Wednesday, November 30, 2011



CGCS Press Release |

October 14, 2011 (202) 393-2427

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 – Most of the nation's big-city school buildings are more than 60 years old and overcrowded, with urban school systems needing substantial construction, renovation and deferred maintenance to meet the classroom needs of today, says a new city-by-city report released by the Council of the Great City Schools.

In a survey of America' s 65 largest urban school districts, the Council found with 50 districts responding that they have approximately $15.3 billion in new construction needs, $46.7 billion in repair, renovation and modernization needs, and $14.4 billion in deferred maintenance needs for a total of about $76.5 billion.

Facilities needs range from replacing and modernizing old, out-dated facilities, updating science and computer laboratories to renovating and upgrading roofing, plumbing and heating systems, especially to meet fire and other safety codes.

With all the facilities work needed in the urban school systems, it would provide more than 165,000 construction jobs in a variety of occupations in the first year of a funding investment, the report, Facility Needs and Costs in America's Great City Schools, points out.

"School modernization in the nation's major city school systems is critical to create a conducive environment for teaching and learning to prepare students to meet the challenges facing America today in the global marketplace," stresses Council Executive Director Michael Casserly.

Projected Needs Exceed $100 Billion

Of its 65 member big-city school systems, the Council projects that urban school districts need approximately $20.1 billion in new construction, $61.4 billion in repair, renovation and modernization, and $19 billion in deferred maintenance, totaling some $100.5 billion in facilities

needs. The Council also projects that its 65 school systems could start some $16.3 billion in facilities projects in the first year, if funds were available, supporting at least 215,000 construction and trade jobs. Upgrading the facilities would improve the learning environments for some 7 million inner-city school students, the report notes.


CGCS Facilities Report


by Leonard Isenberg | |

Vote No.jpeg

11.30. 2011 | LAUSD and UTLA have announced that they have reached a tentative agreement  UTLA President Warren Fletcher is either suffering from early onset Alzheimer's or he has totally capitulated to LAUSD leadership either out of being in over his head as UTLA president, stupidity, or concern about maintaining his recent personal good fortune of having his annual salary and benefits phenomenally augmented over his measly teachers salary and a manner not too dissimilar to LAUSD administration that also have forgotten that they started their careers in education as teachers and then got as far away from the purposefully cultivated insanity of the average LAUSD classroom.

These LAUSD administrators and latest incarnation of traditionally clueless LAUSD superintendent have shown by consistent past actions that they have no intention of divesting themselves of any power nor allowing "campuses wider freedoms to manage their budgets and place teachers."

The reason I allude to the regrettable affliction of Alzheimer when referring to UTLA President Warren Fletcher is that he has taught school long enough to remember the infamous LEARN reforms of the 1990s, where the District spent all the money building a huge bureaucracy to implement LEARN reforms of divesting pedagogic decisions and budget control to the schools, but when it actually came to relinquishing control, LEARN implementation came to an abrupt end.

Also anticipated by this deal with the Deasy is that it would "allow failing public schools to be taken over by charter organizations." Even Deasy couldn't imagine that Fletcher would help him preside over the funeral of UTLA by permitting more charter schools to take over LAUSD schools.

As I have said many times in this blog, charters were never anticipated to replace public schools, but were seen as a proving ground for viable education reforms. In looking at the statistics: Only 17% of charter do better than public schools, 47% do the same, and 36% do worse. What charters are really about is getting rid of the union and privatizing public education as this gambit is being run by the 43% of all public school superintendents in this country that are graduates of the Broad Academy- a major supporter along with the Gates Foundation of public school privatization and the destruction of a professional and fairly compensated unionized public school teachers. 

I must confess that I am curious as to whether I or the other hundreds of LAUSD teachers who have been removed from the classroom on bogus charges will be allowed by UTLA to vote against this tentative contract. When I tried to vote in the UTLA runoff elections, I was told that I could not, because I had been put on unpaid status by LAUSD with no independent hearing to adjudicate the charges against. Initially UTLA Secretary David Lyell defended me being deprived of voting in a union that I had paid dues to for the last 15 years, until I pointed out to him that by the same logic, if LAUSD could deprive UTLA rank and file from voting by just bringing charges against them, then they would just put all teachers on unpaid administrative leave and UTLA rank and file would not be able to vote on any union proposal.

Given that only 17% of apathetic and demoralized UTLA rank and file voted in the election that put clueless Warren Fletcher and Co. into office, LAUSD probably doesn't need to do anything but wait and let UTLA leadership destroy the union for them.


LAUSD Superintendent and UTLA President Jointly Announce Historic Tentative Agreement

Tentative agreement will eliminate giveaways of schools in favor of flexibility and supports that meet each school’s individual needs.

from LAUSD:

News Release | #11/12-073

November 29, 2011 - Los Angeles—Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy and Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), today announced an unprecedented tentative agreement between the two sides.

Termed by Deasy “the Local School Stabilization and Empowerment Initiative,” the three-year pact, the result of “groundbreaking work” by both the District and the teachers’ union, creates greater freedoms for teachers, principals and parents at each school site to set policy and direction for their particular school.

The tentative agreement includes provisions giving schools the right to reject principals and teachers sent to them on a “must-place” basis by the District; allows individual schools to waive aspects of the collective bargaining agreement and specific District policies; and requires all employees to sign a commitment to work agreement prior to employment at the school.

“Teachers and parents are uniquely qualified to have a relationship with their school,” Deasy declared during a joint announcement with Fletcher at today’s board of education meeting. “Promising beginnings are a good thing,” added Fletcher.

Specifically, the tentative agreement is based on the following beliefs:  That teaching professionals and parents at each school are usually in the best position to assess and address many of the varying needs and challenges facing their students. The parties’ commitment to continued improvement in student learning, achievement and quality of instruction in all District schools. The program makes available an array of subjects for local school empowerment, as it provides for increased decision-making authority and empowerment of the local school’s faculty, principal and parents to determine various aspects of the school’s educational program and policies. These Local Initiative Schools will be granted automatic waivers from different central-District controls and from various parts of the LAUSD-UTLA Agreement. Over the next three and one half years, all schools will have the opportunity to be included in waivers, autonomies, and flexibilities provided in the agreement, including the Pilot and Expanded School Based Management Model (ESBMM) programs.

Calling it “an exciting, but incredibly daunting challenge,” Deasy said the agreement “could only have grown through the robust dialogue that occurred at the negotiating table.”

“The agreement we are bringing forward is about stabilization,” noted Fletcher, “it’s about creating space for schools, faculties, families and students to be able to have a safe zone to improve themselves with supports.”

“I’m very, very hopeful,” he added.

“Today the children of the LAUSD are witnessing the result of collaborative leadership,” said Board President Mónica García. “This tentative agreement with UTLA has the potential to transform this District by embracing local leadership autonomies and accountabilities in every school. We know that change is possible where teachers, parents and communities have been empowered to determine their school’s educational programs and policies, as seen at the Los Angeles High School for the Arts at RFK, Academic Leadership Community at Contreras and UCLA Community School. This agreement is bold, optimistic and aggressive, and the children, families and teachers of LAUSD deserve nothing less.”

Added Board Vice President Dr. Richard Vladovic, "I am very pleased and proud that everybody acted professionally, took it seriously and all wanted to do what's right for kids and our school community."

Board Member Steve Zimmer said the agreement represents “an historic day for the children of Los Angeles.”

“This agreement assures that no one, no central district, or centralized union, will never again stand in the way of those who know their schools, our students, and their families the best,” he added.

“This MOU, if ratified by the teachers in our district, will make systemic reforms to the benefit of every LAUSD school,” said Board Member Tamar Galatzan. “Our schools have been seeking this freedom for years, and finally the District and UTLA have responded. Every student stands to gain from this historic agreement.”

“Usually in negotiations, both sides feel as if they have lost something, in this instance both have won, as have our students and their parents,” added LAUSD Board Member Bennett Kayser. “I served as a LAUSD teacher for 14 years and I am a parent of two LAUSD graduates. Now, as a LAUSD board member, I am honored to divest some of the power held centrally to those closest to the classroom, the parents, administrators and teachers. I expect this agreement will continue to accelerate the positive trajectory LAUSD academics are on.”

UTLA has set December 12 as the date for ratification.


from UTLA:

November 29, 2011- In an agreement that recognizes that to be successful, school change must come collaboratively from school stakeholders rather than top-down mandates, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) today reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to allow teachers, parents, and communities to drive decisions at their local schools based on what is best for their school community.

The innovative support agreement grew out of negotiations on Public School Choice (PSC) mandated by the LAUSD school board in August 2011, when the school board approved giving priority to in-District teams writing plans for new PSC schools. UTLA’s priority was to prevent more destabilizing school giveaways to outside operators, to provide support for struggling schools and to expand the opportunities for true local control and school-driven reform.

The agreement provides:

  • Stability to schools by imposing a 3-year moratorium on giveaways of either new or existing schools to outside charter school operators. The focus is on support rather than punitive measures including binding limits on reconstitution.
  • Ongoing support for high-needs schools via LAUSD, UTLA and AALA intervention teams to service schools with professional development and other school-based assistance provided by displaced teachers, National Board Certificated teachers, and universities. The package for schools includes supports such as training in sharing of best practices, improving English Language learner reclassification rates, analysis of student work, and professional development that focuses on differentiated instruction.
  • Local control and school site decision-making options instead of top-down mandates to allow schools to waive selected Board policies and District / UTLA contract provisions.
  • Multiple options for schools to choose any “local control” District Governance model – Pilot, Expanded School Based Management Model (ESBMM), or the newly created Local Initiative School model - that works best for their school.

Twenty-two selected high-needs schools are initially eligible under the agreement. All other schools will be phased in.

“Schools have functioned too long in an environment where decisions are made by others about what is best for them, rather than by those who are at the school site and familiar with their school’s needs,” said UTLA President Warren Fletcher. “Local school-site control has been more successful than management by outside operators.”
The agreement must be approved by both UTLA members and the LAUSD school board. The UTLA member vote will take place in December.
Contact Marla Eby, Director of Communications at 213-368-6247 for additional details.

INDIVIDUAL L.A. SCHOOLS GAIN NEW AUTONOMY: Under a union pact with L.A. Unified that still needs ratification, charters lose some of their competitive edge + ADDL. COVERAGE

By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |


School Supt. John Deasy earlier this month. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

November 29, 2011, 10:42 p.m. - The Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers union have agreed to a new pact granting local schools more autonomy over hiring, curriculum and work conditions and virtually ending a 2-year-old policy that allowed charter operators and others to take over low-performing and new campuses.

The agreement, tentative until union members vote on it, doesn't resolve key contract disputes, including whether teacher evaluations should include students' standardized test scores, a provision L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy is seeking. And teachers will continue to work under the terms of the larger labor contract that expired July 1.

But the agreement, negotiated over the last couple of months, does provide for significant changes at local campuses that were championed for years by teachers union leaders. Schools would be able to choose their own teaching materials, schedules and campus rules. They could hire teachers and other staff of their choice. If they wanted to diverge from policies of L.A. Unified, officials could not say no, provided that all laws and legal requirements are honored.

But this local control also would limit union authority. If staffers at a school wanted to void portions of the thick union contract, United Teachers Los Angeles could not stop them.

"I think of this very much as unleashing the power of the professional," Deasy said during a school board meeting. Teams of teachers, he said, are "uniquely qualified" to drive improvement at schools "better than the system writ large."

Under the plan, Deasy said, all district schools could have the same freedoms as independently operated charter schools, which are publicly funded and mostly nonunion. L.A. Unified has more charters than any other school district in the country, enrolling more than 10% of its students in them.

"These reforms thrive in an environment … free from constraints," Deasy said.

"This agreement is a necessary corrective," said United Teachers President Warren Fletcher. "There has been a lot of focus on out-of-district resources and answers. This is the beginning of moving back to some semblance of balance."

Under a policy known as Public School Choice and approved by the Board of Education in 2009, charter schools and other outside organizations were given the chance to compete with groups of district teachers and administrators to gain control of the lowest-achieving schools and new campuses. The initiative had attracted nationwide attention, and charter schools did especially well at winning campuses in the most recent round.

But under the new deal, charter schools mostly will lose that opportunity. District schools would essentially be off limits for at least three years.

"It's disappointing on many levels," said Allison Bajracharya, a managing director for the California Charter Schools Assn. "We embraced Public School Choice as a reform initiative that could systemically change academic outcomes for students in Los Angeles. And one of the reasons it has been effective to date is because of the competition that came from these external operators."

The effort was originally envisioned by former school board member Yolie Flores as a way to make new campuses available to growing charter school organizations that she considered worthy of support. Obtaining school space has been among the greatest challenges for charters.

Flores was unavailable for comment Tuesday. She now heads a local school reform group.

The teachers union has objected to turning over campuses to charters and nonprofit organizations. Prevailing on that front is a huge win for the newly elected Fletcher. But local control, for much of the union leadership, never meant diminishing the union's own authority to maintain provisions of a hard-earned contract that they've considered sacrosanct. They said they're willing to give it a try.

That's a concession that Deasy hopes to capitalize on as he pushes for changes in arenas where he and the union leadership remain at odds.

The agreement must be ratified by teachers; results are expected by Dec. 12.


additional coverage

LAUSD and UTLA Announce Contract Agreement

NBC Los Angeles – 29 Nov

The Los Angeles Unified School District along with the United Teachers of Los Angeles announced a tentative labor agreement which aims to give more authority to teachers, principals and parents to determine policies and set the direction of individual ...

89.3 KPCC

LAUSD and teacher's union reach tentative agreement

89.3 KPCC – 29 Nov

A student on his way to school walks past a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school bus. After months of negotiations, LA Unified and the president of the teacher's union announced Tuesday that they have agreed on a school improvement plan ...

LAUSD Contract Deal Between John Deasy and Warren Fletcher: Bad Teachers Might ...

LA Weekly (blog) – 29 Nov

The United Teachers Los Angeles, or UTLA, will vote on the proposed contract by December 12. "There's no question this is very, very transformational for LAUSD," Deasy says. "There has never been anything like this between the union and the district. ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


by Howard Blume/LA Times LA Now |

November 29, 2011 |  3:00 pm | Los Angeles Unified School District officials and the teachers union have reached a tentative agreement that would give campuses across the nation’s second-largest school system substantial independence in exchange for accepting more responsibility for how their students perform.

The groundbreaking agreement, scheduled to be announced Tuesday afternoon at district headquarters, does not resolve all contentious issues—both parties, for example, still are at odds over whether student standardized test scores should count in a teacher’s evaluation. Teachers have been working under the terms of a labor agreement that expired July 1, and negotiations will continue over that broader contract.

But the partial settlement takes both the school system and the union, United Teachers Los Angeles, into new and potentially risky territory. In principle, both L.A. Unified and UTLA will surrender much authority to teachers and administrators at individual schools, who can determine their own work rules and take charge of hiring locally.

The agreement substantially amends Public School Choice, a key reform that has received ongoing attention nationally. Under that earlier plan, groups from outside the school system, including nonprofits and charter-school operators, were able to compete with inside groups to run new schools and low-performing campuses. The new deal, which still must be approved by teachers, gives inside groups the first try at running or turning around a school.

●● smf: The proposed contract will go to the UTLA membership on Dec 12

LAUSD REFORM FROM THE INSIDE OUT: LAUSD needs its teachers' and principals' innovations. Unions, are you listening? + smf’s 2¢

Op-Ed By Tamar Galatzan in the LA Times |

     “There are now nearly 200 charter and affiliated-charter schools in Los Angeles serving nearly 100,000 students. These are public schools run by private organizations, with more autonomy than traditional schools. The assumption is that, except for the hard-to-get-into magnets or the highest-performing neighborhood schools, the best way to get a good education in L.A. is to head for classrooms dedicated to reform. Not surprisingly, a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed 52% of respondents had a favorable opinion of charters, while only 24% considered traditional schools effective.

     “In fact, that's not true.”

Jordan High School in Watts.

If LAUSD wants to compete for students, and if it wants to survive and thrive as a system, it needs to encourage reform, innovation and excellence at every school, from every teacher and every principal. It needs to champion reform, from the inside out. Above: Jordan High School in Watts. (Los Angeles Times)

November 29, 2011 | Our school system is fracturing. While the Los Angeles Unified School District and its bargaining partners, the unions, endlessly debate how best to fix the system, parents and students are walking away from LAUSD.

I know because I'm not only a member of the school board, I'm the mother of two elementary school students in the district.

Traditional, district-run schools are seen as bureaucratic, handcuffed by red tape, and a growing number of parents are choosing charter schools instead. There are now nearly 200 charter and affiliated-charter schools in Los Angeles serving nearly 100,000 students. These are public schools run by private organizations, with more autonomy than traditional schools. The assumption is that, except for the hard-to-get-into magnets or the highest-performing neighborhood schools, the best way to get a good education in L.A. is to head for classrooms dedicated to reform. Not surprisingly, a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed 52% of respondents had a favorable opinion of charters, while only 24% considered traditional schools effective.

In fact, that's not true. But one thing is clear: If LAUSD wants to compete for students, and if it wants to survive and thrive as a system, it needs to encourage reform, innovation and excellence at every school, from every teacher and every principal. It needs to champion reform, from the inside out.

To do that means removing impediments to change. The district's central administration needs to be more flexible and open. But that alone won't lead to reform from within the district. We also need the district's partners, the unions, to become more flexible.

For example, district schools need to be allowed to control their destinies. That means giving them local control over their finances and over professional development. It means giving individual schools the ability to hire their own staff, using criteria that aren't limited to seniority. And it means allowing schools to adopt a stronger, fairer, more complete teacher evaluation system.

The district and the union have already agreed to loosen contract rules in some instances — for specific pilot programs, and under waivers for plans submitted under the Public School Choice program. PSC allows district outsiders (mostly charter operators) or insiders (teachers and administrators) to apply to institute a reform plan at failing schools. But the union has capped pilot programs, and waivers are hard to get.

On top of that, as a board member, I've been told that teachers and administrators are pressured to submit only PSC plans that conform to union rules. In the end, district insiders are often frustrated because the outsiders' PSC applications tend to win the day — often because the outsiders can provide the reforms and local school control parents want.

The origin of union rules and the reasoning behind the union contract protections are understandable. An overwhelming majority of our teachers work hard, in challenging conditions. They are not paid what they are worth to Los Angeles. But even with appropriate protections from angry parents and unfair supervisors, union rules were never meant to prevent flexibility or accountability or to force out talented new teachers.

Going charter cannot be the only viable to path to reform for Los Angeles schools. The union must give our teachers and principals the chance to generate in-district reform, or the LAUSD will splinter. The district is packed with principals and teachers with passion, energy and innovative ideas. It's time to support them, with compromises to increase pilot programs and waivers, with support that will increase their success in taking charge of PSC schools, and with new contracts that allow teachers and principals — the district insiders — to be reformers too.

  • Tamar Galatzan, a deputy city attorney, is in her second term representing District 3 on the school board. She is the only board member with children enrolled in LAUSD.

 ●● smf: FIRST (and off topic): and this is not addressed to Ms. Galatzan or Mr. Austin, but to the City Attorney’s office itself - which seems to be functioning as a adjunct employment office for School ®eform, Inc.

  • Is Ms Galatazan a school board member moonlighting as a deputy city attorney or vice-versa?
  • Similarly with Ben Austin – do his duties as Executive Director of  Parent Revolution  interfere or conflict with his job as an assistant city attorney?

SECOND: And agreeing with Ms Galatzan:

  • “…except for the hard-to-get-into magnets or the highest-performing neighborhood schools, the best way to get a good education in L.A. is…”  Except for? Don’t those extraordinary exceptions prove the rule and define success?  Both exist inside the governance of LAUSD and within the union contracts;  both are excellent and exceed most if not all charter school programs.

The evidence and the data and the history and the test scores and the success are there!

  • Why does not the District emulate and replicate those best practices and lessons learned? THEY WORK! To those who say we can’t afford to; I say we cannot afford not to!
  • Ms. Galatzan  states (and I repeat, bold and italicize again because the third repetition is considered the educational charm) of charter schools: “These are public schools run by private organizations…”
  • Isn’t that the textbook definition of privatization?
  • Especially when the charters are operated by big-box Charter Management Organizations?
  • Exactly how autonomous is an individual KIPP campus, or Aspire, or Green Dot or Alliance school? Are they not accountable to corporate HQ and the stakeholders, hedge fund managers, Silicon Valley venture capitalists  and philanthropreneurs at the Gates/Broad/Walton Family Foundations – just as surely as an LAUSD principal is accountable to Beaudry or the Scranton office is accountable to corporate at Dunder-Mifflin?

Monday, November 28, 2011

TAKING HEALTHCARE TO THE STUDENTS: Clinics at schools are becoming a key part of the nation's medical safety net.

By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times |

School health clinic: Ambar Trujillo measures Angel Zamudio

Medical assistant Ambar Trujillo measures Angel Zamudio, 4, at the Elizabeth Learning Center Medical Clinic in Cudahy. (Francine Orr, Los Angeles Times / November 16, 2011)

November 28, 2011 - As soon as the school day ended, the rush at the health clinic began.

Two high school seniors asked for sports physicals. A group of teenagers lined up for free condoms. A girl told a counselor she needed a pregnancy test.

The clinic, at Belmont High School near downtown Los Angeles, is part of a rapidly expanding network of school-based centers around the nation offering free or low-cost medical care to students and their families.

In California, there are 183 school health centers, up from 121 in 2004. Twelve more are expected to open by next summer, according to the California School Health Centers Assn.

The centers have become a small but important part of the nation's healthcare safety net, experts say, treating low-income patients who might otherwise not have regular medical care. Now, they add, campus clinics are serving as a model for health officials trying to reduce costs.

Academic research has shown that school-based health clinics, which typically promote prevention and provide comprehensive services, reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations. They also improve students' school attendance, reduce Medicaid costs and promote more healthful eating, according to studies.

Recently, school-based health centers got a fiscal boost from the healthcare reform law, which allocated $200 million nationwide. California won $14 million in grants this summer to open new clinics and expand existing ones. Los Angeles County received about $4.3 million of that.

Most centers are based in low-income neighborhoods and staffed by doctors and nurse practitioners. They offer a range of healthcare services, including checkups, physicals, immunizations, mental health treatment, dental care and drug counseling. The clinics also monitor students' chronic diseases, such as asthma, and treat their illnesses so they don't miss school.

"There are so many reasons why students are not really ready to learn," said Serena Clayton, executive director of the California School Health Centers Assn. "Teachers, principals and staff members are recognizing they are not going to be successful with kids if they don't address these underlying health issues."

Clinics on school grounds are uniquely placed to find and treat those health issues. There may be a shortage of food in the house that causes stress and physical problems, or drug use that leads to frequent absences.

"You just cannot ignore the reality of the patients' lives," said Julia Lear, senior advisor for the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at George Washington University. "You step out into the hallways and there it is."

On a recent afternoon at Belmont Health Services, Henry Quiroz, a senior at nearby Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, wanted a physical for soccer. "I need it as soon as possible," he said. "The season has already started."

Marco Perez, 18, walked into the clinic to get free condoms. On the wall were containers with brochures on anxiety, sexually transmitted diseases and alcohol.

Perez said that friends told him about the center and that he liked the privacy of it. "The parents don't have to know," he said.

Belmont Health Services opened to students in 2009 and to the community last year. Though it is operating out of a portable classroom and a mobile van, the L.A. Unified School District plans to open a new center on campus next year, with five exam rooms and space for counseling and recreation.

There are 35 clinics on L.A. Unified campuses, which opened its first more than two decades ago. The district plans to build 14 new centers, using school construction bond money.

For many youths, the centers fill a gap in care, said Dr. Kimberly Uyeda, the school district's director of medical services. "Adolescents are notorious for not receiving timely healthcare," she said.

Generally, school districts provide the facilities and community clinics or hospitals run the centers, paying for care with a mix of Medi-Cal, private insurance and government funds.

But even with the extra federal dollars, clinics still struggle to recoup their costs because many of the patients are uninsured and some of the services aren't covered. That partly explains why there aren't more centers, given that there are more than 6 million students in California.

"The challenge overall is funding," said Adolfo Lagomasino, spokesman for the Northeast Valley Health Corp., which operates four health centers in the county. "With these kind of tumultuous political times, to put it lightly, there is sort of an ongoing battle to maintain the safety net."

One of the most recent clinics to open is at Elizabeth Learning Center in Cudahy. Students can see a doctor on their own to be treated for such ailments as pink eye or a sore throat, as long as they have a consent form. That way, parents don't have to take a day off work, said clinic manager Sandy Wooten.

Elizabeth Madrigal, 18, a senior at the school, said she takes her 1-year-old daughter, Ezra, to the clinic regularly. After school one afternoon, Madrigal, still wearing her backpack, brought Ezra for her shots and a checkup.

Madrigal said the clinic is convenient. "The school is right there, so if I ever need anything, I can come over," she said.

Since opening in May, the Elizabeth Health Center, run by Northeast Community Clinics, has also reached out to parents and community members, and word is starting to spread.

On a Wednesday afternoon, Phillip Zamudio, 23, a restaurant worker who lives nearby, brought his two sons in to check on their anemia. And Rocio Cetina, 39, who attends the adjacent adult school, came in with her daughter, who had been coughing and sniffling.

"It's a one-stop shop for everybody," Wooten said.


The Los Angeles Unified School District is going against public opinion by siding with the teachers union against full transparency on value-added teacher ratings.

Gompers Middle School Principal Sonia Miller

Gompers Middle School Principal Sonia Miller observes an English class in 2009. A new poll finds that a large majority of California voters want teacher evaluations to include students' test scores. (Liz O. Baylen, Los Angeles Times / November 25, 2009)  [smf notes: Sonia Miller is no longer Principal at Gompers, a Partnership for Los Angeles School managed by Mayor Villaraigosa’s nonprofit through the LAUSD Public School Choice Initiative. The principal vacancy at Gompers was advertised on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Job Board – though (of course) neither Gompers nor any of the PLAS schools are charters.]

Jim Newton

Op-Ed By Jim Newton - editor-at-large of the Los Angeles Times |

Newton serves as a member of The Times' editorial board, advises on editorial matters and writes and edits for the editorial page and Op-Ed, including a weekly column examining the policy and politics of Southern California

November 28, 2011 - There's a shocking disconnect at work these days in the relationship between the public and government workers: The public is demanding greater accountability, and public employees — social workers, police, teachers, even state legislators — are finding ways to avoid it.

Legislators contend that they should be allowed to conduct budget deliberations in private. Police unions are fighting forcefully to protect the names of officers involved in shootings or other uses of force. Social workers are fighting to keep dependency court hearings private. And the Los Angeles Unified School District, in the sway of its unions, has said it won't release the so-called value-added evaluations of teachers it has prepared as part of an attempt to analyze which teachers are most effective.

There are differences of opinion about whether value-added analysis is an accurate measurement of a teacher's performance and about how much weight to give such scores. But L.A. Unified clearly puts some stock in them; in fact, the district argues that the scores illustrate how teacher performance, as its own lawyers put it, "impact the academic growth of students."

It's hard to imagine a measure of more compelling interest to parents than scores that might predict the ability of teachers to help students grow academically, but the district has refused to turn over the names of teachers connected with the scores. Such disclosure, it argues, could be "embarrassing and painful." As district lawyers argued in a truly breathtaking letter explaining their refusal to disclose this information, "Imagine how the teacher would feel coming to school knowing that not only do their peers know how LAUSD rates their performance as a teacher, but their students and parents also are aware of their ratings."

Rarely have I seen a sentence that better captures the perfectly enclosed logic of bureaucracy. Insight might embarrass employees, but the answer is not to help those employees improve or show them the door. Rather, it's to cut off insight.

Imagine the parent whose child missed a chance to learn to read because the school district saddled her with a bored or incompetent teacher. Isn't that parent's right to advocate for his or her child more important than the potential for embarrassment of the teacher?

These same arguments run through the responses of police and social workers — and their unions: Imagine the danger to a police officer if members of the public knew that she had shot and killed a suspect. Imagine how devastating it would be for a foster-care employee to have it known that he left a child to be brutalized by his parents or foster parents. Imagine if the public really knew how the Legislature deliberated over the state budget. The bureaucracy's answer: Cut off the information.

But you have to wonder about any solution that requires deception or secrecy. I have been writing about police for almost 20 years; the vast majority of officers I've met are noble, brave men and women. They would thrive under close scrutiny. But police, like social workers and teachers, work for the public and must answer to it.

Yes, it can be embarrassing to have one's peers know about a bad test score; surely teachers understand that. But there is such a thing as a social compact. Students are required to attend school, and teachers are entrusted with their care and learning. In return, parents are entitled to know that their children are being well taken care of and are being educated by teachers who know what they're doing. The district's position basically boils down to this: It's more important to protect teachers from embarrassment than it is to inform parents about the competency of the teachers to whom they're entrusting their children.

By a margin of more than 2 to 1, Californians — whose taxes pay for public schools — disagree. A USC/Times poll last week found that 58% of Californians want the value-added scores made public; just 23% opposed the idea. That means Los Angeles' public school leadership is allied with its teachers union against the vast majority of the public it serves.

Supt. John Deasy is a major force for good in this community. He has a serious educational mission and a genuine dedication to the lives of Los Angeles students. On this issue, though, he's flat wrong. He needs to be reminded of his fundamental duty, which is not to teachers but to students and their parents. Teachers, like it or not, are accountable to the public.


2centssmf:  If one is to take the sample questions proffered from the USC/Time Survey one must assume that the polling was on Teacher’s Pay – not on Teacher’s Performance. There is a difference.

The STAR Tests (the standard standardized test in California) measure student’s (not teacher’s)  performance in English Language Arts and Math (and a little Science) and on no other subjects.   And the tests don't matter to the test takers, the score does not count towards their grade, promotion or college admission.The test is meaningless and without consequence to the person taking it – though weeks have been spent in prepping for it.

  • How can you possibly measure the effectiveness/performance of a History / Health / Physical Education / Physics / Foreign Language / Comparative Literature / Arts/ Music / Biology  /Economics / Home Ec/ Shop / Kindergarten, First Grade or 12th Grade (these grades are not tested) Teacher using STAR test results?
    • This was a poll of 1500 California Registered voters,
    • Only 64% of Californians are eligible to vote. Only 73% of eligible voters register.
    • LAUSD is less than 10% of California. Newton is attempting to apply the results to LAUSD specifically.
  • No question about it, teachers are public employees. Is Newton similarly calling for the public agencies that employ them to publish the individual employee evaluations of police officers / fire fighters / DMV clerks / building inspectors / meter readers / MTA drivers and all other public employees?
  • How about the Times publishing the employee evaluations of all LA Times workers?  Times readers can take an annual  test on how well they absorbed the news content …or responded to to the ads. Then we rate the reporters, editors, ad sales staff and press operators based on the results and publish their names.


By Antonio Villaraigosa , Op-Ed in the Long Beach Press-Telegram |

11/27/2011 01:00:00 AM PST - Each year, California's School Boards Association gives out an award to the California state legislator who has been most supportive of education.

This year's winner?


That's right. The association could not find one single California legislator in 2011 who was outstanding in his or her support of education.

In fact, while other legislatures across the country debated and even passed meaningful new laws to improve student learning in our schools, Sacramento took a pass.

California parents can't rely on legislators to enact meaningful education reform. School districts and parents are stymied by contract negotiations.

So California parents are turning to their only other avenue -- litigation.

For the second time in less than two years, parents have sued in order to force meaningful reforms in how we teach our children. The first case -- Reed v. State of California -- protected our most vulnerable students from the effects of teacher lay-offs.

This month, Doe v. Deasy landed on the docket of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Filed by a group of parents dedicated to education reform, the lawsuit focuses on the use of student progress in teacher evaluations, an increasingly acrimonious topic in our already heated education debates. The parents' demand is simple: the Los Angeles Unified School District must follow the Stull Act. The implications for all of California's classrooms are profound.

Good teachers help make good students. The research is clear on this. With a great teacher in front of the white board, students can gain two years of knowledge in a single school year. But when a teacher struggles, students struggle. These students quickly fall behind their peers and can stay behind for years.

Common sense would dictate that we put an effective system of teacher evaluations in place. With such a system, we could identify the strong teachers and those who are underperforming. We could develop teacher training and professional development programs that really add value for educators. Most importantly we could get those teachers who are struggling and those who aspire to grow the added training and support they need and want.

Our teachers would be more successful, our students would learn more, and our schools would produce more graduates on their way to college.

Unfortunately, L.A. Unified School District and the United Teachers of Los Angeles have been unable to negotiate a meaningful set of teacher performance measures. As a result, the district's system of evaluation is perfunctory and superficial. In a district rife with low-performing schools, 97 percent of the district's teachers are still rated satisfactory, year in and year out.

Evaluations are not anti-teacher. Far from it.

In truth, teachers are asking to be evaluated. They want well designed evaluations. In a recent poll done by the American Association of Educators, 80 percent of teachers support the use of test data as part of evaluations. When LAUSD teachers were surveyed on their attitudes towards evaluations, they expressed support for evaluations that included more observations by their professional peers.

Teachers and principals enter their profession as life-long learners. With good evaluation tools that they help to design, we can give them the critical support they need to learn and grow.

Doe v. Deasy has the potential to change how the Los Angeles School District -- and every other district in the state -- evaluates its teachers.

Until this lawsuit, not many people remembered the Stull Act. But this this reminder of a time when the California Legislature was focused on building a better school system has been dusted off by a courageous group of parents and advocates led by EdVoice.

Championed in 1971 by then Assemblyman John Stull of San Diego, the law mandated that local school districts specifically include "measures of student learning" in the evaluation of both teachers and principals.

It also was intended to support teacher improvement. Stull made sure to include provisions in the bill directing local districts to provide critical support for educators who needed to improve their performance.

In 1999, when I was Speaker of the California Assembly, we strengthened both the evaluation and educator support elements of the Stull Act.

Unfortunately these legislative actions have failed to be implemented at the school district level. This likely is tied to the fierce resistance to meaningful evaluations by leaders at the district negotiating table.

This lawsuit could be the catalyst that breaks that resistance in Los Angeles and across the state. It could spark, finally, the adoption of effective measures of educator performance and meaningful programs of professional development.

Across the country, some 20 states passed meaningful teacher evaluation reforms in the last two years. California is not among them. But perhaps, this litigation could force schools to implement the laws we passed some 40 years ago.

We once led the nation in the smart and sophisticated use of evaluations to deliver quality education. It's time for us to regain the mantle of leadership. Our students and our teachers deserve nothing less. And with one in eight Americans educated in the state of California, our country depends on it.

Antonio Villaraigosa is mayor of Los Angeles.

2cents smf: How could 4LAKids not re-publish this story?

It has that wonderful headline: “Antonio Villaraigosa: A sad commentary on legislators, litigation and our schools” 

When it turned up in the search engine I figured it was a news story, an indictment of Mayor Tony as a sad commentary on….

Before we embrace Mayor Tony’s thinking here – and his initial premise that the California Legislature has been no friend to education of late – is right in a twisted way. Though Tony’s wrong for the very same/wrong reasons.

First, How soon we forget: 4LAKids recalls that the California's School Boards Association was a plaintiff in LAUSD v. Villaraigosa – fighting Mayor Tony’s unconstitutional takeover of LAUSD when his pet legislature passed AB1381 – giving him LAUSD. 

Is that the kind of “meaningful education reform California parents can't rely on legislators to enact?”

  • As to “school districts and parents being stymied by contract negotiations”: School districts are PARTIES to the contract negotiations. 
  • As a former teachers union honcho who sent his children to private school I don’t see how Mayor Tony represents parents at all. His “group of parents dedicated to education reform” have requested anonymity (but would deny it to teachers) – but their funding comes from EdVoice. And EdVoice’s board (according to the LA Times) includes arts and education philanthropist Eli Broad, former ambassador Frank Baxter and healthcare company executive Richard Merkin. [FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this article named Netflix founder Reed Hastings and former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan as members of the EdVoice board. They are no longer on the board.}

And now Tony celebrates this lawsuit, JANE DOE, et al, v. JOHN DEASY, et al..  Ask yourself: Who is suing whom here? The defendants and plaintiffs have an interest in reaching the same conclusion: The Does and Deasy play for the same Team: Team ®eform.   “You sue me, I’ll lose and we both win!”

Look up “Collusive Lawsuit” in Wikipedia.

Or collusive action in a real law dictionary::

A lawsuit brought by parties pretending to be adversaries in order to obtain an answer to a legal question or a precedent-setting decision from the court. The action will be dismissed if a judge determines it does not involve a true controversy.” - Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary. Gerald N. Hill, Kathleen Thompson Hill. 2009.

Only the taxpayers lose. And the kids.

But hey, we knew he was a rascal when we reelected him!  Because, gentle readers, Antonio Villaraigosa is a sad commentary on legislators, litigation and our schools.


Mike Dreebin - retired Former UTLA Elementary Vice President (2002-2005) wrote to Karin Kline, copying 4LAKids

Re: Sunday, November 20, 2011: TEACHERS WHO JUST DON’T CARE 
by Karin Klein of the LA Times Editorial Board in the Opinion LA blog | on 4LAKidsNews:

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 12:16 pm

Hi Karin,

I just read you November 18,; 2011 L.A. Times piece. It was in Scott Folsom's weekly digest.

I am now retired. I was an elementary teacher for many years in downtown L.A. (Olympic and Hoover area).  I live in Mar Vista, near Santa Monica.

Your comments about some teachers at "a" school in Santa Monica were far too general for you to make any conclusions - especially essentially calling those teachers incompetent and/or lazy.

1. All teacher contracts list the duties and responsibilities of the teachers. I do not know what the SM-Malibu contract says, but have the LAUSD contract memorized.

   There are specific tasks that should be performed by teachers, and other tasks performed by others.  This could be an issue.

2.  Teachers already have far too much to do now - especially with the State cutting funds and Districts raising class size.

        If they want to add new tasks for teachers that take additional time and effort, what are they willing to remove.

        What tasks do you suggest teachers no longer do so that homework assignments will be loaded on to computers??

3. Not all schools, and classes, have the same needs. A math teacher at SamoHi might teach 5 periods, but only three subjects. He/she might teach Algebra I in periods 1, 2 and 3.

    So the homework assignment for those three classes might be the same, and fairly easy to post (Pages 85-87, and the odd problems on page 88).

    That high school math teacher might have a total of three homework assignments to post.  (Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry I)

    While the class sizes are large (too large) it is also simple to keep track of who does their homework, and student assistants can help keeping track of these.

    Other teachers in other subjects might have more classes, and much more complicated homework assignments, and not have capable students to help.

    At an elementary school the situation is far different. I used to have three reading groups, four math groups, a science/social studies group, three English Second Language groups, and a health lesson daily.

    That might have been about 12 different homework assignments, daily, that you want me to load onto the computer for parents to view.

    And if I was teaching any of the lower grades there won't be any capable students to help keep track of who actually did their homework.

        (Note that I always had a posted Homework chart for any and all parents to come and view).

Because of computers it is much easier to do report cards now. Teachers load the grades onto computer lists of students and the printer does the printing. I used to have to hand print grades onto triplicate form report cards for about 12 subjects for about 30 students = 360 grades. Lots easier now.

But loading on homework assignments to computers for parents to read is much more complicated than you might think.

My basic point is that teaching is unique, and already very difficult. You work for a newspaper. You ought to check out the details before jumping to the general conclusions you did.

Thank you for your time,  


Saturday, November 26, 2011


A reader writes to support Newt Gingrich's call to loosen child labor laws, but The Times' editorial board couldn't disagree more.

editorial postscript in the LA Times |

Newt Gingrich

Newly annointed GOP frontrunner Newt Gingrich lamented that child labor laws unfairly keep children in poor neighborhoods from working as school janitors. (Cheryl Senter / Associated Press)

Newt Gingrich: Child labor laws 'truly stupid' [Video]<< Newt Gingrich: Child labor laws 'truly stupid' (November 21, 2011) [Video]

November 26, 2011 | The Times' Nov. 23 editorial, "Clueless candidates," which criticized Newt Gingrich for his call to loosen child labor laws and allow kids to work as janitors at their schools, prompted reader Mike Gallagher to write the following defense of the former House speaker's proposal:

"I can only assume that the editor did not work as a child, unlike the children of most small-business owners. I've never known a working kid who didn't have time for homework, so long as there wasn't a long transportation requirement.

"The idea that a kid might spend a limited number of hours working at the local school if they wished to do so would not be a homework burden, as you naively suggest. A person's first job positively reinforces more work habits than I can list here, which also has positive academic benefits.

"Gingrich's proposal isn't about exploiting children; it is about opportunity and positive reinforcement for kids who choose to have a part-time job."

Editorial writer Dan Turner responds:

When Gingrich spoke out against child labor laws, he wasn't very specific about which ones he meant, but he seemed to be targeting two requirements: one that forbids kids under 14 from working except in certain exempted jobs such as theatrical performance, newspaper delivery or laboring on a family farm, and one that bars children under 16 from working during school hours.

Presumably, then, Gingrich either wants kids under 16 to be able to work as janitors at their schools during hours when their fellow students are in class, or he wants kids under 14 to have the option to work as janitors after school. Neither is a good idea.

I also saw some letters from readers whose ancestors or relatives, brought up before these laws were passed in the 1930s, learned a strong work ethic and grew up to be successful adults despite being forced to support their families at a very young age. They are to be commended, but the laws against child labor were enacted not only because many children were being exploited by being forced into backbreaking, low-paying jobs, but because the demands of work prevented them from going to school or having time to study.

Our editorial board strongly believes that all children, even those with poor parents, have a right to be educated. Take this away and you get a permanent underclass whose children have little chance to improve themselves and realize the American dream.

We don't object to teenagers getting jobs, or even

to schools hiring them as janitors. But they can do this under existing labor laws; the changes Gingrich seems to be demanding would be exploitative and unfair.

smf’s 2¢:  The Republican candidate pool hovers somewhere between Jonathan Swift's collective ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ and the Texas colloquial ‘dumber than a bag of rocks’. Never mind that Newt is probably the smartest of the lot, this is as dumb as it comes. It violates child labor laws, federal adult labor laws, state labor laws and I’m guessing every union contract ever written. 

Newt’s whole political existence is based on a contract.

This isn’t ‘clean up the area around your desk’ or take ‘turns sweeping the floor’ or even ‘put some coal in the corner stove’ – whether for extra credit or because it’s your turn. Newt proposes replacing adult employees with child employees - “poor children’ at that. Children who are also students – which opens up an accountability conflict that boggles the mind.

Would those students have the ability to form a union and collectively bargain?…putting someone with a real interest in the educational outcome at the bargaining table?    Wait …maybe I’m liking this!

THE RHETORIC OF CHOICE: Segregation, Desegregation, and Charter Schools

By ansley T. Erickson / Dissent Magazine/Fall 2011 | +

Charter schools offer parents ‘choice’ in schooling for their children.  But the constraints on that choice are massive, are based in historic and current policy, and yet are rarely acknowledged.  

The first and most significant constraint is that, despite claims implying broad mobility for students, most charter schools remain creatures of the school district in which they reside.

The Rhetoric of Choice: Segregation, Desegregation, and Charter Schools | Erickson | Dissent

OCCUPY L.A. OFFERS A HANDS-ON CIVICS LESSON FOR STUDENTS, TEACHERS: Some youths visit the City Hall encampment to get a firsthand look at the movement while others learn in the classroom about what is seen as history in the making.

By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times |

Student tour of Occupy L.A.

Students from Cleveland High School visit the Occupy L.A. site at City Hall to ask questions for their civics class. From left, juniors Joshua Lugue and Ethan Cardenas, both 16, and Pilar Bermudez, 17 talk about the movement with protesters Paul Shepherd and Summer Reese, who were were released a day after being arrested. (Michael Robinson Chavez, Los Angeles Times / November 18, 2011)

Villaraigosa announces impending shutdown of Occupy L.A. camp

u p d a t e:November 26, 2011

Villaraigosa announces impending shutdown of Occupy L.A. camp: The City Hall park where Occupy Los Angeles protesters are camped will be closed at 12:01 a.m. Monday, according to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, triggering what officials hope will be an end to the nation's largest remaining Occupy camp.

November 25, 2011, 8:32 p.m. | Who says history has to be about dead men and a dreary assortment of dates and names?

For countless students and teachers, the Occupy L.A. encampment at City Hall has become a living classroom, a place to put a contemporary twist on topics such as the causes of the Great Depression and the limits of the 1st Amendment.

On a recent afternoon, students from at least three schools joined the colorful milieu of protesters — playing ball, posing with pet roosters and sounding off about corporate greed — to interview them about their aims.

Cleveland High School student Ryan Janowski, for instance, asked hard questions about whether the movement's leaderless structure would impede its progress.

Classmate Christopher Berry sniffed the aroma of marijuana and wondered whether a few "dignified leaders" might help protesters gain wider public acceptance.

The students are part of Cleveland's humanities magnet program, which is exploring class differences in America and comparing the Occupy movement with 19th century transcendentalism.

"It fits in with everything we're doing," said Rebecca Williams, an English literature teacher at the Reseda school. "It's a real-life movement — history in the making."

Educators across the nation have taken up the Occupy movement as a teaching opportunity for civics, history, government and even geography classes. Organizations such as C-SPAN, the Bill of Rights Institute and the Annenberg Classroom have developed lesson plans for mass consumption.

One such teaching tool put together by Ben Bohmfalk, a Colorado social studies teacher, features video clips and articles intended to help students evaluate the movement's aims.

The lesson plan on C-SPAN's Classroom Deliberations website offers material for three reading levels and a vocabulary list that includes such words as bailouts, deregulation and meritocracy.

Bohmfalk said the link to the Occupy lesson plan was sent out to more than 40,000 teachers nationwide. A handful of them, he said, protested that teaching about the movement implies supporting it. But Bohmfalk, who also has taught about the politically conservative "tea party" movement, disagrees.

"For a movement to gain so much public attention, teachers have a responsibility to teach about it," he said. "This cracks open all of the issues. It takes them out of dusty textbooks and makes them very current."

Bohmfalk has used the material in his classes to discuss issues such as the role of government in regulating the marketplace, the limits of free speech and assembly rights and even U.S. parallels to inequitable living conditions in Mexico City.

But, he said, a major challenge has been helping students understand the complex economic issues underlying the movement's simple slogans.

Catchphrases such as "99%" require understanding of income distribution and tax systems. "Corporate personhood" involves looking at campaign financing systems and a related Supreme Court decision. Add to that references to bank bailouts, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Cairo's Tahrir Square, and the issues get very complicated very quickly, he said.

"What a lot of adults forget is how little background knowledge about current events 16-year-olds have," Bohmfalk said.

At Downtown Magnets High School, 11th-grade AP history teacher Daniel Jocz has videotaped the Los Angeles encampment for use later in the year when he will ask students to compare and contrast the Occupy movement with the economic forces that drove the Great Depression.

Jocz said he plans to ask students to take a position on whether more government or less would best alleviate the problems — similar questions faced by Presidents Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1920s and '30s.

But, Jocz said, it may be difficult for many teachers to fit the Occupy movement into an already crowded curriculum.

"At the end of the day, students won't be tested on any of this and I'll be evaluated on their content knowledge demonstrated through standardized tests," he said. "There is no value to doing this in the current climate. In this whole test-driven culture, teachers are terrified to step away from their regular schedule."

Students, however, said they see great value in the lessons. 

For Jerry Liang, a Cal State Long Beach student and immigrant from China, a sociology class assignment to interview an Occupy L.A. protester gave him the chance to witness a people's movement that he said would not be allowed in his homeland.

He considers himself part of the 99% — his family of garment workers earns a combined $28,000 annually — and said he would join the protests were it not for his parents' admonition to stay out of trouble.

"Here in America we can express our ideas and participate in a movement to do something for ourselves," Liang said. "In China, it's impossible to do this. If you do it, you'll go to jail."

Eighth-grader Brenda Reyes was one of several students from the Los Angeles Leadership Academy, a Lincoln Heights charter school, to visit the Occupy site to hand out milk and bread to protesters.

Later in their classroom, the students viewed video clips of protesters and wrote a compare-and-contrast response about the difference between media coverage of the movement and what they directly experienced at the encampment.

"It's cool that they don't just complain about things, like a lot of people do," she said. "They're trying to change things."

Cleveland student Berry said that visiting both the Occupy L.A. and Oakland sites was "really neat and cool."

The student, who described himself as the middle-class son of a Democratic mother who supports the movement and a Republican father who is indifferent to it, said he generally backs protesters' demands for more economic equality. But he said he thinks they need to organize more effectively and purge any anti-Semitic and anarchist elements.

Whether any of that happens or not, Berry said, he is thrilled to be a witness to it all. In fact, he picked up an art piece from a protester featuring a city backdrop spray-painted with "Occupy LA" — a memento of the historical moment.

"Whether they accomplish anything, I feel this is history in the making that will be recorded and talked about in the future," Berry said.

Friday, November 25, 2011


by Rock Rojas | LA Time/LA Now |

Academic Decathlon students from Los Angeles Unified School District high schools gathered over the weekend for a practice test -- or "scrimmage" -- offering the first taste of the rigorous intellectual challenge for the year.

With a dozen national titles since 1987, including Granada Hills Charter High School's win last year, the district has become the best in the nation in the grueling academic competition.

Cliff Ker Cliff Ker the coordinator for Academic Decathlon for L.A. Unified[<left<] , warned participants that it would be months before the decathlon regionals, and even further to the national competition. But the signs were hopeful. Granada Hills, as well as other longtime decathlon contenders El Camino Real, Marshall and Franklin high schools, topped the scoreboard.

There had been some doubt at the beginning of the year regarding Ker's status. Ker, whose sole assignment for the district had been to oversee the decathlon competition, was to split his time this school year between his decathlon duties and an assistant principal's post at Bell High School as part of districtwide budget cuts over the summer. But after further shakeups he was named the coordinator for academic events in the district's Beyond the Bell program, a position more compatible with his decathlon duties, he said.

Most importantly, he said, the scrimmage offered him a chance to get to know this year's crop of decathletes. He keeps photos of past champions in his office and can rattle off the names and the colleges where long-ago participants went after graduating.

"Every year, I say I'm never going to see another group of kids like these," Ker said, with a laugh. But as they do every year, new competitors come through and impress him. "These kids are amazing!" he said.


By Alyson Klein | Education Week |


<<Photo: President Barack Obama walks away from the podium after making a statement at the White House on  Nov. 21 after the congressional debt supercommittee failed to reach an agreement on debt reduction. (Evan Vucci/AP)

November 22, 2011 2:46 PM  - Education advocates and local school officials are nervously eyeing a series of draconian cuts set to hit just about every federal program in 2013—including Title I, special education, and money for teacher quality—now that a bipartisan panel tasked with making recommendations for trimming the nation's deficit has failed to reach agreement.

Quick recap: Over the summer, as part of an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, lawmakers decided to set up a bipartisan "supercommittee" which would include twelve members of the House and Senate, half Democrats and half Republicans. The panel was supposed to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years. But lawmakers failed to reach agreement.

Now, a process known as sequestration, is set to kick in, beginning in January of 2013. It would mean an across-the-board cut of about 7.8 percent to most government programs, including many for education, advocates estimate.

That's on top of some very serious cuts already in place at the state and local level, particularly now that vast majority of the funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Education Jobs Fund is gone.

The possibilty of signficantly slashed federal aid is worrisome for Paul Durand, the superintendent of the 1,600-student Rockford County school district in Minnesota.

The proposed federal cuts "would come on the backs of issues we've had in our state. ... School districts in Minnesota are having to borrow money to make sure we can pay our bills." Further cuts to education at the federal level would be "very short-sighted and poor policy," he said.

The 7.8 percent cut would mean about a $3.5 billion decrease to the U.S. Department of Education's budget. To put that number in perspective, it's more than states get right now for Improving Teacher Quality State Grants (funded at $2.5 billion), but a little less than the competitive grant total for Race to the Top under the stimulus ($4 billion).

The National Education Association is estimating that sequestration would result in the loss of more than 24,000 jobs in elementary and secondary education.

"This is a huge deal," said Mary Kusler, the manager of federal advocacy for the union. These are "dramatic cuts that will be felt by every student and every school district at a time when state budget [cuts] are raising the importance of the limited federal dollars that are flowing."

Of course, Congress has a whole year before those major cuts are triggered. And lawmakers may well cook up a plan that would scrap the programmatic spending cuts, which are set to go into effect not just for domestic programs, but for defense, too.

Lawmakers may not come up with a plan to stop "sequestration" until after the 2012 election, said Joel Packer, a veteran education lobbyist who is now the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding.

"I think we are in for year-long fight about sequestration and everything else budget related," Packer said. "My personal guess is that nothing happens until after the election."

That may well make the cuts to domestic programs, including K-12 education, a centerpiece of the presidential campaign.

But that would leave school districts in the dark for a while about their federal funding, which can complicate local decisions, Durand said.

"The not-knowing what's happening is bad because you can't plan and you need to be able to plan," he said. "All of these things have real impact on children."

And already, district advocates are worried lawmakers may move to spare defense, but not education.

"If we get [the cuts], that is what would be very damaging for schools," said Noelle Ellerson, the assistant director of policy analysis and advocacy, for the American Association of School Administrators. But the worst case scenario, she said, would be if other programs, such as defense were exempted from the cuts, and education was not. That would mean the cuts to education would be even deeper and more damaging than anticipated, Ellerson said.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is worried, too.

We must reduce America's debt. But we must do so in a thoughtful and deliberate way that protects national priorities like education at such a critical time. Because the supercommittee failed to live up to its responsibility, education programs that affect young Americans across the country now face across-the-board cuts.

And Republicans are also upset about the failure of the committee to reach agreement. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said that he believed the money would eventually be cut but worried that it would be "done the wrong way"—he'd rather see major changes to entitlement programs, such as Medicare.


By Louis Freedberg ~ EdSource Extra |

<<Charter schools now enroll 7 percent of the state’s public school students, according to just-released figures.

November 22nd, 2011 “Charter schools are able to take on an expanding level of responsibility for public school education in the state,” said Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association. Some 100 charter schools opened their doors this year, as EdSource reported last week.

The nearly 1,000 charter schools in California now serve 412,000 students, up from 364,000 students last year, according to the association. The 48,000-student jump in statewide charter enrollment in a single year is equivalent in size to a large urban school district.

But despite that robust growth charter schools will, for the indefinite future, likely serve a relatively small proportion of California’s young. The vast majority of the state’s children—some 93 percent—are still enrolled in regular public schools, underscoring the need to continue to implement reforms that benefit all students.

Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education, described charter schools as “one of the most vibrant” sectors on the education landscape, but said “it may take some time to accumulate a significant percentage of students statewide.” One reason charters don’t serve as many students relative to the number of charter schools in the state is that enrollments in individual schools tend to be smaller, and in some cases, far smaller than regular public schools.

At current levels, it could be another decade or two for the total enrollment in charter schools to comprise some 15 percent of California’s student population. The Charter Schools Association’s Wallace said it “remains to be seen” what proportion of California’s public school students will eventually enroll in charter schools.  But he said that about 100 schools opening each year is the “general trajectory” and “looking at the pipeline going forward, we expect in general terms growth along these lines.”

However, the pace could pick up if individual philanthropists and investors, along with foundations, increase their levels of support, or if popular support builds and the state and federal government continue to promote the interests of charter schools. By the same token, growth of charter schools could be hampered by the continuing fiscal crisis in California, and by cuts in school funding which affect charter schools as much as regular public schools. There are signs that some of the leading charter school organizations in the state are exploring possibilities for expansion outside of California as challenges mount here.

But regardless of the pace, charter schools will continue to grow. Kirst noted that the demand by parents for charter schools appears to exceed the supply. “The growth is a response to local interests in wanting to grow these schools,” he said. “In that sense it is responsive to what is coming up from the bottom, it is a way we can adjust the education system to meet local expectations.”

Charter schools have been a central dimension of school reforms over the past two decades. They have been the recipients of generous foundation grants. Successive White House administrations have promoted them heavily.

And California has been at the leading edge. It approved the second charter school law in the nation in 1992, and California has by far the largest number of charter schools of any state.

As described in the original Charter School Act, the goals of charter schools were described variously as “to improve student learning,” to “increase learning opportunities for all students,” to “encourage the use of different  and innovative teaching methods,” and to “provide vigorous competition within  the public school system to stimulate continual improvement in all public schools.”

The 1992 law placed a cap of 100 charter schools in the state. Successive legislation lifted the cap, which now allows up to 1,450 charters in the state. With 982 schools currently, there is still several years of growth that will be possible under the current cap.

Kirst pointed out that the 7 percent charter school enrollment figure doesn’t say anything about where charters schools are located, and that their influence is felt far more deeply than the numbers would suggest. Charter schools are not as well represented in rural or suburban districts, he said, but have been most heavily concentrated in urban areas, where the demand for them has been greatest.

In fact, the greatest growth by far of charter schools over the past year has been in Los Angeles County, where some 30 new charter schools opened this fall—some as part of a new “public school choice” initiative voted in by Los Angeles Unified’s school board.

3 Responses to "Charter schools grow while more than 9 out of 10 students stay in regular public schools"

  1. Bea says:

    November 23, 2011 at 8:45 am

    The California Charter Schools Association would do well to address the concerns of suburban communities with outstanding neighborhood schools who face charter schools that place “competition” and “choice” above every other goal of the charter schools act.Schools like Bullis in Los Altos and Pacific Collegiate in Santa Cruz are successful because of the “who”, not the “what”. Achieving well because already high achieving students self-select has little to do with educational innovation to raise raise performance of low achieving students.

    It becomes increasingly difficult to support the charter school movement when well-off families use charter law to create what are essentially private schools paid for by their neighbors’ tax dollars and at the expense of the traditional neighborhood school already performing well.


    1. Salmacis says:

      November 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm

      Very well said. The CCSA is growingly becoming a political rather than an educative force, whilst seemingly modeling Tea Party-like beliefs – the desire to limit centralisation, even though that inexorably favors the (richer) few over the (poorer) many. Charters were supposed be a tide that would raise all boats. Evidence suggests that’s increasingly not the case.


Scott Folsom says:

November 25, 2011 at 11:45 am

“In fact, the greatest growth by far of charter schools over the past year has been in Los Angeles County, where some 30 new charter schools opened this fall—some as part of a new “public school choice” initiative voted in by Los Angeles Unified’s school board.”

The Public School Choice schools in LAUSD described above are not charter schools, they are attendance-area-delimited neighborhood schools operated by charter school operators/management corporations. Parents do not make any ‘choices’. Any research done on this kind of hybrid produces results best described as ‘the worst of both worlds’ – but CSBA and PSC and their corporate sponsors are intent on doing the same thing and somehow getting different results.