So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

LAUSD urges students, community members to vote

Presidential Primary Election

Grant Slater/KPCC

LAUSD officials are urging students, parents and community members to vote in next month's election. The district has nearly 11,000 students who are 18 years old.

Like public school educators throughout the state, L.A. Unified officials and board members are urging students, parents and concerned adults to vote in next month's election and are working to inform them about Propositions 30 and 38.

Both measures aim to generate money through tax increases to avert about $6 billion in cuts to education. (For more on those measures visit KPCC's political blog Represent.)

School board member Tamar Galatzan will hold a town hall Tuesday night in the west San Fernando Valley. Representatives from the Prop. 30 and 38 campaigns will be present. So will Superintendent John Deasy and other L.A. Unified officials who can help answer specific questions.

The meeting will be at Cleveland High School, which is located at 8140 Vanalden Avenue, Reseda, CA 91335 in the Multi-Purpose Room. There will be on-site parking and Spanish translation.

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Education and the 2012 election: A strategist's analysis

Julie Small/KPCC

"The governor [has] got to get out there and say 'Look, this is the California that I envisioned, and in that California, schools play a critical role. It's about the future of our kids. It's about the future of the state and the country. And this is how [Prop.] 30 fits into that," said Darry Sragow, a longtime political strategist.

Over the weekend, I spoke with Darry Sragow, an attorney and longtime Democratic strategist, about education's role in the 2012 election. Sragow has worked on several school bond campaigns at L.A. Unified and the Los Angeles Community College District. I picked his brain on the role of education in the national debate this election season. I also got some of his thoughts on the campaigns for Prop. 30 and Prop. 38. Educators throughout the state support the two initiatives to raise taxes in the hope that voters will approve them next month and school budgets will be saved.

Q: Why is education not really figuring into the national debate during this election season?

A: Education is usually in California the No. 1 issue. If it's not education, it's the economy, and at the moment, it's the economy. Education is not an issue most voters think can be inherently dealt with at a national level. Schools are local and so voters inherently expect to have a dialogue about education in local races and maybe in state races in their state, but it's really a national issue only in a very broad policy sense. That's not insignificant, because at a national level you can set standards, "No Child Left Behind," things like that. But it's tough to address it concretely in the national race. Plus, of course, the big national issue is jobs.

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LAUSD board votes to extend superintendent's contract through June 2015

John Deasy

Nick Ut/AP

John Deasy, head of the Los Angeles Unified School District, has had his contract extended for one more year through June 2015.

The L.A. Unified board Tuesday unanimously approved extending Superintendent John Deasy's contract for one more year through June 2015.

The vote was 6-0 with board member Richard Vladovic absent because of a "hardship," according to a release from school board President Monica Garcia's office. The formerly two-year contract was set to expire in June 2014.

“Dr. Deasy and his administrative team helped move our district forward in the face of so many challenges," Garcia said in the statement. "It is evident that there is good, thoughtful leadership at LAUSD and the unanimous vote validates that.”

The contract extension was part of the district's regular annual evaluation of the superintendent's performance.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

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LAUSD arts funding cut 76% in five years

arts education budget cuts

L.A. Unified

In the last five years, funding for arts education at L.A. Unified has dropped from a budgeted high of $78.6 million in 2007-8 to $18.6 million this year. The district has committed to returning funds to the 2007-8 levels.

In the last five years, funding for arts education at L.A. Unified has dropped from a budgeted high of $78.6 million to $18.6 million.

The 76 percent drop in funding equates to about $60 million, and is the result of a dramatic decrease in state support and the district's need to constrict its budget in response.

With a greater awareness for the importance of arts education today, LAUSD hasn't singled out the arts for cuts as much as before, but still cuts have happened amid the economic downturn.

"When things start getting cut, legal mandates win, and other things fall to the wayside," said L.A. Unified senior arts coordinator Steven McCarthy. He's now the only staffer of the school district's "arts education branch," which used to include about 20 people. 

On Tuesday, the L.A. Unified school board unanimously approved a measure that will make arts education a "core subject," prohibit further cuts to the arts, and ultimately restore some money to arts programs.

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LA Unified makes arts education a 'core subject'

Cheech Marin at LAUSD on arts ed

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

Actor Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong fame addresses the L.A. Unified school board about the importance of arts education and why it should be a 'core subject.' The board agreed unanimously. (Oct. 9, 2012)

The L.A. Unified school board unanimously approved a measure Tuesday that will make arts education a "core subject," prohibit further cuts to the arts, and ultimately restore some money to arts programs.

The measure, sponsored by board member Nury Martinez, is a recommitment to the arts by a district that has been battered by $1.5 billion in cuts to its operating budget over the last three years as state support for education has dwindled.

"For me this is an issue of social justice and educational equity," Martinez said. "...Children learn in many different ways...we have to recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning doesn't work for all children."

On Tuesday, comic actor Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong addressed the board in support for the measure.

"Arts education goes to making a whole person, it makes them aware of their divine nature, and gives them sympathy for everybody around them," Marin said. "We as a culture, art is the only thing we leave behind. For the life of me, I can't think of a museum dedicated to the great business deals of the past, but 2,000 years later people go see the pyramids, the 'Mona Lisa,' the Eiffel Tower, and Picasso's 'Guernica.'"

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