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

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.


Can art help students learn science and other subjects? A look at an unusual teaching method

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Stage crew members follow the script as their performance starts at Eagle Rock Elementary School. The Macbeth spin-off production was co-directed by their drama teacher and classroom teacher using a teaching method known as arts integration.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

The sixth graders at Eagle Rock Elementary School made their own costumes to prepare for the play.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Eagle Rock Elementary sixth grader Jack Spiewak, left, who plays Macbeth, waits backstage before the school play, a zombie rendition of Macbeth, begins on Tuesday, May 13.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth graders at Eagle Rock Elementary School take a bow after performing a zombie version of Shakespeare's Macbeth on Tuesday, May 13.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Katarina Galambos, left, does makeup for Simone Midby, who plays Lady Macbeth, before their sixth grade play starts on Tuesday, May 13 at Eagle Rock Elementary School.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth grader Jack Spiewak's Macbeth costume was made from a plaid dress found at Goodwill.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth grader Simone Midby plays Lady Macbeth during a school play at Eagle Rock Elementary on Tuesday, May 13.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Carol Tanzman of LAUSD's elementary drama program decided to incorporate zombies into Shakespeare's Macbeth so she could incorporate more students into the production. As a traveling teacher, she says she teachers 2,500 students a year.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth grade classroom teacher Marvilla Bonilla, left, hugs Simone Midby after her performance as Lady Macbeth. Bonilla partnered with a drama teacher on this arts integration project — students learned art alongside subjects like science and literature as they prepared for the production.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth grader Katarina Galambos plays a gentlewoman and packs lighting equipment after Tuesday's performance. Galambos works the lights and costume changes.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Carol Tanzman of LAUSD's elementary drama program leads a question and answer session for students at Eagle Rock Elementary School.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sixth grader Jessica Perez and the other zombie actors wear make-up and hand-made costumes.

Los Angeles Unified School District is looking to expand a teaching method called "arts integration," which mixes arts instruction with teaching in other subjects and is often used as a way to make the most of arts instruction time with students.

District administrators have outlined a plan that will invest nearly $9 million in arts integration in the next three years.

The method, which has been around for decades but has yet to become mainstream, teaches students multiple subjects at once: a history lesson centered around a famous composer, for example, as students study a piece of music.

In some ways, the plan is a bit of a gamble. Many critics fear the strategy signals a move away from dedicated arts instruction in which students can master an instrument or discover their love for singing in a choir.