Federal program makes sure students won’t go hungry over summer


Jesus Mendoza, regional administrator for the USDA, visits a San Fernando Valley school.

Students who depend on eating at school for their one — and sometimes only — meal of the day will be able to more easily find a location for free meals during the summer.

The expansion of the federal Summer Food Service Program will provide more meals to children and teens 18 years and younger during summer at school locations, Boys & Girls Clubs, community centers and social service agencies.

Students who typically get free and reduced lunches during the school year can now find other sites during the summer.

“We are reaching out more than ever before to places where we know we can reach these students and letting them know that some sites have breakfasts, lunch, snacks and dinners and they don’t have to apply or sign up, they just need to show up,” said Jesus Mendoza Jr., the USDA’s regional administrator for the Western Region of the United States. “Our summer meals program has really taken off, but we are concerned because many of the schools had to cut summer school programs and we want them to still have nutritious meals.”

• Read more: LAUSD is expanding summer school this year

Last summer, the federal program served 190 million students; this year they plan to reach 200 million nationwide. The federal government sponsors sites to run the program and get the word out to camps and faith-based and other nonprofit community organizations in low-income areas.

“Also during the summer months is a time when children gain weight if they are not physically active and are not eating nutritious meals,” Mendoza said. Some of the food programs are at libraries as well, where children spend the day and are involved with reading programs. Mendoza noted that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office announced a Get Summer initiative in April that the USDA is also working with to help keep students properly fed. The program gives youths ages 12-17 free access to all LA County YMCA’s in June and July.

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100% of first class of i.am College Track students in Boyle Heights graduate and head to college

College Track Boyle Heights 4 grads 5:16

Boyle Heights College Track graduates, from left, Mariano Bonilla, Edson Orozco, Clemente Rojo and Ismael Soto. (Photo: Lucas Oswald)

A small after-school program, branded i.am College Track in homage to founding partner musician will.i.am and his i.am angel foundation, launched in Boyle Heights four years ago with 45 students. Last week it graduated all 45 of them.

At a ceremony and reception hosted by College Track Los Angeles’ Advisory Board last Thursday, local leaders Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilman Jose Huizar, together with celebrity guest will.i.am, gathered with students, parents and College Track leadership to celebrate the class of 2016.

Fully half of students from Boyle Heights never complete high school, and only 5 percent of Boyle Heights residents hold a four-year college degree. But with a dedicated staff and program model that blends comprehensive academic support and leadership training with college counseling and financial aid advising, 100 percent of i.am College Track’s inaugural class of Roosevelt High School students are bound for college in the fall.

“When I was in the eighth grade, I was ready to drop out of school,” said College Track graduating senior Adela Lopez. “Life at home made it difficult to connect with my peers at school. I couldn’t relate to their version of ‘home’ so I kept to myself. By middle school, I began thinking about dropping out. Around that time, College Track came to my eighth-grade class to recruit students. They had faith that things could be different for me.  They saw the potential in me that I couldn’t yet see in myself. I signed up.”

Adela is headed to Whittier College this fall with a $28,000 annual scholarship.

College Track Boyle Heights graduation 5:16

The Boyle Heights college-bound graduates from the College Track program. (Photo: Lucas Oswald)

Laurene Powell Jobs and Carlos Watson founded College Track in 1997, after discovering that many students aspiring to be the first in their families to attend college had a hard time getting the support and guidance they needed to get there.

Beginning in the summer before ninth grade, College Track sets promising students from underserved communities on a 10-year path toward college graduation. Today, 93 percent of College Track’s high school students are accepted to four-year colleges. Moreover, College Track students graduate from college at a rate that is 2.5 times the national average of low-income students.

“You guys did this! We would have been happy with 20 percent graduation, but all 45 of you guys? That’s freakin’ awesome,” quipped will.i.am while accepting the award for Hero of the Year. “It’s proof that with the right environment, the right teachers, the right motivations and inspiration, underdog kids from Boyle Heights can go to school and succeed.”

i.am College Track Boyle Heights is one of eight sites College Track operates nationwide, and one of two in Los Angeles — a second center launched in Watts in November. To date, College Track has helped more than 2,400 students in eight communities nationwide, and this summer the program will open its ninth center in Denver.

Morning Read: Slowing economy and loss of ballot initiatives could cost LAUSD hundreds of millions

Facing potential economic downturn, LA Unified considers financial future
Finance experts warned the school board that a slowing state economy and failure of a November ballot measure to extend an increase in personal income taxes could cost the district hundreds of millions of dollars. By Michael Janofsky, EdSource

Still listening, no big plan yet: LAUSD chief Michelle King wraps up community tour for the school year



LAUSD board member Ref Rodriguez with Superintendent Michelle King at Tuesday’s forum in Cypress Park.

As Michelle King wrapped up her “listen and learn” tour in her first semester as LA Unified superintendent, she said she still has more listening to do before announcing her priorities, a strategy that some experts said could make her more successful than her predecessors.

Many people have been asking her about her plans, but “It’s not going to be a Michelle plan,” she said. “The Board of Education and I, we have said, it’s going to be an LAUSD plan. It’s going to be built from the ground up.”

Tuesday’s 8 a.m. town hall at Nightingale Middle School in Cypress Park was the last of three large forums on her tour before the end of the school year and attracted a little more than 100 people. The first, in March at  Pacoima Middle School, drew about 700 people, while about 500 attended one earlier this month at Gage Middle School in Huntington Park.

Antonio Plascencia Jr., who leads King’s transition team, said that the superintendent has held about 20 other meetings of various sizes with audiences from high school students to school facilities managers and members of community groups.

Plascencia said the qualitative data collected at the meetings will be used to develop King’s strategic plan.

Some parents said Tuesday it was the first time they had ever seen an LA Unified superintendent at their neighborhood school.

District officials said they believe King is the first superintendent to have an organized series of forums to meet with parents and the community.

“No previous superintendent has ever done that. I think that’s a good start,” said parent Courtney Everts Mykytyn.


Experts said that King’s approach of meeting with parents and community members before revealing her priorities is wise.

Pedro Garcia, a professor of clinical education at USC’s Rossier School of Education, said King’s leadership style is to build relationships and a support team that will help to carry out the vision.

“She knows the system. She has a much better perspective than the previous superintendent,” said Garcia, a former schools superintendent in Nashville, Tenn., and in districts in California.

“When she comes up with a vision, I think it will be very clear, very direct and accurate, instead of pie in the sky. I wouldn’t worry about the fact that she hasn’t verbalized a vision yet.”

Pedro Noguera, distinguished professor of education at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences, agreed.

He said around the country he’s seen some new superintendents immediately take charge with big ideas, while others take a long time to come up with a strategic plan. He said he’s rarely seen superintendents with the former approach become successful.

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Full accounting of weapons and apologies received: Strategy Center declares victory over LAUSD militarization


The Strategy Center’s Fight for the Soul of the Cities at a protest outside LAUSD headquarters.

A vocal and sometimes disruptive group of mostly student activists declared victory this week over federal weaponry being used by LA Unified police. The group received letters of explanation and apologies from two board members and the school police chief.

The Labor/Community Strategy Center’s Fight for the Soul of the Cities, a nonprofit civil rights group, received a complete accounting of the 61 rifles, three grenade launchers and a mini-tank the district received through the Department of Defense 1033 Program that allowed local governmental agencies to acquire the surplus military equipment for free. The Strategy Center has protested the district‘s possession of them for 18 months.

Strategy Center’s Eric Mann said this is the first time in the nation that a social movement forced a police department to return all the military-grade weapons.

“This happened because it grew out of concern by the young people of South LA, Boyle Heights and Mar Vista Garden,” Mann said. “It is an important breakthrough secured by the participation of hundreds of young people, teachers, parents and community residents who ushered this victory.”

Citing in his letter such violent episodes as the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery, the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and even the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York, LA Unified police chief Steven Zipperman explained that he thought his 400-person school force needed to “become better equipped and better prepared to protect students, staff, administrators and the school community as a whole against an armed encounter, attack or mass shooting incident in our schools.”

Manuel Criollo with students

Manuel Criollo with students at a protest.

The need for the mini-tank, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, was necessary after Sandy Hook when he “recognized a need for an armored rescue response vehicle,” he wrote. Those cost up to $250,000 and of course are not in the school district’s budget, so he got it through the 1033 program.

“The vehicle was never deployed nor driven to any LAUSD school or incident,” Zipperman noted, and it was relinquished in November 2014 after nine months. He provided a detailed list of the weapons and when they were disposed of in his letter.

The police chief noted the sensitivity of having “military-like” equipment and a military presence within a civilian setting and wrote: “The LASPD regrets that not recognizing this aspect of your group’s philosophical stance may have strained our relationship with the Labor-Strategy Center and various members of the school community.”

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Morning Read: Charter groups investing big money in California legislative races

Charter school groups spending big in California legislative races
Groups that support the expansion of charter schools in California are spending big this year to support the campaigns of sympathetic Democrats vying for open seats in the state Legislature. By Aaron Mendelson, KPCC

State lawmakers approve audit of Alliance schools’ use of funds in battle with UTLA

California Senator Tony Mendoza

California Senator Tony Mendoza

The California Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted Wednesday to audit Alliance College-Ready Public Schools over the charter management organization’s use of funds in its unionization conflict with the LA teachers union, UTLA.

Alliance operates 27 independent charter schools in LA Unified. The organization’s management has for more than a year been resisting an attempt by UTLA to unionize its teachers.

The audit was requested by state Sen. Tony Mendoza, who wrote in a letter to the committee that he wants to determine if the public funds Alliance receives were used to “advance student achievement and improve the quality of educational programs” and were not used to resist unionization, which Alliance would have to use privately raised funds for.”

“Alliance schools are publicly funded,” Mendoza said in a statement. “The purpose of those funds is to educate children inside the classroom – not to intimidate teachers and parents.”

The audit also will look into matters beyond Alliance’s finances, including if information about Alliance parents, students and alumni was shared in conflict with confidentiality laws.

An Alliance press release characterizing the audit as politically motivated pointed out that Mendoza does not have any Alliance schools in his district and also is a former board member of UTLA. Mendoza represents District 32 in the eastern area of Los Angeles County.

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Lawsuit likely averted: 20th Street School moves toward Partnership plan instead of ‘parent trigger’


Parent Omar Cavillo at Monday’s meeting at 20th Street Elementary School.

Parents may be on the verge of settling a two-year “parent trigger” battle at 20th Street Elementary School without a lawsuit, which both sides hoped to avoid.

Nearly 200 parents, students and teachers attended a Monday evening meeting at the school and heard about a unique alternative in which 20th Street would win greater autonomy but be neither an independent charter nor remain solely a traditional district school. The meeting became heated at times, with an equal amount of debate in English and Spanish.

Joan Sullivan, CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, which was brought into the situation at parent organizers’ request, told the gathering Monday that the Partnership was willing to work with the school and the district to solve the issues that parents have with the teaching and student scores at the K-5th grade campus that serves nearly 600 students in South-Central LA.

“There are a lot of impassioned parents here who are concerned about their children’s education with very different ideas of how to get there,” Sullivan said. “Change is hard, there needs to be healing. You need to look forward and making this a school that every child wants to come to every day.”


Coordinator Ana Garcia, right, with other 20th Street teachers and staff.

The parents who initiated the parent trigger said they heard for the first time Monday some promising compromises by the school district. Local District Central Superintendent Roberto Martinez attended and dispelled some of the concerns that the parents had about a deal with Partnership.

“The superintendent (Michelle King) will be making the final decision, but we are looking at a standard contract with Partnership,” Martinez said. “We would accept Partnership running the school.”

In March, the district rejected the parent trigger saying the school didn’t qualify because it wasn’t failing, but by that rationale no school in the state would qualify because the state API test scores had been suspended. The district did acknowledge that the parents had gathered enough signatures to trigger a take-over.

The most recent 20th Street school report card showed only slight improvements, with 37 percent of 5th-graders passing the California Standards Test compared to a district average of 47 percent. On the new CORE accountability system, the school scored a 46 out of 100. The district average was 60.

Omar Cavillo — one of the parents who filed the parent trigger which allows parents to take over a failing school and possibly create a charter school — said he was relieved that the district would allow a standard Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) rather than a more restrictive one that was previously presented to them when they met with King last month.

“We need to get this in writing, there is still a lot of lack of trust, so we want to see it from Miss King herself,” Cavillo said. “We like the Partnership model. It could work out.”

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LAUSD continues to miss warning signs about abusive teachers as payouts top $300 million

Los-Angeles-Times-logoBy Richard Winton and Howard Blume

In a recent court hearing, one young man after another claimed that former Franklin High football coach Jaime Jimenez befriended them during summer practice before 9th grade, then sexually abused them.

But it’s not the allegations against Jimenez that are at the center of a lawsuit filed this month against the Los Angeles Unified School District. It’s about whether school officials once again missed — or ignored — warning signs about Jimenez that prolonged the alleged abuse.

The nation’s second-largest school system has been plagued in recent years by a series of cases in which officials missed indications of teacher misconduct, and in some instances, continued to employ teachers who were under a cloud, or ignored or overlooked direct complaints.

The result is a trail of victimized students and massive payouts to victims and attorneys that have surpassed $300 million in just the last four years.

Click here for the full Los Angeles Times story.


Morning Read: Charter battles ongoing across California

California charter schools involved in multiple political battles
A major front in the perpetual war between California’s educational establishment and school reform groups is the role of charter schools, which function outside the traditional structure and are semi-free to experiment with new methods of teaching. A fierce clash in the state’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, typifies the highly emotional issue. By Dan Walters, Fresno Bee

Just in: Vergara appeal filed to California Supreme Court


Theodore Boutrous Jr. and students he is representing in the Vergara case.

Attorneys representing the students in Vergara v. California filed a petition Tuesday to take the case to the California Supreme Court. Last month the Court of Appeal overturned a Los Angeles Supreme Court ruling in the case, which challenges teacher tenure, layoff laws and dismissal policies.

“The Court of Appeal flatly got it wrong,” said Josh Lipshutz, one of the attorneys for the students who claimed they were wrongfully discriminated against by being assigned ineffective teachers because they lived in low-income areas. “This is extremely important to the California education system and the children of the state, and we hope the California Supreme Court will see the merits of our petition.”

The state supreme court has 60 days from the date of filing to make a decision if they will hear the case, plus the option of a 30-day extension, Lipshutz said. Both sides then could state their case before the full court in San Francisco.

Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., the lead counsel for the students, said the state supreme court has a history of reviewing cases involving education so he thinks it is likely the court will hear their appeal. “Time and time again, the court has intervened when the state’s laws and policies deprive our children, particularly our most vulnerable children, of their constitutional rights. The laws at issue in Vergara harm thousands of California students every year and are disastrous for low-income and minority communities,” Boutrous said in an email.

Boutrous said he wants the California Supreme Court to find the teacher tenure laws unconstitutional and restore the decision of the trial court made by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu in June 2014.

Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, said about the appeal, “We are disappointed but not surprised that they are continuing to spend large sums of money on the suit and the PR campaign attached to it smearing teachers and public education.”

Pechthalt said in a statement, “No connection was ever made between the challenged laws and any student being harmed or any teacher who should not be in a classroom remaining there. We are confident that the Supreme Court will agree with the Appeal Court ruling. It is past time to focus our attention on the real issues that confront public education in California and then work collaboratively on solutions that we know work. That begins with adequate resources and policies that support smaller class sizes, strengthen peer assistance and review, reinforce positive collaborative district practices, and address the looming teacher shortage.”

Meanwhile, Students Matter, a nonprofit sponsor of the Vergara lawsuit, announced its support of a state bill that they say “takes positive steps forward in addressing the harmful California teacher employment policies” that were identified in the lawsuit.

California Assembly member Susan Bonilla’s AB 934 addresses tenure, dismissal, evaluations and the Last In, First Out method of lay-offs that the bill says discriminates against minority neighborhoods.

“The bill as introduced represents a strong and critical step forward in supporting effective teachers across California and ensuring that every public school student has access to the great teaching and quality education that he or she deserves,” said Ben Austin, policy director of Students Matter, in an emailed statement.

“California students filed Vergara v. California recognizing that there have always been two paths to fix the state’s broken Education Code: the legal route through the courts and the legislative route through Sacramento,” Austin added. “Twice, California courts have examined the overwhelming evidence presented during the Vergara trial, and twice, these courts have found that a broken teacher employment system imposes serious and long-lasting harms on both teachers and their students.”

Austin delineated areas where the bill could be strengthened based on current research, testimony from trial and best practices. He sent a letter to Bonilla’s office explaining how to beef up the specifics of the bill.

Austin added, “Because of the mountains of evidence presented in court and the high-profile discussion sparked by the trial, a chorus of teachers, parents, students, administrators, California’s editorial boards and community leaders have now called for real and meaningful change — and it is time for Sacramento to listen.”

Mike Stryer, senior executive director of Teach Plus California, which also endorsed the bill, said in a statement, “Assembly Bill 934 is unambiguously good for kids in California. The bill establishes a differentiated teacher evaluation rating system, and ensures that there are appropriate programs and mechanisms to support teachers.”

Stryer also noted changes that could be made to the bill. “While the bill still could be strengthened by providing greater transparency around equitable distribution of effective teachers, the legislation makes key advances in helping realize a future where every student has equal access to strong schools. We are grateful to Assemblywoman Bonilla for introducing this bill and encourage all members of the California Legislature to support it,” he said in the statement.

Teach Plus stated that a 2015 poll of more than 500 California teachers, the majority wanted teachers to demonstrate effectiveness for a minimum of five years in order to earn tenure. A Teach Plus poll this year of more than 500 principals found that nearly three out of four principals have had to lay off teachers that they would have preferred to keep because of seniority.

“This bill is a very important step forward for California’s children,” said former Congressman and current Teach Plus Board member George Miller in a statement. “I hope it becomes law because it will bring us closer to the day that every student in California has the great teacher they deserve.”

Morning Read: Fact-checking UTLA’s charter schools cost estimate

How much do charter schools cost LA Unified? Fact-checking the teachers union’s estimate
The study commissioned by Los Angeles’ teachers union determined that charter schools cost the LA Unified School District more than $591 million annually. A closer look at the calculation of fixed costs left behind when students leave LAUSD, whether those students would end up in LAUSD anyway, and how the district’s response to declining enrollment does not pencil out. By Kyle Stokes, KPCC

Report: Students in LA get far less bang for their educational buck

California may spend more on its students, but the high cost of living means students in the state — and particularly in Los Angeles — are getting far less on average than those in the rest of the nation, a new study shows.

But even if there’s less purchasing power for education in California, at least what is spent is distributed more equitably than in other states, it states.

The national report, released today by the non-profit EdBuild, finds that similar school districts across the country spend radically different amounts on their students, even when differences in local costs are taken into account. The data and the interactive map reveal systemic and unjustifiable inequities in the way schools are funded, the study states.

While California has traditionally ranked at or near the bottom in per-pupil spending nationally, with a cost-of-living adjustment, districts here fare even worse, said Rebecca Sibilia, founder and CEO of EdBuild.

“Once you start cost-adjusting for the state of California, the entire state drops substantially,” Sibilia said.

For LA Unified, per-pupil spending in 2013-14 was about $9,000, among the lowest in the nation at the time, but after a cost-of-living adjustment, that figure dropped to $7,443, or 37 percent below the national average of $11,866, according to the report. (Since 2013-14, the year of the report’s data, California’s education budget has soared by billions, and 2016’s per-pupil spending is estimated to top $14,000.)

• Read more from The 74: School funding inequality, often measured by state, is far worse nationally than you think

A key purpose of the report was to give a district-by-district breakdown across the nation on per-pupil spending after cost-of-living adjustments. The report also groups districts by their peers in other states, and for Los Angeles, the second-largest district in the nation, that is a small group of peers — New York and Chicago.

But just looking at those three districts supports one of the report’s key findings, which is that education budgets by state and by district have no rhyme or reason and disparities in the budgets of comparable school districts demonstrate “the arbitrariness of education funding in America. As we see again and again in districts around the country, education funding levels are determined by local wealth and state will—not by student need or any legitimate education considerations.”

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LA School Report welcomes reporter Sarah Favot

Sarah Favot

Sarah Favot

LA School Report is thrilled to welcome Sarah Favot to the team as writer/reporter.

Favot’s data-driven, investigative and political reporting will bolster the breadth and depth of education coverage in California for LA School Report and nationwide for The 74.

Favot comes to LA School Report from the Los Angeles Daily News where she covered Los Angeles County government and courts as well as breaking news, crime and education.

Favot analyzed campaign finance records to track the flow of money to politicians from the gas company following the nation’s largest natural gas leak, uncovered corruption and the hardest-to-place children in the foster care system, identified the county’s second-highest-paid employee who didn’t work a single day in a year, provided detailed summaries of the county’s march toward a $15 minimum wage and unearthed a story about the county coroner’s quirky gift shop as it found itself under the ax.

She was promoted to the L.A. Daily News after her award-winning work at the Pasadena Star-News, where she was the lead data reporter and writer on an 18-month investigation into unsolved homicides in Los Angeles County.

For the project, “Getting Away with Murder,” Favot created and analyzed a database of 11,244 homicides over 11 years in Los Angeles County, chronicling 4,862 cold cases. The massive public-records quest from nearly 100 agencies was the first time such data had ever been collated.

The project, which included an interactive database and map, 10-page special section, analysis, videos and dozens of stories, led to numerous tips to law enforcement agencies on unsolved cases. The project won two California Newspaper Publishers Association awards and was a finalist for Online News Association’s 2015 University of Florida Award in Investigative Data Journalism.

Favot also wrote extensively about the world renowned manufacturer of Huy Fong Foods Sriracha hot sauce and the company’s battle with city officials in the town where the plant was located. Her data-driven reporting led her to break the story that only four households were responsible for the majority of complaints that threatened to drive out the company. Reporting about the incident caught the attention of Gov. Jerry Brown, who intervened in the dispute, keeping the company and hundreds of jobs in Los Angeles County.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Favot began her reporting career in 2009 at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting while working toward her master’s degree in journalism at Boston University.

At NECIR, Favot was part of an investigative reporting team that analyzed the cases of juvenile offenders serving mandatory life without parole sentences. Her story won a regional Mark of Excellence award from the Society of Professional Journalists, a 2012 David S. Barr Social Justice Award and was a finalist for a 2011 Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Much of her work was published in the Boston Globe.

After earning her master’s, Favot joined the staff of the Lowell, Massachusetts Sun. She was part of a team of journalists who covered the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 and the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Favot sits on the board of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter Society of Professional Journalists and has been a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) since 2009. She is passionate about baking, running and the Detroit Tigers.


Valley charter principal’s $100K in credit card charges triggers review

LosAngelesDailyNewsLOGOBy  Mike Reicher

Just a 10-minute drive from the school, the waiter brought the table a $95 bottle of fine Syrah wine. Dimly-lit Monty’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, with its red booths and white linen, doubled as a high school meeting room that Wednesday night, Principal David Fehte says. And on many other nights.

In 2014 and 2015, Fehte, who leads El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills, charged more than $15,500 at Monty’s to his school-issued American Express card.

“When we’re doing business, we’re doing business,” Fehte said recently as he walked to his BMW in the San Fernando Valley campus parking lot.

He also paid for first-class airfare and luxury hotel rooms with his school-funded credit card.

Fehte acknowledged charging El Camino for personal travel and, after the Daily News inquired, said he reimbursed the public school.

Over the two years, Fehte charged more than $100,000 to the card, according to a Los Angeles Daily News analysis. El Camino receives about $32 million in government funds annually, accounting for 94 percent of its revenue.

Click here for the full Los Angeles Daily News story.

Morning Read: A turnaround at Artesia High School

Turning around Artesia, Part 2: This school figured out how to make it ‘cool’ to succeed
Almost 12 years ago, Sergio Garcia became principal of Artesia High School, a school smack in the middle of a neighborhood in Southern California that has seen its share of gang violence. At Garcia’s first meeting with the staff, he asked the teachers what kinds of changes they most wanted him to make. The teachers’ unanimous response was that they wanted him to “stop the ‘tardies.’” By Karin Chenoweth, Education Post

How do you monitor homeschooling parents? Welcome to the Wild West of education regulation

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

When school district administrators call parents at home it can often lead to tension-filled conversations. But in the case of Laura and Michael McIntyre, it led to criminal charges and a lawsuit.

In 2004, the McIntyres decided to take their nine children out of private school and homeschool them in an empty space inside a motorcycle dealership owned by Michael’s twin brother.

The twin brother would later tell authorities that while he saw the kids sing and play instruments he never saw them reading books, doing math or using school equipment. He overheard one child say that there was no need to study because they were “going to be raptured,” according to court documents.

The McIntyres’ local school district ordered the family to provide evidence that they were educating their children; the couple refused, prompting authorities to file truancy charges against the youth. Those charges were later dropped but the McIntyres filed a subsequent lawsuit against the school district, claiming their “constitutional educational liberty interests” were violated.

Welcome to the Wild West of education regulation.

In recent years, the share of parents choosing to educate their kids at home has exploded, fueled by their dissatisfaction with public schools, dislike for the Common Core standards, and a desire to impart moral values on their children. Even former presidential hopeful Ben Carson jumped on the homeschooling bandwagon last year when he told The 74’s Editor-in-Chief Campbell Brown in a November interview that, “the best education is home school:”

This new generation of homeschooling parents is a mobilized political force that has successfully advocated for curtailing what they see as onerous state requirements and too much government oversight over what is ultimately, they say, a family affair. But some child welfare advocates say the declining regulation of homeschooling may mean more abused or poorly educated children will slip through the cracks.

“I’m very sympathetic to the idea that part of the value of homeschooling is the flexibility it gives parents. There needs to be substantial modesty on the part of the state on imposing requirements and regulations,” said Robert Kunzman, a professor at Indiana University and managing director of the International Center for Home Education Research.

“At the same time, children have their own interests at stake. A lot of times it goes in line with the parents, but not always. Children have a profound interest in gaining basic skills in literacy and numeracy.”

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‘We’re fighting over shades of Democrat’ in California

Vallejo students

Students at Vallejo High School in Vallejo, California. (Photo: Robert Durell for CALmatters)

By Laurel Rosenhall 

A group that lobbies to change public education is pouring money into a handful of Northern California legislative races ahead of the June 7 election, aiming to influence the kind of Democrats who hold power in the state Capitol.

Democrats make up a solid majority of the Legislature, but they do not agree on everything. A band of business-friendly Democrats has gained enough clout to buck more liberal Democrats on some environmental issues. Campaign spending by EdVoice, an advocacy group that supports charter schools and tying student test scores to teacher evaluations, reveals an attempt to build a cohort of Democrats who might break from their colleagues on some education issues, too. At stake are pressing questions about how to help the most disadvantaged students succeed in the nation’s largest public school system.

“In California, we’re fighting over shades of Democrat,” said political consultant Phil Giarrizzo, who represents Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, one of the Democrats backed by EdVoice.

Teachers unions have been a prevailing influence on Democrats for decades. EdVoice, funded by philanthropists from the business world, is part of a counterforce that often supports policies opposed by organized labor. Unions and school reformers have sparred over charter schools, teacher tenure and how to measure school performance – dividing Democrats at many levels of government.

Click here for the full CALmatters story.

Morning Read: UTLA vote includes adding one teacher to every secondary school to lower class size

Teachers will vote on contract reopener beginning June 1
The union says it’s a student-focused agreement and there will be one more full-time teacher at every secondary school to help alleviate large class sizes. The reopeners are part of the current 2014-17 contract, which last year included a 10 percent salary increase. A member ratification vote will take place at school sites from June 1-3, with votes counted June 4. The agreement is also pending a vote by the school board. By Our Weekly Los Angeles 

LA Unified announces record grad rate for last year as it grapples with tougher standards this year


LAUSD Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson

LA Unified increased its official graduation rate to a new high last school year, with 72.2 percent of students receiving a diploma, the district announced this week. The number is a two-point increase over the previous year, which was also a record high.

Since 2009-10, when the state began using four-year cohort rates as the official measuring stick for graduation, LA Unified has increased its rate by 10 percentage points.

“I am very proud of the work we are doing – not only in raising our graduation rates, but in preparing our graduates to enter college or the workforce,” said Superintendent Michelle King in a statement. “Our students, parents, faculty and staff have worked together as a team, and they can take great satisfaction in this accomplishment.”

Graduation rates also were raised to a new high in the state of California, up to 82 percent, the sixth year in a row the rate has climbed, the East Bay Times reported.

The news comes as LA Unified is entering the final few weeks of school under a new raised bar for graduation requirements. The “A though G” series of classes, which if a student passes all with a C will make them eligible for admission info California’s public universities, have presented extra challenges for the district.

In the fall, LA Unified had a projected graduation rate of 54 percent because to many students being unprepared for the new A-G standards. Due to a $15 million credit recovery program that has been hailed as widely successful by district officials but criticized by some education experts, the last projected A-G completion rate calculated by the district was 68 percent — but predicted to potentially top 80 percent.

The district will not be doing any more A-G projections for the rest of the school year, and the preliminary graduation will not be fully calculated until November. Students who complete summer courses will also be eligible to graduate with the class 2016.  Continue reading