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Election 2015: iPad controversy looms large in LAUSD District 3 board race

At a recent LAUSD District 3 school board debate, teachers dressed as FBI agents in protest of board member Tamar Galatzan's support of the iPad program.
Annie Gilbertson/KPCC

As the city's March 3 primary election draws near, Los Angeles Unified school board candidates are blasting incumbents for the controversial iPad program.

Opponents sharply criticized the $1.3 billion bond-funded program at a debate Tuesday in West San Fernando Valley, where District 3 school board member Tamar Galatzan was elected in 2007.

"Galatzan said the district is going in the right direction," declared candidate Carl Petersen, a parent and businessman. "I don’t know how anyone can look at the events of the past year and come to that conclusion."

RELATED: LAUSD District 5 school board candidates face off in debate

The program attracted national attention last December when the FBI raided district offices and carted off 20 boxes of bids, evaluations and correspondences with executives at Apple and its subcontractor Pearson, the manufacturer of the learning software loaded on to each device. The investigation is ongoing.


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Miramonte students seeking more from LAUSD in compensation

Parents of students at Miramonte Elementary School escort children out of school on Feb. 6, 2012.
Grant Slater/KPCC

A lawyer representing 58 students who settled a lawsuit related to the Miramonte sex abuse scandal two years ago said his clients are owed more money because another group of students who settled their lawsuit last fall for $139 million may be paid more, and that violates the terms of the first group's settlement. 

A total of more than 100 students and parents sued the district after former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt was charged with 23 counts of committing lewd acts, including feeding students cookies laced with semen. Berndt is serving 25 years in prison. 

Attorney Paul Kiesel's clients were among the first group of students who settled in 2013 for $470,000 each, a total of $30 million. In a claim submitted to the district on Feb. 6, Keisel argues that settlement prohibits other students from receiving more than his clients.


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Teachers union declares impasse in LAUSD contract talks

UTLA says it is at an impasse with the Los Angeles Unified School District over a new contract for its 31,000 teachers.
File photo by Letsdance Tonightaway/Flickr Creative Commons

The United Teachers Los Angeles declared an impasse Wednesday in its talks with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The action opens the way for a mediator to be brought in to help bring about a settlement.

Contract talks have been ongoing since July, UTLA said on its website.

"There is still a significant gap between the two sides on compensation," the union stated. UTLA is seeking an 8.5 percent, one-year increase; LAUSD has offered a 5 percent increase. 

The union said the district is "refusing to bargain in good faith on student learning conditions, and threatening educator layoffs as a scare tactic."

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said in a statement that the district agrees the talks are at an impasse.

"I've been disappointed and frustrated by the lack of progress toward an agreement," he said. "It's my hope that the appointment of a mediator will lead to an expeditious settlement that ultimately supports our students and the District at large."


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Child care advocates hold hopes high for new bill to unionize providers

Child care provider Antonia Rivas leads children in yoga at her Reseda home on Feb. 13. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon is introducing a bill to fund child care and provider training, and set up a structure to facilitate collective bargaining for family child care workers.
File Photo: Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon is introducing a new bill on Wednesday that aims to address the state's critical child care shortage and give providers the right to unionize.

The lack of sufficient child care has been statewide. In Los Angeles County, a recent study found only 2 percent of infants and toddlers have access to a licensed child care facility; for preschoolers, it's about 40 percent.

The shortage is most acute in low-income areas, and the bill aims to inject more child care vouchers into the system so poor families can have free child care.

A more controversial provision, however, would allow collective bargaining for those who provide child care in their homes whose earnings can fall near or below the minimum wage. Child advocates cite poor pay as a major reason why providers often leave the field.


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Followers of late educator Sal Castro work to keep his mission alive

Supporters of the late educator and civil rights advocate Sal Castro are working to keep his Chicano Youth Leadership Conference alive.
Crystal Marie Lopez/Flickr

When he died in 2013, Sal Castro drew praise as a Southern California civil rights leader who championed educational opportunities for generations of students of Mexican descent.

While a high school teacher in 1968, he helped thousands of students stage massive walkouts in Los Angeles' east side to protest high dropout rates and poor schooling that ignored their cultural background.

Supporters say his most influential legacy is the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference that he founded in 1963 as a weekend camp in the Santa Monica mountains. The gathering functioned as a cultural pep rally and intensive college application session.

“There was quite a large group of people that knew that this is not something that could die with him. That is when we had the idea to form a foundation to make sure that we keep his legacy alive,” said Myrna Brutti, the conference’s director.


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