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

UC teaching assistants stage 1-day strike at several SoCal campuses

Courtesy Nicole Robinson

UCLA graduate students supporting a strike by the union that represents teaching assistants throughout the University of California.

Unionized teaching assistants at several Southern California campuses walked off the job Thursday as part of a one-day strike. 

The strikes took place at University of California campuses in Los Angeles, Irvine, Santa Barbara and Riverside. Other campuses went on strike the day before.  UC employs about 13,000 unionized teaching assistants, (TAs), tutors, and undergraduate readers; but according to students and campus officials, only a small percentage failed to show up for work.

UCLA doctoral student Nicole Robinson took part in a campus rally and march. She’s upset her union and management haven’t been able to agree on an increase to the TA’s roughly $17,000 yearly stipend.

“And we’re also protesting against huge class sizes,” she said, adding that it has created more work for graduate students at a time when they need to focus on their own research.


Report: Foundation funding widens the gap between California's 'rich' and 'poor' schools

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

The Irvine Public Schools Foundation raises money to pay for all K-3 music classes, and covers some of the costs of music classes for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in Irvine Unified schools.

Southern California researchers are finding that foundations, set up to raise money for public schools, are reintroducing funding inequality that was supposed to be eliminated back in the 1970s, when the California Supreme Court ruled on the Serrano vs. Priest case.

“The court said spending needs to be equitable between school districts, you can’t have Beverly Hills spending twice as much as the other guys, per pupil, because a child’s education should not be dependent on the wealth of the area in which they happen to live,” said Cal State Fullerton professor Sarah Hill.

She and two colleagues have compiled  information from about 1,500 education foundations and other fundraising groups such as booster clubs and PTAs, along with Internal Revenue Service data, to create a database Hill said is the first of its kind.


How California schools spent $13 billion generated by Prop 30

Gov. Jerry Brown

Sharon McNary/KPCC

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks in support of Prop. 30 at a rally of UCLA students on campus, Oct. 16, 2012.

The California State Controller's Office launched a website Wednesday tracking how money from Prop 30 is being spent by charter schools, school districts and community colleges. 

The measure was approved in November of 2012 and has since pulled in $13.1 billion for teachers, textbooks and general operations, according to the site. But the new funds hardly outweigh the overall cuts to education funding since the recession. 

A glimpse of the new Prop 30 tracking website

Last year, the state's largest district, Los Angeles Unified, raked in $660 million from Prop 30, bringing the total revenue to $5.67 billion.  In the 2007-2008 school year, the district took in an additional $1 billion more to help make ends meet.

Across the state, 80 percent of Prop 30 money was spent on teacher salaries and benefits - keeping in step with what's by far the largest expense in any school district or charter school budget.


Federal funding extended to visiting nurse program for new mothers

Breastfeeding - 3

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Registered Nurse Tracey Desai gives tips to new mother Lani on how to position her daughter while breastfeeding. Lani said she wanted to breastfeed her child from the beginning, and feels that the benefits outweigh the difficulties.

At a handful of Los Angeles area hospitals, women who give birth receive a bedside visit from a nurse who interviews them about what they expect when they take their baby home. It's part of a nurse home-visiting program, similar to ones funded through the Affordable Care Act, which just received a six-month funding extension by Congress on Monday. 

Nancy Tsuyuki is a nurse and the manager for Community Health at Providence Little Company of Mary hospital in San Pedro. Part of her job is to ensure that each new mother in the maternity ward is screened to see if she might need extra assistance when she takes her newborn home. The goal is to identify mothers who would benefit from a regular visit by a nurse or social worker.

Tsuyuki told KPCC it's not just low-income families that the program serves. "We’re actually looking at all moms," she said, "because most new moms don’t know what type of help they really need."


Pencils down, iPads up! LA schools' new exam strategy put to the test

student hand with ipad

by Lexie Flickinger via Flickr

L.A. Unified students will be taking the new test on iPads.

Gone are the No. 2 pencils and eye-crossing bubble sheets — Los Angeles Unified schools will begin piloting a new state exam on Tuesday, administered entirely by computer. 

Students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 will be the only ones  trying out the new test, designed by the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium to measure mastery of the new Common Core standards.

The district has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in computer and Wi-Fi infrastructure this year, and since students' scores won't be issued during the pilot, all eyes will be on how the technology and test administration perform.

Superintendent John Deasy  tapped about $23 million in bond money to rush order 45,000 iPads for testing - that was 6,500 more than than the  bond oversight committee calculated would be needed. (The district  did not take into account existing computer inventory.)