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

UPDATE: LAUSD announces multimillion-dollar settlement of 58 of 191 Miramonte sex abuse claims

Miramonte Elementary School

Grant Slater/KPCC

Parents of students at Miramonte Elementary School escort children out of school on Feb. 6, 2012.

UPDATE: Sources familiar with the settlement said the district has agreed to pay a total of $29 million to this group of 58 students, an average of $500,000 each. Not all will receive the same amount.  

After months of mediation with students and their families the Los Angeles Unified School District announced Tuesday it settled 58 lawsuits over allegations of misconduct by former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt. But nearly two-thirds of the 191 civil suits filed against the nation's second-largest school district in the case remain unresolved.

David Holmquist, the district's general counsel, would not reveal how much each family will be paid until the deal is approved by a judge, but did confirm that it is a double-digit multimillion-dollar settlement.

Holmquist said the settlement is not an admission of guilt by the district but rather an effort to help students and their families “who have suffered” to heal.


What age should kids start learning sex ed? In Chicago, it's kindergarten

back to school pencils supplies

Photo by c.a.muller via Flickr Creative Commons

How soon is too soon to talk about sex in schools?

When it comes to talking to kids about sex -- what should they know and when? I was wondering about this last night, when I stumbled on a show on Nick Jr where an interviewer was pretending to be a small child, asking people those oh-so innocent questions that get parents all tangled up. “What is intercourse?” “Why does my penis change size?” “What’s that tiny diaper you wear, Mom?”

Put on the spot, the parents were embarrassed, tongue tied and generally came up with odd responses. Which got me wondering what a parent should say when a young child asks these kinds of questions. How young is too young to talk about it?

In California, schools have to teach HIV/AIDS prevention once in middle school and once in high school, according to the Department of Education.

That's what Chicago used to do, too. But the board of education there recently decided to begin sex education in the first year of school. Kindergarteners through third graders will learn basics like anatomy and reproduction, as well as a 101 on appropriate and inappropriate touching. The school district is quick to point out that parents who object can opt their child out.


Despite increase in funding, school districts still sending layoff notices to teachers

Teachers Protest

Damian Dovarganes/AP

Teachers, parents and supporters rallied last year to protest budget cuts and layoffs.

Year after year, March 15th has been a date of dread for California public school teachers. The date, which falls on a Friday this year, is the preliminary deadline for school districts to send out "Reduction In Force" notices for cuts to next year's staff.

But Governor Jerry Brown said two months ago that this year would be different. He proposed a state budget without funding cuts to schools. The news was welcomed by educators still reeling from five years of intense budget cuts that led to tens of thousands of layoffs across the state.

But that doesn't mean there won't be any RIF notices, although they will be “significantly less this year than it was last year,” predicted Dean Vogel, President of the California Teachers Association

“We did have about 20,000 RIFs as of March 15 last year and right now we’re sitting at about 2,400,” he said. Vogel expects lawyers for the teachers union to give a more accurate count later this week.


LAUSD Budget forecast is getting brighter

Students bus Loyola Village Elementary School

Tami Abdollah / KPCC

Students leaving Loyola Village Elementary School by bus.

LA Unified’s Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee is convening Tuesday morning. The proposed agenda shows financial improvement at the district after five years of devastating cuts — due to a boost from Prop. 30 funds.
According to the district, the Governor’s proposed budget would provide $1.6 billion to begin implementation of a new funding model that benefits district with large numbers of poor and English-learning students, like LAUSD. L.A. Unified is also expecting the state to pay the district $1.8 billion in "deferrals" — money it already owed the district from past budgets. It also stands to gain $400.5 million in Prop 39 energy efficiency projects 

However, LAUSD funding won’t get back to 2007-08 levels until the start of the 2014-2015 school year. And, despite revenues generated by Prop 30, the impact of the federal sequester remains an issue.

Another bright spot: the partnership between LAUSD and FilmLA, a nonprofit group that coordinates filming permits, has expanded to inlcude 347 “film friendly” schools which are available for filming. The project brought in more than $1.9 million last fiscal year.


Lost in budget cuts: Army Tuition Assistance program dating to 1940s

President Obama Attends Memorial Service At Ft. Hood For Shooting Victims

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

U.S. Army soldiers stand together in Fort Hood, Texas. On Friday, the Army suspended its Tuition Assistance program for soldiers due to budget cuts.

Soldiers across the country received some bad news in their email inboxes: due in part to sequestration, the Tuition Assistance Program has been suspended -- cutting out $4,500 a year  in tuition assistance for military personnel.

The Secretary of the Army approved the suspension on Friday and notified soldiers via email.

The suspension will not affect soldiers who are currently enrolled in courses using the program, but soldiers will no longer be able to submit requests for future assistance.

"Reducing their access to education isn't really well thought out," said Patricia D'Orange-Martin, coordinator of Veterans Services at Pasadena City College. She said Tuition Assistance is a crucial component to helping veterans earn college level diplomas since the GI Bill often doesn't cover a full four year degree.