UTLA drops salary demand to 9 percent over 1 year

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of UTLA

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of UTLA

Representatives for the teachers union, UTLA, lowered their salary demand yesterday, asking LA Unified for a one-year 9 percent pay increase for the current academic year, with future increases tied to that.

Vivian Ekchian, the district’s chief negotiator, said the proposal “is under review and we will ascertain the cost to the District.”

While the shift suggests movement in contract negotiations that have been stumbling along for months, it still leaves the side far apart, with the district holding to a 2 percent salary increase and one-time bonuses.

The union said on its website that its new demand was done as an effort “to increase the pace of bargaining.” In the same vein, it called for weekly negotiation sessions, starting in January even though the sides have been meeting almost once a week since the talks began.

The union’s latest proposal also included demands for three self-directed voluntary planning and collaboration days to be paid at hourly rate, stipends of $1,000 for materials, full rate pay for professional development  and a potential retirement incentive.

Fully anticipating no immediate agreement from the district, the union’s website said Gov. Jerry Brown‘s new budget in January will reflect how much money LA Unified can expect from the state.

Previous stories: UTLA rejects pay increase offer from districtAnalysis: LAUSD offer to UTLA a march to progress or a strike?


Morning Read: LCAPs a mixed bag so far, advocacy group finds

Report on LCAPs finds mixed success
An advocacy organization analyzed dozens of school districts’ inaugural improvement plans and found mixed results. Ed Source

Students’ active engagement in music leads to brain gains, study finds
Brain researchers are finding increasing evidence that music is a powerful learning tool. KPCC

An alternative to suspension and expulsion: ‘Circle up!’
One by one, in a room just off the gym floor at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, Calif., seventh-graders go on the interview hot seat. KPCC

Only GPA outranks attendance as a performance indicator
After grades, attendance habits among Chicago middle school students provided the best indicator of later academic performance. SI&A Cabinet Report

Charges dropped against teacher accused of having sex with teens
A longtime San Bernardino educator accused of molesting two teenage boys is beginning to restore her reputation. Los Angeles Times

Commentary: The time has come for ethnic studies at LAUSD

Los-Angeles-Times-logoVia Los Angeles Times | By Sandy Banks

An ethnic studies course changed my life when I was a teenager — though not in the way that today’s opponents of ethnic studies seem to fear.

It didn’t teach me to feel like a victim, to despise America or to resent white people. I learned that history doesn’t have to be boring, and that you may have to dig deep beneath the surface to find the truth in a story.

I was a high school junior in 1971, trying to avoid another mind-numbing history course heavy on names, dates and battles. A social studies teacher I liked persuaded me to enroll in her new class. She was a rabble-rousing feminist, a Russian Jew who’d offered to teach “Black History” on a campus where almost every student was black.

To read the full commentary, click here.

Morning Read: Some LAUSD students take iPads home

Amid safety concerns, LAUSD students hauling home iPads
Students at Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granda Hills are among the first in LAUSD cleared to tote home their iPads for homework. KPCC

Group seeks oversight of military arms after LAUSD’s arsenal revealed
An advocacy group is calling on LAUSD to create a citizens oversight panel to monitor its military weapons. Los Angeles Daily News

Commentary: For schools, seek justice
Philadelphia represents one of the most vivid examples nationally of what happens when systems fail to fund schools properly. Philadelphia Inquirer

State Leaders Confront Full Plate of K-12 Issues
Issues such as common standards, testing, and school choice are likely to dominate the education policy debate. Education Week

California study finds harm for some in repeating algebra
One of the most often repeated courses in U.S. high schools is algebra. The Hechinger Report

Heavy rains caused little disruption across LA Unified

rainLA Unified escaped major disruptions because of the rainstorm that swept across the region last night and this morning.

Mark Hovatter, the district’s Chief Facilities Director, told LA School Report today that power was reported out in only four schools, and three were back to normal by mid-morning with one remaining to be rectified by this afternoon.

He also said the district got 203 calls about leaky roofs, which the district immediately placed into three categories: emergency, for those needing immediate repair; urgent and routine.

He said the 40 calls classified as urgent have been repaired, the 121 “urgent” calls would be addressed by the end of the day, and the 42 “routine” problems would be fixed within 30 days.

One benefit to the rain: Fixing roofs, Hovatter said, “is one of our priorities, on the top of the list.”

Ballot order set for 2015 LAUSD board candidate races

election results McKenna beat Johnson* UPDATED
The City Clerk’s office today completed verification of petitions to qualify for the March primary in LA Unified’s four school board races.

After a random draw of letters, the ballot order is now set for how candidate names will appear. Here’s the way they will be listed:

District 1

George McKenna, incumbent

(No one else qualified)

District 3

Carl Petersen

Ankur Patel

Scott Schmerelson

Filiberto Gonzalez

Tamar Galatzan, incumbent

Elizabeth Badger Bartels

District 5

Ref Rodriguez

Bennett Kayser, incumbent

Andrew Thomas

District 7

Lydia Gutierez

Euna Anderson

Richard Vladovic, incumbent

How helpful is being listed first? It’s a question that political scientists have studied for years. Here’s the money quote from “On the Causes and Consequences of Ballot Order Effects” — a recent paper by Marc Meredith of the University of Pennsylvania and Yuval Salant of Northwestern:

“We find that candidates listed first on the ballot are between four and five percentage
points more likely to win office than expected absent order effects.”

Theirs is a highly-academic treatise on the subject that takes into account things like ap,j = αp,t(j) + Incp,jλt(j) + εp,j where αp,t(j) = δp,t(j) + Incp,jγp,t(j) + Xjβp,t(j) .

But in an LA Unified school board race, the more likely influences are incumbency, financial support and turnout.

* In an earlier version several names were mistakenly reversed. This version correct that.

Commentary: LA Unified didn’t do its homework on ethnic studies

Los Angeles Times logo

Via The Los Angeles Times | By the Editorial Board

Ideally, high school history courses would not be so overwhelmingly focused on the accomplishments of white males and would pay more attention to the roles played by others. There has been progress in that direction — in fact, the College Board has come under withering criticism from conservatives for revamping the Advanced Placement course in U.S. history to be more inclusive — but the overall emphasis has remained the same.

That’s one reason it can be helpful for both universities and public schools to offer ethnic studies courses. The current movement to require such courses, rather than simply to offer them, should be undertaken carefully, however. It’s a complicated issue: How do students make space in their schedules for an additional requirement? Will something else get taken out of the curriculum to make way for it? What exactly will be taught in these courses?

Click here to read the full story.

Morning Read: San Francisco adds ethnic studies to high schools

San Francisco to offer ethnic studies at all of its 19 high schools
The San Francisco school board voted unanimously on Tuesday to require all of the city’s 19 public high schools to offer ethnic studies courses. Huffington Post

Districts want to highlight retirees’ costs
The coalition isn’t asking for the state to pick up a bigger share of the expense, recognizing that won’t happen. Ed Source

Funding to expand schools’ high-speed internet
The FCC voted to increase funding to expand the Internet capacity for an additional 40 million students in 100,000 schools nationwide. Ed Source

CA loses out on Obama preschool grants
The Golden State was not among the winners of a large $226 million preschool expansion grant announced Wednesday by President Obama. SI&A Cabinet Report

Teacher: The day I knew for sure I was burned out
I burned out after teaching for five years at a high school in a very low-income neighborhood. Washington Post

LAUSD magnet school employee investigated for ‘alleged misconduct’
Police Thursday were investigating an employee at a nationally ranked LAUSD magnet school. CBS Los Angeles

Cost to modernize every LAUSD school? Think $40 billion

Crumbling building* UPDATED

Members of an LA Unified board committee were told today that the district would need 10 times current funding to address the capital needs of all district schools.

The board’s Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee was shown a power point presentation that said the cost of capital improvements necessary to modernize every district school would exceed $40 billion.

Impossible, of course, leaving LAUSD officials an alternative approach, developing a priority list of needs. Those highest on the priority list would include schools with “failing” buildings systems and those that need improvements to insure earthquake safety.

The presentation — from Chief Facilities Executive Mark Hovatter and Krisztina Tokes, Director of Asset Management — showed that more than a quarter of the needed spending of $4.3 billion, 26 percent, would be earmarked for buildings in “critical condition” and 21 percent for those in need of earthquake upgrades.

In the first group, the problems in need of attention are anything from replacing air conditioning systems to upgrading fire safety equipment to constructing permanent buildings in place of portables.

Hovatter said the money for the upgrades would come from the $7.8 billion in bond authority the district has, based on the $7 billon Measure Q sale and the unsold bonds remaining from measures Y and R.

“It is not exactly ‘money in the bank’ because we have not sold the bond yet and we haven’t collected taxes from our tax base to pay off the bonds, but we do have voter authority to sell the bonds as long as we fall within our debt ceiling capacity,” he told LA School Report. “We are currently projecting it will take us 10 to 15 years to sell all of the bonds we are currently authorized to sell and still be within our debt capacity limits.”

Aging but operational buildings would likely not addressed under the plan, the committee was told.

* Corrects upgrade needs to $40 billion. A previous version said $80 billion.

LAUSD invests in teacher prep, MLK Jr. Elementary at 100 years

school report buzz

At its meeting this week, the LA Unified board directed Superintendent Ramon Cortines to expand the teacher prep Career Ladder program, which helps supports district employees who want to become teachers.

The resolution opens the program by another 300 participants, beginning next July. According to statistics cited in the resolution, enrollment in teacher preparation programs across California has been declining, to fewer than 20,000 in 2012-13 from a high of 77,700 a dozen years ago. This had led to a shortage of bilingual, mathematics, science and special education teachers.

“This is how we build the next generation of teachers and of leaders, and who our teachers are matters. It is just as important to know your student as it is to know your subject and nothing, nothing is as important as shared experience,” board member Steve Zimmer, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said in a district press release.


State gets D+ grade in teacher prep

And speaking of teacher preparation … just as LAUSD is looking to invest in teacher prep comes a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality that gives California a D+ grade in teacher preparation.

Among the problems the “State Teacher Policy Yearbook” found is that “with no minimum GPA or test of academic proficiency required for admission to teacher preparation programs, California sets a low bar for the academic performance of the state’s prospective teachers.”

Click here to read the full report.


Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School celebrates 100 years

Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Exposition Park is celebrating its 100-year anniversary today at 1:30 p.m. with an event that includes student speeches and performances, alumni presentations, attendance of former teachers and administrators and school board member George McKenna, according to a LAUSD press release

The school, formerly called Santa Barbara Avenue Elementary School, was renamed in 1984 a year after the street was also named after the famed civil rights leader.


LA Unified seeks volunteers for Young Men of Color initiative

LA Unified is hosting a dinner and training session for potential volunteers looking to join the district’s Young Men of Color Initiative. The event starts at 4:30 p.m. today at the auditorium in the LAUSD Parent Community Services Student Services building at 1360 West Temple St.

Another training session is scheduled for Jan. 20.

According to a district press release, volunteers will meet monthly at a local high school with younger men who need help to succeed in class, and in life. For information, call LA Unified’s Parent Community Services Branch at (213) 481-3350.


Morning Read: $2.5 million approved for LAUSD arts ed

LAUSD school board approves $2.5M in spending on arts education
The Los Angeles Unified School District school board on Tuesday approved $2.5 million for arts education. KPCC

Percentage of students held back a grade plunges
The percentage of students held back a grade fell by nearly half from the 2004-2005 school year to 2009-2010, according to a study. Huffington Post

New evaluation of Linked Learning initiative
Linked learning programs hold promise in boosting student engagement, but translate to little improvement on standardized tests, according to a new study. Ed Source

Schools’ discipline for girls differs by race and hue
There is increasing focus on the way discipline and criminal justice issues affect black girls. New York Times

What computer science education can tell us about the future of schools
There’s been a lot of fanfare in recent years around seeding opportunities to boost young people’s computer science skills. Education Next

Commentary: A closer look at board member Monica Ratliff

Los Angeles Times logo

Via Los Angeles Times | By Steve Lopez 

This is not exactly a be-careful-what-you-wish-for story, but it sort of is.

Monica Ratliff was a reasonably happy teacher at San Pedro Elementary School on the edge of downtown Los Angeles.

“I just love the classroom,” said Ratliff, for whom teaching was a second career.

The Ivy League-trained lawyer had been working at San Fernando Valley Legal Services in Pacoima but decided a better way to help people escape poverty would be to teach. So she went back to school (UCLA) for a teaching degree and started her new career in 2001.

“I love schools, I love the environment, I love what you’re doing in there, and I love the kids,” Ratliff said.

But she didn’t love the way the district was managed, or the way edicts were imposed on teachers without full consideration of the effects, and she suspected there was a lot of waste in the L.A. Unified’s roughly $7-billion budget.

Read the full commentary here.

Fighting teen violence in LA Unified but not spending to do it

Tamar Galatzan at Tuesday's LAUSD school board meeting

Tamar Galatzan at Tuesday’s LAUSD school board meeting

One of the more contentious moments at yesterday’s LA Unified board meeting was a debate over a resolution to “Promote Healthy Relationships and Prevent Teen Dating Violence”

No one disagreed with the intent or with asking Superintendent Ramon Cortines to deliver a report to the board early next year on how to implement such a program.

Rather, the fight arose over the projected cost: as much as $3.5 million to cover such needs as curriculum specialists, pamphlets, brochures and experts to run a pilot program.

As it appeared before the board, the item was sponsored by Tamar Galatzan and Steve Zimmer, but Galatzan on Monday asked that her name be dropped when the cost became apparent. (It wasn’t.) She was objecting to “budgeting by resolution,” a view she strongly expressed at the board meeting before suggesting that the district seek other funding sources for the program.

Once the funding was stripped out through an amendment that passed 6-1, with Zimmer as the lone dissent, the measure passed unanimously.

The big loser? Peace Over Violence, a community group that works in schools to teach civil resolution, was listed as a potential contractor, for $550,000.

Morning Read: Bill introduced to expand Pre-K in California

New bill would significantly expand state preschool in California
Another bill proposing to significantly expand state-funded preschool has been introduced in California. The Hechinger Report

LAUSD bans use of antibiotic-treated chickens in school meals
LA Unified joined with five other major school districts Tuesday to announce plans to ban the use of chickens treated with antibiotics in school meals. City News Service

Survey shows difficult path for foster youth
A third of students in foster care at one time were placed in a special education classroom and a third had repeated a grade. Ed Source

LAUSD board orders Supt. Cortines to analyze misconduct incidents
In the wake of the Miramonte Elementary School child abuse scandal, the Los Angeles school district will analyze past incidents of misconduct to determine how to better safeguard students in the future. Los Angeles Times

Seeking coders, tech titans turn to schools
The Hour of Code campaign has stirred unease from some educators concerned about the growing influence of corporations in public schools. Politico

LAUSD student ‘beats the odds’ and wins $10,000 scholarship

Timothy Walker

Crenshaw High School student Timothy Walker (Credit: YouTube)

LA Unified student Timothy Walker of Crenshaw High School was among five students honored by the Children’s Defense Fund of California with a “Beat the Odds” award at a star-studded event in Culver City last week.

The award recognizes students who have overcome obstacles and adversity while achieving academic success. Each winner will receive a $10,000 college scholarship, private tutoring, college counseling, mentoring, internship placements, life skills development, SAT prep and college tours at no cost, according to a Children’s Defense Fund press release.

The other winners were were: Chase Moore and Zachary Byrge of Verbum Dei High School, Elizabeth Lopez of Culver City High School and Sequoia Canada of New Roads High School. The awards ceremony at Book Bindery was attended by celebrities J.J. Abrams, Conan O’Brien, Reese Witherspoon and others, according to the release.

“Chase, Elizabeth, Sequoia, Timothy, and Zachary represent five extraordinarily talented and resilient young people who have overcome tremendous adversity to succeed academically and as leaders in their communities despite the numerous barriers that have been placed in their paths,” Alex Johnson, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California, said in a statement. “We are proud to honor and support them as they realize the fullness of their potential. We know that if you simply invest in children they will succeed and thrive.”

Click on the below youTube video to see a short documentary produced by Children’s Defense Fund about Walker and the struggles he overcame, including growing up in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in south LA and living in a homeless shelter when he was a small child.


LIVESTREAM coverage of today’s LA Unified school board meeting

livestreamGrafix250Today, available by LIVESTREAM, the seven members of the LA Unified school board meet at 10 a.m.

Topics on the agenda include a request from the district for $11 million to help fix MiSiS, two resolutions to improve school safety, and board member Steve Zimmer’s “Good Food” measure.

Click here to learn more about the issues the board will be voting on and discussing.

Morning Read: LAUSD’s slow iPad distribution could impact testing

LAUSD students might not be ready for new tests as iPad distribution lags
Los Angeles Unified is rushing to spend $22.2 million to buy iPads and some Chromebooks for students to take new tests. Los Angeles Daily News

High turnover in school district leadership
The state’s largest district is far from the only one in California that is coping with superintendent turnover. Ed Source

L.A. Unified to require ethnic studies for high school graduation
Students in LAUSD will be required for the first time to take ethnic studies classes as part of an effort to encourage stronger cultural understanding. Los Angeles Times

The case for requiring ethnic studies in high school
Commentary: Last month the Los Angeles Unified School District school board decided to require that every high school student take an Ethnic Studies course. The San Francisco school board will vote on a similar proposal today. Cynthia Liu, founder and CEO of K-12 News Network, thinks it’s a good idea. Washington Post

Getting There: Nancy Carlsson-Paige: ‘Dark time’ for education
An interview with public school advocate and mother of actor Matt Damon, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, who has written five books on childhood. Politico

LAUSD hires outside lawyers to help with grand jury probe

grand juryLA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines said today the district is hiring outside lawyers to assist in any matter that might arise out of the grand jury investigation of the district’s procurement of digital devices.

Cortines said the lawyers would provide legal advice should the authorities seek to interview or subpoena district officials as part of the investigation.

“I am advised that such investigations typically take a very long time and that we may not hear back from the federal agencies for months,” Cortines said in a brief statement, issued by the district. “However, when we hear back, they may request to interview individuals or subpoena them to testify before a grand jury.  They also may decide not to proceed if they determined that there were no grounds to move forward.

Grand jury investigations are generally conducted with great secrecy, which means it remains unclear whether the focus of the probe is LA Unified or any of the companies involved in the procurement process.


Teachers union rejects pay increase offer from LAUSD

teachers union raise salary UTLA Contract NegotiationsBack to the drawing board.

Following the most recent bargaining session last Thursday, the teachers’ union, UTLA, has reportedly rejected a pay increase offer from LA Unified negotiators that fell short its goal of a 10 percent salary increase.

The latest district offer included a 2 percent salary increase retroactive to July 1, a 2 percent lump-sum payment based on 2013-14 earnings and a 2 percent one-time payment for the 2014-15 school year to be paid at the end of this school year, according to a district press release.

The offer was essentially a one-year deal on salary at the same rate the district is paying other labor partners, and the district asked UTLA to accept the deal immediately and agree to continue negotiating on non-salary issues and pay beyond the fiscal year, which ends July 1.

Aside from a salary increase, UTLA also is seeking a reduction in class size, an end to “teacher jail,” and other concessions. The union’s demands are outlined in the Schools LA Students Deserve campaign.

UTLA also rejected the idea of piecemealing out the union’s contract issues, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

“We’re committed to fight around that package of issues, and we’re not going to separate things out one by one,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told the paper.

When negotiations began four months ago, the district was offering a 2 percent raise while  UTLA sought an increase of 17.6 percent over to years. UTLA has since changed its goal to a 10 percent raise over one year.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Dec. 16.

Previous Posts: Analysis: LAUSD offer to UTLA a march to progress or a strike?Caputo-Pearl asks energetic UTLA rally: ‘Are you ready for a fight?’LA Unified guaranteeing teachers the pay raise already offered

Morning Read: LAUSD needs $11 million more to fix MiSiS

More money needed to fix faulty student records system in L.A. Unified
Los Angeles needs to spend at least $11 million more to deal with problems caused by MiSiS, officials will tell the school board this week. Los Angeles Times

John Phillips: LAUSD and the CTA: Making enablers pay up
Lawsuits can be devastating for local governments and school districts. Orange County Register

Commentary: FBI at the door is just the latest bad news for LAUSD
With three weeks left in December, I’m hesitant to jump the gun and suggest that we’ve seen the last of this year’s troubles for LAUSD. Los Angeles Times

Consortium Begins Common-Core Tests in Some Districts
The first common-core tests designed collaboratively by a group of states are making their debut this month. Education Week

7 Largest US Districts To Teach Computer Science
The seven largest school districts in the U.S. are joining more than 50 others to start offering introductory computer science to all their students. Associated Press