Inglewood Unified aide Trina Hubbard was one of many district employees who urged the school board not to cut employee pay.
A lot of Inglewood Unified School District employees showed up to Wednesday night’s school board meeting. Some made lots of noise. Others were quiet. All were upset at the latest proposal to cut their pay in order to help close a $7 million budget deficit and keep the district from running out of money early next year.
Maria Lopez, a teacher at Inglewood High School, joined protesters with whistles and cow bells outside her campus auditorium where the board met. She complained that teachers already shoulder five unpaid days off this school year.
“We are taking a big pay cut in benefits and salary. We can’t afford any of these cuts,” Lopez said. By the end of the night the school board had approved the pay cut.
The stakes are high for Lopez and other employees as they grapple with shrinking paychecks to meet their living expenses. The stakes for the school district are arguably higher. The district’s solvency hangs in the balance. Inglewood Unified may run out of money to meet its expenses as soon as March.
School districts can’t declare bankruptcy. Instead, California legislators issue a bailout loan with a high price for the school district: its independence. The locally elected school board and the appointed superintendent would be stripped of their authority and a state overseer would make decisions about the district.
Inglewood Unified board member Arnold Butler says the pay cut proposal would go a long way toward preventing a state take over.
“The district is involved in a number of activities. This happens to be one of the many strategies we’re going to utilize to avoid that and to forestall any kind of takeover by the state. The state is not interested in taking us over,” Butler said.
The trouble is, many of the key steps toward insolvency have been set in motion. In July the district’s school board requested a state loan while saying that it could still avoid bankruptcy.
Earlier in the day Butler and his fellow board members met to discuss the details of state takeover.
The president of the Inglewood Teachers Association has welcomed a state takeover as a way to start from a clean slate. Others have said that stripping local control of the school district could make matters worse because the decision-makers wouldn’t know what the district needs.
More than half the writing in a new, independently published anthology of Chicano writing “¡Ban This!” is by Southland authors. They wanted to respond to the state of Arizona's ban of a Mexican American studies program in the Tucson Public Schools.
The Cypress Park branch of the Los Angeles Public Library hosted a signing party Tuesday night for the anthology.
The anthology includes the work of 39 writers from Mexican American and Latino backgrounds. Some are middle aged, others, much younger. Some are novelists, others are academics. Santino Rivera published the anthology.
“There’s science fiction in here, there’s humor in here, there's poetry, there’s prose, there are short stories, there are some dynamite essays in here. There’s things that speak to politics, current issues, there’s things that speak to the lack of Chicanos in Hollywood and in film,” Rivera said.
The title, “¡Ban This!” refers to Arizona’s dismantling of a public school Mexican American Studies program. State education officials said it promoted separatism and the overthrow of the United States. Publisher Rivera says he wanted to counter the program's elimination with a collection of writing for the students it had served.
“I wanted to show them, to the kids who had their books taken away from them, you can our books but you can’t ban our minds,” he said.
A public reading by the book’s Southern California authors attracted a hundred people to the Cypress Park Public Library.
Poet and Cal State LA professor Karina Oliva took the microphone and told the audience that her contribution attempts to capture the complexity of her Latina identity.
“What you’ll hear in it is someone who was born in El Salvador who grew up among Mexicans and Mexican Americans and other Central Americans, who had a Cuban step father, who’s lived in Arizona and who practices Native American spirituality,” she said.
A Northern California poet read a tribute to students arrested for protesting discrimination in Arizona. A former Marine from East LA talked about the way a fellow soldier of Russian descent wondered why Mexican Americans remain outsiders in this country. And a gay hip hop artist read a short story about a raspado, a Mexican snow cone.
The audience gave a standing ovation to contributor and Cal State Northridge scholar Rudy Acuña. His book “Occupied America” is a founding text of Chicano studies. Acuña told the audience that he took college students to Arizona to protest the ban on Mexican American studies in public schools, and helped raise money for legal challenges.
“We wanted to give hope to students, we wanted to give hope to a community, we wanted to tell them that they couldn’t single out a person,” Acuña said.
Loyola Marymount University instructor Annemarie Perez, another contributor to the anthology, says critics of the Tucson program based their analysis on writings nearly 50 years old.
“Yes, there are radical writings, even the separatists, and I put that in quotation marks, were and are always talking about the idea of community ownership of schools of hospitals. It’s not this idea that most Chicanos or a significant minority of Chicanos think that we’re going to wake up one morning and secede from the United States,” Perez said.
“¡Ban This!” isn’t the only recent anthology of Latino writing, Perez says, but it's perhaps the one most in keeping with a Chicano tradition of small presses that publish creative work in response to crises.
Tami Abdollah / KPCC
California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott talks about the impact of the state's budget crisis on the nation's largest higher education system. Scott has championed the effort to streamline the path to student graduation, certification and transfer.
When it came time to enroll for his community college courses for this year, Rich Copenhagen didn't have the money. So, like many students, he waited. By the time he could enroll, he was "wait-listed" - on the list of students who might get into the class if someone drops.
"It was a little bit terrifying when I was trying to register for classes," said Copenhagen, 22, who is president of the Student Senate for the California Community Colleges. "Everything has got the yellow warning sign that it’s 'wait-listed' and everything else is closed."
Copenhagen got his classes, but many students don't.
After repeated rounds of state budget cuts, colleges have had to reduce course offerings - shutting out more students.
In the academic years from 2008 to 2011, community college enrollment dropped by 500,000 students, said Paige Marlatt Dorr, a system spokeswoman. Last year, California's community colleges had to turn away 200,000 students who could't get into a single course, she said.
Attorney Scott Witlin, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and EdVoice president Bill Lucia (left to right) talk to the media about the decision in the case of Doe v. Deasy on June 12, 2012. The judge ruled LAUSD must include student performance data as part of its evaluation of teachers and school administrators.
L.A. Unified and the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles announced Tuesday that they have reached a tentative one-year agreement that incorporates student test data as a factor in evaluating principals and assistant principals.
The deal, which would apply to evaluations this school year, brings the district one step closer to fully complying with state law as ordered by a judge in July; L.A. Unified is still in discussions with the teachers' union and must reach an agreement by Dec. 4.
The agreement requires an approval vote by the school board, said LAUSD spokesman Thomas Waldman. The board will vote on the agreement in early October, he said.
Principals and assistant principals will be evaluated with a variety of student data including school-wide, grade-level and departmental test data. Factors such as attendance, enrollment and graduation rates will be included.
Picture this: L.A. Unified school board member Steve Zimmer and the California Charter Schools Association are in a moving car. The Association is in the driver’s seat trying to shift the car into third gear. Zimmer’s struggling to get the car into neutral and shoves his foot on the brake.
Zimmer plans to introduce a charter school oversight proposal during Tuesday’s L.A. Unified board meeting. It would stop new charter school approvals in the massive school district while a commission or similar body convenes to more closely scrutinize the independent, publicly funded campuses.
Zimmer told me that two charter school scandals in recent years – one having to do with standardized test cheating and the other with charter school founders' misuse of public money - prompted him to want to create another school district body in addition to the L.A. Unified's Charter Schools Division.
“I think that the significant question that we need to examine is whether or not we as authorizers really have a sense of both academic progress, fiscal stability and solvency and what is the effect of this exodus on the parents and students who choose to remain in LAUSD,” Zimmer said.