California, GOP in sync on reducing federal role in education


The Los Angeles Times | By Teresa Watanabe

California may be a blue state, but a Republican-led effort to scale back federal intervention in educational reform is drawing support here.

As the House of Representatives moves to vote this week on reauthorizing a 50-year-old education reform law, Republicans are pushing to sharply curtail what they see as federal overreach in prescribing testing, setting achievement goals and imposing sanctions on schools that fail to improve. Instead, the House bill would shift authority for such decisions to states and school districts.

And that suits many in California just fine.

That’s because California has outpaced the nation in developing its own reform measures, including a pioneering school finance system that gives more money to needy students and an effort underway to craft a more complex measure of achievement than simply test scores. The federal prescriptions, many say, too often have interfered with California’s approach.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: Charters, unions dominate LAUSD board elections

In LAUSD board election, it’s charter schools vs. labor unions 
Direct campaign donations from individual contributors make up 18 percent of the money spent in the LAUSD’s District 5 school board race. KPCC

Report: New Teacher Prep Rules ‘Too Stringent’
Proposed federal changes to teacher preparation requirements have generated numerous comments from education leaders and organizations. The Journal

Common Core’s unintended consequence?
More teachers write their own curricula. The Hechinger Report

Why Principals Matter
An eighth-grader was featured on the Humans of New York photo blog where he praised his principal as the most influential person in his life. The Atlantic

Three OC school districts forced to prove that they’re making time for PE
Three Orange County school districts must document that teachers are providing physical education instruction during the school day. Orange County Register

LA Unified, trades union reach agreement on three-year deal

LAUSDlogoThe Los Angeles Unified School District has reached agreement with the union on a new labor agreement.

No, not that union

The district and Unit E, Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Trades Council, which represents 1,300 electricians, plumbers, carpenters, roofers and other skilled workers, have agreed to terms on a three-year deal that includes a lump-sum payment of 2 percent for the 2013-14 school year and salary increases of 2 percent in 2014-15, 2 percent in 2015-16 and 2.5 percent in 2016-17.

“I want to thank the Building and Trades Council for their professionalism and dedication to our students,” Roger Finstad, LAUSD’s Director of Maintenance and Operations, said in a statement. “This agreement not only allows us to attract and keep the very best and well-trained employees, it strengthens and prioritizes maintenance and repair services to those school communities who need it the most.”

Chris Hannan, Business Representative for the Trades Council, said the deal “brings in a fair and competitive wage structure to our members and will attract high-quality apprentices to the District. It is a true win-win and we look forward to bringing this tentative agreement to our membership for ratification.”

The agreement will go into effect upon ratification by unit members and adoption by the Board of Education.


District 7: LAUSD school board race snapshot

LAUSD District 7 map

School board District 7, runs up a narrow swath from San Pedro at its southern tip to South LA as its northern boundary (see map here).
On the way, it encompasses parts of Wilmington, Harbor City, Carson, Harbor Gateway, Lomita, Gardena, Florence, and Watts, and is home to some of LA Unified’s historically troubled high schools including Fremont High, and Jordon High, which have undergone recent massive restructurings, and Locke High School, which underwent a major turnaround 2008. The district also includes some of the highest performing schools in LAUSD, including highly-ranked Harbor Teachers Prep Academy and many of the city’s highly-effective charter schools. In all there are 99 elementary schools, 36 middle schools and 54 high schools in LAUSD’s District 7. (See list here). Three candidates are vying for this seat.


Richard VladovicRichard Vladovic (Incumbent)

A veteran educator, Richard Vladovic is a former social studies teacher, principal and Superintendent of West Covina Unified School District with two terms under his belt on the LAUSD school board. He was first elected to the school board in 2007 with the help of then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. While he maintains strong ties with reform-minded players he won the support of board members allied with the teachers union to ascend to the position of school board president replacing reform advocate Monica Garcia 18 months ago.

Organization endorsements: SEIU-99, CA Charter School Advocates, AALA, LA Times
Cash Raised: $96,764 [reporting as of 2/14]
SuperPAC $: $82,977 [reporting as of 2/14]
Age: 70
Education: B.A. Los Angeles Harbor College; M.S., Pepperdine University; PhD, USC Rossier School of Ed, 1980 (source, smartvoter)
Ballot Designation: School Boardmember/Educator
League of Women Voters Questionnaire: What is the single most important issue facing LAUSD today? The most important issue facing LAUSD today is increasing academic achievement. Full answers here

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Which way LAUSD? A look at the future of digital learning


By KCRW’s “Which Way L.A.?”

There won’t be an iPad for everyone after all, and School Board incumbents running for re-election are being asked to explain a massive debacle.

But, in this economy, digital education is mandatory to take proficiency tests, apply for college admission—or qualify for a lot of blue-collar employment. Can LA Unified find the money to try again, and make teachers part of the planning?

Click here to listen to the show.


Morning Read: LAUSD could lose $782 million under federal bill

L.A. schools could lose $782 million under federal bill
Republican-led effort to revise a federal education law could slash $782 million for disadvantaged students in Los Angeles Unified over six years. Los Angeles Times

Jeff Bridges encourages eating breakfast at local schools
Elementary School students in Winnetka got a visit from Academy Award-winner Jeff Bridges. KAB7

High-schoolers’ excitement about voting is uplifting
In a city that hibernates through local elections, Miriam Antonio told me she couldn’t wait to vote next Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

Bid to move L.A. elections faces growing opposition from candidates
The campaign to combine Los Angeles’ elections with state and federal contests has been hailed by backers as a way to lift the city’s dismal turnout. Los Angeles Times

LA Unified’s teachers union faces test of organizing strength
The print shop below UTLA’s headquarters cranked out 7,500 signs for protestors to carry when they descend on downtown Thursday. Los Angeles Daily News

In LA, Missing Kindergarten Is A Big Deal
In Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest school district, kindergarten absence is a big problem. New England Public Radio

Gonzalez files complaint with City Ethics against Galatzan campaign

Tamar Galtatzan

Tamar Galtatzan

One of Tamar Galatzan’s challengers in the LA Unified District 3 board race said today he has filed a complaint against her with the City Ethics Commission, charging that she improperly used her board office as part of her campaign.

Filiberto Gonzalez, a former Los Angeles City planning commissioner, cited two specific instances: the use of what he believes is campaign material at a Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council meeting on Feb. 13, and the use of the district’s robocall system to notify thousands of parents about a community meeting on the budget on Feb. 17 — a date too close to the election, he argues, although he could not cite any specific law that would have prohibited it.

Gonzalez first made the robocall charge at a District 3 forum on Feb. 17 when Galatzan skipped the event to hold the community meeting.  

“As candidates, we are all required to participate in campaign ethics training,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “She cannot say it was an oversight. Even worse, as a prosecutor with the City of Los Angeles, she should know better and hold herself to a higher standard.”

A Commission spokeswoman said she could neither confirm nor deny “the existence of any complaints or investigations due to strict confidentiality rules mandated by the City Charter.”

Galatzan’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The District 3 race is the most crowded of the three contested school board elections on March 3. In seeking a third term, Galatzan is facing five challengers, most of whom have been sharply critical of her years on the board.

Gonzalez, who voted for Galatzan eight years ago, has been especially critical of her role in supporting the district’s iPad program, insisting in an interview, “She was a great supporter of the iPads even when it did not have support in our neighborhoods. It was wrong headed from the very beginning and yet she was the number one champion on that.”

District 5: LAUSD school board race snapshot

LAUSD District 5 Map LA Unified’s school board District 5, runs a tortured, ear-muff-shaped path from Los Feliz in the north, following a narrow band south, and expanding in the south to Lynwood.

Along the way it reaches parts of Echo Park, Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park, Bell and South Gate.

With an Hispanic population of 74 percent, District 5 was originally carved in 1978 as a Latino seat, but has only been held by an Hispanic school board member four of the last 15 years. The district includes the newish $239-million Sonia M. Sotomayor Learning Academies, as well as Jefferson High, focus of the recent troubled computer overhaul known as MiSiS. The district is home to 37 charters, including US News ranked Alliance Marc & Eva Stern Math And Science. In all, there are 120 elementary schools, 42 middle schools and 41 high schools in LAUSD’s District 5. (See list here).  Three candidates are vying for this seat.


Bennett Kayser (Incumbent)

Bennett KayserA former middle school science and health teacher, Bennett Kayser was first elected to represent District 5 in 2011 in a narrowly won race with help of $1.4 million spent by the teachers union super PAC. He is considered one of the teacher’s union staunchest allies on the board.

Although Kayser and his wife co-founded of one of the district’s earliest charter schools, over the years he’s become reliably anti-charter, voting against new applications and renewals at nearly every opportunity. He was also a relentless critic of the reform policies of former superintendent John Deasy. Kayser had to recuse himself on some of the votes regarding the controversial iPad initiative because of a conflict of interest involving his ownership of Apple Inc. stock.

In his re-election bid he has once again won the support of the teachers union, which is spending big money to defend his seat while the California Charter School Association PAC has spent even more to ensure his defeat. As a result, Kayser has been the target of some odd and arguably racist ads.

Bennett Kayser declined to speak LA School Report about the election.

Organization endorsements: SEIU-99, AALA, UTLA, CSEA – 500, and the local chapter of the AFL-CIO

Cash Raised: $81,121.35 (through 2/14)

Super PAC $: $374,375.25 spent by outside groups supporting Kayser or opposing his challengers (through 2/14)

Age: 69

Education: B.A., Cal State Long Beach (1969); MA, Biology UCLA (1980)

Ballot Designation: Teacher/School Boardmember

League of Women Voters Questionnaire:  What is the single most important issue facing LAUSD today?  Did not respond.

United Way Questionnaire: Did not respond

Website: Bennett2015

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Commentary: LAUSD should try again on 1-to-1 computer goal


By The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

The idea of equipping every Los Angeles Unified student and teacher with a computer suffered its final blow with the announcement last week that the school district simply couldn’t afford to buy some 700,000 of them. If ever a proposal was half-baked, it was the iPad project, which was marked by a lamentable lack of planning, grave concerns over the enormous price tag, and an ongoing criminal grand jury investigation into possible ethics violations on the part of district officials.

Morning Read: In defense of No Child Left Behind testing

Commentary: NCLB and testing help hold schools accountable
Even if the NCLB bathwater needs changing, our kids are not likely to learn more if schools and teachers are not held accountable. Los Angeles Times

New online training aims to ferret out child abuse cases
Public school employees can take their required annual training to spot child abuse or neglect online, Tom Torlakson announced Monday. KPCC

Deasy, iPads key issues in LAUSD school board campaigns
Los Angeles Unified’s troubled iPad project and former superintendent are framing discussions in the March 3 school board primary. Los Angeles Daily News

Schools’ reliance on suspension, expulsion isn’t necessary, report finds
The report also found evidence of huge ‘discipline gaps’ when it comes to suspension rates for minorities and students with disabilities. Christian Science Monitor

Bill would give live-in workers rights to area schools
The law governing school residency would be expanded to include children whose parent resides at least three days a week at their place of employment. SI&A Cabinet Report

More conflict over cutting federal role in education
Congress and the White House on Monday inched toward a confrontation over the federal role in education. New York Times

District 3: LAUSD school board race snapshot

LAUSD District 3 Map


School board District 3 covers most of the western San Fernando valley from the Ventura county line to the 405 on its eastern boarder, with a cutout to include some of the tonier neighborhoods in the east valley. The district includes Chatsworth, parts of Woodland Hills, Northridge, Granda Hills, parts of Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks.

In all, there are 120 elementary schools, 42 middle schools and 41 high schools in LAUSD’s District 3. (See list here). Six candidates are vying for this seat.


Tamar Galatzan at Tuesday's LAUSD school board meeting

Tamar Galatzan (Incumbent)

Tamar Galatzan was first elected to the board in 2007 and has also worked as a prosecutor for the city of Los Angeles since 2002. She is a parent of two LAUSD students. While she has a reputation as a pro-charter, pro-reform movement board member and strong supporter of former Superintendent John Deasy, she also has a fiery independent streak, which was noted in her endorsement by the Los Angeles Times.

Organization Endorsements: California Charter School Association, the local chapter of the AFL-CIO, LA Times, SEIU Local 99.
Cash Raised: $35,714 (through 2/14)
SuperPAC $: $206,836.54 (through 2/14)
Age: 45
Education: J.D., University of California, Hastings College of the Law (1994);     B.A. in political science, UCLA, magna cum laude (1991)
Ballot Designation: School board member/Prosecutor
League of Women Voters Questionnaire: What is the single most important issue facing LAUSD today? The budget is unquestionably the most critical issue. Full answers here
United Way Questionnaire: Full answers here.

Elizabeth Badger ThumbElizabeth Badger

Elizabeth Badger is a parent of two LAUSD students, and this is her third run at public office in two years. She owns an automotive business in the San Fernando Valley and is CEO/Founder of Minority Outreach Committee, Inc. a nonpartisan non-profit. She is also a member of the Winnetka Neighborhood Council, the Los Angeles African American Women Political Outreach and was a delegate at the 2008 and the 2012 Democratic National Conventions.

Organization Endorsements:  None
Cash Raised: $14,804 (through 2/14)
SuperPAC $: None
Age: not stated
Education:  BA and MA in Political Science from CSUN; Graduate of USC’s Public Policy Institute
Ballot Designation: Children’s Advocate/Businesswoman
League of Women Voters Questionnaire: What is the single most important issue facing LAUSD today? Failing Education System. Full answers here.
United Way Questionnaire: Full answers here. 

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Commentary: How to end ‘teaching to the test’


By The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

When U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last year that the incessant focus on testing was “sucking the oxygen” out of public school classrooms, his statement seemed like a pointed criticism of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and of his own long-standing policies. For the last 14 years, the law has pressured public schools to raise scores in math and reading; that in turn has led schools to “teach to the test” — and to administer increasing numbers of interim tests throughout the year, as schools and individual teachers have tried to determine whether students are on track to score well on the all-important year-end exams.

But it turned out that Duncan wasn’t saying what critics of No Child Left Behind had hoped: that there should be fewer standardized tests, which are taken annually in grades three through eight and once in high school. Instead, Duncan proposed giving states incentives to get rid of other “redundant and low-quality” exams. The problem is that as long as there are annual high-stakes tests, schools are going to prepare for them with their own tests.

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: Task force wants big changes to special ed

Sweeping change set for special education services
A blue ribbon panel shared 44 specific recommendations aimed ultimately at improving academic outcomes for students with disabilities. SI&A Cabinet Report

Critics say EPA played dual role in recycled tire controversy
The EPA has terminated its longtime campaign to promote the use of recycled tires on artificial turf fields and playgrounds. San Francisco Chronicle

Expelled in preschool
Preschoolers are expelled at three times the rate of their older peers. The Hechinger Report

More students snub standardized exams
The backlash is kicking into high gear this spring as millions of students start taking new, more rigorous exams aligned with Common Core standards. Huffington Post

Infants to return to SaMo High School daycare after measles scare
More than a dozen infants exposed to a baby with measles at a Santa Monica day care center will be allowed to return to the facility Monday. CBS Los Angeles

Miramonte teacher resigns in advance of hearing over job
A teacher who became a figure in the Miramonte Elementary child abuse case resigned Friday from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Los Angeles Times

Bill would give summer benefits to school classified employees

cafeteria workerA new state bill introduced by Assembly Member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas would allow classified school employees to apply for unemployment benefits over the summer.

Assembly Bill 399 would impact a wide array of school employees, including bus drivers, special education assistants, cafeteria workers and other classified school workers who under current law are not allowed to apply for benefits, according to a press release from SEIU Local 99, the union that represents LA Unified’s classified employees.

SEIU represents approximately 45,000 school employees in the greater Los Angeles area. There are currently around 215,000 classified employees working in California public schools and community colleges, according to the Classified School Employees Association.

The law currently prohibits classified employees from receiving summer benefits, and they are the only seasonal workers prohibited by California law from doing so, according to SEIU, separating them from people who work as sports stadium employees and farm workers.

“During the academic year, in school districts throughout California, classified school employees serve our children and support their learning with deep passion, commitment and hard work,” Ridley-Thomas, who represents a mid-city district in Los Angeles, said in a statement. “Yet, during the summer months when many schools are not in session, these dedicated education workers often struggle to pay their rent and feed their own children. This legislation begins a dialogue about correcting an inequity in our state’s current unemployment insurance system.”

The new bill would  recognize “the difference between the principal and the lunch lady,”  because “current law is based on the rationale that all school workers — from administrators to teachers to cafeteria workers  — earn enough during the school year to cover the three month summer recess period,” according to SEIU.

“Many school workers who have chosen to commit their life’s work to helping educate our children are forced to live in an endless cycle of debt and poverty,” said SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias in a statement. “We must do more to ensure school jobs are good jobs by improving wages, increasing full time work, expanding summer school, and ensuring school workers have access to unemployment benefits when they need them.”


Challenging Kayser, Rodriguez led all candidates in recent fundraising

Ref Rodriguez

Ref Rodriguez

Ref Rodriguez, the charter school administrator who is challenging incumbent Bennett Kayser for LA Unified’s District 5 board seat, raised the most money of any board candidate since the last reporting period, $51,772, according to the latest figures posted by the City Ethics Commission.

Carl Petersen, one of five candidates challenging incumbent Tamar Galatzan in District 3, raised the least, $25.

While not dispositive of anything, the latest figures provide a sense of whose message is resonating with individual donors. The latest numbers reflect money raised from Jan. 17 through Feb. 14.

Clearly the District 5 race, which has been fueled by campaign material many view as objectionable, has energized donors the most. A second challenger to Kayser, Andrew Thomas, raised the second-highest amount of any non-incumbent in the district’s three contested elections, $26,056.

Kayser raised only $10,178. But money spent on his behalf by outside groups, most of it from the LA teachers union, UTLA, increased by another $42,603. An additional $29,464, almost all of it from the California Charter Schools Association, was spent for Rodriguez.

The charter group spent another $25,230 for Kayser attack material.

Among District 7 candidates, board President Richard Vladovic far out-paced his two rivals in raising money for the period. He got $28,897 in donations, compared with $9,125 for Lydia Gutierrez and $6,782 for Euna Anderson. The charter group and SEIU 99, the service workers union, also spent $82,977 to help Vladovic.

In District 3, Galatzan had a clear advantage in fund raising over her opponents, raising $21,409. Next were Scott Schmerelson, $12,780; Filberto Gonzalez, $6,616; Elizabeth Badger, $2,315; Ankur Patel, $1,627; and Petersen.

With the March 3 elections approaching, Galatzan is best positioned for campaign spending with $21,109 in cash remaining, more than twice any of her challengers. Rodriguez has $42,672, about eight times what Kayser has. In District 7, Anderson, who loaned her campaign $45,000, has $25,049 cash remaining, a bit more than twice Vladovic’s $11,218.

A note from the editor

LA School report had planned this week to conclude our profile series of the candidates in the March 3 elections with District 5 board member Bennett Kayser. However after weeks of trying, we could not get him to commit to making himself available. He was the only candidate among 12 in the three contested races who declined our request.

Morning Read: Deasy a frequent topic in school board races

L.A. Unified candidates use Deasy as a platform springboard
Former Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy isn’t on the March ballot for the Board of Education, but he might as well be. Los Angeles Times

iPad controversy looms large in LAUSD District 3 board race
As the city’s March 3 primary election draws near, Los Angeles Unified school board candidates are blasting incumbents for the controversial iPad program. KPCC

One-parent students leave school earlier
One of the most alarming social trends in the past 40 years is the increasing educational disadvantage of children raised in low-income families. Education Next

California task force urges reform of special education funding
Federal and state funding rates for special education would be equalized across California if draft recommendations from a task force are implemented. Ed Source

Tab soars to connect rural schools to the Net
A plan to spend up to $2 million per student to connect a tiny rural school to the Internet and drew an incredulous review Wednesday. SI&A Cabinet Report

Anaheim board rejects petition to turn Palm Lane into a charter
An Anaheim school board rejected a parent petition to take over a low-scoring campus and turn it into a charter school – the first such effort in Orange County. Orange County Register

Morning Read: LAUSD lawyers argue to keep testing evaluation

‘Constitutional crisis’ declared as LAUSD lawyers defend teacher evaluation
LAUSD lawyers argued this week that a “constitutional crisis” should allow them to keep a controversial new teacher evaluation system. Los Angeles Daily News

Miramonte students seeking more from LAUSD in compensation
A lawyer representing 58 students who settled a lawsuit related to the Miramonte sex abuse scandal two years ago says his clients are owed more money. KPCC

Mother of boy bullied by students sues L.A. school district
A lawsuit filed Wednesday against Los Angeles Unified alleges the school district failed to protect a boy from being bullied. City News Service

Student fatally struck by LADWP vehicle in Granada Hills
A 17-year-old boy who was riding his bicycle with his friends was fatally struck by a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power vehicle. ABC7

Report calls for districts to create specific goals for foster youth
LA Unified was the only district that provided the data and only for suspensions. Ed Source

Head Start programs in California rebound as funding increases
There is more money, and enrollment in programs, particularly for children from birth to age 3 who are in Early Head Start, is rebounding across the state. Ed Source

Still far apart, teachers union, LA Unified agree to declare an impasse

UTLA-Contract-NegotiationsThe possibility of a strike by Los Angeles teachers loomed larger today as the teachers union, UTLA, declared an impasse in negotiations with LA Unified, citing a lack of progress in bargaining since the talks began last year.

The district agreed and said it would join the union with “reluctant willingness” in asking the state Public Employment Relations Board to affirm that the talks are deadlocked.

The declaration starts a detailed legal process defined by state law, designed to give the sides the best chance to resolve differences. It could take about a month before they exhaust the steps along the way, leading to an agreement or a strike.

The sides have made little progress on a dozen issues, including a pay raise for teachers, who haven’t had one in more than seven years. After 18 bargaining sessions, it became apparent today that the gulfs on salaries and everything else are too wide to close without outside help.

If the PERB affirms that the talks are deadlocked, a mediator would be assigned to help the sides find common ground and bring them to an agreement. Negotiations can continue during the mediation process, but if it proves unsuccessful, the process would continue with a fact-finding panel — a representative from each side and a state-appointed neutral as chairman — to recommend terms of a settlement.

If no agreement is achieved, the sides could resume negotiations, the district could impose its best and final offer and, rejecting it, the union could strike.

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