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

UPDATE: 2 incumbent LA Unified School Board members keep seats in costly races

Monica Garcia on Election Night March 2013

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Board President Monica Garcia awaits election results with supporters at her Boyle Heights campaign headquarters on Tuesday night.

Los Angeles Unified School Board incumbents Steve Zimmer and Monica Garcia kept their seats in a hotly contested election that attracted nearly $6 million, putting it on track to be the most costly school board election in the district’s history. Zimmer won with 52 percent of the vote and Garcia with 56 percent. A third race for district 6 is headed for a runoff.

“Everyone knows that the School Board of Los Angeles is not for sale,” Zimmer told more than 100 cheering supporters Tuesday night at a campaign party at the Next Door Lounge, a 1920s themed speakeasy in Hollywood.

RELATED: LAUSD's John Deasy speaks Wednesday on Take Two about the school board election and future of LA's schools

Zimmer was supported by United Teachers Los Angeles in his battle to fend off a challenge by lawyer and parent Kate Anderson, who was backed by the Coalition for School Reform, a well-heeled political action committee endorsed by outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. More than $1.6 million was spent to elect Anderson – about a third more than the roughly $1.2 million spent on Zimmer, a swing vote who supports both the union’s policies and its nemesis, Supt. John Deasy.

Anderson got 48 percent of the vote in the head-to-head race. She said if the results hold, she just might try again in four years – after she gets some rest.

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Assembly gives $10m to fund child care for low-income families

Mercer 7025

smithereen11/Flickr

Boy in a preschool classroom.

Finally some good news for parents working minimum wage jobs and struggling to pay for childcare. On Monday, the California State Assembly said it is giving $10 million to the CalWORKs Stage 3 program to fund more childcare seats.

The money will go to help parents who are working full time but who don't make enough to cover childcare costs and rely on the state’s Stage 3 welfare program.

"Thousands of families across the state face a Catch-22--go to work to support their children who have to then fend for themselves or lose their jobs so they can take care of their children," Assembly speaker John A. Pérez said in a statement announcing the grant.

As we have reported on this blog, budget cuts to early childhood programs have greatly reduced the number of infant and toddler seats available for children in low-income families who cannot afford to pay for private preschool. While the Governor’s proposed budget for next year does not include further cuts, it doesn't restore years of cuts to a program advocates call critical to the education of the state’s poorest children.

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Fewer California school districts going broke; But So. Cal. tops the list

Inglewood Unified School District

Grant Slater/KPCC

The Inglewood Unified School District has again made the list of the state's financially-troubled school systems.

California’s biannual report of schools in financial trouble shows an improvement in the number of districts at risk of running out of money over the next few years.

“I can say with growing confidence that the worst of California’s school funding crisis is behind us,” state Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a written statement Monday.

The number of districts with a  “negative certification” – meaning they’re unable to meet financial obligations for this year and the next two -- declined from 12 to seven. But four of them  are in southern California:

  • Inglewood Unified (Los Angeles County)
  • Walnut Valley Unified (South Diamond Bar and Walnut)
  • Wilsona Elementary (Palmdale, Lancaster, Wilsona Gardens and Lake Los Angeles)
  • Victor Valley Union High (San Bernadino)

Inglewood has already been taken over by the state. As for the others, state officials cautioned that a lot has changed since the data for the report was gathered in October of last year--namely, Proposition 30, which increased taxes to benefit schools. Governor Brown's proposed budget for next fiscal year bumps up school funding based on those revenues.

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How often do you read to your child? New study says: Step it up!

Open Adoption - 2

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Kacy Andrews and Jack Messitt read a book before nap time to their 3-year-old son Sawyer in their Glendale home.

As the costs and benefits of subsidized preschool are being hotly debated, a new study from Australia finds that the path to success in life for a preschooler begins with the bedtime story.

The study, conducted over eight years, concluded that when parents read to children on a daily basis, they are up to a year ahead of who are not read to.

And that’s regardless of socio-economic status. With consistent and frequent reading at home, the study found, children from low-income homes where parents have limited education are doing as well as children from higher income, more educated homes.

"It doesn't matter if a child is from a poor or rich family, or if the parents are highly educated or not, doing this basic thing of reading to them leads to better developmental outcomes," said Guyonne Kalb, a co-author of the study and director of the Labor Economics and Social Policy Program, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.

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SAT college entrance exam, a dreaded rite of passage, to get another makeover

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The SAT – that dreaded rite of passage for teenagers planning to go to college – will get a thorough redesign by the College Board.

Sometimes even a test can use a makeover.  

The SAT – that dreaded rite of passage for teenagers planning to go to college – will get a thorough redesign by the College Board.

Details about the changes have not yet been released. The last time the test was overhauled was in 2005, when a writing section was added and a perfect score was bumped from 1,600 to 2,400.

One reason for the changes is to align the test with the Common Core curriculum, which are the new learning standards adopted by 45 states.

"An improved SAT will strongly focus on the core knowledge and skills that evidence shows are most important to prepare students for the rigors of college and career," David Coleman, president of the College Board said in a statement.

Coleman called it an ambitious effort to better meet the needs of students and schools.  

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