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

School funding changes debated at educators meeting

California Budget

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Educators at a private meeting Tuesday sounded off on an expected proposal to increase state funding to disadvantaged school districts. Conversation focused on Governor Jerry Brown's proposal to redistribute education funding pots known as categoricals among districts with high proportions of kids in poverty and English learners.

Educators at a private meeting Tuesday sounded off on an expected proposal to increase state financial support to disadvantaged school districts. The 90-minute meeting was convened in Hawthorne by area State Senator Rod Wright. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson attended, as did representatives of nearly a dozen public school districts.

The conversation,Wright said, focused on Governor Jerry Brown's proposal to redistribute education funding pots known as categoricals among districts with high proportions of kids in poverty and English learners.

That idea died on the vine earlier this year after a coalition of school district officials and teachers unions opposed it. Inglewood area State Senator Rod Wright said the proposal would pit district against district.

“The problem with that is that if you’re, say, a district like Long Beach then that could hurt you, right? Because Long Beach may not be as disadvantaged as might be, Lawndale,” Wright said.

Wright expects the governor to reintroduce a similar proposal next year. Recent cuts in state education spending have led many educators to call on lawmakers to streamline the state’s ultra-complicated formula for education funding.


Charter schools chain cut costs and reformed spending to stay open

The head of Inner City Education Foundation - ICEF - Public Schools, Parker Hudnut, detailed cost cutting and major philanthropic help as he described a two-year effort that’s led the 14-campus charter school company on a financial turnaround.

 Hudnut came on board a year and a half ago.  Philanthropists had donated about $10 million to keep the doors open the year before, but that wasn’t enough.

“We had a $2 million payroll due 72 hours after I started, we had $15,000 in the bank and no more money coming in from the state," Hudnut said. "That was my first week on the job."

ICEF laid off 100 employees, changed its spending habits and scrutinized every line item on its budget. Sitting down with principals, Hudnut said, led to a nearly two-thirds cut to ICEF’s $700,000 annual security budget.


Steve Barr leaves Green Dot board of directors, organization he founded

Steve Barr

Courtesy Green Dot Public Schools

Steve Barr, Founder, Green Dot charter schools

It’s the end of an era. Steve Barr, the founder of the 10,000 student Green Dot charter schools organization, resigned last week from the group’s board of directors, the company announced Monday.

Barr, who stepped down from day-to-day operations in 2009, said other school improvement projects are eating up his time.

“I’m the chair of a board for our school in New York," said Barr. "I’m the chair of the turnaround effort for the school we’re turning around in New Orleans and Green Dot’s board is generally run by an executive committee which I’m not a member of just because I don’t have the time for it."

Green Dot spokesman Gabriel Sanchez said the board of directors didn’t expect Barr’s departure. Barr told the board in an email sent to board chair Marlene Canter. It read, "Please accept my resignation from the board," and nothing else.


LA Unified fails to move forward as Race to the Top finalist

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy  sp

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Education has announced finalists in the Race to the Top grant competition that gives $400 million to school districts — but L.A. Unified, led by Superintendent John Deasy, won't be one.

The U.S. Department of Education announced 61 finalists today in the Race to the Top grant competition. Those that made the cut represent more than 200 public school districts — but L.A. Unified was not one.

L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy submitted the application for $40 million in federal dollars earlier this month without the required signature of support from UTLA.

Four California districts were named finalists: Green Dot Public Schools: Animo Leadership Charter High School, in Lennox; Galt Joint Union School District, near Stockton; Lindsay Unified School District, east of Tulare; and New Haven Unified School District, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Other finalists included New York City Public Schools, Boston Public Schools and Baltimore City Public Schools.

The U.S. Department of Education plans to make 15 to 25 of the four-year awards ranging from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the population of the students served.


Financially troubled charter school company says finances now in order

Mercer 7348

Larry W. Smith/Getty Images

An elementary school student does work at her desk

Two years after it almost closed 14 Los Angeles-area schools, ICEF Public Schools says it’s on a stable financial footing.

A $700,000 donation saved the nonprofit from closing schools that serve 4,500 students. The ICEF in its name stands for Inner City Education Foundation.

After that donation, the nonprofit’s founder stepped down as chief executive, and the company cut 100 jobs. ICEF’s financial troubles were a big concern among parents in Inglewood and South L.A., whose children flock to the ICEF schools as an alternative to other low-performing public schools in the area.

ICEF continued to have money problems. One of its schools reportedly closed for a day because administrators hadn’t paid rent on the building. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported that ICEF paid out $1.4 million to settle three harassment claims against high-profile music director Fernando Pullum.

The financial turnaround, ICEF officials say, is the result of a two-year effort to stabilize the finances. The nonprofit’s administrators say they’ll release details later this week.