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Thursday, March 31, 2011


2011-03-31 "California community colleges to slash enrollment, classes; With state budget talks halted, the 112-campus system faces an $800-million cut in funding for the coming school year. The system may have to enroll 400,000 fewer students. Chancellor Jack Scott calls the situation a tragedy for students" by Carla Rivera from "Los Angeles Times" daily newspaper
Facing a state funding cut of up to 10%, California's community colleges will enroll 400,000 fewer students next fall and slash thousands of classes to contend with budget shortfalls that threaten to reshape their mission, officials said Wednesday.
The dire prognosis was in response to the breakdown in budget talks in Sacramento and the likelihood that the state's 112 community colleges will be asked to absorb an $800-million funding reduction for the coming school year — double the amount suggested in Gov. Jerry Brown's current budget proposal.
As it now stands, the budget plan would raise community college student fees from $26 to $36 per unit. The fees may go even higher if a budget compromise is not reached.
During a telephone news briefing, California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott said the funding cuts, under either scenario, would be a tragedy for students and a deep blow to the state's economy.
"Students seeking to transfer to Cal State and the University of California will be denied access, those students unable to get into Cal State and UC and who desperately need to get into a community college will be denied, as well as those who are out of work and are coming to us for retraining," Scott said. "We will do the best we can, but we will not be serving the needs of students or meeting our education goals."
Under the best-case scenario, Long Beach City College will cut 222 course sections this fall, turn away 1,000 full-time students who can't get classes and lose more than 30 staff positions, President Eloy Oakley said. He and several other community college leaders joined Scott for the telephone briefing.
"Given the scenario now before us, we will reduce our enrollment back to 1999-2000 levels, which is a significant defunding, particularly at a time when demand at Long Beach City College has never been greater," Oakley said.
About 18,000 students will be unable to enroll this fall at four Sacramento-area colleges in the Los Rios Community College District — and more would be turned away if the larger funding reduction is imposed, Chancellor Brice W. Harris said.
"This is a statewide crisis, and increasingly we're going to see our bright young folks leaving the state to get an education," Harris said.
The three-college San Diego Community College District is planning to shed more than 1,000 classes and turn away 20,000 students, Chancellor Constance Carroll said. More classes and about 27,000 students would be turned away under the larger reduction.
"In San Diego, with a 10% unemployment rate, we have new jobs that require a college education, there are shortages in nursing and other careers and an unprecedented demand for students," Carroll said. "The bottom line is students will not have the opportunities they need."
Summer sessions, whose schedules must be completed soon, are likely to be decimated, even if there is a last-minute budget breakthrough, the officials said.
John Hooper, a computer science major at Los Angeles Valley College, said the unavailability of summer classes means it will take him an extra two years to complete the requirements he needs to transfer to UCLA.
He was among scores of students at several Los Angeles-area community colleges who held a "die-in" Wednesday to protest the effect of state budget cuts on their education.
The students lay in rows on the pavement and held tombstones made of black poster board with inscriptions such as "Here Lies California Education." Hooper said he has tried for three semesters without success to get into one chemistry class that he needs. His plight is shared by thousands of other students.
"You're lucky to get any class, let alone the classes you want," Hooper, 28, said after the event. "Many students feel disempowered about what to do, but we're telling them to vote, to call their legislators. Education is a way out of everything…and should never be cut."
Students at Valley College take part in a "die-in" Wednesday to protest the effect of state budget cuts on education. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times / March 30, 2011)

A Call For Unions To Endorse State Owned Banks

A Union endorsement of state banking in all 50 states can refocus attention on unions in a way that shows that Unions support solutions that concretely and dramatically support ALL working individuals and families.
There is open hostile class war against workers. Collective bargaining rights and worker protections all over the country are being carved away or dismantled, state by state. The onslaught is profound and relentless. The White House and Congress are either complicit in these attacks or determined to do nothing about them. Fueling this attack against workers is a corporate monster now thoroughly in control of government. It pays little or no taxes, uses off shore accounts to mask its financial holdings from taxation and continues to fund the ever growing number of campaigns of lawmakers who beacon to its call. It controls the mainstream press. It controls the world. The financial collapse that is now being blamed on pensions, public workers and errant home loan borrowers was caused by that particularly egregious offender of working people- the banking industry. Theirs and the profits of America’s largest corporations are growing by leaps and bounds while states and cities struggle with life damaging cuts to important services and jobs.
It is not enough to fight them in the streets, in the state capitol buildings and in the courts while the mechanisms that give them power are left alone. We must fight them where it hurts them most.
In this regard, workers must become proactive and ready to augment defensive strategies with endorsing and proposing solutions that all workers can understand and support. Public Banking is such a solution. It is working in the state of North Dakota where it was started by embattled farmers during the period of America’s last great economic depression. Today, the State Bank of North Dakota is thriving.
As of the spring of 2010, North Dakota was also the only state sporting a major budget surplus; it had the lowest unemployment and default rates in the country; and it had the most community banks per capita, suggesting that the presence of a state-owned bank has not only not hurt but has helped the local banks.

The BND was founded in 1919 to insure a dependable supply of affordable credit for its farmers, ranchers and businesses. This is a model that all states, all workers can embrace.
Public Banks are...
• Viable solutions to the present economic crises in US states.
• Potentially available to any-sized government or community able to meet the requirements for setting up a bank.
• Owned by the people of a state or community.
• Economically sustainable, because they operate like private banks
• Able to offset tax increases with returned credit income to
the community.
• Ready sources of credit for local governments, eliminating the need for large “rainy day” funds.
• Required to promote the public interest, as defined in their charters.
• Constitutional, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court...and are not
• Operated by politicians; rather, they are run by professional bankers responsible to and accountable to the public.
• Boondoggles for bank executives; rather, their employees are salaried public servants (paid by the state, with a transparent pay structure) who would likely not earn bonuses, commissions or fees for generating loans.
• Speculative ventures that maximize profits in the short term, without regard to the long-term interests of the public.

Find out more about how State Banks can work for you here: []
Urge your Union local, leadership and labor council, state, federal and AFL-CIO to endorse public banking and support legislative efforts to enact it.
We will prevail. We will win.
This is how we will do it!
For information contact
2011-03-31 "Community colleges could turn away 400,000" by Nanette Asimov from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
An unprecedented 400,000 students could be turned away from California's community college campuses next fall because state lawmakers are letting billions of dollars in taxes expire in June that would otherwise protect courses, Community College Chancellor Jack Scott said Wednesday.
Pointing to budget talks that stalled this week in Sacramento - and the resulting failure of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to let voters decide whether to extend and increase taxes - Scott said he expects the state to reduce its allocation to the college system by $800 million, nearly 10 percent of its total budget.
Voter approval of the taxes would have raised about $13 billion, resolving half of the state's $26 billion budget deficit. Democrats backed Brown's plan but were unable to persuade at least four Republicans to join them to meet the two-thirds majority required to place a tax measure on the ballot.
The Legislature has not yet decided how to make up the difference, so it's not clear that cuts to the college system would actually double from the $400 million reduction already planned by lawmakers.
Nor is eliminating courses the only way to make ends meet, said Steve Boilard, director of higher education with the Legislative Analyst's Office. For example, community colleges could impose a second fee hike on top of next fall's increase, he said. The price is rising to $36 per unit, from $26.
Yet higher fees can also be a barrier to college, educators said.
If 400,000 students are locked out of community college as Scott predicts, it would be roughly the same number as are enrolled in the entire California State University system.
"This is a tremendous tragedy, and a very deep blow to the economy of California," Scott said, describing community colleges as the "No. 1 workforce training institution" in the state.
The California system is the largest in the country, with 2.75 million students. And that's 140,000 fewer students than two years ago, when budget cuts forced the colleges to shed thousands of courses and instructors.
Meanwhile, community colleges have never been more popular, with more students knocking on the door every day to study nursing, programming and other careers; gain credits for transfer to a university; or improve basic English skills.
"These are catastrophic reductions," said Constance Carroll, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District. She joined Scott and other chancellors to lay out next year's expected landscape on campuses across the state.
San Diego colleges offered 16,000 courses two years ago, Carroll said, but next year they expect to offer less than 13,000.
"People trying to train for work will not have the opportunities they need," she said.
In Sacramento, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks (San Bernardino County), disputed the idea that community colleges fuel the California economy by putting people to work.
"It's not even true," said Donnelly, who serves as vice chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. "It's small businesses that do that."
Donnelly said the way to resolve the state's budget crisis is not through tax extensions, but by deregulating businesses and eliminating state targets for reducing carbon emissions.
"I didn't come up to Sacramento - to leave my family and my business and my life - just to put a Band-Aid over the budget," he said.
College faculty members are having none of it.
"California will never emerge from the Great Recession without community colleges," said John McDowell, president of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges.
2011-03-31 "Progress! California Federation of Teachers Stands Against Methyl Iodide" by Sarah Parsons from "" online journal
Scientists, environmentalists, and public health experts have all spoken out against the use of methyl iodide, a pesticide linked to cancers, thyroid disease, and late-term miscarriages. Now America's educators are joining the cause.
The California Federation of Teachers recently concluded its 2011 Convention, releasing a number of resolutions and constitutional amendments (pdf). One of the biggest resolutions deals with a topic not typically covered in the education sector — pesticides. Resolution One demands that the state of California immediately withdrawal the approval of methyl iodide until more research is conducted on the pesticide's potential health and environmental dangers.
It may seem strange that California's teachers would concern themselves with a pesticide, but it makes sense — methyl iodide impacts most of the state's residents, especially children. "The overall potential negative impacts of living and going to school near ranches, farms and fields on which methyl iodide is used for pest management — even with the legally required protections, application procedures, and buffer zones in place — pose unconscionable risks to the health and well-being of our children, their families, educators and school employees," the resolution read.
Indeed, methyl iodide's risks impact virtually all people who go anywhere near fields that use the fumigant. Chronic exposure to methyl iodide has been linked to cancers, late-term miscarriages, thyroid disease, and neurological problems. Breathing the stuff in can cause vomiting, slurred speech, and kidney problems, while touching it can burn the skin. Yet despite these health risks, the Environmental Protection Agency approved methyl iodide for use in the U.S., while California greenlighted the pesticide in December of 2010.
To that end, the California Federation of Teachers is making three demands: 1) that California engage in further independent research on the health and environmental implications of methyl iodide; 2) that the state immediately withdrawal the pesticide's approval until this new research is completed, published, peer reviewed, and made publicly available in Spanish and English; 3) that California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) immediately divest in Permira, a private equity group, until the company stops funding the maker of methyl iodide, Arysta LifeScience or directs Arysta to stop manufacturing methyl iodide.
The demands are strong, and similar requests are exactly what we need to get methyl iodide out of America's agricultural fields. After all, methyl iodide is so reliably toxic that it's used in lab settings to grow cancer cells. A poison that potent has no business being anywhere near our food, farm workers, or groundwater.
The California Federation of Teachers has done its part to get methyl iodide off our crop fields, but there's a way that you can help, too. The EPA recently opened up a public comment period on a petition asking the agency to immediately pull methyl iodide from the marketplace. You can voice your opposition to the pesticide by submitting a comment here, and you can sign Pesticide Action Network's petition telling EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that methyl iodide shouldn't have a place in America's agricultural system.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011-03-30 "Democrats weighing all budget options" by Steven Harmon from "Contra Costa Times" newspaper
SACRAMENTO -- With budget negotiations in tatters, Democrats are looking at the few options available to them to escape the $15 billion deficit that still looms over the state.
None are painless and most will result in highly charged partisan showdowns. One thing is clear: a June special election is out.
But, by saying he was ready to take his case to voters, Gov. Jerry Brown signaled that he may still be holding out hope of persuading some Republicans to agree to a public vote on his tax extension proposal. "I'm going to explore every possible avenue," Brown said in a YouTube video he released Tuesday. "There's more than one way to get to the goal."
Brown and Democratic legislative leaders appear to have ruled out forcing a vote on a special election through a majority vote. Aside from the legal challenges, Democrats seem reluctant to try to take a tax issue to the voters without the veneer of bipartisanship. The governor was asking for a vote to continue, for the next five years, the 2009 tax increases on purchases, income and vehicles to generate $11 billion a year.
A fall initiative campaign, which Brown was said to be considering, could delay the budget, hurt the state's credit rating, create a statewide stoppage of public works projects and force the state to take drastic action such as issuing IOUs to keep the government afloat. All of this has happened before but that stakes are higher this time.
But Brown, who has anendless supply of confidence in his ability to persuade voters of his logic, may like the idea of waging direct campaigns in the handful of Republican districts that are already competitive and may become even more so after district lines are redrawn later this summer.
Brown has not laid out the course he intends to take -- likely because he has not made a decision -- but his political adviser, Steven Glazer, said "we need legislators and voters to understand the choices and consequences in balancing the budget."
Labor groups are giving some thought to a public campaign, said Steve Smith, spokesman for the California Labor Federation.
"One option is to have conversations in those districts with voters about school closures, cuts to public safety and parks," Smith said.
The hope is that a critical mass of worried constituents would force Republican legislators back to the bargaining table, where they would hammer out an agreement to put a tax extension on the ballot. Pressure could be brought to bear as the June 15 constitutional deadline approaches and the devastating cuts for schools and public safety become more real.
But even if that rosy scenario unfolded by mid-June, an election wouldn't occur until late summer -- perhaps in September because of the 88 days needed to prepare ballots.
In the meantime, the Legislature would have to fulfill its constitutional obligation to present a balanced budget -- which could mean $15 billion in cuts that further decimates schools and public safety, Democrats said.
"Pink slips would have to be issued to teachers because schools only spend what they know they will have," said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
The only way to avoid deeper cuts is if the Legislature can come up with a two-thirds vote on a straight tax increase, an idea that appears to be gaining support in critics' corners. That would, however, defy Brown's campaign promise of not raising taxes without a vote of the people. And, as Brown has said, it would defy the logic of the Capitol, where Republicans wouldn't even allow a vote of the people on tax extensions.
Republicans went for broke in the negotiations, turning in a wish list of 53 separate demands after rejecting some concessions by Brown on pension and regulatory rollbacks.
"Hey, there's no rabbit to be pulled out of any hat," Barankin said. "There are no good answers. None. It's just a matter of how painful it'll be and how people react to the new reality."
Whichever direction Democrats take, it may take a while to overcome the bitterness of failing to negotiate with Republicans, observers said.
Steinberg was visibly upset in describing how the talks had crumbled, saying Republicans "appear to want to be irrelevant and seem intent on achieving that objective." He claimed the Republican party was "increasingly on the fringe of California politics" and that they "have done a pretty good job of running out the clock."
Even in his anger -- with his so-called "mood meter" resting at "exasperated" in his office -- however, Steinberg said that Democrats hope to continue discussions with the handful of Republicans who had been negotiating before Brown halted the talks.
"Nothing is really ever over in the state Capitol," said Dan Schnur, an aide to Gov. Pete Wilson and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. "The governor may be trying to push Republicans back to the table, or laying the groundwork for a Democrats-only budget. It could be a lot of things, but it's definitely not over."
2011-03-30 "Schools potentially face tremendous cutsy Sharon Noguchi from "San Jose Mercury" newspaper
With budget negotiations in Sacramento in tatters, the bloodletting is starting to come into focus.
The state is facing the threat of a damaged credit rating and even more cuts to the poor, disabled and elderly. And now California schools are also grappling with a nightmare scenario: $1,000-per-student cuts, 30 days shaved off the school year and school districts falling into bankruptcy.
On Wednesday, the budget crisis of 2011 entered Phase Two.
Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers have said all along that they would have little option but to slash education spending if voters didn't extend sales, income and auto taxes in a June election. K-12 education had been protected in the $8.2 billion in cuts -- mostly affecting the state's most vulnerable populations -- signed by Brown last week.
But now that the governor's talks with Republicans about putting those tax extensions on the June ballot have broken down, the anxiety level among educators is off the charts.
Schools that have accepted larger class sizes, no art or music programs, and teacher furloughs and layoffs are now bracing for cuts so draconian that many educators have avoided thinking about them.
"There's so little left to cut," said Charles Weis, superintendent of the Santa Clara County Office of Education. "It's like saying which of your children would you kill, that you don't love that much. Every one of us thought the state wouldn't let this happen to ourchildren."
Brown is still considering a fall initiative campaign to put the taxes on the ballot, a move that would bypass the Legislature. But delaying the budget several months could not only damage the state's credit rating but also create a statewide stoppage of public works projects and force the state to take drastic action such as issuing IOUs to keep the government afloat. So the administration and the Democrat-controlled Legislature might be forced to make more than $13.5 billion in cuts before the November vote to close the $26.6 billion budget gap.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says the next round of cuts would primarily hurt K-12 and higher education, health and social services, public safety and transportation programs. State employees would also face deep salary and benefit cuts, the office says.
Brown has not laid out the course he intends to take, but his political adviser, Steven Glazer, said Wednesday: "We need legislators and voters to understand the choices and consequences in balancing the budget."
Local educators said Wednesday that they "get it," but they beseeched the governor and legislators to compromise.
"I remain hopeful the Legislature will begin to believethey owe it to the public to allow our citizens to vote," said Superintendent Polly Bove of the Fremont Union High School District.
Based on Brown's January budget, schools already had a minimal-cut Plan A -- fueled by the hope of a successful tax extension -- and then a Plan B to cope with $2 billion in education cuts statewide, or $350 per student, although the Legislative Analyst's Office says the cuts would be much worse.
Typically, districts in Santa Clara County receive a basic state allotment of about $5,000 to $6,050 per student. As officials return to their ledgers to draw up another plan that looks at possibly $6 billion annually less for education -- or $1,000 less per student -- not everyone can grasp the reality.
San Jose Unified School District's Plan B budget already meant seeking for a second year a week of unpaid furlough for employees as well as drawing as much as $15.4 million from reserves, Superintendent Vincent Matthews said.
Beyond that, he said, "we'll be looking at further cuts and future cuts."
The district is fortunate because it maintains a healthy rainy-day fund, the result of a successful lawsuit against the state a few years ago.
Many other districts, such as East Side Union High, have fewer options. By law, districts can't lay off any credentialed employees other than those -- about two dozen in East Side's case -- already notified this month. And its classrooms physically can't accommodate more students. "Upping class sizes is really not realistic," Superintendent Dan Moser said.
So the district will look at jobs outside the classroom, such as counselors, aides and maintenance workers. But after three years of cuts, "the list gets pretty slim," Moser said. Another option is to negotiate salary reductions.
While some still hope for a last-minute political deal, Brown made it clear Tuesday that he has given up on persuading any GOP lawmakers to change their minds about allowing a tax vote.
School advocates from four counties have energetically and unsuccessfully lobbied state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, one of the "GOP 5" who negotiated with Brown, to do just that.
"It's highly frustrating," said Cynthia Hawthorne, board president of Santa Cruz City Schools. She said people were in shock Wednesday at the collapse of the talks.
Parent activist Hoi-Yung Poon vowed to continue lobbying Republican legislators. "It's not up to them to determine whether to raise taxes. It's up to me, the people," said Poon, of Cupertino-based Parents for Great Education.
The schools, Weis and other educators said, simply do not have the tools to deal with the magnitude of the needed cuts.
To reduce salaries or the work year, school officials say, each of the state's 1,000 school districts would have to renegotiate union contracts. The state would have to further modify its mandated school year, already down to 175 days this year from 180 days. One estimate, Weis said, would mean cutting about 30 days of school.
"These kinds of cuts are beyond the scope of anything we've had to do before," Weis said.
Educators acknowledge that they may have contributed to public complacency by issuing annual cries of budgetary distress -- and then absorbing budget cuts and managing to keep up test scores. Plus, they said, Californians may simply be jaded by the politics of Sacramento.
"We thought at some point somebody would wake up and realize we're talking about people's lives and the future of the state, and they better get on board and be statesmanlike," Weis said. "This time it didn't happen."
2011-03-30 "Ex-Asian Boyz Gang Member Sentenced To Life For Eight Murders" from "City News Service"
A former Asian Boyz gang member was sentenced today to eight consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole, plus 30 years, for his role in eight Los Angeles-area killings.
Marvin Mercado, 37, was also sentenced by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry to 10 terms of 15 years to life behind bars -- plus an additional 20 years -- for his convictions on 10 counts of attempted murder.
Jurors recommended March 7 that Mercado be sentenced to life behind bars rather than the death penalty for his crimes.
The seven-woman, five-man jury convicted him Feb. 16 of eight murders, which were carried out primarily in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys in 1995 and 1996.
Mercado was living in the Philippines under an assumed name after marrying into a socially prominent family when he was arrested in 2007 and later brought back to Los Angeles to stand trial.
"I'm very thrilled for Marvin that he is going to be able to live, one of Mercado's attorneys, Robert Schwartz, said after the jury's March 7 decision. He said he believed jurors may have been swayed by Mercado's crime-free life after fleeing to the Philippines following a two-year crime spree.
Schwartz called the life prison term ``a horrible sentence' that ensures that his client will die behind bars.
Deputy District Attorney Hoon Chun said the prosecution respected the jury's penalty phase verdict, but respectfully disagreed with its decision.
He had asked the panel to recommend a death sentence, telling jurors, ``This guy's got ice water in his veins.'
Chun told reporters following the jury's decision that the first two victims were gang members, and the remaining six were ``innocent victims' who were ``just in the wrong place at the wrong time.'
Mercado was convicted of first-degree murder in the slayings of:
-- Armando Estrada and Miguel Limon, two rival Latino gang members who were shot numerous times after being ambushed at an apartment complex on Valerio Street in Van Nuys on April 14, 1995;
-- Cheng Peng, Paul Vu and Ben Liao, who were mistaken for members of a Taiwanese-based gang. They were followed by three carloads of Asian Boyz gang
members as they left a Peck Road cafe, got on the westbound San Bernardino (10)
Freeway and then attacked near the Temple City Boulevard offramp in El Monte on
Aug. 1, 1995;
-- Oscar Palis, who was killed on Aug. 26, 1995, at Woodman Avenue and Devonshire Street in the Mission Hills area as he and others were heading home from a video arcade;
-- John Gregory, who was fatally shot during a Sept. 20, 1995, home-invasion robbery in Reseda; and
-- Tony Nguyen, who was killed with a shotgun the prosecutor said was fired by one of Mercado's accomplices.
Jurors also convicted Mercado of 10 counts of attempted murder involving attacks between April and September 1995, but acquitted him of an 11th count of attempted murder. They deadlocked on a home invasion robbery charge.
Additionally, jurors found that the crimes were gang-related and that Mercado had used a firearm in some of the attacks. The panel also found true a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, which made Mercado eligible for the death penalty.
Mercado was a fugitive when seven one-time cohorts of the gang's Van Nuys clique
-- Buntheon Roeung, Sothi Menh, David Evangelista, Roatha Buth, Son Thanh Bui, Ky Tony Ngo and Kimorn Nuth
-- were tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in June 1999.
The prosecutor told jurors Mercado either had a direct role in the killings or aided his colleagues, including being the driver in the car-to-car shooting in El Monte.
Mercado's other attorney, Donald Calabria, questioned the credibility of four prosecution witnesses who were granted immunity for serious crimes in exchange for their testimony.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011-03-29 "In upset, Fletcher elected next president of United Teachers Los Angeles" by Howard Blume from "LA Now" online news journal of the "Los Angeles Times" newspaper
In an apparent rebuke to the current leadership, members of United Teachers of Los Angeles have elected Warren Fletcher as their next president.
Fletcher, a teacher at the City of Angels alternative school, surged from second place to finish ahead of Julie Washington, the union vice president representing members at elementary schools. In unofficial but final tallies announced late Tuesday in the mail-in election, Fletcher had 4,711 votes or 53.6% and Washington had 4,247 votes or 47.4%.
Washington was bidding to be the first African American to lead the union and would have been the third woman to hold the top post. She enjoyed the implicit support of the current union leadership, but that proved a double-edged sword as many teachers with grievances or concerns about the direction of the union coalesced around Fletcher.
Fletcher will take office in July, succeeding A.J. Duffy, who was barred by term limits from seeking a third three-year term.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2011-03-27 "Thousands attend downtown L.A. labor rally; Police estimate 5,000 to 8,000 teachers, nurses, Teamsters, electricians, actors and others marched to support their peers in Wisconsin and oppose any similar organized-labor restrictions in California" by Kurt Streeter from "Los Angeles Times" daily newspaper
Alarmed by recent union losses in a Wisconsin labor battle, thousands of organized workers marched through downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, vowing to fight a similar fate here in cash-strapped California.
Police estimated between 5,000 and 8,000 people attended the protest, which ended in a packed rally at Pershing Square. The event comes in response to the Wisconsin Legislature's approval of a bill this month that curtails the collective bargaining rights of many unions and follows a weeks-long battle.
Marchers cheered speakers such as Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa; Maria Elena Durazo, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor; and Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin bill, which was signed by Republican legislators without the support of Democrats, exempted firefighters and other public safety workers. However, Mitchell told the crowd that his union still opposes the action.
"This is a direct attack" on all unions and the entire middle class, Mitchell shouted, warning that similar policies could soon be introduced by politicians in California, which is grappling with an estimated $26-billion deficit. "An injury to one is an injury to us all!"
Mitchell's words were met with loud cheers, chants and beating drums. Flags and placards waved in the air, many of them bashing wealthy corporations and conservative politicians.
Protester Ruben Najara, 49, said he has been working at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for just over two decades. A Covina resident who holds an associate's degree from a trade college, Najara said the union job has given him a secure, working-class life and the ability to comfortably raise three children.
He said he fears that on the heels of the Wisconsin law, union collective bargaining power will be steadily eroded throughout the country. "We are willing to make concessions," he said. "But you have to have two sides at the table to bargain."
The march began just outside Staples Center, which served as a staging area for thousands of union members. Leading much of the procession was a sea of burly, black-shirted Teamsters. Behind them, stretching back several city blocks, were nurses, telephone technicians, electricians, truckers, screenwriters, actors, longshoremen, teachers and others.
Among those who showed up to voice support were a group of parents whose children attend Eagle Rock Elementary — a facility they said suffered from inadequate funding.
"Enough is enough," said Amanda Millet, who has two kids at the school. "This year we stand to lose some of our best teachers, the very best. It's amazing that the teachers and their union are being blamed for what is happening with the economy right now.... I see a lot of very nice new buildings housing the LAUSD administration. They should get out of those offices and see what's happening at a school like ours, a place that needs to keep all the good teachers it can."

Friday, March 25, 2011


2011-03-25 "Arcata High Students Protest Teacher Layoffs" from "Arcata Eye" newspaper
ARCATA HIGH SCHOOL –On March 18 at 2 p.m., during fifth period, more than 200 Arcata High students left their classrooms and protested in front of Arcata High against the recently announced budget cuts. Some students wore orange and black, others held up signs and they all united in fiery cheers against the cuts.
“We’re protesting because we’re frustrated with the fact that our teachers are the first thing to go,” AHS senior and ASB board commissioner Wylan Simpson said.
The spark was lit on March 9, when faculty were notified with their Reduction In Force, otherwise known as RIFs or “pink” slips. During the day, the students were informed of the 19.8 “full-time equivalent employees” who were chosen to be “discontinued.”
That night, they attended the Northern Humboldt Union High School District board meeting, where about 20 students rose to speak to the board members in defense of their teachers. The next day, word spread of the nationwide walkout for Friday March 11 at 2 p.m., inspired by recent events in Wisconsin. Many students planned to participate, but the tragedy of the March 11 Japanese earthquake and the resulting tsunami warning interfered with their plans as Arcata High School enrollment had dropped to less than half their student population that day.
Gathering their wits, students reorganized and replanned their walkout on Friday the 18th. Teachers and administration were aware of the walkout.
“The walkout is in support of us. I personally have no objection to it with the exception of the loss of teaching time in my classroom,” an anonymous Arcata High teacher stated.
That day, the administrators sent out notes warning the students that if they participated in the walkout, that disciplinary action would follow. Regardless, at two o’clock, two hundred students walked out and stood in front of the school for 20 minutes.
“I want to support our teachers. We’re your future, we’re our future. We’re the ones that are going to be taking care of this place next,” AHS sophomore Sage Fanucci stated as she stood outside with her friends at 2 p.m.
Some students went out in front of the crowd, making speeches, carrying signs, leading cheers. AHS student, Joseph Hatfield, broke out into lyrics: “No more teachers, no more books, we’re all going to be thieves and crooks.”
Senior Scott Simmons cheered, “Sports cuts before teachers!”
When the bell for the passing period to sixth rang, everyone went back to class. The walkout itself was peaceful and organized.
But a couple steps away from the walkout, the AHS main office was in chaos. Administration, secretaries and office aides were in a frenzy to find out attendance and bring the walkout situation back under control.
AHS senior and office aide Greta Macey stated, “Leaving class caused a lot of stress in the office for our already-short-staffed secretaries. We should continue to show our support but do it maybe before and after school, write letters to congressmen. We shouldn’t just make an excuse to get everyone out of class and act righteous.”
Arcata High administration is currently in the process of handing out disciplinary action for the students who participated in the walkout. Using teacher reports on attendance, they are sentencing students who walked out on Friday lunch detentions this Wednesday, March 23. Lunch detentions are usually served in the office, but the numbers for this particular detention session are so high that they will be served in the gym.
AHS administration disapproves of the event. Assistant Principal Geri Wood declined to comment. NHUHSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Brian Stevens stated, “I don’t think that this [the walkout] can have much impact. This is not a school district issue. We need to channel this energy towards the legislature and get funding for schools on the next ballot. Students need to contact the people in charge. Write letters to our legislators, raise awareness and get this issue on the next ballot, because it’s not there yet.”
Sophomore Abi Black disagrees. She thinks that the walkout will have an impact, but she also realizes that this issue needs to go even farther, “I feel like this walkout is a great way to bring attention to this issue in the community. Now I’m trying to get students to write letters to the administration and the legislature.”

Arcata High School students protest teacher layoffs and demand quality education. KLH | Eye

Thursday, March 24, 2011

2011-03-24 "PG&E's SmartMeter Plan: Opt Out, Pay a Premium; Customers who choose to turn off radio signals could pay as much as $270 up front plus $14 a month" by John Upton from "Bay Citizen" newswire
Pacific Gas and Electric Company plans to charge customers hundreds of dollars on top of their regular gas and electricity bills if they choose to switch off radio signals emitted by SmartMeters, which are being installed in businesses and homes throughout Northern California.
SmartMeters are being installed by PG&E as part of an industry-led effort to replace the nation's aging electrical infrastructure with digital equipment that can track and manage customers' energy consumption. Already, PG&E has replaced 7.7 million analog electricity and gas meters with the new devices.
Following years of public outcry about rollout of the meters, which some customers say have caused serious illnesses and incorrect energy consumption readings, the California Public Utilities Commission earlier this month ordered PG&E to allow customers to opt out of using the technology.
PG&E submitted a proposal to the CPUC Thursday that, instead of allowing customers to continue using analog meters, would see radio signals switched off from their SmartMeters. The SmartMeters would continue to monitor a customers' energy use, but they would not transmit the results to PG&E through radio signals. Instead, a PG&E official would visit the customers' home to manually read the meter for billing purposes.
Customers who select the “radio-off” option would pay a $135 up-front fee followed by a $20 monthly charge, or a $270 up-front fee followed by a $14 monthly charge, PG&E proposed. Low-income customers would pay 20 percent less.
Instead of the fixed monthly fee, customers could choose to pay a monthly rate that varies with the amount of gas and electricity that they use. That option could be less expensive for customers who use little electricity or gas.
PG&E justified the seemingly high rates by saying that its anticipated costs in deploying the “radio-off” option for an expected 146,000 opt-out customers would exceed $80 million over two years.
"We wanted to make sure that those who elected that option would bear the costs associated with that option, as opposed to the rest of our customers," PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said.
The opt-out program costs will include expenses associated with turning customers’ SmartMeter radios off; switching radios back on if customers change their mind or new tenants move into the premises; modifying PG&E’s existing SmartMeter-related information technology programs and radio networks; and communicating with customers about alternatives to the opt-out option, PG&E told the CPUC in the proposal.
Consumer advocates, meanwhile, characterized the rates as just another cash grab by a malevolent corporate monopoly.
“I’m definitely going to ask for the data to support their forecasts for how much it’s going to cost to do all this stuff,” said Marcel Hawiger, energy attorney for The Utility Reform Network, a consumer watchdog.
Hawiger said that PG&E should give its customers the option of reading their own meters instead of paying PG&E a monthly fee. Some customers with dogs and fences already read their own meters, he said, suggesting that program be expanded.
Public hearings will be held in the coming months to discuss the proposal, and a CPUC ruling on PG&E's proposed opt-out pricing system is expected by mid-September.
2011-03-24 "New teachers union leader calls on Gov. Brown to extend tax increases" by Howard Blume from "LA Now" online news journal of the "Los Angeles Times" newspaper
The newly elected head of the California Federation of Teachers called Thursday on Gov. Jerry Brown to extend tax increases but limit concessions to Republican lawmakers in exchange for supporting the extensions.
Joshua Pechthalt, 57, suggested hat Brown may need to pursue an unproven legal strategy to get the tax measures on the ballot without a two-thirds vote in the Legislature.
Without the tax extensions, legislative leaders have talked of imposing additional cuts of about $5 billion to the K-12 education system. Higher education is likely to face an additional $1-billion cutback.
If Republicans are willing to let public education collapse, Pechthalt said, “Let’s have it out with those folks.”
Nor did he support simply waiting for November, when a petition drive could be used to put tax measures on the ballot.
“I think we can’t wait,” he said, citing the pending, potential layoff of 5,000 teachers in Los Angeles and the virtual elimination of already thin music and art programs.
He said the idea of losing the much-acclaimed music program at Hamilton High School, for example, is unthinkable. “We have to fight to keep those teachers in the classroom," he said.
Republican lawmakers have maintained that tax extensions or increases are bad for the economy and government programs need to be cut back—and made more efficient—in tough economic times.
Pechthalt was elected Saturday to a two-year term as president by delegates for federation locals who gathered in Manhattan Beach. He previously served as a vice president for United Teachers Los Angeles. He taught at Manual Arts High School for 21 years.
Also on the call was the union’s newly elected secretary-treasurer, Jeff Freitas, who took on the issue of whether teachers should be evaluated, at least in part, by the scores of their students on standardized tests.
“The current tests were not developed for the evaluation of teachers and should not be used,” Freitas said.
In general, evaluations should not be seen as a way to dismiss teachers but to target where they need to improve, he said.
Both Pechthalt and Freitas agreed the current teacher-evaluation process is woefully deficient.
Pechthalt also asserted that much of the current emphasis on teacher evaluation is part of a broader attack on teachers and teacher unions.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2011-03-23 "CSU faces worst fiscal situation in its history" by Nanette Asimov from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
About 10,000 students will be turned away, and an untold number of employees will lose their jobs next fall across California State University's 23 campuses.
That was the grim news Tuesday out of Long Beach, where CSU trustees discussed how the university that serves more than 400,000 students will shrink amid devastating budget news from the state.
"We're facing the worst financial situation the CSU has ever had," said Trustee Bill Hauck, chairman of the university system's finance committee.
"It's very sad," said Chris Chavez, president of the California State Student Association and a senior at Cal State Long Beach. "But it comes back to what's being funded through Sacramento."
Under the current budget picture, which will grow worse for CSU if tax extensions backed by Gov. Jerry Brown aren't placed on the June ballot or are voted down, the state will cut $500 million next year from CSU's more than $2 billion allocation.
Those cuts could double if the proposed tax extensions stall, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed told the board.
"A cut of $1 billion in state support would have devastating effects on the CSU," including a long-lasting impact that would damage the state economy, he warned.
Payroll cuts in store
For now, he said, a tuition increase of 15.5 percent approved for next fall will allow the university to limit cuts to $400 million.
Much of that - $250 million - will have to come from reductions in payroll, officials said, noting that CSU has already shed 4,145 faculty members and staff positions through layoffs and attrition since the state's fiscal crisis began in 2008.
"It's sure to be pretty devastating," said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association. "There will be many people out of work, and in this economy, that's a nightmare."
A savings of $60 million
The university will save $60 million by preventing 10,000 qualified applicants from enrolling at CSU.
"Not only will students not get a meaningful college education," Taiz said, "but kids who spent their whole high school career preparing for college will find the door slammed in their faces."
At San Francisco State University alone, officials say they expect to have to cut nearly $23 million and are looking at more than a dozen approaches.
"Our campus has been exploring cost-saving options for more than a year now and will implement a series of measures that will allow us to operate within this austere budget," spokeswoman Ellen Griffin said, but provided no specifics.
Reed said he'll also slash nearly $11 million from the budget of CSU headquarters in Long Beach.
How CSU pay compares
Although the budget reductions dominated the conversation Tuesday, the trustees also accepted a report examining how CSU's faculty and campus presidents fare in salary and benefits compared with 20 other public and private universities across the country, from Arizona State in Phoenix to Tufts University in Massachusetts.
They are paid far less on average than their peers, but their health and pension benefits are far more generous by comparison, according to the report by Mercer Consulting, which also produces compensation reports for the University of California.
CSU presidents earn less -
The report on CSU found that its 23 presidents would have to earn 52 percent more in salary and cash incentives to reach the average amount paid to presidents at the other universities. CSU presidents earn $292,830 on average, compared with $444,556 at the other schools. Similarly, CSU faculty members would have to earn 17 percent more to reach the average paid to their peers: $85,083, compared with $99,882.
But the picture changes when looking at health benefits. CSU presidents get 25 percent more in benefits than the average at the comparison universities. CSU faculty also do better, by 21 percent.
Retirement benefits also favor CSU: Presidents top the average paid to their peers by 34 percent, and faculty take home 31 percent more in retirement than the average at the comparison schools.
Generosity in health and retirement over salary may benefit employees in high tax brackets, said Adrian Griffin, assistant director of research at the California Postsecondary Education Commission.
"This raises the question of why other public universities don't do this," Griffin said.
The fact that they don't, he said, "is surprising."

Monday, March 21, 2011

2011-03-21 "What happened to states' rights?" letter by Catherine McGuire of Sacramento to "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
Not only is it shameful for the federal government to gut an opportunity for the United States to be a world leader in environmental protection ("House panel advances bill to block greenhouse gas rule, state's limits," March 16), it also is disgraceful to deny a state the right to pass laws mandated and recently protected in the midterm elections.
I find it shocking that our state's environmental standards, supported by millions of Californians, would be challenged federally, essentially demolishing the American values of democracy and individualism.
This is especially significant since these emissions standards allow California to further propel its clean tech industry, which currently attracts hundreds of millions of dollars to the state and around 2,700 jobs per $100 million dollars, according to data by the Clean Tech Group LLC.
HR910 would not result in a positive result for our country but instead would set the precedent of aggressive attack upon states' rights. It's ironic and disappointing that representatives, who usually pride themselves on prioritizing state sovereignty over federal control, switched their values for this battle.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2011-03-20 "Call for video doesn't float with Marina Coast Water" by LARRY PARSONS from "The Monterey County Herald" newspaper
Usually when offered the chance for face time on television, public officials jump toward the cameras.
Not so directors of the Marina Coast Water District, who have been under pressure for months to televise their meetings because of the district's key role in the proposed regional water desalination project.
Most local cities and some other local agencies contract with Access Monterey Peninsula, or AMP, to televise their meetings on the nonprofit's local government channels.
The Marina Coast District, which would own the proposed regional water desalination plant under a partnership with California American Water and the county Water Resource Agency, has shied away from spending its money to televise once-a-month board meetings. The proposed project, which would supplant the overdrafted Carmel River as the main water supply for the Peninsula, would cost an estimated $400million.
For months, videographers hired by the Green Party of Monterey County and, most recently, LandWatch Monterey County, have recorded the meetings and televised them during the party's three weekly one-hour slots on AMP's public-access channel.
"I have strong feelings about the public's right to know what's going on with a half-billion-dollar project," said Marina resident Richard Newhouse, who has shot the water board meetings for the past six months.
At their Feb. 8 meeting, Marina Coast board members failed to support a motion by director Jan Shriner, who had videotaped district board meetings before being elected to the board herself, to look into installing a videotaping system in their chambers.
A staff report put the cost of the five-camera system at $30,500 with an annual cost of $6,000 to broadcast the meetings. Board chairman Bill Lee said his conversations with district residents hasn't indicated support for spending that amount of money to televise the board meetings.
"We would like our people who pay the rates to say that's OK," Lee said last week.
He said it would be premature, with the regional desalination project still not certain, for the district to spend a lot of money to televise board meetings.
"When it gets down to Marina Coast Water actually making some decisions, then people might have a pretty good argument," he said.
As it stands, Lee said there is a handful of people pressing for televised board meetings. "I don't think they would be consistent viewers," he said.
Earlier this month, the Marina City Council got into the action.
The council approved an offer to broadcast videos of the Marina Coast board meetings on the city's AMP channel as long as the videos provided by community volunteers didn't conflict with city programming.
Marina Coast Water hasn't decided whether to take up the city's offer, Lee said.
He expressed displeasure at the city's move to inject itself into water district business. They are two different entities, and he questioned why one would "try to impose (its) will on the other guy."
Paul Congo, executive director of AMP, said he was aware of the city's offer through informal channels.
"We haven't been officially informed of any of this," he said. "We are just waiting for someone to bring us a copy."
Amy White, executive director of LandWatch, said the Marina Coast Water board doesn't appear ready to budge on the issue.
As the regional desalination project "inches closer to fruition, these guys are going to have so much power controlling almost a half-billion-dollar water project," she said.
She said Marina Coast Water directors "seem almost cavalier" about trying to make public business "more public."
"What is the value of transparency and public participation?" she said.

2011-03-22 "THE HERALD'S VIEW Editorial: Opaque Marina Coast Water District board wants to stay that way" from "The Monterey County Herald" newspaper
It would be unrealistic to expect the Marina Coast Water District to pay to broadcast its meetings for public consumption. Unrealistic because the district isn't like most other public entities.
Its board of directors is the kind that likes to keep people guessing.
It's the kind of district where a longtime director like Ken Nishi can quit without explanation and then join again weeks later without explanation.
Though it doesn't always act like it, it is, in fact, a public entity.
That's how it came to be a front for Cal Am as a partner in the Regional Desalination Project. A county ordinance required participation by a public entity, and what better to step in than Marina Coast?
But if you want to know who is on the board or how to contact them, don't bother with the district's website. Names and faces are hard, if not impossible to find. These folks aren't politicians in the usual "how can I serve you?" sense.
When Bill Lee, the board chairman, was running for re-election last year, another candidate was his half brother, George Eads. When Lee introduced Eads to others in the district, then-director Tom Moore asked how they knew each other. Uh, er, we served in the military together, Lee offered, not very brotherly.
It's the kind of district where Nishi ally Howard Gustafson describes new board member Jan Shriner as "not worth discussing" and calls Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado "that little freak."
So no one should be shocked to learn that Marina
Coasters aren't eager to follow the lead of most other public agencies hereabouts and provide for their meetings to be televised.
For a time, their meetings were being aired courtesy of the Green Party and more recently by LandWatch Monterey County. But Shriner got nowhere with her recent request to have the district look into doing the work itself by installing a videotaping system.
It matters beyond Marina because the little district is a key component of the $400 million-plus desalination project, easily the largest, most controversial and most important area public works effort of the past several decades. While Marina-area district customers will receive the benefit of a new water supply at little cost, rates for water users on the Peninsula are expected to double, triple or quadruple. No one knows for sure.
Chairman Lee, though, told The Herald last week that it would be premature to spend money now on videotaping.
"When it gets down to Marina Coast Water actually making some decisions, then people might have a pretty good argument," said Lee, who seemed unaffected by the fact that the district reached that state many months ago.
The directors will attribute their bashfulness to frugality, but it is easy to suspect they're also afraid that if the larger community got a better look at how they conduct themselves, they'd be embarrassed.
The way we see if, if Nishi, Gustafson, Lee and the others are to receive the attention they genuinely deserve, someone else in the community is going to have to make it work.

Friday, March 11, 2011

2011-03-11 "L.A. Teachers Use Privatization Fight to Build Community Power" by Noah Lippe-Klein, Sherlett Hendy
When the Los Angeles school district announced that Dorsey High School was subject to takeover by a corporate charter company, the Dorsey community was ready to fight.
Immediately, a team of teachers, students, and parents distributed 5,000 flyers—starting at our school’s enormously well-attended Friday football game and spreading out into the community that weekend. “This is about your child’s future,” said the flyer, inviting people to a “major community meeting” to “help us come up with our fightback strategy.”
Dorsey teachers were ready to fight to save our school because we had already spent several years building our union chapter and community organizing through Progressive Educators for Action (PEAC), an influential rank-and-file caucus in the 40,000-member United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).
Located in South LA, Dorsey crowds 1,700 students into a school built to serve 1,000. Fifty-six percent are African-American and 44 percent Latino, and most are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
Until four years ago the union chapter was inactive: meetings rarely took place and the chapter had no genuine relationship with parents and community members. We decided we needed to get organized.
Sherlett Hendy is a PE teacher, varsity basketball coach, and lead teacher in one of Dorsey’s Small Learning Communities. A Dorsey alumnus and lifelong community resident, she has served as a mentor to hundreds of students over the years and formed long-term relationships with parents and community members.
Noah Lippe-Klein is a history teacher who had been doing community organizing with a parent/student/teacher organization called Coalition for Educational Justice and had contributed to building PEAC.
We knew we had to replace the union chair, but we wanted to do it by building a new leadership layer in the chapter, one with a social justice vision of getting teachers and parents organized.
We sought out potential leaders who believed in the vision and who had roots in the community and the school—a new leadership core that was majority African-American and Latino.
Through lots of meetings at coffee shops and at our homes, we built a consensus for what a bottom-up, activist union chapter should look like.
We won the chapter chair election, formed a steering committee, and asked its members to build relationships with parents, work on teaching conditions and improving instruction, and draw connections between our school site issues and the union’s district-wide and statewide actions.
We formed strong relationships with parents and community, leading to a coalition called Dorsey Family United. DFU led a campaign for better funding at Dorsey, aimed at improvements such as smaller class sizes, more counseling staff, and maintenance of bathrooms.
We supported a student-run chapter of the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) on campus, which joined the struggle against district-wide cuts. We supported the successful fight against privatization at one of our feeder elementary schools. We fought proudly against budget cuts and layoffs—PEAC initiated and UTLA sponsored civil disobedience to protest layoffs of teachers and counselors.
Over these months, the teachers learned to trust their allies’ ability to lead. Students and parents responded to this trust by taking their own initiatives.
For example, after last November’s announcement that Dorsey was on the bid list, CEJ student leaders met with the principal to think through ways to inform every student what it would mean to be given away to a charter company. They created a student-led information campaign including student-made buttons and a Facebook page.
Our past four years of grassroots organizing, community building, and leadership development is paying off now that Dorsey is on the list for potential private takeover.
Our community forum this January drew 250 parents, students, teachers, administrators, and alumni to address the privatization threat facing Dorsey and three other area schools. The impressive turnout came from hundreds of phone calls by teachers to parents.
At the forum, we followed a presentation with break-out sessions—one for each targeted school—where attendees could start envisioning actions. The break-out groups were then incorporated into school site organizing committees at each school.
The committee at Dorsey involves 40-50 people who meet every Thursday after school in the Dorsey library. It also includes various Saturday or evening meetings for working parents. The committee is now envisioning the kind of school we want Dorsey to be, after which we will write a plan to submit to the district within the competitive bidding process.
The committee will organize for a strong—if non-binding—community vote supporting its plan. To prevent the school board from giving Dorsey to a charter company, we will use local media, gain the support of longtime civil rights organizations in the community, and prepare for a powerful and massive mobilization. We are campaigning jointly with the other three affected schools in our area.
Even if our plan prevails at the school board, we recognize that neither Dorsey nor the school district has the resources necessary for the visionary school we want. Yet the anti-privatization struggle provides a much-needed opportunity for community engagement and empowerment.
New leaders are emerging every day who are committed to the fight to improve Dorsey and who connect our fight to a much larger agenda for quality public education.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011-03-05 "Puzzling GOP tax caucus" by Marisa Lagos and Wyatt Buchanan from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
There's been a lot of speculation around the Capitol over exactly what motivated the 30 Republican lawmakers to form a new "taxpayers caucus" last month. The group is dedicated to fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to put taxes on a June ballot unless there's an accompanying ballot measure that would let voters choose to lower taxes by the same amount.
Every one of those legislators had already signed the Grover Norquist "taxpayer protection pledge" where they promised to "oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes." So why did they need another, new pledge?
Even some Republicans - none of whom would speak for the record - expressed bafflement.
Among the theories floating around Sacramento:
-- That taxpayer caucus co-chair Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks (Ventura County), was making a play for the minority leader role, or just trying to raise his own profile for future political ambitions.
-- That Strickland and other Republicans close to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association were doing it to provide cover for that group, which took some heat for its position that even letting voters decide on taxes would violate the original no-tax pledge. (Those in this camp point out that the new caucus and the association share a political consultant.)
But as we mentioned above, there's also been consternation among Republicans in the Capitol. Some GOPers told us that many of the new lawmakers who signed the pledge later regretted it, saying they didn't know what they were getting themselves into. (The members who didn't sign the new pledge, including leaders in both houses, have been getting a ton of heat from far-right groups, including influential Southern California radio personalities John and Ken, from KFI (640).) We couldn't reach Strickland on Friday, but last week he told us that the group is simply dedicated to "letting voters decide."
"We said, 'Let's give voters the option, so long as there is an equal or larger tax deduction before them.' We believe that cutting taxes is a way to stimulate the economy," he said. "I'm confident the people of California will vote for a tax cut - it will put more money in people's pockets, and stimulate the economy."
Brown, who has offered to "dispense" Republicans from their original Grover Norquist pledge, touched on the subject Friday in comments to reporters. He said they "didn't take a pledge to deny the people the right to vote," and called opposition to letting voters weigh in "undemocratic."
And the laughs just keep coming: Assembly Speaker John PĂ©rez, D-Los Angeles, spoke to a packed luncheon crowd at the Sacramento Press Club this week, outlining his bill to unincorporate the troubled city of Vernon in Los Angeles County. But before he got to describing some of the reasons for his action - including pay rates for city retirees that drew gasps from the audience - he started with some jokes aimed at journalists.
"Thank you for inviting me to the press club lunch," Perez said to open his remarks. "It's nice to see all of you holding your knives out in the open for a change."
Maybe he's just getting warmed up for his roast in Sacramento on May 31.
We're not sure it's obscene, but ... Whatever happens within the Legislature, you can bet that if Brown's tax proposal gets on a June ballot, the California Republican Party will be campaigning against it.
The governor's plan was christened by his office as the "Public Safety and Public Education Act of 2011."
California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring called the title "obscenely misleading" and offered suggestions for what he called "more accurate alternative ballot titles."
-- The "We didn't mean it when we called them 'temporary' " Tax Increase Act
-- The "We think it's easier to get more money from you than reform pensions" Act
-- The "Not enough of our tax base has fled to Texas yet" Act
Something tells us the governor's office is not going to be receptive.
And finally: Brown drew laughter from reporters Friday as he was answering questions after his announcement that the Bay Area Council is supporting his budget plan. Asked if he had read a certain Wall Street Journal story, the governor replied, "I don't read the Wall Street Journal so I don't know. If it doesn't appear in the Bee or The Chronicle, I don't know."

Rich Pedroncelli / AP
Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks (Ventura County), chairs the newly formed GOP taxpayers caucus in Sacramento.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

2011-03-04 "Teacher Layoff Plans in Los Angeles Pose Broad Implications" by JENNIFER MEDINA from "New York Times" newspaper
[ layoff plans&st=cse]
LOS ANGELES — Last year, when the school district here handed out thousands of layoff notices, Samuel Gompers Middle School in South Central stood to lose half of its roughly 150 teachers. Now, with the district planning to lay off as many as 4,500 teachers under what school leaders call a doomsday budget, the school could have been even worse off.
But under a court ruling, not a single teacher at the school would be let go. Instead, Gompers and 44 other schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District would be exempt from any layoffs at all.
The ruling, which ratified a settlement agreed to by plaintiffs and the school district, is being appealed by the teachers’ union. And even as it plays out in a state where schools are facing the prospect of devastating layoffs, it could have implications for districts across the country facing similar cuts. The lawsuit has the support of, among others, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, who once worked for the teachers’ union here.
Last spring, the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups sued the school district on behalf of parents, saying that their children’s right to an education, guaranteed in the State Constitution, would be violated by the layoffs. Like most districts in the country, Los Angeles has long had an agreement with the union that layoffs are based primarily on seniority, so that the most recently hired teachers are the first to go. That left schools like Gompers, already saddled with high teacher turnover, the most vulnerable.
Lawyers for the parents argued that the layoffs would disproportionately affect poor, black and Latino students, who are more likely to attend schools that are difficult to staff and have a high proportion of inexperienced teachers.
If the ruling is upheld for the seemingly inevitable layoffs this summer, Los Angeles, the second-largest district in the country, will be among the first to dismiss teachers using criteria other than seniority.
“It’s simply crazy to say that we have to do this based on when people were hired,” Mr. Villaraigosa said in an interview. He has spent considerable effort attacking the union’s policies in recent months and said that the lawsuit was just one of many steps he hopes will overhaul the way hiring and firing is done in the city’s schools.
“This is really just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “But we have to start somewhere. We haven’t had any other kind of real change, and this clearly opens the door to more.”
But Julie Washington, the vice president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said that the ruling was “gutting seniority” and that the new layoff process would wreak havoc in the city’s schools. In the last several months, Ms. Washington has received dozens of calls from union leaders in other parts of the country who worry that they could soon be fighting similar lawsuits.
“You could have a senior teacher who is a nine-year veteran and has spent thousands of hours training and getting better here lose her job,” Ms. Washington said. “All of that is just disregarded with one swoop.”
In essence, the ruling put the rights of students above the job protections that teacher unions widely consider sacrosanct.
“These students deserve the best of what we have promised them,” said Catherine Lhamon, a lawyer with Public Counsel and one of the lead lawyers in the case. “If you have students who are going to see 17 different teachers in a year because so much is churning, they are not getting that. This puts districts on notice that they cannot do that, no matter what the budget circumstances are.”
With districts in California likely to issue as many as 30,000 layoff notices to teachers in the next two weeks — state law sets a March 15 deadline for the notices to go out — and school systems across the country facing huge budget cuts, the battle here will be closely watched. And parents and advocates in other cities could file similar lawsuits.
But the case also points to a split among the advocates who are pushing for the changes. Many political and school leaders say that seniority-based layoffs are antiquated and should be abolished entirely. Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia schools, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York have crusaded against so-called “last in, first out” policies for years. For them, the court ruling is Los Angeles does not go far enough.
In many ways, some advocates see the battle between politicians and unions leaders as a distraction. More important, they say, is the fact that after years of budget cuts the students who have the greatest need for stability in school have become the least likely to have it.
“It is really cynical for the political vultures to make this about a victory against the unions,” said Michelle Fine, a professor at the City University of New York who testified for the plaintiffs as an expert witness in the case. “This is really just about how we distribute the pain. The remedy itself is very sad.”
The plan would most likely mean teacher layoffs in middle-class areas that are accustomed to having the same teachers come back year after year. So while Sonia Miller, the principal at Gompers, will have less turmoil this year, the churn will be passed on elsewhere.
“You cannot emphasize how hard it is to teach at a place like this, and to have teachers who want to be here walk out the door is devastating,” she said. “What I want is for my kids to have a fighting chance, and that’s all I really care about. This ruling will by no means make equal education across the board, but at least we will have a chance.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

2011-03-03 "Meanwhile, In Orange County: Hate Is at Home" by Lindsay William-Ross / LAist
A video posted yesterday to YouTube shows footage from a February, 13th protest in Yorba Linda, held outside a fundraising event held by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), with a goal of aiding women's shelters, and fighting homelessness and hunger in the US. The protesters were there to speak out against "what they called the group’s agenda to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on American society," explains the Jewish Journal. "They were particularly upset with the event’s keynote speakers, New York cleric Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Amir Abdel Malik Ali, whom they said hold anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views."
The protest got underway mid-afternoon, following several days of grassroots organizing. While politicians in the OC attempted to stop the $25-a-plate event, or force them to choose a different speaker, people from all over Southern California, including Los Angeles, planned the protest. "In the afternoon, the event had the atmosphere of a July 4 picnic. Many brought lawn chairs and blankets, sang patriotic songs and tied red, white and blue bandanas on their dogs," said the OC Register.
A group of about 100 splintered off from the principal group of protesters, including some who carried signs that linked ICNA to Hamas and Hezbollah. ICNA's spokesperson said those people did not know the facts about the organization, adding "We have no links to any overseas organization. We absolutely denounce violence and terrorism."
However, notes the Register, "Malik Ali is a Bay Area Islamic activist who spoke at 'Israeli Apartheid Week' at UC Irvine in 2010. There he said he supports Hezbollah, which the CIA labels a terrorist group."
The message, though, as heard in the shouts of the protesters, was that the people at the event were terrorists, child molesters, and wife-beaters, who worship a fraudulent prophet, and, above all else, are not welcome in not only Yorba Linda, but also in America.
Among the protesters were Rabbi Dov Fischer of Young Israel of Orange County, Irvine Jewish activist Dee Sterling and U.S. Congressmen Ed Royce (R-CA), Gary Miller (R-CA), and Chapman University adjunct professor of law Karen Lugo, who said "This is not about hate [...] We are not hatemongers. The world Islamophobia is an effort to chill us. The Constitution was never meant to allow a tyranny of a minority."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2011-03-02 "15 armed men rob Fremont high-tech firm" by Henry K. Lee from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
Fifteen armed men staged a takeover robbery of a high-tech company in Fremont, tying up employees and escaping with computer components, police said.
The heist happened shortly before 8:40 a.m. Sunday at Unigen Corp. at 45388 Warm Springs Road. The robbers, all dressed in black and armed with handguns and automatic rifles, accosted six Unigen employees in the company's loading dock, police Sgt. Chris Mazzone said.
The men tied up the employees and locked them in a room before spending half an hour loading computer parts into a moving-company truck, Mazzone said.
The robbery was filmed by a Unigen surveillance camera, police said.
The heist is being investigated by police and the California Highway Patrol's cargo theft task force.
Unigen was founded in 1991 and develops advanced modular components and integrated circuitry, according to its website.
2011-03-02 "L.A. school board to close six charter schools caught cheating; Board members act to revoke the charter of the Crescendo organization despite an earlier recommendation to reauthorize its schools for another five years" by Howard Blume from "Los Angeles Times" newspaper
The Los Angeles Board of Education voted Tuesday to shut down six charter schools that were accused of widespread cheating on last year's standardized tests, citing the malfeasance and an insufficient response to it.
The board took the initiative to revoke the charter of the Crescendo organization despite an earlier recommendation by the district to reauthorize its schools for another five years. District staff had said they believed that the charter board had taken adequate steps to deal with the scandal.
But on Tuesday, a day after The Times detailed Crescendo's problems, incoming Supt. John Deasy recommended an investigation by the Inspector General of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Pending those results, a one-year renewal could be considered, Deasy said.
Crescendo founder/executive director John Allen allegedly ordered principals and teachers to prepare students for last year's exams with the actual test questions. Several teachers at the schools alerted the district about the cheating.
Allen, who initially denied wrongdoing when confronted, was demoted, according to district documents and interviews. Principals received 10-day suspensions.
A contingent from Crescendo declined to comment after the board vote.
"This charter school is thumbing their nose at the district and thumbing their nose at the rules," said board member Tamar Galatzan, who called on her colleagues to revoke the charter. Crescendo should not have "another year to do what they were supposed to do in the first place."
Before the vote, two Crescendo principals defended the organization's overall record and its approach to instruction. Two parents also praised Crescendo.
"Whatever was in the past or whatever is going on, we should give them a second chance," said Alfredo Guillen, who has two sons there.
But board member Richard Vladovic said the parents' trust had been betrayed with a hurtful message: "We don't have faith in our children. We have to cheat for them."
At Tuesday's meeting, only two Crescendo schools were up for the standard charter renewal process. The board's action applies to all six campuses, which are in South Los Angeles, Gardena and Hawthorne.
Crescendo schools will be allowed to remain open during the months-long shut-down process required by state law.
The board move was unusual — it has rarely revoked a charter for wrongdoing or academic performance.
The vote was 6 to 1, with Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte dissenting. She said she was concerned about the welfare of the school's students and cited the charters' apparent academic success.
But school board President Monica Garcia said the cheating made it hard to tell whether the schools were as successful as believed. The state invalidated the 2010 test results, which were nonetheless cited by district staff as evidence of the schools' academic success.
The Crescendo charter had a pair of unlikely defenders, the head of the teachers union and the California Charter Schools Assn., which has called for strict accountability for charter schools. Charters are publicly funded and independently run.
Union President A.J. Duffy wanted the schools to stay open in the interests of students and teachers, who recently voted to join United Teachers Los Angeles. He said teachers had courageously risked their jobs to report cheating. He also said anyone involved in cheating should be disciplined and perhaps even fired.
The charter association supported a short-term charter renewal to give the school time to prove itself. Crescendo joined the charter association as the cheating allegations were emerging.
Association director Jed Wallace said he lacked enough information to pass judgment. Nor would he say that cheating per se should be a cause for dismissal or a charter revocation.
In other related actions, the school board approved, without discussion, allowing El Camino Real High School to become a charter. The Woodland Hills campus has long been considered an academic powerhouse.
The board also voted unanimously to shut down Cornerstone Prep School in Florence, because of poor academic performance.
And, board members also agreed not to renew the charter of Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists, also in Florence, over management issues and a financial conflict of interest among its operators. LaMotte abstained, citing the school's high test scores.
The school's operators said they would appeal the non-renewal to the L.A. County Office of Education, which also can authorize charter schools.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sovereign Hoopa Nation

Link2011-03 "Recovery and Restoration–Tribal Education Department Applies for Grant for Hupa Language; California Law Passes Ground-breaking Language Credentialing Process" by Kay Heitkamp from "Two Rivers Tribune" newspaper
Hoopa Valley Tribal Grant Writer, Norma McAdams, took the lead in applying for the Administration for Native American (ANA) Language Preservation and Maintenance Grant submitted the first week of March, 2011. Hoopa Tribal Education Director, Greg Masten, helped facilitate and move the process along.
“We also had a lot of technical support from the ANA people. That’s part of the process – you can ask for their input,” said Masten. “Multiple conference calls with ANA evaluators helped advise us if there were areas of the grant application that needed strengthening. Others who gave us their input included Hoopa Museum Curator, Salish Jackson, Danny Ammon and Melodie George who teach at Hoopa High School, and Jackie Martin who teaches at Hoopa Elementary School.
The ANA grant funds up to $300,000 for a three-year program. The Hoopa Tribal Education Department applied for the full amount. The grant is the only one the Education Department has applied for specifically for language preservation.
Hupa is the only surviving California Athabaskan language and is nearing the brink of extinction. There are fewer than five first-language speakers – all honored elders. Among them are Verdena Chase, Bill Carpenter Jr., and Sonny Pratt.
If funded, the ANA grant will support collecting, organizing, and analyzing data to determine the current status of the tribe’s language. It also would cover planning and implementing different learning models such as immersion, intergenerational, or master/apprentice formats, and the training and credentialing of teachers.
Support would also be provided for developing, printing and distributing teaching materials, as well as planning, designing, and implementing Hupa language curriculums in schools and education projects to enhance the Hoopa Valley community’s language preservation goals.
Funding would help with recording and documenting oral testimony and old tapes to create resources for future generations.
“Part of what the grant seeks to do is to continue to work with the last fluent speakers and document the process,” said Masten. “We need to gather information, pull it together, and more clearly define the Hupa language. The big challenge is that it never was a written language.”
During the process of applying for the grant, McAdams and Masten met with the schools’ language teachers and Jackson at the museum, and also received input from the community during a public meeting held on Feb. 23 in the Hoopa Tribal Council Chambers.
The director said what the tribe has today is the work of dedicated people who tried to put the language into written format.
“It’s never been completed – it’s always been a work in progress,” Masten said. “There’s a lot of intricacies in the Hupa language – it’s one of the most complex of all Athabaskan languages.”
Jackson confirmed this. Verbs form the base of the Hupa language, rather than nouns. Jackson has been working almost every day with Hoopa tribal elder, Verdena Chase, to document the 64 ways every single verb can be used.
“Documentation is part of the grant. So much more has to be done in this area,” said Masten.
Another grant objective is to help teachers becoming fluent in Hupa and obtain their language teaching credentials. They will be the bridge to the next generation of students who will then continue the process.
“This is all part of a comprehensive language program,” said Masten. “We take for granted all of the rich resources we do have – elders, the body of work that’s already been done, the ongoing documentation of oral histories. It’s very rare what we have here in Hoopa.”
Hoopa Valley High School currently has a four-year Hupa language program. Grant support could help create a program in which older students would start working with the upcoming generation, even children at the pre-schools.
“We’re trying to create an intergenerational linkage, a continuum. We have a lot of good things on hand – video tapes, language camps, dictionaries, videos,” said Masten. “One of my goals is to take all these existing materials and put it into a language program, not just for the sake of having a language program, but to help the language flourish.”
The over-arching goal of the grant is for the language to become a living language.
“We’re only getting so far with the pieces we have,” the director said. “We need to take that next giant step, which is to get Hupa to where it’s a working, living language in our daily lives in the community and into our homes.”
One thing the grant would support is hiring a language coordinator, someone to spearhead the entire project and provide direction. That individual would be in charge of project activities, such as holding a language summit of Native speakers. A coordinator could also develop a technology program to digitize old tapes and recordings using modern software. Masten noted there’s so much that needs to be upgraded before it’s lost forever.
Masten has participated in several meetings geared to the language credentialing process. AB544, a ground-breaking California law passed in 2010, acknowledges that tribes know best who should be teaching their Native language in the schools. Tribes can now develop the criteria for language curriculums based on their own unique customs and traditions.
The director said there’s a need to incorporate more culture and Native languages into public schools, and that to move forward, schools need to begin with tribal values, ideologies, and methodologies, with the tribe’s sustainability in mind.
“Our focus should be on the tribal concept of the purpose of education, which is transferring knowledge from generation to generation – capturing what’s gone on before and incorporating that with what’s ahead,” said Masten. “That’s sustainability. We are a tribal nation, and we have to look at what it takes to sustain a nation. Language is a core component.”

2011-03 "Petition Circulating to Repeal Hoopa Tribe’s Marijuana Cultivation Suppression Ordinance; Tribal Member Collecting Signatures for Ballot" by Kay Heitkamp from "Two Rivers Tribune" newspaper
A petition is circulating to gather signatures from members of the Hoopa Valley Tribe to conduct a referendum election to repeal Title 34, the Marijuana Cultivation Suppression Ordinance passed in November, 1999.
Hoopa Tribal member, Arthur P. Jones Sr. began circulating the petition on March 7 with a goal of petitioning the Hoopa Valley Election Board to put the issue out to vote.
A state-wide voter initiative, the California Compassionate Use Act (Prop 215), was passed in 1996 to allow patients with a valid doctor’s recommendation to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal medicinal use. The law exempts patients and their defined caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana recommended by a physician from criminal laws which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana. It also safeguards physicians who recommend use of marijuana for medical treatment from being punished or denied any right or privilege.
Under federal law, growing, possession, or distribution of marijuana is still a crime. According to federal law, there is no such thing as medical marijuana. However, there are signs across the nation that federal enforcement of these laws may be weakening in states that have passed compassionate use laws. In October, 2009, in an effort to focus the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) resources on serious drug traffickers, the DOJ released new federal guidelines that instructed federal officials not to go after marijuana users or suppliers who comply with their states’ medical marijuana laws.
Hoopa’s Title 34 ordinance asserts that the Compassionate Act of 1996 lacks standards to implement its goals. The ordinance also states that the open and notorious cultivation of marijuana on the Hoopa Valley Reservation, under the guise of permissive use as described in Prop 215, endangers the general welfare, health, and safety of residents living on the reservation.
The tribal ordinance expressly forbids cultivation of marijuana or possession of any live marijuana plant. Violators can be fined, subject to criminal prosecution, or excluded from living on the Hoopa Valley Reservation. The Hoopa Valley Tribal Court can also issue orders to seize and destroy marijuana plants cultivated in violation of the ordinance.
Proponents seeking to repeal Hoopa’s Title 34 Ordinance cite the fact that California is a Public Law 280 state and that because the state has, through Prop 215, decriminalized the possession and growth of marijuana for medical purposes, the Hoopa Valley Reservation should be governed by state law rather than the tribal ordinance.
PL 280 is a federal law that transferred federal law enforcement jurisdiction to state governments in six states, including California. State law enforcement agencies can take tribal members to state courts for prosecution in criminal cases arising within reservation boundaries.
Jones estimates that there a sufficient number of tribal members living on the Hoopa Valley Reservation who would benefit from being able to grow small amounts of marijuana for their own medical use as prescribed by their physician to make it worth the effort of petitioning the Hoopa Valley Tribe to repeal Title 34.
The goal of Jones is to gather at least 500 signatures to present to the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council to request a referendum election. Contact him at (530) 784-7552 for more information or to sign the petition. Whenever possible, Jones will try to accommodate individuals without a means of transportation by driving to their homes so they can sign the petition.
“We’re a Public Law 280 state. If the state says we’re allowed to grow marijuana for our own medical use, then that’s the law that should apply,” said Jones. “We’re not trying to make up a law. We’re just trying to abide by state law. We need to take this back to the people.”