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

LA schools misspent $158M of lunch money on sprinklers, salaries, TV staff, state says (PDF)

A cafeteria worker supervises lunches fo


Kids wait in line for lunch at Normandie Avenue Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has been ordered to pay back more than $158 million that was supposed to go for free and reduced lunches but that state officials say was spent on lawn sprinklers, staff salaries at the district's television station and other improper uses over a six-year period.

A report by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes released Wednesday morning said LAUSD was among eight districts ordered to repay funds recently. It was by far the biggest violator, according to audits by the California Department of Education. The other seven districts combined were ordered to repay about $11 million. Two are contesting the findings.

“From my point of view, they are literally taking food out of the mouth of kids,” Richard Zeiger, chief deputy state superintendent of public instruction, was quoted in the report as saying. “They say, ‘Well, we can do it cheaper.’ I say you should do it better.”


ACLU settles bias lawsuit filed by Latino students in Los Angeles County

LAUS Police Car at Mark Twain Middle School

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Civil rights lawyers say they have settled a racial profiling lawsuit filed by Latino students who allegedly were rounded up at a suburban Los Angeles high school and treated as potential gang members.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said Wednesday that the Glendale Unified School District and Glendale Police Department agreed to policy changes after a 2010 incident at Hoover High. The suit claimed police directed 50 Latino students into two classrooms, made them pose for fake mugshots and subjected them to bullying.

RELATED: Latino high school students claim racial profiling

The agreement says the Police Department agreed to train officers on dealing with students at schools and revised policies on racial profiling. The school district will notify parents if students are interrogated on campus.


California wants to ramp up its technical education and career training programs in schools

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Students learn car mechanics at a school in England. California officials want to increase technical training for students to train them in careers that don't require college.

California education officials want to expand and promote career and technical education classes offered by public schools.

While we've all heard the rhetoric by some administrators and educators for all high school graduates to be college ready, many students want and will end up in technical careers for which they won't need to go to college. On the contrary, many jobs require vocational training.

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson is calling the effort the “Career Readiness Initiative.” To bring attention to the issue, he declared February Career Technical Education Month.

His public campaign includes seven presentations through April to help school districts tailor their technical education classes to industries hungry for workers with that level of training. Speakers will talk about how to best help students land and keep a job, how pilot programs are combining academic and technical education, and how community colleges are on the forefront of learning in-demand technical skills.


Big Hollywood donors enter school board race for first time

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.