Thursday, October 31, 2013

COST OF CALIFORNIA DEFIANCE IN CANCELLING TESTS? At least $15 million; maybe $3.5 billion+

Feds set price of defiance on standardized tests: at least $15 million

By John Fensterwald, EdSource Today |


The state risks losing millions in federal funding for failing to offer standardized tests to students this year. Credit:

October 30th, 2013   ::  The state now knows how much federal funding it stands to lose by declining to give state standardized tests in math and English language arts next spring to all students: at least $15 million – and potentially tens of millions of dollars more.

An assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education cited that figure and warned that the fine and the impact on school districts could be greater in a letter released Monday to State Board of Education Michael Kirst and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

The Legislature, by passing Assembly Bill 484 last month, put the state out of compliance with the federal testing requirements law. AB 484 ends most state standardized tests, including English language arts and math for grades 3 to 8 and 11, which are required annually under the No Child Left Behind law. Instead, the state is requiring that all districts administer a preliminary test in the Common Core State Standards in either math or English language arts – but not both – in those grades. In her letter, Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle said that offering one of the two tests wouldn’t meet the law or provide the results that the public relies on.

“By failing to administer a reading/language arts and mathematics assessment to all students in the tested grades, California would be unable to provide this important information to students, principals, teachers, and parents,” she wrote. “In addition, because its new policy violates federal law, California now risks significant enforcement action by the Department” – a loss of $15 million in administrative funding for the state Department of Education plus potentially the $30 million that the state received last year through Title I to administer standardized tests.

California also may be designated a “high-risk grantee,” jeopardizing its ability to get other federal grants and a state waiver from sanctions under NCLB, Delisle stated. California is one of a handful of states yet to get a waiver.

And those are just the state sanctions. Delisle warned that some of the $3.5 billion for disadvantaged students that districts receive under Title I may be in jeopardy, including money for children with disabilities and migrant children, School Improvement Grants for the most struggling schools and professional development funding for teachers. All depend on annual test results that the state wouldn’t be able to provide under AB 484, the letter said.

The latter threat – to withhold money from schools – prompted Kirst and Torlakson to respond Monday: “Federal officials have never before taken money out of classrooms, and we would hope and expect that they would not start now.”

Rationale behind one field test

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. Credit: Tom Torlakson's office

<< State Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

In authoring AB 484, Torlakson argued – and Kirst and State Board members agreed – that, with school districts pressing ahead to implement the new Common Core standards, it would be counterproductive and distracting to test students under the abandoned state math and English language arts standards. They also said that Common Core field tests would be a valuable trial run on administering tests by computer, allowing districts to better prepare for the official tests a year later, in spring 2015.

At the same time, state education officials said they didn’t want to overload districts and so required that they give students either math or English language arts, not both. Deputy Superintendent Deb Sigman also cited potential cost benefits of one test, although the federal penalties would more than wipe out any savings to the state.

In his short statement responding to the letter, Kirst and Torlakson defended the decision to do the field test and implied talks with federal officials would continue.

“California is moving forward now with modern standards and assessments because we want all children – no matter where they come from or where they live – to graduate ready for college and careers,” the statement said. “To the extent there is disagreement with the federal government, there is a process for addressing it, and we’ll continue to work with officials in Washington.”

AB 484 requires all districts to give the field test, but there is no penalty for those districts without the computers and Internet capacity to offer it. Surveys by the state and county superintendents indicate most districts will do the field test. Those that don’t, however, will not give any math or English arts tests next year – another point of contention with Washington.

In an unusual move, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned the Legislature on the eve of the AB 484 vote that passage would create a conflict with federal law and result in sanctions. But Duncan also is a strong supporter of the Common Core, and the federal government funded the two consortiums of states that are developing the new standardized tests.

Recognizing the importance of the field test to the test developers, in July he announced that he would grant waivers from federal testing requirements under No Child Left Behind for those schools that volunteered to do the field testing. But he anticipated between 10 and 20 percent of schools would offer them, not all schools in a  state the size of California. And he expected schools not giving a field test to continue administering their state tests, with results reported to parents. Because field tests are trial runs that include questions that will be discarded, they can’t produce valid scores for either parents or schools.

It’s not clear whether Duncan objected to California’s decision for districts to administer only one of the Common Core tests to students or to its decision to give all students a field test that would not yield scores that could be used for federal accountability purposes.

The state’s largest education organizations representing teachers, administrators and school boards fully backed AB 484 and the end of state tests.

“This law frees students from an outdated testing system and gives them an opportunity to do a practice run this school year on the new computer-based tests. It makes no sense to test students on material they haven’t been taught or to force them to take two tests,” Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, said after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law.

However, some state and national advocacy groups representing low-income students, English learners and students with disabilities opposed it, and on Monday, 11 groups signed a lengthy letter praising the threatened sanctions of the Obama administration as “an important first step in protecting the rights of students and parents.”

“We call on California state leaders to fund the full costs of providing both the English and Math Smarter Balanced assessments for school districts, ensure the necessary supports and accommodations for students and fund the analysis required to offer the results of these tests to parents, teachers, and education leaders,” said the letter, whose signers included Education Trust-West, Ed Voice, Parent Revolution and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

In a statement, the eight school districts in the California Office to Reform Education or CORE that do have a one-year No Child Left Behind waiver also called for the state to pay for both Common Core field tests for all students and avoid a confrontation with the federal Department of Education.

“The CORE districts support Secretary Duncan’s efforts and believe that rather than a partial field test of the new assessments, all of our students should have the benefit of taking both the math and the English language arts assessments,” said Michael Hanson, president of CORE and superintendent of Fresno Unified.

U.S. threatens to take $3.52 billion from California schools in testing dispute

By Sharon Noguchi, San Jose Mercury News

10/30/2013 06:02:14 PM PDT | Updated:   10/31/13  ::  Reinforcing its threat to punish California for dumping its old standardized state tests next spring, the U.S. Department of Education said that decision could cost the state at least $3.5 billion.

The state could lose $15 million it receives to administer a federal program for poor children, known as Title I. More critically, a letter sent Tuesday by Deborah S. Delisle, an assistant secretary of education, hinted California risks significantly more money from other federal initiatives, for the lowest-performing schools, English-language learners, disabled students, rural schools, migrant children and teacher training. Those totaled about $3.5 billion last school year.

The dispute between state and federal education officials boils down to whether students need to take standardized tests in English and math every year, and whether the public should be able to see those results. Federal officials say the law requires that, but California believes that's unreasonable.

State Board of Education President Michael Kirst said he was surprised that federal authorities would send a threatening letter. He and members of the California Department of Education have been meeting with U.S. officials about reconciling California's new testing regimen with federal law.

He characterized the talks as constructive. "I don't believe we are stuck at all."

The federal threat comes as California begins major changes to the way it teaches K-12 students. It has adopted a new standard for learning called Common Core, which is intended to offer practical and relevant lessons, teaching students to think critically and solve problems.

State officials said it makes no sense to use the old STAR tests, which were administered in grades 2 to 11 every spring, in the midst of a switch to a new curriculum. Instead, next spring schools will test-drive the Smarter Balanced test, which succeeds STAR.

The California Legislature decided that schools will only test students either in math or English, and the state will not release the results to schools nor to the public -- because the trial run is as much a calibration of the test as it is a measurement of student achievement.

That limited testing, the elimination of the STAR tests and refusal to release results has infuriated federal education officials.

Advocates for low-income students and school reform cheered the letter. "California is the only state in the entire nation that is choosing to violate the ESEA," the federal law mandating testing, said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of the advocacy group Education Trust-West, based in Oakland. "As a result, the federal government is saying, 'Enough is enough; we have to react.' "

Taking a sample STAR test at San Jose High Academy, 2008. (Richard Koci Hernandez)

Other states, he said, have figured out how to meet federal standards even with changes to their curriculum. He said California is being cheap, saving money by dumping its state test, and paying for students to take just one of the two segments of the new, shared national tests.

Last month, on the eve of the Legislature's vote phasing in the new tests, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan issued an unusual warning that the bill would violate federal law. Testing helps keep schools accountable, he said, and publishing results provides parents and the public needed information about school performance.

But AB484, the bill promoted by Gov. Jerry Brown, passed easily.

If the federal government does withhold funds, the impact could be significant, said Stephen Fiss, superintendent of the Alum Rock Union School District in San Jose. In special education, for instance, federal dollars account for about 30 percent of the budget. "I don't know if we could survive the impact."

Still, he supports the Legislature's decision for a reprieve from high-stakes testing, giving schools needed time to develop curriculum and modify teaching.

Kirst said he will continue to work with Washington officials.

He noted that the federal government has never taken away money from schools. And, he wrote in a statement issued jointly with state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson, "We would hope and expect that they would not start now."

Funds the Feds threaten to withhold from state

A partial list of federally funded programs in California schools that could be vulnerable to the U.S. withholding funds:

  • $65.6 million -- School Improvement Grants program, for the lowest-performing schools
  • $155.8 million -- Title III of Elementary and Secondary Education Act for Language Acquisition, for English learners
  • $1.2 billion -- Part B of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, for special education
  • $1.3 million -- Title VI, Part B2 for Rural and Low-Income Schools
  • $133.5 million -- Title I, Part C of ESEA for migrant education$265.7 million -- Title II, Part A of ESEA, for professional development and other support for educators

Feds threaten Brown on testing plan

By Tom ChorneauSI&A Cabinet Report –

Wednesday, October 30, 2013  ::  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan moved earlier this week to squelch California’s plan to suspend almost all statewide student testing next year by formally threatening to withhold administrative Title I money – some portion of about $15 million.

The action, which had been anticipated for weeks, comes even as the Obama administration has granted 45 other states conditional relief from most of the requirements and sanctions imposed under the No Child Left Behind Act.

But in a letter to state officials this week, first reported by EdSource Wednesday, federal officials said California’s plans to suspend testing violate assessment requirements for accountability purposes.

“By failing to administer a reading/language arts and mathematics assessment to all students in the tested grades, California would be unable to provide this important information to students, principals, teachers, and parents,” said Deborah S. Delisle, assistant secretary over the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, in the letter to state board president Mike Kirst and state schools chief Tom Torlakson.

Delisle identified at risk $15 million in Title I money largely used to pay for support activities at the California Department of Education and alluded to further sanctions if the state did not comply.

The threat, also not unexpected (see Cabinet Report, Sept. 19:, would not likely be carried out for months given that the state has not yet officially violated federal testing mandates.

AB 484, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law only last month, would suspend virtually all testing next year, including those needed for federal accountability purposes, as part of the state’s effort to transition from the existing system of instruction and testing to one based on new national curriculum standards.

Ironically, California stands as one of the nation’s leaders in embracing the Common Core – a high priority for the Obama administration, which is under attack in a number of other states, including many that have received NCLB flexibility waivers from Duncan.

Still, allowing California – which has been denied a statewide NCLB waiver – to circumvent federal assessment requirements poses a significant political threat to the U.S. Department of Education’s plans for integrating new accountability and performance standards in an environment where Congress appears unable to reauthorize the nation's education law.

The warning to withhold federal money is not unprecedented – in fact, disputes between states and federal regulators are common and are even governed by an appeal and resolution process.

Insiders have suggested that Brown is not likely to back down, especially since the state won’t even become officially out of compliance until 2015. Add on the time that the state will have to appeal the fine and California would be theoretically on the cusp of being back in compliance based on the plan set out in AB 484 before the loss of federal funds would become an issue.

A similar dispute between California and the Bush administration over eighth grade algebra testing in 2009 ended up with $50,000 in federal money being withheld.

Federal government letter to California education officials


By Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News |

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy during a board meeting at LAUSD headquarters, Tuesday, October 29, 2013. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

Posted: 10/30/13, 7:54 PM PDT | Updated: 10/31/13  4AM  ::  A day after the Los Angeles Unified school board and Superintendent John Deasy held a discussion that led to him remaining on the job, district, city and civic leaders encouraged the adversaries to put aside hard feelings and move ahead for the sake of the kids.

Deasy met privately with the board for nearly five hours Tuesday while they reviewed his performance for the past year. Board members either did not return phone calls or refused to discuss what happened during the closed-door meeting.

However, one source with knowledge of the session called it an “extremely frank, important and honest conversation that is essential for moving forward.”

The board emerged from the meeting and announced that members had given Deasy a “satisfactory” performance evaluation, which automatically extended his $330,000-a-year contract through mid-2016. The decision capped five days of drama that included reports that Deasy was prepared to quit and concerns that the board was ready to fire him.

Deasy was in Albuquerque on Wednesday for a meeting of the Council of Great City Schools and did not return phone calls.

However, those who had a hand in trying to keep Deasy aboard said it’s now time for the superintendent and the board to put students ahead of politics.

“I am pleased with the board’s decision,” Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters. “I think progress in the district will depend on much more than one person or one leader. It’s important to me that we prioritize a collaborative approach (and) that the school board works well with the superintendent and with the teachers, who like the parents, have sometimes been shut out.”

Deasy’s frustration with his job emerged Oct. 24, when sources say he told board President Richard Vladovic he wanted to resign in February, then work for 16 months as a consultant.

After news of that proposal was leaked, momentum quickly grew among prominent civic and education leaders to keep Deasy in L.A. At the same time, the board — especially Vladovic, who has frequently clashed with Deasy — found themselves facing accusations that they have tried to interfere in Deasy’s successful efforts to raise test scores and graduation rates.

Deasy would say only that he hadn’t actually submitted a letter of resignation, fueling the debate over his future and that of the district.

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s meeting, Garcetti spoke privately with the superintendent and individual board members, and he also discussed the unfolding situation with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who he met during a trip this week to Washington, D.C.

Board members also received calls from former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who recruited Deasy to come to the district as a deputy superintendent in mid-2010, and remained an ardent supporter after Deasy was promoted to replace retiring Superintendent Ramon Cortines just six months later.

Board Vice President Steve Zimmer called a meeting with reporters Monday, saying that he wanted his colleagues and Deasy to find a way to work together. On Wednesday, Zimmer said he now hopes the rival factions can find ways to be more flexible and open-minded in dealing with one another.

“I think that putting kids, families, teachers and school employees — our LAUSD family — ahead of any other issues that may have been clouding this is what won the day,” said Zimmer, whose district stretches from Woodland Hills to Hollywood.

“We are going to do everything we possibly can do to move forward and have stability in a moment of profound change and profound uncertainty.”

Board member Tamar Galatzan, who represents the West San Fernando Valley, said Tuesday’s meeting left her “cautiously optimistic about the district’s ability to move forward and continue to deliver a strong educational product for our kids.”

The Communities for Los Angeles Student Success, a coalition of more than two dozen education groups that organized a pro-Deasy rally outside LAUSD headquarters, released a statement echoing calls for new cooperation.

“Now that the district’s leadership is stable once again, we’re looking forward to a new spirit of collaboration among the school board, Dr. Deasy, and teachers, parents and the community,” said the statement from CLASS. “We hope that unnecessary politics are behind us. It’s time to give our kids what they deserve — a school district that puts them first.”

Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., said the rival factions on the board can find a way to work together despite their philosophical differences.

“They don’t have to get along,” he said. “They just have to have the incentive to cooperate, which is a totally different thing. While the personality stuff can be important, the incentives are that both sides have played their cards and both sides have strengths to be dealt with.”

Warren Fletcher, who had put out a statement last week expressing satisfaction at what he then thought was a pending change in LAUSD’s leadership, said Wednesday he was “dumbfounded” that Deasy received a “satisfactory” performance review despite falling short in meeting most of his performance goals.

“Dr. Deasy has a no-excuses philosophy,” Fletcher said. “Apparently, there are no excuses — except for Dr. Deasy.”


The history of Guy Fawkes Day begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guido “Guy”  Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords in an attempt to kill James I and bring down the entire British government: king, ministers, parliament and all.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ’twas his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s mercy he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Hulloa boys, Hulloa boys, let the bells ring.
Hulloa boys, hulloa boys, God save the King!


Monday, October 28, 2013


Undead Man Walking – Halloween Party in the Superintendent’s Office on Oct 31st


While this may seem like a trick, it is most certainly a treat!



Annie Gilbertson | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC


Urban Teens Exploring Technology

Annie Gilbertson/KPCC - Developer Oscar Menjivar sits with student Jesus Vargas, checking out the Pearson education software loaded onto every L.A. Unified iPad.

October 28th, 2013, 6:00am  ::  There's no doubt Jesus Vargas is a tech saavy teen — he's built his own app.

He's a senior at USC Math, Science and Technology High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District — a school that doesn't have the iPads yet.

So he was excited to test drive one as he hung out at the after school program Urban Teens Exploring Technology near USC's campus. (KPCC borrowed a fully-loaded district iPad from an oversight committee member.)

"They are definitely trying to make it fun," Vargas said.

But when he flipped it on, he found the design of the main screen a little retro.

"It’s very similar to the interface of an iPod, which I have not used in a long time," Vargas said.

Vargas' first stop: the app store. The tablet blocked him from downloading any of them — the password to bypass is held by administrators only. Not even teachers can go in without permission. Rather than try to get around it, Vargas moved on to the preloaded software.

As part of its $30 million purchase from Apple, the tablets include educational software from London-based Pearson, a global giant in educational materials. The assignments are billed as being in line with new teaching standards called the Common Core, on which California students will be tested starting in the spring.

The tablets are loaded with readings, graphics and videos in a single app, offering several units for each grade level. The content for English spans K-12; math K-8. The district has said the software is still being developed and will be updated for these grade levels.

For the lower grades, the app is loaded with games. But for the higher grades, the units seem geared toward specific assignments.

During his short test drive on a recent afternoon, Vargas went for the highest level math available, 8th grade, and tried the first graphing problem. Graph paper appeared by a question. But he couldn't figure out what the question was asking of him.

"Oh, it has a video to show us how it's done," Vargas said.

The roughly two-minute video featured two girls sitting on a park bench drawing graphs on iPads. After watching, Vargas still couldn't figure out what the assignment was.

"See, it has this picture here," Vargas said, moving through the digital layers of the lesson. "I don’t know. Do you understand it? I don’t understand it."

So he looked for help. Ideally, students can ask questions online – perhaps from someone at Pearson, or to send a message to their teacher. But Vargas couldn't find anyway to connect with anyone on the device.

“If you have a room full of thirty kids," said Vargas,"and each have an iPad and each don’t understand this assignment, the iPad isn’t going to answer your question.”

Vargas also tried a high school English assignment. But it wasn't complete. It didn't have the short story the questions were asking about.

As he looked around, it was clear to him there was little he could customize on the tablet.

"I’m getting a little tired of this app already," he said.

As the district embarks on its ambitious program to provide a digital device for every student and every teacher, a big key to it's success will depend on the software and applications that teachers and students will be able to use.

At a meeting of one of the Common Core Technology Project Committee last week, members and attendees grilled L.A. Unified administrators about the software's progress. The response: it could be years.

The cost of the software was also unclear — it was bundled by Apple — which also raised questions about what it would cost to renew the license with Pearson after three years, when it expires.

For its part, Pearson denies the software is incomplete. Susan Sclafani, Vice President for Programs at Pearson, said the iPad software has been under development for three years.

She said that its main benefit over books is that it can be constantly refined based on comments from teachers and researchers — and she said Pearson's doing just that.

"It is an on-going changing, adapting environment in technology," Sclafani said. "Unlike a textbook, which you adopt for eight years, and you are stuck with it."

Sclafani said the Consortium of Policy Research in Education — which includes Columbia, Harvard, Penn and other major research universities — will study the software over the next five years, in part looking at how it works in L.A. Unified. Or how it doesn't.

Oscar Menjivar is a developer and former computer teacher. He leads the after school program Vargas attends. During a recent visit the room looked like a mini tech start-up: young people huddled in corners engrossed in their computers.

After playing with the Pearson software for a bit, Menjivar agreed with Vargas.

"I think Pearson didn’t put any thought into the software," said Menjivar.

He said it was shallow – barely scratching the surface of interactive capabilities.

Even the hit cell phone game Angry Birds is more responsive. A simple flick of the screen there, and the scene comes alive. And you can pull in friends to test your skills against theirs. Master a task and Angry Birds guides you right into the next level.

The Pearson software seemed to him static by comparison.

"Basically you took your book and put it in a digital format," he said. "How does that change learning for the students?"

Sunday, October 27, 2013


from Diane Ravitch's blog  |

Diane Ravitch: A teacher in Los Angeles who calls himself Geronimo left the following comment on hearing that Superintendent Deasy planned to resign, then declared that he was only thinking about resigning and might not resign after all:

Geronimo: “If the saga of LAUSD wasn’t soap opera-y enough, the Number One Diva of LA–no, not Kim Kardashian, but Superintendent John Deasy–is forcing the entire city this weekend to witness his woeful performance of “Hamlet.” Early reports on Thursday night had the melancholy prince resigning thus creating premature joy with teachers (or his subjects as we’re known under his regime) in the hopes that our city’s long national nightmare was finally over. Alas, the sigh of relief was short-lived.

“Although there probably has never been a more self-aggrandizing, yet endlessly self-pitying superintendent than John Deasy, we will now have the spectacle of observing who is going to beg this prima donna to stay. Some of the city’s most powerful denizens are already lining up to kiss his ring, weeping and imploring this man to continue to grace us with his wisdom and infantile temper.

“The cry has already gone up among the Establishment, “Don’t leave us now, John!”

“So our city now goes into high-wire drama until Tuesday when the beleaguered, intimidated and castrated School Board meets for Deasy’s contractual “performance review”. It is only afterwards that Deasy will inform the world on his plans. The “leak” of his resignation was clearly designed to put pressure on the School Board to “listen” to the will of the “people” (um, note WHICH people) and do the right thing and say, “We can’t live without you, John. Please come back and forgive the savages who have said such mean things about you.”

“The truth about the California Educational Reform movement is that it is different than almost anywhere else in the country. In other parts it’s the Republicans who are running Education Reform. If you look at the map, they control all the state legislatures in the south where the weakest teacher unions exist and most of the legislatures throughout the Midwest. Those cuckoo birds would never fly in California.

“What has happened in progressive California is that there is a clear split on the Left. Here, it’s the Moneyed/Connected/Privileged Neo-Liberal Left vs. the Working Class/In-the-Trenches Left. Sure Michelle Rhee and John Deasy can each out-boast other who is more pro-gay or pro-immigration and who has the most Democratic Party merit badges on their scout uniform. But when it comes to Education Reform, they are as Far Right Wing as Scott Walker, Rick Perry or Bobby Jindal.

“And they are just as dangerous, disingenuous and damaging.

“The biggest modus operendi that this Moneyed Class Left does is to appropriate the “Civil Rights” mantra while courting big name Democrat Party millionaires who have vested interests in their type of top-down CEO managed school reform. In the future, when I think of who will be on those monuments in Washington for their tireless crusade to protect the rights and opportunities of poor children of color, I definitely picture Eli Broad and John Deasy and the Pearson Corporation.

“Eli Broad knows fine art and music. He’s a philanthropist in that area. In education, he’s a vulture as he buys power and influence in LA supporting HIS style of Reform. With Broad’s money that is hard to turn down, he gets to steer the bus on his terms–Not the kids’ interests or benefits. The Mayors of LA know that and acquiesce to the quid pro quo.

“Meanwhile, back high atop LAUSD headquarters, Deasy constantly denigrates people who disagree with his educational priorities and methodologies. As he primps himself as Deasy X, I would love to hear what Brother Malcolm would say to his grotesque appropriation of “The Movement”. Deasy self-righteously believes an iPad is what our kids need the most. How about giving them what HIS KIDS and all of his rich patrons give their kids? Great class selection, minimal testing, field trips, cool opportunities, enrichment of all kinds, small classes…? It’s abhorrent and insulting what he offers our neediest kids and orders the teachers to follow suit in implementing his noxious brand of instruction.

“So we are all left with the billion dollar iPad as Deasy’s “I have a dream” legacy.


“In almost every single interview Deasy has done extolling the virtues of the iPad, he always brings up the example that kids can now go look up “The Arab Spring” to see what textbooks don’t include. I don’t know why he’s latched onto the Arab Spring as his perpetual fall back mantra–His lack of imagination for anything else the kids could look up, perhaps. The Arab Spring is what the kids did when they hacked into the computers! Good for them! They revolted on their own and how does Deasy respond?

“Clamped down on them like any authoritarian figure.

“And more nauseating, each thousand dollar iPad (when everything is finally totaled up) all include those really inspiring Pearson-designed lessons that are supposed to make the kids wildly enthusiastic about learning. No wonder they wander to Youtube or Tumblr or anything else that is remotely interesting to them.

“How do you know the difference between the two worlds on Education Reform on California’s Left Wing? Easy. What they want and have given THEIR kids and what they believe is acceptable for OTHERS’ children. All of them are identical: Arne Duncan. Bill Gates. Mayor Eric Garcetti. Eli Broad. Barack Obama. They would never for a second tolerate the conditions they offer LA’s kids if their own kids were placed in a typical LA classroom.

“Yet we have to listen to them endlessly pontificate on what’s BEST for other people’s kids.

“Deasy, has always been about secrecy and I-Know-Best bullying. His obvious disdain for teacher input has been made clear. Like Michelle Rhee, he is very quick with the “I LOVE teacher” rhetoric–but they have to be HIS kind of obedient teacher who kowtows to his genius. In 2011, Deasy was installed undemocratically by former Mayor Villaraigosa to “shake things up” and yes, he did–but it was more like Fukushima. Teachers despise him not because they are against some mythological status quo–it’s just that HIS status quo is antithetical to smart, creative, thoughtful teaching. The kids know it too and wither under his brand of instruction.

“In Michelle Rhee’s book RADICAL, she specifically singles out California as the big enchilada for her designs on the rest of the country. She has based her operation in Sacramento and believes that if she can transform California, the rest of the country will follow. Not a bad bet.

“When I first heard the news about Deasy leaving, I hadn’t been that relieved since Nixon resigned.

“And now it may be a cruel hoax. I actually don’t know what it will take to really be rid of Deasy, short of a farmhouse caught in a tornado landing on top of him. With this piece of “will he/won’t he” go melodramatics to inflame as much public sympathy for his plight, Deasy is giving everyone a preview of what life will be like if he can be “persuaded” to stay and endure the slings and arrows of his outrageous fortunes.

“Can we PLEASE pull this really bad Laurence Olivier off the stage of LA once and for all?

“Please, inform Mayor Eric Garcetti how you feel:


“Something is rotten in the city of LA. This show needs to close immediately.”

L.A.’s Business Community Fights to Save Deasy

FROM Diane Ravitch's blog |

October 27, 2013 //

By dianerav:  A leading member of the bar and a member of the California Board of Regents is urging the Los Angeles school board to retain Superintendent John Deasy, who recently threatened to resign. The letter was signed by George Kieffer, a Schwarzenegger appointee to the state Board of Regents in 2009. Business leaders are working hard to hold on to Deasy, despite his poor relations with the educators of Los Angeles and the recent iPad fiasco. Even the mayor weighed in to support Deasy.

Clearly, the power structure wants Deasy. And they don’t care what educators think about his leadership.

The letter read:

Dear Members of the Board of Education:

This letter is to inform you of the tremendous sense of disappointment, approaching anger, that the Los Angeles community is feeling today because of the inability of the School Board to develop a plan with Superintendent Deasy to move forward together for the benefit of the students of the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”).

LAUSD has seen important gains across the board in student achievement over the last few years. Under LAUSD Superintendent Dr. John Deasy’s leadership, the District has improved student test scores and other student success indicators such as the number of students accessing college preparation courses. It has also seen decreases in student drop-out rates and truancy rates.

The District is embarking on a massive roll out of professional development and technology tools that will prepare teachers and students to implement the new, and highly more rigorous, state education Common Core standards and student assessments. Further tests to Dr. Deasy’s leadership will be presented as the District prepares to develop its Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), as part of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that was passed by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor earlier this year. The LCFF is a much needed step in the right direction to ensure that all California schools receive equitable funds from the state.

All of these and other important initiatives are crucial to ensure students are succeeding academically and graduating prepared for college and 21st century competitive careers.
We believe that John Deasy has the unique skills and commitment necessary to move the district forward on each of these topics. The leadership of the business community and the non-profit community strongly supports Superintendent Deasy and we encourage the School Board to meet with him immediately to work out a plan to continue his tenure as our Superintendent of Schools.

In the next few months, and for the first time in several years due to an increase in funding, the Board will make critical decisions about the budget and technology programs. It will be very difficult to make good decisions for our children if we do not have a strong and experienced leader in the Superintendent’s office.

Firing Superintendent Deasy, or making his life so miserable that he has no choice but to leave, is not in the best interests of the students of Los Angeles. We urge you to pull the board together and make every effort to retain one of the top Superintendents in the country.


Sent by: Lucy Smith
Secretary to George Kieffer
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP


Avatar of adminGuest post in K-12 News Network by Karen Wolfe, a parent and public education advocate who lives in Los Angeles |

October 26, 2013   ::  Parents and public school advocates are very concerned following the LA Times article about Mayor Garcetti weighing in on Superintendent Deasy’s waning support.

I hope the mayor will keep in mind that voters value their right to elect an independent school board, a right to which the Los Angeles City Charter entitles them and which has been reaffirmed in the courts. This power struggle is inevitable with a superintendent who very publicly opposed the election of several board members. The voters have spoken. They do not support Deasy’s policies–nor his abuse of power in usurping the board’s role in setting policies at all. As LA Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote earlier this month, “So, yeah, do some micromanaging. Hold people accountable. Ask questions.” The board is doing its job.

The only thing new about this dynamic is Deasy’s precipitous decline in support. The superintendent has declared that board policies are unfunded mandates. That’s absurd. The board has passed several resolutions in the last year that have not been implemented. Examples include a resolution to establish a core arts program, a resolution to help neighborhood schools boost enrollment rather than accept as an operating assumption that enrollment will continue to decline, a resolution to revamp Prop 39 implementation to balance support for neighborhood schools, and a campus greening initiative. Those are POLICIES but no implementation has been forthcoming since the publicly elected board passed them.

The support for policies like these is evident by the election or re-election of board members who proposed them. The public expects its democratically elected representatives to do the job they were elected to do. If Deasy does not agree with the new board’s policies, he should move on to a school district that’s more closely aligned with his policy agenda. He cannot, by sheer force of will, push the independent school board which is accountable to voters, to behave as if they are his implementers. LAUSD’s school board represents a public which has rejected the corporate privatization and deregulation of education pushed by Deasy, Broad, Melendez, the United Way and the other astroturf “community groups” now clamoring at the doors of Beaudry.

Los Angeles is at the epicenter of the defeat of the failed privatization agenda. Indeed, parents across the country overwhelmingly support improvement and investment in neighborhood schools over increased choice through charter and other voucher programs. These power shifts are playing out in cities across the nation that are transitioning, like Los Angeles, from dictatorial “education reform mayors.”  New York’s next likely mayor is setting an agenda to realign public education policy with the will of the people, even campaigning on such a platform to his city’s business elites. But in Los Angeles, prominent nonprofits are receiving letters asking their leaders to publicly state their support for the superintendent in an effort to quash the voice of voters.

Are we sure that we can count on Mayor Garcetti’s support for an independent school board representing voters? I certainly hope so.


A popular beautification project planned for Berendo Middle School has one hurdle to clear — the L.A. school district's can't-do attitude.

By Steve Lopez, LA Times columnist |

Berendo Middle School

Children play on the blacktop at Berendo Middle School. A state grant would cover most of the cost of turning part of the playground into a green space, but the school district is balking at the required 20-year maintenance agreement. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times / October 25, 2013)

October 26, 2013, 12:00 p.m.  ::  The playground at Berendo Middle School, just west of downtown Los Angeles, looks more like the surface of an aircraft carrier than a playground.

There's virtually nothing but blacktop for the roughly 1,300 students to play on — acres and acres of sun-baked tar that heats up in summer and gets slippery when it rains.

And that's why there's so much enthusiasm for a beautification plan that aims to transform a corner of the campus into an oasis that would be enjoyed not just by students, but the whole community. There'd be tree-shaded benches, pathways, a native garden for habitat study.

Students like the plan. Teachers like it. Parents and neighbors like it.

The principal can't wait.

"I'd rather see something green. I'd rather see trees. I'd rather see anything but asphalt," said Principal Rosa Trujillo.

But there is one party that's not yet on board, so a project two years in the making could get scrapped.

That would be the Los Angeles Unified School District.

How could the district be opposed, especially when almost all the money would come from a state grant, and the project would be built by the nonprofit Hollywood Beautification Team?

Oh, LAUSD isn't opposed to the idea, facilities manager Mark Hovatter told me. But under terms of the state grant, the state requires a 20-year maintenance agreement and the district won't commit to taking care of a new and improved campus.

"It would be irresponsible for us to take on more and more maintenance requirements when we're struggling to meet the maintenance requirements we already have," Hovatter said.

I'm well aware of that struggle, having written earlier this year about the district's 35,442 unresolved calls for service and repairs on hundreds of campuses. And, no doubt, the layoff of more than 1,000 custodians, plant managers and other repair crews was devastating.

But isn't that all the more reason to take advantage of state grants and the willingness of citizens to contribute to school improvements?

"Unfortunately a lot of entities just build stuff and walk away. They don't hang around for 20 years," Hovatter said.

Fortunately, Principal Trujillo is nowhere near as defeatist as that.

"I'm a firm believer that it's going to happen," said Trujillo, who met with district officials and others on Friday to look for solutions that satisfy all parties.

Berendo isn't the only school hoping the district figures out a way to take advantage of grant money available under voter-approved Proposition 84, a 2006 law that set aside money for clean water, coastal protection, parks and natural education. Nonprofit coalitions representing five LAUSD schools have been designated to receive nearly $3 million already, with Berendo and five other schools preapproved for $2.5 million more.

Before getting cold feet, LAUSD supported the Prop. 84 improvement projects and approved $802,575 in matching funds. But then the district — which has supported other greening projects and edible gardens on campuses — suddenly reversed course.

"We're seen as the big bad bureaucrat stopping a project," Hovatter said, but he added the district can't proceed if the maintenance issue isn't worked out.

Oh, but it could easily be worked out if the district had the will to make it happen, said Sharyn Romano. She's the CEO of Hollywood/Los Angeles Beautification Team, which has worked with 140 public schools and would construct six of the Prop. 84 improvement projects in LAUSD, including the one at Berendo.

Grants always come with strings attached, Romano said, and the district has always found a way to work out the details in the interest of the thousands of students who benefit.

"They are the property owner," she said of LAUSD. "They have to sign the agreement" with the state.

"But they know they are not going to go it alone…. We have all these people driven by passion who want to support the schools…. If the district would work together with the community and the nonprofits, everyone would come together," she said.

Romano said she and other beautification partners are scheduled to meet Monday morning with LAUSD Supt. John Deasy. As you might have heard, he's apparently thinking of resigning, so he might be a little distracted.

Yeah, I know that working with leaders of the teachers union and the school board must be a headache for him, but come on. We need a superintendent who can manage the politics, clarify the agenda and serve students. Deasy should order his minions to either lead on campus improvements or get out of the way.

Romano said her crew would help with maintenance and Berendo neighbors are also prepared to join in. It's the kind of collaboration LAUSD should be applauding.

Berendo parents Manuela Belmarez and Miguel Gonzales told me families are so desperate for safe, open spaces, they sometimes climb the Berendo fence on weekends to use the basketball courts.

"It's really dangerous for kids at Normandie Park," said eighth-grade leadership representative Melissa Lopez, who wants to know why the district isn't embracing a campus upgrade.

Teresa Dahl, whose kids are at other LAUSD schools but who is volunteering on the Berendo project, said if the beautification happens, neighbors would have access to the campus until 6 p.m. on weekdays and possibly even on weekends at some point. Yes, that would mean resolving questions about supervision and liability.

But here's a chance to make dramatic improvements on campuses and build stronger connections between school and community. District officials should be telling us how they're going to make it happen instead of why they can't.


Garcetti: Deasy’s exit  is “an evolving story.”
When asked by a reporter directly if he was saying the current board is micromanaging Deasy, Garcetti said “Those are your words.”

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was “disheartened” to read newspaper stories about Deasy’s possible resignation. “He is a friend and (someone) whose work I support,” Garcetti said. (File photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News)

By Barbara Jones and Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Daily News |


LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy may be resigning, according to media reports. (File photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)>>

Posted: 10/25/13, 2:42 PM PDT | Updated: 10/26/13   :: Amid reports Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy may be resigning, Mayor Eric Garcetti suggested Friday that the school board — which has clashed with Deasy — has been overreaching its power at the district.

Speaking at an event in Hollywood, Garcetti said he was “disheartened” to read newspaper stories about Deasy’s possible resignation. “He is a friend and (someone) whose work I support,” Garcetti said.

Garcetti said he had talked to many individuals at the school district, and called Deasy’s exit “an evolving story.” If there is turnover, Garcetti said, he will ensure that the next superintendent isn’t “micromanaged” by the school board. Though when asked by a reporter directly if he was saying the current board is micromanaging Deasy, Garcetti said “Those are your words.”

Deasy, who was hired in 2011, has increasingly clashed with the school board — after its composition changed with this year’s election and members chose Richard Vladovic as president — over issues such as the budget, implementation of Common Core and the rollout of a new iPad program.

Addressing the role of the seven-member school board, Garcetti told reporters: “A board is there to set policy, is there to guide the direction. But at the end of the day, they are not the ones who are supposed to run the district. That’s supposed to be the superintendent.”

The comments were the latest salvo in the deteriorating relationships between some board members and Deasy.

Deasy has told some board members that he plans to resign, according to source close to the board. But the superintendent, who took the job in 2011, hasn’t publicly stated whether he will leave or not, only saying that he has not submitted a letter of resignation.

At Friday’s event, Garcetti praised Deasy’s work, citing lowered absentee rates and improved test scores. The mayor also warned that a loss of leadership could be disruptive.

“I think the adults at the school district, across the board, need to remember that there are kids who (will be) the collateral damage to any loss of leadership, any loss of momentum, and any dysfunction and fighting.”

“If there is a transition, it’s important that we not lose the momentum, and for us to make sure we have a board that’s focused on results, not politics. ... All of us who are in government know, we have to let our managers manage and that is critically important.”

SCRAP THE iPADS, KEEP THE PIANOS: If you want a device that can inspire, critique, counsel and put on a show, get a teacher.

LA Times Op-Ed By Jeff Lantos |

October 25, 2013  ::  The Los Angeles Unified School District's plan to supply every student with an iPad is, to be charitable, not going well. Before any more school districts decide to spend millions on high-tech gadgets, let me offer a few words of caution. Why me? Because I was there in 1986 when Apple computers were first lugged into elementary classrooms.

This was at the Open Magnet School in West Hollywood, where I and other teachers first experimented with this new technology. After hours, we often hung out with Alan Kay, the leather-jacketed genius from Apple who would drop by to see how things were going. He had done pioneering work on the graphical user interface and the use of icons, among other things, while at Xerox Parc in the late-1970s. His informal job title at Apple was "visionary."

For this initial rollout, Apple provided not only the boxy Mac Classics but also some nifty glass-topped desks. The computers were tipped onto their backs and slid onto angled shelves under the glass so students could either point and click or put the mouse away and lay out books and papers. Every student had access to a computer. Essentially it was the one-to-one program being touted today by the U.S. secretary of Education, school superintendents and Joel Klein, the former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education and current chief executive of Amplify, a company that makes digital tablets.

After a month or two it became apparent that computers were to the writing process what the Cuisinart was to cooking. Every part of that process — writing, editing, revising, rewriting — was easier. The walls in my classroom were soon lined with typed essays and stories, many illustrated with computer-generated stick figures.

Twenty-seven years later, computers and their offspring are still wonderful tools for word processing. The Internet also made it easier for students to do research and to communicate with peers and mentors. And for many teachers, computers have replaced work sheets that reinforce concepts taught in directed lessons.

Of course, high-tech gizmos can also be used for plenty of other classroom projects. For instance, my fifth-grade digital natives could easily spend all day creating Keynote presentations on the Jamestown Colony or generating book reports that look like Pfizer's annual report. But is that the best use of precious class time? And is that the best use of me?

The fact is I'm the last guy you would want overseeing any high-tech razzle-dazzle in the classroom. But I am your man when it comes to delivering content, piquing a student's curiosity, helping a hesitant writer formulate a persuasive essay and encouraging students to make connections across the curriculum. And unlike a computer, I can inspire, critique, counsel, model good behavior and put on five shows a week.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says putting textbooks on Kindles, iPads (and such) will save districts millions of dollars. I'm not so sure. I've been using the same math text for 10 years. Why shouldn't I? My students do well on the state test, and the concepts don't change. The commutative property is still a+b = b+a. With a $19.95 purchase price, that comes to less than $2 a year. And textbooks don't crash, need batteries or break if you drop them. And I've never heard of one being stolen.

Another argument you'll hear from Duncan, Klein, et al is that our public schools need a high-tech "disruption," a cyber-shock that will send students scurrying to their glowing screens where they will absorb the knowledge that will lift them to ever higher levels of achievement.

I have three responses. First, in my experience, what technology disrupts is classroom discussion, debate, collaboration, cooperation and social interaction. Many elementary students are going to spend the next 60 years primarily dealing with some type of tech tool. Before they go into those digital cocoons, shouldn't they learn how to relate to, have empathy for and communicate with classmates? Shouldn't they be taught how to respectfully disagree, to defend a point of view, to negotiate and to compromise?

Second, another thing computers disrupt is the desire to get some exercise. Staring at that screen has a drug-like effect on students. Many times I've had to tell the boys (yes, it's always the boys) to close their computers and go to recess. No surprise that one side effect of excessive computer use is obesity.

Third, if bureaucrats and billionaires really want to "disrupt" the traditional educational model, they should forget iPads and Androids. Instead, put a piano in every classroom and make piano lessons part of teacher training. Imagine an educational model in which music, dance and drama are part of every lesson. Imagine students singing about math properties, taking history from the page to the stage, dancing their way through the Constitutional Convention and the Lewis and Clark expedition, acting out scenes from novels, borrowing from Tom Lehrer and singing the periodic table of elements.

Kindergarten teachers have always made good use of music, dance and drama. Why stop there? Drama helps students develop oral language and people skills. Dance gets kids off their butts. Music fires up the neural synapses, improves retention of the material and brings a sense of joy into the classroom.

I have a piano in my classroom. My students start each school day with 15 minutes of singing and dancing. In January, I conducted an experiment. I said to my students: "We're facing drastic budget cuts. We have to get rid of either the 15 laptops or the piano. Which should it be?" I don't think I have to tell you the response.

Jeff Lantos teaches at Marquez Charter Elementary School in Los Angeles.

●● A longtime 4LAKids reader-and-friend writes:  Jeff is  our cousin. He is exceptional. He has written educational  musicals for elem. students etc.”  Marquez Charter is one of the 1:1 pilot schools cited in the Common Core Technology Project (iPads for All) proposal.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Re: AN OLD-FASHIONED TEACHER'S WISDOM Re “Scrap the iPads, keep the pianos,” Opinion, Oct. 25


Not only does Jeff Lantos speak truth to iPads, he knows that a classroom is a hollow experience without an effective, creative and keenly devoted teacher — you know, like Lantos, whose article should be distributed to all teachers and parents.

I bet they will smile and nod at the mention of dance, drama, art and music effectively used in the classrooms they may remember.

As a recently retired teacher of 38 years, I am still excited to see the wondrous things that happen when children are in the classroom of an exciting educator.

Janice Segall



Bravo to Lantos.

I am a retired fifth-grade teacher who understood the pros and cons of the new technologies infiltrating my classroom. The “educational fun” and interaction that brought life to the curriculum was being forced out, and the No Child Left Behind law certainly didn't help.

Let's hope that the powers-that-be will read and digest Lantos' wise thoughts.

David B. Housh



Lantos is a visionary. The songs he's teaching his students will stay in their memories and hearts long after the tsoris of dead batteries, smashed screens and, yes, even theft of high-tech gadgets.

His method — starting each day with 15 minutes of singing and dancing — is the best way to keep the music playing.

Plus, pianos are seldom stolen.

Joan Arndt

North Hollywood


Saturday, October 26, 2013



Marcia Wallace (November 1, 1942 – October 25, 2013) has passed away from the complications of breast cancer. She was primarily known for her roles in television situation comedies. She is perhaps best known for her roles as receptionist Carol Kester on the 1970s sitcom The Bob Newhart Show, and as the voice of Edna Krabappel, Bart Simpson’s Fourth Grade Teacher at Springfield Elementary School -  on the animated series The Simpsons, for which she won an Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1992.



Bombshell: Eli Broad Secretly Funded Anti-Public School, Anti-Union Initiatives

from Diane Ravitch’s blog via Network for Public Education News Briefs|

25 Oct 2013   | A state investigation revealed the identities of donors to a secret fund to oppose an initiative that would increase funding to public schools and to support an initiative to weaken the unions’ political influence.

Among the donors to the $11 million secret fund was billionaire Eli Broad. He publicly supported Governor Jerry Brown’s measure to raise taxes to help the state’s struggling public schools at the same time that he put $1 million into the fund to defeat the new tax.

Documents set off speculation about identity of secret donors

By Anthony York, LA Times |

October 25, 2013, 12:11 p.m.  ::  Documents released Thursday as part of a state investigation into the transfer of millions of dollars into California campaigns through a network of secretive nonprofit groups have set off a new hobby in state political circles -- trying to figure out the names on a partially redacted list of donors who ponied up the money.

The donors who gave a combined $28.9 million to the Virginia-based Americans for Job Security did so with a promise from California fundraisers that their identities would remain anonymous. But a donor list was included in the investigative file made public Thursday by state investigators, after they had announced a record $1 million in fines against two Arizona nonprofit groups that eventually received the money and funneled $11 million into California campaigns last year.

The list, which the Fair Political Practices Commission says originated with lawyers for GOP fundraiser Tony Russo, has some names crossed out but leaves others intact. Addresses are partially obstructed almost haphazardly. On one donation of $2 million that appears to be from San Francisco investor Charles Schwab, the San Francisco post office box number is left unobstructed, with only the letters “PO” marked off.

A $2 million donation dated Sept. 28, 2012 from a person or group that ends in “gies” and has a New York Ave NW address in Washington, D.C. that begins with “14” seems to suggest that the money came from Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a nonprofit group that has worked closely with another conservative nonprofit group, American Crossroads, started by GOP operative Karl Rove.

When asked about the donation, Crossroads GPS spokesman Jonathan Collegio refused to confirm or deny the money came from his group. “As it does every year, in a few weeks Crossroads GPS will report on all of its grant-making activity for 2012 as part of its Form 990,” he said in an email to The Times. “Until then, Crossroads doesn't comment on which groups are -- or are not -- grant recipients, except to say that all grants are unrestricted, undesignated and in furtherance of our social welfare purpose.”

Others who appear on the list are Los Angeles philanthropist and businessman Eli Broad, GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson and members of the Fisher family, which owns the Gap, Inc.

The shame of secret political donors

By Michael Hiltzik

12:45 PM PDT, October 25, 2013

Thanks to the tenacity of the Fair Political Practices Commission, the names are now dribbling out of the campaign donors who secretly supported an anti-union measure and opposed a desperately needed tax increase on last year's California ballot.

As one might expect, it's a disgraceful roster of billionaires intent on pulling up the ladder of advancement behind them. Charles Schwab. Eli Broad. B. Wayne Hughes (founder of Public Storage). The owners of the Gap. Sheldon Adelson of the Las Vegas Sands.

But the FPPC's action in exposing these secret donors may have another laudable result: It tells the recipients of manifestly secret donations that they should know better who's buttering their bread. That's because the FPPC is seeking an $11-million disgorgement from the Small Business Action Committee, the conservative political group that got the secret money. That puts the SBAC in a painful spot, which is just where it belongs.

First, the original donors. Public documents identify them all as secret donors to Americans for Job Security, a Virginia group that eventually funneled the money to the Center to Protect Patient Rights, an Arizona organization affiliated with the right-wing billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, which funneled it in turn to something called Americans for Responsible Leadership, which gave more than $11 million of it to the SBAC.

Are you having trouble following this? That's exactly what the donors hoped. In any case, the SBAC used the donation to fight Gov. Jerry Brown's ultimately successful tax increase ballot initiative and to support Proposition 32. Prop. 32, which failed, aimed to drive unions out of politics, leaving the field free for people like, well, Sheldon Adelson, Charles Schwab and B. Wayne Hughes.

Shortly after announcing its settlement with the the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership (including payment of $1 million in fines), the FPPC lowered the boom on the the Small Business Action Committee, instructing it to fork over the $11 million it received through this daisy chain.

The SBAC's president, Joel Fox, is screaming foul. Fox has been around California politics for ages. He's a perfectly sincere conservative activist who knows the rules, and he says he complied with the law by naming Americans for Responsible Leadership as his donor. He says he checked out ARL and determined that it was "a legitimate organization." But he didn't go further to determine where it got its money. "We can't follow every dollar back," he says. "We didn't know there was anybody else" behind ARL.

That sounds mighty disingenuous. If Fox really did his due diligence on ARL he had to know that it was a front for someone else. One way or another, the question of where an organization appearing out of left field with an $11-million war chest just days before an election was a live one.

Fox argues that it's improper to bill the SBAC for $11 million, since it didn't break the law itself. But he's got to know that's not how disgorgement works. It's not at all unusual for ill-gotten gains to be seized, even from people who didn't break the law. If you receive stolen property, even if innocently, typically you have to give it up. And if you get money that was itself the product of illegal activity, the same principle does, or should, apply. 

Fox notes that the SBAC doesn't have the money anymore, since it was spent on the election. That's tough. The goal of California's political finance laws is not only to keep dark money from coming into the state, but to keep it from making its way into political campaigns. The $11 million in lessons being taught the SBAC are: Don't spend crooked money, and have higher standards for what you consider "legitimate."

California fines groups $16 million for funneling money to campaigns

The record penalties cap a yearlong investigation into secretive political groups that bankrolled two of the biggest conservative election causes last year.

By Chris Megerian and Anthony York | LA Times |

October 25, 2013  ::  SACRAMENTO — California officials are imposing a record $16 million in penalties on secretive political groups that funneled money into initiative campaigns in 2012, ending a yearlong investigation that showed gaps in state disclosure laws.

Two campaign committees in California are being ordered to pay a total of $15 million to the state, a sum equivalent to the donations they received, which regulators said were improperly reported. Two Arizona nonprofits, one linked to billionaire Republican donors Charles and David Koch, will pay a combined $1-million fine as part of a settlement.

The nonprofits are not being required to reveal their donors' identities, even though disclosure was at the root of the investigation. Under existing campaign finance laws, the state cannot force the groups to release the names, officials said.

"California law doesn't provide adequate disclosure of political contributions made through dark-money nonprofits," said Fair Political Practices Commission Chairwoman Ann Ravel, who announced the investigation's resolution Thursday along with the commission's largest-ever penalties.

The case highlighted how some big-ticket donors have sought to influence political campaigns by relying on off-the-books methods. Anonymous donations have exploded in popularity since 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that many nonprofits can spend unlimited money on elections.

The controversial donations in California last year bankrolled two of the biggest conservative election causes: derailing Gov. Jerry Brown's ultimately successful tax hike and supporting an unsuccessful ballot measure intended to limit unions' political power.

Only a haphazardly redacted list of names, uncovered by state officials through their investigation, provides clues to some of the original donors' identities.

Charles Schwab, the San Francisco investor, gave $6.4 million. The Fisher family, owners of clothing retailer Gap Inc., where Brown's wife was once an executive, donated more than $9 million.

Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad provided $1 million, despite his public support for higher taxes on high-earning Californians. And casino owner Sheldon Adelson, one of the biggest Republican donors in the country, and his wife gave $500,000. B. Wayne Hughes, founder of Public Storage, donated $450,000.

None could be reached for comment.

The donors gave to Americans for Job Security, a Virginia trade association, as a first step in what officials characterized as a scheme designed to hide the original sources of campaign money. As the money was channeled to California, some of the transfers were not properly disclosed and therefore violated state law, officials said.

Thursday's announcement drew mixed reactions from experts and advocates, who praised state officials for their aggressive probe and expressed concern about loopholes in disclosure laws across the country.

It's rare for regulators to pursue such cases, said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center in Washington: "Voters don't have the information they need to make informed decisions on election day."

Phil Ung of California Common Cause, an advocacy group that filed the original complaint about the controversial donations last year, said new laws will be necessary to dissuade secret donors.

"You know they'll be back. And they'll be more sophisticated," he said.

The donations that were routed through the Arizona nonprofits were solicited by Tony Russo, a California-based Republican political consultant, according to state officials.

Russo did not return calls requesting comment. But a state interview transcript shows he told investigators he wanted to use nonprofits to help with California campaigns.

"Koch, our understanding was, had a pretty significant network of groups," Russo said. "So that's why we went to Sean."

Russo was referring to Sean Noble, a political operative who has worked with the Kochs and is president of the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights.

Donors wanted to remain secret, Russo said, "because of all the risk [of retribution] involved with the unions," the interview transcript shows, and Noble seemed interested in helping.

A spokesman for the Koch brothers and their company, Robert Tappan, said they had no involvement in the battles over Propositions 30 or 32.

Officials said Russo offered donors two options: provide money directly to a California group called the Small Business Action Committee and have your identities revealed, or give to Americans for Job Security, and remain anonymous because the law does not require that group to identify its donors.

The money sent to Americans for Job Security was intended for "issue advocacy," meaning advertising that doesn't expressly urge Californians to vote one way or another. Because of laws on how and when such funds can be used, the group passed the money to the Center to Protect Patient Rights in Arizona.

The center then sent $11 million to a Phoenix group, Americans for Responsible Leadership, which provided it to the Small Business Action Committee.

In another transaction, using a separate source of money, the Center to Protect Patient Rights provided more than $4 million to the America Future Fund in Iowa, which relayed the money to the California Future Fund for Free Markets, a campaign committee supporting Proposition 32.

The settlement the state reached with the two Arizona nonprofits said violations of California law were inadvertent, and the investigation did not result in any criminal charges.

Kirk Adams, president of Americans for Responsible Leadership, said people who have a problem with anonymous political money "can take it up with the First Amendment."

"What's happened here is an attempt to intimidate groups like ours from participating in California politics," Adams said.

Representatives from the Small Business Action Committee said they plan to fight the $11-million penalty.



L.A. Unified postpones meeting on iPads over Deasy's possible exit

By Howard Blume and Stephen Ceasar, LA Times |

October 25, 2013, 8:25 p.m.  ::  Los Angeles Board of Education President Richard Vladovic on Friday canceled a special board meeting planned for Tuesday on the district’s $1-billion iPad project.

Vladovic said the board needed to devote more time to a closed session meeting with L.A. schools chief John Deasy scheduled for earlier Tuesday.

Deasy, days before the scheduled performance review, has told some top officials that he may step down, according to district insiders.

Deasy, 52, said Friday he would not comment on his future until after Tuesday's performance review.

Vladovic said he had to give the closed session with Deasy top priority.

“My decision is, this discussion trumps everything else,” he said.

Vladovic stopped short of saying that the closed session would concern Deasy’s possible departure. “Other things have arisen, and we need to sit and talk and have a robust discussion,” he said.

The discussion with Deasy, scheduled for noon Tuesday, will not be open to the public, but there will be an opportunity for public comment at the beginning and end of the meeting.

Deasy's supporters plan to rally on his behalf, urging the board to keep him at the helm of the nation's second-largest school system.

Vladovic promised that these groups would have an opportunity to address the Board of Education.

The now-canceled board meeting had originally been called to discuss how the district hopes to sustain future costs of its technology program, among the other issues with the initiative.

Deasy's $1-billion effort to equip all students and teachers with iPads has encountered a host of problems.

The district has described its technology push as an "amazing" success, and said few problems have emerged at most of the 40 schools that have received devices to date.

But at three campuses more than 300 students deleted security filters, allowing them to browse the Internet freely and prompting officials to suspend the use of iPads at these high schools.

Parents also have expressed confusion about their responsibility for the devices. And officials have yet to purchase mechanical keyboards that will be necessary to use the iPads on new standardized tests.

Vladovic said he hopes to reschedule the iPad meeting for early November

Q&A: LAUSD’s JAIME AQUINO – on iPads, Board Fights, and Stepping Down + someone else’s 2¢

by Benjamin Herold in Education Week

Oct 25, 2013  ::  For my recent story on the fresh controversies surrounding the new digital curriculum that is embedded on the iPads being distributed to tens of thousands of Los Angeles students, I sat down to talk with Jaime Aquino, the deputy superintendent of instruction for the 651,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District.

Aquino explained how and why the district selected the brand-new-and-untested-curriculum from education publishing giant Pearson, and how he thinks it will help the district with its transition to the Common Core State Standards

He also addressed head-on criticism that his prior employment with Pearson led the district to make an unsound purchase and called the ongoing questions over the district's iPad initiative "the icing on the cake" of his recent decision to step down.

The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.

What about this new curriculum has you excited?


I'm excited about the shift to the common core and how those standards are reflected in the Pearson Common Core System of Courses. For example, in mathematics, the common core calls for the mathematical practice that is called mathematical modeling, which means more of the students' ability to apply their mathematical knowledge to the real world. If you look at that Pearson Common Core System of Courses, you see that many of their lessons begin with a video, in terms of having a problem for students to explore, that is a real-life [problem]. And students then say, "OK, how would you graph the speed of this student riding the bike?" That was exciting in terms of how it aligns to the real world.

Photo of Jaime Aquino, courtesy Los Angeles Unified School District>>

How did LAUSD select this curriculum?

We knew that there were not a lot of digital materials available that were aligned to the common core, and we didn't want anything that was repurposed...When we issued the RFP, we were very clear that we were using the publishers' criteria that was put out [to guide] the selection of materials that are aligned to the common core standards. The committee used that to determine what was there.

Is the new digital curriculum from Pearson meant to replace the existing instructional materials for LAUSD, or supplement them?

It's just another tool to teach the common-core standards...Do we intend it to become what would be considered the core instructional material? Yes, to be supplemented with many other things, at the discretion of the teacher.

There's lot of concern that this product is being rolled out even though it's not finished.

In the RFP, we said that we understand that the common-core [standards] are new. And because we're asking [publishers] to present [content] in a digital format, many might not have it completed. In the RFP, we said [vendors] would have up to the fall of next year in terms of having it completed and having it approved by the state. But [they] had to give us a very clear description and a prototype of what [they] want to accomplish and what it would look like.  Because if not, I can tell you that we were going to be getting something that was repurposed, and that was not truly aligned to the common core.

Why not hold off until you could evaluate a completed product?

We knew we were going in phases...It gave us an opportunity to learn some lessons [and] also to be in the driver's seat, in the sense that we wanted to also have an opportunity to shape [the curriculum], based on the lessons learned in [the initial phase of the project] from our teachers... And we embedded that into our contract negotiations. We were very clear that if at any point, this did not meet our requirements, did not meet the publishers' criteria, there was some consequence...It's a unique opportunity for a school district to have that type of leverage and input, as opposed to the traditional way that we've done in education, that the publishers just produce what they want...and we have to take whatever they do.

Some experts say that giving out sample lessons in a scattershot way can actually be disadvantageous to students and teachers.

Right now, there is actually no curriculum out there that I know of, in print or digital, that is completely aligned to the common core. So are these experts saying that we should wait and not transition to the common core until something is produced in its final format, and the exams are going to be administered in the spring of 2015? Isn't it better to have our teachers begin to practice with some units? As professional development, they become familiar, and they inform the publishers about what the actual field needs.

What will the process be like for gathering and incorporating that feedback from the field?

We have staff...that are always in the field, they get feedback in terms of what's working, not working. We collect that. My curriculum team here, my content area experts, do the same thing. They go and visit. They look at the curriculum. They have been working with Pearson in terms of our scope and sequence, which units should be taught when...We have already provided a lot of the feedback. In addition to that, at every school, Pearson has assigned [staff], and they go and get feedback.

Some school board members say that they were under the impression before voting that the curriculum was finished and were surprised to subsequently learn that it was not.

The administration does not control what [board members] read or don't read...There was constant communication provided to the board. The board had access to the RFP.  Board staff attended the industry forum where I clarified that we didn't expect anything to be completed...We provided daily information, and then they act as if they have never heard any about this.

You recently announced that you are stepping down at the end of this year. Was the criticism around the Common Core Technology Project, or your previous employment at Pearson, part of that decision?

I did not want to leave...As an immigrant and second-language learner, I'm honored and humbled to be the deputy superintendent of the second largest district in the nation...That's the dream I have for all students in this district, particularly those who look like me. Who come from immigrants, who are Latino, and who speak English as their second language. And I can tell you they're not going to achieve the American dream if they don't have access to technology... 

The reason I'm leaving is because in this hostile political environment, I cannot lead a student-centered agenda. This has been a place where I feel the board has micromanaged. People think I'm leaving because of this? This was just the icing on the cake...

I came here with an impeccable, unblemished national reputation. In places where I have left, even my vocal critics would say we disagree with some of his positions and perspectives, but he was an amazing leader.* Here, there have been innuendos that this contract was because I worked for Pearson...First, history. I worked for America's Choice. And America's Choice was acquired by Pearson around December of 2010. I left in June of 2011 to come here. Do people wonder if maybe my reason for leaving Pearson was because I didn't want to work for a big [corporation]? When I came here and we were going through this, I disclosed [my work history], I went through legal and procurement [and asked] should I be involved?  They said your cooling period has sunsetted. You can be involved. But even still, I was not involved in the process. A committee reviewed all the applicants. The only thing I did, I said here's the publishers' criteria. I trained them. I was not [privy] to which were the applicants, their applications. I came on board at the end when they had done the screening and said these are the last three. The last three happened to have Pearson. The others were discarded.

Is there anything else you'd like to add about LAUSD's iPad initiative?

The level of excitement in terms of our teachers, our parents, our students and our principals has been overwhelming. I think the media coverage on this has been very discouraging and very biased...To call students hackers was totally inappropriate. [These problems have] been blown out of proportion by the media.

 * …and modest!   See After Jaime Aquino, what’s next? (EdNews Colorado May 8, 2008)


2cents a 4LAKids reader, who shall remain anonymous writes : “This article is full of lies and I could take pieces of the RFP, video of board meetings and vendor forums and make that point...but this thing is so blatantly fixed, I'm not sure why I need to keep pointing this out!”

4LAKids’ anonymous source continues, quoting the anonymous source – and ed-tech insider - who first forwarded the article:

"’The media journalists (and board) do not dig deep enough. The RFP called for adaptive software, not augmented PDFs. Jaime's former boss at America's Choice now heads Pearson's Common Core System of Courses. Perhaps your media friends can start asking. ‘"