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

LA schools: California 'English learner' tests incorrectly label bilingual kids


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Arianna Anderson takes a hula class at the George Nakano Theatre at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. The daughter of a Hawaiian father and Mexican-American mother, Arianna has spent five years in the Los Angeles Unified school district's English learner program. The Andersons believe she didn't belong there in the first place.


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Arianna Anderson, 9, looks at a book at the Torrance Public Library. Her parents, Hilda and Brent, worry she is losing her love of reading, because the school is not providing services tailored to her needs.


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Brent Anderson looks at books with his daughter, Arianna, at the Torrance Public Library. Anderson encourages her to select books based on her interests. Horses are high on the list.


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Hilda and Brent Anderson walk with their daughter, Arianna. They've spent years trying to remove Arianna from LAUSD's English learner program with little to show for it except a six-inch-thick folder of documents.


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Arianna Anderson listens to the hula instructor at George Nakano Theatre at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. When school is a struggle, she finds refuge in a variety of art activities in the afternoons.

Arianna Anderson is one of 180,000 students enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District's program for English learners.

Over 90 percent of students in the program speak Spanish. Most everyone else speaks Armenian, Korean or Filipino.

And Arianna?

"I'm not an English learner," the 9-year-old said with a shrug.

The daughter of a Hawaiian father and Mexican-American mother, Arianna was raised speaking English, from the breakfast table to bedtime prayers.

Yet, every day for the last five years, she has been pulled out of her regular class at Van Deene Elementary in Torrance for an hour to get special tutoring for children who speak English as a second language.

It's impossible to tell how many other Los Angeles Unified students are mislabeled and receiving the wrong instruction. District officials said Arianna's case is unique — but acknowledge the English learner program has been poorly supervised in the past.


Lawsuit claims LA elementary schools skipping PE


A class-action lawsuit filed in San Francisco alleges school districts across the state - including Los Angeles Unified and Riverside - are not providing students the required amount of physical education.

"School districts are not providing the P.E. students need," said Donald Driscoll, attorney for the plaintiff. "Schools are responsible of listening and following the law and provide kids physical education they have to so kids can study and be healthy."

The lawsuit was filed in October by Cal200, an advocacy group that takes it's name from California state law, which dictates "elementary students in grades 1-6 receive a minimum of 200 minutes each ten days."

Driscoll said Cal200 was founded by Marc Babin whose children are no longer school age. Babin declined to comment through his attorney.


California's top political watchdog agency looking into Inglewood school spending

Inglewood Unified School District

Grant Slater/KPCC

A student boards a bus maintained by the Inglewood Unified School District on February 28, 2012.

California's Fair Political Practices Commission said Wednesday a KPCC investigation of misuse of public funds and possible violations of election reporting laws by Inglewood school officials has raised red flags.

“We did read the story and we will be looking into it,” said Jay Wierenga, the spokesman for California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.

Wierenga said he could not comment further on this specific case and wouldn’t say what facts in the news report commission officials would be reviewing. He said they'll decide shortly whether to open a formal investigation into wrongdoing.

“We take any violation of the Political Reform Act very seriously and so we will look into things when we are made aware of them,” he said.

Through court records and interviews, KPCC found that at least $4,700 of public funds intended to educate children in Inglewood public schools were instead used to pay for a political flier that discredited a school board candidate challenging an incumbent board member in 2009.


LA school by school arts instruction breakdown: check your school here

Mary Plummer/KPCC

A screenshot of a map created using data from Los Angeles Unified School District. Blue dots represent elementary schools that offer dance, theater, music and visual arts. Red dots represent elementary schools without all four art forms.

A KPCC analysis of arts instruction at Los Angeles Unified elementary schools found 87 percent won't offer comprehensive access in the coming school year, in violation of California law.

Only about 70 of the district's more than 500 elementary schools will provide all four art forms: dance, visual arts, music and theater. But most of those only provide arts access to a portion of each school's students. 

The California education code requires school districts to teach all children all four art forms every year from first to sixth grade — but it lacks enforcement power or a penalty.

Gerardo Loera, L.A. Unified's lead curriculum administrator, was away on vacation and not immediately available for comment. A school district spokesman declined to provide any other officials to reply to the findings.


Inglewood school funds were used to attack former school board candidate


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Joyce Randall stands in the hallway near her old classroom at Inglewood High School. Documents and interviews show the distribution of a negative flier when she ran for school board was paid for with school district funds.

Public funds meant to educate Inglewood students were instead used to benefit a board member’s re-election campaign, court testimony and interviews show. The expenditures came as the school district began digging itself into a financial hole that ended with a state takeover.

Glenn Brown, the co-founder of a private investigation firm, admitted in court testimony in Los Angeles Superior Court that he billed the school district at least $4,700 for time spent in 2009 distributing fliers to discredit a school board candidate running against then-board member Arnold Butler.

The fliers urged Inglewood residents not to vote for a challenger to Butler’s campaign, characterizing her as a deadbeat who “want[s] to take the students’ money.” Butler won reelection by 488 votes.

At the time, the company, Fu-Gen, had a one-year, $150,000 contract with Inglewood Unified to provide “inspector general” services such as investigations into school district fraud and wasteful spending.