Tuesday, November 30, 2010


California Alliance for Arts Education

November 30, 2010

ArtsEdMail provides all the latest information to connect the Arts Education community in California. Our free e-newsletter is published every two weeks.


In This Issue


  • What the Election Results Mean for the Arts
  • Integrating Dance Across the Curriculum
  • Los Angeles’ Creative Economy is More than Movies


  • Results Released for Teaching Artists' Survey


  • Call for Proposals for the American Alliance for Theatre and Education National Conference


  • The Kennedy Center NSO Summer Music Institute
  • National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards



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A Message from the Alliance
Celebrating the Arts
The holidays are now in full swing. No matter how you celebrate the season, time seems to fly by. So, advocating for the arts might feel like one more thing that you don’t have time for. But the arts -- dance, music, theatre and visual arts-- are an intrinsic part of our most cherished holiday traditions.

Upcoming holidays concerts and performances provide a perfect occasion to share the power of the arts with leaders in your community. In recent issues of ArtsEdMail we’ve encouraged you to reach out to your newly elected officials. Inviting new school board members or a local business leader to a holiday event is a great way to begin a relationship and let the benefits of arts education speak for themselves. For more on this seeing-is-believing approach to advocacy, read Associate Director of Young Storytellers Foundation Jason Pugatch’s guest blog.

Check out the advocacy tools NAMM has put together for promoting a holiday concert. You can also read up on your newly elected school board members on our online district election survey, which asked candidates about how the arts have influenced them. It may be that you have a trumpet player or former Romeo serving on your school board. So share some holiday cheer before the difficult work of budgets arrive in January.
Laurie T. Schell, Executive Director
California Alliance for Arts Education


What the Election Results Mean for the Arts
The results of the November 2nd election will have a far-reaching impact on arts and arts education organizations throughout the country. Nina Ozlu Tunceli, Chief Counsel of Government and Public Affairs at Americans for the Arts and Executive Director of the Arts Action Fund, shares her insights on what the results mean and next steps for advocates for arts and arts education in this podcast.

Integrating Dance Across the Curriculum
Photosynthesis may be an unlikely topic to inspire an opera or ballet, but in a 2nd grade classroom, the children were asked to use dance to help them learn about that process. The idea of integrating the arts, including dance, into the broader curriculum is not new, but it appears to be one way that schools facing limited resources are introducing students to dance as well as other subjects. But according to Arts Integration in the Curriculum: A Review of Research and Implications for Teaching and Learning, in order for arts integration to succeed, it requires a strong commitment from classroom teachers and close collaboration with arts specialists. Read more.

Los Angeles’ Creative Economy is More than Movies
The 2010 Otis Report released in November shows that the "creative economy" generated $113 billion in revenue and provided 304,400 jobs in Los Angeles last year. Although this was a decline from the previous year, it was still the second-largest business sector in Los Angeles County. The report shows that Los Angeles is not the one-industry town some assume it to be. "From the outside looking in, many people think of Los Angeles as being equal to Hollywood, but entertainment is only 40% of the creative economy," Otis College of Art and Design President Samuel Hoi says. "The report is an advocacy tool. It is not meant to provide a rosy picture, but to call to attention and to action efforts to sustain and strengthen the creative economy of the region."


Results Released for Teaching Artists' Survey
The results of Teaching Artists and Their Work Survey: ATA's Survey on What are Meaningful, Supportable, and Sustainable Environments for the Work of a Teaching Artist are now available. The focus of the survey, conducted between September 2009 and March 2010 was Teaching Artists' experiential knowledge. Read the results.

Call for Proposals
The American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) is seeking session proposals for its 2011 National Conference on July 26-31, 2011 in Chicago. The conference offers theatre artists, educators, and scholars from across the country the opportunity to connect with each other within their areas of expertise, as well as across disciplines. The conference will showcase best practices at the intersection of theatre and education. Learn more.

Resources, Funding

The Kennedy Center NSO Summer Music Institute
The Kennedy Center/National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute is a 4-week summer music program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, for serious student instrumentalists. Each student accepted into the Program attends on full scholarship, which includes housing, food allowance, and local transportation during their stay in our Nation's Capital. Deadline January 28, 2011. Learn more.

National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards
The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is now accepting applications for the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, formerly the Coming Up Taller Awards. This award program recognizes the accomplishments of exceptional arts and humanities after-school and out-of-school programs with a $10,000 prize. Applications due January 31, 2011. Learn more.


Individual Giving Coordinator, Performing Arts Workshop
Performing Arts Workshop, a nonprofit arts education organization based in San Francisco, is dedicated to helping young people develop critical thinking, creative expression, and basic learning skills through the arts. The Individual Giving Coordinator designs, implements and tracks all fundraising efforts related to individual donors.

Arts Education Manager, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) in Washington, D.C. seeks an arts education manager to administer the state arts agency (SAA) arts education managers' professional development program, to assist in the coordination of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, formerly known as Coming Up Taller, and to advise and assist in implementation of arts education programs and policies. Application deadline is December 10, 2010.  Learn more.

Choral Director, Music in Schools Today
Music in Schools Today, a San Francisco Bay Area non-profit organization with national impact, seeks a Choral Director for the Exploring Music program, which provides hand-tailored music programming to schools and community centers throughout the Bay Area. Learn more.

Executive Director, Yuba Sutter Regional Arts Council
The Yuba Sutter Regional Arts Council, in Marysville, California seeks an Executive Director to oversee strategic planning and implementation, fundraising, financial management, Board relations, administrative oversight, and community and public relations.  Learn more.

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Bloomberg News Reports: MAYOR BLOOMBERG WINS WAIVER FOR ESQUIRE+COSMO PUBLISHER TO BECOME CHANCELLOR OF NYC SCHOOLS. The requirement waived was that the chancellor have a background in education – publishing career is ‘substantially equivalent’

By Ashley Lutz – Bloomberg News | http://bit.ly/ejDRIH

Tue Nov 30 00:09:47 GMT 2010 - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg won state permission for Cathie Black, a publishing executive, to head the nation’s biggest school system after he proposed appointing a career educator to help her.

Black’s “training, background and experience are substantially equivalent to the certification requirements” needed to do the job, State Education Commissioner David Steiner said today in a decision distributed by e-mail.

Steiner waived a requirement that the chancellor have a background in education, pending her completion of training in preventing child abuse and school violence, according to the decision. Bloomberg told Steiner on Nov. 26 that Black would make Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky the system’s senior deputy and academic chief if her appointment was cleared.

“I find that Ms. Black’s exceptional record of successfully leading complex organizations and achievement of excellence in her endeavors, warrant certification,” Steiner said in the decision.

Bloomberg named Black, 66, as his choice for the job on Nov. 9 after Joel Klein resigned. She’s chairman of the Hearst Corp. unit that produces Esquire, Cosmopolitan and more than a dozen other magazines, capping a lifelong publishing career. An advisory panel named to weigh Black’s qualifications had recommended denying the waiver, according to Steiner’s decision.

‘Move Forward’

“I hope we can move forward on the many challenges the system faces, including creating a curriculum that will give students a well-rounded education, new and better interventions for struggling students, and early action to turn around failing schools,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, in an e-mailed statement. The New York- based federation represents about 200,000 members, according to its website.

“It is now time to put politics aside and recognize that it is in the best interest of our children for Cathie Black to succeed as chancellor,” the mayor said today in a statement sent by e-mail. He called Steiner’s decision “the right one for our kids and our schools.”

The New York Times said on Nov. 24 that Steiner would approve Black if Bloomberg appointed an educator to assist her.

Bloomberg said in a letter to Steiner last week that Polakow-Suransky, now deputy chancellor for performance and accountability, “has spent his career working to improve New York City schools on behalf of our highest need students.”

The mayor, who took office in 2002, has three years remaining in what he has said will be his final term. Bloomberg is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.


By SAM DILLON – New York Times | http://nyti.ms/dISc53

November 30, 2010 - The nation’s high school graduation rate, which declined in the latter part of the 20th century, may have hit bottom and begun to rise, according to a report to be issued Tuesday by a nonprofit group founded by former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

“The United States is turning a corner in meeting the high school dropout epidemic,” General Powell and his wife, Alma J. Powell, wrote in a letter introducing the report.

The report cites two statistics. The national graduation rate increased to 75 percent in 2008, from 72 percent in 2001. And the number of high schools that researchers call dropout factories — based on a formula that compares a school’s 12th-grade enrollment with its 9th-grade enrollment three years earlier — declined to about 1,750 in 2008, from about 2,000 such schools in 2002.

But the report notes that progress in some states and school districts had not been matched in others. Tennessee and New York made “breakthrough gains,” sharply raising their graduation rates from 2002 to 2008, the report says. In Arizona, Utah and Nevada, graduation rates dropped significantly.

The 88-page report, “Building a Grad Nation,” was published by America’s Promise Alliance, along with two other groups. “I like this report because it shows that progress is possible against all odds,” said Marguerite W. Kondracke, the alliance’s president.

Daniel Losen, a former Harvard lecturer who researches graduation issues, said the report “might be a bit on the rosy side.” He added, “We might be beginning to turn a corner, but we’re not coming out of it yet.”

The report cites school districts that have made progress, as well as some where the crisis has worsened.

In 2005, researchers at Johns Hopkins University identified Richmond High School in Indiana as a dropout factory. But from 2006 to 2009, teachers, community leaders and professors joined in an effort to help students stay in school, raising the graduation rate to 80 percent from 53 percent, the report says.

In Las Vegas, however, dropouts soared during the building boom of the last decade because many young people quit high school for jobs in construction and landscaping. Today, many dropouts there are unemployed.

from America’s Promise | http://bit.ly/i6CdyS

Building a Grad Nation

Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic

With one in four U.S. public school students dropping out of high school before graduation, America continues to face a dropout epidemic. Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, released November 30  by America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, shows that we can end the dropout epidemic, even in schools from lower-income, urban and rural districts that many previously thought were hopeless. The report is supported by lead sponsor Target, and includes additional sponsorship from AT&T and Pearson Foundation.

The U.S. graduation rate increased from 72 percent in 2002 to 75 percent in 2008. The report reveals that the number of “dropout factory” high schools fell by 13 percent – from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,746 in 2008. While these schools represent a small fraction of all public high schools in America, they account for about half of all high school dropouts each year. Experts say targeting these high schools for improvement is a critical part of turning around the nation’s dropout rate.

Other highlights of the report:

  • More than half of all states – 29 in total – increased their statewide graduation rate from 2002 to 2008.
  • The state of Tennessee and New York City led the nation by boosting graduation rates 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
  • Most of the decline in dropout factories – 216 of the 261 – occurred in the South.
  • Four inspiring case studies in Alabama, New York City, Tennessee and Richmond, Indiana.
Civic Marshall Plan to Build a Grad Nation

Just as Secretary of State George C. Marshall launched a plan to rebuild Europe after World War II, we must rebuild our broken school system. We are launching a “Civic Marshall Plan,” comprising policymakers, educators, business leaders, community allies, parents and students to address the dropout epidemic by focusing on the dropout factory high schools and their feeder elementary and middle schools. In tune with the call from President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan earlier this year to increase the U.S. graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, we are working to mobilize Americans to quicken the pace. To reach these national goals, the graduation rate must rise by an average of 1.5 percentage points per year over the next decade. The Civic Marshall Plan outlines the benchmarks to ensure the attainment of those goals, and focuses on the strategic deployment of human resources to help school districts and states accelerate improvement.

  • Learn more about the Civic Marshall Plan

    MY TURN by Diana L. Chapman – CityWatch - Vol 8 Issue 95 |http://bit.ly/hn6PHR

    Active Image

    Los Angeles Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - Several years ago, Leslie Fischer was sent downtown Los Angeles to clear out a small, locked space laced in mystery.

    The curator opened the door and peered inside, spotting scores of items bundled in newspapers. What she was about to discover shocked her.

    As she unfolded the bundles, out popped one antiquity after another, 300 in all. Relics such as Roman coins, Greek vases, Etruscan figurines, Egyptian scarabs. Those were  just some of the gems. They all belonged to the Los Angeles Unified School District.

    “It was really flooring,” said Fischer of the antiquities find during an interview at one  school that has a vault to secure its paintings.

    “I wasn’t even aware of the scope of what they had. The storage was so inappropriate. It was surprising. How did the district get this and why is it here?”

    Fischer – whose very part-time LAUSD curator job always hangs by a thread in these severe economic times – is the only person in the entire district who holds the golden key to Los Angeles Unified’s 100,000 piece art and artifact kingdom. She’s on a new mission to bring the obscure collection out to the public eye and to form several educational partnerships.

    The collection boasts phenomenal pieces such as oil paintings from famous artist Maynard Dixon and rare books as the 1602 edition of  “Works of Our Ancient and Learned English Poet, Geoffrey Chaucer.”

    In addition, the works include thousands of oil paintings, murals, text book collections, aged-video equipment, administrative reports, paintings from the Depression era, 34,000 black-and-white negatives  and scores of other items that reflect the district’s history.

    After the antiquities find, Fischer immediately cataloged the precious pieces. Her job shape shifts itself every few years depending on the needs of the district --  an agency that faces a $1.1 billion deficit over the next three years.

    Although debate has arisen in the past about selling some of the works, school officials balk at that  -- especially involving the scores of paintings donated by the student body going back nearly a century ago.

    The ownership of those paintings, they said, belong to the student body and cannot be sold. District owned works, however, can be.

    In 2008, the curator, whose now nine-hour a week job is paid through a mix of grants and the district’s art budget, was able to obtain grants to appraise about 60 percent of the most valuable pieces.  The estimates ranged anywhere from $9 to $13 million. Remaining pieces have not yet appraised for financial reasons, but are not considered to have as much monetary significance.

    LAUSD’s most valuable painting -- Artist Dixon’s Men of the Red Earth– is currently on loan to the Autry National Center -- where it was restored for free as part of the agreement reached with the curator – one of the many partnerships Fischer has forged.  The painting -- worth $2 million – is the highest priced  treasure in collection and is considered one of the artist’s greatest works, the curator explained.

    Men of the Red Earth, Maynard Dixon

    Men of the Red Earth, Maynard Dixon | http://bit.ly/dNPrxQ

    But other famed artists works landed a home with the district as well, including Edgar Payne, Dana Bartlett, Orrin White and Maurice Braun – known for their landscapes using a style called California Plein-Air.

    Calling up their names on the internet shows a fair amount of traffic to sell and buy the artist’s works . While many of the paintings remain today up on the walls at school campuses across the district, at least now most have been accounted for due to Fischer’s efforts.

    Nine years ago, when there was no curator, no one in the district was overseeing the massive treasures trove except for in a piecemeal fashion. Many pieces were scattered across the district,  gathering dust in one building or another or remained up at schools where few knew their stories, their value – or who even the artists were.

    What was so unsettling about this was the possibility that many works might get tossed due to school staff’s lack of knowledge as to the stature of such pieces. In addition, poor storage meant the art work could be marred or destroyed.

    As an advocate of keeping the “historical collection” intact, Fischer’s first job was to “define the scope,” of what the district had amassed. Once that was done, school officials wanted the works, a vast amount stored in one building, to be moved to make way for a new school.

    That’s how a large part of the  compilation wound up on a climate-controlled floor of the downtown LAUSD school police building, another one of curator’s suggestions for security reasons.

    While Fischer, a USC fine arts graduate, continues to build partnerships to pay for costly restoration and to bring much of the unseen works to light through education, the task is painstakingly arduous, especially with a job that has been whittled down from 25 hours to nine hours a week.

    While some members of the student body desire to keep the works, others wonder why the schools haven’t sold them off.

    Often many paintings hang forlornly on school campuses –  seeming to go unnoticed.

    Few teachers, principals and students are typically  aware of their value, who painted them or even the history of how they wound up in the school in the first place.

    One principal was surprised when he learned he had a valuable painting at his school.

    Another school official thought the paintings were slowly getting damaged on school walls just by the lack of care they receive and that some should be removed to make way for contemporary works.

    She’d like,  the principal added, something more modern to fit with her current student body.

    Ironically, when the artistic gifts – donated by the student body -- started rolling into schools nearly a century ago,  district officials – who are meant to educate students – never knew what the reality would mean.

    It forced LAUSD to take on another significant post  –  that of a museum curator and one that’s a complete necessity to prevent the works from being destroyed, trashed or both.

    Without Fischer aboard, the 300 antiquities in the closet might have wasted away for many more years  -- if they were ever found. That’s what she fears could happen to other treasures within the district’s realm not brought to her attention and suspects some works in the past were possibly tossed.

    Therefore, when she receives random calls about pieces from principals or teachers, she gets out her sleuthing skills and visits the site as soon as possible just in case she might add, yet another treasure to this remarkable, little-known collection.

    For instance, once a principal called about a pioneer relief on his campus. Soon after Fischer arrived,  she discovered the relief was done by prominent English-American sculpture, Bryant Baker, recognized for his works on pioneer women.

    The curator’s job then becomes teaching teachers at the school how to integrate the Baker’s work into the state’s standard curriculum, she explained.

    Despite Fischer’s momentous work to partner and use the art as part of education, the truth remains that as far as public viewing, little has been done thus far. For one, it would take the work of several more people, she acknowledges.

    “It’s baby steps,” she said. “I don’t have a conservation budget and it’s a monumental task.”

    Even with Fischer on board, LAUSD school board members – both past and present – seem to have little awareness of what they sit atop of even in these uncertain economic times.

    “I’m really uneducated in this area,” said one school official, who asked not to be named.

    To spell out just what currently exists just within the antiquities realm, imagine coins with the engraved heads of Roman emperors, some of Caesar Trajan, vases once carried by Etruscan pedestrians or Mesopotamian tablets over 4,000-years-old.

    At least 150 coins made of copper, bronze, silver and gold were discovered.

    Other finds: 3,000-year-old Egyptian scarab figures  along with 2,000-year-old Roman terracotta lamps. While some pieces were worth only $35; others were valued at hundreds more.  Some of the Greek vases, for example, range around $35,000 a piece.  And at least two gold coins were appraised at $10,000 a piece.

    Other famed artist’s within the district’s realm include some Salvador Dali reliefs and a Tom Tyrone Comfort mural. Comfort painted an eight-panel mural at San Pedro High School during the New Deal Era launched by President Franklin Roosevelt to put citizens back to work during the Great Depression. Comfort was one of many artists who did public art work projects under the  WPA (Works Project Administration).

    Anything done by WPA cannot be sold as it belongs to the federal government, Fischer said.

    Much of the distinctive treasure trove began in 1919 when a graduating class in Gardena High School established a tradition to interview local artists around Los Angeles County – most not famous at the time – and purchase a selection as a gift to the school. The students did fundraisers to buy the paintings for their campus and Gardena High  School is noted for buying Dixon’s Men of the Red Earth.

    “That tradition spread to other campuses that emulated this,” Fischer said. “By the 1940s they actually used the art work in their curriculum. They would go visit  living artists. There would be in seminars and they’d study and analyze the available paintings and actually make the purchase,” who added it must have been like heaven to be in that program.

    It became a common routine at other high schools especially in the Harbor area, she explained, and didn’t stop until about 1956. After that, a few pieces trickled in. Many LAUSD schools also have famous WPA (Work Projects Administration) murals, including Dana Middle School in San Pedro.

    At a time where plant managers, teachers and librarians have been laid off, one wonders why it’s so imperative to keep the collection whole – and not break it up and allow the selling of particular pieces under Fischer’s guidance.

    But the LAUSD Arts Education Branch defended keeping the collection intact.

    “We are trying to maintain the integrity,” said Luiz Sampaio, a visual art specialist for the district who oversees Fischer. “We are trying to make it accessible while maintaining the physical integrity of the art work. We maintain our commitment. It’s a historical collection.”

    Former Los Angeles School Board Member Mike Lansing – who once held Board Member Richard Vladovic’s seat that includes the Harbor Area  – said at this point, with the financial disarray of the district, he would want to at least call for a presentation to the school board.

    He would not say whether he’d break up the collection.

    “I’d at least like to see what exists and have a staff report on what opportunities, if any, are possible,” Lansing said.

    After being asked about the collection, LAUSD School Board Member Richard Vladovic says he plans to request  that a report be made to the board, but adds that much of the work is owned by the student body, not the district.

    However, as for district owned works, he’d like to see what could be sold or what partnerships could be reached.

    “I would love to see the items on display in a museum or a traveling show,” Vladovic said. “If we can’t display or show their magnificence properly then we need to find a way to do so or sell them off to those that appreciate and will protect it. This art should be seen and appreciated by as many people as possible.”

    Fischer, who has worked diligently to make the collection more accessible, does not want to see it broken up.

    “This collection is unique to LAUSD. How do you put a value on that?” Fischer added.

    Some of the programs the curator has done, for example, is filling a steamer trunk  with district memorabilia that travels from school to school so students can witness what types of clothes, books and other items students used years ago.

    But Fischer is most proud of her decision to pull together lessons for students using the antiquities that are not of the highest value. When requested, she packs them up and brings them to schools to show third-through-eighth grade students where they can be hands on with ancient times. College students come to help her teach so the LAUSD students  can handle Roman coins, Etruscan safety pens, tablets and vases.

    “They tell the most extraordinary story,” the curator marveled.

    However, to bring such pieces to schools, Fischer must attend, to keep the pieces secure. Despite limited time to do such work, Fischer has established several partnerships and received several grants.

    Included are:

    --UCLA and USC graduate students studying the district art works and aiding to conserve them. Restoration costs can be exorbitant, Fischer said.

    --The Getty Museum in Malibu, which usually carries the elite of Roman days, displays some more of LAUSD’s  “everyday antiquities” from Rome. “It’s a good marriage,” Fischer said, since Getty officials helped her design some of her classes.

    --Hosting programs by either attending events to talk about LAUSD’s rare gems or gives tours to groups, such as the Los Angeles Historical Society.

    As for the odd antiquities find, Fischer later learned  that most were donated to Venice High School Principal Edward Clark by the now defunct-Classical League of Downtown LA in 1932.

    For 45 years, Clark proudly used them to teach his students – before they were later packed up and stuffed into a closest in a school building downtown.

    Fortunately, with the arrival of Fischer, the antiquities were resurrected. Otherwise, they might have remained lost forever – stored away in some forgotten closet.

    (Diana Chapman has been a writer/journalist for nearly thirty years. She has written for magazines, newspapers and the best-seller series, Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can reach her at: hartchap@cox.net or her website theunderdogforkids.blogspot.com )    -cw

    CARSON-AREA CAMPUS MAY ADD GRADES: New high school could serve sixth-through 12th-graders under district plan.

    By Melissa Pamer Staff Writer | Daily Breeze

    11/30/2010 - A new Los Angeles Unified campus planned for the Carson area may house a middle school in addition to a high school, according to a plan backed by district officials.

    The campus - under construction in Long Beach, just over the border from Carson - had been slated to open in September as a comprehensive high school.

    ●●smf/4LAKids adds: The school will be physically located in the City of Long Beach and within he boundaries of Long Beach Unified School District, not LAUSD.  The previous property owner (a warehouse) paid Long Beach and Long Beach Unified taxes; had children lived there they would’ve gone to Long Beach schools. 

    Schools do not pay property taxes; the land was obtained under the right (or threat) of eminent-domain from the owner and removed the from the tax base of the City of Long Beach and LBUSD. Presumably it will be served by Long Beach emergency services but will do so without paying taxes or extending any benefit to Long Beach.  Conversely, the residents of Carson and Los Angeles benefit from not having their tax bases reduced.  

    LAUSD officials said they expanded the number of grades in their plan for the school because of declining enrollment, coupled with a long-standing desire by local parents to have a middle school nearby.

    "When we heard the demographic numbers, we thought why not make the community really happy and move those kids closer to home," interim Principal Veronica Aragon said.

    The campus is one of 10 new and three troubled existing schools that are subject to the second round of the district's Public School Choice process, which allows outside groups to bid for educational control.

    Two charter organizations plan to submit applications - due Wednesday - for the Carson-area campus, along with a group guided by Aragon and a panel of teachers, parents and officials from Gardena-based Local District 8.

    The district originally had planned to house about 1,800 students from Carson and Banning high schools at the new campus, but Aragon said a demographic analysis showed that there were several hundred fewer students in the school's tentative enrollment area, which stretches from Long Beach to the San Diego (405) Freeway.

    Under the plan submitted by Aragon's group, the school would have four color-coded academies with separate entrances.

    One would house middle-school students who had graduated from neighboring Dominguez Elementary and would normally attend Carnegie Middle School, several miles away in central Carson. The middle school would be a "global studies academy" focused on environmental issues, Aragon said.

    A second academy would serve ninth-graders, with a drive to avoid dropouts and push students along to their sophomore year. The remaining two would include 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders, based around themes: engineering, technology and design; and law, government and public service.

    Michelle Heron-Archie, principal of Dominguez Elementary, said parents have had a mixed reaction to the possibility of mingling 11-year-old sixth-graders with 18-year-old seniors.

    For several years, a group of parents at the primary school has been advocating making Dominguez Elementary a K-8. When it was clear there was not room for that, they pushed for K-6, Heron-Archie said.

    Now they're faced with a very different prospect.

    "Some parents did not like the idea; others said, `Let's explore it,"' Heron-Archie said. "Right now, they're warming up to it. They're asking how it could work."

    Aragon said she's been reassuring parents. She's sought guidance from the principal of Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High, a longtime seventh-through-12th grade campus in LAUSD.

    She emphasized that the middle and high school would have different lunch periods and be physically separate.

    Under the Public School Choice process, community members may cast ballots in an advisory vote on which group should run each school. That election is expected to take place in February, followed by a final determination from the Board of Education in the same month.

    Also in the running for the Carson-area school - known at South Region High School No. 4 - is Magnolia Public Schools. The charter management organization operates an intermediate campus based at Curtiss Middle School in Carson, along with 11 other Southern California charters.

    "Our vision is for students to choose career paths in the math-science-technology area because we believe that's the way to go to college," said Magnolia Chief Executive Officer Suleyman Bahceci.

    The nonprofit has just begun reaching out to parents in the Carson area, but Bahceci said the experience of several years running a local charter would benefit the group's Public School Choice application.

    "We know the population; we know the demographics," Bahceci said.

    Other options before parents may include: MATTIE Academy School of Change, put forth by a group that operated a short-lived charter in Long Beach; and a plan from a group led by instructor Dangil Jones of Santee Learning Complex.

    Neither Jones nor Denice Price, executive director of MATTIE, could be reached for comment.

    ICEF Public Schools, a charter organization that runs campuses in South Los Angeles and Inglewood and has been facing financial troubles, pulled out of the running, according to Chief Executive Officer Caprice Young.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH FUNDING: Legislative leaders ask court to overturn Schwarzenegger veto in connection with a lawsuit by CSBA + LAUSD


    Posted by Jim Sanders to SacBee Capitol Alert | http://bit.ly/fhVN8n

    29 Nov - 3:31 PM | Assembly and Senate leaders directed the legislative counsel today to submit a letter to a state appellate court in an effort to overturn Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of $133 million for student mental-health funding.

    Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez ordered the amicus letter sent to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in connection with a lawsuit filed this month by the California School Boards Association, the Los Angeles Unified School District and other education groups.

    Steinberg and Pérez want the appellate court to adjudicate the issue directly rather than to have it heard first by a trial court.

    The two Democratic legislative leaders contend that counties were under a legislative mandate to provide the mental-health services to special education students, and that Schwarzenegger overstepped his authority by vetoing funds for the program.

    "The resulting harm to pupils who are in need of special education services from this state, and are entitled to receive those services, is substantial," the Legislative Counsel's Office said in its letter to the Southern California appellate court.

    "It is essential, in order to minimize the ongoing confusion and harm that are resulting from the governor's erroneous declaration, that this issue be resolved without further delay," the letter added.

    Pérez, in a written statement, said that "not only was this cut unwise, leaving counties and children who need services in limbo, it's also unconstitutional."

    "The governor's veto was cruel, fiscally foolish and illegal," Steinberg added in a prepared statement.

    Schwarzenegger, through an aide, said that such cuts were painful but necessary.

    "The governor understands how difficult the cuts are but we can only spend the money we have, and as we now know, we have to make even more cuts to balance our budget," spokesman Aaron McLear said in a written statement.

    Schwarzenegger said last month that he had to veto funding for the mental health services to build a more prudent reserve. Aides at the time said his veto essentially shifted responsibility for the program from counties to school districts.

    Amended at 3:30 to say that the appellate court is a state court, and at 4:25 p.m. to add a quote from Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger spokesman.

    LAUSD 'EARLY START' CALENDAR: Additional coverage

    Some Valley parents are opposing expansion of LAUSD's 'early start'...

    Los Angeles Daily News - Connie Llanos – Nov 29

    The "early start" calendar launched this year at 17 schools would be expanded throughout Los Angeles Unified in 2011, ...


    LAUSD to vote on school year calendar shift

    abc7.com – Nov 29

    If the school board says "yes" when it votes next month, all schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District would go to the early start date next fall. ...

    LAUSD CONSIDERS EARLIER START TO SCHOOL YEAR: The district's proposal would start and end the academic calendar about three weeks earlier — and let the first semester end before winter break. Critics say August temperatures are too high.

    By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |http://lat.ms/glyL13

      Polytechnic High School

      Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley started its school year on Aug. 9 this year. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times / August 9, 2010)

      29 November 2010 - An education reform gaining traction locally has nothing to do with reading or math: It's a plan to start the school year earlier.

      This change would not make the school year longer — it would just begin sooner and end sooner. The Los Angeles Unified School District hails the idea as a step forward academically, arguing that students would be better prepared for exams.

      They would take first-semester exams sooner — before the winter vacation erodes that term's learning. And the High School Exit Exam and Advanced Placement exams would come later in the academic year, after teachers had covered additional material.

      The Board of Education is expected to vote on the new calendar in December. Eighteen schools already made the change this summer.

      For more information - or to comment on the proposed calendar, go to http://tinyurl.com/earlyschool.

      But some parents and teachers don't want to exchange the typically temperate days of June for the scorchers of August, especially in the San Fernando Valley.

      Under the plan, schools would start 15 days sooner in 2011, on Aug. 15, rather than the traditional Tuesday after Labor Day, which falls on Sept. 5. The school year would end June 1 for nearly all regular campuses within the nation's second-largest school system.

      Polytechnic High in Sun Valley is one of the schools that already has been scheduling exams before winter break. That approach is better, said student Grace Wheeler.

      "It gives us time to relax during our break rather than having to study every day for the test," said Grace, a senior.

      The earlier start will also coordinate better with community college schedules for students who want to take enrichment classes, said Zsuzsanna Vincze, L.A. Unified's administrative coordinator for school management services. And high-schoolers would be able to compete earlier for summer jobs.

      Younger students wouldn't share in these benefits, but district officials want to avoid forcing families with more than one child to juggle different schedules.

      One thing is certain: The new calendar would create a hotter school year, judging by high temperature readings at the Pierce College weather station in Woodland Hills.

      From 2006 to 2010, the daily high rarely dipped below 90 degrees in the period from Aug. 15 to Aug. 31. In that five-year stretch, 31 of 85 days soared to 100 degrees or higher, and another 21 days reached at least 95 degrees. For an equivalent period starting June 2, the temperature reached 100 degrees or more seven times, and 95 degrees or more an additional 12 times.

      In weather 95 degrees or hotter, district policy warns school staff to look out for heat exhaustion and heat stroke while limiting, or eliminating, physical activity.

      Even in September, high temperatures often limit physical activity. But August is worse, said Angel Zobel-Rodriguez, whose fourth-grader attends Van Gogh Street Elementary in Granada Hills. "And most schools don't have indoor facilities for lunch, and recess will be unbearable."

      In e-mails to L.A. Unified, others have complained about having to alter summer plans and about having three fewer weeks of summer vacation next year during the transition to the new schedule. The first 300 e-mails ran nearly 2 to 1 against the early start. Senior administrators hope a silent majority appreciates the potential positives.

      District officials had touted the advantage of having three more weeks to prepare for the state's high-stakes standardized tests in May. Those results are used to judge the overall success and improvement of schools and school districts — and soon may be used to evaluate individual teachers as well.

      But the state Education Code specifies that those tests must take place 85% of the way through the school year, plus or minus 10 days. So if students start sooner, they will take the tests sooner.

      The district recently abandoned this point after teacher and parent Brent Smiley, among others, cited the state regulations.

      Smiley also raised other issues, including the loss of outdoor exercise.

      "We have been hearing of an obesity problem that exists in our schools, yet this new schedule almost guarantees an additional 10 to 15 … days of idleness," Smiley wrote in an e-mail to Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. And "how many millions is it going to cost" the district to run air conditioners throughout August?

      On a personal level, Smiley worries that his active 7-year-old would be "bouncing off the walls" if forced to spend all day inside, or that excessive heat outside would trigger his asthma.

      The teachers union supported this year's trial run because the faculty at each campus was willing. But if a union-wide survey reveals substantial opposition, United Teachers Los Angeles may resist a systemwide change.

      In that case, "If the district attempted to impose this, which I doubt they would, they could have the early calendar but could end up with no workers," said A.J. Duffy, the union president.

      One model of early-calendar success is charter schools, which are public, independently managed and mostly non-union. Some leading charter organizations make their early starts part of a longer school year, often accompanied by a longer school day.

      The extra cost is frequently offset by philanthropic support and greater spending flexibility as well as the hiring of lower-salaried teachers.

      "Total instructional time," said James Willcox, chief executive of the charter group Aspire Public Schools, "is one of the things that matter."

      For more information or to comment on the proposed calendar, go to http://tinyurl.com/earlyschool.

      THE ULTIMATE NOV 30th ADVOCACY: Protest Rally @ Beaudry – Come get your fair share of abuse!

      Nov 30 LAUSD RIF Protest Rally at Beaudry

      More Nov. 30th Advocacy: Preschool California says “THE WHITE HOUSE NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU!”

      New Advocacy Alert banner v1

      Preschool California + the National Women’s Law Center write:

      November 29, 2010

      Dear Friend,

      Today, Congress returns from the Thanksgiving holiday and could decide on critical early learning funding by the end of this week.

      Thank you to everyone who has already called their representatives in Congress; however, President Obama and his administration still need to hear from you.

      Please see below for a message from our partners at the National Women’s Law Center on how to take action tomorrow, Nov. 30.

      Thank you.


      Dear Supporters,

      Congress returns on November 29 and could decide on critical funding for child care and Head Start by the end of the week. We told Congress how important it is to not cut child care and Head Start funding, and now it’s time to tell the White House.

      On Tuesday, November 30, advocates from across the country will contact the White House to ask them to remind Congress not to drop 300,000 children from child care and Head Start, and to support the Early Learning Challenge Fund.

      So why contact the White House now? The President and his important staff are key players in these funding decisions and we need to continue to let them know that young children and families should not lose out on the early care and education they need during these difficult times.

      • Please take action today by contacting the White House. There are two ways you can contact the President: Leave a message for President Obama on the White House Comments line in support of early childhood education programs:
        1. To call the comments line dial 202-456-1111. (You may need to call more than once if you get a busy signal.)
        2. Leave a message in the voicemail. Here is a sample script: My name is ________ and I’m from (Insert Organization) in (City), (State). Please urge Congress not to drop 300,000 children from child care and Head Start. Make sure that continued funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start is NOT REDUCED in the appropriations bill and that the Early Learning Challenge Fund is included. Thank you.
      • Send President Obama an e-mail in support of early childhood education programs.
        1. To e-mail the President, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.
        2. Use the web form to send the White House an email. Here is a sample message you can type into the form: Dear President Obama, Please urge Congress not to drop 300,000 children from child care and Head Start. Make sure that continued funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start is NOT REDUCED in the FY 2011 appropriations bill and that the Early Learning Challenge Fund is included. These programs help children learn and develop skills they need to succeed in school and in life. They also help families get ahead by giving parents the support they need to be productive at work. Thank you.

      Please tell your networks and friends to take action tomorrow, Tuesday, November 30. The more people who take action, the more our voices will be heard in this very important time.

      sign up button foward email button share on button twitter email button facebook email button


      Preschool California | 414 13th St., Ste. 500 | Oakland, CA 94612

      NOVEMBER 30th: AFT Legislative Action meets LAUSD RIF’s

      smf: Tomorrow seems to be a Cosmic Confluence as LAUSD sends out RIF termination notices to Plant Managers and Librarians and the Lame Duck Congress potentially ends extended unemployment benefits and extends tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.

      Tor Cowan, American Federation of Teachers Director of Legislation writes:

      29 November 2010

      Dear Scott,

      Tomorrow, 800,000 workers who have been looking for jobs for more than six months will lose unemployment insurance. Two million will lose benefits if congressional inaction continues through December. Yet at the same time, Congress is considering cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans. We cannot let this happen.
      Congress must pass a yearlong extension of this insurance program before the holiday recess, or else unemployment benefits will be cut off. Take a moment now to have your voice heard, and ask your friends to help.

      Tell Congress to vote to continue unemployment insurance through 2011.
      Cutting off benefits would have a devastating impact on unemployed workers, their families, local businesses and communities. And as time runs out for these struggling Americans, it is unconscionable that Congress is simultaneously considering irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

      Write to your representative and senators today.
      We need to support struggling Americans who are out of work, instead of extending an irresponsible tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.

      In unity,
      Tor Cowan
      Director of Legislation


      Editorial By Carole Nese in the Los Feliz Ledger | http://bit.ly/gD4kS6

      Friday, November 26th, 2010 - 7:10 am | Have you seen them around the neighborhood?  John Marshall High School students walking the streets, carrying shovels sacks of mulch and heavy buckets of water. Wonder what they are doing off campus?

      These students are in Mr. Jay Benoit’s Horticulture class and they are on a mission of beautification, learning and caring for the earth.  They are planting and tending the new trees along Tracy Street from Talmadge to Hyperion.

      The Horticulture is class part of the curriculum of the School for Environmental Studies, one of the eight “Small Learning Communities” at John Marshall High School.

      A total of 400 students—freshman  to seniors—are enrolled in the School for Environmental Studies program that is designed to encourage students to seek careers in green industries.

      Mr. Benoit received his college degree in ecology and created the School for Environment Studies four years ago after teaching at JMHS for eight years and seeing the need.

      In addition to the Horticulture class, the students take core classes together—social studies, science, English—with assignments and curriculum focused on environmental issues.  Woodshop and Design are two of the other required classes in the School for Environmental Studies.  Those classes, taught by Jeff Fong (woodshop) and Jose Galdos (design) teach the students about green building, use of recyclable and energy efficient materials and building off the grid, using their own independent power sources and recycled water supplies.

      Although many of his students did not start out that way, Mr. Benoit is proud of the fact that students in the School for Environmental Studies have the highest API (academic performance index, mandatory high school testing) among the small learning communities at Marshall, with a total score of over 700.              

      In addition, no student has ever chosen to leave the School for Environmental Studies program to go to another program at Marshall or and no student has ever dropped out of school.  Every student has completed their high school education and 90% are college bound.

      Students say they chose this program because they like working with their hands, watching things grow and the teachers.  Many have had to work to help their families and they appreciate work that designs and creates scenic beauty. Many of them say that an outdoor classroom, field trips and planting trees are great ways to learn and it is peaceful and rewarding to breathe cleaner air, help the planet and create a healthier world.

      Career choices in the program include environmental law, medicine, public health, solar energy, environmental engineering and landscape design.  Creativity and imagination are the only boundaries to selecting careers in this program, students say.  A few are even thinking of careers in culinary arts, incorporating their knowledge of locally grown foods and organic produce.  Working in a green, energy efficient world appeals to them.  Their college choices range from Trade Tech to USC and UCLA.

      Currently, there are 40 students in Benoit’s Horticulture class.  They learn about native and drought tolerant plans and landscaping.  The drought tolerant plants and trees the students plant in the neighborhood are indigenous to Southern California and never have to be watered once they are firmly established in the ground.  The students’ work outside to propagate, cultivate and care for what they plant.  They nurture and cherish the trees and look upon the neighborhood as their own backyard.

      The purpose of the Small Learning Communities within LAUSD high schools is to personalize education for public school students and encourage students toward a direction on their lifetime career path.  The district decided to divide the high schools into small learning communities a few years ago, making them more like schools within a school.  Each program has their own Assistant Principal and the JMHS principal, Mr. Daniel Harrison, oversees all of the Small Learning Centers.  In days past, students would choose a major in high school, now they choose a small learning community program in a field that will help them decide what they want to do when they grow up.

      After establishing the School for Environmental Studies, Benoit applied for and received a California Partnership Academy grant, a state grant funded through the California Department of Education.  The application process is arduous and only the best programs in the state are awarded the funds.  The School for Environmental Studies is the only program at Marshall that receives grant money from the California Partnership Academy.  The grant provides hands on technical training in green industries and allows students to go on field trips where they job shadow professionals.

      A large part of the neighborhood, organized by David Farmer, leader of the Marshall Area Neighborhood Watch, came out to thank the students for all of their caring and hard work with sandwiches, fruit, milk and cookies early on a recent Monday morning.

      When given a chance, homeowners and neighbors spoke in unison: “The local community has benefited from all of the hard work of these students and we thank you; it’s all beautiful!”

      Carole Nese is a member of the Marshall Area Neighborhood Watch

      Sunday, November 28, 2010

      JOHN MOCKLER ON PROP 98’s RELEVANCE: Initiative's father looks back & bleakly ahead

      By John Fensterwald - Educated Guess | http://bit.ly/eiyDPq

      This year, the Legislature suspended Proposition 98 because revenues actually increased, and lawmakers and the governor didn’t want to pay K-12 schools and community colleges all that they were legally owed. Next year, they can meet the Prop 98 minimum while slashing at least $2 billion for K-12 education.

      Is Prop 98 still useful – or is it working to schools’ disadvantage? Is there something better? I posed these and other questions to John Mockler, the architect of Prop 98 and the man who best knows its arcane details (he may be the only one). Mockler is president of John B. Mockler and Associates, a consulting firm specializing in education policy and finance. He’s the former executive director of the California State Board of Education in the Davis administration and served as interim secretary of education. For more than three decades, he has worked in both the public and private sectors, including a decade working for the Legislature on education funding and educational achievement.

      What follows is a partial transcript of our conversation (my clarifications are in italics). Prop 98, which voters passed in 1988, sets the state’s minimum annual level of spending for K-12 schools and community colleges, under one of three “tests” determined by state revenue and economic conditions. Over the years, governors and legislators have become adept at manipulating factors behind Prop 98 calculations. For a primer on Prop 98, see here.

      JF: When you created Proposition 98 in 1988, did you envision the kind of recession that we would have now, and what would happen to revenues for schools if that happened?

      JM:            No,  I didn’t envision the political forces cutting taxes in such a regular manner. The vehicle license fee, which this governor cut, is a $6.5 billion-a-year-giveaway to local government. That comes directly out of the state general fund. Well, actually, what they did is, they moved property taxes away from schools. So, no, I didn’t envision that.

      JF:            Prop 98 was always envisioned as a floor, no?

      JM:           Exactly. It’s called “minimum guarantee,” of course, for that purpose. That’s what its title is.

      JF:            But does it address the fundamental question of, are we supporting enough education?

      JM:            It does not, and it never was designed to do that.

      JF:            Explain that.

      JM:          Well, it was designed to have the governor and Legislature cut less. I mean, when you looked at the preceding decade of funding (before 1988), the Legislature and governors would say education was their highest priority. And then they would cut it. And even in years when they had all the excess money above the Gann Limit, under Gov. Deukmejian, they could have given that money to schools. Instead, they cut the schools, and they gave that money back to the taxpayers. And that’s when people sitting around the room said, “Well, they ain’t gonna give money to schools even when they have money. So let’s do something! Not the perfect solution, but something.”

      JF:   So, in the context in which it was created, it served a great purpose. Did you envision it becoming a permanent fixture the way it has?

      JM: No. I presumed that it would be a minimum and that, in better years, we would increase money above it. And, in fact, there have been two years when we did do that – went above it – and that is locked in for subsequent years. But Prop 98 said you only go up until you reach the average of the top 10 states.

      JF:            I didn’t realize that.

      JM:            Yeah. That  is in the guarantee and so it was envisioned as doing that: It was moving California to the average of the top 10 states. That it has never done.

      JF:            Well,  last year the Legislature suspended it; and next year, according to the LAO (Legislative Analyst’s Office) projection, you would — you could — meet 98 with at least $2 billion less for schools because of the expiration of $8 billion in temporary taxes. So should we be looking at a different measure? Is Prop 98 still useful?

      JM:            Well, I think it’s still useful, although I think there are a number of things you could do to adjust it in a different way. When the Legislature implemented Prop 98, it wanted data to be current, so it used the ADA (average daily attendance) of the current year compared to the previous year, as well as current revenues. So, in fact, you don’t know what the guarantee is going to be in the budget until a year after the budget is passed. So it’s unpredictable.

      Something like that could be fixed: Essentially you could use an average of the immediately-preceding three years, and then you’d actually know what the guarantee is in every year before you finish the budget.

      If revenues go down in one year and then pop back up, you get to lower the guarantee. But then you’ve got to pop it right back up the next year, and those real sharp lines mirror the problems with the capital-gains and income taxes and with cuts. But if you averaged it over a 3-year period, then the downs would be a little lower, and the ups would be a little lower, so it would be more manageable in a budget sense. I’m not certain how to do it, but I think something like that is worthwhile.

      Whereas now, they pass the budget and make an estimate, and it turns out they were wrong by a lot or a little – mostly, it’s a lot – because they tend to understate it, and then they owe money, and they tend to underfund it.

      JF:            But as you often say, “The schools are different. The population is different. The needs are different – very different – from what they were 20 years ago.” And so does Prop 98, because it becomes this very difficult-to-understand formula, not address the issue of, “Are we funding the schools enough to meet the needs of our students, and the demands that we placed on them?” Is that a better conversation?

      JM:            No, that certainly doesn’t answer that question. And that question certainly is a serious question, and one that ought to be talked about. But if tomorrow the good Lord eviscerated Prop 98, would that change the conversation? If it would, I’d give it up in a heartbeat; but I don’t think so. Those conversations didn’t go on before we had Prop 98, so why would we think they’d go on if we took it away?

      ‘That is in the guarantee: It was moving California to the average of the top 10 states. That it has never done.’

      JF:            In the next four or five years, things look bleak, so what do you recommend? What’s the strategy one should use?

      JM: I think there’s a series of strategies; none of them, at this point, are going to be successful until we figure out what to do about this, the first $25, $28 billion (projected state budget deficit for next year). In the context of that, it’s very hard to talk about improvements in public-school funding, because it’s a disaster. It’s gotten worse both because of the tax structure and because of the tax behavior. That is to say, of the essentially $15 billion ongoing current-income to current-expense debt (the ongoing structural deficit), $10 billion of that is caused by the car-tax elimination, the $2 billion giveaway to the multinational corporations, and $1.5 billion  in debt repayment that the current governor borrowed to finance the budget he said he was going to balance.

      So these are self-inflicted acts of the Legislature and the governor and the people of California.

      JF:            Given this current way we fund schools and distribute the money, categoricals and the like, are there ways that we could at least make them more efficient and fair without increasing any money in the near term?

      JM:            Well, quite little. I could walk in and rip off all of Palo Alto’s basic aid and distribute it among low-income districts. The people in Fresno would feel good, and the people in Palo Alto would feel very bad. I don’t know that would solve anything, but we could do that.

      JF:            Right. Well, the problem is, whatever you do, you’d have to hold all the districts harmless.

      JM:            Well, but to hold them harmless, there’s no policy change, is there?

      JF:            Well, you hear a lot about the legacy of disparities in revenue limits (among neighboring, similar-sized districts).

      JM:            Yeah, but they’re there, and ought to be fixed; but it’s not a major reform.

      JF:            Well, if you were going to make the argument to Jerry Brown that he should go out and argue for more money for the schools, how would you make that?

      JM:           I would say, “Let’s assume you didn’t have a $25 billion deficit to deal with. Now, would you go out and try to help the schools get a little more money?” I would say, “What are the structural impediments to moving schools towards a national-average funding model?” Then I would talk probably more about the ability of locals to raise money, not the state. And I would talk about some simplification, some power equalization. I would talk about some trade-offs locally, the things they’d have to do. We’d give them more flexibility, but we’d require some substantive minimums.

      In other words, if you call yourself a school, you have to have books and paper and pencils and technology for your kids, and you have to have clean places for them to go to school.  I’d say, “We’ll give you more flexibility, and then we’ll give the right to raise money locally.”

      I don’t think there’s a chance of big money coming from the state in my lifetime. And there are tough issues in this, too. We have so many little teeny districts, it’s very hard to do a taxing authority at the district level. So, in some areas you may have to do it by combining in high school boundaries or countywide or something like that, but you have to do something to make the tax broader.

      JF:            How would you deal with the equity factor?  The tax burden on poor districts to raise money versus wealthy districts?

      JM:            The problem is a little less than most people think. It is a problem in some areas, but the fact is that the majority of poor kids live in high property-wealth areas. High property-wealth areas are like Oakland and Richmond and San Francisco and Los Angeles and Long Beach and Pasadena and San Diego. Those are all high property-wealth school districts.

      JF:            I didn’t know L.A. was among them.…

      JM:            The Serrano case (declaring unconstitutional the disparities in school funding derived from local property taxes) hinged on the finding of the Court testified to by the professors at Cal who said, “Oh, yes, sir, your Honor. The majority of poor children live in low-wealth school districts.” And that of course was their supposition, but they had no data. And as soon as the court decision came out, we ran the data, and 73 percent of all free-lunch kids lived in high-wealth districts. So, in fact, they just were wrong, which was sad. And those are the [kinds] of mistakes you make when you have lawyers make your policy.

      JF:            And presumably that would still be true today?

      JM:            I don’t know if it’s true today. The capacity is there, but remember, the distributions were done by the Legislature after Prop 13, so you may have to offer a variety of tax possibilities – a mix of maybe locals or sales or income tax. That’s why you need a broader base.

      JF:            I have assumed that there would be some kind of state matches in it.

      JM:            We did all that in AB 65 just before Prop 13 passed. Jerry Brown signed it, and then, bammo! Prop 13 passed, and it was all theoretical.

      JF:            So what would your advice be to Jerry Brown with regard to –

      JM:            Oh, you know. I don’t give governors advice through the press. If he wants my advice, he’ll call.

      JF:            Okay. Well, for the Legislature. Too many of them to call you, John, so you can tell them through the blog.

      JM:            Well, I think they have to continue the taxes that they have (temporary sales and income taxes set to expire next year). They can’t kick out those taxes. They can’t – I think there’s no question. In the short run, there’s going to be some cuts, but I don’t think the cuts ought to be as major; I mean $25 billion– that’s about 22 percent of all budgets.

      JF:            Yeah.

      JM:            That would be $7 billion out of education.

      JF:            At what point do folks see a breaking point? I mean at what point is there a breaking point?

      JM:            I don’t know what the voters see. Look at the election. About 43 percent of the electorate voted in favor of that small fee for the parks, and about 44 percent or a little less voted to stop giving the tax giveaways to the multinational corporations.

      JF:            But parcel taxes, although they got a beating in this last election, most of them got over 50 percent.

      JM:            Yes, yes, so that’s another way to go. But it’s a small, poor revenue source, but it’s certainly a way. And most of the parcel taxes don’t  cover very many students in the state.

      JF:            The point I was making was that it reflects an attitude, that folks are willing to spend on education.

      JM:            Yeah, I think the public is much more attuned to raising taxes to support the public schools. What they fear is the money will go to Sacramento and somehow be eaten up by some unknowable something, and they fear that it won’t be spent in the classroom. Perceived fears are very powerful things. So if you need to get around that hurdle, you need to say, “Okay. We’re gonna adjust your taxes at some point, and you’re going to spend them locally, and you have to spend them on instruction, not on joy rides.”

      JF:            Well, that brings to the Robles-Wong v California (the lawsuit, one of two this year that challenges adequacy of funding levels for all districts, low-income schools in particular). If there were some kind of an adequacy settlement that did that, and redistributed the money, and brought local control as part of that settlement, could a governor go out and sell that, along with higher taxes?

      JM:            Not in the current circumstance, but perhaps in a future circumstance.

      Maintenance factor and manipulations

      Under Prop 98, annual expenditures for schools are supposed to grow at least as much as Californians’ personal income, adjusted as well for growth in student population. For about half of the years since Prop 98’s enactment, it has. In years when the economy falters and state revenues fall, Prop 98 allows the Legislature to fund schools less (but not less than about 40 percent of the general fund). But the Legislature is obligated to keep track of what the schools don’t get and then make up the difference when good times return.

      This is known as the “maintenance factor” – the debt that the Legislature must restore to schools, under a set formula. I asked Mockler about the maintenance factor, which is a source of confusion to the uninitiated, and about deferrals, another source of Prop 98 manipulation.

      JF: So what is the current Prop 98 obligation to K-12 schools and community colleges?

      JM:         $60 billion. But the governor and legislators have borrowed $10 billion from schools, so they’re only paying us $50 billion. (These are round numbers. It’s really $59.7 and $49.7.) So they owe us $10 billion.

      JF:            Okay. That’s an accumulation –

      JM:            It’s accumulated basically from the past four years.

      JF:            Okay. And the LAO predicts it will soon be $13 billion?

      JM:            Well, that could well be. That is, what they’re saying, if they borrow the money they want to borrow from us in the next year.

      JF: When will this be paid back? And…will the schools see the money in …

      JM:            It’s never paid back. Remember this. When you borrow from local government, you pay it back with interest within two years. When you borrow from the New York bankers, you pay it back with interest. When you borrow from the schools, you only restore it. You don’t pay for the years you haven’t paid it, and you only restore it in years in which general-fund revenues grow more quickly than personal income. And so schools get half of the amount of revenues, general-fund revenue growth, that exceeds the growth in personal income, which happened, by the way, in the current year, and of course they suspended Prop 98 and didn’t pay it.

      JF:            In other words, when good years return, you will not be paid for the past years in which you were owed the money.

      JM:            Right.

      JF:            But you will be paid …

      JM:           You restore the base going forward.

      JF:            And at an accelerated rate?

      JM:           Right. Well, it’s a mathematical formula.

      JF:            Okay. Can the Legislature play with how the payment will be made?

      JM:            Well, they just suspended Prop 98. Which is legal. One would think, when revenues were growing faster than personal income, you would not have to suspend it, but they have this state in such a mess that that, in fact, occurred. One would not imagine that occurring in a government that was run by adults.

      JF:            Yeah. And the reason they suspended it was the fear of the maintenance factor?

      JM:            Yeah. There was fear that they had to pay more than they wanted to pay. And they did. It’s suspended by $3 billion.

      JF:           Do you foresee that happening repeatedly?

      JM:            Well, I always have hope, but I’m often disappointed.

      JF:            Is this one of the fixes that you would make to Prop 98?

      JM:            No. I mean I don’t know. The “fix” is kind of the smoothing idea I talked about. That would make the “downs” lower and the “ups” lower, so you wouldn’t have jerky revenue changes, right?

      JF:            If you did this fix, what would happen to the maintenance factor?

      JM:            The maintenance factor stays the same, but it gets restored at a slower pace. The guarantee goes down (more slowly). Now, because the revenues are very volatile, the Prop 98 maintenance factor goes up. And when they go down, the maintenance factor is recreated, because general-fund revenues grow more slowly than personal income, in which case, they take money away from us fast. So this would just slow that.

      JF:            So the other way that schools have been played with is through deferrals.  I think it’s around $8 billion now.

      JM:            I’ll pay you Tuesday for a hot dog today.

      JF:            Right! Is that outside 98, right?

      JM:            Well, no. It’s a manipulation of it. It’s a huge manipulation, because what it’s saying is, “We owe you the money, but we’re going move the cash to next year. Charge it against next year’s guarantee but let you book it as if it was this year. [There are] two kinds of deferrals. There’s one deferral at the end of the year, where they’re supposed to pay you in September, and they didn’t pay you till July. That has a huge cost to schools. And then [there are] the cross-fiscal-year deferrals.

      Both have costs to school districts, but the one across the year is simply a manipulation of Prop 98.

      JF:            Did you imagine that would happen, as well?

      JM:            No. No.

      JF:            In other words, technically, they’re meeting the responsibility of 98.

      JM:            They were.

      Saturday, November 27, 2010

      CIRCLE OF LEARNING IS MORE THAN A FIGURE OF SPEECH: Teachers are using a traditional technique to help students communicate with one another as a way to build bonds that will foster learning and help them stay in school.

      By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times | http://lat.ms/fhvCYILearning circles

      Wilshire Park Elementary student Julia Kim talks during a session about acts of kindness. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times / November 27, 2010)

      November 27, 2010 --It's story time at Amelia Earhart Continuation School, a place where high school students who have ditched class, flunked out or otherwise fallen behind in their academic credits come to catch up.

      On this day, the students in Nancy Stringer's English class sit in a circle. As they pass around a "talking piece" — a black rubber rat named Scar — they share stories of elementary and middle school.

      I stabbed a kid. I broke my hand. I got my first kiss. I got straight A's. I was scared of ghosts because a janitor committed suicide.

      It may seem simple, but the North Hollywood students say that sharing stories in this way — a practice known as "council" — has made a huge difference in their lives. Through stories, they say, they have come to know and trust one another, building strong bonds that have helped them stay in school.

      "Here, everyone cares about each other," said Jessica Beristain, a 17-year-old sophomore who added that she used to ditch her classes constantly to escape "screaming teachers" and hostile students at her previous school. "Now school is fun."

      Cultures worldwide have long used speaking and listening circles — most notably, Native Americans. But now a modernized form, developed by the nonprofit Ojai Foundation, has spread to 12,000 students via 600 trained teachers in more than 60 schools, many of them in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

      Joe Provisor, who helped launch the program in the district in 2006, said research shows that strong school relationships are critical for a student's success. But those bonds are harder to forge in today's educational climate, he said, where academic pressures have crowded out time for social and emotional development.

      "This is bringing humanity back to the schools," said Provisor, a teacher advisor with the district's office of curriculum, instruction and school support. "Schools are so focused now on testing and assessment — the download and regurgitation of content. Council is the practice of listening to children and to one another."

      Judy Elliott, L.A. Unified's chief academic officer, called the program a "very powerful tool" to help students transcend race, gender, disabilities and other dividing lines. It also gives teachers a strategy to make the curriculum come alive, she said.

      At Amelia Earhart, for instance, Stringer has used council for literature, asking students to say which character they most identified with in the novel " One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Another teacher, Ron Narita, has used it for his Earth science class — asking everyone to tell a story about an earthquake, volcano or other geologic event.

      "It helps them respond to curriculum in a more open way," Narita said.

      Not everyone is a fan. Some have criticized the program as an unlicensed attempt at therapy, a "spiritual" or Native American practice and a drain from teaching time, Provisor said.

      But he and others stressed that no psychological counseling is involved and, in public schools, no religious teachings are promoted. And some schools try to steer students away from some controversial topics, although teachers are required to report abuse or other criminal behavior.

      At places like Pressman Academy, a Jewish day school affiliated with Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles, teachers and students use council as ways to convey Jewish values.

      During a recent session, Headmaster Rabbi Mitchel Malkus presented three religious texts related to bullying and exclusion. He reminded students that Jews, having suffered exclusion for centuries, had an obligation to stick up for those similarly treated. Then he asked students to share stories about bullying.

      The Ojai Foundation, an educational retreat center, developed the practice of council in the 1980s to help teachers at the retreat center learn to do a better job of listening to others, Provisor said.

      The Herb Alpert Foundation donated a three-year, $750,000 grant to Ojai to establish council in L.A. Unified. Additional grants from the Annenberg Foundation and Furlotti Family Foundation have helped sustain it, Provisor said.

      At Wilshire Park Elementary School in Koreatown, about a third of the teachers have started councils.

      On a recent day, Alex Dia's second-graders sat in a circle with a center display of stuffed animals, a plant, a pillow, wooden tigers, stones, shells and a candle. They reviewed the council guidelines to speak and listen from the heart, opened with a ritual and offered dedications to loved ones.

      Then they responded to Dia's prompt for the day — to tell a story about kindness. The aim was not only to promote the value of kindness, Dia said, but also to launch the district's six-week literature theme and build verbal expression and the elements of good writing through stories enriched by details.

      My brother let me play with his iPod. I helped grandma bake cupcakes. My friend took me to a movie and bought me popcorn and nachos.

      Zianne Hinojas, 6, said she has learned to be respectful and "don't disturb others when they're talking." She said she would like to bring the practice home to her three brothers, who grab her toys.

      Back at Amelia Earhart, once-perennial ditcher Jamie Cruz, 17, said that she has befriended classmates she never would have acknowledged before. The friendships have drawn her back to school. And that, in turn, has helped her discover a passion for writing.

      "We share a bond now, and that's made school a place I want to be," she said.

      smf: The Ojai Institute Council program has been successful at Palms Middle School for years and was implemented at Walter Reed Middle School when my daughter went there and I was PTA president.     It’s good stuff!