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

L.A. school board races receive unusual donation: $1m from NY mayor

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $1 million to committees supporting school board candidates -- in Los Angeles.

A $1 million donation from across the country has upped the ante big time in the three Los Angeles Unified school board races.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a policy ally of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, donated the seven figure sum to the Coalition For School Reform, an independent expenditure committee Villaraigosa started years ago to make his mark on the school board.  The committee is supporting the campaigns of incumbent board president Monica Garcia and newcomers Antonio Sanchez and Kate Anderson — candidates opposed by the city's teachers union.

The donation brings the coalition’s war chest to $2.5 million. The group has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads for the candidates.

Villaraigosa and Bloomberg are both strong proponents of opening more publicly-funded charter schools and overhauling teacher evaluations to include student progress on test scores. Both mayors have tussled with their respective teachers unions over these issues.


Advocates welcome President Obama's proposal for more preschool access


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A preschool aged boy uses his recess time to play with a word puzzle.

There was a lot of anticipation from early childhood education advocates leading up to the president’s State of the Union address that he would announce a groundbreaking new education initiative for the country’s 3 and 4 year-olds.

He fell short. Or maybe it’s just the nature of the SOTU beast that details are sparse.

What pleased advocates was the President Barak Obama's unequivocal statement of the need for “high-quality” preschool and a promise to work with the states to make this “available to every child in America.”

California’s State Superintendent at the Department of Education, Tom Torlakson, issued a statement welcoming the remarks, which he called a “new opportunity to partner with the Administration to give more children the opportunity to benefit from high-quality early education programs.”

California is home to nearly 11 percent of the nation’s preschool age children, and it has been hit hard by budget cuts to early education programs in recent years. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, $1 billion has been cut from California’s early education programs since the 2008-2009 fiscal year. That means about 110,000 children are losing out on subsidized preschool.


LAUSD board votes down proposed staff layoffs; approves iPads

Jan. 17 Board of Ed mtg LAUSD

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LAUSD Board of Education voted Tuesday against proposed staff layoffs

The LAUSD school board voted Tuesday to cancel more than 200 proposed pink slips, ensuring the district will not lose any more health and human services employees in the coming academic year. 

The positions – mostly school counselors, psychologists, nurses and school librarians – are typically funded by individual school sites. Officials said it was the schools themselves that submitted them for layoffs.

The board was slated to approve those layoffs at its regular meeting Tuesday. Instead, Superintendent John Deasy proposed paying for the 208 jobs out of the district’s general fund. The board voted unanimously to support that amendment.

During the same meeting, the board also approved Deasy's proposal to spend millions to supply every student and teacher with a tablet computer by 2014.


LAUSD school board to consider laying off nearly 200

LAUSD redistricting commission

Tami Abdollah / KPCC

The Los Angeles Unified School Board will take up whether to lay off 194 staff in the 2013-14 school year.

District officials haven’t released any specifics about the proposed cutbacks but UTLA president Warren Fletcher said the cuts target HHS (Health and Human Services) employees. That means schools will lose more psychologists, psychiatric social workers and counselors. Nearly 20 school librarians jobs are also on the chopping block.

“These RIFs (Reduction in Force) are unconscionable at the time when our students are most vulnerable," Fletcher said in a written statement. “In times of tragedy or dealing with everyday stresses, students need access to the invaluable services HHS employees provide on campus." 

The layoff notices would go out by March 15 and take effect June 30. School officials said they're motivated by a budget shortfall.


Valentine's Day lesson plans aren't just for teachers: art, chemistry and word searches can be fun at home

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Candy may be the standard on Valentine's day, but the holiday can also be used to teach chemistry, art.

The Texas-based teacher social network We Are Teachers has some Valentine’s Day classroom lesson plans that aren’t just for teachers. Any parent, guardian, or relative can download these lesson plans. They include op art painting, word searches, and at least one that gets kids to flex their addition and word problem skills.

The lessons appear to be mostly for elementary school age kids.

Let’s not leave teenagers out. There must be some biology and physiology teachers out there taking time to talk about how the amino acids that make up the “love hormone” oxytocin are an essential part of the bodily rush we feel when Cupid’s arrow strikes, when we fall head over heels, or are smitten by that special someone.

The closest I came to finding something like that was a Valentine’s Day chemistry on this list of lesson plans.