Archives for category: Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Times published a disturbing article about the problems and obstacles that students and teachers are encountering as online learning becomes the new normal. For many children, instruction is inaccessible.

The gaps between the haves and have-nots are glaring.

“ Misti Kemmer, a fourth-grade teacher at Russell Elementary School in South Los Angeles, is working hard to keep her students learning now that schools are closed. She shares detailed lesson plans on Google Drive, sends messages to families every day and delivers YouTube lectures from her home.

She’s trying to look at all this stuff on a tiny cellphone after dinner hours,” Kemmer said. “How much is a 9- year-old going to get done?”

“There’s this whole distance-learning thing, but how much learning is actually going on?” she added.

“But only three or four of her 28 students accessed their schoolwork last week, she said. Some don’t have computers and others are without internet access. One student can only open assignments on her father’s phone when he gets home from work.

“Almost all K-12 schools in California were shuttered last week. But from top state education leaders to district officials, including L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner, the message has been clear: Even though campuses are closed, learning will continue.

“While we are in very unique circumstances at this time, we are still providing education to our students,” state Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said earlier this week. “School is not out, but we are finding a different way to deliver it.”

“But the reality is complicated.

“As teachers scramble to adjust to an entirely new world of education, they are coming up against significant barriers.

“There is uneven access to technology, difficulties communicating with students and parents, and uncertainty about expectations at a time when many families are suffering.
And even for educators who have long used online learning tools and whose students have easy access to them, it is challenging to rely solely on technology.

“Many teachers are grappling with this while also adapting to the tough realities of working from home.

“At Marianna Avenue Elementary School in East Los Angeles, teachers and administrators scrambled after the closure was announced March 13 to make sure every student in first through sixth grades took home a Chromebook laptop, said Estela Campos, a coordinator at the school. The school is fortunate to have enough computers for nearly every student, she said.

“But teachers are struggling to get their students online — some children had never used the computers at home and many families don’t have internet access. In some cases, children in higher grades are now having to take care of their younger siblings while their parents work and are unable to dedicate time to their own schoolwork, she said….

“Erin Fitzgerald-Haddad, a seventh-grade math teacher at the San Fernando Institute of Applied Media, a Los Angeles Unified school, has the know-how and resources to make a transition to distance learning smoother.
Fitzgerald-Haddad said teachers and students at her school were regularly using digital platforms like Schoology, an LAUSD learning management system, or Google Suites long before the closures last week.

“The school was able to send all students home with an iPad or Chromebook, though some opted out, and the school put together a YouTube channel where teachers have been posting daily videos. Faculty are also checking in with students and monitoring their work online, she said.

“Even with their expertise to quickly mobilize resources, though, Fitzgerald-Haddad has noticed differences in how students are adapting to distance learning.

“Maybe it’s different at the high school level, but [for] eighth grade and younger, I do not believe it’s reasonable to expect students to be learning on their own,” she said.

“While some students are advanced and will be able to pick up the material on their own, the Schoology platform allows her to see that some aren’t keeping up.

“The ones that really need the support, they’re the ones I’m having to make phone calls to,” she said….”

This interview on KPCC-NPR in Southern California by Larry Mantle was conducted a few days ago.

Mantle made it clear–at least to me–that he favors charter schools, so I was constantly asked to defend my criticism of them. I later learned that Los Angelenos know Mantle as a charter champion. One of the hypothetical questions are posed was “what would be wrong with a district that was half public schools, half charter schools?” Another time, he praised Eli Broad and wondered why I didn’t regard him as a generous philanthropist. You get the drift.

When the callers were put on the air, all of them were charter parents who challenged me.

There were no questions or comments from public school parents.

The parents who called in do not believe that charters divert funding from public schools, where most of the state’s children are. I suggested that they google Gordon Lafer’s study, “The Breaking Point,” which documents the many millions that three California districts lose to charters. I also suggested that California has been underinvesting in its schools for many years and is now below the national average.

I think every parent has the right to make the choice they think is in the best interest of their child, but I think every policymaker is responsible to improve and prioritize the public schools that enroll 85-90% of all American children.

In AIRTALK’s tweet about the show, which appeared pretty quickly on March 11, the show’s tweet says that I consider the 2010s to be “banner years” for public schools. This is ridiculous. Whoever wrote that line obviously did not read the book. The 2010s were a time of budget cuts, teacher shortages, the combined negative effects of NCLB and Race to the Top, VAM, Common Core, and worship of mandated standardized testing. It was a horrible decade for schools, with the only bright spot being the rise of the #Red4Ed movement in 2018. I am assuming that no one at AIRTALK read the book. The topic of conversation was: How dare you dare to question the need for and value of charter schools?

The show takes about 20 minutes. Listen and tell me what you think.

I will not post any more notices about school closings, because there are so many of them. Every day brings news of another district or city or state that is closing its public schools in response to the coronavirus, in an effort to reduce exposure to the virus. Some of these closures are limited to a few weeks; some are indefinite. In every case, I hope that district officials have given serious thought to supplying meals to children who depend upon them. As reader Chiara pointed out, the closures remind us of how important our schools are in the lives of children–the social interactions, the opportunity to learn, the library, the clubs, the musical groups, the sports, the peer relationships, access to social services, and exchanges with human teachers. Being online just isn’t enough of a substitute for human relationships.

This story appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles school officials on Friday voted to shut down the nation’s second-largest school system effective Monday, citing concerns over the rapid spread of the coronavirus. The district has about 900 campuses serving more than 670,000 children and adult students.

Schools will be closed for two weeks while the situation is evaluated, said L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner. There will be 40 centers where students and families can receive services, including meals, starting on Wednesday.

The “family resource centers” will be open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will offer childcare and hot meals. The district hopes to have a list of locations soon.

Los Angeles district officials said that they will also offer televised and online lessons in an attempt to help families.

School district employees will continue to be paid, even if not directly involved in working with students.

San Diego Unified School District will also shut down on Monday. Neither district said when schools would reopen.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles issued this statement tonight:

UTLA calls for LAUSD to close schools

Tonight UTLA called on LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner to take decisive action to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are calling for the rapid, accelerated, and humane closure of LAUSD schools,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. “Other countries have shown that a proactive — not reactive — approach slows the spread of the virus, makes sure healthcare providers are not crushed with overwhelming demand, and dramatically reduces fatalities.”

As part of the call for school closures, UTLA released 10 Common Good Community Demands to support students and families, including 15 additional paid sick days for all LA County workers, a weekly disaster stipend, and creation of a food supply network.

“The state has a $20 billion reserve and this is exactly the time to tap into that reserve to support students and families,” Caputo-Pearl said. “There is an opportunity here to build a social safety net through our Common Good Community Support demands. Let’s take the opportunity to build those now.”

UTLA’s call for an accelerated timeframe for school closures is supported by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents nurses, medical technicians, and other healthcare experts across the country.

“As a healthcare union representing workers on the front lines of this pandemic, we must take proactive steps to protect our communities,” said Sal Rosselli, president of NUHW. “Although closing schools is a difficult decision, only decisive action will slow the exponential growth of this pandemic and prevent our healthcare system from becoming overloaded.”

Link to the UTLA Statement on the Proactive Closure of LAUSD Schools

This decision was announced on March 11:

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Court of Appeal:
Nonprofit Chartered Schools Are Not Exempt From County Property Taxes, Assessments

By a MetNews Staff Writer

The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday affirmed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Monica Bachner’s determination that a nonprofit charter school is not impliedly exempt, under the California Constitution, from payment of property taxes and special assessments.

The plaintiffs—Los Angeles Leadership Academy, Inc., which operates schools in Lincoln Heights, and two nonprofit public benefit corporations that own the land—brought suit for refunds and declaratory relief, contending that their schools, like public schools, should not be taxed.

Justice Elizabeth Grimes of Div. Eight wrote the opinion affirming Bachner’s judgment in favor Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang and others.

Public Schools’ Exemption

Public schools are expressly exempt, under the state Constitution, from paying taxes and, it has been held, are impliedly exempt from paying special assessments, Grimes recited.

She wrote:

“We find no support in statutory or case law for plaintiffs’ implied exemption claim. Plaintiffs cannot establish that charter schools are public entities for purposes of exemption from taxation. Plaintiffs’ policy arguments to the contrary—that charter schools should be treated like public entities because monies taken for taxes and special assessments reduce monies available for educating students, and put charter schools at a competitive disadvantage with other public schools—are properly addressed to the Legislature, not to this court.”

Grimes noted that in the 2006 case of Wells v. One2One Learning Foundation, the California Supreme Court held, in an opinion by then-Justice Marvin Baxter, that while charter schools are “part of the public school system” for some purposes, they are not entitled to governmental tort immunity.

Legislative Specification

The Legislature has specified the circumstances under which chartered schools are a part of the public school system, Grimes said, pointing out:

“Notably absent is any suggestion that charters schools are to be treated like school districts for taxation purposes.”

The case is Los Angeles Leadership Academy v. Prang, B292613.

Thomas R. Freeman, A. Howard Matz, Hernan D. Vera and Fanxi Wang Bird of Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, represented the plaintiffs. Joel N. Klevens of Glaser Weil Fink Howard Avchen & Shapiro joined with Los Angeles Deputy County Counsels Nicole Davis Tinkham and Justin Y. Kim in arguing for the assessor.

Copyright 2020, Metropolitan News Company

Voters favored candidates endorsed by the United Teachers of Los Angeles for all four contested seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District board.

Two of the UTLA candidates, both incumbents–Jackie Goldberg and George McKenna–won outright with a majority.

Two are leading their races but heading for a run-off.

To read the latest results, go to this website and scroll to the bottom for school board races.

George McKenna (pro-public education) ran unopposed and received 100% of the vote.

Jackie Goldberg (pro-public education) was the target of hate mail sent to voters in her district but she forcefully rebutted them and was leading with 55.62% of the vote.

Scott Schmerelson (pro-public education) was the target of vicious anti-Semitic flyers, was leading with 42.13%, compared to the runner-up with 20.258%. There will be a runoff.

Patricia Castellanos (pro-public education) held 26.21% of the vote, followed by Tanya Ortiz Franklin with 23.83% of the vote. There will be a runoff. There were three other candidates running for the seat in this district.

The final vote will not be released until all the absentee and mail-in ballots have been counted.

The pro-public education slate has a good chance of retaining a 4-3 majority on the board if they win the runoffs, despite the millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of scurrilous flyers distributed by the charter industry. The biggest spender in the election was billionaire Bill Bloomfield, who lives in Manhattan Beach, not Los Angeles, and has frequently donated to Republican candidates.

Here is UTLA’s reaction:

Huge night for UTLA: Goldberg & McKenna win; Schmerelson & Castellanos in first place, advance to runoffs

LOS ANGELES — Facing outsized spending by the charter lobby and billionaire privatizers, UTLA educators and parents scored big wins in the LAUSD School Board races by early Wednesday morning. Jackie Goldberg and George McKenna easily won reelection to their seats, and Scott Schmerelson and Patricia Castellanos placed first and fought off demeaning smear campaigns to advance to the November 2020 runoffs.

UTLA ran the most robust ground game in our history, proving the power of people versus money. While the charter lobby put hate ads in the mail, we put people in the streets, walking and talking to voters. Hundreds of UTLA members worked more than 1,000 neighborhood and precinct walks alongside our parent and community allies, reaching more than 20,000 voters. On average, when we talked to a voter, 8 out of 10 times they committed to supporting our candidates. Our member texting campaign reached an additional 100,000 people who vote by absentee ballot.

“We ran an impressive and positive ground game, fueled by the passion and enthusiasm of teachers and parents who believe in public education,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. “The charter lobby’s hateful, vitriolic attack ads can’t match the impact of a teacher at the door, talking one-on-one to a voter. Since our strike and through this election, our communities are waking up to the billionaire attacks on our democracy and our public schools.”

Fries Elementary parent Alicia Baltazar spent multiple weekends walking precincts and phone banking for Patricia Castellanos.

“Like with the strike, I felt the support of the community and I had great conversations with voters,” Baltazar said. “But it was really disturbing to watch the charter lobby and a few wealthy individuals spend millions to fight the candidates supported by teachers and parents. Why couldn’t they send that money to our schools instead?”

The California Charter Schools Association and billionaires like Bill Bloomfield funneled more than $6.2 million into the race against UTLA’s endorsed candidates, making it the most expensive primary school board race in US history. That money funded an aggressive mail campaign that hit new lows, including a series of racist, sexist, and ageist ads.

The charter industry came hard in this election because they suffered a series of losses in the aftermath of our strike, including increased public criticism of unregulated charter expansion and notable policy losses, such as our contract win on co-location and AB 1505, the first serious charter regulation in decades.

In the Democratic U.S. Presidential race, Bernie Sanders won the California primary. UTLA was an early supporter of his campaign, and this week Bernie weighed in on our School Board fight, tweeting support to his 10 million followers and endorsing Patricia Castellanos.

Now, the work continues to secure a general election win for Castellanos and Schmerelson in November. We will double down on the positive work from this campaign for the next election and beyond. The school board wins give us momentum in current reopener contract bargaining and propel us onto the next steps of our three-year path: protecting healthcare in bargaining to begin this fall and winning the School Board runoffs and the Schools & Communities First funding measure in November 2020.

“We continue our fight not just to reject the billionaire agenda — the politics of fear, hate and oppression — but to build a massive movement to reinvest in public education for the schools our students deserve, said UTLA President-Elect Cecily Myart-Cruz.”

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UTLA, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union local, is proud to represent more than 35,000 teachers and health & human services professionals in district and charter schools in LAUSD.

The usual charter-friendly billionaires are pouring money into the Los Angeles school board race in hopes of breaking its pro-public education majority and restoring control to the pro-charter faction.

The usual suspects are trying to buy the board.

With majority control of Los Angeles Unified’s school board hanging in the balance, it has surprised no one that a flood of outside privatization money has put March 3’s Super Tuesday election on target to smash LAUSD’s 2017 record as the nation’s priciest school board primary ever. At last count, laundromat tycoon Bill Bloomfield and the Reed Hastings- and Jim and Alice Walton-bankrolled Charter Public Schools PAC have poured in nearly $6.4 million to stop L.A. teachers from returning to office three pro-public school progressives — George McKenna (Board District 1), Scott Schmerelson (BD 3) and Jackie Goldberg (BD 5) — and electing an education justice veteran to fill the sole open seat in BD 7, LAUSD parent and Reclaim Our Schools L.A. co-founder Patricia Castellanos.

One measure of the California Charter Schools Association’s desperation in the wake of 2018’s statewide rejection of charter billionaire-backed candidates is the $3.5 million worth of attack mailers with which Bloomfield and CCSA have inundated voters. The most surreally beyond-the-pale missives have targeted Goldberg, who last week issued a point-by-point rebuttal. A close runner-up, however, has been a smear against Schmerelson. Seizing upon some nuisance complaints filed by a member of the charter Astroturf group Speak Up, the mailers caricature some modest stock holdings in Schmerelson’s broker-controlled account — duly disclosed in the board member’s ethics filings — into a frothing vision of Trump-scaled rapaciousness and malfeasance.

MEDIA ADVISORY
March 2, 2020
Contact: Anna Bakalis, 213-305-9654

Los Angeles — The stakes are high in the LAUSD School board race to elect Patricia Castellanos in District 7, Scott Schmerelson in District 3, Jackie Goldberg in District 5 and George McKenna in District 1. As of Monday morning, the California Charter Schools Association PAC and billionaires like Bill Bloomfield, who sits on the CCSA PAC board, have funneled more than $6.2 million into the race against these candidates, making it the most expensive primary school board race in US history. They are spending $1 million every other day since last week.

“What our kids don’t need are billionaires spending $20,000 an hour every day to buy our school board election. Imagine if the millions they are spending against public education were redirected into our schools?” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. “Our school libraries could be open five days a week. We could hire more nurses, counselors, mental health professionals and social workers and invest in ethnic studies, arts and music programs.”

UTLA members, parents and supporters are in final sprint to get out the vote for the March 3 election. See ads in today’s LA Times and La Opinion, attached.

Monday Media Availability
Teachers in support of Patricia Castellanos in District 7
When: Today, Monday March 2
Time: 4:30 – 6 PM
Who: UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, teachers and supporters will be precinct walking, phone banking and texting for Castellanos. Interviews available in English and Spanish.
Location: 103 W Carson St. (Carson and Main Sts.) near Seafood City.
Onsite Contact: Mario Valenzuela, 213-447-3957

Flash mob with teachers in support of Scott Schmerelson in District 3
When: Today, Monday March 2
Time: 4-6 PM
Who: Teachers, parents and students lining the streets with signs, cars honking in support of Schmerleson. Interviews available in English and Spanish.
3 Intersection locations:
Tampa Ave. & Nordhoff St., Northridge (main site)
Ventura Blvd & Laurel Canyon Blvd., Sherman Oaks
Topanga Canyon & Victory Blvds., Canoga Park
What: Teachers holding signs, cars honking in support
Onsite Contact: Scott Mandel, 818-970-7445

Sara Roos writes in the new L.A. Education Examiner that more charter millions are flowing into the school board race. The biggest spender is billionaire Bill Bloomfield, who has thus far spent nearly $4 million to defeat pro-publics school incumbents. He says he is “against special interests,” but fails to recognize or admit that he alone is putting his thumb on the scale to support a pro-charter candidate. The charter industry, backed by a long list of billionaires, is a special interest with far deeper pockets than the union.

By now, the California Charter Schools Association knows that they are harming public schools, where 80-90% of California’s students are educated.

By now, the CCSA knows that charter schools do not get higher test scores than public schools.

By now, they know that their industry is rife with corruption and fraud, and some of its leaders are serving jail time or on the lam.

By now, they know that charters do not have a secret sauce.

By now, they know that all they fight for is survival and power.

But they are pouring millions into the four contested seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District races, hoping to regain control so they can continue to do the bidding of Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill Bloomfield.

Here is the latest from the LA Education Examiner in the closing days of the campaign. 

See here for the money dump in the closing days of the campaign, with nearly one million going to a charter candidate running against Scott Schmerelson.

Here is Howard Blume in the Los Angeles Times, reporting on the ugly smear campaign against Scott Schmerelson. 

Charter supporters are angry at Schmerelson, first because he supports public schools, but also because he revealed that more than 80% of the LA charters have vacancies.

Blume writes:

A million-dollar attack campaign is underway portraying Los Angeles school board member Scott Schmerelson as greedy, corrupt and determined to score fast cash by exposing children to deadly vaping and McDonald’s French fries.

One mailer — which included a cartoonish image of Schmerelson, who is Jewish, bedecked with a gold dollar-sign chain and holding a cigar and fistful of cash — came under fire as anti-Semitic and its use was halted.

Behind the surge of negative mailers in this West San Fernando Valley board district is an intense effort by charter school supporters to defeat Schmerelson and elect Marilyn Koziatek, a district parent who works at a local charter school managing community outreach efforts.

The pivotal race could tip the board majority toward the protection and expansion of charter schools, which enroll about 1 in 5 district students. Charter advocates are especially concerned about a new law that will soon give school boards more authority to reject new charters.

Blume reports that the charter industry has stopped sending out its antiSemitic image of Schmerelson but that’s a meaningless gesture since it was already sent out in a mass mailing.