Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WATCH WITH GLITTERING EYES: The READesign + Grand Opening of the Valerio Elementary School Library

By smf for 4LAKidsNews

31 October 2012

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.

Roald Dahl - The Minpins (1991)

Also from the Minpins:

Little Billy’s mother was always telling him exactly what he was allowed to do and what he was not allowed to do. All the things he was allowed to do were boring. All the things he was not allowed to do were exciting. One of the things he NEVER NEVER was allowed to do, the most exciting of them all, was to go out through the garden gate all by himself and explore the world beyond.

Roald Dahl’s advice is for children.

He wrote for children, about children. He was mercenary enough to know that adults would buy the books and maybe even read them aloud. But locked in the cadence and  the code and the comic dark vision with the Quentin Blake illustrations is the message confirmed: Adults are up to no darn good!

imageThe adults in Roald Dahl’s books are hapless, twisted or just plain bad.

When Anna Martinez, the principal of Valerio Street Elementary School quoted the “Glittering Eyes” passage above at the dedication of the new library at Valerio I knew she was either one of those adults who quote the quotable because it’s the adult thing to do (making her hapless or worse) …or she truly believes it.

Then I saw her eyes glitter eyes along with the third graders in the room – alive in the promise and the magic of their new library. She is  an adult to be trusted. But carefully – she’s still an adult! clip_image001

smf: I haven’t read this one, but I wonder what got into someone at British Rail to trust Dahl with the message that adults were any better at running  railroads that then they are at running schools or the lives of children? >>

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield – not just an adult but a politician – noted that Wednesday (Halloween) – was a spooky day. But he found the library “inspiring”. And that “inspiring” is the opposite of looking at the future as “spooky”. The third grade teachable moment – iand t’s always good to work in those SAT/ACT Vocab Words.

Some of the other adults spoke to the kids in a style Dahl would’ve found ironically amusing in a “proving-the-point” way – talking down, going all children’s TV host smiley-voiced and obsequious. Dahl taught us that kids know better. Adults are big and clumsy and awkward around small things; uncomfortable in their small furniture – challenged by children’s unlimited imaginations and obsessed with an orderliness that would line them up and make them wear funny hats with the logos of the corporate sponsor.

But I am letting my dark take get in the way of an extraordinary celebration.

Target Stores, in cahoots with the Heart of America Foundation and LAUSD has made-over the library at Valerio – as they have at 6 other LAUSD schools this year and at 150 schools nationwide.

This is an extraordinary program.

imageThe library has new shelves and paint and trim and new technology and bundles of i-Pads and 3000 new library books.  Two-hundred-and-fifty Target employee volunteers descended on the school Wednesday, shelving books and assembling furniture; building a reading garden outside with raised planter beds and mulch and plants. I have never seen so many red t-shirts outside a UTLA rally.

In addition to the books in the library each of the 1200 students gets seven age-appropriate books to take home – to keep for their home libraries.- plus picture books for their siblings too young for school

And while the program feeds young minds it also provides nourishment for their family’s stomachs – with a thirty pound bag o’ food for each family member. And the food part will be repeated monthly for the year.

Food for Thought. Food for Souls. Food for the Heart. My heart sings, and if I could carry a tune I’d sing an aria for Target and Heart of America and their partnership with Valerio Elementary and LAUSD.

Partnership is a commitment and Target and Heart of America have held up their part of the deal. I do not doubt that the Faculty and Parents and Kids of Valerio will hold up their end.

image But LAUSD does not have a good track record of playing well with others. And a Thank You for the nice gift won’t cut it. This Valerio’s second donated library – Wonder of Reading give them one before.

Children learn to read in the classroom.  they read-to-learn – and hopefully learn to love to read – in the library.

Unless the school district becomes committed to elementary school libraries as the most important classroom in the school, the place where young readers make the next step to become independent learners – on their way to becoming scholars …unless the District guarantees that all schools have libraries and that school libraries will be staffed with Teacher Librarians or professional Library Aides (Librarians by any other name) with assistance and training and support – and with more than three hours a day of paid time – we have made a promise to these partners and the children of the school we can’t keep ….and built a nice shiny book room.

The next time there are lay-offs will LibraryAides be the first to go? Again.

Will Teacher-Librarians forced to justify their jobs in administrative hearings? Again.

Senator Alex Padilla in his remarks made frankly and directly to the kids and the adults told of how he spent many afterschool hours in his school library, awakening his love of knowledge.

The school library being open after school is not in the plan. As a matter of fact, visits to the library by the school’s preschoolers and kindergarteners – the ones who would benefit most from being exposed to the library and read to – isn’t in the plan.

With three hours a day there isn’t time. With three hours a day in a 1200 student school the librarian has 45 seconds per student per week.


Here’s some more information on the Target/Heart of America READesign Library Makeover Project:

  • What is READesign® Library Makeover ?
  • What are READesign® Library Makeovers Like?
  • How are partner schools selected?

I know: blah/blah/blah//yada/yada/yada:The following is a Data Download for the Data Driven. (Those of us who are anecdotally driven know that kids need books in their lives and poor kids don’t have many …most don’t have any at all.)

We don’t need the percentages and ratios, we are already horrified.

  • California is 51st in the nation (last with DC included) in Librarian-to-studemt-ratio.
  • More than 15% of the children in the United States live in poverty. On average, these kids have one or two age appropriate books in their homes. Sixty-one percent of the children in low-income families have no books at all. And while the national average estimates 18 books per student in school libraries*, many schools in depressed areas often have less than one book per student.
  • Recent studies confirm that the availability of reading material is the strongest predictor of a child's ability to read and later academic achievement.
  • Yet millions of at-risk elementary school-aged children are without this basic resource. Someone needs to believe in these children before they can believe in themselves. And the Heart of America Foundation® does.

* The goal of LAUSD is 9 library books per student. What does it say abaout us that our goal is half the national average?

YES ON 30 & YES ON 38

Letter To The Editor of the Santa Monica Mirror by Mary Ann Garvey, Treasurer University High (LAUSD) PTSA  |

Oct. 30, 2012, 9:18 am 

Dear editor:

Help our schools on November 6th by voting yes on both Propositions 30 and 38!

California schools have the largest class sizes in the nation, they rank 50th out of the 50 states. California schools also rank 47th nationally in per pupil spending. California voters have the opportunity to do something about this by voting yes on 30 and 38

Voting for both 30 and 38 increases the likelihood that one of the initiatives will pass. A divided vote will make it more difficult to achieve the simple majority needed. Should both pass, the one with the largest majority will become law. As Californians, we all need to contribute to improving our schools because we will all share in the benefits better schools will bring to our state’s economy and quality of life.

Proposition 30 will provide $6 billion a year in additional revenues for the first 4 years (2013 – 2016) with a ¼ cent increase in sales tax and a higher state income tax for earners over $250,000. The amount for the remaining 3 years (2017 – 2019) will be less since the revenues will be based only on the state income tax increase.

Proposition 38 will provide $10 billion a year in additional revenues for 12 years (2013 - 2024) with a progressive state income tax increase. (You can find out what your additional tax obligation after all deductions will be at These funds will be in addition to the Proposition 98 guaranteed funding for schools. In the first 4 years of Proposition 38, 30% of the $10 billion raised will be used to pay off state debt, thereby freeing up funds in the state budget for other expenditures; 60% will go directly to K-12 schools and 10% will used for Early Care and Education for preschoolers. For the remaining 8 years Proposition 38 is in effect, 85% will go to schools and 15% for Early Care and Education. (You can find out how much your school(s) will receive during these 12 years at

Join me in voting yes on 30 and 38 to ensure that at least one of these propositions passes. California schools need more funding. That’s a fact! It is up to us voters to make sure our schools receive it.

  • Mary Ann Garvey is a former member of the California State PTA Board of Managers, past president of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA  and is  Treasurer University High School PTSA . Her opinions are her own – but are shared by 4LAKids.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


By Rob Kuznia Staff Writer, Daily Breeze |

Updated:   10/29/2012 10:14:25 PM PDT  ::  When Marlene Canter, a former Los Angeles school board member, first came up with the idea to build a brand new elementary school in Playa Vista, some people called her crazy, arguing that the Westside neighborhood lacked the density to support a new school.

On Monday, the brand-new Playa Vista Elementary School just off Lincoln Boulevard held its official grand opening ceremony, complete with statements from politicians, educators, parents and students - many of whom were not yet born when the plan to build the school was conceived.

The road from start to finish was rife with obstacles and controversy.

Speaking before an audience of about 200 people Monday afternoon, Canter said the skepticism of her colleagues on the Los Angeles Unified School District board was understandable.

"We're talking about a district and people who lived in severely overcrowded areas," she said. "In Koreatown, we built many schools in one small area. So for them to envision that there was a need for a school on the Westside by the ocean ... it was just beyond their thinking.

"It took the parents - my constituents - and their strollers, and many, many pregnant moms (to) convince the school board that, yes, this was going to be a community for children and for families, and that they needed a school here."

Canter added that the school kicked off its inaugural year this August with five kindergarten classes.

"That tells you the kind of  need we have for a school," she said.

Officials claim that Playa Vista Elementary - a magnet school focusing on science, technology, engineering and math - is one of the nation's most environmentally friendly schools. Among its sustainable features are the recycled carpet, use of recycled rainwater, solar panels and 32 miles of underground piping for a geothermal heating system.

"This is really a once-in-a-lifetime project for an architect," said Michael Pinto, design principal with the Glendale-based firm Osborn Architects.

Playa Vista Elementary is among about 130 new schools built under a $1.5 billion LAUSD initiative to ensure that all children in the district have the option of attending a neighborhood school. About 20 of those schools - including Playa Vista - opened this fall.

The campus is built in the shadow of a hill upon which sits Loyola Marymount University, which has entered into a partnership with the campus and LAUSD to provide professional training for teachers as well as program support on some of the school's urban ecology and environmental programs. In return, Westchester-based LMU faculty and staff are allowed to enroll their children.

Plans for the school date all the way back to 1993, when it became apparent that Playa Vista's massive housing component would likely lead to an influx of hundreds if not thousands of school-age children.

A decade later, officials were agonizing over several environmental concerns. The school's 4-acre lot, for instance, included an area where Hughes Aircraft employees used to conduct firefighting drills on fuselages, stoking fears that chemical solvents may have seeped into the ground. Others fretted about the pockets of methane in the area.

Questions also arose as to whether the site was located above an American Indian burial ground.

One by one, the kinks were worked out.

Among the luminaries present on Monday afternoon was U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a veteran South Bay Democrat who represents in the area.

"It is so special to have something really good going on at Los Angeles Unified School District we can brag about for a change," Waters said


— Dalina Castellanos, LA Times/LA Now |

Photo: A nurse loads a syringe for a flu vaccine injection at the Mississippi Department of Health in Jackson, Miss. Credit: Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press

October 29, 2012 |  2:19 pm  ::  Four schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District will offer free flu vaccination clinics Tuesday for students, their families and staff, district officials announced Monday at the Edward Roybal Learning Center.

Student leaders in the school’s library were told about the risks of getting sick and the responsibility of spreading the word about the vaccine.

“When you get the flu, you’ll know it. It knocks you off your feet,” said Kim Uyeda, director of medical services for the district.

The illness’ effects aren’t confined to those infected, she said. One sick person can affect others’ lives as well.

“Parents have to stay home from work to take care of you and you run the risk of infecting others,” Uyeda said.

Some students responded by saying they were afraid of the shot, or that their parents were worried about the cost of the vaccine.

Uyeda calmed their nerves by announcing that most people would be eligible for a nasal mist and not an injection.

“Last year I had the flu or something like it. I had a fever and a runny nose for two weeks,” said Javier Siria, 17, who said he didn’t want the shot because it would hurt.

“It was a bad experience and I don’t want to go through that again, so I’m taking the mist this year.”

Dafne Martinez, 18, said her mother is skeptical when it comes to the flu shot. “She thinks they’ll inject me with the virus and she’d rather do home remedies.”

Martinez, who wants to study nursing, said now that she’s 18 she doesn’t need parental consent for the vaccine but that she is still working to get her parents’ consent for her younger sister to get the flu shot.

“She’s a freshman, so I have to take care of her. I hope she’ll get the shot and tell all of her friends.”

The school-located seasonal influenza vaccination clinic is an extension of the school district’s Communicable Disease program, which provides more than 25,000 vaccinations in school-located health clinics annually.

According to a recent study of 4,500 elementary school students in the Los Angeles area, researchers from USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles found that seasonal influenza rates were lower and, correspondingly, school attendance rates were higher at schools with school-located influenza vaccination programs compared with schools without.

Flu clinics will be available Tuesday at Roybal and Roosevelt High School as well as Thomas Edison and Mark Twain middle schools.

Injections and nasal mist vaccines will be available at no cost to students and staff from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and to their families after 2 p.m.

“The best way to get to graduation is to have 100% attendance,” said school board President Monica Garcia. “When we’re safe and healthy, we get to our goal.”


By Tami Abdollah | KPCC 89,33 Fass/Fail |

The late astronaut Sally Ride's mother Joyce Ride and her sister Bear Ride help with the ribbon-cutting on The Sally Ride Center for Environmental Science at L.A. Unified. Democratic Assemblyman Gil Cedillo of Los Angeles helps hold the scissors. School board member Bennett Kayser looks on.  --  Tami Abdollah/KPCC

October 29th, 2012, 5:46pm  ::  L.A. Unified unveiled a state-of-the-art science facility in Glassell Park Monday that bears the name of the late astronaut Sally Ride, in hopes of inspiring a new generation of students to pursue careers in math and science.

The Sally Ride Center for Environmental Science is a $4.8 million LEED-certified facility that sits behind the Sonia M. Sotomayor Learning Academies. The 6,000 square foot facility, less than a mile from the L.A. River, includes three state-of-the-art labs that will focus on areas such as hydrology and energy. The labs have high-tech, professional grade equipment, including a photovoltaic demonstration system, a PH water lab, a centrifuge, and field spectrometers.

The site will be used not only as a hands-on science lab for students who will conduct water and soil testing and energy conservation research, but also to train teachers.

Sally Ride's mother and sister were at Monday's ceremony.

"This is the sort of thing that Sally would have been absolutely delighted about," said her sister, Bear Ride. Sally Ride was an L.A. Unified alum who attended Encino Elementary School and Portola Junior High School.

Bear Ride said her sister had been deeply influenced by her math and science teachers.

"In fact, all the astronauts I know tell stories about their teachers pushing in the old black and white TV sets to watch John Glenn being launched into space, and it was those teachers who really caught the imagination of kids," Ride said.

They "learned, if you're curious about how stuff works or why things happen, science is the way to go. There are different ways to get at that, but I think curiosity is the way to do it, hands on stuff. And this is what this center's all about," said Ride.

The facility was built and equipped primarily by a state grant to support career technical education, said L.A. Unified Board member Bennett Kayser. The facility will likely not open to all students until next fall, as the district needs more time to hire a director, sort out scheduling issues, and seek out partners for long-term funding.

In the meantime, the center is being used to train teachers, and for some experiments with students from the L.A. River School, a new pilot school. Kayser said students will be doing research that complements work done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

L.A. Unified has two other similar outdoor classroom programs, including Clear Creek near Mt. Wilson, which is located near the headwaters of the L.A. River, and Point Fermin in the San Pedro area, located at the mouth of the river, Kayser said. "Here we are, right in the center of those two sites. We should be able to do some very interesting research."

Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space and youngest U.S. astronaut in 1983. The then-32-year-old physicist and science writer was an inspiration to many women who considered pursuing careers in science and engineering. Ride, who died earlier this year, passionately championed efforts to involve young people, and especially girls, in the sciences.

L.A. Unified officials hope the center will serve as a hub for students at many schools in the area. The district has about 100 campuses that are less than a mile from the L.A. River, Kayser said.

Christopher Bibelheimer, 14, and his mom Becky showed up at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Mt. Gleason Middle School eighth-grader, who has cerebral palsy, hopes he'll be able to make use of the facility. He says the center sounds "cool" because "you're not in a book, having someone lecture at you...The fact that I get to go out and do something, that's what I like."

Democratic Assemblyman Gil Cedillo of Los Angeles urged dozens of students present at Monday's ceremony to embrace their inner nerd.

"Science is cool. It's hip. It's what's happening," Cedillo said. "Be a nerd. Own it. Be proud of it. There you go" — he said to titters in the crowd — "OK, if you're a nerd, raise your hand. If you like science and homework."

A few raised their hands.

"If you like your computer, you like your smart phone, if you like all those things."

More hands went up.

"Own it. I'm proud of you. If you're a nerd, like it. Own it."

Watch a small part of the ceremony as Luther Burbank Middle School students present the flag:

Monday, October 29, 2012


L.A. Unified School District's Academic Growth Over Time measurement system, based on students' progress on standardized tests, spurs debate over fairness, accuracy.

By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times | By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times |

LAUSD teacher evalulations

Kyle Hunsberger, a math teacher at Johnny Cochran Middle school in Los Angeles, works 60-hour weeks, makes every minute count in class and gets high praise from his principal and students. Yet, according to a key measure of teacher effectiveness used by LAUSD, Hunsberger is average. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times / June 13, 2012)

October 28, 2012, 6:28 p.m  ::  How to measure the worth of Los Angeles math teacher Kyle Hunsberger?

The teacher at Johnnie Cochran Jr. Middle School works 60-hour weeks, constantly searches for new teaching ideas and makes every minute count in class. During a fast-paced review of square roots and perfect numbers, he punctuated explanations with jokes, questioned his students to check their understanding and engaged them in group work.

His principal, Scott Schmerelson, praises him as a leader who heads the math department and started a campus program to give struggling students extra help.

Some of his students say he's the best math teacher they've ever had — a caring, funny mentor who explains well, pushes on homework and most of all believes in them.

"He always tells us nothing will stop us from learning and nothing will stop him from teaching us," said Edwin Perez, a gregarious 12-year-old, as three of his classmates nodded.

Yet, according to a key measure of teacher effectiveness used by the Los Angeles Unified School District, Hunsberger is average.

Two years ago, he said, he was rated above average. Then last year his ratings fell. He doesn't know what changed and there's nothing in his scores that will tell him.

The rating "didn't tell me anything about how I can get better at teaching [weaker] students," Hunsberger said. "The truth is, I don't know and I would love to know."

Hunsberger isn't the only instructor questioning the results of the Los Angeles school system's new approach to measuring teacher effectiveness. Academic Growth Over Time, as the district calls it, is based on students' progress on standardized test scores. The method estimates how much teachers added to — or subtracted from — their students' academic performance.

Whether it is a fair, accurate and useful assessment of educators is a heated issue in the nation's second-largest school system. L.A. Unified is under court order to use test scores in teachers' reviews by December, and officials are in negotiations with the teachers union.

United Teachers Los Angeles bitterly opposes the ratings as too unreliable for use in firing, tenure and other high-stakes decisions.

School districts in more than half the states have added students' test scores along with other factors to their teacher reviews, a direction promoted by the Obama administration.

L.A. Unified began giving teachers their scores two years ago for informational purposes only.

But it is now pushing to use it in a new teacher-evaluation system, along with classroom observations, student and parent feedback and contributions to the school. About 700 teachers and administrators from 100 schools volunteered to test the new observation portion last year.

That will give teachers like Hunsberger specific information about where to improve and how.

He questions whether his ratings were higher two years ago because he had a class of "rock star" algebra honors students, but fell last year when he had less-skilled students, many of them learning English.

"I did my best. I tried things. I worked hard," said the 30-year-old New York native who sports a neat beard and a receding hairline that he jokes about with students.

Hunsberger's questions recently deepened when he noticed a graph on the district's website that seemed to show that schools with stronger students have higher growth. It coincided with his experience that honors students were easier to push forward.

"I have to be reassured that I don't have to lobby for honors students," Hunsberger said. "I have to know that I have a shot at a good evaluation if I teach lower-performing kids."

But the rating system controls for outside factors that could influence growth, such as past test results, gender, race, income and English ability. Those controls give every teacher an equal shot at good performance ratings regardless of their students, according to Noah Bookman, the district's director of performance management.

"The important piece for people to understand about [Academic Growth Over Time] is that it allows us to level the playing field," Bookman said.

Bookman also said that the graph questioned by Hunsberger shows not that stronger students boost scores, but that good teachers produce stronger students at any level — an outcome possible for all educators, he said.

"Teachers with low, middle and high-achieving students have the same opportunity to demonstrate growth as each other," Bookman said.

Hunsberger understands the math but is not sure about the claims.

He was an early champion of the new system. The issue was personal: In 2010, Cochran's years of low test scores resulted in placement on the district's list of campuses eligible for takeover by charter schools or other groups with a credible improvement plan.

The South Los Angeles campus of 1,300 students, nearly all of them low-income African Americans and Latinos and a third who are learning English, consistently ranked in the state's lowest 10% of middle schools. Only about a quarter of students were at grade level in reading and math. The school scored in the low 600s on the Academic Performance Index, a 1,000-point achievement measure based on standardized test results that does not control for outside influences.

But down in the trenches, Hunsberger felt the picture was not that bleak. When L.A. Unified released schoolwide scores for the first time last year, the results confirmed his instincts. Although Cochran's student achievement was low, its rate of academic growth was significantly higher than the district average in English, algebra, science and social studies in 2010-11.

He and a colleague, Rustum Jacob, found "huge inconsistencies" at other schools between the state's API achievement scores and the district's scores. They urged school officials to include district ratings to identify schools for the takeover list. Last October, the district did just that.

"I very much embraced the idea that AGT [Academic Growth Over Time] represented a far better measure of a school's impact on student outcomes than API," Hunsberger said.

He became a bit of an evangelist. He agreed to test the district's new evaluation system, despite the union's urgings that teachers not participate. He joined a new group of educators, Teach Plus, whose proposed evaluation plan would count the district scores for a minimum 10% of a teacher's ratings.

But he and other instructors are still concerned — even those who embrace the idea of using objective student achievement measures in their evaluations.

Lisa Alva, a Roosevelt High School English teacher, said her score for last school year was based on 12 students and wonders how that can be valid or fair. Philip Gerlach at Markham Middle School got sterling scores but said they were skewed downward by counting students he had for just two months and don't measure his strongest suit — teaching writing.

Sujata Bhatt, another highly rated teacher who taught fifth grade at Grand View Boulevard Elementary, said the formula needs revision to account for different ranges of poverty, for instance, or English fluency.

Hunsberger's colleague, English teacher Daniel Badiak, said his below-average scores last year have pushed him to "teach to the test" more this year. Time for work on what his seventh-graders most need — basic lessons on where to put periods and question marks, for instance — is being eaten up by drilling on vocabulary that might appear on the state test, he said.

Hunsberger said he still thinks the use of the scores is "the right idea" but he intends to keep asking tough questions.

"It's got light years to improve," he said.


2cents smf:  I certainly appreciate Reporter Watanabe’s neutral tone …but The LA Times does not operate in a altruistic vacuum here, If anything The Times fired the first shot in the Teacher Assessment and Evaluation wars with their home grown+half-baked  Grading The Teachers Feature. (“The Los Angeles Times has produced a groundbreaking analysis of how effective Los…”)

But how do I really feel?

Seeing as The L.A. Times recently requested and then sued for access to the LAUSD database under the Freedom of Information Act [Times sues L.A. Unified for teacher ratings] one can only anticipate that they intend to continue to evaluate teachers with their own Value Added/Addled methodology in competition with the superintendent’s Academic Growth Over Time.


Glendale, Palm Beach, Waterloo Iowa among the 900 school districts qualified for an anticipated 15-25 grants who will not apply.

2cents smf

DO THE MATH/FOLLOW THE (NOT ENOUGH) MONEY…or sometimes the Reward of the Carrot isn’t better than being Beaten with the Stick.

smf/4LAKids: That sobbing sound you hear is the woe-is-me-ing from the 24th floor of Beaudry about the free money being left on the table. But a diverse group of school districts have opted to not compete for the District Race to the Top money. It is all reminiscent of the story of They Shoot Horses Don’t They and the dehumanizing marathon dance competitions of the Great Depression, pitting have-not school districts in a circus-like completion for not enough money. This paradigm of school funding – placing the underfunded in competition for a chunk o’ change is the same as the decade-old competition for The Broad Prize: Nobody jumps through the hoop for the prestige of saying they are the Best of Desperate. see this.

UTLA, in addition to balking at the Teacher Assessment requirement of the LAUSD RttT application, points out that the $40 million grant applied for wasn’t enough to fund the program described in the application – which would add rather than remove debt to LAUSD’s financial obligations.

The following is from Palm Beach this mooning, the morning of the RttT deadline

Teachers, Palm Beach County school district can’t agree, quash Race to the Top grant application

By Allison Ross, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer |

Updated: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 ::  The Palm Beach County School District’s goal to win a federal grant worth up to $40 million is over before the application was even submitted.

The decision was made Sunday afternoon, after school officials and representatives from the county’s teachers union could not come to an agreement over the Race to the Top grant proposal, according to a statement the district released Sunday evening.

The Palm Beach County School Board had been expected to hold a special meeting Monday to vote on whether to approve the application, which would have been due Tuesday. That meeting has now been canceled. The grant required that both the county’s teachers union and the school board sign off on the application.

Palm Beach County’s is not the only district struggling with whether to apply for the federal grant. Nearly 900 districts across the country in August sent in notices that they they intend to file for a piece of the nearly $400 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education. But since then, a number have fallen out of the running.

For instance, Waterloo (Iowa) Community Schools decided not to compete after filing an intent to apply, saying it decided it was not as competitive as it would like to be.

Meanwhile, school districts such as the Glendale (Calif.) Unified School District and the Los Angeles Unified School District are also making eleventh-hour decisions on whether to apply as they ntodegotiate with their respective teachers unions.

It’s expected that only 15 to 25 grants, worth $5 million to $40 million, will be handed out as part of this Race to the Top competition.

Debra Wilhelm, president of the Classroom Teachers Association, said there simply wasn’t enough time for all the questions and suggestions to be sorted out before the grant application was due.

“We’re not any worse off than we were before,” Wilhelm said. She said the teachers union had been hopeful to get more money into the pockets of teachers with this grant, but that “there wasn’t time to come to an agreement.”

“We’re all part of the same district,” Wilhelm said, adding that she hopes to work with the district again on securing grant money to help everyone in the district.

District and union staff repeatedly have stressed that this latest district-level grant competition is different than the 2010 state-level Race to the Top grant that Florida applied for and got.

Back then, Palm Beach County was one of only a handful of districts in Florida that refused to support the state’s application, after the county’s teachers union said the money came with too many strings attached. That meant the district missed out on millions in additional money.

“The primary thing is that this grant is the district’s creation as opposed to something that was outlined by the state,” said school board vice chairwoman Debra Robinson, who said Sunday she was disappointed the grant application is dead.

Robinson said she believes that there was miscommunication and misinformation among some in the community over the grant proposal. And, she said, there may have been some continuing “post-traumatic stress” over 2010’s Race to the Top competition.

“The people that I heard from were people who were basically still a bit traumatized by the one-size-fits-all experience and were fearful that we were trying to go down that path again, which was definitely not the case,” Robinson said.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Auto shop's long skid in the face of budget cuts and a shift toward college-prep classes may be reversing. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the San Diego Unified School District.

Auto shop is revving up again

Auto shop is revving up again (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times / October 3, 2012)

By Tony Perry and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

October 28, 2012  ::  SAN DIEGO — The days when auto shop was a major part of the high school curriculum have long since been consigned to revivals and reruns of the musical "Grease."

But auto shop's long skid in the face of budget cuts and a shift toward college-prep classes may be reversing.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the San Diego Unified School District, where officials have built automotive program facilities at three high schools and hope to upgrade shops at two other schools if voters approve a bond issue next month.

John Abad, who is 17 and studying auto body repair at a $3.7-million facility opened last month at Morse High, knows why this is being done.

"As long as people buy cars, those cars are going to break," Abad told the ribbon-cutting gathering. "We're going to be the technicians who do the repair right the first time."

Decades ago, many districts viewed training in car maintenance as a way to impart a job skill for the majority of students who were not college-bound.

But tight budgets and a pervasive emphasis on academics, especially college preparation, contributed to the decline of auto shop. During years of overcrowding in the Los Angeles Unified School District, many shop rooms were converted to classrooms, said former district administrator Santiago Jackson.

Yet many students still need vocational training, not to mention something to interest them enough to earn a high school diploma.

These are not your father's or grandfather's auto shop classes, where guys install glass-pack mufflers and cheater pipes on their cars.

"It's much more electronic, digital, computer-driven," said Rob Atterbury, executive director of Berkeley-based ConnectEd, the California Center on College and Career. The nonprofit is working with school districts throughout the state to bring back auto shop.

In L.A. Unified, most auto training is available through adult school locations, where about 1,800 students are enrolled. At high schools, efforts are underway to link surviving auto tech classes with physics, algebra and geometry — all topics important to understanding the modern internal combustion engine. This linkage with such core subjects could preserve auto shop, because it can win state approval as part of a college-prep curriculum.

An auto tech program at Belmont High is moving toward such certification. Last year, it enrolled 60 students who restored a 1960s Volkswagen Beetle, installing an electric engine, said Felipe Caceres, principal of Belmont High's SAGE Academy.

With budgets still tight, school districts have relied on partnerships with private industry and community colleges, as well as bond issues. At the Morse ribbon-cutting in San Diego, officials thanked State Farm Insurance and other members of the Transportation Industry Advisory Board.

Funding for the Morse facility came in part from a $1.5-billion bond issue approved by voters in 1998 for maintenance projects at 161 schools and construction of 12 new schools; a similar measure would raise $2.8 billion if passed in November.

Morse and other auto shop programs aim to prepare students for immediate employment or an apprenticeship, or to provide the science instruction that will help those students heading to college.

"It's not just a skill," said Shawn Loescher, director of college, career and technical education in the San Diego Unified School District. "It's a deep understanding of how things connect."

Such connections are embodied in "common core" standards recently adopted by 45 states, including California. Students, for example, are supposed to apply their knowledge of history to an understanding of literature, or principles of music to math.

Still, just like in the old days, the hands-on stuff can be the most engaging for many students.

San Diego officials believe the return of auto shop and other practical vocational classes has helped cut the dropout rate, which now stands at 6%, the lowest of any big-city district in the state.

Six of the district's auto shops focus on car maintenance and repair, while another — Morse — specializes in auto body repair, a demanding skill in the age of unibody construction.

The programs are spread throughout the city, from Morse and Crawford on the eastern edge to Point Loma and La Jolla in the west, with Mira Mesa, Clairemont and Madison in between.

The $3.7-million facility at Madison High opened two years ago. The floors are clean, the tools professional-quality. Cars are donated. Among other projects, students prepare for an annual competition sponsored by Hotrodders of America.

Students have different motives for signing up for Omar Sevilla's class. Jeremy Ross, 17, plans to enlist in the Marines and work on tanks; Kioni Bishop, 17, and Carlie Brickley, 16, want to be able to repair their own cars; and William Codianne, 16, wants to attend a trade school and make auto repair a career. Sevilla teaches four auto-shop classes, about 140 students, including a dozen girls.

"We're getting them ready for the real world," he said.


by Karla Robinson | Staff Reporter, Neon Tommy: the online publication of the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

The November ballot has drawn a line between educators and parents [Creative Commons]

October 7, 2012 | 12:50 a.m. PDT  ::  The two tax initiatives on the November ballot in California seeking to raise money for education have divided teachers from parents as the two camps look at what's in the fine print, leaving one expert to call the schism a missed opportunity that might do no good for both sides.

<< The November ballot has drawn a line between educators and parents [Creative Commons]

One proposition denies raises to teachers, but could bring more money into classrooms. The other removes the possibility of catastrophic budget cuts this year.

Both the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers have thrown their support behind Proposition 30, the initiative backed by Gov. Jerry Brown that looks to increase the state’s sales tax and income tax.

“We support Proposition 30 because it’s the only initiative that will prevent $6 billion in budget cuts this year and will begin to invest billions in new funding for our schools down the road," CTA President Dean E. Vogel said in a press release this week.

On the other side, the California State PTA supports Proposition 38, the opposing initiative that the organization collaborated on with sponsor Molly Munger; it looks to increase educational funding beyond current levels for preschool through high school.

“We do have differences of opinion,” said Scott Folsom, a member of the PTA board of managers. “It’s an argument that we’re having, and we’re saying that we need to increase funding to public education; we don’t want to hold it at the current levels.”

Although Prop 38 would increase funding to education and gives local officials more say in how the money is spent, there is one aspect that could be seen as a setback for teachers: no increased salaries.

The money raised by Prop 38 "is to be decided at the school site how it’s to be spent within certain constraints," Folsom explained. "It can’t be used to raise teacher salaries but it can be used to hire back people who have been laid off; it can be used to bring back programs like arts education and music, programs that have been eliminated in the past. It can be used to reduce class size."

There's also another reason teachers might be more inclined toward Prop 30. If Prop 30 doesn’t pass, education will be subject to trigger cuts, which Folsom says is a tricky political move and it essentially pits the initiatives against one another.

“Unfortunately, the governor and his team in pushing Prop 30 has presented their argument as ‘it’s one or the other’ and have built that into the legislation, trying to create [a situation] that they both can’t succeed,” Folsom said in a phone interview.

POLLING: Why Proposition 30 Needs Young Adults To Vote

For some people - Brown included - having two initiatives is thought to be counterproductive by confusing voters and making it less likely for either proposition to pass.

“I think the biggest problem for the governor is he would strongly prefer a single initiative on the ballot. The presence of two initiatives muddles the message,” said John J. Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. “Voters will see more than one tax measure and think that there is a concerted effort to raise their taxes ... and some voters might react by just saying no. That’s a problem.”

Folsom said his camp tried to work with the governor to move forward collaboratively.

"That did not happen,” he said.

Now, PTA and CTA are on opposite sides even though the organizations tend to align on such issues; nevertheless, the divide hasn’t created a standoff between teachers and parents as some might think.

“We don’t see CTA as being a player. CTA is purely endorsing the governor’s initiative,” Folsom said. “It isn’t a fight. This is not a fight between parents and teachers. And anybody who says it is, is just trying to manipulate the politics.”

Folsom said there is an “unfortunate contest” between the two proposals, when either passing would be a good thing for different reasons. The official PTA position is yes on 38 and no stance on 30, but Folsom says he’s heard teachers and parents alike tell him they plan to vote for both - a plan he personally advocates.

“The trouble with the ‘vote for both’ message is that you’re asking people to vote for two tax increases and that’s a lot to swallow,” warned Pitney. “A lot of Californians simply don’t believe the dire predictions of what will happen if there isn’t a tax increase. First of all, they don’t trust a lot of what is coming out of Sacramento and second, they believe a great deal of money is wasted.”

DETAILS: Prop 30 And Prop 38: Dueling Plans To Save California's Schools

As it stands now, neither side has publicly supported the idea of voting yes on both initiatives so the either-or debate continues. But don’t expect to see parents lining up against teachers at the nearby elementary school.

“It’s not so much fighting against each other as each trying to make its own case,” Pitney said. “I don’t think it’s so much animosity at the organizational level as a missed opportunity to act in concert.”

PROPOSITION 30, 38: SCHOOL SUPPORTERS DUEL OVER TAX MEASURES; Voters have two approaches to weigh in deciding whether to approve higher taxes to fund California schools.

In Napa County, local educators, school board members and college and trustees are urging a yes vote on one and a taxpayers group says no to both.

By Karen Jordan and Louisa Hufstader, Napa Valley Patch |

October 16, 2012  ::  The biggest test is fast approaching for two ballot measures designed to help state schools by raising taxes, but it will be up to voters this November to decide which proposition will pass or fail.

Propositions 30 and 38 have been the subject of much debate statewide.

Proposition 30, backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would raise the sales tax by one-quarter of one cent for four years while increasing personal income taxes for Californians who earn over $250,000 for seven years.

Those who support it, like the California Teachers’ Association and the Napa Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees, argue its failure would have a devastating impact on schools.

"The schools in Napa are pretty popular and I think people will go for it if they know what it is," said Napa High School teacher Cindy Watter during a pro-30 demonstration by teachers and students outside the education center at Jefferson Street and Lincoln Avenue Oct. 12. (See accompanying video.)

Napa Valley Unified School District teachers, students and administrators demonstrated on the corner of Jefferson and Lincoln Oct. 12, 2012 in support of state ballot Prop. 30. Napa Valley Patch talked with teacher Cindy Watter, seen with fellow teacher Joanne Gifford, and NVUSD Superintendent Patrick Sweeney. Credit Louisa Hufstader

A loss for Prop. 30 would take about a $7 million bite out of the Napa Valley Unified School District budget, according to superintendent Patrick Sweeney, who also joined the streetcorner demonstration.

"It's going to affect us deeply," Sweeney said, citing larger class sizes and fewer school days among the likely results of a Prop. 30 loss.

Napa Valley College trustee Bruce Ketron said a Prop. 30 failure would mean a $1.7 million hit to the community college, where students are already being taxed $46 a unit.

"What we're going to have to do is reduce programs on an emergency basis," Ketron said. "We can't just starve the system and not provide these services if we want people to have education for the future."

Appraiser and real estate broker Leon Brauning, past president of the Napa County Taxpayers Association, said his organization has voted to oppose Prop. 30.

During a ballot measure forum at First United Methodist Church in Napa Oct 7, Brauning called the measure the "extortion by child cruelty proposition," saying the state's June budget had increased school funding by $6 billion with "trigger cuts" of $5.4 billion if Prop. 30 fails.

"They give and then they take," Brauning said. "Did you ever hear the term 'Indian giver'?"

The taxpayers association also opposes Proposition 38, according to a statement on its Facebook page:

Proposition 38 has been primarily financed by Pasadena attorney Molly Munger. The proposal, supported by California PTA which worked with Munger on the measure, aims to increase personal income taxes using a sliding scale, with a single filer earning as little as $17,346 per year, for example, seeing higher taxes, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

Scott Folsom, vice president of the California PTA’s 10th District which covers Los Angeles County, said Prop 38 makes the most sense.

“It’s really the only initiative on the ballot that brings new funding to schools,” Folsom said. “The money Prop 38 raises is not disbursed by Sacramento. It’s decided at the local school site. The money goes directly to schools.”

However, the PTA’s official stance is it will not necessarily encourage Prop 38 supporters to vote against Prop 30, he said.

“The state PTA has looked at and decided to take no position on it,” Folsom said. “We’re asking our members to carefully look at Proposition 30 and make up your own mind.”

The PTA nonetheless sees some problems with Proposition 30.

“It doesn’t bring new money to the schools, and if it doesn’t pass, it reduces money,” Folsom said. “It doesn’t solve the problem schools are in now. If it fails, it cuts funding. It’s the reverse of bringing money to the schools.”

Prop 30 backers are playing hardball. Supporters of Gov. Brown have started a committee called Stop the Middle Class Tax Hike - No on Prop. 38 to oppose the plan. For her part, Munger has funded a TV advertising campaign against Proposition 30, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

A “yes” vote on Prop 30 means “the new tax revenues would be available to fund programs in the state budget,” according to California's official Voter Information Guide. A "no" vote means state budget cuts, which would primarily impact education programs, would take effect in 2012 to 2013.

According to the guide, a "yes" vote on Prop 38 means personal income tax rates would guarantee new funding to restore budget cuts and improve educational results. A "no" vote would mean no additional revenue from the measure would be available for schools, child care, preschool, and state debt payments.

If both propositions pass, the measure with the most "yes" votes would go into effect, according to the California Legislative Analyst's office.

Report: WEIGHTED STUDENT FORMULA ALONE NOT ENOUGH + Tipping the Scale Towards Equity

by John Fensterwald EdSource Today |

October 26th, 2012  ::  Less experienced, lower paid teachers tend to teach in schools with the poorest children, while veteran, higher paid teachers work predominantly in schools with fewer needy children, contributing to significant funding disparities among schools within most of the state’s largest school districts. That gap wouldn’t necessarily change under the education finance reform that Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed; it might even worsen under a new formula, says Oakland-based Education Trust-West in a new school spending analysis released on Thursday.

In Tipping the Scale Towards Equity, Ed Trust-West reaffirms its support in principle for Brown’s concept of a weighted student formula, allocating potentially thousands of dollars per student to districts with the heaviest concentrations of English learners and low-income students. But Ed Trust-West, which advocates for needy children, calls for the governor to include provisions that will assure that the extra money for disadvantaged students actually will be spent in the schools that those students attend ­– and isn’t diluted throughout a district. Brown’s weighted student formula did not include these requirements.

Ed Trust-West doesn’t go as far as recommending that dollars under a weighted student formula be allocated specifically to school sites and not to districts – an option that the state Department of Finance rejects. However, the report says that the burden should be on districts to justify to the public why all of the extra money for disadvantaged students shouldn’t be spent on programs in their schools, and it calls for much clearer accounting than the districts are reporting.

“Shifting to a (weighted student formula) will not result in funding equity unless the model also ensures that education dollars are equitably distributed to schools within districts,” the report says.

Ed Trust-West is not alone in concluding this. Groups including Public Counsel, the ACLU, Public Advocates, and Children Now have called for more clarity in reporting how money is used and added accountability from districts. The issue is expected to be raised in meetings next month between advocates and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst, the point person for Gov. Jerry Brown on a weighted student formula, as the administration looks ahead to resubmitting a finance reform proposal in 2013.

The Ed Trust-West report updates work it did in 2005, when it first showed disparities in state and local funding for schools within districts, primarily because of differences in teacher salaries. This had been difficult to prove, since most districts use the average teachers’ salary in a district when creating schools’ budgets. (Federal Title I aid, a significant source of money for low-income schools, was not included.) In reviewing data for the 20 largest districts for this report, serving more than a quarter of the state’s students, Ed Trust-West found a salary gap between schools serving the most and least disadvantaged students in 17 districts. The difference ranged from $736 per teacher in Capistrano Unified to $6,644 in San Bernardino Unified.

Average teacher salaries in quartile of schools with least disadvantaged students compared with quartile with the most disadvantaged for the 20 largest districts in California in 2009-10. From Education Trust-West's Tipping the Scale Toward Equity. Click to enlarge

Average teacher salaries in quartile of schools with least disadvantaged students compared with quartile with the most disadvantaged for the 20 largest districts in California in 2009-10. From Education Trust-West’s Tipping the Scale Towards Equity. (Click to enlarge.)

In three districts, higher paid teachers worked in the most disadvantaged schools, led by Los Angeles Unified, which has offered incentives for teachers to move to low-performing schools. (It also plans to use a piece of a newly announced federal $49 million Teacher Incentive Fund to award $20,000 recruitment bonuses for science and math teachers in 40 schools with disadvantaged students.) The average salary difference in Los Angeles, for 2009-10, was nearly $7,000. Fontana Unified and Santa Ana Unified were the other two districts where teachers in the most disadvantaged schools received higher pay, on average.

In a state where teachers are paid by law based on years in the classroom and academic degrees and where evaluations have been pro forma, high average teacher pay is not necessarily a proxy for teacher effectiveness. However, schools with the lowest average pay are more likely to have gone through high turnover and disproportionate numbers of layoffs. Districts facing budget cuts have eliminated teacher training and after-school programs critical to low-performing schools. Extra resources from a weighted student formula would enable schools with disadvantaged students to improve teaching, perhaps by adding collaboration periods or hiring coaches, or putting dollars into technology, extra help for English learners, or after-school programs.

Require consistent school-level spending

Ed Trust-West argues that school budgets should be transparent and there should be hearings for parents to give their say. Clarity is not the case now. Reporting of school-level expenditures is voluntary, and there are no common data definitions, the report says. And the average school-level per-student spending that the largest districts reported to the federal Office of Civil Rights is anywhere from $2,400 to $5,500 less than the per-student revenue figures they reported to the state. There may be valid reasons for the disparity – useful programs for all schools that are budgeted through the district office – but the lack of detail makes it impossible to know if money is being spent wisely or on disadvantaged students, Ed Trust-West says: “As the state considers shifting to a weighted student formula, it will be critically important that the state require districts to account for and report district and school-level expenditures transparently and consistently.”

The report praises efforts by Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified, and particularly Twin Rivers Unified to combine weighted student funding within their districts with site-based budgeting, which gives principals authority to make decisions over spending. The report recommends using extra money from a state weighted student formula for incentives for other districts to adopt site-based budgeting.


Going deeper

Analysis by Policy Analysis for California Education on the weighted student formula;

Public Policy Institute of California analysis of Gov. Brown’s weighted student formula;

Education Trust-West’s Tipping the Scale Towards Equity: Making Weighted Student Formula Work for California’s Highest-Need Students;

An explanation of the Twin Rivers site-based approach by Cristin Quealy, deputy director for redesign of the project for Pivot Learning Partners.

ETW Tipping the Scale Towards Equity Report[1]



By Jon Healey, la tIMES oPINION la |

October 25, 2012, 8:05 a.m.  ::  Backers of Proposition 38 caught considerable heat from Gov. Jerry Brown and other Democrats for airing a commercial earlier this month that attacked Brown's rival tax initiative, Proposition 30. Now the pro-38 campaign has a pair of new ads that offer no direct criticism of Brown's measure, but instead speak to 38's main weakness in the polls, as well as its best selling point.

Proposition 38 would raise state income taxes on a sliding scale for 12 years, generating roughly $10 billion a year. For the first four years, most of that money would go directly to local schools and early childhood programs; after that, virtually all of the money would go to those entities.

The biggest problem for 38, politically, is that its income-tax increase would hit Californians with as little as $7,500 in taxable earnings. One of the new commercials, dubbed "Logic," tries to solve that problem with a little political jiu jitsu, arguing that it's a good thing to ask Californians up and down the economic ladder to kick in

"We all benefit from better schools," the narrator intones. "So when schools are in trouble, we all should help out." That cleverly echoes an argument by conservatives that too many people pay no federal income tax, and that even low-income households should make at least a token contribution.


Pro Proposition 38 commercial

A screengrab from a new commercial for Proposition 38, which would raise state income taxes to increase funding for schools and early childhood programs. ( and Defend Prop 38)

The ad goes on to note that high-income Californians would be hit much harder by the tax than middle-income families. "Multi-millionaires would pay an average of 76,000 more a year," the narrator states. "Those making 25 to 50 thousand, just 54 bucks."

It closes by turning to the most popular features of the measure, saying it "guarantees" money for schools and that "every school dollars must be spent on student learning." The latter feature differentiates Proposition 38 from Brown's proposal, which doesn't place such tight controls on how schools would use the additional dollars they would receive.

The second commercial features actor Edward James Olmos bemoaning the statistics showing California 47th in the nation in spending per student. "Our schools shouldn't be 47th in anything," Olmos says. He then notes how the measure shares voters' cynicism about state government: "Proposition 38 bypasses Sacramento, and makes education a real priority -- with the funding to our local schools and the accountability from our local schools that we’ll need to improve student learning in every classroom."

There's just a faint echo here of the earlier ad's criticism of Brown's measure, which argued that the money raised by Proposition 30 could be diverted by politicians from schools to other uses. "That's why Sacramento's behind it," that ad contended.

In truth, the estimated $6 billion raised by Proposition 30 (by increasing the income tax rates paid by high-income Californians and raising the state sales tax by a quarter of a cent) would all go directly to local schools and community colleges. But the net increase in school funding would be only about $3 billion, because the measure would allow lawmakers to shift some General Fund revenue from schools to other uses.

For the record, The Times' editorial board endorsed 30 over 38, mainly because of the nearly $6 billion in budget cuts -- including $5.3 billion to schools and community colleges -- that would occur if Proposition 30 doesn't become law.

CALIFORNIA’S EDUCATION (BUDGET) REFORM: “Change waits patiently in the voting booths…”

By Kaylee Hunt, Student Journalist -Frontline El Modena High School Orange, CA/ form my hsj :

Wednesday, October 24, 2012  ::  November will soon approach and with its arrival comes the voting season. Besides the general election between presidential candidates Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, states will also be holding propositional elections. California has a long litany of propositions for its residents to contemplate, including two specifically focused on increasing the education budget.

   Propositions 30 and 38 both propose an increase in the amount of funds appointed to the education of Californians, but at the cost of California’s tax payers.

   Jerry Brown’s Tax Measure, or Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act, seeks to increase the income tax of individuals earning over $250,000 annually and a one-fourth of a cent increase to the state sales tax  in order to increase the funding into the state’s school systems and local public safety programs. The money raised through the new taxes will be deposited into an Education Protection Account, which will allocate 89 percent of its funds to kindergarten through twelfth grade schools and the remaining 11 percent to community colleges annually. The funds will also be distributed to counties throughout California to help fund public safety programs, such as the incarceration of adults, supervision of parolees, and availability of substance abuse treatments.

   Without the passage of this proposition, however, California will see budget cuts to not only education but many other departments. These “trigger cuts” will affect Universities of California, California State Universities, Department of Development, city police funds, and Calfire to name a few.

   Proposition 30 guarantees that the funds raised will be spent on education and public safety through independent audits, but opponents of the bill note that the money does not have to be directly funneled into the classrooms and city programs. Also, this proposition only guarantees a temporary solution, with the income tax increases lasting for seven years and the sales tax increase only lasting four.

   Molly Munger’s Tax for Education, or Local Schools and Early Education Investment and Bond Debt Reduction Act, provides an increase in funds allocated to education through an increase in all Californians’ income taxes. Funds raised through the new taxes will be deposited into the California Education Trust Fund, or CETF, where 60 percent will be rewarded to public schools, 10 percent to Early Care and Education (ECE) programs, and 30 percent designated to help pay down education related state debt. However, with the 2017 fiscal, funds to public schools and ECE programs will be capped and the remaining funds, approximately 85 percent of the new state tax revenue, will be redirected towards the state debt.

   With the passage of this proposition public schools in California will see an increase of an approximated $10 billion dollars in the first year. This money will be distributed amongst schools with 70 percent distributed per-student for general education purposes, 18 percent distributed per low-income enrollment, and 12 percent distributed per-student for technology updates or teacher training. Early Care and Education programs will see an increase of $1 billion dollars to be spent on a statewide rating and database system for proper program management and the availability of pre-school for low-income families.

   Proposition 38 proposes that local school districts will be accountable for proof of the spent funds ensuring that the money cannot be diverted from its predestined school, but opponents of the bill note the new procedure for accountability increases the work process for schools to receive funds. Also, this proposition puts a guaranteed tax strain on all Californians for 12 years.

    As the weather grows colder and the autumn season settles amongst all of America’s citizens, the time to prepare for change arrives not in the coming spring but in the coming weeks. Change waits patiently in the voting booths of the nation, especially in the state of California. Reforming education through either Proposition 30 or Proposition 38 will change California as it is now known to its residents.


Los Angeles Daily News  |  By Barbara Jones via Huffington Post |

Lausd Race To The Top

10/25/2012 1:59 pm EDT  ::  Facing an Oct. 30 deadline to file for a $40 million Race to the Top grant, Los Angeles Unified officials are still waiting for the teachers union to bless their application.

United Teachers Los Angeles reviewed the original application and provided feedback. Los Angeles Unified officials said they sent a revised version to the union just after noon Wednesday, but had not yet received a response.

The union's endorsement is a requirement for the highly competitive grants, which reward innovative efforts to prepare students for college or the workforce.

Among the recommended elements is the creation of data-based teacher evaluations, an issue currently being negotiated by the district and UTLA.

Superintendent John Deasy expressed concern and frustration that the district's application is coming down to the wire.

"We don't have a signature yet," he said. "I don't understand why they can't say yes to free money."

UTLA officials have not commented on the process.

The looming deadline prompted an education reform group to release a statement Wednesday urging the two sides to reach a compromise and sign off on a plan.

Educators 4 Excellence said the timing is even more critical, given the two proposed tax increases on the Nov. 6 ballot that would fund education.

"We hope UTLA and LAUSD can agree and move forward quickly on a meaningful system for teacher evaluation and support," said Ama Nyamekye, executive director of Educators 4 Excellence. "Moving forward is critical to ensuring that we are able to secure up to $40 million in federal Race to the Top dollars that the district aims to invest in better supports for teachers, smarter use of technology and individualized support and enrichment programs for students.

The U.S. Department of Education reported in August that nearly 900 school districts had applied for grants. The agency expects to award 15 to 20 grants of $5 million to $40 million, based on a district's size.

Winners of the awards will be announced in December.


By Kelly Puente, Staff Writer, San Bernardino Sun |

California Community College students march in support of Prop 30 and education funding as they dress up like zombies and take part in "The Walking Debt" march from L.A. City Hall to the governor's downtown office in Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. Approximately 150 students participated in the march. (Rachel Luna / Staff Photographer)

10/26/2012 09:58:23 PM PDT  ::  When Elizabeth Zamora received a letter from Cal State Dominguez Hills stating that her application for the fall semester was on hold pending the outcome of Proposition 30, the prospective student said she was shocked.

"It's scary to think I won't be able to get into a four-year university next year," said Zamora, who is currently attending Cerritos College. "I felt like I wanted to vote for Prop. 30, but seeing that letter made me want to vote for it even more."

From sending letters to prospective college students to using automated phone calls reminding parents to vote, education officials are pushing harder than ever for the passage of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative.

With less than two weeks before the Nov.

California Community College students march in support of Prop 30 and education funding as they dress up like zombies and take part in "The Walking Debt" march from L.A. City Hall to the governor's downtown office in Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. Approximately 150 students participated in the march. (Rachel Luna / Staff Photographer)

6 elections, officials have been stressing the potentially devastating impacts on public education if the measure fails.

But some critics call these methods scare tactics and in at least one case say the educators' efforts violated election laws.

This month, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, an anti-tax group and major opponent of Prop. 30, filed a lawsuit against Cal State Monterey Bay over an email sent by a professor urging students to support the measure.

The email urged recipients to support Prop.30 and push others to vote for it, while warning of dire consequences if it fails. It also noted that students would receive a $498 tuition reimbursement if the initiative passes.

Because the email was sent using university-issued equipment, it violates California campaign law that prohibits the use of public resources for mass political mailings, the lawsuit states.

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal said the issue of using taxpayer dollars to push for Prop. 30 is a problem throughout the K-12 and university systems.

"In our view this is a systemic campaign of public resources being used for political advocacy, which violates California law," he said.

Education officials, however, say it's their duty to make voters aware of the impacts on public education if Prop. 30 fails.

On the campuses of universities, community colleges and K-12 schools, education leaders have held numerous press conferences and rallies in recent months to promote their message.

At the latest such event Friday, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson and nearly two dozen Southland superintendents gathered at Gonsalves Elementary in Cerritos to reach out to voters.

"What we face is the biggest challenge to public education since the state of California was founded," Torlakson said. "We're here united in the hope that voters will realize what's at stake. We're here to say Prop. 30 is essential for public education to get back on its feet."

Torlakson was joined by Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy, L.A. County Superintendent Art Delgado and a group of 20 superintendents representing school systems in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Designed mainly to fund California's schools, Prop. 30 increases personal income tax on annual earnings over $250,000 for seven years and also increases sales and use tax by a quarter cent for four years, generating an estimated $6 billion annually.

Supporters say the measure prevents massive cuts to education and provides billions of dollars in funding for classrooms.

Opponents say Prop. 30 is a temporary fix that doesn't guarantee new funding for schools, and furthermore, doesn't address the need to cut waste and administrative overhead.

With Election Day closing in, the message from advocates may be more dire than ever.

A recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California found that voter support has slipped since September. According to the numbers, just under half of voters - 48 percent - would vote "yes" on Prop. 30.

Education officials said the loss of Prop. 30 would create a $6 billion hole in the public education budget, putting funding for California's schools at a historic low.

"My concern is for the future of our children as well as the future of California," said Sandra Thortenson, superintendent of the Whittier Union High School District. "Without proper funding to ensure college and career readiness for our students, they will be less competitive in the job market and university placement."

San Bernardino City Unified Superintendent Dale Marsden said the failure of Prop. 30 would mean an additional $20million cut in funding for the school system of more than 50,000 students. The loss would force San Bernardino to make cuts in music, art and sports programs, he said.

Deasy said the Los Angeles Unified School District would be forced to close 15 days early this school year and could forgo high school graduation ceremonies. The district of more than 980,000 students has already laid off 12,000 employees and made deep reductions to programs, Deasy said, adding that LAUSD has nothing left to cut.

"We can't say as superintendents what to vote for, but we can be clear about the consequences of a vote," he said.

Coupal said the push to educate voters on the consequences if Prop. 30 fails could end up backfiring.

"People look at these messages they're getting and they are distressed and even angered by it," he said. "Voters do not like being threatened."

Besides what Coupal considers scare tactics, the legal questions remain.

California election laws prohibit public officials from engaging in campaign activities while on agency time or using agency resources, such as office equipment, supplies and staff, to engage in advocacy-related activities.

However, Richard Hasen, a University of California, Irvine law professor, said the law isn't always clear.

"There is a line between information and advocacy and it's very tough to draw that line," he said.

Coupal said the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association plans to file more lawsuits alleging campaign law violations, but ultimately the hope is that the rules can be clarified.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Friday, October 26, 2012



Themes in the News by UCLA IDEA/Week of Oct. 22-26, 2012 |

10-26-2012  ::  A majority of  Californians support increased investment in public education, yet both statewide initiatives that would bring more money to public schools lag in the polls. How did California get in this mess? Earlier this year, at least three different political, ideological and educational “interests” were mobilizing for the ballot.

  1. Gov. Brown supported a measure recognizing that schools alone can’t address all the state’s health, welfare, and other supports California students require. Thus, money from his proposed measure would not be limited to k-12 schools, but could also lessen the impact of the state’s debt crisis on broad health, welfare and other education needs.
  2. The California Federation of Teachers and grassroots groups in the Restoring California Coalition favored, in particular, a “millionaires tax” that Brown initially found unacceptable. This group and Brown were able to achieve a compromise that would benefit students and not compete on the ballot. That compromise became Proposition 30, which would raise $6 billion annually for schools and other services.
  3. Molly Munger and the California PTA preferred a more restrictive approach—pretty much insisting that all the new monies go to schools and classrooms, pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. Unable or unwilling to compromise, Munger supported efforts to place her proposition on the ballot. These ideas are now found in Proposition 38, which would raise approximately $10 billion a year.

However, as Election Day approaches and television and radio advertisements ramp up, separate polls have pointed to a dispiriting likelihood—neither 30 nor 38 may pass.

Based on a telephone survey of 2,006 California adults, the Public Policy Institute of California found support for Proposition 30 dipping to 48 percent—a drop of 4 percentage points (EdSource Today, San Francisco Chronicle). Brown’s Proposition 30 would raise income taxes on higher-earners, along with a quarter-cent sales tax increase. The money would go towards public k-12 schools and community colleges. More importantly, the state budget is tied to this initiative. Should it fail, schools would automatically lose $5.4 billion, and the state’s public universities would also be forced to cut $250 million.

Support for Proposition 38, which would use a sliding scale to increase income taxes, fell even more by 6 percentage points to 39 percent.

A separate poll by USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times of 1,504 registered voters confirms those results. Forty-six percent of those surveyed support Proposition 30, while Proposition 38 has less than 30-percent approval (Los Angeles Times).

It’s worth taking a closer look at those numbers and their breakdown. For Proposition 30, there are stark differences along party lines (65% of Democrats support, but only 19% of Republicans), and by race (54% of minorities support compared to 41% of whites). The youngest voters—those between 18 and 29 years old—were the most likely to indicate they would vote for Proposition 30.

There were geographic differences as well with Bay Area residents expressing overwhelming support (63%) compared to tepid approval in the Central Valley (35%) and Southern California regions outside of Los Angles County (38%).

One of the curiosities was that there was no real difference between households with children under the age of 18 and those without. Neither displayed majority support for the measure.

Moving forward, one strategy both campaigns can employ is to focus on voter turnout and the groundswell of newly registered voters who are likely to come out during a presidential election. A second approach will be to target messages to sway voters on the margins. According to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, 7 percent of likely voters expressed concerns (but not strong concerns) about Proposition 30—this group may well be open to persuasion. Many of these 7 percent are parents or grandparents of school-age children.

A third approach will be for the 30 and 38 campaigns to switch gears in the final 10 days of the election. Rather than drawing distinctions between two visions for protecting California’s public schools, the campaigns can encourage all voters to check yes on both initiatives. Right now a quarter of Proposition 38 supporters indicate that they wouldn’t vote for Proposition 30. A full-throated endorsement of “Yes, Yes” might be what makes a difference in this election.