Morning Read: LAUSD to Pay Millions Over Abuse Lawsuits

LAUSD to Pay Nearly $30M to Settle Miramonte Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Los Angeles Unified will pay nearly $30 million to settle claims by 58 children who say they were victims of former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt, the veteran educator charged with committing bizarre acts of sex abuse against students, attorneys said Tuesday. LA Daily News
See also: LA Times, KPCC, AP, LA Times Now Live

LAUSD Charters Would Lose Funding Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s Budget
Wilbur Elementary got $230,000 in state grants when it converted to a charter last fall. Now, administrators at Wilbur and other affiliated charters, nearly all of them in the San Fernando Valley, are struggling with the news that they stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants if lawmakers approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s new formula for funding public education. LA Daily News

L.A. Charter School Aims to Toss Out Students With Fake Addresses
Officials at Carpenter Community Charter, a top-notch elementary, think 120 children are enrolled fraudulently. They want to make room for students who live in the neighborhood. LA Times

Try a Different tack: Hold Teachers Responsible for Education Quality
The logic of the reformers seems to be that teachers unions are so wrongheaded, and the citizenry sufficiently tired of fights about seniority and teacher evaluation, that putting forward a slate of school board candidates is the way to change the balance of power in the school district and mute the pesky union.  But the strategy hasn’t worked. EdSource Opinion

Over-Praising Preschool
Obama wants the government to fund a free year of pre-kindergarten, but studies don’t back up his claims of long-term benefits. LA Times Opinion

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Morning Read: Miramonte Lawsuits Proceed

Miramonte Lewd Conduct Lawsuits Can Proceed
An L.A. County Superior Court judge on Thursday lifted a stay on lawsuits arising from alleged lewd conduct at Miramonte Elementary School. LA Times

Ex-Miramonte Teacher Mark Berndt Hires Defense Attorney
Mark Berndt, the former Miramonte Elementary School teacher accused of lewd conduct against his students, has hired as his defense attorney a former federal prosecutor who is also an ex-television news reporter. NBC LA

Tablets or Teachers? L.A. Tech Initiative Sparks Heated Board Debate
Last month, when a panel overseeing bond spending for Los Angeles schools narrowly rejected initial steps to provide all 650,000 students with tablet computers, the biggest concern for the program was whether bond funding could pay for technology. EdWeek

My View: I Would Trade Tenure for Better Teaching
Teacher Aadina Balti has tenure, but says it’s no reason for her, or any other teacher, to stop innovating. CNN Opinion

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Morning Read: Judge OKs Lawsuit

Lawsuit Against Teacher Tenure Poised to Move Forward
A lawsuit to overturn teacher tenure laws and seniority rights remained on track Thursday when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge issued a tentative ruling allowing the litigation to move forward. LA Times [read full text here]

Local Votes of Confidence: Most Bonds, Parcel Taxes Pass
Proposition 30, raising statewide taxes to support education, was a nail biter, struggling to get a majority of voters behind it. But that wasn’t the case for most K-12 parcel taxes and school construction bonds on the ballot Tuesday. Ed Source

The Prop 30 Windfall – Not Yet
In its first year, more than $2 billion of Prop 30 funds will be used to start paying off the nearly $10 billion in deferrals, those late payments that forced cash-strapped district to borrow money.  Those payments should free up funds so in 2013-14, districts will start to see some real money. Ed Source

LAUSD Teacher Named One of Five California Teachers of the Year
Veronica Marquez, a fifth-grade teacher at Harmony Elementary School in South Los Angeles, was named today as one of five California Teachers of the Year by state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson. Daily News

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First Hearing for Massive Lawsuit

On Friday, the first hearing will be held in the Vergara v. California, the lawsuit that, in terms of its massive size and scope, one union lawyer described “Doe v. Deasy on steroids.”

Brought about by an organization called Students Matter, which is funded by wealthy tech entrepreneur David Welch, the suit takes aim at five laws in California: one that grants tenure to teachers after 18 months, three that make it extremely difficult to fire teachers with tenure, and the so-called “Last hired, first fired” [LIFO] law that mandates seniority based firing. You can read the full complaint here. See also: Firing the Bad Teachers LA Weekly).

The State of California has filed motion to dismiss the suit, on which the judge is expected to rule on Friday. If the judge agrees to hear the case, the trial is probably still at least a year away.  LAUSD superintendent John Deasy, who was named as a defendant in Doe v. Deasy, gave a deposition in favor of the plaintiffs’ argument and, when we spoke to him in August, said he expected to be deposed in Vergara as well.

Previous posts: School Reform in the Courts

Top District Lawyer Talks Lawsuits, Unilateral Action

David Holmquist

Not many people would recognize David Holmquist, general counsel for the LA Unified School District (pictured below). But Holmquist serves as an important role, overseeing all labor negotiations, and representing the district in over 1,000 lawsuits  – including attempts by LAUSD to recover overpayment from 600 employees and dismiss more than 120 teachers.

We spoke last Wednesday in his office on the 24th floor of LAUSD headquarters about what actions LAUSD is preparing to take unilaterally if the teacher evaluation negotiations with UTLA remain unresolved, the recent LA Times lawsuit, his role in the Ramon Cortines sexual assault allegations, the ongoing legal fallout from the Miramonte scandal, and LAUSD’s version of the infamous New York City “rubber rooms” where teachers are housed while investigations against them are pending.

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Video: Parents Urge Funding Increase

There are some fun parts to this novelty video put together by some filmmaker parents at LAUSD’s Aldama Elementary, including the chorus (“Our budget’s been cut, school’s hitting the skids, We’re coming for you, and we’re bringing our kids.”)

Obviously, these parents want voters to support increased funding for schools proposed in some of next month’s propositions.  Click here to watch it again or read the lyrics.

Morning Read: Romero Vs. Villaraigosa

Gloria Romero to Antonio Villaraigosa: We’re not removing you from Prop 32 ad SFGate: LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was ticked that the pro-Prop 32 folks were using his name and comments “out of context” in an ad. He asked them to remove his name/comments from the ad promoting the measure on the November ballot that would ban unions and corporations from using automatic payroll deductions to fund political campaigns. On Monday, the pro-32 folks responded to his request: Uh, no.

Miramonte lawsuits are on hold, attorneys hope to settle KPCC: Attorney Luis Carrillo is the one who pushed for the stay. He says the temporary delay gives his clients a chance to engage in settlement discussions with the school district. The talks would be facilitated by a mediator and could begin as early as November.

Charters draw students from private schools, study finds LA Times: The study by a Rand Corp. economist found that more than 190,000 students nationwide had left a private school for a charter by the end of the 2008 school year, the most recent year for which data was available.

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More School Space, More Problems

Starting in 1997, Los Angeles began passing a series of bond measures to fund construction of new schools. Since then, the city borrowed a total of $19.5 billion to build 131 schools– some with large, beautifully designed (and expensive) campuses like the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools and the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts just north of downtown.

The creation of these new schools is being touted by LAUSD and, according to a new study from UC Berkeley’s Bruce Fuller, has been associated with higher achievement for elementary students.   But with many riches come many problems, and equitable distribution of school space among district and charter schools has been — and continues to be — a major headache for charter proponents and Superintendent Deasy.  Blame it on Prop. 39, passed in 2000, and a judge’s new ruling that has thrown the situation into further disarray and uncertainty.

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Morning Reading, 7-23-12: After the Revolution

Lots of Parent Revolution coverage from around the country. Plus: Ramon Cortines sued for sexual harassment, and Sally Ride:

• Lots of Parent Revolution coverage, including pieces from the AP, Reuters, the LA Times, the Wall St. Journal and the The Washington Post. RiShawn Biddle posts as well at Dropout Nation.

• Scott Graham filed a lawsuit against former superintendent Ramon Cortines, “accusing him of making repeated unwanted sexual advances.” Graham has apparantly turned down $200,000 (plus lifetime health benefits!) settlement offered by LAUSD. City News Service.

• Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space, died yesterday at 61. In addition to being an astronaut, the Encino-born Ride also worked to “inspire young people, especially girls, to become interested in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” Curriculum Matters

Links: July 12, 2012

LAUSD to fight judge’s ruling in charter case, and more.
  • LAUSD is fighting a court order to give more space to charter schools. The district says enforcement would lead to school busing. LA Times, KPCC
  • RiShawn Biddle argues that the NAACP should get on board with public school choice
  • All sorts of media outlets are reporting, incorrectly, that the entire staff of Miramonte elementary was fired. LA Weekly
  • When did “a teacher being accused of lewd acts” become as routine a phrase as “a suspect wanted for questioning?” Gawker has good video of the Kip Arnold denouement. One more question: anyone know why some outlets are calling him Kip and others are calling him Kyp?

LAUSD Challenges Court Order To Allocate More Space For Charters

From KPCC:

When allocating space to charter schools, the law requires the district to look at all space at a school site, look at the total number of students served at that site, and make an equitable offer to charter schools based on the same allocation, said Ricardo Soto, the general counsel for the Charter Schools Association.


Superintendant John Deasy was not quoted in either the KPCC piece or the LA Times piece, although he is said to disagree with the ruling.