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

US university presidents call on Obama, Congress for green cards for international grads

Immigration Ceremony

Grant Slater/KPCC

A worker holds up a voter registration form at the naturalization ceremony for 7,362 immigrants at the Los Angeles Convention Center on June 27. Ninety university presidents have sent a letter to Obama and Congress calling on them to ensure top international graduates have a clear path to a green card.

Ninety presidents of leading U.S. universities have sent a letter to President Obama and Congress calling for a bipartisan solution that ensures top international graduates have a clear path to a green card.

Immigrant inventors and entrepreneurs from American universities were responsible for 76 percent of all patents in 2011. Now, leaders from many of those schools are asking President Obama and Congress to find a way to keep that talent in the U.S.

Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau came to the United States in 1976 as a civil engineer from France seeking a PhD from Stanford University. Now he’s the president of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the Pasadena-based private research university that focuses on science and engineering.

Chameau says it was relatively easy to apply for a green card to stay here after finishing his PhD. But these days, work visa limits and a complex immigration system make it much more difficult for foreign students.


Monica Garcia elected to sixth term as LAUSD Board president

Truancy at public safety committe

Tami Abdollah / KPCC

L.A. City Councilmember Tony Cardenas and LAUSD board president Monica Garcia walk with students rallying to support a measure that will change how the city deals with its truant students and officially eliminate fines.

Monica Garcia will continue to lead LA Unified’s School Board. She was re-elected to her sixth term as president starting Monday.

The vote was the same as last year’s: 4 to 3 in favor of re-electing Garcia for another one-year term as board president. 

Summing up her time on the board thus far, Garcia said, "I come from a community that has been demanding change from the school district all of my life. I’m 44 years old. And we are seeing it happen. We are seeing a decentralized strategy, local control, letting teachers lead, increasing the participation of communities and parents at school sites."

She said LAUSD is transforming itself and the nation is taking notice. 

The closeness of the vote reflects the sharp divisions on the Board. The three members who voted against her line up with the teachers’ union on some key issues.  Garcia was elected to the board in 2006 with the backing of LA Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa. Both have been an advocates for charter schools and sweeping reform of low-performing schools. 


A graduate reacts with mixed feelings to student loan rate freeze

Pile of money

Tracy O./Flickr Creative Commons

For Orin Davis, 30, a freeze on his student loan interest rate is, generally, a good thing. After all, it would mean a small savings on the more than six figures in debt he incurred as a PhD student at Claremont Graduate University.

Davis studied organizational behavior and positive psychology at Claremont. He started his PhD in 2007, at the height of the market. By 2010, when he graduated, the economy and employment prospects had plummeted.

So Davis left California and headed East. Davis is now a positive psychology researcher and consultant in Boston. Though he has followed the news on the efforts to freeze student loan rates, Davis said it was hard to get clear information about what that would actually mean for him.

Davis said his feelings on the bill were mixed.

"On the one hand, my wallet finds it rather convenient," Davis said. "OK, basically I’m getting to keep more of my money...and yet, the thing I’m left wondering is, when is the other shoe going to drop?"


Congress approves one-year freeze on student loan rates

High school graduation

Getty Images

Congress approves a measure to freeze the federally-subsidized interest rate for student loans days before it was set to double.

The U.S. Congress today approved a measure that will freeze federally subsidized student loan rates for 570,000 students in California and millions across the country, days before the 3.4 percent rate was set to double.

The deal was tucked into a larger transportation measure on funding roads and bridge construction that was approved by the House Friday on a 373 to 52 vote and in the Senate on a 74 to 19 vote. The bill now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature or veto before midnight Saturday.

Loans rates were set to rise to 6.8 percent Sunday. But with the bill's expected passage, rates will remain at 3.4 percent for another year, saving about 7.4 million students nationwide an average of $1,000 each, according to the White House. Lawmakers said this would amount to many thousands of dollars in savings over the life of the loans.


Judge to decide whether to overturn LAUSD's 'last hired, first fired' exemption

Teachers Protest

Damian Dovarganes/AP

File: Teachers, parents and supporters rally as the Los Angeles Unified School District board meets to consider budget cuts and layoffs, which include adult education, preschool and elementary school arts programs, in Los Angeles on Tuesday Feb. 14, 2012.

The Los Angeles teachers union was back in court on Thursday appealing a settlement that exempts teachers in low-performing schools from being laid off based on seniority.

The case made against LAUSD by the ACLU and a partnership of school reform advocates was this: low-performing schools in high poverty areas, which are already difficult to staff, experience the brunt of teacher layoffs. Since so many teachers at low-income schools are junior teachers, they're the first to be targeted when firings start. The system has been accused of leaving students in highly unstable schools and, in the worst cases, without teachers in the classroom.  

A judge agreed, exempting 45 of the district’s hardest-to-staff schools from the "last hired, first fired" rule back in 2011. But now, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) are appealing that decision. In a written statement, UTLA president Warren Fletcher said: