Friday, July 31, 2015

ELI’S COMIN’ …better hide your heart girl

Message dated July 8 Received by  Cortines VAPA High School/Central High School #9 parents on July 31st


…and where’s Dr. Vladovic on the letterhead?

Eli’s Comin’ meanings: from Urban Dictionary

Eli's Coming: a 1967 song by singer/songwriter Laura Nyro from her album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, covered by Three Dog Night

  1. A phrase signifying a portend of something evil. (source: Three Dog Night, "Eli's Coming")
  2. To make reference to an inveterate womanizer who is on his way. (ibid)
  3. “Eli” is the Prophet Elijah and his second coming is an apocalyptic portent, similar in the Jewish tradition to the Second Coming of Christ in the Christian tradition.

"I got up this morning and felt weird... I think Eli's Coming."

See also: By the Numbers: How to Tell if your School District is Infected by the Broad Virus |



from LA School Report

LAUSD board meeting lost in transparency

by Michael Janofsky, Editor, LA School Report |

Students face LAUSD board, demanding end to military weapons

by Mike Szymanski | LA School Report |

LAUSD school board

Posted on July 31, 2015 10:33 am  ::  For more than a year, students, parents, community groups and even LA Unified members, themselves, have demanded greater transparency in how the board conducts the business of the nation’s second-largest school district.

Too often, critics say, the board moves with no apparent effort to broaden the conversation or even allow the public to watch the process unfold, let alone participate.

And now it’s happened again.

Maybe it’s only a small example, but it’s a perfect metaphor that illustrates the sometimes cavalier approach the school board takes to informing the public, thus strengthening community participation, input and trust.

“School board meetings, by their nature, are inconvenient. Whether they are scheduled at 1 pm, 4 pm or 6 pm, they disadvantage large numbers of people whose jobs and family responsibilities deny them the ability to attend.”

The LAUSD board had a meeting last night — an open session, followed by a closed session. The agenda went up early in the week, along with the reminder that the open session would be televised on KLCS and live-streamed over the internet. Closed sessions remain private.

But when 6 pm came, time to start, screens stayed blank.

No video. No audio. Nothing.

A parent, a student, a community member who might have wanted to see what the members were up to were shut out. And so they missed an update on the federal government’s efforts to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. They missed a flurry of committee assignments.

And they missed seeing a vivid example of democracy in action, a real, live event of students protesting a federal program that has delivered military-grade weapons to school districts across the country, including LA Unified.

OK, so maybe these weren’t Man-Bites-Dog moments. But they were part of a public agency’s work with publicly-elected officials in charge. That means taxpayers have the right to see what’s up, but they got to see nothing.

What happened? It’s not entirely clear, but it was hardly an anomaly. Sometimes when the open part of a meeting is pre-judged to be too short to turn on cameras and microphones, the people in charge of these things decide not to turn them on. Saves money.

Last night, a decision was made to skip the video but provide audio. Then word came from a district official, “The TV crew failed to throw the switch to broadcast the audio.”

And so, we got blanks. And silence.

School board meetings, by their nature, are inconvenient. Whether they are scheduled at 1 pm, 4 pm or 6 pm, they disadvantage large numbers of people whose jobs and family responsibilities deny them the ability to attend.

That’s why televising and live-streaming them makes so much sense. It educates. It allows for participation, It builds trust. It provides transparency.

The opposite of all that happened yesterday.

Posted on July 31, 2015 9:24 am   ::  The LA Unified board endured a long and unusual protest last night as about 50 students demanded specific actions to get military-style weapons out of the hands of district school police.

The students, some of them wearing bullet-proof vests, chanted for 20 minutes at the start of a meeting — “Back to school, no weapons” and “We want justice for our schools” — in protesting the federal 1033 Program, a federal effort that provides school districts with surplus military-grade weapons. LA Unified has been a recipient.

Board president Steve Zimmer let the chanting continue and at one point said, “Let them go on.”

The demonstration inside the board meeting followed two hours of drumming and shouting outside LA Unified headquarters, with students holding signs bearing the face of President Obama and Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

Manuel Criollo, a protest organizer from the Labor Community Strategy Center, told the board that he wanted an end to the program, which had given the district a tank, three grenade launchers and dozens of M-16s. The district returned the tank and grenade launchers last fall, but has kept the M-16s. In a June letter the Criollo’s group, Cortines said the district had ended its involvement with the program.

Brillo called for the board to be more public about the weapons and demanded that they be returned.

“It’s ironic that we have surplus weapons but we do not have surplus books,” he said.

Inside, the crowd called out to the only black school member, George McKenna, and he responded by recalling his own experiences with civil unrest while defending the need for school police to be prepared for any occasion in which student safety is at risk.

“First of all, in 50 years of going to schools from Inglewood to Compton, I have never seen such weapons,” McKenna told the crowd. “I have always seen gang members with weaponry that exceeds the police. I have held dying children shot by each other, not by police.”

He challenged, “I have not seen this school police with M-16s on school site, and neither have you. I would hate the school police to make a 911 call because they cannot stand down to an over-armed person on campus.”

In response to the crowd’s calling for more money for books and not weapons, he said, “If weaponry is given to us, we’re not paying for it, we’re not taking it away from book money.”

Then, he said, “I would rather have what we don’t need than need it when we don’t have it.”

McKenna talked about teaching at Jordan High School in 1965 when the Watts Riots broke out. “We did not have police officers,” he said. He pointed out he was against metal detectors at schools, but then saw the proliferation of violence and then changed his mind.

“I saw Tookie start the Crips right there in my neighborhood,” he said, referring to the notorious gang leader Stanley (Tookie) Williams, who was convicted for two murders and executed in 2005. “It kills me that they may not be safe in schools, but they will not shot by police.”

Board member Mónica García also addressed the students.

“I have to tell you, you are effective,” she said. “You may not get the ‘yes’ now, but you were heard, we heard you. You are right to be leaders.”

She pointed out that the school district has fewer suspensions and fewer expulsions than ever before.

“You have caused that to be true,” Garcia said. “You young people have cause that to be true, and I have the pleasure of chairing the School Safety Committee and we will take this up. We also have solution; it’s called literacy. When kids read they chose different.”

After the meeting, Criollo said he was disappointed that Zimmer didn’t take more of a stand. “Silence says a lot, and only one board member spoke in public, and they seem to be supporting the arming of their police,” he said.

Ashley Franklin, who helped organize the students, said it was a good civics lesson, even though they may be walking away disappointed. She held a debriefing with the students where they expressed feeling helpless, and talked down to, or even ignored.

“You were vocal, you were more vocal than those who have to power to be vocal, and that is a good thing,” she told the students.

Then, she added, “We are a starving army, and we are out maneuvered at this time. So, let’s go get some pizza.”


Search for new L.A. Unified superintendent takes initial step

By Zahira Torres | LA Times |

Ramon Cortines

Supt. Ramon C. Cortines is deep in thought while he listens to board members July 1 at a meeting at Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters in Los Angeles.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

July 31, 2015  8:32AM  ::  The Los Angeles Board of Education is taking its first steps toward launching a search for a new superintendent, a process that has been on hold for the past nine months.

After meeting behind closed doors late into the evening Thursday, the seven-member board directed staff members to start looking for companies qualified to conduct the search for its next leader.

Supt. Ramon Cortines came out of retirement in October to take the reins of the nation’s second-largest district after his predecessor, John Deasy, resigned under pressure. The 83-year-old Cortines agreed to a contract that runs through June 2016, but he has said he’d prefer to leave by the end of this year.

Comfortable with the direction of the Los Angeles Unified School District under Cortines, the board said it was been waiting for newly elected members to be seated before beginning the months-long search process. But board president Steve Zimmer said the delay was also part of an effort to get the district back on track.

"We had to approach this from a sense of stability," Zimmer said, adding that Cortines helped the district mend a malfunctioning student records system, balance a budget challenged by structural deficits and worked out a contract agreement with teachers that avoided a possible strike.

With the start of another school year just weeks away, school board members are under pressure to forge ahead with the search for a new leader of the 650,000-student district.

Zimmer said the school board expects to vet and hire a search firm by mid-September.

The lengthy search process — one that includes setting the selection criteria for the new superintendent and gathering public input — could take seven to eight months, according to board member Richard Vladovic.

We need to know where we're steering the ship, have a destination in mind, before we hire a captain to get us there - Los Angeles Board of Education member Richard Vladovic

That timetable means that students entering school in August will be gone or finishing up the year before the next superintendent arrives at the district.    

Vladovic said the board feels a sense of urgency but wants to conduct an extensive search that’s transparent and gives a say to parents, teachers and others.

He said the board also has to do some soul searching of its own.

“We need to know where we’re steering the ship, have a destination in mind, before we hire a captain to get us there,” Vladovic said.

The school board has largely relied on Cortines to quietly guide the district as it decides how to move forward after Deasy’s high-profile tenure.

Deasy’s resignation last year followed a series of missteps including a failed $1.3-billion effort to provide iPads to all students that became the target of an FBI investigation, the troubled rollout of a new records system that put students at risk of not graduating on time and frequent conflicts with school board members and the teachers union.

Some analysts say that those missteps may have cost two incumbent board members--Tamar Galatzan and Bennett Kayser--their seats after their opponents tied them to the iPad project.

Galatzan, a Deasy supporter, lost to teachers union-backed retired principal Scott Schmerelson, while Kayser was defeated by charter school co-founder Ref Rodriguez.

The two new members join a board that will have to find common ground in selecting a leader who is not only a capable administrator but whose ideology reflects their goals for the district.

Deasy championed a set of changes that included supporting the growth of charter schools and using test scores as a factor in teacher evaluations. Supporters said his hard-charging approach toward those goals was necessary, but critics said he was unwilling to compromise.



by Mike Szymanski | LA School Report |

superintendent searchPosted on July 31, 2015 9:15 am  ::  The LA Unified board voted last night to start the search for a new superintendent by issuing a request for bids to firms that would aide in the selection process.

The move is the first step toward identifying candidates to replace the current superintendent, Ramon Cortines, who has expressed a desire to step down by the end of the calendar year.

The board also voted to promote Sharon Howell to Associate Superintendent for Special Education. Previously an assistant superintendent, Howell will now see a $1 billion program for the 20 percent of students who fall into the program.




Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Posted on LA School Report  by Mike Szymanski |

July 29, 2015 11:36 am ::   In response to the “teacher jailing” of a beloved LA Unified teacher, Rafe Esquith, acclaimed actors Ian McKellen and Hal Holbrook joined past and present students in a You Tube video to offer their support for Esquith and to show how money spent from his after-school program, Hobart Shakespeareans, benefitted his students.

“It is our response to their request for 15 years of financial records of the Hobarth Shakespeareans,” said attorney Ben Meiselas, who is representing Esquith with Mark Geragos in a dispute with the district. The response was accompanied by a July 28 letter and signed by Geragos, questioning why an outside law firm hired by the district is delving into the school program that was paid for by donations and often by the teacher himself.

Geragos also questioned who hired the firm, Sedgwick, and under what authority is it investigating the financial history of Hobarth Shakespeareans.

In a letter to Sedwick lawyers, Geragos wrote:

“Your letter states that the scope of the investigation has changed, yet again, and is now focused on ‘Mr. Esquith’s compliance with government ethics laws in his actions with the Shakespeareans.’ Your July 20, 2015 letter to the Shakespeareans and your statements concerning Mr. Esquith constitute defamation of character per se. Please notify your legal malpractice carrier that we now intend to include the Sedgwick law firm as a defendant in our action against LAUSD for defamation of character and for aiding and abetting the tortious conduct and due process violations by LAUSD.”

The video begins with Oscar-nominated McKellen saying, “A confession, Rafe Esquith is one my heroes.”  He then speaks directly to LAUSD and explains what money collected by the after-school program supported.

“They learned Shakespeare and read all sorts of literature under Rafe’s guidance,” said McKellen, who has volunteered his time for the program. “Rafe was unjustly removed from the classroom where he does this miraculous work.”

The nearly five-minute video shows students with violins and guitars that the fund helped them buy. Students talked about going to Broadway shows in New York, the Lincoln Memorial and the John Steinbeck Museum. Former graduates talked about graduating first in their class from Brown University, attending University of Texas graduate school and attending Northwestern. Students said they learned dance, web design, acting, music and much more through the program.

McKellen holds up a “Lord of the Rings” book — he earned a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination in the movie adaption — and said, “And they bought books like this. That’s another way they’ve been spending their money.”

Holbrook, best known for his Tony winning and Emmy-nominated portrayals of Mark Twain, held up “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” the book that initially got the teacher in trouble. Holbrook asked, “Have you read it?”

Then, he quoted an actual quote from Twain and said, “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”


The New York Times


By KATE TAYLOR | New York Times |

Mayor Bill de Blasio, third from left, on his way to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office at the State Capitol on May 27. Mr. de Blasio was in Albany in part to make his case for renewing mayoral control of city schools. Credit Mike Groll/Associated Press

JULY 29, 2015  ::  Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has been out of office for a year and a half, but his influence over New York schools is practically as strong as ever.

A group devoted to continuing his education agenda and founded in part by his longtime schools chancellor has become one of the most powerful forces in Albany by pouring millions into lobbying and adroitly exploiting rivalries in state politics.

The organization, StudentsFirstNY, and another group with a similar focus called Families for Excellent Schools have formed a counterweight to teachers’ unions, long among the top spenders in the state capital. This year alone, the groups saw major elements of their platforms come to pass, such as tying teacher evaluations more closely to test scores, adding hurdles to earning tenure and increasing the number of charter schools, measures all unpopular with the unions.

Among the backers of StudentsFirstNY are major donors to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and to the Republican majority in the State Senate, two of the three parties to all negotiations. Emails and interviews show that StudentsFirstNY has been in regular contact with the governor’s office since his re-election.


Jenny Sedlis, the executive director of StudentsFirstNY. Credit Hilary Swift/The New York Times

At the same time, the two groups have become a major nuisance to Mr. Bloomberg’s successor as mayor, Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, who campaigned on reversing some of his predecessor’s policies and is friendly with the city teachers’ union.

The groups have delivered a drumbeat of attacks on Mr. de Blasio’s education policies in television advertisements, rallies where parents upbraid the mayor for not confronting what they call an education crisis, and weekly, or at times daily, emails to reporters. Amid this onslaught, Mr. Cuomo and the Senate delivered a rebuke to the mayor this year by agreeing to only a one-year extension of mayoral control of city schools. (By contrast, Mr. Bloomberg, a political independent, was initially given control for seven years, then received a renewal for six.)

In language that echoed that of important figures in both groups, Mr. Cuomo suggested that Mr. de Blasio had to earn the right to govern the city’s schools.

“Next year we can come back,” the governor said, “and if he does a good job, then we can say he should have more control.”

Jenny Sedlis, the executive director of StudentsFirstNY, said the group’s goal was to create a permanent organization to advance important education changes and neutralize the influence of the teachers’ union.

“Before we came on the scene, the pro-reform community would get together for episodic fights and then we’d scatter, and the U.F.T. was always there,” she said, referring to the United Federation of Teachers, the city teachers’ union.

“With StudentsFirstNY, there’s a board with a war chest that’s always there,” Ms. Sedlis added. “We’re there before the election and after. And that has to be reassuring for ed reformers who want to stick their necks out, and disconcerting for the other side.”

The group is so plugged into the capital that Ms. Sedlis has sometimes served as a go-between among different government offices, relaying messages and scouting information about education bills being considered. It has not hurt the group’s efforts that Mr. Cuomo and the Republican majority in the Senate are no fans of Mr. de Blasio.

Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Mr. de Blasio, said, “When a group professing to support education reform opposes mayoral control of schools, it calls into question what exactly it stands for.”

StudentsFirstNY was founded in 2012 by Joel I. Klein, who had been the schools chancellor for more than eight years under Mr. Bloomberg; Michelle Rhee, a former Washington schools chancellor; and the billionaire hedge fund managers Daniel S. Loeb and Paul Tudor Jones. It receives some support from StudentsFirst, the national organization Ms. Rhee founded in 2010, but has its own board of directors and functions independently.

Mr. Bloomberg himself does not appear to be involved in StudentsFirstNY. An aide, Howard Wolfson, said that he had not given money to the group. Reuters reported in 2012 that Mr. Bloomberg had helped finance Ms. Rhee’s national organization, but Mr. Wolfson would not confirm that.

Mr. Loeb hosted a fund-raiser for Mr. Cuomo this month at his home in East Hampton, N.Y. He and his wife have contributed $139,367 to Mr. Cuomo over the past five years, according to New York State Board of Elections records. In the same period, Mr. Jones and his wife have contributed $75,000, and another board member, Carl C. Icahn, has contributed $50,000 to the governor.

Mr. Klein, who is now the chief executive of Amplify, Rupert Murdoch’s education-technology company, is still a board member of StudentsFirstNY. Neither he nor most of the group’s major donors would comment on their support, though Mr. Jones said in a statement, “Maintaining the status quo is unacceptable, and that’s why StudentsFirstNY and others are fighting for reforms that can give parents more choices, ensure that only the best teachers are in the classroom and make sure that the best interests of the children in the system are put first.”

Making teacher evaluations more dependent on test scores, reforming tenure and increasing the number of charter schools in the city were all priorities of StudentsFirstNY and became significant pieces of the governor’s agenda for the 2015 legislative session, which he announced in his State of the State speech on Jan. 21.

Emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Law, as well as interviews, show that Mr. Cuomo and his senior education advisers were in close touch, by email and telephone, with Ms. Sedlis and her board members in the weeks after the governor’s re-election last November.

On Dec. 9, for example, the governor met with Ms. Sedlis and several of her board members at the Harvard Club to discuss education policy issues, a spokesman for StudentsFirstNY said.

Rupert Murdoch, left, and Joel I. Klein in November. Mr. Klein, who was New York City schools chancellor for eight years under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, is now the chief executive of Amplify, Mr. Murdoch’s education-technology company, and was a founder of StudentsFirstNY. Credit Carlo Allegri/Reuters

“Improving the state’s education system has been one of the governor’s top priorities since taking office,” Jim Malatras, the governor’s director of state operations, said through a spokeswoman, “and throughout that process, he has always partnered with groups, stakeholders, experts and other allies willing to fight for better futures for New York’s students.”

The governor’s proposals, particularly one that would base 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations on their students’ test scores, stirred fierce opposition from state and local teachers’ unions, as well as many principals and parents.

“If you look at the governor’s State of the State speech, it was almost taken word for word from their website,” Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said of StudentsFirstNY.

“We’re going to just tell everyone the governor is basically for sale at this point, because that’s what it is,” Mr. Mulgrew added. “It’s not a belief system.”

Despite the opposition, Ms. Sedlis was able to rely on close relationships in the Senate. Last fall, the organization’s donors financed a political action committee that spent $4.2 million on a successful effort to help the Republicans win a majority of the seats. (Mr. de Blasio, meanwhile, marshaled his donors to try to elect a Democratic majority, dispatching a top aide to run the campaign out of the offices of the city’s teachers’ union.)

StudentsFirstNY is already building a war chest for the 2016 legislative elections. In June, Paul E. Singer, a hedge fund manager who is the chairman of the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, and Mr. Loeb each donated $1 million to the organization’s political action committee.

In a compromise with the State Assembly, which Democrats control and where the teachers’ unions still have support, the law was changed to make it more difficult for educators to earn high marks and tenure, without any set percentage for the weight of test scores. Ms. Sedlis said her organization deserved some of the credit.

“I think we were a major part in creating a climate where that could happen,” she said, “because I don’t think the governor could go out on a limb on his own if there weren’t policy and advocacy groups that could help make that case.”

If the major players behind StudentsFirstNY are mostly clear, that is not the case for Families for Excellent Schools.

Last year, it spent $9.6 million on lobbying, more than any other entity in the state, according to state records. Much of this money was spent on advertisements attacking Mr. de Blasio for his opposition to charter schools and a later ad praising Mr. Cuomo for coming to their aid.

The group has also become closely associated with Eva S. Moskowitz, the chief executive of Success Academy, the city’s biggest charter school network, and one of Mr. de Blasio’s sharpest critics.

Families for Excellent Schools is approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 organization, referring to the section of the tax code regarding charities, meaning that donations are tax-deductible, and, under New York State law, it need not disclose donors.

Those organizations are allowed to spend only a small portion of their money on lobbying, but the federal definition of lobbying, in contrast with the state definition, is relatively narrow. A typical ad from the group praising a piece of legislation, for instance, does not count as lobbying under federal law because it does not specifically call viewers to action.

“The danger is the public really doesn’t know from the advertising who is trying to push public policy and what their motivations might be,” Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, a group devoted to curbing the influence of money in politics, said of Families for Excellent Schools.

Jeremiah Kittredge, the group’s executive director, defended the organization’s policy of keeping its donors secret, pointing to a protest that the group Hedge Clippers organized outside Mr. Loeb’s Hamptons home during the recent fund-raiser for Mr. Cuomo.

“Teachers’ unions have deliberately cultivated a politicized, nasty, hostile environment,” he said. “And there’s a long history of donors being harassed for promoting progressive issues. Look, that includes marriage equality. That’s pro-choice work.”

This month, a few days after the legislative session ended, Families for Excellent Schools began running an ad that featured shots of cheering families, and of Mr. Cuomo, over a hopeful, Morning-in-America-esque melody. The final screen read:

“Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for championing education.”

Monday, July 27, 2015


Your attention is directed to Item B,¶3 in the Closed Session Items: 

Public Employment/Appointment

Superintendent of Schools




By KATE TAYLOR | New York Times   |


Teachers College Community School opened in 2011 with Jeanene Worrell-Breeden as its principal. Credit Michael Appleton for The New York Times

JULY 27, 2015The principal of a popular elementary school in Harlem acknowledged that she forged answers on multiple students’ state English exams in April because the students hadn’t finished the tests, according to a memorandum released Monday by the Department of Education.

On April 17, the same day that someone made a complaint about the cheating, the principal, Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, of Teachers College Community School, jumped in front of a subway train. She died on April 25.

The accusations of cheating, and Ms. Worrell-Breeden’s suicide, have been previously reported, and the three-paragraph memorandum released on Monday offered a few new, if scant, details on the events preceding her death.

According to the memorandum, the Special Commissioner of Investigation, an office that investigates misconduct in the city’s schools, received an email complaint on April 17 that Ms. Worrell-Breeden had told someone that she had forged answers on multiple students’ answer sheets because they had not finished the tests.


<<Ms. Worrell-Breeden

The name of the person who made the complaint was redacted from the version of the memorandum that was released. It was not clear if it was the same person whom Ms. Worrell-Breeden had confided in, or a third person. Nor was it clear whether Ms. Worrell-Breeden forged answers just on the first of the three days of English tests, April 14, or on subsequent days, as well; and whether she knew a complaint was being made before she took her own life. A department spokeswoman declined to answer further questions.

The complaint was referred to a different office, the Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations, and on May 18, Robert Small, an investigator from that office, went to the school and conducted one or more interviews. The accusation of cheating was substantiated, according to the memorandum, which was written by Mr. Small. But because Ms. Worrell-Breeden had died, he recommended the case be closed.

As a result of the cheating, the city invalidated several dozen English test results for the school’s third grade. Those pupils were the oldest students at the school, which opened in 2011 with Ms. Worrell-Breeden as principal, and the first to take standardized exams. The invalidated results did not affect any student’s promotion to the fourth grade, the Department of Education said.

According to an obituary published by the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the city principals’ union, Ms. Worrell-Breeden had degrees from Penn State University, City College of New York and Fordham University and worked briefly on Wall Street before following her mother into education. She began teaching at Public School 18 in the Bronx, where she became principal in 2005.

  • Vivian Yee contributed reporting.


Related Coverage

City Invalidates Test Scores of Third Graders at Harlem School



JULY 26, 2015  ::  The results of several dozen standardized tests taken by third graders at a sought-after public elementary school in Harlem have been invalidated amid allegations of testing improprieties by the school’s principal, according to city education officials.

The principal, Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, 49, killed herself soon after the testing was completed at Teachers College Community School, adding a tragic note to the episode and raising questions about whether the allegations had factored into her death. She jumped in front of a B train near 135th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue on April 17, and was taken to Harlem Hospital Center, where she died on April 25, the police said.

The allegations against Ms. Worrell-Breeden were made the same day that she jumped, and a day after the city’s public school students in grades three through eight completed three days of English exams as part of a high-pressure state testing program.

It was the first year that Teachers College Community School, which opened in September 2011 with kindergarten, had children old enough to take the tests. Though this round of testing would serve as the school’s first official appraisal, many community members believed it was prospering.

“The tragic irony here is that by all accounts this school is a runaway success,” said City Councilman Mark Levine, who represents much of Harlem. “I’ve visited a number of times and am in regular communication with the parents. They seem to be thriving.”

Still, Ms. Worrell-Breeden took a proactive approach to preparing students for the exams. The school had begun incorporating elements of the standardized tests into the curriculum one year earlier, and offered an after-school academy five days a week for the second graders. During exam week in April, students began each day with a pep rally meant to ease anxiety.

It was this steadfast devotion to her students’ success that made Ms. Worrell-Breeden a popular figure among the school’s active parents.

“Aside from being inspiring and supportive, Jeanene was a visionary leader,” Laurie Kindred, who served as co-president of the parent-teacher association during the previous school year, said. “She was an impassioned, dedicated principal who stood by what she believed on behalf of the kids.”

Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Education, issued a statement on Sunday that confirmed that Ms. Worrell-Breeden “was the subject of allegations of testing improprieties.”

“An investigation substantiated these allegations, and we closed the investigation following her tragic passing,” the statement said. “This is a difficult time for the T.C.C. school community, and we will provide ongoing support to students, families and teachers.”

Ms. Kaye did not provide further details, saying that a report would be released on Monday. The investigation was reported on Sunday by The New York Post.

Teachers College Community School is run by the Education Department in partnership with Teachers College at Columbia University. The school offers many programs for students, including violin lessons for all third graders.

In the 2014-15 school year, there were 218 students enrolled in prekindergarten through third grade, nearly two-thirds of them black or Hispanic. The school, which admits students by lottery, has become one of the most popular in Harlem, drawing applications this year from 464 families for 50 kindergarten spots, Jim Gardner, a spokesman for Teachers College, said.

City education officials said the department’s Office of Special Investigations had substantiated the allegations against Ms. Worrell-Breeden, who was not interviewed during the investigation. They noted that the decision to invalidate the results of the 47 English exams would not negatively affect the students’ promotions to fourth grade.

A version of this article appears in print on July 27, 2015, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: Test Scores Invalidated at a School in Harlem.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

CHARTER SCHOOLS: Division in some communities, others begin to embrace the independent campuses

By Theresa Harrington and Doug Oakley Staff writers | - Inside Bay Area News |

Stephanie Castro, 8, middle, joins her fellow students in phonics exercises during class at Achieve Academy in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, July 17, 2015.

Stephanie Castro, 8, middle, joins her fellow students in phonics exercises during class at Achieve Academy in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, July 17, 2015. Two Education for Change Public Schools charters and two traditional Oakland district schools are participating in a K-2 pilot literacy program called "Springboard" that provides incentives for children to read and trains parents to read to their children. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group) ( Laura A. Oda )

07/25/2015 01:24:25 PM PDT  ::  The spread of charter schools throughout the East Bay and California is often viewed as a blessing or curse, depending on whom you ask.

In West Contra Costa County, where charters are still fairly new, some school district officials consider them unwelcome invaders that drain students and funding. But in Oakland, which has a long history of charters and a few highly successful schools that are considered models of the movement, district officials and charter school operators are finally settling into a more collaborative and symbiotic relationship.

As parents dissatisfied with schools in both districts flock to charters, the debate continues: What is their impact on public education, and can traditional educational models amicably coexist with an alternative movement that shows no signs of abating?

Teacher Holly San Miguel works with students in small group guided reading at Achieve Academy in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, July 17, 2015. Two Education

Teacher Holly San Miguel works with students in small group guided reading at Achieve Academy in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, July 17, 2015. Two Education for Change Public Schools charters and two traditional Oakland district schools are participating in a K-2 pilot literacy program called "Springboard" that provides incentives for children to read and trains parents to read to their children. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group) ( Laura A. Oda ) >>

California's charter law, created in 1992, gives more flexibility to charter schools than to traditional public schools, creating a two-tiered system of education that has at times led to animosity and division. It doesn't help that new charters must seek approval from the very districts that stand to lose students, along with the state money those students bring in.

"I think it would be good if we could get a shared sense of direction about what might be the right complement of charters to district schools," said Todd Groves, president of the West Contra Costa school board. "Under present law, people are free to float as many charters as they want, without really taking into account the impact on the district system, which at this point is serving higher-needs students in disproportionate representation."

Oakland has seen its charter enrollment grow from about 8.1 percent of the district's total student population a decade ago to more than 23 percent this year. West Contra Costa lags behind -- 10 years ago the district had two charters serving 1.3 percent of the district's students -- but is picking up the pace.

While district enrollment in traditional West County schools has been on a slow but steady decline, enrollment in charters has jumped. In the most recent academic year, eight charter schools educated 8.6 percent of students, and that number is predicted to reach 14.7 percent of total district enrollment -- 4,485 students -- in 2016-17.

Kimberly Cardenas, 7, left, and Karolina Castillo, 8, work together on a worksheet during guided reading at Achieve Academy in Oakland, Calif., on Friday,

<< Kimberly Cardenas, 7, left, and Karolina Castillo, 8, work together on a worksheet during guided reading at Achieve Academy in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, July 17, 2015. In Oakland, where the charter movement has a long history, district and charter officials are starting to work more collaboratively. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group) ( Laura A. Oda )

As Oakland has shown, that number will likely grow as more parents seek alternatives to the district's low-performing schools. Although a few charters have failed to measure up, both districts are bracing for more of the schools to open in the coming school year, and others with long waiting lists are planning to expand.

The trend is leading some district officials to fret about the long-term effects on their traditional public schools, including loss of students and state funding, and competition for high-quality teachers. It's also prompted some residents to ask the school board to consider closing or merging half-filled district campuses.

Kelly Garcia, executive director of Summit Charter in El Cerrito, which opened last year, said the school's 117 seventh-graders came from 28 elementary schools and reflect district demographics.

In Oakland, charters serve a smaller percentage of African-American and white students than district schools and a much higher percentage of Latino students, according to an analysis by this newspaper. In 2014-15, 53 percent of charter students in Oakland were Latino, compared with about 44 percent districtwide.

That reflects the growing push by Latino families to improve their children's education without turning to pricey private schools, said Noel Gallo, a school board member representing the Fruitvale district for two decades before being elected to the City Council three years ago.

"The ultimate goal for me is: 'Who can provide the best education for our children?' " he said. "Certainly, Oakland Unified as a district has done a below-basic job, if you look at the graduation rates. And that's why parents have chosen to take their children to charter schools."

From the beginning, Gallo said, the board and district administration focused more on the flow of district money going to charters as students left, rather than addressing lackluster academic quality that led parents to seek alternatives.

Often, friction erupts as soon as districts learn a new charter petition is in the works. If district school boards deny the petitions, charters can appeal to their county boards of education and then to the state Board of Education. Three of West County's eight operating charters were approved by the county, compared with six of 38 schools open for business in Oakland.

In Contra Costa, Summit's charter petition was approved by the county board over the objections of some community members who alleged that the schools skim "cream" from the top by taking high-achieving students.

Garcia, however, said only 20 out of 125 students who applied to Summit's El Cerrito campus last year performed at grade level before the school year began.

"We span the spectrum, from kids reading at first-grade level through high school," Garcia said. "I would say if we're 'creaming,' then I am terrified about what's going on at other (district) middle schools."

Parent Michael Ray Wisely, whose daughter attends Summit, said he became disillusioned with a district school board that was more focused on building flashy new facilities than on academics. Summit, he said, holds students and staff to higher academic standards and fosters a college-going culture.

"I felt public charters will force (district) public schools to get better just because charter schools will show them what success looks like," Wisely said.

Many people have misconceptions about charters, said Carol Lloyd, executive director of the GreatSchools national online rankings database. Some are high-performing, some are low-performing, some are run by large management organizations, and some are very small. There are schools that focus on STEM or performing arts, or have alternative instructional philosophies such as Waldorf and Montessori schools.

"The reality is that charter schools are more diverse as a group than (traditional) public schools, so you will find everything under the sun -- even a student who basically stays at home and works on a computer," Lloyd said.

The California Charter Schools Association recommends closing charters that don't meet expectations for student achievement and other standards.

One such school in West Contra Costa closed after test scores fell. But others are bucking the trend. Making Waves Academy, a charter middle school that opened in 2008, saw its Academic Performance Index score rise from 702 that first year, on a scale of 200 to 1,000, to 822 in 2013, far above the district's score of 717.

A study released in March by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO, found that most urban charter students in the Bay Area outperformed traditional district students in both English and math.

Oakland's American Indian Public Charter Middle School is a good example. The school scored 971 on the API in 2013, far exceeding California's proficiency target of 800. The average API score for district schools in 2013 was 742, compared with 809 for charter schools.

Oakland's charter movement can be traced to 2003, when the state took over the financially troubled district and concerned parents clamored for more choices for their children, according to Gary Yee, a self-described charter skeptic and a former school board member who was interim superintendent before Antwan Wilson took over as superintendent.

The distrust and acrimony that characterized charters' explosive growth has subsided somewhat with the June 2014 arrival of Wilson, who emphasized collaboration, not friction.

As a result, the district is working with charters "to exchange information and expertise and systems and to collaborate with them so we develop the best knowledge base and the best operation to support all our students," said spokesman Troy Flint.

As further proof, the Measure N parcel tax approved by Oakland voters last November will be split with charter schools on a per-pupil basis for students in grades 9 through 12, Flint said in an email. Approximately $2.8 million a year will go to charters, he said.

In contrast, the West Contra Costa school district has refused to share its parcel tax proceeds with charter schools, prompting a lawsuit from the California Charter Schools Association.

Although West Contra Costa school officials continue to say charters are hurting the district financially, Flint said the Oakland district doesn't really know how to calculate the impact on its budget.

"There is some financial impact, but really, the obligation of the local school district is to provide the highest-quality education for all students -- all public school students -- and not to let ideology interfere with our goal," he said.

"It's to our benefit to spend less time parsing the financial impacts of charter schools and as much time as possible making all the educational options available to kids better. That's a better use of our time."



●●smf's 2¢: When Great and The CCSA are the primary sources, it’s safe to assume you are reading a “puff piece”.

What Is a charter school? Charters are free public schools that receive state funding, but are operated independently. In California, most charter schools are nonprofits and are not legally considered to be public agencies.
SOURCE: California Charter Schools Association
More information about charter schools in California is available by calling the California Charter Schools Association at 916-448-0995 or by visiting
To see online rankings and reviews of local schools, including charters, visit
Oakland 38 12,084 52,008 23.2
West Contra Costa 8 2,630 30,596 8.6
SOURCE: California Department of Education

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Anya Kamenetz  | |



LA Johnson/NPR

July 22, 2015 8:03 AM ET  ::  Both houses of Congress have now passed versions of the bill that would update the largest federal education law, known as No Child Left Behind, for the first time since 2001. They are big, meaty and complicated, and now they have to be reconciled into one messy Dagwood sandwich of a bill to go to the president.

There's one slice in the pile that hasn't been widely discussed. The Senate version of the bill contains several amendments aimed at addressing one of the hottest issues in education: standardized testing. "This bill would ... reduce the burden of testing on classroom time," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in his official statement about the Senate bill.

At first glance that seemed to me like a surprising claim. After all, the bedrock federal requirement remains in place: testing every student, every year, in math and reading, from grades three through eight and once in high school.

However, while the law required, and still requires, annual testing, it doesn't specify how much or for how long. While the federal testing mandate remains, the new bill would encourage states to reconsider how that testing is implemented.

In other words, "test every kid every year" might not necessarily mean testing them for weeks on end.

Moreover, as we reported last year, the vast majority of standardized tests that students are taking in school are mandated by states and districts, not federal law. It's these tests that the Senate bill is especially trying to tackle, specifically through amendments introduced by two Democratic senators: Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

Baldwin's amendment, based on a bill she had previously introduced known as the SMART (Support Making Assessments Reliable and Timely) Act, would grant cash to states to audit their current testing program, soup to nuts:

  • How much money do the tests cost?
  • How much time do they take?
  • How long does it take for the scores to come out?
  • Are the tests "valid," "reliable," "relevant"?
  • Are they "accessible" to students with all kinds of disabilities?

Furthermore, the amendment would provide funds for the creation of new, better tests, to improve reporting of the data that come from tests, and to support teachers in using that information. And the money could be used to help teachers develop their own assessments that are "formative" and aligned to state standards. Formative is a technical term that implies tests that give useful, timely feedback for learning, as opposed to summative assessments that simply give students a stamp of approval or disapproval at the end of the year.

"This commonsense provision gives us the tools and resources to work with states and districts to reduce unnecessary assessments, especially by targeting redundant and low-quality tests," Baldwin told NPR.

You may have gone to school in an old building where the walls were sagging and peeling coat after coat of paint. If the wall is never properly stripped, the new paint can't go on smoothly. The same kind of years of buildup is apparent in district testing requirements at schools across the country.

A survey of states last year found at least 23 distinct purposes for tests, including: state and federal accountability, high school graduation, grade promotion, English proficiency testing, program evaluation, teacher evaluation, diagnostics, end-of-year predictions or fulfilling the requirements of specific grants. That can add up to 10 to 20 tests a year, or an average of 113 tests by the time students graduate.

Various groups, including the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools, have been trying to encourage states and districts to review and cut back on tests; the SMART Act would put funds behind that idea. It's been acclaimed by data and accountability-focused groups like the Education Trust and Teach Plus.

Sen. Bennet, a former district superintendent in Denver, added two more focused overtesting amendments to the bill. These would require states to cap the percentage of instructional time spent taking assessments required by federal law, the state or the local district. Districts would then have to notify parents if their district exceeded the state testing threshold.

The amendments would also require districts to publish more information to parents about testing.

"This is precisely what the Obama administration asked Congress to take on, and it is an important step to help reduce overtesting and shift to fewer — but better — tests," Dorie Nolt, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said of both Bennet's and Baldwin's proposals.

Cutting back on tests deemed "unnecessary" is one idea that has support from a broad range of education watchers. If these amendments make it through reconciliation, they're likely to have the president's support. Will they make anti-test and opt-out groups happy?

Not completely, but it's a start. Marla Kilfoyle is a teacher on Long Island, New York, a center of the opt-out movement, and the general manager of the Badass Teachers Association, a national group that opposes standardized testing. Hundreds of its members will be on Capitol Hill this week lobbying senators and the Department of Education to halt standardized testing, among other ideas aiming to empower teachers.

Kilfoyle spoke positively of the new flexibilities that would be granted to states in both the House and Senate versions of the bill. However, her group is adamant "that annual testing will NOT close the widening achievement gap."

They support testing students only once each in elementary, middle and high school, and using random sampling rather than testing every child in a grade. Bottom line? "We are disappointed that high-stakes annual testing still exists."

CHARTER SCHOOLS TAP THE MUNI BOND MARKET: With enrollments rising, they find it easier to borrow to expand

Edited by Eric Gelman | Bloomberg Businessweek  | [from the Kindle edition]


  Monday, July 30, 2015  ::   “Schools 5 or 10 years ago couldn’t get to the market”

The Children’s Aid Society sold municipal bonds on July 9 to raise money for its charter school, joining a record borrowing spree for such educational institutions across the U.S.

The New York charity will use the $40.7 million from the bond sale to build a six-story building to house its charter school in the South Bronx, says Chief Financial Officer Dan Lehman.

“The best and most reliable path out of poverty for children is educational achievement,” he says.

The school will also serve as a community center where students can take part in after-school programs. Source: FXFOWLE via Bloomberg

The school will also serve as a community center where students can take part in after-school programs. Source: FXFOWLE via Bloomberg>>

Charter schools have issued $1.2 billion of municipal bonds so far in 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and they are on pace to break last year’s record $1.9 billion.

Muni bond sales by charter schools have more than doubled over the past four years, setting records every year since 2012, according to a survey by Local Initiatives Support, a New York nonprofit that focuses on revitalizing neighborhoods. Federal rules allow nonprofits and private companies to sell tax exempt “public purpose” municipal bonds to raise money for projects that benefit the community. Charter schools, which are independently run and provide an alternative for parents of children in poorly performing districts, receive public funding based on how many students they serve.

Enrollments across the country climbed to 2.9 million in the school year 2014-15, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, up from 350,000 in 1999-2000.

“Schools 5 or 10 years ago couldn’t get to the market because they were too new,” says Wendy Berry, a financial adviser to charter schools and former Moody’s Investors Service analyst who wrote the Local Initiatives survey.

Even so, the debt is among the riskiest in the $3.6 trillion muni market because schools can close if enrollment drops or they lose their charter for poor performance. Of 818 charter school bond offerings since 1998, 41 issuers have defaulted, a rate of 5 percent, according to the survey. The average default rate for nonhousing muni bonds rated by Standard & Poor’s since 1986 is 0.03 percent.

To compensate for the risk, a 30-year charter school bond can yield as much as 5.6 percent, compared with 3.4 percent for AAA-rated muni bonds with the same maturity.

Susan Courtney, head of the muni bond team at Prudential Investment Management, looks for large charter schools with a proven record.

“You want to see steady enrollment trends, you want to see a decent waiting list,” says Courtney, who doesn’t plan to buy the Children’s Aid bonds. “Obviously, we’re also focused on the management and the board.”

Children’s Aid, founded in 1853, had never sold bonds before. Its school opened in 2012 and has about 280 students. Filling new classrooms should be easy: Enrollment in New York City charter schools has increased tenfold in the past decade, to more than 80,000 students, according to the New York City Charter School Center, an advocacy group. Almost 50,000 children are on waiting lists.

Unlike most charter schools that rely on revenue from enrollment to repay bondholders, Children’s Aid has promised to fund the debt regardless of how much money the school takes in. That led Standard & Poor’s to rate the bonds A+, based on the charity’s long record of successful operations and favorable fundraising trends.

The charity is paying 4.18 percent interest on the bonds. Similarly rated 30-year municipal debt yields about 3.4 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Children’s Aid receives grants from more than 150 corporations and foundations and has more than 140 government contracts that brought in about $75 million of revenue in fiscal 2014, according to a presale presentation for the bonds. The contracts include administering health and fostercare programs.

The charity had about $300 million in cash and investments at the end of April. It will make bond payments 90 days before the due date and has promised to keep enough investments and cash on hand to pay off the bonds, which will mature from 2017 through 2045.

Putting Children’s Aid’s credit on the line shows the organization’s commitment, says Lehman, the CFO.

“This was something that we have proposed and put out there so that everyone would recognize, ‘Hey, we’re serious about this, and we’re going to make good on our money.’ ” Martin Z. Braun

The bottom line Charter schools are on track to sell more than last year’s record $1.9 billion in municipal bonds.

Also see: New York Charity Joins in Record Bond Binge for Charter Schools - Bloomberg Business


Kristin Decarr | Education |


Friday 07 24, 2015  ::  The US House of Representatives has voted to pass an education bill that would place a ban on funding for sexual education courses that “normalize teen sexual activity as an expected behavior.”

The bill, known as the Student Success Act, is included as a portion of the Republican rewrite of the No Child Left Behind initiative created by President George W. Bush.  The rewrite has been the subject of much debate over issues including the use of standardized testing, Common Core, teacher evaluations, and how large a role the federal government should play in education in comparison to state governments.

However, the measure in question includes language that appears to take away funding for evidence-based sex education in schools.

According to the bill, funding for programs “directed at youth, that are designed to promote or encourage sexual activity, or normalize teen sexual activity as an expected behavior, implicitly or explicitly, whether homosexual or heterosexual” would be prohibited.

The bill goes on to state that funding cannot be used to hand out materials considered to be “legally obscene” or that “normalize teen sexual activity as an expected behavior”on school grounds.

In addition, funding would also not be allowed for the distribution of contraceptives on school grounds or for sex education or HIV-prevention education programs that do not teach “the health benefits of abstinence.”

Advocates feel that this approach is ineffective, arguing that sex education is more beneficial when it discusses how normal teen sexual behavior is, considering 61% of teenagers have had sex by the time they turn 18 and 95% of people in the United States have had sex before marriage.

According to a report from Advocates for Youth, effective sex education “should treat sexual development as a normal, natural part of human development.”  It is only through this method that children learn to make smart decisions concerning sex, relationships, and bodily autonomy, they say.

“Our young people deserve medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education so they can live healthy lives and have healthy relationships,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) told RH Reality Check. “Sadly, this bill goes in the exact opposite direction by prohibiting funding for proven health and sex education curriculum that keep young people healthy.”

In order to combat the bill, Lee introduced a separate bill, known as the REAL Education for Healthy Youth Act that would offer more comprehensive sex education.

Sex education is currently not standardized across the United States, with fewer than half of states requiring that it be taught and no federal mandate in existence that would test students on the subject.  Many of the schools that do teach sex education focus on anatomy and the basics of pregnancy and disease prevention, writes Emma Brown for The Washington Post.

However, a 2013 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost 75% of 12th graders in the US have had sex, and 10% of female high school students reported being forced to have sex when they did not want to.  Many such assault survivors said would like to see better sex education classes offered in high schools, believing that doing so could prevent sexual violence.

Still, some parents believe that sex education creates a blurry line between teaching about sex and instilling an expectation in students concerning casual sex.

MAN ON A MISSION: Carl Schafer works to get California to enforce its own arts education law

Mary Plummer | KPCC 89.3 |

108129 full

Music teacher and former principal Carl Schafer has logged about 1,700 miles during his three-year quest to get arts taught in California's public schools. Mary Plummer/KPCC

July 23 2015  ::  There’s a little-known law that requires California's public schools to teach dance, theater, visual arts and music. Most school districts ignore it. Carl Schafer is on a mission to change that.

Schafer has spent the last three years lobbying to get arts instruction to every student in the state.

His journey began a few years back, when Schafer discovered words in California’s education code that mandate arts instruction for 1st through 12th-graders.

"When I first started doing this and bringing it up, there were lots of people in very important positions in education who were not aware," he said.

Since then, Schafer has made it his personal crusade to ensure the law is enforced. He's had meetings with state Sen. Carol Liu; Rick Pratt, the chief consultant to the state Assembly Committee on Education; and California Congressman Ted Lieu.

Schafer's made some progress. State Sen. Ben Allen is considering calling for an informational hearing to tackle the subject of arts instruction in the education code. The California Arts Council has also agreed to discuss the education code at a September meeting in Santa Cruz.

Schafer thinks all schools can offer arts instruction as mandated by the state.

"I think it’s attainable," he said. "It’s really, I think, a matter of learning how to do it."

The 83-year-old Schafer describes himself as semi-retired, but his voicemail hints at his busy life. His message lists five organizations for which callers can leave messages.

The former principal and teacher has spent almost six decades working in education. Recalling how the arts and music first became his focus, Schafer says it was a traveling salesman who set the course of his life.

At age six, a knock at the door led to violin lessons.

In high school, he offered to carry the string bass of a pretty girl. It was the fall of 1948. By 1952, they were married, and still are today.

Schafer joined the Army a few years later for which he played the clarinet and cymbals. After he left the military, he entered college in Santa Barbara and practiced for his music degree on a pre-war piano that still sits in the living room of his Upland home.

Schafer wants the same artistic opportunities he enjoyed to be made available to young people across California. He’s taken a dozen flights to Sacramento and logged about 1,700 car miles lobbying across California — all trips he's paid for himself.

At his home, Schafer’s converted a small walk-in closet into desk space. Crammed between his office supplies and his suits, he works on getting the arts education laws enforced.

"It needs to be universal, and this is the only way it’s gonna get universal," he said.

Nationwide, 42 states require the arts be taught from elementary to high school. But in recent years, the recession and an emphasis on standardized testing led to arts funding cuts in many school districts.

Joe Landon, executive director of the California Alliance for Arts Education, said Schafer has earned a reputation for his persistence.

"He’s somebody who is just pushing the envelope constantly, saying what you're doing isn't enough," he said.

Schafer seems to reach out endlessly until he gets what he wants, Landon said.

"We don’t necessarily agree with everything that Carl is espousing, but we really appreciate and recognize the importance of his point of view," he said.

Like Schafer, Landon wants all kids to have arts instruction. But he and Schafer differ on the best tactics to get there. Landon said there are several mandates in the state's education code that don’t get enforced.

Decisions about whether to provide arts instruction often come down to money and priorities: school districts will say they don't have enough of the first and sometimes don't think of the arts for the second.

But Schafer points to a recent lawsuit settlement that forced schools in California to provide physical education which, like arts instruction, is explicitly required under the state's education code.

At a recent Ontario-Montclair School District board meeting, Schafer took to the lectern to talk about his favorite subject. The school district is where Schafer spent most of his career. Yet it, too, does not fully abide by the arts instruction mandate.

“We have been conditioned to believe that arts education is something that can be eliminated or that it's optional," he told board members. “What I want you to know is that in the education code, it is not optional.”

As he talks, the buzzer that limits each speaker's time goes off. “Stop that thing!” he shouts over the noise... and keeps on speaking.


By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

7/19/15, 4:52 PM PDT | More than a year after completing the first draft of an audit that questions cozy relationships with contractors and multi-million dollar deals, Los Angeles Unified’s inspector general can’t say whether there was criminal wrong-doing.

The final audit was released last week, but the inspector general’s office continues to classify the issues uncovered as an “open investigation” not yet prepared for the review of criminal prosecutors in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

In November, the inspector general’s investigation unit was called-in to begin reviewing allegations that could rise to criminal activity, but more than six months later “it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome” of that review, according to a written statement from the school district.

District officials said they could not estimate when the investigation might be concluded.

But if the inspector general, “determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that an employee has engaged in illegal activity, the nature and details of the activity shall be reported on a ‘timely basis,’ to the DA or attorney general” according to a district statement that cited state law.

In the meantime, the man at the center of allegations made in the audit, Food Services Director David Binkle remains on paid leave.

Binkle, who earns $152,000 a year, has been on leave since December 4. The district declined to comment on why Binkle has neither been sent back to work or dismissed.

A high-profile proponent of healthy eating, Binkle has appeared at the White House alongside first lady Michelle Obama and starred in Tedx Talks.

Inspector General Ken Bramlett clarified one of the claims made in the audit.

According to the audit, “it is not clear why” the district agreed to pay an extra 15.5 percent for every dinner it served under a five year $50 million contract.

The meals could have been purchased directly from LAUSD contractor Five Star Gourmet, according to the audit.

But instead, Binkle met with another contractor, Gold Star Foods, and it was decided that the district would buy Five Star Gourmet dinners through Gold Star, increasing the cost of each meal from $1.20 to $1.48.

In response to questions, Bramlett explained the increased cost was charged for transportation costs, as Five Star Gourmet sold the dinners to Gold Star, which transported the meals.

Gold Star’s role, transporting the meals, was not mentioned in the audit.

Another deal brought into question by the audit was an agreement with a public relations firm. According to the audit, Tatum Wan Co. collected $108,518 more than it was entitled to receive under contract.

The additional charges, Tatum Wan said, covered the cost of expenses for numerous events, including a culinary competition in Washington, D.C., called Cooking up Change. The fees collected by her company for services, she said, did not exceed the $200,000 permitted by the subcontract her company was working under.

The audit also brought into question the relationship between Binkle and the two contractors.

At Binkle’s request, Five Star paid the airfare and lodging for two employees to attend a conference.

The trip is being investigated, because “asking a contractor to pay for airfare and hotel accommodations is clearly in violation of the Employee Code of Ethics and state’s Contractor Code of Ethics.

While Binkle contended the trip was part of the contract reached with Five Star, the legal agreement simply states the company would “train district food services staff on food safety, food handling, storage, recalls, ordering billing and accounting,” according to the audit.

In 2011, Binkle was given near complete control of contracts, under a decision that was supposed to cut the administrative costs by skipping standard vetting processes, according to the audit.

The audit also described massive waste, as food services’ operating deficit more than tripled over three years leading up to the $78.6 million shortfall in 2013.

But even as the budget ballooned to $341 million, the district served nearly 900,000 fewer meals in 2013 compared with the 2010 fiscal year.

The increased budget reflects a 41 percent increase in the cost of food bought by the district. While the rising cost can partially be attributed to buying healthier food, the lax contracting practices led to a lack of competition and likely higher prices, according to the audit.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

URGE CONGRESS TO FULLY FUND IDEA THIS FRIDAY – The 25th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

by e-mail from the California State PTA

California State PTA Logo

Legislation Action Alert

July 23, 2015


Urge Congress to fully fund IDEA this FRIDAY

Support education programs for students with disabilities

As the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is commemorated tomorrow, WE NEED TO URGE CONGRESS TO FULLY FUND EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES.

IDEA -- the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act -- contained a promise of 40-percent funding by the federal government. In the 40 years since its passage, IDEA's promise has never been fulfilled. That's why California State PTA's resolution "Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Underfunding" specifically calls for action on full IDEA funding.

Take a few moments this Friday to have an impact on this important issue. Call or email members of Congress and the President and urge them to fully fund the IDEA promise.




Learn more about this important issue, which would benefit every school district in the state of California. Find out how much more funding would go to the schools in your county.

Friday is one of two National Call-In Days initiated by the Coalition for Adequate Funding for Special Education. Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, is the second. It marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of the federal IDEA.


This message was sent to all PTA Legislation Officers and subscribers to our Legislative Alerts and Sacramento Update publications.