This page is a compendium of items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, damnable prevarications, rants and amusing anecdotes - about LAUSD and/or public education that didn't - or haven't yet - made it into the "real" 4LAKids blog and weekly e-newsletter at http://www.4LAKids.blogspot.com . 4LAKidsNews will be updated at arbitrary random intervals.
...there is evidence of fiscal abuse that actually impacts education in Santa Ana (class size reduction) and Val Verde (school construction) School Districts.
SANTA ANA'S CLASS-SIZE WOES EXPAND: Audits find that overcrowded classroom problems affected ninth-graders as well. Financial impact won't be known until August.
by Seema Mehta, LA Times Staff Writer
July 25, 2007 - Audits of Santa Ana Unified School District's troubled class-size reduction program have found that problems with overcrowded classes exceeding state caps were not limited to elementary schools but affected ninth-graders as well, independent auditor Christy White said at a school board meeting Tuesday.
In district high schools, special education students taught in mainstream classes were not included on class rosters, making it appear that the classes met state size requirements when they were actually too large to be eligible for class-size reduction funding, White said.
Other classes simply had too many enrolled students to qualify for funding, she said.
The depth of the problem and its financial impact won't be publicly known until the final audit is presented to the school board in August, she said, but in the 2005-06 school year the district received $549,696 in state funds for keeping high school classes small.
The loss will be on top of the $2 million in state funding the district is losing for failing to keep elementary classes limited to an average of 20.4 students per teacher. Those problems came to light in a series of Times articles reporting that teachers at several elementary schools were asked to sign falsified class rosters and that the district misused substitute teachers in an attempt to qualify for $16 million in state funds during the 2006-07 school year.
District officials have said the elementary school problems occurred when class sizes didn't shrink as much as expected after the winter holiday. In hopes of salvaging some class-size reduction funds, they said, it was decided to add long-term substitute teachers to some classrooms to improve student-teacher ratios.
The preliminary audit — conducted by the public accounting firm of Nigro, Nigro & White — found that this method had failed, however, because of poor instructions and inadequate monitoring by district administrators, a failure to hire enough substitutes and a lack of classroom space.
On Tuesday, White presented the final audit of the elementary program and reiterated that those inadequacies laid the groundwork for the problems. She urged the district to provide adequate staffing, monitor class sizes frequently, ensure that class rosters are recorded accurately and identify a class-size reduction program manager responsible for overseeing the program.
Supt. Jane Russo named Assistant Supt. Helen Stainer to oversee K-3 class-size reduction, and Assistant Supt. Lewis Bratcher to oversee the ninth-grade program. Top administrators and the school board will be apprised monthly of class sizes, she added.
Schools trustees were bothered by the revelations, and some said White's audit did not go far enough.
Board member Audrey Yamagata-Noji questioned whether something in the district's culture allowed the problems to go unrecognized for months until teachers spoke out publicly in March.
"Along the way, there were too many individuals who knew," she said.
Board member John Palacio urged the board to order audits of the prior school year, saying that teachers have told him the irregularities were not limited to the 2006-07 school year.
"We've been doing class-size reduction for a decade…. No one was in charge. No one was monitoring," he said.
Board members planned to discuss the issue further in closed session, when they are legally allowed to deal with personnel matters, board President Rob Richardson said.
"Folks operate, generally speaking, with good intentions," he said. "Good intentions aren't enough. You must understand what the laws are."
VAL VERDE DISTRICT'S FUNDING IS UNDER INVESTIGATION: The state is looking for inaccuracies in financial aid papers filed by Val Verde administrators.
by Maeve Reston, LA Times Staff Writer
July 27, 2007 - State officials are investigating whether the Val Verde school district gamed the system that parcels out construction funds.
A top official at the state's Office of Public School Construction said her office was looking into whether there were any "material inaccuracies" or false certifications in the paperwork the Perris-area district submitted in recent years to get financial aid to build its schools.
Kathy Hicks, the agency's chief of program services, said she was also examining whether Val Verde officials had violated regulations by making significant changes to state-approved projects — such as adding weight rooms and artificial turf — without approval from state architects.
The district took a hit Wednesday, when the state panel that doles out bond funds voted unanimously to remove the district from the state's financial hardship program. Under the program, the state has paid the entire cost of nearly two dozen district building projects. Most districts receive just 50%.
Val Verde got into trouble by independently borrowing $89 million to cover cost overruns on state-funded projects.
District officials said they had to borrow the money because state grants were inadequate. But officials criticized the district's spending on locker room whirlpools, large weight rooms and elaborate sports stadiums.
The State Allocation Board, which oversees the distribution of school construction money, ruled this week that the funds Val Verde borrowed should have been deducted from the aid that Val Verde was getting from the state. In at least one instance, the district also failed to notify the state that it had borrowed some of that money — one of the issues under investigation.
"They are no longer eligible to participate in the [financial hardship] program," Hicks said. "They have too much money."
Supt. C. Fred Workman said the State Allocation Board's action meant the district must now delay the construction of at least two projects — SoutheastHigh School and PerrisWest EndMiddle School — as it scrambles to find money to pay its 50% share of new construction.
The delay will lead to major overcrowding at RanchoVerdeHigh School, Workman said. The school is already exceeding its 3,700-student capacity and is expected to have 6,000 students by 2010. The school is already using 45 portable buildings, he said.
"The growth is not going to go away," Workman said.
This month, the district sued state officials in Riverside County Superior Court, contending that state grants were inadequate and that schools in financial hardship should get enough aid to build schools equivalent to those in wealthier districts.
"We don't believe there was any material inaccuracy" in the financial records presented to the state, said Jonathan Mott, the school district's attorney. "It's a distraction to the board from the real issue that Val Verde is bringing up, which is that state grants are inadequate."
THE LATEST ON THE CALIFORNIA BUDGET FROM SENATOR PERATA
By Don Perata, President pro Tem | California State Senate
from California Progress Report.com
July 27, 2007— We are more than three weeks into the budget year which began July 1st, but have no 2007-08 state budget. I thought you would appreciate an update on the continuing negotiations.
The Legislature has spent months preparing a budget and we need to pass one immediately. Democrats have made all the cuts we can and support the budget plan passed by the Assembly and backed by the Governor. Senate Republicans are demanding more than their Assembly counterparts and our Republican Governor.
Before the Assembly voted on the budget, Democrats from both houses agreed to $1.3 billion in cuts. The Senate Republicans are calling for additional cuts aimed at children, seniors and people who are homeless. These cuts would destabilize families, undercut education and cost the state more money in the long run by putting thousands of Californians at risk of falling through the safety net and adding to the state's prison and corrections costs. While we continue to work on a compromise both parties can live with, I want you to know that I came to Sacramento to protect vulnerable Californians and I will not dismantle the few existing safety nets.
At the beginning of July, legislative leaders from both houses and both parties compromised on a budget that contains no new taxes, fees or social programs and dramatically cuts the "operating deficit." Ultimately, this is best we can do under our current budget constraints. In the fall, we need to have a conversation about how to change the way the state budgets. The structure is clearly dysfunctional.
For now, I am asking the Governor to work with the Senate Republicans to reconsider the merits of the budget proposal, which is financially sound and balanced. It includes:
• No new taxes, fees or social programs
• A reserve much larger than the Governor proposed
• Paying off state debt early providing $1 billion more than required
• An "operating deficit" much lower than the Governor proposed
I also appreciate that this budget:
• Invests in people and prevention to prevent future costs, instead of taking the "penny-wise-pound-foolish" approach the state often takes. It reforms juvenile justice so that youthful offenders can stay closer to their families and have a better chance at rehabilitation. It also funds programs for the homeless mentally ill.
• Restores grants for poor children, so they get fed and can stay in school, rather than falling through society's cracks and ending up in prison, costing the state in more funding and lost productivity.
• Restores needed funding for the disabled, blind and elderly. It is our job in government to provide baseline services for people who are physically incapable of providing it themselves.
• Protects K-12 education funding, providing everything promised by Prop. 98 and spending about 50 cents of every dollar in the budget on schools, colleges and universities.
• Keeps our promise to voters to build roads, schools and flood control to keep our economy strong
• Invests $4 billion to clear traffic bottlenecks and improve road safety in every corner of the state
Now it's up to Senate Republicans and our Republican Governor to resolve their differences.
No apology to Denham, says O'Connell
By Shane Goldmacher - Capitol Alert
Published Friday, July 27, 2007
Tempers continue to flare as California ends its fourth week of the fiscal year without a budget.
Today, Jack O'Connell, in a letter responding to Sen. Jeff Denham's report that O'Connell called to apologize for the tone of a press conference earlier this week, denied he ever apologized to Denham.
"I write to take issue with your press release dated July 24, 2007, which incorrectly described a phone conversation we had," wrote O'Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction, in a letter sent to Denham today. "Your description of my phone call as an apology mischaracterizes our discussion."
At issue is a Tuesday press conference called by the Education Coalition in Modesto - in Denham's district - to put pressure on the Republican senator to vote for the state budget passed by the Assembly.
"The students in Sen. Denham's district and in all of California are counting on the adults to do the right thing here and to pass a budget that funds these schools," said the California Teachers Association's Lynne Faulks on Tuesday.
But Denham took issue with the event, issuing a statement saying he would not be forced to vote for an unbalanced budget because of
"partisan press conferences."
Denham was the only legislative Republican the teachers' union endorsed in 2006.
To strengthen his case that the Tuesday press conference was overly political, Denham's office reported that O'Connell had called to apologize for the partisan tone of the event.
But O'Connell said today there was never an apology.
"I called as a courtesy to let you know the press conference would be taking place and that the tone of the event would remain respectful. I extend the same courtesy to all members of the Legislature when I am involved in public events in their districts," O'Connell wrote.
Below is the full text of Denham's press release (emphases were his), followed by the letter sent by O'Connell.
By Shane Goldmacher - Capitol Alert Published Friday, July 27, 2007
That's the official response from Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez's spokesman answering the e-mail and letter-to-the-editor from former state Treasurer Phil Angelides criticizing the Assembly budget.
Steve Maviglio, deputy chief of staff for Núñez, who briefly worked for Angelides' campaign in the summer of 2006, passed on the non-too-subtle rebuke to the former gubernatorial candidate.
Angelides continues after Núñez
By Shane Goldmacher - Capitol Alert Published Friday, July 27, 2007
After lambasting Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez in an e-mail to those who supported his bid for governor, Phil Angelides keeps at in a letter to the editor in Friday's Sacramento Bee.
The former state treasurer says the budget passed by the state's Assembly "would deprive the aged, blind and disabled, and poor mothers with children."
In 2006, while serving as co-chairman of Angelides' gubernatorial campaign, Núñez struck deals with the Republican governor on everything from hiking the minimum wage to prescription drug benefits to global warming legislation.
With each deal, and the ensuing press conferences and then bill-signing ceremonies, the governor's popularity and bipartisan image grew and Angelides' already long-shot chances for the governorship sank.
Here's the full text of Angelides' anti-budget letter:
The state budget plan backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez sets the wrong course for California.
This budget proposal would cut ongoing future public school and community college funding by over $400 million at the very time when we need to invest more, not less, in our kids. It would deprive the aged, blind and disabled, and poor mothers with children -- who are struggling to get by on $700-$850 a month -- of a modest cost-of-living increase so they can pay the rent and put food on the table.
It would strip $1.2 billion from public transportation when we need to relieve congestion, cut air pollution and fight global warming. And, to top it all off, the plan would give away nearly $1 billion a year in new tax breaks for the biggest corporations in the land, including the oil giants, leading to more cuts and bigger deficits in the future.
This budget should be rejected. We can do better by our children, our families, our environment and our future..
Governor urges end to budget standoff
The impasse could weaken the state's ability to fight wildfires, Schwarzenegger says.
By Jordan Rau, Times Staff Writer
July 27, 2007 - SACRAMENTO — As the latest effort to resolve the state's monthlong budget standoff collapsed Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to heighten pressure for a quick resolution, warning lawmakers that a continued impasse would jeopardize critical state services such as fighting wildfires.
"Now is the time to come to agreement and have a budget," Schwarzenegger said at a news conference, his first devoted to the state budget since legislators missed their June 30 deadline to enact a spending plan.
"Transportation projects will come to a grinding halt if we don't pass a budget right now," he said. "Republicans will have projects in their neighborhoods that will came to a halt. And Democrats will have projects in their neighborhoods, and the people will get upset about it."
To buttress his argument, Schwarzenegger detailed a dire, though hypothetical, scenario in which state planes fighting wildfires could be grounded for lack of spare parts.
Schwarzenegger said seven companies that sell the airplane parts have stopped doing business with the state because they are not getting paid.
"We are in the middle of a terrible fire season right now, with one of the driest years in history," Schwarzenegger said, "and it is absolutely critical that we have all the resources necessary to keep California safe."
However, officials at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, whom the administration had brought to brief reporters, acknowledged that those seven companies were among 300 the state uses, and that they had dealt with the dropouts by switching to more willing vendors.
"We haven't reached that crisis yet," said Mike Padilla, the agency's chief of aviation. But he said he anticipated that more vendors would refuse to fill orders.
After weeks of wrangling, the California Senate had scheduled a debate for Thursday morning in which the Republican minority, which has been holding out for more cuts to the bipartisan $145-billion plan approved by the Assembly, was supposed to present its alternative plan for a Senate vote..
But with both sides knowing that exercise had no chance of winning Democratic support, leaders canceled the session and agreed to continue negotiations into the weekend and ratchet down the hostile rhetoric.
Senate President Don Perata (D-Oakland), who had called Republicans "terrorists" for holding up the state budget earlier this week, told reporters his comment had been "intemperate."
Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman of Irvine told reporters that his members were holding out until Democrats agreed to enough cuts so that the state would be on target to end its fiscal year next June in balance, and not with a $700-million deficit as the Assembly plan was expected to produce.
Ackerman described as fear-mongering the predictions made by Democrats as well as the governor that essential state services would crumble if the budget fight continued. He said schools should be unaffected by the impasse because Republicans have pledged not to alter education aid.
He said he had lived through previous budget fights that lasted 45 days or longer without catastrophe.
"We're all worried about it, but the world will go forward," Ackerman said.
Despite a week of heightened rhetoric, an atmosphere of crisis has yet to descend on the Capitol. At a local nail salon, two GOP staffers were overheard complaining about a senator throwing a tantrum because a document was prepared in Microsoft Word instead of Excel.
Schwarzenegger's schedule has remained typical as well: After his news conference, he again tried to pressure GOP leaders to compromise. Following that meeting, he headed to the Bay Area for a political fundraiser, where his upcoming 60th birthday will be celebrated with donors giving as much as $20,000.
Indeed, even the ominous prediction of fires raging unchecked has to some degree been a staple of Sacramento budget battles. When the 2002 state budget was 18 days late, then-Gov. Gray Davis denounced Republican legislators for "literally putting firefighter operations at risk." That year's budget standoff ended Aug. 31.
As of now, no one in the Capitol appears to see a quick resolution to the standoff. The Republicans' demands go beyond a balanced budget. They also want to roll back part of a landmark law passed last year intended to curb greenhouse gases, saying that state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown has been invoking the law to challenge building projects it was never intended to stop. GOP lawmakers also want to alter the way the state can spend public works money that voters agreed to borrow in November's elections.
Though Democrats command a 25 to 15 majority in the Senate, a budget cannot be passed without at least two GOP votes, owing to a two-thirds vote requirement.
In the past, governors have been able to pick off the votes needed to pass a budget from the Republican caucus by making side deals with individual lawmakers. But Schwarzenegger has been unable to do that so far.
Members of the caucus agreed earlier this year that none of them would vote for a budget until a majority of the caucus agreed that it would be appropriate to do so.
But the Democratic majority has shown no inclination to yield, as cutting the state budget any further would siphon money from programs dear to their party's heart, such as those geared to help children on welfare.
"We've really given as much as we're going to give," Perata said. "It really has to stop right here."
Analysis: Governor faces GOP roadblock
He needs votes of two of his own party members in the Senate, but influence wanes.
By Kevin Yamamura – Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau
Friday, July 27, 2007 - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Republican problem has flared up again.
California has no budget nearly four weeks into the fiscal year, and the Republican governor has failed to persuade two of his own minority party's state senators to vote for a spending plan he likes.
While Republicans say they are standing on principle, the situation shows how little Capitol influence Schwarzenegger has over his own party after moderating his views and cutting GOP leaders out of legislative deals last year on the environment and minimum wage.
Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata on Thursday asked the governor to step in to resolve the latest flare-up between Democrats and Republicans. The Senate did not vote Thursday, sending the budget impasse into its 27th day.
The governor has tried to negotiate with some Republicans, but none has broken party ranks and provided the two GOP votes necessary in the Senate to pass the budget.
"This has not been a high point in relations between the governor and Republican legislators, and I think they've gotten his attention," said John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of government at ClaremontMcKennaCollege.
Schwarzenegger on Thursday held his first budget news conference since releasing his revised proposal in May. He said "now is the time" for lawmakers to approve the budget because some state operations are at risk of losing funding. The governor met separately with Perata and Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman beforehand.
"I work with both of the parties together and try to let them know what is important here is not what is best for your party, but what is best for the people of California," Schwarzenegger said.
The governor added Thursday that he supports the Assembly version of the budget, which Senate Republicans refuse to approve.
Perata canceled a Thursday floor session to consider a GOP proposal to trim another $842 million from the $103 billion general fund budget for 2007-08 that the Assembly passed last week. Democrats oppose additional cuts to welfare and health assistance for poor families.
Perata said the dispute lies between the governor and Republican lawmakers. He urged Schwarzenegger to keep the situation from escalating into name calling, as it did Wednesday with Perata accusing Republicans of "fiscal terrorism" for demanding more cuts.
"It's really got to stop here," Perata said. "And it's really got to stop with the governor. I mean, the governor is the guy that I'm looking to now for the leadership to get everybody to calm down."
Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Temecula, said the governor's influence over GOP lawmakers has fluctuated with his views. When the governor entered office, for instance, GOP members worked with him to pass workers' compensation changes that reduced business costs.
"He had influence because his interests coincided with ours," Hollingsworth said. "I think in past budget years, our interests coincided when he was trying to fix the structural deficit and balance the budget."
Bill Whalen, a research fellow at StanfordUniversity's Hoover Institution who wrote speeches for former Gov. Pete Wilson, said Republicans may be sending a twofold message. They are showing Democrats how difficult it will be to pass new taxes in future years while also proving their relevancy to Schwarzenegger.
"Eleven months out of the year, the poor Republicans in the state Senate and Assembly toil in obscurity," Whalen said. "They don't matter when it comes to party-line votes. When it comes to (Schwarzenegger's) post-partisanship, they're the ones standing on the outside while the governor basks in the spotlight."
If the governor cannot sway Republicans through persuasive arguments, he could opt for the power of purse strings. Former Gov. Gray Davis obtained votes from reluctant Republicans by including money for projects in their home districts. In 2001, for instance, Davis offered $76 million to Republicans for agriculture, law enforcement and other items.
Schwarzenegger also could promise political help to members of his own party when they run for future office. But the governor has drawn skepticism about how much his promises to GOP members are worth.
Last year, Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, and former Assemblyman Keith Richman, both moderates, were upset after they carried legislation for Schwarzenegger but received no help from the governor in their primary races for statewide office. Some California Republicans remain bitter that the governor left the state party with debt after it paid for millions of dollars in advertising for him to win re-election last year.
"(Schwarzenegger) has basically flipped off the legislative Republicans most of the time, so it's hard to believe now he can go back and sweet-talk them," said Garry South, who advised Davis as his political strategist.
Schwarzenegger aides said the governor strategically gave lawmakers a chance to work out the matter by themselves, whereas previous governors called regular joint budget meetings with all four legislative leaders. The governor expressed a greater sense of urgency Thursday.
"Up until now, I thought it was a really great advantage to see the discussions and the debates and the negotiations go on, because the numbers did go down from my May revise," Schwarzenegger said, adding later, "But I think now is the time we should compromise and have a budget."
The governor invited criticism by traveling throughout the state to promote a water deal that could be negotiated in September while some school and transportation programs are in danger of losing funding as the budget goes unresolved.
In the past week, Schwarzenegger held news conferences in Long Beach, San Diego and South Lake Tahoe. Over the weekend, he was spotted watching David Beckham's Major League Soccer debut in Carson.
"You're not going to solve the budget crisis by talking about water in San Diego or fires in Tahoe," said Steven Maviglio, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, who is in Europe. "He needs to get engaged in the Capitol."
The governor called at least one Republican other than Ackerman on Thursday: Sen. Sam Aanestad. Schwarzenegger spotted the Penn Valley Republican at his news conference and called the senator afterward. Aanestad said Republican senators pledged last fall at a retreat to pass a balanced budget.
"We've heard now for two years, 'Oh, we'll do it next year, we'll do it next year.' Well, the fact of the matter is we got to start sometime," the senator said.
Schwarzenegger defended himself by saying he has fully engaged in the budget by meeting with lawmakers in his cigar tent into the wee hours and speaking with leaders constantly.
"I have offered my services, I have worked seven days a week on this," he said. "I make phone calls to the leaders on weekends. I am ready. We have sometimes met up until , , to resolve some of the outstanding issues. So I think it is just a very, very difficult situation."
Schwarzenegger planned to attend a fundraiser in Hillsborough on Thursday night and meet with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in San Jose today to tour a California technology company.
DENHAM RESPONDS TO DAY 24 OF STATE BUDGET STALEMATE
"Does Not Appreciate Partisan Press Conferences Aimed at Pressuring Votes for Unbalanced Budget"
from CapitolAlert/Sacramento Bee
SACRAMENTO-State Senator Jeff Denham (R-Merced) today continued to discuss the problems in Senate Bill 77, the proposed 2007-2008 State Budget. Denham wants the proposed budget to be balanced, but will not support cuts to K-12 education funding. Denham will also not support any tax hikes. However, he is willing to work with both Democrats and Republicans to achieve a balanced budget.
"My goal is to have a balanced budget," said Senator Denham. "It is not fair to the people of California for their Legislators to vote in favor of a budget that only increases the State's debt. A budget like this would force cuts to education next year. And, I do not support that."
This morning Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell called Senator Denham to apologize for the partisan tone of press conferences being held by some education leaders that he was scheduled to participate in. Senator Denham is happy to work with Superintendent O'Connell on this budget. However, he does not appreciate unproductive partisan press conferences held in his district aimed to pressure him to vote in favor of a bad, unbalanced budget.
On Friday July 20, Senator Denham, along with 13 of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, voted no on SB 77. The proposed budget bill failed to garner the necessary 27 votes (2/3's of the 40 member Senate) and was held on the Senate Floor by a 25-14 vote. The proposed budget is out of balance by at least $699 million. If the budget is passed in its current form, California will face operating deficits next year that exceed $5 billion and will continue to climb each year.
"It's unconscionable to take away the teacher's tax credit, particularly given that part of the budget proposal would also give tax breaks to Hollywood moguls and airline companies," Senator Denham continued. "However, there are several areas of pork that could be cut."
Some areas of waste that could be eliminated or reduced include the CanneryBusinessPark (Sacramento) replacement furniture for $1 million and the Labor Union Institute at UCLA, which would receive $6 million. Another waste of money is to give the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency $4 million, which spends its time discouraging homeowners from keeping their properties fire safe. The UC Mexico facility in Mexico City should not receive $7 million in this budget.
"The Mexican government should actually owe California for the money we spend to educate, incarcerate and provide health services for illegal immigrants," Denham concluded. "This state also provides Mexico with water. California should not spend $7 million on this facility in Mexico City. The State should be focused on funding education for children who live in California."
Senator Denham is also open to the University of California and California State University systems paying back taxpayers for the millions of dollars wasted the last few years on secret pay hikes, bonuses and housing allowances (such as $30,000 for a dog run) for executives.
Here's the letter O'Connell sent:
The Honorable Jeff Denham
1640 N Street, Suite 210
Dear Senator Denham:
I write to take issue with your press release dated July 24, 2007, which incorrectly described a phone conversation we had earlier in the day regarding a press conference I participated in with education officials from the Modesto area. Your description of my phone call as an apology mischaracterizes our discussion.
The purpose of the press conference was to urge members of the Senate Republican Caucus to end the budget stalemate by voting for a balanced budget that protects public education. This event was held in your district expressly because of your record of standing up for public schools and to urge you to lead the caucus towards a responsible course of action.
I called as a courtesy to let you know the press conference would be taking place and that the tone of the event would remain respectful. I extend the same courtesy to all members of the Legislature when I am involved in public events in their districts. I did not call to apologize for participating in the press conference or the tone of the press conference and I most definitely do not apologize for asking that the Republican Caucus to do the job the people of California elected the Legislature to do - pass a balanced budget on time - in fact, I demand it.
With the State budget now 26 days late, I strongly urge you to work with members of your caucus to end the budget gridlock and vote to pass a State spending plan that protects public schools.
• Proposal to go before the full Senate would cut $1 billion more than the Assembly version and remove aid from thousands of families.
by Evan Halper and Jordan Rau—LA Times Staff Writers
July 25, 2007 - SACRAMENTO - After holding up the state budget nearly a month past deadline, Senate Republicans offered Tuesday to end the impasse if Democrats would move tens of thousands of poor families off welfare and make dozens of additional program cuts.
The Republicans will present their proposed state budget before the full Senate today. It would cut numerous programs Democrats hold dear, including the elimination of an institute for labor studies at the University of California. The budget plan includes nearly $1 billion in spending reductions beyond those in the bipartisan plan approved by the Assembly on Friday.
Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine) made public only a few of the cuts his caucus would propose.
School groups and law enforcement organizations remain skeptical of his promise that they will be unaffected. On Tuesday, they unleashed an aggressive lobbying and media campaign to pressure moderate GOP senators to vote for the Assembly-approved budget.
"If we are going to educate kids and get them to the next level, we have to start that process now," said Pam Brady, president of the California State PTA. She said school districts can't plan for the coming academic year without a budget in place
"We are encouraging the Senate to pass the Assembly bill so we can get onto the business of educating children," she said.
Though Democrats command a majority in the Senate, at least two GOP votes are required for passage of a budget. The Republicans in the Senate are holding out those votes in an effort to force down state spending. For weeks, however, they have declined to disclose their specific demands. After an unsuccessful all-night lockdown of the chambers that was designed to force a budget deal, Senate Leader Don Perata (D-Oakland) said Saturday morning that he would not negotiate further until Republicans presented their proposal to the full Senate.
Perata said he was reserving comment until his office received a copy of the proposal. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office said the same.
The linchpin of the plan, Ackerman said, is a $324-million cut in the state's welfare program. The cut was initially proposed by the governor in January, but Schwarzenegger had not been aggressively pushing for its inclusion in the spending plan adopted by the Legislature.
The proposal is aimed at families that do not meet minimum work requirements in the state's CalWORKS program, as well as families that have been receiving benefits for more than five years. It would eliminate safety net cash grants that are intended to keep children whose parents do not meet work requirements from becoming homeless. Children whose parents are in the country illegally also could lose assistance under the Republican plan.
"People are working less" and staying on welfare longer, Ackerman said.
Advocates for the poor were alarmed to see the governor's January proposal revived. They said it would result in as many as 40,000 families losing state assistance.
"These cuts are nothing more than stealing from children," said Michael Herald, legislative advocate for the WesternCenter on Law and Poverty. He warned that they would "devastate the poorest and most needy families in our state" and "reduce the incentive for families to move from welfare to work."
The GOP plan also calls for extracting an additional $80 million from the welfare system by sending investigators to recipients' homes in an effort to root out fraud. That part of the proposal also would force recipients to frequently reenroll in the program, so that the state can more closely monitor their eligibility.
Ackerman also called for the elimination of the labor institute at UC, a $6-million program Republicans have been trying to kill for years. They complain that the institute uses state money to train labor leaders.
"They should be teaching general education," Ackerman said.
Also targeted for elimination is a facility owned by UC in Mexico, and a plan to fill 6,000 vacancies on the state payroll. The Republicans also are demanding the elimination of certain environmental restrictions on builders, as well as forbidding bond money approved by voters to be used on environmental programs.
Ackerman repeated his promise that the GOP would not cut K-12 education or public safety.
But school groups and law enforcement organizations are wary and are pressing Republican senators to pass the Assembly's budget plan. The California Police Chiefs Assn. issued a statement that called the Assembly's bill "one of the strongest public safety budgets in our memory.... We hope that the Senate will adopt this budget when they reconvene this Wednesday."
School groups directed their efforts at two of the more moderate lawmakers in the Senate GOP caucus, Jeff Denham (R-Salinas) and Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria). Both hail from "swing" voting districts and have broken with their caucus in the past to side with teachers unions and other education groups.
In Modesto, the heart of Denham's district, educators held a news conference at which they repeatedly called on him to protect their funding. They will hold another news conference in his district today.
"We are asking Sen. Denham to work with his fellow Republican senators to pass a budget this week that will protect public education from cuts," said Charlie Young, a high school teacher and board member of the National Education Assn.
State Supt. of Schools Jack O'Connell also was at the event. "The Senate Republicans can no longer afford to be obstructionists," he said.
In an interview at the Capitol, Denham said he was feeling the pressure. "Tons of people are calling me," he said.
But Denham said he had no plans to part with his caucus at this time.
"I've always been somewhat of a maverick, but I make decisions based on the best policy.... I can't vote for something that is so out of whack that it is going to force a tax increase or force cuts to education next year."
Maldonado was less certain. Though he said he would vote for the caucus plan if it did not cut schools, public safety or certain agriculture subsidies, he added that "there are a lot of things I like about the budget that was put up [for a vote] Friday night."
…if Forbes is The Capitalist Tool™ maybe all the socioeconomically deprived children (tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the wretched refuse of your teeming shore" – ie: The Usual Suspects) are being tooled?
Best And Worst School Districts For The Buck
California by the Numbers:
Marin children, not surprisingly, fare the best
by Christina Settimi – from Forbes
July 7th, 2007 — More spending doesn’t necessarily buy you better schools. With property taxes rising across the country, we took a look at per-pupil spending in public schools and weighed it against student performance--college entrance exam scores (SAT or ACT, depending on which is more common in the state), exam participation rates and graduation rates.
Winners in this rating system are counties whose schools deliver high performance at low cost. The losers spend a lot of money and have little to show for it.
Marin County, Calif., provides the best bang for the buck. In 2004 Marin spent an average of $9,356 ($6,579 adjusted for the cost of living relative to other metro areas in the U.S.) per pupil, among the lowest education expenditures in the country. But in return Marin delivered results above the national average: 96.8% of its seniors graduated, and 60.4% of them took the SAT college entrance exam and scored a mean 1133 (out of 1600). The others in the top five are Collin, Texas; Hamilton, Ind.; Norfolk, Mass.; and Montgomery, Md.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Alexandria City, Va., which sits just six miles outside of our nation’s capital, spent $13,730 ($11,404 adjusted) per pupil, but its high schools registered only a 73% graduation rate, with 65.0% of the seniors participating in the SAT for a mean score of 963. According to John Porter, assistant superintendent, Administrative Services and Public Relations for the Alexandria City Public Schools, their graduation rate is reflective of a large number of foreign-born students who may take longer than the traditional four years to graduate. He also noted that their performance measures are rising, along with their expenditures. Per-pupil spending in AlexandriaCity is now over $18,000. Others on the bottom of the list include Glynn, Ga.; Washington, D.C.; Ulster, N.Y.; and Beaufort, S.C.
Using research provided by the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C., Forbes began with a list of the 775 counties in the country with populations greater than 65,000 that had the highest average property taxes. From this list we isolated the 97 counties where more than 50% of per-pupil spending contributions comes from property taxes. (Click Here For Full Rankings)
by Dan Walters – Sacramento Bee/Capitol Alert
Friday, June 22, 2007 — Here's a big surprise: children in Marin County, the state's wealthiest with a median family income well above $100,000, fare the best in terms of poverty, education, health care and other measures of kids' well-being.
Equally predictable: Children in rural counties where median family incomes are around $30,000 fare the worst.
The county-by-county rankings are contained in a new report from Oakland-based Children Now, the latest in a series of studies and reports from the organization which campaigns for improving education, health care and other services to children.
Marin has the state's lowest level of children in low-income families, just 16 percent, while the statewide average is 43 percent and remote SiskiyouCounty, on the state's northern border, has the highest rate of 65 percent. Siskiyou, not surprisingly, is tied for the state's lowest level of median income at $30,356, according to Children Now calculations.
On every other measure, Marin ranks at or near the top, such as in the percentage of young children enrolled in preschool or nursery school; it's 74 percent while Tulare brings up the rear at 23 percent.
Marin, at 98 percent, plays second fiddle to San Francisco (100 percent) in the proportion of its children with health insurance, but the statewide average is 93 percent, thanks to "Healthy Families" and other government programs that provide health care to children, and even the lowest-ranked county, Shasta, has 83 percent of its children with health insurance of some kind.
Children Now's latest study on children's well-being is available here.
(Forbes story continues:)
Since it costs more to educate a student in New York than Alabama, we adjusted expenditures for each metropolitan area based on Economy.com’s national cost of living average. We then chose to compare spending to the only performance measures that can be used to compare students equally across the country. With a nod toward recognizing the importance of education, performance was weighted twice against cost. Performance and cost numbers are county averages; individual school districts within a county can vary greatly.
Just getting the raw data is no small task; in many counties you have to call dozens of high schools one at a time to find out how many kids drop out, how many take the SATs and how they do on the exams. Since no standard method to calculate a graduation rate is enforced nationally, and the college entrance exam boards will only release data below a state level directly to the schools, not the public, we were left to trust county, district and school officials to honestly and accurately report their results.
During this process it was interesting to hear about the amount of effort and the number of creative ways that schools take to report the best possible results. For instance, high school guidance counselors can encourage poor-performing students to take the ACT exam over the SAT exam, so that their SAT score remains high. Graduation rates can be calculated based on the number of seniors still enrolled in school on the date of graduation, compared with looking at a cohort that began freshman year four years earlier or even looking at the number of seniors enrolled at the beginning of the year. If only as much effort went into improving performance as it did into fixing performance measures.
The caveats to our methodology notwithstanding, our study shows that there are big differences in the quality of education relative to spending among counties andis further proof that money is not the only--or perhaps even the most important--factor when it comes to the quality of education.
...ya think it would make any difference if one added three columns to the chart below?
Average Household Income | % of students on Free and Reduced Lunch | % of English Language Learners
1Based on Fiscal Year 2004, adjusted for the cost of living in the county's associated Metropolitan Statisical Area 2Mean score of exam more common in the state (SAT score out of 1600, ACT of of 36) 3For the high school class of 2005 4Combines SAT and ACT (converted to SAT scale) results 5State average Sources: Tax Foundation, Economy.com, counties, school district officials, high school administrators, SchoolMatters