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

Former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee joins growing list of donors to local school board race

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AP Photo

D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee, shown here in 2008, donated $250,000 to a PAC supporting charter-friendly L.A. school board candidates.

Add former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee to the list of out of towners weighing in on the LAUSD school board race--financially speaking. 

Rhee was in town for a panel discussion at the University of Southern California, where she announced a $250,000 donation to a PAC supporting charter-friendly candidates, the Coalition for School Reform.  She disclosed the donation after the event in response to a reporter's question about Rhee's picks for L.A. school board.

The university's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics put on the event, which aimed to address the "future of California’s K-12 educational system." About 120 people attended, according to USC officials. 

Catherine Shieh studies politics at USC and sat on the panel. She said the conversation touched on big issues in California like teacher evaluations and school spending.


Southern California educators, first responders to train on "active shooter" scenarios

Connecticut School Shooting

Jessica Hill/AP

November's shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., will inform the content of an upcoming safety workshop for Los Angeles County school police and principals.

The L.A. County Office of Education is holding an all-day “active shooter” workshop this Friday. The training, at the agency’s compound in Downey, is designed to educate principals and police who patrol schools on how to react in the worst of all circumstances: an armed intruder  on campus.

This annual workshop will draw upon a recent real-life example, the shooting deaths of 26 elementary school students and staff in Newtown, Connecticut two months ago.

“We did debrief as an office after that incident,” said Victor Thompson, director of student support services at the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

At the workshop, presenters will talk with participants "about how to communicate with those remaining on the campus, how to evacuate the campus,” he said.

Thompson said his office received about 100 RSVPs for the training.  It’s at capacity. Emergency policies are mandatory for every school. The goal of this training, he said, is to make sure that principals, teachers, and police who patrol schools know those policies inside out.


LAUSD issues guidelines on teacher evaluations, sparking new controversy

School Shooting

Nick Ut/AP

(AP Photo/Nick Ut)

L.A. Unified on Friday unveiled its plan for how principals will incorporate the results of student testing in teacher evaluations--and union officials said they were stunned by the details.

Superintendent John Deasy said 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on a mix of individual and school-wide testing data starting next year. The remaining 60 percent will be comprised of “classroom observation and other similar factors.”

“These guidelines are a vital step in our continuing effort to provide students with the highest-performing teachers,” Deasy said.  “I look forward to working with the teacher’s union and principals in successfully implementing this system.”
Earlier this month, the school district and the teacher's union agreed to use student test data in evaluating teacher performance, but they never agreed on exactly how much it would count toward calculating teacher effectiveness.


President unveils plan for expanding early childhood education

Head Start - 4

Deepa Fernandes/KPCC

Head Start school yard in Compton.

Two days after President Barack Obama's State of the Union vow to work toward universal high-quality preschool, the White House released its plan early Thursday morning.

The president proposes to:

* Expand the federal Early Head Start program, which subsidizes pre-K programs for disadvantaged families.

* Partner with states to guarantee preschool to all 4-year-olds in families at or below 200 percent of the poverty line.

* Ramp up existing in-home visiting nurse programs to support families in poverty from prenatal care until the child is two years old.

The plan does not include a pricetag.

Celia C. Ayala, CEO of Los Angeles Universal Preschool, called the proposal historic and a potential "game changer for the field of early education."

She and other advocates had been awaiting a federal push toward universal preschool.


LA Unified school board race could break fundraising records this election

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Incumbent LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia at her East LA campaign office.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's unprecedented $1 million donation Tuesday to influence Los Angeles school board elections ups the ante in a school board race that is on its way to breaking fundraising records.

The 2013 school board races have barely started and they have already attracted more than $4 million in donations. Compare that to 1978, when Bobbi Fielder spent $56,000 to win a seat on the board.

Unlike in Fiedler’s time, most of the money this year isn't coming from individual donations. It's coming from independent committees that can raise unlimited amounts of cash.

For years the teachers union was the outside group that spent the most. It got Mark Slavkin elected in 1989. But the scale was still much smaller.

“Mostly we were getting checks in the mail every day from individual teachers to $10, $12, $15," he said. "It was a massive, grass roots effort and at the end of the day all this combined, we raised just over $250,000.”