Next school year, the Los Angeles Unified School District is cutting the budget for psychiatric social workers for special education students by 15 percent, raising fears among the special ed social workers that their numbers will be reduced.
The district denies that it will reduce the overall number of psychiatric social workers, but a spokeswoman would not say how many social workers will be dedicated to special education next year.
"We are not cutting PSWs," said district spokeswoman Monica Carazo in an email. "In essence, we’re reshuffling the PSWs to other departments and the funding will come from different sources," she said, adding, "we are not taking away services from special ed students."
Carazo did not identify the departments to which some psychiatric social worker positions would be moved, but the district is establishing 60 new social workers slots to care for L.A. Unified's more than 8,000 students in foster care.
Monrovia mother of three Monique Hurtado doesn’t send her 3-year-old to preschool. Hurtado has her own bookkeeping business and her husband works full-time as a laser supply stock clerk.
“Financially we couldn’t afford it,” Hurtado said of the nearby preschool options.
And there was another reason: “I just feel she should stay home with me."
So she set up a preschool learning center. The big kitchen table is neatly divided into stations with paints, crayons and other art supplies. There are blocks and play dough in tubs.
And there’s a laptop computer.
Monique Hurtado found a preschool course for her child on the Internet. For years, websites have offered free preschool handouts or activity guides. Now, parents can get an entire preschool curriculum from a computer.
Two new companies for online preschool are ABC Mouse and CHALK preschool online. Neither company was willing to share exact metrics on home-use of its online products, but both said their numbers are in the tens of thousands - and growing daily.
Teachers in charter and pilot Los Angeles public schools collaborate with and trust each other significantly more than teachers in L.A. Unified's traditional large public high schools, according to a new report from University of California researchers.
"There was so much trust and acceptance that teachers eagerly observed each other and gave coaching hints and came up with new ideas and units for kids," said Berkeley professor Bruce Fuller, who leads the L.A. Teacher Ties Project, a joint venture between scholars at Berkeley and UCLA to study teacher stability and motivation in Los Angeles schools. "That’s kind of interesting because there’s lots of controversy over teacher evaluation."
Released last month, the report notes significantly higher feelings of collective responsibility toward students and their school among teachers in charter and pilot schools than teachers in traditional Los Anglees Unified public schools. Charter schools and pilot schools are both managed on site, operating with more independence from central administration.
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The Los Angeles Unified school district is investigating a network of eight charter schools for misuse of public school funds.
An audit showed Magnolia Public Schools used classroom cash to help six non-employees with immigration costs. The schools had trouble justifying another $3 million expense.
"These are taxpayer dollars, and we want to make sure they are spent correctly," said José Cole-Gutiérrez, director of L.A. Unified's charter school division.
A June audit, which the district is calling a "forensic review," revealed $2.8 million flowed from schools sites to the network’s management organization in the form of sloppy loans - much of which were never paid back. The management organization was then found to be operating on a $1.7 million deficit, meeting the IRS's definition of insolvent.
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Officials with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice said in a court filing Monday they're troubled California officials did not act on a 2007 student census that found 20,000 English learner students had received no specialized instruction.
“California’s EL students cannot afford to wait any longer,” the filing by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels said.
The document was filed in support of a 2013 lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against the state, claiming uneven English learner services are a violation of state law.
The US Dept. of Justice began investigating California's English learner monitoring in 2013.
State and federal law requires schools to give students who speak a language other than English at home specialized teaching to get them up to speed in academic English. The students in question make up less than 2 percent of the state's population of English learner students.