Education-Related Ballot Measures: An Update

A new Los Angeles Times / USC poll shows support for Governor Jerry Brown’s Prop 30 ballot initiative – which would temporarily raise income tax on high earners – has slipped to 54%, down 10 points from March. Despite the erosion, Democratic voters still overwhelmingly favor it, 69-20%.  Meanwhile, Molly Munger’s competing tax measure, Prop 38, has the support of only 34% of voters.

This seems a good time for an update on the three initiatives that will have the biggest impact on LAUSD and public education in California: Propositions 30, 32 and 38. The expenditure data is from a nice interactive feature on the Los Angeles Times website.

Proposition 30
The initiative, being pushed by Governor Jerry Brown, would temporarily raise income taxes on those making more than $250,000 (for seven years) and increase the sales tax by a quarter of a cent (for four years). The money would allow the state to avoid automatic “trigger cuts” – which were designed by Brown himself – that would fall mostly on public education, to the tune of $6 billion. Detractors say this measure won’t result in more money for schools.

Money raised in support: $39.8 million
Money raised against: $1.1 million
Biggest donor in support: California Teachers Association, $6.1 million
Biggest donor against: Charles B. Johnson, $200,000

Brown has worked hard to raise money to support the measure, but will it be enough to get it to the finish line?

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Talking Charters On The Eastsider

A neighborhood blog you may not have heard of called The Eastsider has a good (if partial) list of public, charter, and private school websites, as well as other useful parent groups and addresses for a variety of Eastside neighborhoods (School Yard Links).  There’s also an interesting entry from a parent who’s concerned about LAUSD limiting charter options, and some parent responses (Charter school or L.A. Unified?). If you see any other sites with great resources like this, or other blogs that address education in LA, let us know.  Thanks to CL for the tip.

Charter Operators v. Charter Reformers

This week’s piece by Emily Bazelon in Slate about school district-charter school cooperation in New Haven sounds pretty cool as these things go — a teacher exchange between the district and a charter network that seems to be a win-win for both parties.

I’m told that something similar is going on in Denver, with three charter networks helping train district teachers to become district principals.  (They’ve also agreed to a single application form, deadline, and single website for charters and district school programs there, which is pretty cool, too — no more confusion of dates and forms and programs for parents looking to make informed choices for their kids.)

But the article reminds me that there’s a ferocious behind-the-scenes battle going on over charter schools (in addition to the public one going on out in the open between districts and charters).  I’m not sure the good guys are winning, or seem to have much of a chance.  Nationally, and in many parts of the country, charter school reformers have lost control of their movement.

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Morning Read: More on Grant Money

L.A. Unified and Charter Groups Win Teacher Evaluation Grants
L.A. Unified, California’s largest school system, will receive $16 million, one of the largest grants. But the top prize in dollars, more than $23 million, went to the District of Columbia Public Schools, a system less than one-eighth the size of L.A. Unified. LA Times

What California’s Schools Can Learn From Chicago’s
Officials in California are still peddling the idea that the state’s public-school system — which receives 40 percent of the general-fund budget, by constitutional edict — is struggling because it lacks money. Bloomberg View

LAUSD Officials Cut the Ribbon on the Lucille Roybal-Allard Elementary School
LRA is part of LAUSD’s current $19.5 billion New School Construction and Modernization Program to provide every student with the opportunity to attend a safe and healthy neighborhood school operating on a traditional, two-semester calendar. LAUSD press release

Brice W. Harris to Head State’s Community Colleges
The new chancellor acknowledges the financial stresses facing the 112-campus system but says ‘the best days are ahead of us.’ LA Times

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LAUSD Wins Federal Money for Teacher Evaluation Reform

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that LAUSD is a big winner of its Teacher Incentive Fund competition, which will award $250 million in grants over a two-year period to school districts across the country.

The grants are meant to encourage districts to create “evaluation systems that reward success and drive decision-making on recruiting, retaining, and providing additional responsibilities to great teachers,” according to a Department of Education press release.

LAUSD will receive $16 million for a two-year program, one of the largest grants out of 35 awarded nationwide.

Two of the largest charter groups operating in Los Angeles, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools and Green Dot Public Schools, also received grant money. Aspire Public Schools, a charter group with schools in Los Angeles and across the state, received grant money as well.

Here’s a breakdown of the Teacher Incentive Funding in California:

Test Scores Will Matter Less for a School’s Fate… In Four Years

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a measure (SB 1458) which curtails the role of test scores in calculating a school’s Academic Performance Index (or API). Right now, API scores are based solely on student test scores, and can have enormous consequences for a school. A low API score can eventually lead to its management being replaced and its governance structure being changed.

Under the new law, supported by LAUSD and an array of business groups, student test scores will account for no more than 60% of high school API scores, leaving room for other factors in assessing a school’s success. The new API won’t start until 2016. Senate majority leader Darrell Steinberg, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement:

“For years, ‘teaching to the test’ has become more than a worn cliche because 100% of the API relied on bubble tests scores in limited subject areas. But life is not a bubble test and that system has failed our kids. By balancing testing with factors like graduation rates, and measuring how prepared our students are for entering college and the workforce, SB 1458 will spur the system into delivering higher quality education combining real-world relevance and academic rigor.”

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Morning Read: Modest Proposals

California Limits Role of Student Tests in API Scores
California’s key measure of public school quality will be redefined to lessen the impact of standardized test scores under a bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown. The law will broaden how the Academic Performance Index is calculated by limiting test scores to 60% for high schools and including graduation rates and other factors. LA Times

Governor Brown’s Modest Proposal
If Prop 30, which raises California sales tax from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent and increases the income tax on those earning over $250,000, goes down in flames, Governor Brown will likely make good on his promise to cut $4.8 billion in public school funds. That could mean wiping out an additional 15-20 schools days from the 2012-2013 academic year. HuffPo Opinion

UC to Pay Damages in Davis Pepper-Spraying
The University of California will pay damages of $30,000 to each of the 21 UC Davis students and alumni who were pepper-sprayed by campus police during an otherwise peaceful protest 10 months ago, the university system announced Wednesday. LA Times

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Possible Board Candidates: District 2


District 2 covers most of East Los Angeles and is currently represented by Monica Garcia, president of the school board and perhaps the staunchest foe of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA).

There are already a number of declared candidates in District 2, so the question isn’t so much who will run as who else will run — and whom if anyone UTLA will support from among the already-declared candidates.

One intriguing possibility is Isabel Vazquez (pictured), a 1st grade teacher at Queen Anne Place Elementary in Mid-City, who once worked as field director for former LAUSD board member Jeff Horton in the 1980s.

A knowledgeable source who did not want to be named said that Vazquez had “maybe a 30% chance” of getting UTLA’s endorsement.  But Vazquez herself didn’t seem too optimistic: “I believe there’s always a possibility of being endorsed. I do have friends and allies.”

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Morning Read: Day of Atonement

Time to Get Schooled: My Conversation With LAUSD’S John Deasy
LA Magazine editor Mary Melton sat down with Superintendent Deasy. LA Mag 

Triumph Charter High Must Recruit Students to Sun Valley Campus, or Close
Triumph Charter High may be forced to close because of low enrollment after relocating this year from Sylmar to Sun Valley, campus officials said Tuesday. Daily News

LA Students Off for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement
All traditional calendar L.A. Unified schools will close for the holiday that ends at sundown Wednesday. KPCC

Alleged Sex Abuse May Be Part of Years-Long Soccer Hazing Pattern
So far, four teenage boys have been arrested on suspicion of assault for their alleged roles in the hazing. LA Times

Josephine Jimenez Dies at 100
Josephine Jimenez, a Los Angeles educator who broke through a glass ceiling to run a high school and become a leader and supervisor of principals, has died at 100. LA Times

Former Superintendent Debates Union Head

Thanks to a kind reader for sending along this PBS NewsHour segment in which former LAUSD superintendent Roy Romer debates American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten: 

It’s a couple of weeks old but still might be worth the watch, given the ongoing debate over including student achievement in teacher evaluations and whether unions can or should be involved in reform.  Or read the transcript here.

Tenure Approval Still +90 Percent

The recent LA Magazine profile of Superintendent John Deasy included a surprising statistic:

“When Deasy arrived, about 98 percent of eligible teachers were granted tenure. Now the approval rate is less than 50 percent.”

That sounded unbelievable to me– it either had to be a mistake, or the result of some little-publicized but groundbreaking policy. It turns out it was the former.

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Morning Read: Prop. 38 Debate Heats Up

Leg Analyst: Prop. 38 Won’t Stop $6 Billion in Trigger Cuts to Schools CTA Blog: During a September 24 hearing, a member of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office’s team told members of the Assembly Budget Committee that Proposition 38 would not prevent $6 billion in automatic or trigger cuts to public education in 2011-2012.

TV ads for Prop. 38 start airing SF Chronicle: The 30-second spot hits on the themes that proponents have pushed so far and includes a barely subtle jab at Brown’s measure.

Seeking Allies, Teachers’ Unions Court G.O.P., Too NYT: While donations to Democrats still far outweigh contributions to Republicans, the proportion of union money going to Republican candidates this year, just over 8 percent, has doubled since the last election cycle, according to the National Institute on Money In State Politics.

Finding Classroom Success In Bilingual Mix Of Spanish, English Hechinger Report: In 2011, while 56 percent of elementary-age students in California were proficient or above on state tests for English language arts, two thirds of Ernest R. Geddes Elementary School in Baldwin Park, Calif students were [proficient].

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Possible Board Candidates: District 6

District 6 is an open seat, as current board member Nury Martinez is leaving the school board to run for City Council.

Iris Zuniga, Possible Board Candidate

Both UTLA and the education reform community are likely to pick candidates and dump money into independent expenditure campaigns supporting them. But who will they pick?

One possible candidate for ed reformers in District 6 is Iris Zuniga (pictured), the Chief Operating Officer of Youth Policy Institute, a large charter school operator. Its Executive Director, Dixon Slingerland, is very active in LAUSD politics, and YPI employees contribute a lot of money to local elections, according to the City Ethics Commission’s website.

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Morning Read: Clashing Views On Evaluation

Rejecting test scores as a core value  Los Angeles Times (Sandy Banks): The Chicago teachers strike reflected the nationwide divide over ‘market reforms,’ shorthand for the accountability metrics that tie teachers’ salaries and jobs to how well their students perform.

Brown signs bill spelling out evaluations (for principals) Ed Source: Without the acrimony and fanfare that doomed a teacher evaluation bill last month, the Legislature with near unanimity passed and Gov. Brown has now signed a milestone principal and teacher evaluation bill.

Analysis: Why a teachers’ strike in Los Angeles is unlikely EdSource Today:  Unlike in Chicago, where the school board is appointed by the mayor, teachers have advocates on the LA school board. In fact, the teachers union helped get them elected in the first place.

Backers say bills signed by Brown will reduce school suspensions LA Times: Advocates aiming to reform school discipline policies hailed the governor for signing four bills they say will help reduce the number of California students suspended each year.

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LA Teachers Make “Upstarts” List

Who: A self-appointed caucus of progressive teachers within the 38,000- member United Teachers Los Angeles union.

What: Currently holds more than 25 percent of the 350 seats in the UTLA House of Representatives, and helped elect a reform-friendly UTLA president last year. Has inspired similar factions in other districts..

via Atlantic Magazine: The Education Upstarts. Other groups mentioned include StudentsFirst, Educators For Excellence, and Democrats For Education Reform.

Morning Read: Prop. 30 Prospects

Prop. 30 Maintains Voter Support CTA Blog: The PPIC survey determined that Prop. 30 is supported by 73% of likely Democratic voters and 53% of independents.  More Republicans than Democrats oppose the measure.

Ex-LAUSD teacher gets 25 years for molesting 13 Pacoima students Daily News: Chapel, of Chatsworth, pleaded no contest last month to committing lewd acts against seven girls and six boys. In exchange for a 25-year sentence, prosecutors dropped 15 additional counts that could have sent him to prison for life.

Former Miramonte student allegedly beaten at new school LA Times: A former Miramonte Elementary School student, who is among a group of children suing over alleged teacher sexual misconduct, has transferred from one middle school to another after she was allegedly beaten by other students.

California leads effort to boost English learner success Ed Source: A bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk… would create a single definition of long-term English learners and require school districts to keep track of these students and report their numbers every year to the State Department of Education.

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Jobs: Write For The LA School Report

Launched last month, LA School Report site has been taking the LA education scene  by storm. Thanks to everyone for all the great responses and ideas. Now we’re looking for another writer/reporter/blogger/researcher to join the team and help us make the site even better.

It’s a paid, half-time position. Hours are flexible, however, candidates must be based in LA, have reliable transportation, and be proficient at blogging, Twitter, and Facebook.

Most importantly, we’re looking for someone who is deeply interested in education policy and politics, self-motivated, and able to find information quickly and write accurately. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and we need someone who’s going to help us crush this beat.

Think you’ve got the goods?  Send a resume and links to writing samples to me (alexander at  Know some folks who might be good for the job — grad school buddies, former colleagues, etc?  Pass it along.

Possible Board Candidates: District 4

Most Angelenos don’t realize it, but the local primary election is just five months away. Even fewer know that in addition the Mayor and City Council, the March 5 ballot will include three school board seats. Three, count ’em, three (out of seven).

Kate Anderson and family, via Twitter

But why should anyone be paying attention? There aren’t even any candidates yet! Or at least not many of them. Or at least not officially.

Behind the scenes, however, interest groups are searching furiously for the perfect candidate — and potential candidates are huddled around kitchen tables deciding if they should go for it.

One of the most-discussed contenders to run against Steve Zimmer for District 4 is Kate Anderson (pictured), executive director of a reform organization called Children Now.

Read below for more about Anderson and other possible District 4 candidates, and check back soon for the rundown on Districts 2 and 6, which are also in play.

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