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

After years with no arts classes, Compton elementary readies a holiday concert

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

First-graders Valeria Beltran, left, and Jarret Moore take part in a music class at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014. The class is supported by Turnaround Arts, a national program that brings arts education to high-poverty elementary and middle schools.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Music teacher Jennifer Carreras leads a song at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Fourth-grader Pedro Herrera plays "Linus and Lucy" from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on the recorder during a music class at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Fourth-graders practice "Este Es La Navidad" for their upcoming holiday performance at Martin Luther King Elementary Jr. School in Compton.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

First-grader Valeria Beltran sings during a music class at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Fourth-graders Jennifer Moncada, left, and Josephine Moreno hug after Moreno is chosen to try out to perform at school district offices. The students take a music class once a week at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Fourth-graders practice "Este Es La Navidad" for their upcoming holiday performance at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

First-graders Sherlyn Asuna, left, and Jaden Armstrong practice a holiday song at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Music teacher Jennifer Carreras leads a song at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014.


Students and teachers at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton are busy preparing for a winter concert that elsewhere might pass with scant notice.

For King Elementary, the concert is both their first full performance at a school where nearly all students come from low-income families and a sign that a program designed to turn schools around through music and the arts may be taking hold.

This year marked the first time for arts classes at King Elementary, a development made possible with funding help from Turnaround Arts — a national initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Turnaround Arts is supporting 10 of California's struggling schools over three years with the goal of  improving their academic performance by way of the arts. 

On a recent Friday afternoon, a few dozen 6th-graders at King Elementary sat perched in rows of chairs listening to their teacher's instructions. In their hands were shiny violins.

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Amid safety concerns, LAUSD students hauling home iPads

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Los Angeles School Police Officer Nick Flores walks with students at Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences as school gets out on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Los Angeles School Police Sgt. Dale Cunningham visits Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. The school is the first in the Los Angeles Unified School District that allows students to tote home iPads.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Los Angeles School Police Officer Nick Flores is assigned to the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences campus every weekday.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Aiden Lafreniere, a junior at Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences, plays a movie she made on her iPad for her Spanish class.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Los Angeles School Police Officer Nick Flores is the only officer assigned to the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences. Flores has been located at the school for four years, ever since the campus first opened.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Not a single iPad has turned up missing at Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences, according to Los Angeles School Police Officer Nick Flores.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

After school gets out, Los Angeles School Police Officer Nick Flores patrols the surrounding area by car. He checks storefronts, alleyways and bus stops to make sure students are safe.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Los Angeles School Police Officer Nick Flores patrols through Granada Hills on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 10, 2014. Last spring, L.A. school police tested take-home iPads for two weeks with small groups of students at two schools.


Students at Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills are among the first in Los Angeles Unified School District cleared to tote home their iPads for homework.

Junior Aiden Lafreniere said having a tablet she can take with her makes it easier to stay in touch with teachers, even after hours.

"We have a place we can constantly go and check our instructions," she said. "There isn't that factor of losing work when you turn it in because of massive amounts of paperwork."

But parents and school staff worry that the take-home iPads may come at a cost: children who are targeted by thieves.

Valley Academy is part of a pilot program officials plan to roll out to all schools as the district implements its Common Core Technology Project, which will provide tablets and laptops to all 650,000 students.

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FCC funding to help California schools speed up Internet connections

Damian Dovarganes/AP

File: A decision by the Federal Communications Commission to boost funding for its E-rate program will help improve Internet speeds at the nation's schools and libraries, including those in California.

The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to designate $1.5 billion each year to help public schools improve Wi-Fi access in classrooms and libraries, including those in California.

The action will likely increase consumer phone bills by $2 a year per phone, the Associated Press reported.

The additional funding for the FCC's E-rate technology grants will translate to about $733 million for California schools over the next five years, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington, D.C.-based national policy and advocacy group underwritten by AT&T Foundation among other sponsors.

Jason Amos, vice president of communications for the alliance, said the funding will help schools that may still have the same speed to browse the Internet as the average home.

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LAUSD school board approves $2.5M in spending on arts education

Mary Plummer/KPCC

File: Los Angeles Unified school board members Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff during an April 29, 2014 school board committee meeting.

Thirty-three middle schools that either lack or are grossly deficient in arts instruction will get a share of a $2.5 million allocation approved by the Los Angeles Unified School District board on Tuesday.

News that several dozen schools have no access or limited exposure to the arts came as a surprise to some school board members. Board member Steve Zimmer called the revelation "literally heartbreaking." (See the list below for the affected schools.)

"We're hurting kids," he said. He added that while he supported the efforts of Rory Pullens, the district's new head of arts education, the board needed to do more to get the district's students access to arts education. "It's got to be a right for every kid," Zimmer said.

The $2.5 million comes from monies based on the Local Control Funding Formula, the new calculation that increased state funding to local schools for 2014-2015.

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New federal monies coming to California for infants, but not preschoolers

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MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama hugs Alajah Lane, 9, after she introduced him at Wednesday's White House Summit on Early Childhood Education.

Calling it “one of the best investments we can make,” President Obama Wednesday unveiled a $1 billion package of funding for early childhood development to a packed room at the White House.

For California, the details of the announcement made for a mixed bag of good news and bad: the state was not among the 18 states that will share $250 million in preschool grants awarded by the Department of Education to states proposing to build early learning infrastructure, expand access and increase preschool quality. 

Pam Slater, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Education that had submitted the state's grant application, told KPCC that officials were still digesting comments from official reviewers on why the state was not successful and would talk more fully later. But she added, “we are disappointed.”

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