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

Big Hollywood donors enter school board race for first time

Monica Garcia Campaign Office - 13

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Incumbent LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia inside her campaign office in East LA on Thursday, Jan. 31. Garcia, among other candidates, have received donations from Hollywood.

Monica Garcia Campaign Office - 2

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Campaign volunteers Alan Gonzalez, left, and Lisbeth Espinosa make phone calls on Thursday, Jan. 31 at Monica Garcia's campaign office in hopes of gathering support for the March 5 elections.

Monica Garcia Campaign Office - 3

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Campaign staffer Aislinn Morales wears a sticker supporting Monica Garcia as she makes phone calls from the campaign office on Thursday, Jan. 31. Garcia has overseen the LAUSD for six years, the second-largest school district in the nation.

Monica Garcia Campaign Office - 7

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Norma Castañeda scans results after phone calls made by volunteers at Monica Garcia's campaign office on Thursday, Jan. 31, to help collect potential voting numbers for the March 5 election.

Monica Garcia Campaign Office - 9

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

College student Amaury Chavez and other campaign volunteers make phone calls to potential voters for the March 5 LAUSD Board elections in Monica Garcia's campaign offices on Thursday, Jan. 31.

Monica Garcia Campaign Office - 10

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Signs fill incumbent LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia's East LA campaign offices as volunteers work to gather support leading up to the March 5 elections.

Monica Garcia Campaign Office - 11

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Student volunteer Amaury Chavez makes phone calls on Thursday, Jan. 31 at incumbent LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia's East LA campaign office. Garcia has been endorsed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Hollywood donates a lot of money to national political campaigns. Big players in “the industry” have also donated to Los Angeles City Hall races over the years. But L.A. Unified school board races have been way off the radars of these big donors. Until now.

Nearly two-dozen people are campaigning for three L.A. Unified school board seats. Most of the Hollywood money is going to one candidate: school board president Monica Garcia. Nearly 10 percent of Garcia’s donations have come from the entertainment industry.
Wes Craven, director of the "Scream" films, donated $1,000 to Garcia’s campaign. "The Hangover" screenwriter Scott Moore gave money too. So did several major, major players, like Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. She, along with studio bosses David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and media billionaire Haim Saban also gave Garcia the $1,000 maximum donation.


LAUSD warned about hiring disgraced priest

Cardinal Roger Mahony Celebrates Christmas Mass At The Cathedral Of Our Lady Of The Angels

Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Now-retired Cardinal Roger Mahony in 2010, when he lead a Christmas mass at The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Records show he was kept abreast of allegations against Pina.

Officials with LA’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese said they warned Los Angeles Unified School District not to hire a former priest who’d admitted to a sexual relationship with a minor. 

LA Unified had actually initiated the conversation. In 2001, school officials asked the church: Does former priest Joseph Piña carry out all job duties in an ethical and safe manner?

The answer from the Archdiocese: No.

Spokesman Tod Tamberg said the church elaborated, writing: “Mr. Pina has many fine qualities but is not the most stable of individuals. I would not recommend him for a position in the schools.”

LAUSD hired him anyway. Piña worked for the district as a Community Organizer from 2002 through 2012, when he was laid off. 

In that time, no complaints were made against him, according to LAUSD.


California drops Algebra requirement for 8th graders, dismaying educators

Mercer 15628


If an 8th grader anywhere in California walks into a classroom at 1.5 miles an hour to solve a quadratic equation, what are the chances that she will get into a top-tier university?

The answer: Much better than if the student is a 9th grader.

Turns out the State Board of Education is dropping standards expecting all eighth graders to take Algebra I.  And the decision, made last month, is causing some controversy among educators because “Algebra I is the single best predictor of college graduation.”

From now on, students can choose between the more rigorous Algebra I, or an alternate course that contains some Algebra but is more in line with the Common Core curriculum that’s been adopted by the state.

Supporters said it reflects the reality that most middle school students simply aren’t ready for Algebra I. If pushed too soon, they are being set up for failure.  


LA middle school teacher charged in alleged molestation of 3 teen girls

Courtesy LAPD

Teacher Jason Leon, who was charged Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 with multiple counts of child molestation and battery of students at Gaspar Portola Middle School.

Police arrested a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher Monday morning who taught at Tarzana middle school on charges of molesting three teenage girls.

Jason Leon, 32, faces four counts of child molestation and three counts of battery against three teenage girls. The girls were students at Gaspar Portola Middle School at the time of the alleged incidents, which go back as far as three years.

After a 13-year-old girl alleged Leon touched her inappropriately on the last day of school in June 2012, another 13-year-old came forward with a similar story.

Another girl claims she was similarly abused by Leon in 2010, when she was 14.

“In 2010 a case was referred to our office, and we could not corroborate the allegations that were made,” said L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich.


End of year reports show Prop. 30 supporters outspent opponents nearly 4-1

Gov. Jerry Brown

Sharon McNary/KPCC

California Gov. Jerry Brown spoke in support of Prop. 30 at a rally of UCLA students on campus last fall.

During a victory party for Proposition 30 in Sacramento in November, Gov. Jerry Brown said the measure "sold itself."

Well, not exactly.

The Sacramento Bee reported this morning that committes backing the measure spent nearly $54 million--about four times the $13.2 million opponents spent.

The ballot measure is expected to raise about $6 billion a year for education and the state's general fund. How exactly those funds will be used is unclear, but Brown's recently-released budget proposed increasing funds for all California schools--and a larger increase for those in poor and heavily-immigrant neighborhoods.

Proposition 30 raised the state sales tax by a quarter of a cent for four years starting Jan. 1. It also increased income taxes by up to 3 percent for people who make at least $250,000.