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

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

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

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

‘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 

Morning Read: CORE districts shine more light on subgroups

CORE districts turn spotlight on struggling student groups
To shine a brighter light on academic disparities, the six California districts known as the CORE districts have tracked test results for much smaller student subgroups than the state requires, giving a more complete picture of how some groups – African-American children and students with disabilities, in particular – performed. By John Fensterwald, EdSource

Morning Read: LAUSD administrator charged with sexual abuse of student

LAUSD assistant principal arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct with student
William Webb, a popular assistant principal at the Los Angeles Unified School District’s flagship arts high school, was arrested Tuesday morning on suspicion of sexual misconduct with a student. Los Angeles Times

Morning Read: LAUSD reaches $88-million settlement with teacher sex abuse victims

L.A. school district reaches $88-million settlement in sex misconduct cases 
The Los Angeles school district will pay $88 million to settle sexual abuse cases at two elementary schools where complaints about the teachers’ behavior had surfaced long before their arrest, officials confirmed Monday. The settlement with 30 children and their families, finalized over the weekend, is the second-largest in district history and brings a dark chapter to an apparent close. Los Angeles Times

A failing high school in one of America’s richest counties

Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Courtesy BHS)

Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Courtesy BHS)

By Naomi Nix

(Bridgeport, Connecticut)  —When veteran Bridgeport journalist Nancy Hendrick greeted the start of 1961 with a blistering column called “What’s Wrong With Bridgeport,” the inequalities that afflict the city today were already evident everywhere she looked.

“Suddenly we are all aware of the sharp contrast between private opulence and public squalor that exists within our unprecedented prosperity,” she wrote, going on to describe the “rabbit warrens” of the South End, where “the unloved, unwelcome minority groups live in jammed-in discomfort” as well as “the dilapidated sin-tenements on the East Side that should have the torch of public indignation set to them.”

Bridgeport evoked a similar response later that week among state educators wrapping up an evaluation of Bassick High School.  The Connecticut Post headlined its January 12 coverage: “Report ‘Indicts’ City For Educational Ills,” telling readers that the evaluators were laudatory about the school’s teachers but withering in their assessment of the city’s lack of financial support — noting with special emphasis that students were forced to pay for their own books, science equipment, globes and maps.

“This situation makes a mockery of a free public education. Only a community grown callous over the years could allow such a condition to continue year after year,” they said. “If Bridgeport were a poor community in a poor state in a poor nation, this condition might be more easily understood.”

Fifty-five years later, Bridgeport is now largely a poor community — though Connecticut remains one of the richest states in the country — and life at Bassick High School has only gotten worse, even as the greater powers that Hendrick tried to awaken continue to largely ignore it.

Click here for the full story at The 74.

Morning Read: LAUSD leaders support Obama’s gender neutral bathroom directive

LA school board president: Gender neutral bathrooms for all middle and high schools
LAUSD officials came out in support of the Obama administration’s guidance for protecting transgender students from discrimination. City News Service

Morning Read: Study says a little empathy can keep kids in school

The key to reducing school suspensions? Treat kids with empathy, says study
Researchers from Stanford University found that when teachers are reminded to approach students with an empathic mindset, rates of school suspensions go down. Students who get suspended from school are more likely to later drop out and face jail time. By Rebecca Klein, Huffington Post

San Francisco Unified opts out of new Teach for America contract

san francisco chronicle- ogoBy Jill Tucker

The taxpayer-supported Teach for America program, which supplies enthusiastic if inexperienced teachers to thousands of schools in lower-income areas across the country, has fallen out of favor in San Francisco.

The city’s school board made clear this week that staffing some of the city’s neediest classrooms with recent college graduates who are on a two-year teaching stint and with just five weeks of training is no longer acceptable.

The board had been set to vote Tuesday night on a new contract to obtain 15 teachers for the upcoming school year — after reaching similar agreements each of the last eight years with the national nonprofit, which receives federal grants, private donations and fees from districts.

But before the vote, Superintendent Richard Carranza pulled the contract from consideration, acknowledging he didn’t have support despite a statewide teacher shortage and a local need to fill at least 500 teaching jobs by August.

Click here for the full story.


Morning Read: Actor Danny Trejo, students express frustration over Sylmar High brawl

Actor Danny Trejo joins students in discussion over 40-student lunchtime brawl at Sylmar High
After a wild brawl involving 40 students at Sylmar High School on Monday, students and actor Danny Trejo met Wednesday night to express their frustration with the school board. “What happened on Monday we would all agree is an unacceptable occurrence,” Superintendent Michelle King said to the crowd of students and parents. By Beverly White, NBC Los Angeles

Morning Read: Water contamination concerns at 5 South LA schools

LADWP crews to test for water contamination in South LA
LA Department of Water and Power crews Wednesday will test for water contamination after murky water was recently discovered at five elementary schools. CBS Los Angeles

LIVESTREAM of today’s LAUSD school board meeting

livestreamGrafix250The LA Unified school board is scheduled to hold an open session meeting today at 1 p.m.

Items on the agenda include a teachers union-commissioned report on the financial impact that independent charter schools have on the district, and a resolution from board members Monica Garcia and Ref Rodriguez calling on the district to more aggressively court outside donors to help expand successful school models.

Click here to watch the livestream of the meeting.

Morning Read: UTLA-commissioned report says charters hurt LAUSD budget

Union-commissioned report says charter schools are bleeding money from traditional ones
A teachers union-funded report on charter schools concludes that these largely nonunion campuses are costing LAUSD traditional schools millions of dollars in tax money. It calls for full funding from the federal government for disabled students, more money for charter oversight and higher district fees to charters. “The growth of charters is putting pressure on the district. The district can’t do what it did in the past and come out ahead,” said Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. “They can try to compete for the students or sell off the buildings. But the point is: Charters look attractive to parents, which means that the district is not attractive.” Los Angeles Times