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

LAUSD eyeing more bonds as funds for school repairs dwindle


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

File: Christopher Cadena climbs in a hole five-feet deep, unearthing a leaking water main that feeds the fire sprinkler system at Hoover Street Elementary School. A backlog of repair requests show plumbing problems plague many campuses.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials estimate another $40 billion is needed to replace roofs, upgrade plumbing and repair hundreds of aging campuses  – but first they'll need the voters' blessing.

On Tuesday, the school board is scheduled to consider a $22.4 million request to address antiquated heating and cooling systems, failing walls, deteriorated pavement and broken fire alarm systems.

The request covers projects at seven schools, barely making a dent in the district's estimate of need for 13,500 buildings.

A request to sell more bonds is all but sure to find its way onto future ballots, said Roger Finstad, director of maintenance and operations for L.A. Unified.

"It's inevitable," he said. "We want our students and staff to be in buildings and on grounds that are in good condition, where the roofs don't leak and the air conditioning works." 


CSU trustees hear protests of student fees, approve budget request

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

Students protest college fees outside a meeting of the California State University trustees in Long Beach on Thursday.

Trustees of the California State University deliberated whether to require a student vote on so-called success fees imposed at half of 23 campuses as a small group demonstrated outside their meeting in Long Beach Thursday.

The so-called student success fees range from $162 to $830 per year on top of tuition and other campus fees. Some students view the fees as tuition increases in disguise.

Recommendations from a working group to require a student vote on any new success fees won't be voted on until next year, but the issue highlighted continuing concerns about the affordability of higher education.

Community college student Jimmy Valdez told trustees the higher fees may keep him from transferring to a Cal State campus.

"I’m having trouble at the community college level. I am barely making it on financial aid. I am not even a member of the CSU system yet, but when I do transfer out, is it going to be accessible to me as a student?" he asked. "Have you forgotten about us the lower class students who cannot afford these continuous fee hikes?"


LA Unified's unpaid retail jobs for high school credits draw criticism

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Karina Gutierrez, 17, is a senior at John Marshall High School and part of the Regional Occupational Program. Gutierrez works the balloon station at Party City in Los Angeles' Atwater Village.

ROP Class - 3

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Employees at Party City wear "Halloween Expert" vests. School district says students learn inventory, customer and service skills through the ROP program.

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Gabriel Reinwoo, 17, dresses up in a different costume each day at Party City. Hundreds of students are enrolled in the decades-old Regional Occupational Program that places high school students in unpaid retail jobs among other types of work.

ROP Class - 4

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Jose Martinez, 17, has worked at Party City since August through the ROP program at John Marshall High School. He's worked in re-stocking and customer service.

A long-standing training program that allows Los Angeles high school students to work without pay for class credit at Party City, Best Buy and other large commercial chains is coming under some scrutiny.

The Los Angeles Unified School District's retail merchandising classes are among dozens offered through the Regional Occupational Programs and are designed to expose high schoolers to important job skills. The school district lists nearly 100 of these classes, including carpentry, computer-aided design, fashion, and culinary arts. 

“What we’re seeing is students not having the opportunity to learn if you will, how to survive and be effective in the workplace,” said Russell Weikle, director of the Career and College Transitions Division at the California Department of Education, that administers the programs.


Kids Count: Ending California child poverty requires new approaches

Deepa Fernandes/KPCC

File: Beverly Gardener looks after her 3-year-old grandson in Compton. Gardener started working at Small World Preschool in 1977, but lost her job when the new provider took over.

A new report out Wednesday examines California's 1.3 million population of impoverished children and those in other states and asks why their numbers remain stubbornly high after decades of social service programs. 

According to a new Kids Count report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, there are more children living in poverty in California than in any other state. It's not a surprise as California has the largest population in the country, but it's the scale of child poverty here that compounds the problem, said Jessica Mindnich, California director for Kids Count. 

"This is challenging because of the sheer number of poor and low-income children and families in California that makes this difficult to solve," she said. "You add to that that we have very dispersed systems: one that is serving parents and one that’s serving children."


Parents find LA schools magnet program application process daunting

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File: Brian Tom, 17, a Bravo Medical Magnet High School student, works in the stem cell research lab of USC's Keck School of Medicine.

With a Friday deadline approaching to get applications in for Los Angeles Unified School District magnet schools, some families find the process time-consuming and frustrating.

One parent they turn to for help is Angel Zobel-Rodriguez, whose experience applying to magnet programs for her 8th-grader led to the launch of her Ask A Magnet Yenta website. There she doles out free advice to parents trying to get their children into the highly sought-after magnet programs.

"I’ve had people that have been trying to figure out which magnet to apply for while the child is in utero," she said.

She praised the Los Angeles Unified School District for its new magnet program webpage and for putting the program’s brochure online. However, the process has a way to go to make it easier for families, said Zobel-Rodriguez.