At a town hall in Hollywood, parents and school staff gave L.A. Unified a laundry list of spending priorities.
A survey out today shows parents 80 percent of parents would be more likely to engage with school districts about policy and spending if they just felt listened to.
The report, released by EdSource and funded by the California Endowment, comes in the midst of big changes in California school budgets: the state is giving districts extra money for disadvantaged kids, but it's requiring them involve parents in the early stages of deciding how to spend it.
“Parents don’t want to feel that they are just doing this as window dressing," said Louis Freedberg, executive director of EdSource, an education news and policy organization. "School districts can say ‘oh we did this. We met the requirements of law,’ but that parents input didn’t really have impact."
Freedberg said the survey also showed most parents haven’t even heard of Local Control Funding, as Gov. Jerry Brown dubbed the plan.
Courtesy of Los Angeles Unified School District
LAUSD school board member Bennett Kayser represents district 5.
In September, Los Angeles Unified School Board members voted 5-2 to order district officials to produce a budget for the new arts education plan published last summer. That budget was expected to be released Tuesday at a public committee hearing that's now been rescheduled to Dec. 12.
Among those in favor of requiring administrators to produce an arts budget was district 5 board member Bennett Kayser, who represents Griffith Park east, South Gate and East Los Angeles. Kayser, a former L.A. Unified teacher, was elected to the school board in 2011.
The arts plan, which can be viewed online, and the yet-to-be-seen budget have been in the works since the board unanimously approved a measure to make the arts a core subject in Fall 2012.
Kayser sat down for an interview with KPCC in his downtown Los Angeles office about his views on arts education. Here are some edited highlights of that conversation.
Lots of copies of Charlotte's Web and Harry Potter are collecting dust in school libraries, because the kids can't get to them.
As many as 145 schools across L.A. Unified may have closed their libraries, according to staffing numbers provided to KPCC this week. The district said it does not have a tally of shuttered libraries, but figures show schools and the district have hired only a fraction of the library aides needed to operate libraries in every public school.
The district has 457 elementary schools, but only 380 schools have at least a part time library aide, according to statistics provided by L.A. Unified. That translates into about one in five schools that can't open their libraries.
Shortages have hit middle schools the hardest — 83 percent of them are without a librarian, according to district staffing numbers.
Some schools are working around the district the same way they've gotten around insufficient arts instruction — with parents chipping in to pay for it.
In this file photo from Monday, Nov. 28, 2011, Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, right, a member of the University of California Board of Regents, addresses student concerns over tuition and fee hikes during a regents meeting held at the University of California, Davis. Perez is one of several state lawmakers who oppose a school funding flexibility proposal and want to make sure the draft makes it clear extra funds will go to needy students.
California made a major change to public school funding this past summer – giving extra money to schools with high proportions of disadvantaged children, such as those living in poverty or who are just learning English.
Flexibility is a key provision of the funding change. With the swoop of a pen, Gov. Jerry Brown did away with various funding pots and let school districts decide how to best use funds.
The State Board of Education will meet next month to decide how districts should report that spending.
In a letter to the board, state lawmakers — including Assembly Speaker John Perez, who chairs the Senate Education Committee — said draft regulations should be changed to make sure spending is transparent. They want to make it clear districts are compelled to use the extra funds for needy students – and not to shore up district-wide efforts.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks about student loan interest rates during the Daily Press Briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, April 20, 2012. US President Barack Obama, with his administration, is urging the US Congress to step in and stop interest rates on federal student loans from doubling to 6.4 percent on July 1, 2012. For each year that Congress allows the rate to double, the White House said, the average student with these loans racks up an additional 1,000 USD in debt. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Two weeks after the California Dept. of Education announced it was changing next year's standardized tests, there's still no word from the U.S. Department of Education as to whether the changes will resolve tensions between the two agencies.
"The Department of Education continues to have conversations with California officials on student assessments," spokesman Cameron French wrote in an email, "once the request is received, we will review the application as we would any state and respond accordingly."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan had threatened to withhold billions of dollars in federal funds after California said it would test students in either English or math — but not both — this school year. The state also said it would withhold test scores because the new computerized tests, aligned with new learning standards called the Common Core, are still in development.