Teacher Advocacy Group to Interview Board Candidates

It’s not a live public forum or debate where we can see the candidates answer questions or exchange views in real time, but it’s better than nothing:

Educators 4 Excellence, an organization that advocates for teachers to take a more active role in shaping education policies, plans to host a podcast interview with District 6 (East San Fernando Valley) runoff candidates Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez.

E4E will interview Sanchez and Ratliff, who have both agreed to participate, on May 8. The podcast will available on E4E’s website to stream or download on May 13.

Previous posts: School Board Candidate Praises Deasy’s Efforts to Limit Tenure;  Sanchez Unavailable for Candidate ForumDaily News Addresses Ratliff Union Role.

Garcetti and Greuel to Meet With “Trigger” Parents

Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel

Mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel will meet with parents on Monday, May 6 at 24th Street Elementary, the first school in LAUSD to be taken over by parents using the parent trigger law.

Parent Revolution, an education advocacy group that has led the parent trigger effort in California, will host the meet and greet. Garcetti and Greuel will visit the school at separate times to hear from parents about their successful school overhaul and to have a Q&A session on the future of education in Los Angeles.

The candidates’ positions on education policies and the parent trigger law have evolved over the course of their campaigns. Garcetti, who is endorsed by the teachers union in LA, initially seemed to oppose the parent trigger movement (read about it here), but he eventually expressed unequivocal support for the option (read the story here). Greuel aligned herself with education reformers earlier in the campaign process and has consistently said she support the trigger option as a way to fix failing schools (read about it here.)

Previous posts: One Mayoral Candidate Opposes Parent Trigger – Sort Of; Garcetti Praises Reform Strategies; Mayoral Candidate Greuel Supports Garcia, Parent Trigger

Reminder: Monday Voting Registration Deadline

The runoff election that will decide Los Angeles’ new mayor, the LAUSD Board member for District 6 (East San Fernando Valley), and several other city offices is now less than a month away.

Monday, May 6 is the last day you can register to vote for the May 21 runoff. If you still haven’t registered, go here to register to vote online.

Click below for other deadlines for applying to vote by mail and to drop off a vote by mail application. Continue reading

Senators’ Silence Dooms Teacher Evaluation Bill

To the surprise of almost no one, a bill that sought to make changes to California rules on how to evaluate teachers failed to pass the Senate Committee on Education during its second-chance hearing Wednesday.

What was particularly notable about the bill’s failure was the absence of the majority of the Committee’s members during the hearing and the vote.

Last week, the members had deadlocked 4-4 on the legislation, dubbed SB 441, with one abstention. This week, only three out of nine senators — Senators Mark Wyland (R-Carlsbad), Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), and Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) — voted “yes.”

The other six members of the Committee sat silently when their names were called. (Watch video of the roll call here, around the 2:59 time mark.)

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Senators Absent for Teacher Evaluation Hearing

The empty seats at the Senate Education Committee’s May 1 hearing on SB 441. via Twitter

A bill known as SB 441 that proposes changes to California’s rules on teacher evaluations is being considered a second time today by the Senate Committee on Education today — but eight out of nine of the Committee’s members have been absent from the meeting.

Scheduling might explain at least in part of the reason why only Senator Carol Liu is present at the hearing. This is a particularly busy day in Sacramento, as the deadline for the policy committees to report fiscal bills to the Fiscal Committee is Friday, May 3.

But another possible explanation might be the controversy surrounding the proposal, which pits the state teachers unions, who oppose the proposal, against reform advocacy groups like StudentsFirst, who support it.

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UTLA Softens Criticism of Classroom Breakfast

In a statement released Tuesday morning, United Teachers Los Angeles softened its tone on Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC), a program in almost 10,000 LAUSD classrooms that feeds low-income students free breakfast at their desks in the morning.

The union’s announcement followed a Monday night LA Times story that said a majority of School Board members planned to vote at the May Board meeting to continue funding the program next year, and preceded a Tuesday afternoon parent protest in support of the classroom breakfast program. (See: Parents Rally to Save Classroom Breakfasts.)

The “breakfast program is flawed — but fixable,” the union wrote in the press release, urging the district to work together with UTLA to resolve some of the issues it has with BIC. (See UTLA statement here.) Continue reading

Listen: Democrats Divided on Gov. Brown’s Ed. Budget Reform

In a recent Which Way L.A. segment, host Warren Olney discusses the battle brewing in Sacramento over Gov. Jerry Brown’s approach to education budget reform.

Brown’s plan to give struggling school districts like LAUSD, which have higher numbers of low-income and English language learner students, higher funding than more successful districts, has divided Democrats in the California legislature. Listen here:

Deasy’s School Breakfast Gambit Confuses Supporters

On Thursday, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy unexpectedly announced that he was putting a controversial classroom breakfast program’s fate in the hands of the School Board.

The possible elimination of a program Southern California Public Radio described as “a political hot potato” presumably pleased the teachers union, which has long called for its end.

But Deasy’s plan to remove the program from his budget and force Board members to vote to restore it confused and displeased some BIC supporters.

“It’s not my favorite strategy,” School Board President Monica Garcia told the LA Times. “But I understand choices have to be made.”.

“I get what he wants to do,” Courtni Pugh, head of the 45,000-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99, told LA School Report. “He keeps saying he wants to save the program, so we have the same goal. But I would have gone about it differently.”

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Shepard Fairey Asks LA Students for Inspiration

Street artist Shepard Fairey is calling on Los Angeles students to send ideas for his next big art campaign, a poster series that will appear this July across the city on billboards and buses. The deadline to submit art ideas is today. Students can submit their ideas on the LA Fund’s Facebook page, by tweeting at the LA Fund’s twitter account with the hashtag #ArtsMatter, or by mailing their submissions.

Committee Deadlocks on Teacher Evaluation Bill

Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) sponsored the teacher evaluation bill.

A proposed bill known as SB 441 that would tighten teacher evaluation rules statewide narrowly failed to pass the Senate Education Committee Wednesday — but it’s not completely dead yet.

After hearing impassioned testimony from parents, teachers, and union representatives, the Committee deadlocked 4-4 over approval of the legislation.

But the Committee also voted to reconsider the bill later in an amended form, leaving the door open for a return to the issue.

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District 6 Candidate Commits to Support Deasy

Monica Ratliff. Via LA Times

Concerned that District 6 (East Valley) School Board candidate Monica Ratliff might oppose the leadership of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, the LA Times editorial page secured a commitment from Ratliff to keep Deasy at the helm of the district as part of re-iterating its endorsement:

“Ratliff, who was a public interest lawyer before she became a teacher, advocates smart solutions to vexing issues — such as improving instruction by giving weak teachers time to sit in on the classes of highly effective ones. She is neither a gung-ho member of the school reform movement nor a backer of the union’s anti-reform rhetoric…. [And] if she were in a position to decide on Deasy’s contract today, she would vote to renew it.” [emphasis added]

Previous posts: Board Candidate Changes Position on Deasy (Again);  District 6 Candidate Hardens Position on DeasyUnion Endorsements Unchanged for District 6

Forum Scheduled for District 6 Candidates

District 6 Candidates Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez

The May 21 LAUSD Board runoff for District 6 is less than a month away, and Teach Plus, an urban education advocacy group, is hosting a candidate forum on Thursday, May 2.

Both candidates Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez have been invited, but only Ratliff has confirmed her participation so far. The event is interactive, and audience members will have opportunities to ask the candidates questions and offer input on education issues in LAUSD.

The forum is aimed at LA-area teachers, but Teach Plus said other members of the community won’t be turned away at the door if they show up. See full event details here.

Villaraigosa Expresses Concerns About Teacher Dismissal Bill

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has added his voice to a group of education leaders who are reluctant to support the current union-supported teacher dismissal bill being considered in Sacramento unless it’s amended to address key issues.

In an April 19 letter sent to the bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), Villaraigosa praises Buchanan for her “willingness to tackle this difficult and sensitive issue.” But he says he’s withholding support for the bill, known as AB 375, unless she addresses “areas of concern” he has — many of which echo those that have been expressed by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, education advocacy group EdVoice, and former State Senator Gloria Romero.

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Deasy Requests Changes to Teacher Dismissal Bill

Earlier this week, the LA Weekly honed in on the outsized influence California’s largest teachers union is perceived to have on education policy issues, including recent efforts to speed the removal of sexual predators from the classroom.

“That’s how CTA infamously killed a [2012] law to fire sex-pervert teachers, SB 1530,” LA Weekly writer Matthew Mullins wrote. “A badly watered-down version, AB 375, is alive — because CTA backs it,”

What the LA Weekly didn’t note was that the “badly watered-down” bill moving through the state legislature was amended last week or that LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has proposed several further changes to make sure that districts have a stronger role in the dismissal process and that teachers who review dismissal cases can be removed if necessary.

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Morning Read: Unions Oppose Teacher Evaluation Bill

Teacher Evaluations: Let the Battle Begin
On Wednesday, the state Senate Education Committee will take up a bill by Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, that would adopt a formal state standard for evaluating teachers. SD Union-Tribune Editorial

A Student With Promise, a Teacher Who Had to Help
Brought to the U.S. as a baby, Itzel Ortega had no way to get financial aid to become an architect. Then a former teacher, recalling her own story, stepped in. LA Times

L.A. Unified Teacher Arrested for Alleged Child Porn Possession
Douglas Randolph Collins, 46, of Valencia, was taken into custody at the Van Nuys Education Center, where he had been sent after being removed from the classroom after authorities began investigating child porn allegations in October. LA Times
See also: LA Daily News, HuffPo

LA Mayor’s Race: How the Candidates Stand on Your Issues
Even though the mayor doesn’t have any direct authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District, many voters said they want the next major to play a role in education. Neither Greuel nor Garcetti has indicated they would follow Antonio Villaraigosa’s lead. KPCC
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Morning Read: Garcetti, Greuel Debate Who’s Best for LA

Garcetti, Greuel Debate Who Can Best Lead Los Angeles As Mayor
The two candidates for mayor of Los Angeles made robust cases for themselves in a televised debate Monday night from the USC Health Sciences Campus east of downtown, but they became most passionate when they squared off, again, on the question of who would be the most independent leader. LA Times

Saving the California Dream: ‘Parent Trigger’ Profiles
Parents at Weigand Elementary School in Watts are the most the recent group to organize and deliver a petition, and they say it’s been a tough fight so far. “The courage it takes to sign a petition when you know there’s going to be a battle is tremendous,” says Alfonso Flores, a former LAUSD “Teacher of the Year.” Fox LA

Attack Shows Education  Reform Gaining Ground
The passage by delegates at this month’s California Democratic Convention of a resolution condemning Democrats, including me, who support education reform illustrates an ongoing battle among Democrats across the nation. O.C. Register Opinion (Gloria Romero)

Burbank Teacher Suspended After Breaking State Standardized Testing Rules
At least one elementary school class has had their test scores invalidated, and the district’s ranking could be in jeopardy. NBC LA
See also: KPCC

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Classroom Breakfast Expanding Despite Some Complaints

In recent months, the teachers union United Teachers of Los Angeles has been criticizing Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) for delaying the start of instruction, among other things.

But Nicola Edwards, who works for California Food Policy Advocates, told LA School Report that a recent union survey doesn’t really reflect how most LAUSD teachers feel about the program.

“If you look at the survey and number of teachers who didn’t like the program, it’s a very small number [around 400 teachers] compared to the 10,000 classrooms it’s served in. When you look at the statistical significance of this, it’s very small.”

And the district actually plans to increase the number of schools offering the anti-hunger program that serves low-income LAUSD students breakfast at the start of every school day this year, going from 280 to more than 600 schools.

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Early Voting Starts Today, Can Determine Elections

Monday, April 22 is the first day Los Angeles voters will receive and can apply for vote-by-mail ballots for the May 21 East Valley District 6 runoff election, which means that campaigning will finally begin in earnest. (Go here to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot.)

The election will pick between Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez for the LAUSD Board’s District 6 seat representing the East San Fernando Valley. Voters will also elect LA’s next mayor and a number of other city offices.

Early voting might seem like a sleepy issue, but it plays a big role in election outcomes. In the LA Daily News, Rick Orlov wrote about its “increasingly important role in all elections,” making up 46 percent of the total vote in the primary election. We saw  proof of the impact of vote-by-mail ballots in the March primary, when District 4 (Hollywood/Westside) LA School Board incumbent Steve Zimmer beat his challenger Kate Anderson thanks to a significant early voting advantage. (Read the story here.)

Previous posts: Calendar: Registration & Vote By Mail Schedule; How Steve Zimmer *Really* Won