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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.”