Edvoice - Issues

LA Unified shortchanging funding for high-needs students, state says

June 6 | 89.3 KPCC

State officials have ordered the Los Angeles Unified School District to spend hundreds of millions of more dollars on its highest-needs students, a move that is causing district officials to scramble in the last few weeks of their budget-making process.

The California Department of Education sided with advocates who calculated L.A. Unified shortchanged these vulnerable groups by $288 million this school year by, essentially, double-counting a large chunk of the funding it spent on special education services.

Fight brewing over new schools accountability system

May 3 | 89.3 KPCC

By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

A tug of war over what and how many measures a new accountability system should use to judge schools is brewing between legislators and state policy officials.

California’s policymaking body for public schools, the State Board of Education is crafting a system that would include test scores, graduation rates and English learner proficiency.

But San Diego-area Assemblywoman Shirley Weber believes the board is moving too slowly and has authored a bill to compel the board to include measures like school climate, absenteeism, and college readiness.

Reminding Jerry Brown of Jerry Brown

May 3 | CALmatters

By Judy Lin

More than 50 civil rights and education reform groups are using Jerry Brown to remind Jerry Brown of his pledge to help black and Latino students following an interview with CALmatters in which he suggested that disparities will persist despite government intervention.

In a letter dated May 3, dozens of advocacy groups asked Brown to recommit to closing the academic achievement gap for high-need students as he considers an opening on the State Board of Education and a new plan for measuring school performance later this year.

America's high school seniors' reading and math scores have hit a wall

April 27 | LA Times

By Joy Resmovits

America’s high school seniors' reading and math test scores are barely holding steady or slumping, according to national standardized test results released late Tuesday.

Between 2013 and 2015, on average, students dropped slightly in math and held steady in reading.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as NAEP, is a test administered by the federal government. It is considered the gold standard in measuring what students really know, because the results don't have consequences that could encourage teachers or test takers to game the process

School budget laws complicated tracking of Common Core spending

April 27 | EdSource

By Theresa Harrington

The Fresno and Visalia school districts are spending $10 million each on new schools.

San Jose Unified put about $12 million toward staff bonuses, while Santa Ana Unified spent $9 million on retiree benefits.

The money is coming from about $3.6 billion in tax revenues California’s about 1,000 school districts received over the past two years. The Legislature specified that it “intended” for districts to “prioritize” spending of the one-time funds on implementing academic standards, including Common Core standards in math and English.

But lawmakers also told districts that they first had to use the funds as reimbursement for outstanding claims for programs and services mandated by the state. Because districts had already covered the past mandated expenses, they were free to use the one-time reimbursements “for any purpose.”

Dan Walters: Big feud over school accountability rages in Capitol

April 25 | Sacramento Bee

By Dan Walters

Conflict over the direction of California’s public schools, pitting school reformers and civil rights groups against the education establishment, plays out in many venues.

One burning issue is whether schools will be held strictly accountable for outcomes under the new Local Control Funding Formula, which is aimed at closing the “achievement gap” between poor and “English-learner” students and more advantaged classmates.

One of the arenas is the Assembly’s Committee on Education, whose chairman, former teacher Patrick O’Donnell, unabashedly backs the establishment, particularly the California Teachers Association.

He showed his allegiance last Thursday when fellow Democrat and committee member Shirley Weber offered a bill that would create the kind of specific accountability system that the reformers and civil rights groups seek.


School accountability: Weber off to good start

April 24 | The San Diego Union-Tribune

By The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board

Education is an all-important issue in modern America. That’s why every president dating back to 1993 has embraced reforms meant to improve schools, help students and promote accountability among teachers, principals and superintendents.

But in California, Gov. Jerry Brown has not only opposed reforms of the sort championed by President Barack Obama, he’s marginalized reformers as being trendy and unserious. He’s also moved to eliminate a statewide testing program that provided a single, easy-to-grasp grade of school performance. Brown has done so while overseeing an overhaul of school financing with 2013’s Local Control Funding Formula. Billed as a reform — a way to ensure additional state funds went directly to help English-language learners and foster children — it is the opposite. With Brown’s blessing, LCFF has become the equivalent of a block-grant program funneling billions in no-strings-attached money to large urban districts, starting with Los Angeles Unified.

Thankfully, a local lawmaker looks at this picture and sees something wrong with it — even as her higher-profile colleagues duck the issue. We refer to Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, who last week persuaded the Assembly Education Committee to unanimously pass a bill that would resurrect state efforts to regularly assess public schools.

L.A. Unified magnets accepted less than half of applicants this year

April 22 | LA Times

By Sonali Kohli

Magnet schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District accepted fewer than half of students who applied for the 2016-17 school year.

The district received about 44,000 applications to attend magnets, which are themed schools that are open to all students, regardless of where they live. Magnets are among the only schools for which the district provides transportation, because they were created as a way to help desegregate the district.

The numbers come as L.A. Unified tries to keep students in traditional public schools and stem decreasing enrollment. The high interest in magnets shows that those types of schools could be a way to bring students back, school board member Richard Vladovic says. Many students have left the district for independent charter schools, which are publicly funded but can be privately run. 

On schools, Villaraigosa parts with Gov

April 20 | CALMatters

By Judy Lin

As he eyes a run for governor, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is spotlighting the lagging academic performance of Latino and African-American students and saying the state should do more to hold schools accountable.

The 63-year-old Democrat says parents have a right to know how their schools are doing and he doesn’t see a contradiction between supporting teachers and holding schools to higher standards.

Villaraigosa, who got into politics as a union organizer for teachers in Los Angeles, did not want to criticize the governor, but his comments differed sharply from Gov. Jerry Brown’s view that the academic performance gap between African Americans and Latinos to other student groups is likely to persist despite government interventions. Brown told CALmatters recently that he doesn’t want his key education policy, the Local Control Funding Formula, to be judged on whether it closes that gap.

Dear Gov. Brown: closing the achievement gap must be our goal for all students

April 20 | EdSource

By Ryan Smith

This is an open letter to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Last week I received a message from Rocio Gonzalez, a parent of two boys attending Jordan High School in Watts. Growing up in an L.A. neighborhood known more for gang violence than for college graduates, Rocio understood that a quality education provided the best shot for her two sons to succeed. So as a single mom who did not complete high school, she did everything she could to make sure her sons did – from researching the best neighborhood schools and learning the right questions to ask her son’s teachers to taking them to local universities across the state.

She got news that her hard work had paid off.  With tears she shared that her oldest son Omar had received an acceptance letter to Cal Poly Pomona. He will graduate from Jordan High School this spring as the first from his family to attend college.

I believe the Gonzalez family story serves as a perfect example of why we fight to close achievement and opportunity gaps. Rocio knew she had to advocate for her children to ensure the educational opportunities that should be given to all students. However, families can’t do this alone.

Governor Brown, we still have a moral imperative to make sure all students, regardless of race, income, or zip code, receive every opportunity to succeed. Before last week I thought you agreed.