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

Dust off those shelves: 200 library aides head back to LA schools

Library Literacy - 2

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Sada Mozer, the children's librarian for the Junipero Serra Branch, reads "Oh!" by Josse Goffin to Trinity Street Elementary School fifth graders.

The Los Angeles Unified school district is spending $6 million next school year to bring back 192 libraries aides, opening shuttered libraries across the region.

"We are grateful that you have funded libraries for our students. We want to be the voice of our students who aren’t here to thank you," Cathy Ellingford, a library aide at Eagle Rock Elementary, told the school board Tuesday. Ellingford spoke on the behalf of several library aides who sat in the audience, wearing matching blue t-shirts.

Last school year, KPCC reported L.A. Unified slashed hundreds of library positions to weather recession-era budget cuts.  To keep them open, many elementary school principals elected to use discretionary funds to hire library aides.

Others tried to use parent volunteers. But California law mandates schools use specialized staff to check out books, stock shelves and suggest grade-appropriate reading material.


LA school board passes $7.3 billion budget

cash money bills

Stock photo by JasonUnbound via Flickr Creative Commons

The Los Angeles Unified school board unanimously approved a $7.3 billion operating budget at its meeting Tuesday.

The funds reflect a $332 million bump in state funding for the 2014-15 school year, but strings are attached. Every school district in California had to create a "local control accountability plan", outlining how the new money would improve education for foster youth, low-income students and those learning English as a second language.

"I could not be more proud of this," said Superintendent John Deasy. "I think it is the model for the state of California."

Here's some of the changes high-need students can expect:

  • Foster students will be get the most significant change: 60 new psychiatric social workers will be dedicated to their care and nearly $9 million will go to a foster youth support plan. 
  • More students at 37 low-income schools will see psychologists, nurses and campus aides. The staffing boost settles a lawsuit. Other low-income schools won't see a similar uptick in services.
  • Spending on English learners will grow by $5 million over last year, boosting the program's budget to $28 million.


Federal government says California's not testing enough special ed students

Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday California needs an "intervention" when it comes to special education.

The U.S. Department of Education found California school officials are testing too few of their special needs students - those with speech impairments, autism or other disabilities - bringing into question the reliability of average scores. 

If reforms aren't met, Duncan said federal funds can be withheld under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The pronouncement came during an unveiling of new national requirements for schools on special education.

"If our nation works hard and works together, with courage and with a real sense of urgency, we may finally realize the very important ideals of IDEA – equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiencies for individuals with disabilities," he said during a press conference.


UPDATED: Arts access at LA elementary schools, by the numbers

LAUSD Music Repair Shop

Grant Slater/KPCC

In this file photo, a baritone rests on a technician's table in Los Angeles Unified's music repair shop.

Ahead of Tuesday's meeting of the school board's curriculum committee, Los Angeles Unified administrators have released a new document detailing proposed arts access for its 270,000 elementary students next year. 

The extensive spreadsheet is the most comprehensive view yet of arts instruction for the 2014-15 school year, the second school year under L.A Unified's new arts plan. The plan seeks to drastically ramp up arts access for students across the district and restore nearly $16 million in arts funding. 

RELATED: School board members want answers on district's arts plan

Here are six key facts from the spreadsheet.

  • Among the changes from last year: 31 schools will participate in a new pilot program that breaks each art form into a nine-week course, cutting the traditional instruction time, which was a full year long for some art subjects. Of the pilot schools, nine will also receive additional orchestra instruction. Three principals also purchased additional days of arts access.
  • As KPCC previously reported, the district's 18 non-charter primary centers, which go from Pre-K to 2nd grade, will also only get one semester of arts access — a reduction for some of the schools. Seventeen of the primary centers will receive that semester as visual arts. One school, Amanecer Primary Center in East L.A., will receive dance instruction.
  • School board district six, which covers North Hollywood, Pacoima and Van Nuys, has the largest percentage of elementary schools receiving orchestra access, 29 of its 73 schools, or 40 percent. By contrast, in school board district one in South Los Angeles — a seat up for election in August after the death of board member and arts champion Marguerite LaMotte — only 16 schools out of 66 are scheduled to get orchestra access, 24 percent.

  • Of the 522 schools included in the report, 326 are scheduled to receive two days of arts instruction per week from the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and School Support; 168 will receive one day and 21 will receive half a day.

  • About 30 elementary school principals purchased additional arts teacher time from school funds. The most common art form purchased by schools for the 2014-15 school year is vocal-music. The least common is theater.

  • Seven schools are listed as receiving no arts instruction: Carlson Hospital Home School, City of Angels, Elementary Community Day School, Lowman Special Education Center, Lull Special Education Center, Perez Special Education Center and Willenberg Special Education Center. As their names suggest, these are mostly smaller, specialized schools.


Hospital program coaches parents to help alleviate 'toxic stress' in babies and toddlers

Infant Mental Health

Deepa Fernandes / KPCC

19 year-old Shantoya Byrd in front of her Los Angeles apartment complex where she and her daughter, Anmarie Paz, live. They have just waved goodbye to CHLA therapist, Lorena Samora, who visits weekly to provide coaching and assistance to deal with Anmarie's separation anxiety.

Infant Mental Health

Deepa Fernandes / KPCC

CHLA therapist, Lorena Samora, visits the home of Shantoya Byrd and Anmarie Paz each week to help the family deal with the severe separation anxiety the baby was experiencing. This is one of her last visits as both mother and child have made significant progress and the child is much calmer and has learned self-soothing techniques.

Infant Mental Health

Deepa Fernandes / KPCC

Single mother, Shantoya Byrd, asks CHLA therapist Lorena Samora all range of questions as she learns how to deal with her daughter's anxieties.

Infant Mental Health

Deepa Fernandes / KPCC

Shantoya Byrd reads with her 20 month-old toddler, Anmarie Paz. Responding to her daughters cues is one of the skills the Children's Hospital of LA therapist taught her.

An innovative program run by Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles is trying to head off mental health issues in older children by improving their home lives when they're babies and toddlers. 

Through its "early childhood mental health program," the hospital sends therapists into the homes of  hundreds of kids who are showing signs of anxiety, trauma and stress that can pile up causing what experts call "toxic stress."

Similar to nurse home-visiting programs that the White House is trying to expand, counselors in this program teach parents how to diffuse stress in the home and to understand and meet their children’s emotional needs. About 400 families are served every year.

Among them are Shantoya Byrd and her toddler, Anmarie Paz.

When Anmarie was just weeks old, her aunt committed suicide in they home they shared.