6 top education news stories in Los Angeles in the first 6 months of 2016

Burning birthday candle number 1

(Photos courtesy of iStock)

The first half of 2016 brought high stakes and high drama to Los Angeles’ education scene, from dire budget predictions to heated charter debates to attempts at overhauling teacher tenure laws.

There were anniversaries to celebrate along the way — 25 years for both charter schools nationwide and Teach For America — and comings and goings of superintendents, plus the glimmerings of electoral races to come (for the school board’s members and president, LA City Council, mayor and even governor) that promise a starring role for education.


The new year started with the announcement that Michelle King had been chosen by a unanimous vote of the school board to be LA Unified’s next superintendent, the first black female ever to lead the district and the first woman since 1929. The three-month nationwide search had ended at home, with an LA Unified “lifer” who was educated in the district and has worked for it for nearly 30 years. King replaced Ramon Cortines, who stepped down at the end of 2015.

King had to immediately grapple with how the district would co-exist with the growing number of charter schools and the school board’s opposition to a plan to significantly increase their numbers. In fact, the day she was confirmed by the board was also the day of the unanimous board vote against an early draft plan to expand charters.

King called for healing, and in her first community town hall she stressed, “It’s not us versus them.” She met three times with the new head of the nonprofit formed to lead the expansion of the city’s high-quality schools, Great Public Schools Now Executive Director Myrna Castrejon, who, like King, was announced in January, is a minority woman and single mother, and stands to have significant impact on the shape and state of education in LA.

King also took on the plummeting graduation rate as well as predictions of a massive deficit within three years, holding a series of special board meetings in May and June to address the predictions and as well as recommendations outlined in a November report by an independent financial review panel.

She presented her first budget in June, which most board members praised, but noted there was much work yet to be done.

“Are we there? No, we’re not there, but we are on a path moving forward in the right direction,” King said as she presented the budget to the board.

“In general, I think that your staff and you have done a good job of trying to meet the needs in the district with the limited funds we have,” board member Monica Ratliff told her.

Burning birthday candle number 2


The future is dire,” is what King heard at the outset of the special meetings on the fiscal health of the district.

Internationally renowned education expert Pedro Noguera of UCLA, hired by the district to advise King and the board and facilitate the special meetings, warned that unless more serious measures are taken, the nation’s second-largest school district is destined to lose more students.

The challenges LA Unified is facing, Noguera said, include declining enrollment because of the growth of charters and demographic shifts, chronically under-performing schools, structural budget deficits and the need to increase public support for schools.

The details were daunting: the budget deficit was projected to reach nearly half a billion dollars in three years; a district audit showed LA Unified debt outstripped assets by $4.2 billion; unfunded pensions topped $13 billion and have more than doubled since 2005; per-pupil funding had doubled but the district still faces financial crisis; and plans for a turnaround included boosting enrollment but not cutting staff. Indeed, even though the district has lost 100,000 students in the last six years, its certified administrative staff has increased 22 percent in the last five years.

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LAUSD makes plans for simpler enrollment but doesn’t include charters


On Friday morning, more than 100 parents were lined up outside Walter Reed Middle School in Studio City waiting for a permit to get their child into one of the district’s Schools for Advanced Studies. One dad spent the night on the school steps.

No, it’s no April Fool’s joke. Getting into one of LA Unified’s popular magnet or dual-language programs, or one of the many other choices, is a complicated process of deadlines and forms, and a lot of waiting.

At a special school board meeting earlier this week, Superintendent Michelle King said her staff was proceeding with a unified enrollment process that would make the application process easier and prevent parents from having to camp out in front of their child’s school just to get them in a better program.

However, the simplified process will not include any of the charter schools that are overseen by the district, which seems to fly in the face of King’s public declaration to avoid the “us vs. them” mentality between traditional schools and independent charter schools within LA Unified.

School board member Ref Rodriguez, who helped start charter schools in the northeast Los Angeles area, told LA School Report that parents should be informed about the charter school options in their area at the same time.

“I’m really enthused about this step forward, but we didn’t bring all the gear, there’s still a missing piece of this equation, the charter school,” Rodriguez said.

He doesn’t think that all parents will want to flock to charter schools.

“I have a hunch that it would be the opposite,” Rodriguez said. “I come from the charter world, and I know that most families want their neighborhood schools to work, but they don’t always know what’s available. I think this works in the district’s favor to do this.”


Ref Rodriguez wants charters included in unified enrollment.

A unified enrollment system with one deadline and application period for all area schools has been established in Denver, New Orleans, Newark and Washington, D.C., but has caused controversy in other school districts considering such a plan, such as Boston and Oakland, and raised concerns among some charter organizations about a loss of autonomy. Rodriguez said he was familiar with the Washington plan and that it helps with diversity and ensures that charters are not “cherry-picking” the best students.

Jesus Angulo, LA Unified’s director of Counseling and Student Services, is in charge of putting together the unified enrollment plan. At the moment, there’s no specific deadline, no specific funding and they’re not sure if it is going to be developed in house or by a firm outside the district.

“We are in the exploratory stage,” said Angulo, who said the biggest changes will be to shorten the sometimes eight-month-long process to no more than six weeks and put it entirely online. The hope is to offer a search engine with the available choices, career pathways and other comparable data.

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Charter, district schools team up to offer dual-immersion ‘unconference’

Students perform at CLIC's Festival de Las Americas

Students perform at CLIC’s Festival de Las Americas.

The principals of a charter and a district elementary school that share a Baldwin Village location have teamed up to bring dual-language educators together this weekend to learn from each other and share best practices, strategies and resources.

About 60 educators from the LA area have signed up to attend Saturday’s free half-day “unconference,” in which participants that day collectively choose the main topics to be discussed. Dual Language Los Angeles will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Hillcrest Elementary School, an LA neighborhood school in Baldwin Village in South Los Angeles that also is home to City Language Immersion Charter (CLIC), a 3-year-old public charter school founded by parents from West Adams.

“The principals made this happen,” said Valerie Braimah, executive director of City Charter Schools, which runs CLIC plus a middle and high school. “They were discussing how to collaborate on professional development and came up with the idea together.”

The event is a unique charter and district collaboration, Braimah said. “There is so much conflict between charters and the district, but I see a lot of ways in which, on a person-to-person level, those tensions are overcome for the greater good.”

Another motivation, she said, was “because dual-immersion programs are so dispersed geographically. This is the first time we have ever done anything like this. There are state and national bilingual language conferences, but we haven’t seen a lot of opportunities locally.”

Although the principals of CLIC, Raul Alarcon, and Hillcrest, Anthony Jackson, already provide professional development to their teachers separately, they saw their co-location as an opportunity to solve problems and serve teachers together.

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Charter school scores hard-won approval despite objections by board staff, president and superintendent



To help a model charter school expand into high school, the LA Unified school board took unprecedented steps Tuesday night to cobble together a plan, concocting at least half a dozen proposals and amendments during a lengthy and at times contentious discussion. District staff had recommended that the board reject the school’s petition.

Ultimately, the charter school was approved for three years, against the recommendations of not only the district’s charter school review staff but also Superintendent Michelle King and school board president Steve Zimmer, in whose district the school is located.


Michelle King and Steve Zimmer were still discussing the charter vote long after Tuesday’s meeting ended.

This was the third time in two meetings that the board voted for charters against staff recommendations. The robust debate both this and last month indicates that the board, which has been recently criticized for voting against charters, is trying to help charters they find effective, even if they don’t meet all LA Unified qualifications.

About 80 students, teachers and parents from Westside Innovative School House Inc. (WISH) elementary and middle schools in Westchester cheered and applauded the decision after some of them had waited more than eight hours before the board took up the issue. The vote was four in favor of allowing the school to try a high school for three years, two against, with Zimmer abstaining.

The vote followed a frenzied debate where sidebar conversations were happening in different parts of the school board auditorium and ended as board member Monica Garcia was standing near a back door to leave early because she was the keynote speaker at a Linked Learning Showcase at a local high school. It was her plan for the WISH high school that eventually passed.

After the meeting, Zimmer and King remained in their seats for nearly half an hour talking about the evening’s drawn-out discussion.

“We deeply care about the kids, this was not a charter or anti-charter issue, it was very complicated,” Zimmer told LA School Report. WISH is in his district, and he supports what they have done, but he remains concerned that the school cannot handle the leap to starting a high school just yet. Zimmer offered a proposal that WISH students attend Venice High School beginning in the fall in a “full inclusion model that would be comparable to the WISH model.” His five-part proposal would also expedite money for disability access to the classrooms because WISH is noted for having a high percentage of students in wheelchairs.

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Michelle King on charters: ‘It’s not us versus them’


Monica Ratliff prepares to take a selfie with Michelle King at the town hall.

At her first community town hall as LA Unified’s superintendent, Michelle King received the most applause when she called for a healing between charter and district school factions. Seven weeks into her job, she met Tuesday morning with more than 700 parents, teachers, principals and local residents in a relatively low-income area in the north San Fernando Valley where many of those in attendance had strong feelings about charter schools.

“We are all LA Unified school students,” King said in response to a charter school parent who was asking about the district’s perceived bias against charters. “It is unfortunate we have labels, saying that this one is better than that one. It’s not us versus them.”

King then shared a plan she is developing. “One of the things we are looking at, and I’m meeting with charter leaders, is to have some sort of forum or event and bring those traditional schools, magnets, pilots, charters all together and share what is working best.”


The Pacoima Singers perform before the question-and-answer session.

She added, “I can’t do it alone, we need your help. We need all of us breaking down walls and barriers on behalf of kids and be working together. It doesn’t help to have battles over property.”

She told the audience how she became a teacher and discussed a diverse range of topics that came from parent questions including students cutting themselves, school calendars, teacher firings and campus bullying.

The town hall was so successful that officials hope to replicate it in other parts of the district and hold them regularly. Although she has met with civic groups, teachers, principals and other specific groups so far since she was named in January, this was King’s first meeting that encouraged all community members to attend.

King was treated like a rock star. The audience almost exceeded the capacity of the performing arts auditorium at Pacoima Middle School, with many standing in the back. People greeted her and hugged her, some took selfies with her, a half dozen media outlets came to cover the event, and she received a standing ovation at least twice. Babies were crying in the audience and audio translations were available in Armenian and Spanish.

“The way this town hall came about is that I was at a community meeting and I was bragging about how great our superintendent was, and they asked, ‘When is she coming out to the Valley?’” said board member Monica Ratliff, who represents the area and moderated the town hall. “I said I would see what I could do, and then I thought, ‘That’s a lame answer, I’m going to make it happen.’”

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Just in: Winners, losers and a surprising existential charter debate at school board meeting

lasr logo squareGoing into Tuesday’s LA Unified school board meeting, three-for-three was the Charter School Division’s recommendations against two new charters and a renewal. In the end, it went the other way, with two votes going in charters’ favor (a new school plus a renewal for the Partnership to Uplift Communities) and one vote postponed (a new charter for WISH Westside Innovative School House Academy High School).

Another winner was a district performing arts school, which won the go-ahead to pursue expansion onto a long-shuttered school site in the west San Fernando Valley. But it came at the expense of a charter school’s plan to move onto that site. Read about that here.

And then there was the existential, heated debate over whether the board has moved toward an anti-charter slant, as put forth in an open letter to the district from the California Charter Schools Association, in which 23 charter operators said they see increased scrutiny of charter schools. For more on Tuesday night’s school board debate, come back to LA School Report Wednesday and we’ll tell you all about it.

Villaraigosa on why he opposes Friedrichs, his take on charter expansion


Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Two and a half years ago, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa left his office steering the nation’s second-largest city with a legacy of pushing the kind of changes in the school system that education reformers relish.

Trying to make good on a campaign promise to fix the city’s schools, he fought the teachers union in court to limit seniority-protected layoff policies (he won) and supported another court challenge that sought to incorporate student test scores into teacher evaluations (no clear victory yet on that one).

He successfully lobbied lawmakers to wrest control of the school district from its elected school board (the courts turned him down), aggressively expanded choices for parents, including charter schools, founded the non-profit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools to take over the city’s lowest-performing schools and raised a boatload of money to help elect reform-oriented school board members.

Since leaving office Villaraigosa, 63, who drew national attention as the city’s first modern-day Hispanic mayor, has been stumping for Hillary Clinton, teaching at USC and traveling the country giving corporate speeches. Most recently, the man who tried to remake the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District while in office has been singled out as a likely gubernatorial candidate.

In an extensive interview last week, we spoke with the former mayor about the political challenges he faced, what he told Eli Broad about his foundation’s $490 million proposal to dramatically expand charter schools (he’s for it with some caveats) and national education controversies. Take, for example, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case before the Supreme Court in which justices are weighing whether charging mandatory union dues to cover costs for activities like collective bargaining violates teachers’ free speech rights. The justices heard oral arguments in January and will have to issue a decision by the end of their term in June. If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs, their ruling could severely hamper a major fundraising vehicle for teachers unions across the country but also support educators who feel union leaders use their money on political causes they don’t agree with.

Here’s what Villaraigosa had to say about Friedrichs: 

I do not support the appellants in this matter. … In a democratic society, it’s critical that workers have an opportunity to organize and collectively bargain their wages, their hours, their working conditions. … I believe the agency fee issue that is particularly in question is one that is very important. Unions have a duty (to provide) fair representation. I worked for them for eight years. They are, by law, required to represent people, even if they are not union members. I think it’s important that those non-union members pay their dues so that they can be represented fairly. I do not support the plaintiffs in that matter at all. … In fact, I am vehemently against it. … At the same time I am vehemently against the status quo where African-American children and English language learners are relegated to the bottom. … We have to stand up for these kids too. You can be pro-union while at the same time stand up for the civil rights of these kids. Continue reading

LAUSD approves most charters even as it condemns Broad charter plan


Daniel Cruz and Malia Sandoval, both 10, wait to speak.

The LA Unified school board this week awarded, renewed or revised requests from 10 charter schools, and two applications for new schools were rejected. Some of the approvals came with specific warnings by board members to shape up.

The charter approvals came at the same meeting that the board unanimously condemned the Eli Broad-affiliated group, Great Public Schools Now, and approved another resolution requiring stringent transparency requirements for charter schools.

Charter petitions and renewals are routine at LAUSD school board meetings. Even so, 50 or more families often line up as early as daybreak to get into the school board meeting to vouch for their charter schools. Most votes are unanimous because state law provides stringent reasons for denying them.

At this week’s meeting, fifth graders Malia Sandoval and Daniel Cruz, both 10, waited more than six hours to speak about their Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts. “I love all subjects and the classes have us interact with each other,” said Malia. “My favorite was making shadow puppets.”

In the case of Los Feliz charter, board member Mónica Ratliff pointed out a lack of diversity in the racial mix of the students. She also said many students in her district would be interested in the unique arts program at the school.

“Our job is to push for diversity,” Ratliff said. “It’s more than just white people who like art. We have a lot of artist in Pacoima, we have a lot of artist in Sylmar.”

The district’s charter school division director, José Cole-Gutiérrez, said the school came close to being denied renewal because of its lack of ethnic diversity, but he noted improvement, an observation that helped sway a vote to approve. ”They have made outreach efforts, and they are making progress,” he said.

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LA Unified’s union leaders unite to oppose Broad charter plan


Leaders of LAUSD unions unite against charter plan

Leaders of the nine unions that represent teaches, administrators and other staffers at LAUSD stood before the district board today to express a united front against the Broad foundation plan to create more charter schools in the district.

Flanked at the podium by the union leaders, Juan Flecha, president of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), told the board, “All of us and our respective unions see this single passion for public education and commitment for the district.” He expressed disappointment that school board member Scott Schmerelson‘s proposal against the Broad plan had been postponed until January in deference to more time needed to continue the search for the new superintendent.

Flecha said the union leaders stand in “support of the motion and it is important for the incoming superintendent to know where we stand, and we look forward to have the board pass it.” He added that he saluted Schmerelson’s braveness to bring the issue before the board.

Schmerelson issued a statement only hours before the school board meeting saying that “I remain extremely concerned about the issues outlined in the revised resolution, Excellent Public Education for Every Student, and I am grateful for all the input I have received about the future of our public schools.”

Flecha also took the time to salute outgoing superintendent Ramon Cortines, saying, “I want to salute and thank Ramon Cortines and honor him. His efforts have been heroic and his ability to listen and act accordingly is admirable.”

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Larchmont Charter gears up for fight over nearby cell phone tower


Parents, teachers and school administrators from Larchmont Charter School in West Hollywood are protesting a cell phone tower proposed for a church bell tower next to the campus, with a large turnout expected at a public hearing at 6 p.m. tomorrow at the West Hollywood Library.

The independent charter school is overseen by LAUSD but is not on LA Unified property. The district has had a policy against installing cell phone towers on school property since 2009.

“LAUSD can’t help us, but we are concerned for our children’s safety,” said Daisy Gardner. “Most of the civilized world bans cell phone towers and the science shows that it can harm children. Do we want to have less safety standards than Russia?”

Gardner said she is concerned for her 7-year-old going to the school and her 4-year-old, who is about to start the charter school, which has four different campuses. The Fairfax campus in West Hollywood is next door to St. Ambrose Catholic Church, where Verizon wants to add a cell phone tower to help with reception. It is also where the youngest students of Larchmont Charter attend.

Gardner lives in Studio City, where the community fought cell towers at Beeman Park last year, causing the company to back away from installing them around the playing fields. Although some studies about the dangers of cell phone radiation are mixed, parents are concerned particularly about the younger children who have softer and more vulnerable skulls.

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Do LA charter schools really screen out special education students?

Special ed

LAUSD’s Lowman Special Education Center

Accusations that charter schools screen out special education students or discourage them from enrolling have returned with a controversial plan by the Broad Foundation to expand charter enrollment at LA Unified.

After the president of the LA teachers union, Alex Caputo-Pearl of UTLA, raised the issue a year ago, telling the Los Angeles Times a year ago that “a lot of charters don’t allow special-education or English-language learners,” it resurfaced at a recent UTLA-sponsored rally outside the grand opening the Broad Museum.

But is the accusation true?

Legally, charter schools are not allowed to discourage enrollment from special education students or English learners.

While it may be true that LA Unified’s independent charters have smaller percentages of special education students overall and fewer have students with moderate to severe disabilities, the reasons for any disparity are complex, said Sharyn Howell executive director of the Division of Special Education at LA Unified, who oversees special education services for all district schools and most of its independent charters.

But the discrepancies are not due to screening, she said. And while she may have heard the accusation in the past, Howell said it has become a non-issue.

“Probably in the last two or three years I have not had a parent call me and say a charter school, I wanted to go there, and they discouraged me from coming. I used to get a lot of calls and emails like that, but I’m not getting them anymore,” she told LA School Report.

Because charter schools tend to be smaller and newer than district schools, they may not have had certain types of special education students before, which would tend to discourage more students with the same issues from enrolling, Howell said. But if any such students were to enroll, charters are required by law to provide them appropriate services. Continue reading

Zimmer accuses Broad charter plan of strategy to ‘bring down’ LAUSD


Eli Broad

Steve Zimmer, president of the LA Unified school board, said today that plans by Eli Broad and other philanthropists to expand the number of charter schools in the district represents “a strategy to bring down LAUSD that leaves 250,000 kids vulnerable to damage.”

A draft report of the plan appears show how the organizations involved would be creating the equivalent of a parallel school district, one with a defined goal of serving half the number of students attending LA Unified schools within eight years.

The “Great Public Schools Now Initiative” says the expansion would cost nearly half a billion dollars by 2023, through 260 new charter schools to serve an additional 130,000 students “most in need — low-income students of color.” Currently, about 151,000 students now attend charters in LA Unified, which has more charter schools, 264, than any school district in the country.

The 54-page report, dated “June 2015,” omits the names of authors or sponsoring organizations. But Eli Broad’s name appears at the end of a cover letter accompanying the report that makes a case for charter schools as “the greatest hope for students in L.A.” And alluding to the number of students on waiting lists to get into existing charters, now about 42,000, the need for more charters, he says, is urgent.

“We are committed to closing the waitlist and ensuring that every family in L.A. has access to a high-quality public school,” Broad writes. “Such dramatic charter school growth would address the needs of families who have been underserved by public schools for years, if not generations.”

He also argues that, “The stakes are extraordinarily high. In all our years working to improve public schools, we have never been so optimistic about a strategy that we believe has the potential to dramatically change not only the lives of thousands of students but also the paradigm of public education in this country.”

But Zimmer characterized the plan as a destructive one that would ignore the needs of thousands of other children “living in isolation, segregation and extreme poverty.”

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Charter group: LAUSD’s independent charters outperform district schools

affiliated charter graph

Source: CCSA

Students from LA Unified’s independent charter schools outperformed their counterparts at traditional schools on the recent Smarter Balanced standardized tests in the number meeting and exceeding standards, according to a new analysis by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA).

The charter group found that the charter students scored nine percentage points higher in English language arts but only four percentage points higher in math.

The new analysis differs from a previous one by CCSA, in that it removes LA Unified’s 53 affiliated charters from the comparison, as the state does. Affiliated charters are district schools that operate with most of the same rules as regulations that govern traditional schools but with greater autonomy over spending decisions. Their teachers are union members.

The district’s 211 independent charters are publicly-funded schools run by outside groups who have even more autonomy, and in most cases, their teachers are not union members.

Students from affiliated charters accounted for only 22,750 of the district’s 267,228 students — about 8.5 percent — who took the tests, but they tend to skew the comparison because their racial and economic demographics do not match up with the district averages. They tend to have about half as many children from families living in poverty, with dozens of the schools located in more affluent neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley.

Including their scores with those from traditional district schools reduces the difference between independent charters to only a few percentage points.

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Commentary: Challenges await for wave of new LAUSD charters

Eli and Edythe Broad charters

Eli and Edythe Broad

It was a bombshell of a story on Saturday, the LA Times reporting that a group of foundations is exploring plans to expand the number of charter schools within LA Unified to serve many beyond the 100,000 students who now attend charters in the district.

What would that mean exactly? Unclear for the time being. No details were included, and charter officials talked about the effort only in the most general terms. As close to specifics was an unidentified source telling the Times that the goal was to enroll half of LA Unified’s 650,000 students in charters within eight years.

Today, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, one of the participating groups along with the Keck and Walton Family Foundations, said the guiding force behind the effort was to satisfy parents of children in low-performing schools who desire more and better educational choices.

“L.A. families still want more high-quality public school options in their neighborhood,” the foundation said in an email to LA School Report. “Too many of our school children still aren’t getting the quality of education they deserve, which is why tens of thousands of students are currently on public charter school waiting lists. We are in the early stages of exploring a variety of ideas about how to help give all families—especially in low-income communities of color—access to high-quality public schools and what we and others in the philanthropic community can do to increase access to a great public school for every child in Los Angeles.”

What the public response will be when any official announcement is made is unclear — but from some sectors, it’s not hard to guess.

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Morning Read: LAUSD Buses Violate Safety Rules

LAUSD Bus Inspection Reports Show Major Safety Violations
While your children ride LAUSD buses, we obtained the most recent reports, finding fuel leaks, steering violations that could endanger students, and bad brakes. CBS LA

A Level Playing Field for Transgender Students
In February, the California Interscholastic Federation adopted a progressive policy, which takes effect in the fall, under which transgender students must be allowed to participate on sports teams of the gender they identify with rather than the teams of their physical gender — after a panel reviews each situation to determine that the athlete truly is transgender. LA Times Editorial

Why We Need to Reform Education Now
To improve our schools, we have to humanize them and make education personal to every student and teacher in the system. Education is always about relationships. HuffPo Opinion (TED Talks Education)

Bill Aims to Help Expelled and Truant Students Get Back on Track
The purpose of a complicated bill aimed at preventing students from languishing in alternative schools became much clearer after the testimony of a former student who got stuck in one. EdSource

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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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Morning Read: Progress for Bill Limiting Overuse of Suspensions

Bill Restricting ‘Willful Defiance’ for Suspending Students Moves Ahead
With new data showing that more than half of all suspensions and a quarter of expulsions in California schools are for “willful defiance” of school authorities, the Assembly Education Committee voted 6-0 on Wednesday to move forward a bill that would restrict the use of the vague category by school administrators. EdSource

School Boards Join Movement Against Out-of-School Suspensions
The National School Boards Association has labeled the use of out-of-school suspensions a “crisis” in a new report. EdWeek

Baldwin Park School District Wins #1 Spot in Closing the Achievement Gap
Recently we reported on two schools in the Baldwin Park school district that have unique programs: a high school that helps teenage parents stay in school, and an elementary school where teaching a dual language immersion program is yielding top results. KPCC

Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti Engage in Acrimonious Debate
Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti blasted one another with a torrent of allegations Wednesday night in the most acrimonious debate of the Los Angeles mayor’s race. LA Times

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District Silent As Charter School Dodges Audit

Monica Garcia, left, Marcos Aguilar, right, after Academia Semillas was renewed in April of 2012

Fresh off a controversial April 2012 renewal, the El Sereno charter school called Academia Semillas has refused to comply with an LAUSD audit, according to this December 2012 report by the Office of the Inspector General.

“Repeated attempts to obtain this information from the school were unsuccessful and the school chose to communicate to the OIG exclusively through its legal counsel,” states the report, which was ordered specifically for the school by the LAUSD charter school division.

Thus far, LAUSD has taken the somewhat unusual step of declining to comment on the situation.  However, California Charter School Association spokesperson Sierra Jenkins said charter schools should not be allowed to dodge audits*.

“Schools need to comply with audits,” said Jenkins. “Charter schools are public schools and should be transparent.”

Morning Read: Board Votes to Speed Dismissal Process

LAUSD Board Votes to Improve Abuse Investigations
With 278 Los Angeles Unified educators sitting in “teacher jail,” the school board voted Tuesday to streamline and improve the investigations of those accused of serious physical abuse or sexual misconduct. LA Daily News
See also: LA School Report, LA Times

L.A. Unified Board Ratifies ‘Parent-Trigger’ Partnership
The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday ratified a partnership between the school district and a charter school to take control of struggling 24th Street Elementary under a controversial parent-empowerment law. LA Times
See also: Color Lines, LA School Report

School Board Renews Contract for Ivy Academia Charter
The petition by Ivy Academia Entreprenurial Charter School was renewed with little discussion, less than two weeks after a jury convicted its founders of grand theft, embezzlement and other charges. LA Times
See also: LA School Report

L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa Challenges on Schools
Unions and other elements of the education establishment strongly backed Antonio Villaraigosa’s steps up the political ladder – until he became an advocate of charter schools, parental empowerment, modifying teacher seniority and tenure and other reforms that the establishment despises. Sac Bee Opinion

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Board Preview Update: Discipline, Misconduct, and Dismissals

The LAUSD Board, via LA Times

The agenda for today’s School Board meeting is packed with hot-topic resolutions, including a plan to streamline LAUSD’s teacher misconduct investigation process, a call to work with state legislators to pass a new teacher dismissal bill, and a plan to reduce student suspensions and discipline for “willful defiance” in LA schools.

These topics have received scads of media coverage and statehouse activity in recent months. LAUSD Board members have obviously been paying attention, and the media is getting behind their resolutions.

Board Member Tamar Galatzan penned an op-ed published Monday in the Huffington Post that explains the rationale behind her resolution to streamline investigations of teachers who have been accused of misconduct in the classroom.

And the LA Times published an editorial piece Tuesday morning urging the School Board to approve Board President Monica Garcia’s resolution that would update schools’ discipline policies across the district and cease the suspension of students for “willful defiance.”

Read on for more details on the resolutions up for vote at today’s School Board meeting.

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