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

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.

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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

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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.


SoCal after-school programs to receive White House honors

Courtesy of the Santa Ana Public Library

Alan Hoffmann, Eduardo Cervantes, Roman Valladares, Phil Campos and Alex Mendez participate in a Teen Jam Sessions program at the Santa Ana Public Library. The library's TeenSpace after-school program is a 2014 winner of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award presented by the First Lady.

Two Southern California after-school arts programs will be honored Monday at the White House for outstanding effectiveness in helping students boost their learning and life skills. 

The prestigious National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award will be presented to everybody dance! — an afternoon dance program that operates at six inner-city sites in Los Angeles — and TeenSpace, a mentoring and tutoring program for 10- to 23-year-olds based out of the Santa Ana Public Library. 

"It's an amazing thing. If I could take all the kids with me, I would," said Cheryl Eberly, a librarian at Santa Ana Public Library who came up with the idea and launched the program in 2009.

RELATED: Unusual charters use dance, string instruments to motivate students

TeenSpace students gain work experience and training in digital media arts production and get help with academics and career readiness. 


Cal State hires sexual harassment compliance officer for all 23 campuses

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

File: California State University has hired a systemwide Title IX compliance officer. CalState is not the subject of a federal investigation, but other Southern California colleges are following accusations they mishandled reports of campus sexual assaults.

Amid growing scrutiny of the way universities handle sexual assault cases, the California State University announced Friday that it has hired Pamela Thomason as its new Title IX compliance officer.

“Her work will be vital to expanding the education and training of students, faculty and staff to tackle the issue of sexual violence in our campus communities,” CSU General Counsel Fram Virjee said in a written release.

Title IX is the federal gender anti-discrimination law that compels college campuses to develop and enforce policies preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Thomason starts her job next month. She currently serves as the Title IX compliance officer at UCLA, a post she's held since 2000.

Thomason steps into the position as the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights investigates whether colleges nationwide mishandled sexual assault cases. Among them are some of Southern California’s most prestigious universities: UCLA, USC, Occidental College and CalArts. The Office for Civil Rights is continuing investigations of the four institutions, a spokesman said Friday.