Sunday, July 10, 2011


2cents smf - I wrote yesterday for today’s 4LAkids: “I can guarantee that while I am writing this attorneys somewhere are writing briefs on legal pads. …Strange Bedfellows vs. California - Stay tuned.”

 Kevin Yamamura in the Sacramento Bee notes: “The education bill, AB 114, didn't show up on the floor until after 10 pm and had cleared both houses by 10:45”.

The Charter Schoolers and the Union Bashers and the Tea Partiers and School Board Members and the County Offices and Trigger-Happy-Parents and everyone with a (R) after their name plus some plain old Dudley Doright Do-Gooders are lining up and retaining counsel. More attorneys might get employment than teachers from this legislation .

This is the metaphorical Bridge Too Far …good thinking, poorly realized.  Too much done too soon and too secretively.   I can’t blame CTA for trying;  we have to blame the leadership and The Lege for going along in their forty-five minutes of haste.

California teacher layoff law stirs confusion, criticism

The state measure bars layoffs for a year, but districts are uncertain whether it will require them to rehire teachers or restore programs cut earlier this year.Teachers

Teachers march in Los Angeles in May to protest layoffs. (Liz O. Baylen, Los Angeles Times / May 24, 2011)

By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times |

July 10, 2011 - School district officials across the state are wrestling with the fallout over a controversial new law that bars teacher layoffs for a year even amid deep financial uncertainty.

The law, passed at the last minute with no public debate as part of the budget package in late June, requires districts to maintain this year's level of teachers and programs in the upcoming 2011-12 school year. This means that even if funding drops, school boards and superintendents will be prevented from making mid-year cuts to campus programs.

The law also restricts fiscal oversight of district budgets by county offices of education, which have had that authority for two decades.

Education officials have denounced the law as a stunning blow to local budget control and said it could drive more districts into financial insolvency. More than 140 districts are in financial jeopardy, according to the state Education Department, after three years of reductions totaling $18 billion to the K-12 budget — nearly $3,000 per student.

"It's extraordinarily bad policy," said Ron Bennett, president of School Services of California, a school finance consulting firm in Sacramento. "Taking away local control and fiscal oversight is a huge departure from best practices that puts districts in harm's way."

But Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Assn., said the law would give a well-deserved respite to teachers, who have suffered 30,000 layoffs in the last few years. The union backed the bill but did not initiate it, he said.

"Teachers have taken too many hits in the last few years," he said.

On Friday, fiscal experts with county education offices met in Sacramento to analyze the law and hammer out a "common message" for districts on how to deal with it, according to Dave Gordon, Sacramento County schools superintendent.

Districts have expressed confusion, for instance, over whether the law will require them to rehire teachers or restore programs cut earlier this year. The Los Angeles Unified School District laid off about 5,400 teachers and counselors to close a $408-million deficit in its $7-billion budget and has rehired only 3,500 of them.

"If you have to bring back every person you lay off, it will be very problematic," said Edgar Zazueta, the district's government relations director in Sacramento. "No one has clarified this."

Districts were also unclear over the meaning of Gov. Jerry Brown's assurances in signing the law that it would "not interfere with local school board decisions."

"In fashioning their local budgets, school boards may nevertheless need to make reductions due to cost increases, loss of federal funds, enrollment declines or other factors," Brown said in his statement.

The budget bill passed last month requires a $1.8-billion cut in school funding — about $260 per student — if revenues fall $2 billion below projections. To absorb that cut, the law allows school districts — with union approval — to shorten the school year by seven days, on top of the five days already authorized.

But further shortening the school year, as opposed to reducing staff, will particularly hurt lower-income students and widen the achievement gap with their more affluent counterparts, said Arun Ramanathan of Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based education advocacy group. He accused the teachers union of placing its own interests over those of children.

"This is extraordinarily inequitable for communities of color and low-income children," he said. "The state has alerted school districts that they are job agencies, not educational agencies."

He and others expressed concern that the restrictions on the counties' fiscal oversight would lead school districts into financial disaster. For the next year, districts will have to demonstrate to county education offices balanced budgets for only one year, not the three years of financial plans that had been required to ensure districts were solvent.

Mark Hedlund, spokesman for state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), said the provision was meant to give districts more flexibility in their budgets. He said requiring three years of balanced budgets based on imprecise revenue forecasts could lead to "hasty decisions in cutting teachers further, more loss of programs and counselors and … larger class sizes."

"This was put together as a way to preserve the seed corn of our economy, which is K-12 education," he said.

CTA bars the way to reform in school

Op-Ed  in the LA Daily News By Alan Bonsteel |

Posted: 07/10/2011 01:00:00 AM PDT - Over the last few months, California has seen in quick succession three events making clear that the public has little influence over "public" schools and that our governor, Legislature, and Department of Education are owned by the California Teachers Association.

In a dark-of-the-night legislative session on June 28, Assembly Bill 114 was passed one hour after it was first introduced, with no public commentary allowed. It prohibits local school districts and county offices of education from laying off any public school teachers during the next fiscal year. It further mandates discontinuation of state oversight of financially troubled school districts.

As a result of the current recession, a record 110 school districts composing 30 percent of all California K-12 students are on financial watch list and some are in great danger of state takeover. California's public school enrollment has dropped 1 percent since the beginning of the current recession in 2008, and Los Angeles Unified, by far the state's largest district, has hemorrhaged 6 percent of all of its students during the same period. And yet, districts will now be forced to keep the same teachers on the payroll, even if they are broke and even if the students have fled the state.

What was needed, instead, was just the opposite -- a new law allowing districts to show the door to nonperforming teachers, while retaining the stellar educators, regardless of seniority or tenure. The 73-year-old governor campaigned last fall claiming that he would be the senior statesman who would make the tough decisions and, in the twilight of his career, avoid being beholden to any special interest group. Instead, with the CTA's dirty money on the table, he hurriedly signed AB 114 under cover of darkness, a bill that is juvenile in its irresponsibility and criminal in its lack of public commentary and deliberation. It will, without question, push dozens of already-threatened school districts into bankruptcy and state takeover.

The second event was a report released in early April by State Auditor Elaine Howle that correctly described the Commission on Teacher Credentialing as "one of the worst-run agencies in California." During the previous three years, it turns out that it had done essentially nothing to keep sexual deviants, child pornographers, part-time prostitutes and dangerous felons out of California classrooms -- inactions that had the fingerprints of the CTA all over them.

Finally, the Parent Trigger Law has been flouted since last spring.

That new law was championed last year by former Democratic Sen. Gloria Romero, a fighter for the rights of the disadvantaged, and whose own mother came to California from Mexico with a fifth-grade education. That law mandates that when the state has declared a school to be failing its students, a majority of the parents can petition to have an operator with a proven record of success in running charter schools, our public schools of choice, to take it over.

The first group of parents to pull the trigger were disadvantaged Hispanic and African-American parents whose children had been forced into the catastrophic McKinley Elementary School in Compton. Turning in the signatures, however, has been met by stonewalling, both by the district and by politicians in Sacramento who have accepted CTA money. The CTA's motto might well be "We stand for full employment for adults at the expense of children."

We are now in nothing less than a war. Our staggeringly high dropout rates in California have crammed our prisons to overflowing, and forced us to spend more money on our prisons than on the University of California and the California State Universities combined. We are at risk of being the first generation to not only fail to teach the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, but to fail to pass on the values of our civilization to the next generation.

The one shining light in California in an otherwise dismal K-12 educational landscape has been our charter schools. We must go to the barricades to protect and defend them from the forces of ignorance in the teachers' labor unions -- and an excellent place to start would be to demand enforcement of that crucial lifeline to an education, the Parent Trigger Law.

Alan Bonsteel, M.D., is president of California Parents for Educational Choice ( a pro-charter/pro-voucher group). Contact him through the group's website,

Budget Q&A: California budget process still secretive

Sacramento Bee - Kevin Yamamura - ‎Jul 10, 2011‎

The education bill, AB 114, didn't show up on the floor until after 10 pm and had cleared both houses by 10:45. We didn't end up dissecting it until the ...

  • REGION: State budget concerns school finance chiefs

    North County Times - ‎Jul 6, 2011‎

    Jerry Brown signed AB 114, which directs schools to adhere to the level ... "AB 114 does not interfere with these local school board decisions," he wrote. ...

    Schools' Financial Watchdog Stripped of Powers

    Voice of San Diego - ‎Jul 6, 2011‎

    The County Office of Education has long served as a powerful counterbalance to school districts' local political pressures from parents and unions, but the state Legislature pared back its power this year. The state Legislature suddenly reined in the ...

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