Thursday, July 31, 2014

Is giving students laptops a terrible idea?: WHY ONE DISTRICT IS THROWING ALL ITS STUDENT LAPTOPS AWAY + smf’s 2¢

The Hechinger Report / By Jill Barshay  |

July 30, 2014 |   Inside Hoboken’s combined junior-senior high school is a storage closet. Behind the locked door, mothballed laptop computers are strewn among brown cardboard boxes. Others are stacked one atop another amid other computer detritus. Dozens more are stored on mobile computer carts, many of them on their last legs.

That’s all that remains from a failed experiment to assign every student a laptop in this northern New Jersey suburb of New York City. It began five years ago with an unexpected windfall of stimulus money from Washington, D.C., and good intentions to help the districts’ students, the majority of whom are under or near the poverty line, keep up with their wealthier peers. But Hoboken faced problem after problem and is abandoning the laptops entirely this summer.

“We had the money to buy them, but maybe not the best implementation,” said Mark Toback, the current superintendent of Hoboken School District. “It became unsustainable.”

None of the school administrators who initiated Hoboken’s one-to-one laptop program still work there, but Toback agreed to share Hoboken’s experiences so that other schools can learn from it.

Despite tight budgets, superintendents and principals around the country are cobbling together whatever dollars they can to buy more computers for their classrooms. This year alone, schools are projected to spend almost $10 billion on education technology, a $240-million increase from 2013, according to the Center for Digital Education. Educational technology holds the promise of individualizing instruction, and some school systems, like Mooresville, North Carolina, and Cullman, Alabama, have shown impressive student learning gains. But districts like Los Angeles and Fort Bend, Texas, who jumped on the tech trend without careful planning, have had problems with their programs to distribute a laptop or a tablet to every student, and are scrapping them, too.

By the time Jerry Crocamo, a computer network engineer, arrived in Hoboken’s school system in 2011, every seventh, eighth and ninth grader had a laptop. Each year a new crop of seventh graders were outfitted. Crocamo’s small tech staff was quickly overwhelmed with repairs.

We had “half a dozen kids in a day, on a regular basis, bringing laptops down, going ‘my books fell on top of it, somebody sat on it, I dropped it,’ ” said Crocamo.

Screens cracked. Batteries died. Keys popped off. Viruses attacked. Crocamo found that teenagers with laptops are still… teenagers.

“We bought laptops that had reinforced hard-shell cases so that we could try to offset some of the damage these kids were going to do,” said Crocamo. “I was pretty impressed with some of the damage they did anyway. Some of the laptops would come back to us completely destroyed.”

Crocamo’s time was also eaten up with theft. Despite the anti-theft tracking software he installed, some laptops were never found. Crocamo had to file police reports and even testify in court.

Hoboken school officials were also worried they couldn’t control which websites students would visit. Crocamo installed software called Net Nanny to block pornography, gaming sites and Facebook. He disabled the built-in web cameras. He even installed software to block students from undoing these controls. But Crocamo says students found forums on the Internet that showed them how to access everything.

“There is no more determined hacker, so to speak, than a 12-year-old who has a computer,” said Crocamo.

All this security software also bogged down the computers. Teachers complained it took 20 minutes for them to boot up, only to crash afterwards. Often, there was too little memory left on the small netbooks to run the educational software.

Hoboken math coach Howard McKenzie says he also had problems with the software itself.

“We wanted to run a program for graphing calculators, but it didn’t work very well; it was very sticky,” said McKenzie “We kind of scrapped it.”

Ultimately, the math teacher just showed it to the class on a Smart Board, an interactive whiteboard.

Superintendent Toback admits that teachers weren’t given enough training on how to use the computers for instruction. Teachers complained that their teenage students were too distracted by their computer screens to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.

Michael Ranieri, a junior at Hoboken’s high school, aspires to be an electrical engineer. He said when he did use the computers for schoolwork, it was mostly for word processing and Internet browsing. He would write an essay on the laptop for English class, for example, or research information using Google.

“We didn’t really do much on the computer,” said Ranieri. “So we kind of just did games to mess around when we had free time. I remember really big was Crazy Taxis that we used play. If we found solitaire on line, we used to play it.”

Ranieri said he was relieved to be free of the stress of keeping track of his laptop. Families had to sign papers agreeing to be financially responsible if the computers were lost. Every week Ranieri roamed his classrooms looking for his.

“It was usually under my desk in English class,” he said.

Superintendent Toback inherited the laptop program when he arrived in 2011. At first, he tried to keep it going.

But he faced skyrocketing costs, which hadn’t been budgeted for. The $500 laptops lasted only two years and then needed to be replaced. Toback said new laptops with more capacity for running educational software would cost $1,000 each. Licenses for the security software alone were running more than $100,000 and needed to be renewed every two years.

And the final kicker: the whole town was jamming the high school’s wireless network.

“A lot of people knew the username and password,” Toback said. “So a lot of people were able to walk by the building and they would get wireless access. Over a period of years, you had thousands of people. It bogged it down, it made it unusable.”

Allison Powell says Hoboken’s headaches are not unusual. Powell is a vice president for state and district services at iNacol, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, where she works with school leaders on how to use computers to personalize instruction by delivering different lessons to each child.

But Powell says many schools are continuing to make Hoboken’s mistake of shopping for technology without a plan to make teaching in the classroom more effective.

“Probably in the last few months I’ve had quite a few principals and superintendents call and say, ‘I bought these 500 iPads or 1000 laptops because the district next to us just bought them,’ and they’re like, now what do we do?” Powell said.

Back in Hoboken, the school staff will spend the summer going through the laptops one by one, writing down the serial numbers and drafting a resolution for the school board to approve their destruction.

Then they’ll seek bids from recycling companies to figure out how much it will cost Hoboken to throw them away.

  • Jill Barshay, a contributing editor, is the founding editor and writer of Education By The Numbers, The Hechinger Report's blog about education data. Previously she was the New York bureau chief for Marketplace, a national business show on public radio stations.

2cents small Vin Scully, who has had the same job for 66 years without a promotion, said that “Experience is the art of recognizing one’s mistakes when one makes them again.”

This story, with laptops stored+ignored in storage closets cupboards rather than distributed to students, rang a bell. A bell from 2012. From across the pond.

Schools wasting money on gadgets: Millions of pounds worth of technology is “languishing unused” in school cupboards because teachers are being duped into buying the latest gadgets, according to research.

SchoolsWorld  |

Nesta, the innovation charity, claimed that millions of pounds were being wasted on useless technology in schools such as tablet computers, education games and electronic whiteboards with little or no evidence that they benefit children’s education.

Researchers warned that teachers were increased pulled in by the “hype and lure of digital education” without properly considering how to use the technology.

The study was based on an analysis of more than 1,000 research papers drawn up into the use of technology in education.

Researchers suggested that schools across Britain collectively spent more than £1.4bn on the latest gadgets in the last three years alone. But the study warned that there was “little tangible impact” on pupils’ education as technology was often “imported into classrooms without the necessary changes to teacher practice and school organisation to support them”.

The report – entitled “Decoding Learning” – also warned that tablet computers were being handed to pupils with no training in how to use them. “Tablet computers offer a window to vast swathes of information, but so does a traditional library,” it said. “To use either effectively, a child needs structured teaching to help turn information into knowledge.”

●●smf: I’m just wondering if we can have that bit of wisdom tattooed, in mirror image, across the foreheads of Dr. Deasy and Matt Hill.

The study highlighted a number of ways in which technology could be used to boost pupils’ education. This included the use of a robotics kit for secondary schools that enables pupils to attach lights, sensors and motors to a customised control board – and then programme their machines using a simple app. In another example, pupils were able to use powerful sound equipment and specially-positioned digital equipment to simulate an earthquake in a geography class.

Also from 4LAKidsNews (Nov 2012) :

ACROSS THE POND: Millions of pounds (£) of technology is languishing in school cupboards because teachers are being lured into buying the latest gadgets, according to research.


●●smf: “None of the school administrators who initiated Hoboken’s one-to-one laptop program still work there, but Toback agreed to share Hoboken’s experiences so that other schools can learn from it.” 

It’s probably too-late-for-that for those of us in LAUSD.

I know that there are pallets of iPads from last year in District warehouses that probably won’t be un-shrink-wrapped until testing season next year. A warehouse. A cupboard. A cabinet. The big government warehouse from the last reel of Raiders of the Lost Ark. All the same.

I admit that I initially-if-cautiously supported Dr. Deasy and Mr. Hill’s Common Core Technology Project …though ultimately the way they rolled it out drives me the very-short-distance-from-where-I-am to to drink,

I refer us all to the Decoding Learning quote …and to Vince Scully’s quote. Again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


From a “Heads Up” from a 4LAKids reader.

  • 73 high schools are getting $30,603, regardless of enrollment and/or programs,
  • 7 of them are getting $15,303, and
  • 5 of them are getting zero, nada, zilch.

Is that enough to keep high school athletics alive at LAUSD?
What will be the ramifications of this funding decision?
What will be the response of parents and alumni?
What will voters who voted for Prop 30 say?

Methodology: The total allocation to athletics in FY 2013-14, as derived from adding the athletic budget for each high school.

  • Said budget obtained by downloading from LAUSD's servers in the last week or so, was $5,577,510.
  • Doing the same from the release of the school budgets made on June 8, the total athletic budget for FY 2014-15 is $2,341,215.
  • Of course, all budget decisions are made at the school sites – that’s where the local control decision makers are. There was no central hand or direction from Beaudry to cut the overall LAUSD athletics budget 58%.


Los Angeles Daily News Editorial |

(Getty Images)

Posted: 07/29/14, 3:46 PM PDT  ::  It may take the courts to decide the merits of a lawsuit claiming that three dozen California school districts have scrimped on physical education.

But this much is certain already: The suit is inspiring needed examination of schools’ approaches to this vital part of the curriculum.

The depressing general truths about children’s levels of physical fitness are known to anybody who hasn’t been living under a rock — or living in their parents’ basement, playing video games instead of getting a little exercise outside.

Too many school kids are out of shape and untutored in fitness techniques, raising their risks for poor health later in life and affecting their ability to learn in the classroom.

On state tests measuring California kids’ fitness in 2013, only 25.5 percent of fifth-graders, 32.5 percent of seventh-graders and 36.8 percent of ninth-graders made the “healthy fitness zone” in all six categories.

In the category called “body composition,” 33.7, 30.1 and 26.2 percent of students at the respective grade levels produced test results suggesting they face “health risk.”

The California Department of Education published those and other statistics last fall in a news release cheerfully heralding students’ “slight gains in physical fitness.” True, some numbers improved by a percentage point — or less. But the data wasn’t reassuring.

People may not want to hear that their kids are (as we might say euphemistically) deficient in the area of body composition. Remember the outcry last year when school officials sent out what came to be known as “fat letters,” informing parents if a child was particularly heavy for his or her height. But it’s a subject that must be confronted.

Are California schools taking it seriously enough? Has phys ed suffered from recession-era budget cuts? Has it bounced back?

According to the state education code, first- through sixth-grade students are supposed to receive at least 200 minutes of physical education per 10 school days, not including recess and lunch breaks.

But a class-action lawsuit, filed last October by a San Francisco Bay Area parent named Marc Babin and an organization called Cal200 that advocates for physical education, claims that many of the state’s largest school districts fall short of that modest, 20-minutes-a-day requirement.

Those districts include Los Angeles Unified, San Bernardino City Unified and others in Compton, East Whittier, Glendora, Lynwood, Moorpark and Riverside.

Teachers are reported to have been ordered to keep their recent lesson plans as evidence of how much time has been devoted to phys ed. Whatever the records reveal, it is important for parents to know if children are getting enough exercise and physical instruction, which should go hand in hand with efforts to improve nutrition in school meals.

A 2012 study led by a San Francisco State professor showed that students are more likely to pass fitness tests if their schools comply with state phys-ed requirements. For some kids, especially if they live in dangerous neighborhoods, the school playground may offer the only exercise they get.

However the lawsuit turns out, if it causes education officials to examine whether California children are getting enough phys-ed and take action if they aren’t, that’s a healthy development indeed.


by Vanessa Romo, LA Schools Report |

Steve Zimmer George McKenna

Steve Zimmer, with George McKenna to his right.

Posted on July 29, 2014 11:33 am   ::  Endorsements in the District 1 school board race continued to pile up today as two LA Unified board members jumped on the George McKenna bandwagon, and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa weighed in for Alex Johnson.

Steve Zimmer and Bennett Kayser appeared at a news conference outside City Hall this morning to offer their strong support for McKenna, the former administrator who won the June primary.

Villaraigosa announced his endorsement through a campaign release from Johnson, the education aide to LA Country Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who finished second.

The candidates are now facing each other in an Aug. 12 runoff election.

Calling McKenna “one of the most esteemed public educators in recent LA history,” Zimmer said he was disturbed at campaign mailers from Johnson that called into question McKenna’s effectiveness as an administrator.

“I couldn’t stand idly by and let it happen,” he told LA School Report at the gathering. “So I’m getting involved.”

Kayser said he, too, was motivated by the fliers, saying, “I was going to stay out of the campaign. Then I saw the fliers sent out. attacking him. I felt I can’t stand back.”

In his remarks, McKenna emphasized his decades of experience as an administrator, telling the crowd, “All I’m trying to do is continue my commitment for all of these years. Somebody else might think they are in a contest, trying to win something. I’m just trying to continue my commitment in this process in this journey. I made a commitment along time ago to be a teacher and an educator and to serve our teachers and administrators and get everything they need.”

McKenna has been resistant to answering questions about his positions on specific issues, but in a brief interview after the event, he said, “I’m not running on issues or against anyone. Do teachers deserve raises? Yes. Should teachers be evaluated? Yes. Do they deserve tenure? Yes. But in that yes, there’s a whole lot of nuances.”

Among other notables at the event were UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl and City Council Members Tom LaBonge, Gil Cedillo, Bernard Parks and Paul Koretz.

In a statement from his campaign, Johnson said, “I’m proud to have Mayor Villaraigosa’s support for my campaign in this very important election for the future of our schools and educational opportunities for our children.”

Zimmer and Kayser became the latest members of the board to endorse in the race, joining joining Monica Ratliff, who also endorsed McKenna, and Monica Garcia, who is supporting Johnson.

The breakdown is not surprising. Just as McKenna is receiving strong support from UTLA, Zimmer, Kayser and Ratliff are the union’s strongest advocates on the board. Garcia is a leading voice for reform policies, and the PAC affiliated with the California Charter Schools Association has spent more than $77,000 on Johnson’s behalf.

The board member endorsements leave only President Richard Vladovic and Tamar Galatzan as board members who have not publicly expressed support for either candidate. Galatzan’s office said she was out of town and unreachable; Vladovic was said to be unavailable for comment.

Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival Friday August 1st: THE TAMING OF THE SHREW + Robin Lithgow’s PLAYACTING IN SHAKESPEARE’S CLASSROOM

Independent Shakespeare Co. presents Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival 2014

Melissa Chalsma & Luis Galindo in The Taming of the Shrew. Photo by Grettel Cortes

The Taming of the Shrew: Thursday July 31, Friday August 1 & Saturday August 2 at 7:00 pm

Baptista has a problem. His biggest job is to see his daughters married well. His youngest, Bianca, is a piece of cake: she’s obedient, dutiful, and modest. However his eldest, Kate, just doesn’t know her place. She’s headstrong, opinionated, and prone to speaking her own mind. What’s a father to do? His salvation appears in the form of Petruchio, a traveler with an eye on Kate’s plentiful dowry. He uses every dirty trick in the book to tame her, but he just might find in the end that you can’t keep a good woman down.

SALON SERIES: Discussions at the Intersection of Shakespeare & Contemporary Culture


Playacting in Shakespeare’s Classroom with Robin Lithgow
Friday, August 1 at 6:00 pm

Explore the impact of Erasmus and humanism on the training of students both in classical rhetoric and colloquial Latin. The focus of the discussion will be on the connections between Shakespeare’s grammar school engagement with Erasmus’ Colloquies and the colloquial aesthetic of his comedies.

Robin Lithgow recently retired as the Director of the Arts Education Branch of the Los Angeles Unified School District.  She was one of the architects of the Elementary Arts Program and devoted her career to bringing theatre and the arts back into the core of instruction, pre-K through twelfth grade.

Performances at at The Old Zoo in Griffith Park (directions follow)

All performances are free, though donations are gratefully accepted and essential to our work. You can donate now!

  • Remember to bring a blanket or low-back lawn chair. It gets cool when the sun goes down, so please bring something warm to wear. And although we love all creatures great and small, we request you leave your dogs at home.
  • Directions, information & complete calendar for the summer at

Directions, information & complete calendar for the summer at & MORE INFORMATION

The festival stage is located at the site of Old Zoo, in Griffith Park, on the east side. There are three direct freeway access points:

1) From the Southbound 5: take the Los Feliz Blvd West exit turning right up Crystal Springs Drive almost immediately upon exiting the freeway. There may be roadworks along this section of Crystal Springs Drive, so be aware of them while entering the park. Follow the signs to make a right turn onto Crystal Springs Drive.

2) From the Eastbound 134: take the Victory Blvd exit (following signs to the LA Zoo). You will make a right onto Riverside, and an immediate left onto Zoo Drive (which will then become Crystal Springs Drive as you continue past the Los Angeles Zoo).

3) From the Northbound 5: take the Griffith Park exit, which will take you to Crystal Springs Drive. Turn right on Crystal Springs Drive.

In all cases, look for our signs along the way directing you to the venue. You will arrive at an intersection where there are several activities including the Merry-Go-Round, Shane’s Inspiration Playground, and the Wilson Harding Golf Course, as well as the Ranger Station. Look for our signs that will direct you to Parking Lot 2 (go past Parking Lot 1) for available parking.

PLEASE NOTE: the parking here is plentiful and free, but can be a bit disorienting as there are several connected lots. Stay calm, follow the signs, and let us know if there is anything we can do to make it more clear.

From Parking Lot 2, follow the path (look for our signs) leading from the north end of the parking lot to the stage. If you are using an internet map service, you can enter the address below. As you near your destination, keep an eye out for our signs, which will direct you to parking and the festival stage. THIS ADDRESS WILL NOT WORK for GPS coordinates: your system will get you to the park, but please read the above directions carefully.

There is no physical address for the site. However, the very nearby ranger station is: 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, 90027  The closest GPS location is  34.134204,-118.284962

IF YOU NEED disabled access, please call the ISC office at (818) 710-6306 for more information.

And please–there are no seating risers so REMEMBER YOUR BLANKET OR LAWN CHAIR!

• Performances begin at 7:00 p.m.  Please give yourself enough time to drive to the site, park your car, and make your way to the venue.

• There is no seating at the venue: please bring a blanket or a low-backed lawn chair.
• DRESS WARMLY! Once the sun goes down, it gets quite chilly. Pack blankets and cozy up to your friends.
• We will be selling concessions on site, or you can pack your own picnic. Please note, however, it is a city park, and alcohol is prohibited.
• Although we light the exit path, you may want to bring your own flashlight as well.
Also, we’re sorry…but please, no dogs.
• We’ll say it again…DRESS WARMLY! Even if it is a hot day. Some people even bring coats and hats!


• It is a short walk along a paved path to the venue. Wear comfortable shoes. There will be ISC volunteers in the parking lot and along the path to the stage eager to assist you.
• If you need disabled access, or help getting from the parking lot to the stage, please CALL THE ISC OFFICE AND WE WILL MAKE ARRANGEMENTS TO ASSIST YOU: (818) 710-6306.

• Although the performance is free, we will be giving you a few opportunities to make contributions to support free Shakespeare

You’re still reading? In that case, we’ll let you know that we are grateful and delighted to perform for you.
Thank you!


New dispute opens over LCAP reporting mandate

by Tom Chorneau | SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet

July 30, 2014 (Calif.)  ::  A festering dispute over how much freedom local officials should have over education spending has reignited, pitting school managers against advocates for low-income families and some key members of the Legislature.

The current tempest involves plans local educational agencies are now required to produce showing how new state funds are being used to support disadvantaged students.

A template of the new plan pending before the California State Board of Education would require districts to provide actual spending figures on each pupil subgroup – a mandate that school officials say undermines Gov. Jerry Brown’s often cited principal of subsidiarity.

They also argue that actual spending reports typically trail the end of the fiscal year by months and thus cannot be included in the Local Accountability Control Plans, which must be approved and adopted before July 1 each year.




next meeting is

PAC Meeting

7/31/2014 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Agenda - English & Spanish


PCSB - Auditorium
1360 W Temple St
Los Angeles, CA 90026


“The LCAP was never intended to be an expenditure document that a lay person could pick up to see the LEA’s entire budget in black and white,” a coalition of school management groups and local districts said in a July 28 letter to the state board.

They noted some of the proposed changes “suggest an erosion of the governor’s original vision and instead move the template towards becoming a document driven by compliance rather than student outcomes and closing the achievement gaps.”

Representatives from some of the state’s largest school management groups signed the letter including the Association of California School Administrators, the California School Boards Association and the California Association of School Business Officials.

It arrived, along with scores of others from education stakeholders, during the final days of a public comment period tied to proposed changes to regulations governing the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula and next year’s LCAP.

The changes, discussed by the state board at its July meeting, are expected to come back for further review at the September meeting.

On the other side of the question, social justice groups praised the proposed disclosure requirement, noting that it would result in districts clearly acknowledging schoolwide spending that under some conditions could include students who do not qualify as “educationally disadvantaged” –defined by state law as low-income, English learners or foster youth.

Debra Brown, associate director for Children Now – also in a July 28 letter to the board – said the new requirement “goes a long way toward closing a loophole in the regulations that made it unclear whether the funds for unduplicated students would be spent on their behalf.”

If the disagreement might appear to be modest and technical in nature, it is reflective of a broader struggle schools groups and advocates for low-income families have waged virtually since the LCFF was first proposed two years ago.

Brown’s original plan called for the removal of all spending restrictions on billions of dollars in state support to schools, with additional funds provided to schools and districts serving high numbers of disadvantaged students. Little more accountability was proposed initially, which provoked strong opposition from social justice groups as well as a significant portion of the Legislature’s Democratic majority.

Eventually the governor and legislative leaders agreed on the LCAP as a condition of receiving new freedom to spend state funds – a report that requires consultation with parents and community leaders to create and outline student needs, educational goals and spending decisions.

Although the elements of the LCAP were worked out in budget negotiations last year and Brown has said he opposes any major changes until schools and communities have had a chance to go through the process once or twice, some activist lawmakers and advocacy groups have continued to press for greater accountability.

School officials said privately this week that they are concerned that the LCAP process will become a new “categorical” program over time – a reference to the previous system where dozens of school spending programs were defined in legislation and controlled from Sacramento.

At the July hearing, members of the state board cautioned advocates on both sides of the issue to consider how much common ground had been covered in recent months to refine the LCAP into the form it is today.

“The real problem,” said one Capitol observer close to the issue, “is a continued lack of trust between school districts and the social welfare folks.”

CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL KAMALA HARRIS CHAMPIONS SCHOOL TRUANCY BILLS; 47% of students in LAUSD missed class three or more times without an excuse in the 2012-13 school year

By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks to the Los Angeles News Group Editorial Board at the Los Angeles Daily News on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (Photos by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News)

Posted: 07/29/14, 7:10 PM PDT  ::  California’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Kamala Harris, explained her plans to curb crime by clamping down on school truancy Tuesday in an interview with the editorial board of the Los Angeles News Group, which includes the Daily News.

Persistent truancy, especially among elementary school children, puts kids on a path to failure, heightens their chances of dropping out of school and can lead to a life of encounters with law enforcement, either as victim or criminal, Harris said.

“It’s not only an issue in terms of the waste of human potential, but also the waste of taxpayer dollars on an issue that can be addressed and fixed, I believe,” Harris said.

Truancy has a direct effect on schools, she said, when districts lose out on collecting federal funding, which is based on attendance, she said. California’s school districts lose about $1.4 billion annually because of truancy, according to a 2013 report compiled by Harris’ department.

Locally, truancy in Los Angeles Unified has reached a record high, as 46.53 percent of students in the state’s largest school system missed class three or more times without an excuse in the 2012-13 school year, according to the most recent data reported to the California Department of Education.

Truancy among students in Los Angeles County’s other 86 school systems was 25.5 percent, while California’s average was 29.28 percent in 2012-13, according to the California Department of Education.

But it’s the most severe cases, instances of elementary school children missing more than 10 percent of the school year, that Harris said concerns her the most.

It’s not uncommon for poor families to frequently move or be unable to afford day care, she said. An 8-year-old will miss school to watch a 2-year-old sibling, because mom’s holding down two jobs and struggling to make ends meet, she said.

“People are transient,” Harris said. “They’re shuttling kids all over the place so they miss a lot of school and they just drop out.”

In an effort to focus on those kids, Harris is championing several bills that would enhance data on school attendance and track truant kids, including the outcomes of severe cases that are referred to prosecutors.

“If we reconfigure our priorities a bit on something like elementary school truancy, the return on our investment, I think, is going to be pretty substantial,” Harris said.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


By Hugo Guzman & Sarah Favot, The Pasadena Star-News |

The Pasadena Unified School District school board voted to file a lawsuit against the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District for opening the SCALE Academy Charter School within PUSD’s boundaries. The charter school is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2014. Walt Mancini — Staff photographer

Posted: 07/29/14, 9:08 PM PDT  | PASADENA ::  The Pasadena Unified School District school board unanimously voted to file a lawsuit against a school district that it believes illegally chartered a middle school within Pasadena Unified’s boundaries and will seek the school’s closure.

SCALE Academy Charter School, which stands for Schools and Communities for Advanced Learning Experiences, opened this spring at 1206 Lincoln Ave., a property owned by Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church. The middle school was chartered by the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District, a 2,400-student school district near the Antelope Valley.

District spokesman Adam Wolfson said AADUSD did not notify PUSD before it had approved an application for a charter school that would be located within Pasadena Unified’s boundaries.

“Families who are looking at that school should be aware that there’s pending litigation regarding on whether the school operate within PUSD boundaries,” Wolfson said. “One of the possible outcomes is that the court will shut them down for illegally operating outside of AADUSD.”

The district first learned of the charter school that serves students in sixth through eighth grades when board members received flyers recruiting students in their mailbox. Officials with SCALE declined to comment.

PUSD is the most recent in a string of school districts filing charges against AADUSD over charter school petition approvals. AADUSD, which operates two elementary schools, a junior high school and one high school, has authorized more than 20 charter schools, according to PUSD.

Los Angeles Unified School District and Newhall School District have also filed lawsuits against the district.

PUSD officials and other school district superintendents believe the financially distressed AADUSD has approved charter schools to generate revenue. AADUSD is currently assigned a “negative certification” and is being monitored by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

The school district that charters a school receives a portion of any income generated by the charter school.

On June 12, LACOE issued a stay order to the AADUSD school board preventing the board from approving any further charter school applications.

AADUSD Superintendent Brent Woodard and school board members did not respond to requests for comment.

AADUSD board member Ed Porter told KHTS AM1220 last month that the charter petitions were done legally. “We’re operating within the legal confines for charters schools set forth by the state,” Porter said.

When SCALE Academy submitted its petition to AADUSD in January, the charter school had not found a permanent location, but it’s application said: “The school plans to locate in the Acton-Agua Dulce School District.”

Despite the legal action, SCALE Academy plans to open its doors on Aug. 18 and is accepting new students.

A school district that charters a school outside of its district must notify the school district where the charter school plans to operate.

A bill in the legislature filed by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, aims to change the wording of a law so that the district where the charter school plans to locate must provide written approval before the charter school is approved.

PUSD’s attorney said PUSD must have a voice in the matter.

“The lawsuit is not an attempt to prevent charter schools in the Pasadena Unified School District, but to ensure that local charter schools are authorized in compliance with law and operate in concert with local school districts to the benefit of our local communities,” Attorney Sue Ann Evans said in PUSD’s statement. “The district recognizes that charter schools can play an important role in the community, but they best complement the services of local school districts when they are formed and operate in conjunction with a local school district.”


Letter to the editor of the L.A. Times |

July 29, 2014  5:00AM

Submit a Letter to the EditorTo the editor:

I agree with Sandy Banks' assessment of Alex Johnson's attacks on George McKenna in their campaign for a seat on the L.A. Unified School District Board of Education. ("Quote's context sheds better light on LAUSD candidate George McKenna," Column, July 25)

I voted for Johnson in the primary. But after receiving his hit-piece mailer assaulting McKenna with a collection of carefully snipped phrases, I mailed it back to Johnson's headquarters with my scrawled note that he actually had my vote but no longer did.

I hope some staffer showed him my message. I doubt that he saw it — or, judging by his horrible attacks, that he even cared.

Robert Helfman, Los Angeles


By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

7/28/14, 6:38 PM PDT | Updated: 7/29 7:40 AM  ::  With just two weeks before school starts, union leaders representing 35,000 teachers have declined Los Angeles Unified’s offer to conduct contract talks on a daily basis.

The two sides are divided by about $280 million per year in pay increases and other issues, such as the district’s proposal to make teacher evaluations based partly on student performance.

In a letter Monday [follows], UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl rejected the district’s request to expedite bargaining at a time when many members are on summer break and after, he said, administrators delayed negotiations earlier this year by taking several months to counter UTLA’s opening offer.

“We’re going to continue on our course of negotiating with the District, complemented by organizing with our members and with parents and the community for the Schools L.A. Students Deserve,” Caputo-Pearl said in a statement.

Under their current schedule, union leaders and district administrators are set to meet Aug. 6 and Aug. 21. The first day of school at many LAUSD campuses is Aug. 12.

The two sides sat down for their first round of in-person talks on Thursday. At that meeting, UTLA arrived with all seven of its union officers in a surprise shift to so-called “big bargaining” tactics.

Teachers in Chicago used the method leading up to their nine-day strike in early 2012. It calls for a massive bargaining team of union officers, rank-and-file teachers and, UTLA has said it plans on inviting parents and public observers to the negotiations.

UTLA leaders have rejected the district’s offer of 6.64 percent across-the-board raises to be realized over the next two years and an immediate 2 percent, one-time, bonus to be paid immediately.

Caputo-Pearl, who beat incumbent Warren Fletcher in the race for union president earlier this year, promised double digit pay raises of at least 10 percent and said he would oppose grading teachers based on student performance.

Since taking office July 1, Caputo-Pearl has called on union leaders to organize their schools and prepare for a strike.

Before their strike in Chicago, the teachers union there deployed similar tactics and rallied union members and parents behind their cause. The strike ended with teachers securing a 17.6 percent raise over four years and concessions that, among other things, based evaluations partly on student performance.

UTLA leaders are similarly requesting a 17.6 percent raise. And like their counterparts in Chicago, have set about the process of reviewing thousands of pages of district financial records in an effort to find questionable spending. Union leaders here contend the district has plenty of money to meet their demands and point to additional state revenue as a source of funding.

School Superintendent John Deasy, however, has said the district will need to make cuts such as scaling back plans to expand programs to cover its current offer, which would leave the district with a 26.3 percent higher tab for union employees after adding in the rising cost of pension and health care benefits and pay incentives teachers can earn.

UTLA Expedited Bargaining Response 7.28.14

Monday, July 28, 2014


Listen to the radio story

by Beth Fertig, and Anna Kamenetz and Claudio Sanchez | National Public Radio.All Things Considered |

July 28, 2014 4:03 PM ET [Transcript] :

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ, BYLINE: And I'm Claudio Sanchez in Washington. There's a good reason critics of teacher tenure laws view the Vergara ruling and now this New York lawsuit as a promising template for still more court battles.

KEVIN WELNER: Saying, well we should be able to fire teachers who are bad, of course we can agree on that.

SANCHEZ: To be clear Kevin Welner is not a critic of tenure laws. As director of the National Education Policy Center he hasn't taken a position and sees merit in both sides of the debate.

<<Campbell Brown of the Partnership for Educational Justice, with plaintiffs in their New York teacher tenure lawsuit.

WELNER: I think there are probably also strong very strong arguments to be made that they should remain unchanged. I mean these job perfections were put in place to avoid other problems related to arbitrary firings and corrupt and nepotistic employment practices and they still serve that purpose to some extent.

SANCHEZ: Up to a point says Michelle Rhee, founder of Students First.

MICHELLE RHEE: There are states and jurisdictions in which the dismissal process is way too time-consuming and cumbersome essentially making it impossible for those teachers to be fired. And so when we have nonsensical laws that give people essentially a job for life, regardless of performance we should remove those policies or fix them.

SANCHEZ: After resigning under a cloud of controversy as Washington D.C.'s schools Chancellor, Rhee embarked on a national campaign. She and her group are targeting states whose constitutions explicitly guarantee every child the right to a quality education but are clearly falling short. Rhee could have used any number of problem areas to make her case, lopsided school funding, ability grouping, special education, but she settled on teacher tenure and seniority. Rhee's group supported the Vergara lawsuit in California and helped with this latest lawsuit in New York. Now she says it's time to take the fight to at least four other states. Minnesota, Connecticut, New Jersey and Tennessee.

VAN ROEKEL: She wants to go after unions. This has nothing to do with students.

SANCHEZ: Dennis Van Roekel is the outgoing president of the National Education Association.

ROEKEL: She has no evidence whatsoever that if you removed due process that that will somehow improve education.

RHEE: Nobody's arguing that we get rid of due process rights. What we're saying is lay offs should not be done by seniority (Unintelligibility) egregiously incompetent teachers, that the dismissal process should be process should be more streamlined.

SANCHEZ: Van Roekel insists unions are not opposed to straightening the time it takes to fire ineffective teachers or lengthening the time it takes to get tenure. Most states, 41 in fact, require anywhere from three to five years before a teacher is eligible for tenure. If anti-tenure groups don't think that's reasonable and want to challenge tenure laws in court, fine, says Van Roekel.

ROEKEL: But I'm going to fight like crazy to make sure that they also deal with equable funding, equitable learning conditions for all students because if they fail to address those issues, the losers are the students that we have in our schools today and tomorrow. And that is just wrong.

SANCHEZ: Legal experts say focusing on tenure and seniority laws alone does not get at lots of other problems. Again Kevin Welner.

WELNER: It doesn't focus on attracting smart teachers, it doesn't focus on developing smarter teachers, it doesn't focus on how to convince weaker teachers, who are not developing leave voluntarily. I mean most people don't leave jobs because they were fired, they leave jobs because they aren't successful at those jobs.

SANCHEZ: And Welner says Vergara like lawsuits could expose lots of other damaging policies that state courts could just as easily view as discriminatory. Again policies like ability grouping, which tracks low-income minority students into classes and programs that are nothing more than academic dumping grounds. So, maybe the silver lining in all this says Welner, is that state courts will be asked to scrutinize lots of questionable education policies and laws.

WELNER: Maybe it's time that we started moving in that direction. Asking the courts to play that role isn't ideal but it's probably preferable to generation after generation of kids being denied basic equality of educational opportunities.

SANCHEZ: The case in New York is likely to drag on. As for the Vergara ruling in California, teachers unions have appealed and Welner says only if the decision is upheld are we likely to see a sea change in teacher tenure and seniority laws. Claudio Sanchez NPR News.


Teacher Tenure Fight Spills Into N.Y., Where A New Lawsuit Brews

by Beth Fertig | NPR/ACC |

Listen to the story | 3 min 44 sec

A new salvo has been fired in the fight over teacher tenure. A group led by former TV anchor Campbell Brown filed a complaint in New York state court, arguing that tenure laws are preventing the state from providing every child with the "sound, basic education" its constitution guarantees.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Ari Shapiro sitting in this week.


And I'm Audie Cornish. We begin this hour with the heated fight over teacher tenure. Today in New York a group of seven families filed a complaint in state courts. They say tenure rules are getting in the way of the state's obligation to give all students a sound basic education.

SHAPIRO: The suit is the latest reverberations from last month's Vergara ruling in California. In that case a state judge said tenure laws violate the right of low income students to get an equal education.

CORNISH: In a moment we'll hear about more tenure challenges that may be in works in other parts of the country. But first Beth Fertig of member station WNYC reports on today's challenge.

BETH FERTIG, BYLINE: The New York lawsuit is notable for its Scope and the people behind it. It was spearheaded by former TV anchor Campbell Brown, through her partnership for educational Justice. And she's relying on pro bono representation from the major law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Attorney Jay Lefkowitz.

JAY LEFKOWITZ: Having bad teachers in the classroom, having bad teachers who can't be removed, having a rating system which really makes a mockery of a legitimate rating system for teachers, these are all a systematic deprivation of the right to a sound education.

FERTIG: The suit notes that more than 90 percent of the state's teachers were rated highly effective or effective in 2012, while just 31 percent of elementary and middle school students scored proficient on their math and reading tests the next year. And it cites data showing disadvantaged students tend to get less effective teachers on average. In announcing the lawsuit, Brown stood with dozens of supporters and the seven parents who have signed on as plaintiffs.

CAMPBELL BROWN: This is not going to be easy and they are so incredibly brave to be taken this on. And I'm so proud to be standing here and supporting them here today.

FERTIG: One of those plaintiffs is Nina Doster, who has three children in New York City public schools. The Queen's mother claims her soon to be second-grader isn't reading on grade level because of his classroom teacher.

NINA DOSTER: She didn't put the effort into it, I've known her since my oldest went to that school and it doesn't seem like she, you know put effort into it anymore.

FERTIG: Doster is also an organizer with the groups "Students First" a frequent critic of teachers unions. The lawsuit is modeled after the Vergara suite in California but there are big differences between the laws in the two states. In California tenure kicks in after only 18 months on the job. In New York it takes three years. New York State has also been using a more rigorous teacher evaluation system. These are just some of the reasons why skeptics believe the suit is likely to fail. Michael Rebell runs the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College at Columbia University. In 2003 he persuaded the state's highest court that New York's funding formula was unconstitutional because it left city schools with outdated textbooks and crumbling facilities.

MICHAEL REBELL: That the courts are willing to take a stand on. Now what the details of that educational program are, you know, what your system is for hiring teachers, what your curriculum is and all these other things. The courts are going to be very wary about getting involved in.

FERTIG: The Teachers Union has also argued that tenure only guarantees due process and isn't a job for life. Critics have questioned Brown's involvement because her own children attend private schools but she says that's precisely why she wanted to help other parents.

BROWN: There is a difference in what I'm able to provide my children and they're able to provide there's. And that to me is incredibly unfair.

FERTIG: Brown says she's looking to bring similar lawsuits in other states. For NPR News I'm Beth Fertig in New York.




“The Red Queen shook her head. "You may call it 'nonsense' if you like," she said, "but I've heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary!” -― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

Written by the red queen in la in her blog |

Monday, 28 Jul 2014  ::  The largest chain of Charter Schools in this country is run from the Poconos by a reclusive, self-exiled Turk named Fethullah Gülen. From its website, this self-proclaimed “faith-inspired initiative to improve educational opportunities for a local community” inspires instead a wide range of interpretation and suspicion.

And this is how the volatile and complex politics of a middle eastern country halfway around the globe, Turkey, overlaps with the convoluted and complicated politics of modern Education Reform in one of the world’s most diverse cities, Los Angeles.

The Gulen Movement (GM) is the ideological core of the Charter School chain that is at the heart of the recent court ruling “allowing” two of their schools to remain open in LAUSD.

Alleging financial impropriety in at least two of its schools, located respectively in Palms (westside) and Van Nuys (west Valley), the LAUSD charter office asserts authority to close the two schools, in keeping with a mandate to retain some semblance of oversight over the largest concentration of publicly funded quasi-private “Charter” Schools in existence anywhere. The leadership of these two particular schools, the Hizmet movement, or GM, won an injunction from the closing by arguing that failing to renew a school’s charter was tantamount to revoking its charter, a move that requires public input.

But it may just well be that avoiding such a messy discussion is the goal of our public school board. They must be sensitive to even the appearance of any sort of defamation of anyone’s culture or religion. And yet protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, the Gulen Movement is a hugely powerful, and hugely controversial, political entity in this country. The incursions of this cult into our public school system and political landscape are so widespread and so deep that there is no escaping the need for the electorate to read about this movement for yourself.

Unless there is a broader understanding of the extent of its influence and teachings, the LAUSD has little hope of countering GM’s interference in our schools and our children’s lives, either ideologically or financially. To even begin to understand what is at stake is to necessarily traverse the incredibly murky international political waters of competing, Islamist ideologies. And this tricky story cannot be driven by xenophobia or prejudice. Investigating an organization on record as lauding secrecy, requires careful treatment of derivative underlying political motives.

What remains is the crucial logistic specifics of Charter School mismanagement. At the end of the day while this underlying political connection is important, we need, quite simply, for our public dollars to be spent wisely and fairly and openly. When these cannot be traced, it is incumbent upon any entity’s operating board to halt proceedings. In precisely the same fashion as LAUSD itself, the Gulen Movement must show us not only how but where our public dollars are being spent. And when they cannot or will not, we must not permit suspicious operations to continue. Given LAUSD’s own budget transparency issues, for another entity to arouse suspicion from the bowels of LAUSD accounting, suggests apart from the kettle calling the pot black, that the opacity of Magnolia-Gulen Charter Schools must be inscrutable indeed.


Do Not Ignore The Reasons To
VOTE ON JUNE 12 for George McKenna


Mary Plummer  | 89.3 KPCC |

88461 full

Teaching artist in training Anthony "Chuck" Gloria, left, works with animation co-directors Ruah Edelstein and Masha Vasilkovsky on a performance blending music and animated pieces. Maya Sugarman/KPCC


July 28, 2014  ::  A new program at the California Institute of the Arts is taking some of the school's arts students and preparing them for careers in the classroom.

The well-known university in Valencia has long been a hub for top arts students from around the country — and for decades, officials there have sought to formalize a process for helping arts students make their way in the world of teaching. In January, a $55,000 donation from two CalArts board of trustee members made it possible. The program, known as the CalArts Residency for Teaching Artists, launched in May and officials hope it will continue again next summer.

"We always knew that students needed a little more training in teaching," said Glenna Avila, who designed the program. "But we never had the resources per say to deepen that."

Teaching artists are frequently used in public schools as a way to infuse students' arts education with instruction from actual artists — the model is sometimes seen as a cost-saving tool for districts as well. Typically, a teaching artist is paired with a traditional classroom teacher who may not have a background in the arts, which in some cases cuts out the need for credentialed arts teachers.

In 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts was created and teaching artists began formally working in schools. In recent years, public schools in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles have increasingly incorporated teaching artists into arts education efforts.

Connie Covert explains how teaching artists should interact with principals. The lesson is part of the CalArts Residency for Teaching Artists, a new program that launched in May. Mary Plummer/KPCC>>

"It's a way to deepen teaching in everything," said Shannon Wilkins, a consultant to the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

There's also a need for teachers with experience in the arts, according to Avila. She said many of today's teachers who grew up in California's public school system in the past three decades are becoming professionals with little background in the arts.

"Many of them did not have the arts in their elementary and middle and high schools as they were growing up and so that's a huge deficit on the part of our, our teachers," she said.

The key to successful programs, according to David Dik — national executive director of Young Audiences Arts for Learning — is strong classroom teachers who work in partnership with motivated teaching artists and credentialed arts instructors to enrich student learning.

"There's only so much that a teaching artist is going to bring the equation," said Dik, whose nonprofit oversees 4,400 teaching artists across the country. Dik added that traditional arts educators tend to have more of an alliance with school districts compared to teaching artists who are committed to their craft.

"A teaching artist first and foremost is an artist," he said.

For the aspiring teaching artists at CalArts, the new program offers a chance at a career in teaching without sacrificing their commitment to their art forms.

Emerson Whitney just earned an MFA from the Critical Studies Creative Writing Program and was one of a dozen participants in the program. He said he always wanted to be a teacher.

"I know I could have gone to a more traditional program," he said. "But I feel like as a teaching artist it's a totally different and a unique thing."

Learn more about teaching artists


By Sara Hayden, Los Angeles Times |

P.E. lawsuit

A physical education classes at Van Nuys Middle School in 2006. Several California school districts are being sued for allegedly not providing enough time for kids to exercise. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)  ●●smf: This article and the subject lawsuit is about P.E. in elementary school. It is telling that The Times  photo editors were not able to find photos of Elementary P.E

.July 28, 2014  ::  Thousands of elementary school teachers have been asked this summer to hold on to their lesson plans as 37 school districts throughout the state seek to show that they are providing students with required exercise.

A lawsuit was filed in October in San Francisco County Superior Court on behalf of plaintiffs Marc Babin, a parent, and Cal200, an organization he heads that advocates for elementary school physical education. Babin's children, now adults, went to school in the Alameda Unified School District, one of the defending districts, according to his Albany, Calif., attorney, Donald Driscoll.

"School districts have been routinely ignoring the law," Driscoll said. And the Los Angeles Unified School District, the state's largest, "has been a particular offender. They give lip service to the idea that P.E. is important. That just plain doesn't work. What that produces is kids who don't get enough exercise."

L.A. Unified, along with Palm Springs Unified and others, have asked teachers to show that they are meeting state requirements for physical education. The lesson plans typically outline schedules for instruction, activities and classes.

In addition to lunch and recess, schools must offer kindergarten through sixth-grade students 200 minutes of physical education instruction for every 10 days of class, as required in the state Education Code.

The teacher records could be compared to the information that school administrators previously submitted to the California Department of Education to verify the number of hours students had P.E., Driscoll said.

According to court documents, L.A. Unified determined the complaint had merit, but that the "allegations have already been rectified."

Chad Fenwick, a former P.E. teacher at Patrick Henry Middle School in Granada Hills, said he's seen L.A. Unified make great strides in improving programs since he became the district advisor for elementary physical education in 2004.

“We're an extremely large district, the second largest in the nation. To have everything perfect all at once, it takes time. We did have problems, but we've made huge gains.” - Chad Fenwick, L.A. Unified district advisor for elementary physical education

Quality varied widely across schools at the time, he said. In some cases, physical education was taught by school aides as opposed to credentialed teachers and not all met the 200-minute minimum. Some only offered what he called "glorified recess," without formally training students to use proper fitness techniques.

"We're an extremely large district, the second largest in the nation. To have everything perfect all at once, it takes time. We did have problems, but we've made huge gains," Fenwick said. "It's not an easy task. We've been taking a systematic approach and it's working."

Today, Fenwick said the district dedicates $1.7 million of its general fund to send 17 designated instructors to 84 different schools each year to better train classroom teachers. Schools are now accountable for posting their activity schedules online to ensure that both the proper quantity and quality of P.E. are administered.

In 2012, L.A. Unified's obesity rate exceeded the national average, and while many middle and high schools met state P.E. standards, elementary classes had trouble keeping up, according to a study from the Sarah Samuels Center for Public Health Research & Evaluation based in Oakland.

Many families may feel it's unsafe to play outside in their neighborhoods, so exercise at school is especially critical, said Mariah Lafleur, a senior analyst at the consulting firm and one of the study's authors.

But we think allotting the time for P.E. will, as a side benefit, improve students' attention spans and behavior so they're able to be well-balanced kids. - Mariah Lafleur, P.E. study author

"It might be the only chance they have to be active in their day," Lafleur said.

According to the report, there weren't enough credentialed teachers dedicated to P.E. to serve students and not all classes encouraged them to be active enough to increase their heart rates.

"Schools just have many competing priorities," Lafleur said. "But we think allotting the time for P.E. will, as a side benefit, improve students' attention spans and behavior so they're able to be well-balanced kids."

District initiatives in healthy eating and fitness have helped whittle down obesity rates over time. L.A. Unified has been a leader in increasing healthy foods in school lunches, and eliminating flavored milk and soda. In 2005, 42.6% of its students were obese; the number steadily decreased to about 41.6% by 2010, according to data from the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

Norwood Street Elementary School is one success story, boosting its fifth-graders' body composition test pass rate from 30.7% in the 2010-2011 school year to 57.9% in the 2012-2013 school year.

"People are afraid if you take kids out of the classroom for P.E., they'll lose academic time and their [test] scores will go down," Fenwick said, "but the brain and the human body work more efficiently when you're physically active and healthy."


2cents small Today, Fenwick said the district dedicates $1.7 million of its general fund ….

The LAUSD General Fund Budget is $6.6 billion, $1.7  million is .026% (twenty-six thousandths-of-one- percent)  of the total.

….to send 17 designated instructors to 84 different schools each year to better train classroom teachers."

LAUSD has 448 “different” elementary schools. The program trains teachers at 19% of the schools every year.

The 17 designated teachers are not teaching students.


Study finds 3 out of 4 children with mental health needs don't get treated

by Adrian Florido  | 89.3 KPCC |

UCLA researchers say only one-quarter of California children aged 4-11 with mental health needs receive treatment.

UCLA researchers say only one-quarter of California children aged 4-11 with mental health needs receive treatment. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

July 24 2014  ::  A UCLA study released Thursday suggests only about a quarter of California children with mental health needs receive treatment.

The study, based on a 2007 to 2009 survey of parents, found that about 300,000 California children - ages 4 to 11 -  have mental health needs. 

And while more than 90 percent of them reportedly had health insurance, about 70 percent nevertheless went without treatment, the study found.

“When we think of access (to health care) as having insurance...these children have access,” said Imelda Padilla-Frausto, lead author of the study.  “The fact that they aren’t getting mental health treatment suggests there are other barriers besides health insurance."

Among those likely barriers, she says, are challenges with navigating the healthcare system; stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment; and language difficulties.

The study found, for example, that among children whose parents were not proficient in English, 89 percent went without mental health treatment, compared to 67 percent of those from English-proficient households.

Padilla-Frausto says eliminating barriers to early treatment of mental health issues may help children avoid more serious mental disorders later in life.

LA schools shaving mental health for special ed students

Annie Gilbertson | 89.3 KPCC |

In this April 3, 2012, file photo, teacher Bev Campbell holds up images of animals and insects for identification by students in her special education class at Amelia Earhart Elementary School in Hialeah, Fla. The Los Angeles Unified School District has been praised for boosting counselors for students in foster care, but a closer look at the budget shows many counselors may be transitioning from special education.

In this April 3, 2012, file photo, teacher Bev Campbell holds up images of animals and insects for identification by students in her special education class at Amelia Earhart Elementary School in Hialeah, Fla. The Los Angeles Unified School District has been praised for boosting counselors for students in foster care, but a closer look at the budget shows many counselors may be transitioning from special education. Lynne Sladky/AP

July 23 2014  ::  Next school year, the Los Angeles Unified School District is cutting the budget for psychiatric social workers for special education students by 15 percent, raising fears among the special ed social workers that their numbers will be reduced.

The district denies that it will reduce the overall number of psychiatric social workers, but a spokeswoman would not say how many social workers will be dedicated to special education next year. 

"We are not cutting PSWs," said district spokeswoman Monica Carazo in an email. "In essence, we’re reshuffling the PSWs to other departments and the funding will come from different sources," she said, adding, "we are not taking away services from special ed students."

Carazo did not identify the departments to which some psychiatric social worker positions would be moved, but the district is establishing 60 new social workers slots to care for L.A. Unified's more than 8,000 students in foster care.

The budget for special education psychiatric social workers is dipping form $7.8 million in the 2013-14 school year to $6.64 million for the 2014-15 year.

A smaller staff serving special ed kids could lead to larger caseloads for the remaining counselors, which could negatively affect quality of care, said psychiatric social worker John Paul Cabrera.

"It takes away our ability to build good relationships and trust amongst students, families and schools," said Cabrera, who cares for children with ADD and autism as well as those diagnosed with an emotional disturbance - a catchall label for students struggling with mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. 

"When they shift staff around like this, they should be transparent," Benjamin Conway, a children's rights attorney with Public Counsel, a group that spent months advocating for increasing foster care services.

"The public should know what they are doing," Conway said. "It's entirely possible that this is a benign budget shift, but its impossible to tell because the budget is murky. Burying it a 200-page budget doesn't allow the public to have that kind of input."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Suppose they hold a school board election and nobody votes? THE LAUSD BOARD ELECTION MATTERS; VOTERS SHOULD TURN OUT


The LAUSD board election matters; voters should turn out

OP-ED by Jim Newton, Los Angeles Times |

June 3 voting
A lone voter fills out his ballot in the June 3 election at the International City Masonic Temple in Long Beach. (Christina House / For The Times)

On Aug. 12, voters in Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education District 1 will choose between Alex Johnson and George McKenna. The winner will join the LAUSD's seven-member board and will represent some of the region's poorest communities, desperately in need of quality schools. The consequences are immense, and yet the conventional wisdom is that of the 330,000 or so registered voters in the district, about 35,000 will cast ballots. In the June primary, 44,442 people voted, but a crowded ballot helped draw voters to the polls. This election features no such lures.

The bottom line? The next board member for the district will represent roughly 1 million people on questions essential to the future of this region, and yet probably will have garnered the support of only about 20,000 people.

Some insist that turnout doesn't really matter because it rarely determines the result. Others argue that special interests have greater sway in low-turnout elections because motivated groups show up while less-driven voters stay home. That's true, though no election is immune from the power of special interests.

What I find most troubling about low turnout , however, is not so much that it decides outcomes or favors interests: It's that it suggests the public is drifting away from democracy itself — that voters are disillusioned and don't see much point in exercising their right to choose their representatives.

That's why the prospect of a no-show school board election next month is especially disturbing. This race does matter, residents of this district need to engage in the future of their schools, and they have a real choice.

Residents of this district need to engage in the future of their schools, and they have a real choice. - 

Of the two, McKenna, 73, has the clear edge in experience, having served for nearly half a century as a teacher, principal, administrator and superintendent. Johnson, 33, counters with energy and a commitment to education reform honed in his work for the New York City school system and as education aide to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. When we spoke last week, Johnson stressed his ability to infuse new ideas into a system bogged down in failed ones.

Each has the support of iconic figures in Los Angeles' African American community. Johnson's principal backer is Ridley-Thomas; City Council President Herb Wesson and former Congresswoman Diane Watson are supporters too. McKenna is endorsed by Reps. Karen Bass and Maxine Waters and the Los Angeles Sentinel, among others.

Voters sometimes lose interest when a campaign has a sure winner, but that's not the case here. McKenna won the first round handily, but Johnson is coming on fast, bolstered by a large advantage in fundraising and the support of independent committees, including the newly formed Great Public Schools Los Angeles Political Action Committee. McKenna, meanwhile, is endorsed by United Teachers Los Angeles, which has spent $75,000 on his behalf and has a track record of turning out its members.

Moreover, both candidates have reasons to care about turnout. When he was a school principal, McKenna used to demand that his students fill out a voter registration card as part of their graduation ceremony (those who were too young were instructed to mail them in on their 18th birthdays). Why people don't vote, he told me last week, "is a puzzlement to me." Johnson, meanwhile, needs to expand his base to counter McKenna's primary victory.

And yet, the campaign's final weeks have been dominated by muck, not summons to responsibility or prospects of change. McKenna supporters accuse Johnson of fronting for Ridley-Thomas, whom they regard as a meddlesome puppeteer. Johnson supporters sent out a scurrilous piece of mail that questioned McKenna's integrity based on ripping newspaper quotes wildly out of context (the mailer is footnoted, and when I looked up the original articles, I found myself more and more impressed by McKenna, probably not what Johnson had in mind). McKenna's camp called the mail "shameful."

On top of that, neither Johnson nor McKenna has done much to explain how he would affect the balance of the current board, which today is divided between members who generally side with the teachers union and those more inclined to buck it. My hunch there is that Johnson would be the more forceful agent of reform, but that's based more on who's backing him than on anything he's said.

Voters in the 1st District can choose between the energy of youth and the wisdom of experience. They can judge these candidates by who supports them and what they'd bring to the job. But most voters won't bother. And for those eager to exercise their franchise, election officials have erected one last obstacle: Election day for the school board is also the first day of school.

MOODY’S ASSIGNS Aa2 RATING to LAUSD’s GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS: $138.4 million new debt affected; rating affirmed on outstanding parity and COP debt

The Wall Street Transcript from Moody’s press Release  |

New York, July 25, 2014 

Issue: General Obligation Bonds, Election of 2004, Series J (2014); Rating: Aa2; Sale Amount: $71,435,000; Expected Sale Date: 8/5/2014; Rating Description: General Obligation

Issue: General Obligation Bonds, Election of 2004, Series K (2014) (Federally Taxable); Rating: Aa2; Sale Amount: $7,035,000; Expected Sale Date: 8/5/2014; Rating Description: General Obligation

Issue: General Obligation Bonds, Election of 2005, Series K (2014); Rating: Aa2; Sale Amount: $34,875,000; Expected Sale Date: 8/5/2014; Rating Description: General Obligation

Issue: General Obligation Bonds, Election of 2005, Series L (2014) (Federally Taxable); Rating: Aa2; Sale Amount: $25,125,000; Expected Sale Date: 8/5/2014; Rating Description: General Obligation


Moody's Investors Service has assigned an Aa2 rating to Los Angeles Unified School District's (CA) General Obligation Bonds, Election of 2004, consisting of Series J (2014) - $71.435 million and Series K (2014) (Federally Taxable) - $7.035 million; and General Obligation Bonds, Election of 2005, consisting of Series K (2014) - $34.875 million and Series L (2014) (Federally Taxable) - $25.125 million. The general obligation bonds are secured by an unlimited property tax pledge of the district. The Series J (2014) bonds will be used to finance the acquisition of school technology. The tax-exempt Series K (2014) bonds will be used to defease certain outstanding Certificates of Participation (COPs), while the federally taxable Series K (2014) bonds will be used to make a contribution to the district's OPEB Trust Fund. The federally taxable Series L (2014) bonds will be used to make an additional contribution to the district's OPEB Trust Fund.

We have also affirmed the Aa2 rating on the district's outstanding parity general obligation bonds totaling approximately $10.2 billion and the A1 rating on the district's Moody's-rated, lease-backed obligations totaling $331.0 million.


The Aa2 rating reflects the district's exceptionally large and highly diverse tax base within the Los Angeles Metropolitan area that should continue to increase in value in the near-term. The tax base will likely continue to grow at average historical rates as the ongoing economic recovery continues to fuel job growth and the local housing market. Reflected in the rating is the district's socioeconomic profile that is slightly below national averages and poses some credit weakness in light of the district's large amount of debt outstanding.

Important to the Aa2 rating is the district's management strength and demonstrated ability to guide the district through periods of revenue uncertainty and severe state budget challenges. District reserves increased somewhat during the economic downturn, although reserves remain below-average for the rating category and somewhat weaken the district's credit profile. The district will continue to face financial challenges due to its dependence on cyclical states revenues. The district will likely see significant increased revenue from the state in the coming fiscal years, which we feel the district will manage to maintain reserves at levels consistent with the rating category for the near- to medium-term.

The district has an unusually high debt burden and a substantial amount of authorized, but unissued, general obligation debt remaining. The district's debt profile poses the greatest credit weakness for the rating. We feel, however, that the district's management and tax base strengths partially offset the risks posed by the district's debt portfolio.

The general obligation rating reflects the strength of the voter-approved, unlimited property tax pledge securing the bonds and the well-established levy and collection history for the debt service payment. The county rather than the district levies, collects, and disburses the district's property taxes, including the portion constitutionally restricted for debt service on general obligation bonds.

The A1 lease supported obligations are secured by standard, California abatement leases. The two notch distinction between the general obligation rating represents the weaker security pledge for lease-backed obligations and the additional risk to creditors from the district's financial, operational, and economic conditions compared to the more secure general obligation pledge.

The outlook on the district's long-term ratings is stable. The stable outlook reflects the district's demonstrated ability to preserve its financial position through challenging economic and financial cycles. The district's finances will likely benefit from the new state funding formula for schools. Any significant erosion of the district's relatively narrow reserves or material increase in debt issuance will be a credit negative.

  • -Large, highly diverse local economy
  • -Exceptionally large, highly diverse, and relatively stable tax base
  • -Well managed financial operations and conservative budgeting


  • -High debt burden and existing authorization for significant amount of additional debt
  • -Below average reserve levels
  • -Below-median socioeconomic profile for the rating category
  • -Some uncertainty surrounding future pension and OPEB obligations that could increase the district's budgetary burden


  • -Sustained improvement in district reserve levels
  • -Significant socioeconomic improvement


  • -Trend of declining reserves
  • -Narrowing of liquidity
  • -Significant deterioration in socioeconomic measures
  • -Protracted decline in assessed value
  • -Material increase in debt burden
  • -Moody's changed opinion on pension and/or OPEB liabilities


The principal methodology used in this rating was US Local Government General Obligation Debt published in January 2014. An additional methodology used in the lease revenue rating was The Fundamentals of Credit Analysis for Lease-Backed Municipal Obligations published in December 2011. Please see the Credit Policy page on for a copy of these methodologies.


For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

Please see for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.


Christian Richard Ward
Public Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
One Front Street
Suite 1900
San Francisco, CA 94111
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Andrea Unsworth
Public Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Releasing Office:
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JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653