charter schools to work for change within the LAUSD.
"There are a lot of parents (at the meeting) who are in communities that are coming to Green Dot and asking them to open charter schools in their neighborhood out of desperation," Barr said. "What we're saying to them is, 'Hey, forget opening charter schools in your neighborhoods. Let's organize and take over the existing schools and demand that all schools have the same values as our charter schools.' "
At Thursday's meeting, most of the parents in the audience also stood to make statements.
"There are lots of good teachers in the district but there are more bad teachers," said one Spanish-speaking mother, who addressed the group through a translator. "But we can't hold teachers accountable because they are so well protected by their union ... so we need a union to help us, too."
But Barr emphasized that the aim was to unite the parents, not to attack teachers or take over the school board -- although he added that if the school board does not support the parents union, he believes the parents have the clout to replace board members.
"If people get in the way, we may have to replace them," he added. "When there's only 10,000 to 20,000 votes in a school district board election and you're organizing parents by the thousands, they're going to have a say."
The union's goals include keeping all LAUSD schools to 500 or less students, making sure every student can go to college by requiring college prep courses and increasing school-based control of budgets and hiring and firing.
The new union hopes to make progress by getting involved in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's effort to increase mayoral control of the schools, Barr said, and a mayoral spokesman agreed there is significant overlap in their goals.
"The tenets that they laid out, like the small schools -- the mayor has for a long time supported the idea of small learning communities and increased local control," spokesman Nathan James said.
A.J. Duffy, president of the teachers union United Teachers Los Angeles, applauded the parents for organizing.
"Anybody who interjects themselves into the discussion about quality education helps advance the debate, and that's good," Duffy said.
And while he added that he's not a "fan" of charter schools, Duffy nevertheless said that charters have provided many good lessons about how to run good schools.
In the coming weeks, the Los Angeles Parents Union plans to hold "teach-ins" and "coffee talks" in communities all over LAUSD to explain its goals to more parents and recruit more community members into the union, explained Green Dot associate Ryan Smith.
"What I'm asking each of you to do is to organize your neighbors," Smith told parents. "We'll have a lot of people who've seen small schools work come to talk about how we can do this in our communities. ... Let's make sure we all mobilize together."
UTLA CASH RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT ENDORSEMENTS: Groups took donations, backed LAUSD overhaul
By Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News
Parents' and community groups that have backed UTLA's school reform vision have received thousands of dollars from the teachers' union, officials acknowledged Wednesday - a disclosure that raises questions about the organizations' independence.
Community Coalition, Inner City Struggle, CARECEN, Families in Schools, One L.A.-IAF have received more than $40,000 in donations since October 2005 - some, just days after they publicly endorsed the union's proposal for reforming the Los Angeles Unified School District.
A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said the union has contributed regularly to some of the groups over the past few years but vehemently denied it had "bought" the groups' support.
"We donate to organizations whose philosophy matches ours and all of these organizations are parent community groups that believe, as we do, that the bureaucracy is out of control and that teachers and parents are natural allies and ought to be partners in crafting a reasonable and sensible education program for students," Duffy said.
"It's ludicrous to think that community groups like ACORN, One L.A., Community Coalition and CARECEN can be bought by anyone.
"Those are community groups with great integrity who are constantly fighting for the rights of parents and students," he said.
After months of being at odds on the issue of mayoral control of LAUSD, the UTLA and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa brokered a deal at the end of June to overhaul Los Angeles Unified - a plan that would give greater control to local school sites and the mayor more authority over district operations.
Several groups subsequently came out in support of UTLA, including The Say YES to Children Network _ which organized a protest Jan. 26 at LAUSD's headquarters criticizing the district for spending money on public relations rather than in the classroom.
Documents show that the group received $5,000 from UTLA in April.
Los Angeles Unified school board member David Tokofsky said the contributions call into question the groups' rationale for supporting the plan. He also used the disclosure of the donations to blast critics who have questioned the district's campaign to retain the status quo.
"To criticize the school district for putting a little investment into government relations and communications during a very heated piece of legislation, when nobody tried to deceive anybody about what that was - this borders at best on disingenuous and at worst doesn't maximize the real abilities of these organizations," Tokofsky said.
But the disclosure of the donations should be useful information to the public in weighing the positions taken by individuals and organizations, said Raphael Sonenshein, political science professor at
"I would expect that people on both sides of this debate are going to pull out individuals and groups who are within their political family who may appear to have independent positions to take but may not be as independent as they appear," he said.
"This is a `let the buyer beware,' and the advantage of what the media can do is help clarify who are the main players in the debate, the satellites, and who are the genuinely independent voices."
Since Duffy took over as UTLA president, the union has tried to expand its donations and interaction with community groups, said Joel Jordan, director of special projects at UTLA.
But One L.A. officials said the $20,000 represents the payment of the union's annual membership dues. The group also received $25,000 from UTLA in 2004-05.
"We're not promoting UTLA's agenda. We're representing the community of people in our neighborhoods, and with this particular issue, the parents and families in the Los Angeles Unified school system," said Yvonee Mariajimenez, a One L.A. leader in the
CANTER RE-ELECTED AS
"I call upon all leaders, including every board member, to remember that we are role models for our children," Canter said. "Partnerships don't need to be legislated, but I am committed to building relationships across this district, to ensure that our children have the very finest education."
Last month, Canter was named Los Angeles Business Journal's "Female Executive of the Year" for her leadership on the school board.
Canter's fellow board members noted she is serving as president during a trying time, as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pushes the Legislature to revamp the way the nation's second-largest school district is governed.
"This past year has not been easy, and next year may be even harder,” board member Mike Lansing told Canter, "but you've been a force to keeping us together and moving on the path forward."
Board member Jon Lauritzen echoed
"You've stood up to the plate and done the job above and beyond what has been asked of you," Lauritzen told Canter, who said she is up to the challenge.
"I am confident that whatever happens in the political arena, my colleagues and I will remain focused on our first, most important job -- creating the best, forward-thinking education policy we can, to ensure that LAUSD becomes the best urban district in the nation," Canter said.
Board presidents are responsible for conducting all regular board meetings. The president also names committee members and chairs special sessions to take action on matters that must be heard before the next scheduled board meeting.
The president's voting power is equal to that of fellow board members.
Canter started her career in education more than 30 years ago as a special education teacher at Alta Loma Elementary. She later co-founded Canter and Associates, a teacher-training company, which was sold to Sylvan Learning Centers in 1998.
Canter was elected to the board in 2001 and to a second term four years later. She authored the ban on soda and junk food in schools and headed a plan to improve the quality of teachers hired.
The Southeast Cities School Coalition (SCSC), largest block in 'Council of Mayors', repudiates AB 1381
With apologies for the quality of the copies, the SCSC's letter and position paper is reproduced here.
First, the Mayor has failed to produce a scintilla of evidence that he -- or anyone else, for that matter -- can do a better job than the LAUSD is already doing right now.
The LAUSD's graduation and drop-out rates do not prove mismanagement. Sure, those statistics may be worse than they were 30 years ago, or worse than other schools in other parts of the nation. But the LAUSD, unlike any school system anywhere in the world at any point in history, has been asked to educate massive numbers of children from a foreign country, who do not speak the language, whose culture does not value education, and whose families' economic plight requires them to spend their time after class on work, not homework.
Unless the Mayor can point to another school system with a comparable student body and better statistics, he cannot legitimately criticize the LAUSD based on its graduation and drop-out rates.
Second, the Mayor has expressly excluded from his plan the one element that supposedly improved schools in other cities that adopted mayoral control.
Third, the Mayor has neither identified exactly what changes he -- or his appointee -- would make, nor explained why the LAUSD is unable to adopt the same changes right now. Does he have any particular plan, other than to take control of the $7.5 billion annual budget by appointing a proxy? Or are we simply supposed to trust that his "vision" will somehow translate into concrete change at some point?
Fourth, this particular Mayor has no special expertise in education. It is not as though he has an advanced degree in education, or ever worked as a teacher. On the contrary, he apparently had his hands full just being a student. Under the circumstances, it seems more reasonable to assume that the LAUSD Board Members, each of whom has had a career in education, will tend to make better education decisions than a busy Mayor who is supposed to oversee the police department, the fire department, the airport, the harbor, etc.
Fifth, the plan does not increase accountability, but instead decreases it. Right now, the Superintendent is responsible to the Board, and the Board is responsible to the voters. The voters, in turn, can now vote for a Board Member solely based on his or her educational platform. Under the Mayor's plan, by contrast, the Superintendent will have two masters, namely, the Board and the Mayor; and individual schools will be accountable to no one, apparently, with respect to their curricula.
Sixth, the Mayor's plan would put everyone through massive upheaval, only to have us revert to the status quo in six years. Experimental programs are fine, but not when conducted on the entire 727,000-student system. If the Mayor has a few ideas about running schools differently, let him propose a charter school, and let us see how well it works before we hand the whole system over for six years.
Finally, the Mayor's plan would violate the City Charter insofar as it calls for the Mayor to take immediate and direct control over the "bottom" five percent of the schools. The plan is therefore guaranteed to result in expensive litigation, with taxpayers likely footing the bill for both sides as the City and the LAUSD "duke it out" in court. Nor does it make any sense to split these schools off from the rest: if Villaraigosa's appointee is going to improve the other 95%, then why not let the appointee control these schools, too?
Under the circumstances, the Mayor's plan deserves an "F." Reform for the sake of reform is a mistake. Public policy should rest on informed analysis, not a knee-jerk impulse to "do something." Unless and until the Mayor can show that the LAUSD is mismanaged, and that the Mayor can do a better job, we should focus on real reforms, like smaller class size.