Archives for category: Los Angeles

While some parents are disrupting school board meetings to protest mask and vaccine mandates, a parent group in Los Angeles thanked the school board for mandating COVID vaccinations to protect students, teachers, staff, and families from a deadly disease.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2021


CONTACT: Jenna Schwartz, Co-Founder, 310.994.9764 (c); PSTLAUSD@gmail.com Nicolle Fefferman, Co-Founder, 323.376.6513 (c)
Parents Supporting Teachers Supports Vaccine Mandate for LAUSD Students

Parents Supporting Teachers (PST), the largest parent advocacy group supporting Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teachers and families, announces its support for the district’s recent approval for a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for eligible students. The vaccine requirement goes one step further to ensure the health and safety of teachers, staff, and students.
“We have been waiting for this and fully support the requirement that all students in LAUSD get vaccinated once they are eligible. With positive cases being reported weekly, the single best Covid mitigation measure is to ensure everyone in the community is vaccinated, both inside and outside of schools,” said Jenna Schwartz co-founder. California law already requires all students in both public and private schools to have certain immunizations, the Covid vaccination would be one more added to the list. It is imperative that in conjunction with this mandate, the district commits to educating and informing reluctant families about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

“I am thankful to our Board members for taking the necessary steps to protect teachers, families, and students. The district prides itself on having the safest safety protocols and mitigation measures among all school districts nationwide, including requiring that all teachers be vaccinated by October 15th. Requiring vaccines for students was an appropriate next step and one more added layer of protection we haven’t had yet this year.” said co-founder Nicolle Fefferman.

“At this point there is no denying that being vaccinated is the best defense against Covid-19. While some vaccinated people can still get infected, evidence shows that the vaccines are effective in reducing transmission and preventing severe illness and death. Not only that, but we do have students and staff unable to get the vaccine because of underlying health conditions. This policy helps protect these students and staff by building the community’s immunity to Covid. We hope families will feel safer about sending their children to school,” Fefferman added.

Parents Supporting Teachers also opposes the upcoming California governor recall election. Republican candidates have vowed to rescind mask and vaccine mandates for schools, and if successful would allow Covid 19 to spread throughout schools and our communities, putting the health and safety of all teachers, students, and families at risk.

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About Parents Supporting Teachers: Parents Supporting Teachers is a parent education advocacy group in Los Angeles with over 25,000 followers and is the only organically created group of this size exclusively dedicated to parent communication and education support in the entire LAUSD. Visit http://www.parentssupportingteachers.org to learn more and support our shared vision for equitable and inclusive LAUSD schools.

The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District will vote Tuesday on a funding scheme promoted by conservatives and neoliberals. Its promoters call it “student-centered funding,” but that’s a euphemism for the “backpack full of cash” idea, which encourages school choice. Critics of SCF say it introduces free-market principles into school funding and will benefit charter schools while harming public schools.

Jack Ross of the California-based journal “Capitol & Main” writes about the debate over student-centered funding.

Even though it is flush with cash from several federal relief packages, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) wants to switch funding models next year, instituting a controversial structure called Student Centered Funding (SCF) that ties a school’s funding to its student enrollment. Under SCF, schools are awarded a base rate for each child and receive additional funds if the student is considered needier — if they are learning English, for instance, or if they’re in foster care or qualify for free lunch.

If the student leaves the school, the funding goes with them as if they carried a “backpack full of cash.” This could pit schools against each other in a competition for students and the dollars they guarantee, critics say. The funding switch has its origins with Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s secretary of education, who instituted grants for school districts to explore Student Centered Funding. Los Angeles received one last year

LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg says Student Centered Funding will fuel downward enrollment spirals that will shutter underfunded schools in poor neighborhoods. The more students leave, the less money a school has, and parents and children begin jumping ship at an increasing rate. Proponents of the model say SCF gives schools more flexibility to spend their money on what they need rather than locking them into certain programs designed by remote authorities, like the school board or the state or federal government.

Goldberg disagrees. “[SCF] says districts don’t need to spend the money, individual schools do, by trying to assemble the right combination of kids with the right combination of money,” she says. “A child that’s learning [English as] a second language and has a disability, you might get a lot of money for that student. What do you do if you’re a principal? You start recruiting those students — because they bring their money with them.”

LAUSD insists Student Centered Funding furthers equity by placing schools in better control of how they use their money, and by more directly targeting money at the neediest students. “It really is that iterative process of contending with, what do we do now to better serve our students?” Deputy Superintendent Pedro Salcido told the board. “Student Centered Funding really is that next iteration: How do we deepen the work, how do we deepen progress in our schools?”

In LAUSD’s own calculations of how SCF would affect its school budgets under a “fully loaded” funding formula, 348 schools were found to lose money under SCF, while 367 schools would gain

Sorting the data by percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch reveals further inequities. Ann Street Elementary in Downtown Los Angeles, which tops the list with 100% of its students receiving free or reduced lunch, will lose $3,197 per student and $268,568 in total. It’s not alone: Of the schools with 95% to 100% of students qualifying for free lunch, 29 will lose money under Student Centered Funding, the district found. Between the 85th and 94th percentiles, 141 schools face cuts.

Under a similar student-centered funding policy (lower-cased when we refer to the broader policy; capitalized when we refer to the LAUSD model), Chicago public schools went from 460 librarians in 2012 to 123 in 2020, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. More research on the implementation of student-centered funding in Chicago found teachers felt pressured to take on extra classes because of tightening budgets, while some teachers were just laid off.

“As we lose students, we have less and less resources for the things we need,” one participant says. “The librarian got pulled from being a librarian to be a special education teacher because it was cheaper and because she was certified in that area. So, staff don’t teach what they love, and arts education has to be sacrificed because they are deemed as less important….”

Jill Wynn saw student-centered funding up close. The former San Francisco school board member says the system can flourish — as long as it includes strong protections for low-enrollment schools.

A self-proclaimed charter skeptic, Wynn is a “big fan” of student-centered funding models, which she believes can guarantee extra funding for schools with the neediest children while freeing them from restrictive requirements on how that money must be spent.

But the system works only if it sets in place rules the schools must follow with their money, she explains. When it switched to its own student-centered funding model, the San Francisco School Board mandated that all schools had to use their allotted funds for library services and some music and arts programs, and schools were guaranteed a minimum amount of funding to protect small schools from closure.

What advice would she give to LAUSD if it adopts the model? “Put the guardrails in and make them high,” she says

A 4-3 pro-charter majority on the school board means opposition to SCF is, for now, probably futile. But with a year until implementation of the new model, and an outraged and organized teachers’ union, the fight over Student Centered Funding is likely just beginning.

Some members of the Los Angeles school board are proposing a stealth voucher plan. Unsurprisingly, the United Teachers of Los Angeles opposes the plan.

DeVos-funded consultant pushes internal voucher scheme in LAUSD

This fall UTLA members will be building a vision for how to use the historic infusion of funding to transform education for our students. The privatizers have their own game plan to drive more public dollars to charter operators, and it involves an internal voucher-like scheme connected to Betsy DeVos. Under Trump, Devos’s office funded a grant for an outside consultant to push a competition-based system called Student-Centered Funding in LAUSD.

Basically, funding would move with each student instead of being allocated centrally for staff and programs. It sounds like a good idea when you first hear about it — but in cities like Chicago and Denver, these formulas have led to racially disparate negative consequences, including the loss of libraries and the arts, school closures, and the undermining of school stability, particularly in Black and Brown communities.

The funding scheme was sold in Chicago as a way to achieve greater equity for Black and Brown students, but it’s done the opposite.
Former student Styles Avant-Pinkston lived through a similar scheme — called student-based budgeting in Chicago — that led to under-resourced schools being starved of support and then often shut down. Avant-Pinkston was forced to travel across town to attend a school outside of his neighborhood.


“I shouldn’t have to take a 50-minute bus ride — I should just be able to walk to a good school,” Avant-Pinkston says. “These funding schemes are an attack on kids of color and minority communities. You never hear about schools in wealthy neighborhoods shutting down — they invest in those schools. Schools can be turned around if they see value in doing that — some people just don’t see the value in communities of color. The message is clear: Student-based funding schemes shut down neighborhood schools.”

The LAUSD School Board has yet to vote on the internal voucher scheme, but a decision could come as early as this month. With a highly paid consultant leading the way, the district has fast-tracked the plan, and families and educators have been left out of the discussions and development. Even some Board members have been given little information about this monumental shift in funding.

This internal voucher scheme has destabilized community schools wherever it’s been tried and has not proven to improve student outcomes. If implemented the negative effects would be:

Marketing Over Student Needs: Students would be turned into “backpacks full of cash” and schools forced to compete for market share. With every year a hustle to protect enrollment, school principals would have to prioritize marketing over student needs.

Downward Spiral: Schools that are already struggling with inadequate resources and that serve under-resourced communities would be hit hardest. Every time a student leaves, the school would have even fewer resources to support the students who remain, triggering cuts to staff and essential programs and pushing out other families.

School Closures: Drops in enrollment lead to the closure of neighborhood schools and the destabilization of communities, particularly in Black and Brown neighborhoods. LAUSD has already been targeting small schools like Trinity Elementary in South LA for permanent closure, citing dropping enrollment figures. Closed schools are then handed over to a chapter operator. That trend will accelerate under this internal voucher scheme

Veteran Educators Pushed Aside: The scheme creates incentives to hire lower-salary educators and other staff. That’s what happened in Chicago, where principals are prioritizing hiring less expensive inexperienced teachers over the overwhelmingly Black veteran teaching staff.

Privatization on steroids: LAUSD has told the Department of Education that they plan to allow dollars to follow students to independent charter operators, a further threat to neighborhood schools and the stability of the public school system. The operational funding shift also lays the groundwork for money to eventually follow students to private or religious schools. This is why market reformers from both political parties — from Arne Duncan and Betsy DeVos to ALEC — support the formula: It is an important step down the road to achieving their longtime goal of dismantling our nation’s historic commitment to public education and freeing those dollars for the private sector.

Robert Skeels was a public education advocate in Los Angeles who decided to become a lawyer to fight the powerful corporate charter industry. After receiving his BA in classical civilizations at UCLA, Skeels spent years as an activist, inspired by Paulo Freire, then earned his law degree in 2018. This is the only instance to my knowledge where a charter critic decided that he had to get a law degree to fight the charter industry.

As a part-time associate at a law firm in Los Angeles, he has won two cases against the powerful and well-funded charter industry.

He wrote in Medium:

My first win against a corporate charter school was a year ago as third chair in a suit to overturn a wrongful expulsion of a student of color. The Partnerships to Uplift Communities (“PUC”) charter chain (of convicted felon Ref Rodriguez fame) violated that student’s due process rights. Violated isn’t a strong enough word for what they did. PUC unilaterally changed the charges at the appeals hearing and branded the child as a terrorist in his permanent record. Under the tutelage of the brilliant partners at the law firm I was a part-timer at the time (I am currently transitioning to full time there), plus sage advice from @DrPrestonGreen, we built a strong case.

Skeels’ second victory came just days ago, when he defended the blogger known as Michael Kohlhaas in his pursuit of the records of a charter chain. Kohlhaas exposes the dirty secrets of government, businesses, and other powerful forces in Los Angeles. In one of his important exposes, he revealed that Nick Melvoin, who represents the charter industry on the Los Angeles school board, had shared the board’s legal strategies with the California Charter Schools Association while in litigation with them.

Skeels writes:

This latest case was a charter trying to hide all its dirty secrets by not complying with the CPRA [the open records law]. The scandal-ridden The Accelerated Schools (“TAS”) charter chain’s leaders absconded when the community started pushing back and started asking questions about union busting.

Michael Kohlhaas dot org sent sent TAS several CPRA requests in 2018, which they ignored (unlawfully). A year later, I filed the petition for writ of mandate for them. Some ten months later TAS sent some records, but claimed “blanket exemptions” on a bunch of other ones.

An infamous law firm that only represents lucrative, privately managed charter school corporations staked out the position that any communications with the charter school industry’s trade association — the CCSA — was subject to a range of exemptions under the CPRA.

I suppose I can’t blame them. The charter industry — long used to unaccountably spending tax dollars in total secrecy — fought tooth and nail the imposition of the CPRA and Brown Act added by Ed. Code § 47604.1(b)(2)(A). When the law took effect January 2020, charter school corporations were already looking for ways to skirt the law. At the firm I’m a junior associate at, we use the CPRA for pre-discovery work against charter corporations. Michael Kohlhaas dot org, on the other hand, has used it to expose some of the ugliest, scandalous conduct by an industry already infamous for scandal. Uncovering the vile Nick Melvoin’s sharing Los Angeles Unified School District’s (“LAUSD”) confidential legal strategies with their party-opponent in a lawsuit (the CCSA) was a blockbuster revelation enabled by the CPRA.

The judge in the case ruled that the charter chain was not entitled to the blanket exemption from disclosure for its records.

Skeels wrote: “Let the corporate charter school industry know that they aren’t going to be able to hide their dark secrets anymore.”

Fiorina Rodov wanted to teach, and, as she writes, she believed the glowing claims about charter schools as beacons of hope for the neediest students. She saw “Waiting for ‘Superman'” and cheered for the kids who wanted to get into a charter. She believed the movie’s hype about the magic of charters. So she got in 2016 a job teaching in a charter school in Los Angeles.

There she learned the truth about charter schools, or at least the one where she was teaching.

The school was non-union. Teacher turnover was high every year. Student attrition was high.

But the chasm between the hype and reality became evident to me immediately upon starting work. There were high attrition rates of students and teachers. Over the summer, more than half the faculty resigned and were replaced by new teachers. About three-quarters of the students hadn’t returned either, and though new kids had registered, the enrollment wasn’t anywhere near what was needed in order to be fiscally stable, because funding was tied to enrollment. There were legal violations: The special education teacher had 43 students, though the law capped class sizes at 28. The overage made him fall behind on students’ individualized education plans (IEPs), making the school noncompliant on special education requirements.

Rodov also learned about the big-money forces promoting the charter myth. She was in L.A. for the election campaign between charter skeptic Steve Zimmer (chair of the LAUSD school board and former TFA) and charter zealot Nick Melvoin. The charter leaders across the city strongly supported Melvoin, of course.

I learned that billionaires fund local school board elections across America in order to accelerate charter school growth. In District 4 in Los Angeles, Steve Zimmer was financed by teachers’ unions while Nick Melvoin was reportedly bankrolled by California billionaires Eli Broad, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, and Gap clothing company co-founder Doris Fisher, as well as out-of-towners like former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Walmart heirs and siblings Jim and Alice Walton, and others in an expensive race...

Furthermore, CCSA [California Charter Schools Association] Advocates donated to an organization called Speak UP, which was a “strong opponent” of Zimmer, according to the Los Angeles Times, and whose co-founder and CEO Katie Braude resides in the Pacific Palisades, where the median home price is about $3.4 million. Braude helped launch the Palisades Charter School Complex, which sought to serve “all students in an ethnically and economically diverse student body,” according to her bio on the Speak UP website. But at Palisades Charter High School, “[w]hite students are 2.8 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as Black students,” while “Black students are 7 times as likely to be suspended as [w]hite students,” according to ProPublica. In 2016 and 2017, Black students were victims of hate crimes at Palisades Charter High School, and in 2020, a Black teacher sued the school for racial discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” According to the Pacific Palisades Patch, Pamela Magee, the school’s executive director and principal, responded to the teacher’s allegations via email, “PCHS is an equal opportunity employer, and we take allegations of discrimination seriously…”

Melvoin’s list of individual donations, according to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, is filled with some of the same moguls who donated to CCSA Advocates, such as Eli Broad and Reed Hastings. It also includes then-co-chairman of Walt Disney Studios Alan F. Horn, president of the Emerson Collective Laurene Powell Jobs, and Martha L. Karsh and her husband Bruce Karsh, who at the time of the election was the chair of the Tribune Media Company, which then owned the Los Angeles Times. (Bruce Karsh stepped down from the Tribune in October 2017, five months after the school board election.)

The billionaires who fund school board races across the country also finance education reporting. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which was partly behind a $490 million plan reported in 2015 to enroll half of LAUSD’s students in charters by 2023, funded the Los Angeles Times’ reporting initiative Education Matters with the Baxter Family Foundation and the Wasserman Foundation, which also support charters. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Amazon (whose founder and former CEO—now executive chairman—Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post) fund the Seattle Times’ Education Lab. The Bezos Family Foundation, the Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, fund Chalkbeat. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation fund Education Week and The 74, which owns the LA School Report. The Gates Foundation finances the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), whose “Fixes” column in the New York Times covers education and other issues. And Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective owns the Atlantic, which has a robust education section.

The infusion of billionaire cash and media ownership helps to explain why the mainstream media seldom reports on the failures of charter schools or expose their lies and propaganda.

Rodov goes on to explain that her school was finally closed, but no one in the mainstream media in Los Angeles bothered to interview teachers about “the climate of terror at the school.”

She ends with the hope that Biden’s election will mean an end to favoritism towards charter schools and a beginning of focus on public schools, which are a vital democratic institution.

Those of us who are sick of charter school lies and propaganda share her hope. We will know in time whether Biden will keep his promise to cut off federal funding of for-profit charters, whether he will eliminate the $440 million federal Charter Schools Program (which Betsy DeVos used as her private slush fund), and whether he will make the strengthening of public schools his top education priority. Six percent of America’s students attend charter schools, and they are the darling of billionaires like Bill Gates, Reed Hastings, Laurene Powell Jobs, Charles Koch, Michael Bloomberg, and many more (I wrote a chapter in my recent book Slaying Goliath naming the billionaires and corporations that pour money into charter schools). Let the billionaires pay for them.

 

For immediate release

March 5, 2021

Media contact:

Anna Bakalis / 213-305-9654

91% YES: UTLA members overwhelmingly unite behind a safe return

LOS ANGELES — UTLA members have voted overwhelmingly to resist a premature and unsafe physical return to school sites. Over five days of voting March 1 through 5 conducted by Integrity Voting Systems, 24,580 ballots were cast, with 91% Yes ballots (22,480) and 9% No (2,100). 

“This vote signals that in these most trying times, our members will not accept a rushed return that would endanger the safety of educators, students, and families,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said.

The vote result means members remain committed to distance learning until the three safety criteria are met:

  • LA County is out of the purple tier
  • Staff are either fully vaccinated or provided access to full vaccination
  • Safety conditions are in place at our schools including PPE, physical distancing, improved ventilation, and daily cleaning

“Last March when educators first closed our classrooms and offices, we didn’t know that a year later we would still be physically separated from the students and communities we love,” Myart-Cruz said. “It has been a painful and difficult year for everyone. As much as educators long to be back to in-person instruction, it must be done safely for the sake of students, staff, and families. That has been our guiding principal from Day 1 of this pandemic.”

With COVID vaccines for school staff rolling out and infection rates decreasing, LA County is making progress toward the necessary conditions for a safe return, but we are not there yet. Some educators are having difficulty securing vaccination appointments, infection rates are still too high in many of the hard-hit communities we serve, and COVID variants could change the trajectory of the virus.

“With this vote, teachers are saying what I am hearing from parents in my community — it’s just not safe to physically return to schools yet,” said LAUSD parent and Reclaim Our Schools LA parent leader Alicia Baltazar. “I want to thank teachers for taking this stand and for all that you have been doing to educate my child during this pandemic.”

The overwhelming solidarity of the vote comes as legislators and Governor Newsom made last-minute changes to AB 86, the school reopening bill, redefining the COVID-19 tiers to try to push districts into returning to in-person instruction at levels that have been considered dangerous for close to a year.

LA continues to be the epicenter of the return-to-school debate, and the pressure on UTLA educators individually and collectively has been intense.

“Teaching in a pandemic is not easy. Standing up for students and our most marginalized communities is not easy. But our members continue to do both of these things, day in and day out because that’s our job,” Myart-Cruz said. 

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Emiliana Dore wrote a powerful article at Medium about the importance of public schools and why charter schools do not promote racial or social justice. Her article was posted by Carl J. Petersen, a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.

Dore, a public school parent and advocate, wrote in response to an article at The 74 contending that charter schools were models for teaching kindness and anti-racism. Dore strongly disagreed.

In response, she wrote:

I agree with Ms. Nurick that kindness, caring and an awareness of diversity are very important qualities to teach in our schools. I also believe that we should be doing more to integrate our schools and communities. But demonizing our public schools and creating carefully curated charter schools that cater to a few select students is not the way to nurture future social justice leaders. We have a long way to go before we reach an equitable education system in this country, but charter schools are not the answer.

Dore cited the ample evidence of embezzlement and self-dealing in the charter industry and the instability of charter schools, which open and close at a dizzying rate.

Yet, despite these clear bad faith players in the charter industry, charter advocates fought tooth and nail against all of the charter accountability bills. If you really want to create schools that foster greater equity, why fight against transparency and accountability? In memos uncovered via a recent public records request, two charter advocacy groups, Los Angeles Advocacy Council (LAAC) and California Charter School Association (CCSA), gleefully celebrated their role working with pro-charter school board members to remove the Office of the LAUSD Inspector General’s (OIG) oversight of charter schools. The memo claims that this “should be seen as a major win by and for the charter community.” It may be a win for the “charter community”, but it is not a win for the BIPOC [black, indigenous, and people of color] and low-income communities that are so often targeted by questionable charters.

Both the NAACP and Black Lives Matter conducted studies about the impact of charter schools on BIPOC communities. The hope was that charter schools might be the silver bullet that they promise to be. Instead, the studies concluded that while some BIPOC families do benefit from charter schools, on the whole, charter schools do not outperform public schools, and they are causing a great deal of harm to minority and low-income neighborhoods. The NAACP study also found that charter schools were causing our schools to be more segregated. The Students Deserve group here in Los Angeles has also called for our leaders to invest in public schools and stop charter expansion. When will our local leaders start to listen?..

The problems with charters extend beyond politics. Due to the ill-conceived Prop 39, charter schools like Citizens of the World can co-locate on public school campuses. In theory, two small schools sharing space on one campus might not sound so bad, but when all of the advantages are on the charter side, it becomes a much more questionable practice. Prop 39 requires the district to provide charter schools with a list of schools that have available space. By law, that means any part of a school that isn’t actively used as a classroom is up for grabs — computer labs, gardens built by the community, after school enrichment programs — can all be taken away from local public school kids to make way for a charter. Public school families have zero say in this process. Even worse, co-location requests are based on prospective charter school enrollment. Many charters have been caught posting on local parent boards asking parents to sign up for their school, even if they do not intend to enroll. This practice of inflating enrollment means that imaginary charter school kids can take away space from actual public school kids. Charter schools are supposed to pay an over-allocation penalty for space they take from public schools but do not use. Within the LAUSD many charters are woefully behind on payments with one charter school openly scoffing at the idea of paying funds that it legally owes to the LAUSD...

My big hope is that we can start working together to make education better for all of the kids in our neighborhoods — not just the lucky few who are selected by lottery. To my fellow white parents, especially, please consider sending your child to a local public school. Ignore Great Schools, which was founded with charter money specifically to seed doubt in our local neighborhood schools. Join the Integrated Schools community and listen to podcasts like Nice White Parents or Season 2 of The Promise. Instead of creating our own schools, imagine if we pooled all of our resources and worked hard together to support and strengthen our neighborhood schools. Imagine providing exceptional learning opportunities for every single child.

Charter proponents have long pushed a narrative about our public schools failing, but maybe we need to reframe that discussion and realize that we are the ones who are failing our public schools. We have been shamefully underfunding them for years — especially here in California where we spend close to $8,500 less annually per student than New York City. I am encouraged that President-elect Biden has committed to reigning in charter failure and fraud, and has appointed public school educator Miguel Cardona as Secretary of Education. If we truly want to build an education system that works for everyone, the answer is not privately run charter schools. The only true solution is fully-funded, equitable public education.

In Los Angeles, the UTLA reached an agreement with the LAUSD and superintendent to extend remote learning as COVID surges and every ICU bed is filled in the city. The billionaire-funded “Parent Revolution” complained (billionaires are parents although they have no children in LA public schools).

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-12-18/la-teachers-increase-live-online-classes-students

With children mired in distance learning and many struggling academically, Los Angeles teachers will take on more live online interaction with students next semester, under an agreement announced Friday. Also under the deal, school nurses will conduct campus-based coronavirus tests.

The pact between the teachers union and the Los Angeles Unified School District was essential for the nation’s second-largest school system; the agreement’s predecessor would have expired Dec. 31. And, based on current infection rates, a return to campus in January is almost impossible under state health guidelines. 

“This progress in online instruction reflects the shared learning of all who work in schools about the need to maximize the interaction between teachers and students and their families,” Los Angeles schools Supt. Austin Beutner said in a statement.

“We are gratified to reach an agreement to extend the distance learning agreement, which is what our students need right now,” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. “In the face of the upheaval we are all dealing with, educators, students and families need stability most of all.”

The new side letter to the teachers’ contract goes at least part way to addressing complaints from critics — including many parents and some community groups who have called for increased daily live interaction between students and teachers. 

“This agreement still leaves Los Angeles Unified with less learning time, less support for teachers, less partnership with families and less focus on racial equity than other large California school districts,” said Seth Litt, executive director of Parent Revolution, a local advocacy group that has provided support for a lawsuit filed on behalf of families who contendthat the district is violating their legal right to an education.

There also are parents who would settle for nothing less than a return to full-time in-person instruction. Others support remaining in distance learning, while some worry that current practices force students to remain online for too long, especially younger ones. No strategy has emerged that offers full academic support and an elimination of risk for school employees and the families they serve. Making strides in that direction has become more complicated as an alarming COVID-19 surge stretches local healthcare resources past their capacity.

The pandemic closed campuses in March, but schools in counties adjacent to L.A. were able to open in the fall, when local infection rates were lower. Campuses that opened during that period can remain open, but not every school system did so. And some districts that reopened have closed their campuses once more.

A recent district survey of employees represented by the teachers union indicated that 24% are prepared to return to schools; 55% said they are able to go back but prefer to remain in distance learning; 18% said an underlying health condition would make it potentially unsafe for them to return; 2% said they are 65 or older and would explore continuing to work remotely; and 1% said they intend to apply for unpaid leave.

The survey was conducted Nov. 30 through Dec. 6, with 26,305 responses, well over two-thirds of union members. The union represents teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses.

Under the new pact, nurses have to help carry out the district’s testing program. They will receive an extra $3.50 an hour for such work completed in person on a campus and additional pay when the work extends beyond normal hours.


This article by the superintendents of New York City (Richard Carranza), Chicago (Janice Jackson), and Los Angeles (Austin Beutner) appeared in the Washington Post. For those too young to know, the Marshall Plan was a massive American investment in foreign aid package to rebuild Europe after World War II. It was proposed by General George Marshall.

President-elect Joe Biden has described the crisis in public schools caused by the pandemic as a “national emergency.” As the superintendents of the nation’s three largest public school districts — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — every day we grapple with the challenges that worry not just the president-elect but also the students and families we serve. Our schools, like thousands more across the nation, need help from the federal government, and we need it now.

The challenges school communities face aren’t for lack of effort by principals, teachers, staff, parents and students. Among our three districts, more than 2 million students and hundreds of thousands of educators have worked to transform teaching and learning from the inside out. We’ve seen teachers tackle long division from their kitchens and students debate the Constitution in Spanish from their living rooms.

But the fact is that for many — if not most — children, online and even hybrid education pales in comparison to what’s possible in a classroom led by a great teacher. Too many children are falling behind, threatening not just their individual futures but also America’s global competitiveness.

In Los Angeles Unified, where almost 80 percent of students live in poverty and 82 percent are Latino and African American, Ds and Fs by high school students have increased about 15 percent compared with last year. Meanwhile, reading proficiency in elementary grades has fallen 10 percent. In Illinois, students have lost more than a year of math progress. In New York City, 82 percent of students are children of color, largely from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, suffering tremendous loss and trauma that accompanies kids into the classroom. Across the country, math performance on standardized tests lags the prior year by 5 to 10 percentile points.

It’s time to treat the dire situation facing public school students with the same federal mobilization we have come to expect for other national emergencies, such as floods, wildfires and hurricanes. A major, coordinated nationwide effort — imagine a Marshall Plan for schools — is needed to return children to public schools quickly in the safest way possible.

Schools have shown that they can stay open safely despite community spread of the virus, but that demands the right set of actions, and adequate financial support, to bring students back safely and address the impact of this crisis head on.

Part of the problem is that the Cares Act and subsequent relief packages did not designate public school districts as recipients. Direct federal support for schools must be specific and targeted.

A federal relief package for schools should cover the basic building blocks of a safe, healthy and welcoming school environment so that educators and students can focus exclusively on their mission: high-quality teaching and learning. Funds should be provided directly to public school districts for four essential programs: cleaning and sanitizing of facilities and providing protective equipment; school-based coronavirus testing and contact tracing to help reduce the risk for all in the school community; mental health support for students to address the significant trauma they are facing; and funding for in-person instruction next summer to help students recover from learning losses because of the pandemic. Many local districts have poured resources into these efforts, and places such as New York City have seen success. But it’s simply not sustainable without federal support, and as covid-19 infection rates surge across the country, the pandemic shows no sign of slowing.

The cost of this lifeline for schools — an estimated $125 billion — is less than 20 percent of the total earmarked for the Paycheck Protection Program and about twice the amount provided to airlines. That’s a relatively small price to safely reopen the public schools that give millions of children a shot at the American Dream and their families the chance to get back to work.

Getting children back in the classroom and helping them recover must be addressed by the federal government with the same urgency and commitment as other disasters. Failure to do so will allow a “national emergency” to become a national disgrace that will haunt millions of children for the rest of their lives.

Journalist Florina Rodov taught for several years in a New York City public schools, but she was turned off by the testing craze and the paperwork. Then she heard about these remarkable new schools called “charter schools.” She heard they were academically superior, safe, free of the bureaucracy of public schools, and she applied to work in a charter school in Los Angeles. The principal told her that the school was like a family. It sounded wonderful.

But then her eyes were opened.

I soon realized there was a gulf between charter school hype and reality. Every day brought shocking and disturbing revelations: high attrition rates of students and teachers, dangerous working conditions, widespread suspensions, harassment of teachers, violations against students with disabilities, nepotism, and fraud. By the end of the school year, I vowed never to step foot in a charter school again, and to fight for the protection of public schools like never before.

On August 15, my first day of work, I dashed into the school’s newest home, a crumbling building on the campus of a public middle school in South Los Angeles. Greeting my colleagues, who were coughing due to the dust in the air, I realized most of us were new. It wasn’t just several people who had quit over the summer, but more than half the faculty — 8 out of 15 teachers. Among the highly qualified new hires were a seasoned calculus teacher; an experienced sixth grade humanities teacher; a physics instructor who’d previously taught college; an actor turned biology teacher; and a young and exuberant special education teacher.

When the old-timers trickled in, they told us there’d been attrition among the students, too: 202 of 270 hadn’t returned, and not all their seats had been filled. Because funding was tied to enrollment, the school was struggling financially.

Her first-person tell-all pulls the curtain away from the charter myth. On Twitter, Rodov describes herself as a “fierce advocate for public schools.” Read this article and you will understand why.