Neighborhood News & Chatter
Edited by David Coffin
September 01, 2014

The California Legislatures Epic Fail!

$16 Billion deficit….

Who are those legislators that are responsible for the states deteriorating conditions that include our deteriorating water, power, and transportation infrastucture? Responsible for our rising tax rates and fees? Responsible for our pension giveaways to public service unions? Responsible for the loss of business in the state. Responsible for the states falling high school graduation rates, rising drop out rates and limiting school choice? Responsible for rising university tuitions and capping enrollments? Responsible for the destruction of vast public lands to make way for huge solar projects and oversubscribing water supplies? Look no farther:

And we cannot forget the California State Senate…

How many opportunities do you give these folks to improve our lives?  

City’s Turn To Redistrict. Empower your NC’s!

City mapThe “Citywide Map – Neighborhood Councils IntactBarry Johnson” map is by far the best of the 38 city redistricting maps published on the redistricting web site to date.

The proposed Neighborhood Councils Intact map does several things:

  • The map preserves your neighborhood council boundaries which are truly “communities of interest”,
  • The map decentralizes council boundaries away from downtown Los Angeles which will place more emphasis on communities rather than downtown,
  • The map proposes districts that are truly compact,
  • It avoids the kind of gerrymandering examples you see in most of the other maps that quite literally ‘squeeze’ down boundaries between distinct and widely separated districts down to the width of a single street in many of the districts.

The Neighborhood Councils Intact map recognizes that all the hard work in recognizing communities of interests that has already been done by the Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils back in 2000 and applied by the city’s residents as they painstakingly drew up their own boundaries and applied for neighborhood council recognition.

We should all email redistricting.LACity@lacity.org to support it.

Deasey sets his sights on homeowners for more $$ to pay for Magnet Schools

It’s not enough that regular LAUSD schools cost residents roughly 20% more than schools in surrounding districts.

It’s not enough that Magnet schools cost 30% more per student than non-magnet schools or that these so-called “jewels” of LAUSD that perform just marginally better than their regular schools.

It’s not enough that your -not- likely to be able to get your child into a magnet school. The odds are 1 in 4 that you’ll win a seat.

Now Supt. John Deasey wants to target homeowners with another try at a parcel tax to pay for those magnet schools.   Residents are already paying ‘thousands’ more each year for school bond measures that have been added to property tax bills.

According to a news article in the Daily News, Deasey, speaking to some 300 parents at a North Hollywood High School meeting said “Magnet schools should be allowed to expand and multiply, but more state funding or local revenue efforts like a parcel tax, will be needed to allow that to happen.”

Deasey goes on to say “While no one wants to make cuts … we are not going to be able to maintain the quality of the programs you as parents demand, and that I should provide, until we have a conversation about revenue… We need to talk about a parcel tax.”

It’s hard to know what Deasey means since there are so few schools in the LAUSD system that have even reached the academic level and matriculation rates that are worth maintaining today.  Now he is suggesting that residents pay more to maintain what can only be described as a failed system? 

 

California’s High School Dropout Clock Keeps Ticking

This is the California High School Dropout Clock.

Tick, tick, tick,…  the dropout clock continuously updates itself over time showing the number of students who drop out of high school in California.

The dropout clock shows just a small sample of our local legislators and the huge number of students that have dropped out during their term of office.  The numbers grow each minute and these and other officials are responsible for it because they could author legislation that could stop it but they don’t.

 

What has your state representative done to solve the dropout problem? If they have been ineffective as these folks or they have done nothing to introduce effective solutions, maybe it’s time to stop voting for them. It may be they are not introducing bills that are in your interests but instead in the interests of labor unions and pacs that donate so heavily to their campaigns.

Their failure to provide meaningful education reform is having a catastrophic effect on our children.

Westchester’s Dreams of a Local High School Dashed

Fritz Burns had a vision 60 years ago when he developed the 20,000 homes just north of what is now LAX. He knew that if Westchester was going to be a community it would have to have schools, and so he offered up 42 acres to the LAUSD to build the community a high school. 

Well LAUSD has taken that away from the community now. Westchester no longer has a high school as the LAUSD School board voted Tuesday to turn Westchester High School into a magnet school.

Westchester high school will be modeled after Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) with a fairly strict demographic balance. 30% white and 70% other racial groups equally split. It won’t be like LACES however because one of the schools biggest benefits is that it is a grades 6-12 span school that provides long term continuity to those enrolled there. High school magnets don’t enjoy the same kind of success.

What will that mean to the Westchester community? Through the ‘Choices Program’, the school will probably be sought after by families throughout the district as they try to get their children out of their own badly performing district schools. 59 out of 70 LAUSD high schools do not meet AYP and are designated ‘PI’ schools. That’s a lot of potential feeders schools that may funnel students  into Westchester’s soon to be magnet program. 

For the time being, just about anyone from Westchester willing to give the LAUSD ‘yet another chance’ will have an easy time enrolling but as enrollment goes up, at some level students ‘will need points’ to get in. Westchester families will not have any priority over any other students in Los Angeles. As a magnet, it’s not our school anymore.

As enrollment climbs there will eventually be a shortage of available seats within the strict demographic enrollment structure.  Westchester’s African-American and hispanic students will likely be the first to find out we don’t have a local high school anymore as students from elsewhere in the district find seats in the school. Not accumulating enough points playing the enrollment game, they will be the first to be bused off to Venice, University, Hamilton, or wherever LAUSD officials can find seats.

Not far behind,  Westchester’s white students will also be bused off to other low achieving high schools in the district. It’s only a matter time as each one of these demographic groups fill up the allotted space available.

This is what happened at LACES when it took over Louis Pasteur Junior High School in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles.

Westchester’s magnet school success assumes that the district is able to provide an education that people will value.  That’s is a big IF given this districts poor academic record.

SB268 – Sen. Rodrick Wright’s Bill Aims to Limit Inter-District Permits and School Choice

If Senator Roderick Wright (SD 25 – Inglewood) has his way, choosing your school using inter-district permits will be a rarity should his bill, SB268 become law.

Despite claims by Senator Wright that his bill is only designed to provide “certainty” to the inter-district permit process, SB268 is in fact designed to make failing school districts such as Los Angeles Unified the sole arbiter of your child’s inter-district permit appeal. It provides certainty for the district, not your child.

Wright’s bill, is word for word, cut and paste from an LAUSD Legislative proposal published on December 9, 2010 that essentially turns the appeals process before the independent Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) into a mere three point check list that the LAUSD already follows. It then adds a legislative poison pill that guts the parents right of appeal by limiting what the LACOE may hear and rule on.

How the Permit Process Works

For all sorts of reasons many families need alternatives to the schools in their own district. To accomplish this they must file for a inter-district permit. A permit is required so that Average Daily Attendence (ADA) funding follows the child to the new out-of-district school, known as the ‘school of choice.’

Concerned about getting a permit? Find helpful support at the Stop LAUSD from Denying Permits Facebook group.

Before filing however, the parent must find for a suitable school that meets their needs and has space available. Often the child has to meet certain GPA requirements and have a good behavior and attendance records. Before filing for a permit, the parent should get a written acceptance from the school of choice. 

The parent then files for an inter-district permit with the district of residence.  
If the appeal is accepted, a permit is mailed out to the parent and to the school of choice.

District Appeals

If the permit is denied by the district of residence, the parent has 14* days to appeal with the district. This appeal is heard by an appeals committee set up by the district. During this appeal, a parent cites the reasons for transferring out. If this appeal is denied, the parent then has 30 days to appeal again, this time before the independent LACOE.

The LACOE Appeal

The LACOE is a fairer arbiter because not only do they have the students best interests in mind (absent is having to worry about their budget),  they also represent over 80 school districts in Los Angeles County including the LAUSD. They don’t favor one district over the other.

Because of the independent nature of the LACOE, its appeals process for permits is not driven by self interest as school districts can be.  For example, last spring LAUSD District Superintendent Ramone Cortines announced a policy change that would deny permits to 10,000 students in order to make up for a $640 million budget shortfall. The new policy would limit permits to only those who qualify under state law. Because of a loud anxious protest by parents, Cortines was forced to rescind his new policy weeks later.

SB268′s Poison Pill

Having backed off of last springs permit policy debacle, the LAUSD choose the legislative route and found Senator Wright to carry their legislation.  The key to this legislation is paragraph (iv) cited below which excludes from LACOE’s review anything that was already denied by the district during its appeal phase.  The language written by the district would make the LAUSD the final decision maker and limit LACOE to consider information not heard by the district already.

(B) The review by the county board of education of the decision of the district governing board under subparagraph (A) shall be limited to the following questions:
(i) Whether the district acted in accordance with an interdistrict attendance agreement, where applicable.
(ii) Whether the district followed the district’s policy on interdistrict attendance.
(iii) Whether the district provided the parent or guardian with an opportunity to provide information relevant to the interdistrict attendance request.
(iv) Whether there is relevant information that, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, could not have been produced, or that was improperly excluded, at the hearing before the district governing board.

At a Senate Education Committee hearing on March 30th, a Legislative Advocate for the LAUSD, Virginia Strom-Martin sought to describe the districts appeals process as compassionate and fair, citing the 10,000 students that received permits last year. What she omitted however was that only 2,000 students would have received permits if Cortines’s new policy came into effect.

This proposed legislation will affect everyone seeking first time permits.  It will also affect districts that historically accepted students with transfer permits.  Those districts will likely have to lay off teachers if permit students are force to remain in their own districts where opportunities are very limited.

SB268 is a terribly bad ‘education’ bill.  Its sole purpose is to recover some of the $52.2 million in revenues that the legislative analysts says LAUSD lost as students permit out.  Ironically the district is losing over $265 million as students flee to public charter schools taking with them the Average Daily Attendence money.

The bills underlying goal to recover $52 million in a district with a $7.3 billion budget is akin to looking between the sofa cushions for coins. This at the expense of denying students who have found opportunities in their chosen out of district school. Opportunities they can’t find at their local school.

Call your Sen. Roderick Wright and your own State Senator. 

Tell them you oppose SB268 because it will make it more difficult for parents to appeal to the Los Angeles County Office of Education when they are denied a permit by LAUSD.  SB268 takes school choice away from families.  

*revised 4/14 ; was 7 days

Proposal for WHS Magnet Withdrawn

In a revised Order of Business, the proposal for a vote tomorrow to convert WHS to a school wide magnet was withdrawn.  No reason was given.

 

Westchester High School to Convert to School Wide Magnet

Update: Daily Breeze Story (3/26/11) – Will Westchester High’s magnet plan stick?

After more than a decade of low academic performance, high dropout rates, a dropping enrollment and the very real threat of losing the campus to independent charter operators, officials at Westchester High School informed the education committee of the Westchester/Playa Neighborhood Council that next week the LAUSD will announce a major re-organization of Westchester High School. The re-organization will in effect close the neighborhood school, give the school a new CDE location code, and convert the campus into a stand-alone magnet high school.

The re-organization will likely be completed in time for the 2011-2012 school year that begins in September.

The LAUSD has a number of specialized magnets high schools that focus on one or more career fields. Some of the fields include medicine, law, and the environment. Westchester’s focus will likely include two or three fields one of which will be the science/aerospace.

A magnet school is open to all students living within the LAUSD district boundaries, however, new students and those currently enrolled will have to apply through the LAUSD Choices program to attend the magnet. Westchester residents will not have priority over residents outside of the schools original boundaries unless the district offers an exemption. If space becomes limited, the Choices program uses accumulated points to determine who can enroll.

Regular high schools may have up to 42.5 students per class. By law magnet schools have reduced class sizes limited to 36 students per class.

According to officials, there will be no staff ‘job entitlements’ meaning that faculty and administrators will have to apply if they wish to continue to work at the school. Faculty members can opt to find positions at other schools if they do not want to apply at Westchester. The schools re-organization did not require a faculty vote.

A new website www.westchestercomets.org  will be launched on April 13th.
As more information comes forth, I’ll continue to update this article.

LOWERED EXPECTATIONS – L.A.’s 2010 Water Management Plan

LADWP WATER SUPPLY PROJECTIONS DROP TO 1985 LEVELS

After decades of rosy water supply projections proclaiming practically limitless supply, the new 2010 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) is coming to terms with a long overdue reality. Water supply hasn’t grown as expected and the water supply isn’t expected to grow substantially.

Over the past twenty-five years the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has routinely offered plans in the UWMP that projected supplies well above 700,000 acre feet (AF) and in many years, at or above 800,000 AF but actual deliveries realized by the LADWP were well under averaging only 630,000 AF per year between 1988 and 2010.

The 2010 draft UWMP released January 13th profoundly lowers long term projections up to 13 percent for normal and single dry years and up to 18 percent for multiple dry years which are almost comparable to projections published back in 1985. UWMP plans from 1990 to 2005 cited exceptionally higher water supplies that were 20 percent higher than 1985 levels.

The city’s UWMP is a detailed report describing LADWP’s water infrastructure, its water sources, its current and future plans, and a projection of the next 25 years water supply. The UWMP is cited by the LADWP in their Water Supply Assessments (more on that later), and by city planners and developers when evaluating new housing projects. It’s also cited by the city’s planning department when elements of the General Plan are drawn up.

So why have projections dropped so dramatically?

In recent years there has been a growing contradiction between ‘sufficient’ water supplies regularly cited by planning documents for new developments, and the city’s strong arm tactics to force residents into conserving.

This disparity has been leading people to ask the obvious questions: Do we or do we not have enough water to sufficiently supply the residents of Los Angeles? And if water supplies are tight as the city and water department says they are, why do we continually come to the conclusion in these assessments that there are sufficient supplies?

The answers can be found in the document used to base future water supply which is the UWMP. Past UWMP’s had far and away overestimated the water department’s future projections which allowed high density development to proceed unabated. The reports overestimated how much groundwater would be available in future years; they failed to reduce those estimations by subtracting groundwater recharge using imported water purchased from Metropolitan Water Department (MWD) and they assumed that the MWD would bail them out in dry and multi-dry years if supplies were not met by local supplies and L.A.’s own aqueduct system.

In recent years the UWMP was becoming an embarrassment. The absurdity of the previous UWMP’s played out in almost comedic fashion when the projections did not meet real deliveries. This was particularly true between 2000 and 2008 when housing production and new water connections to them rose sharply. The city council was forced to approve an emergency water conservation ordinance that limited landscape watering to Monday’s and Thursdays and made it illegal to serve water in restaurants unless customers asked.

That was soon followed on nightly news with the mayor’s introduction of the LADWP Drought Busters; LADWP employees who would be given the authority to enforce the city’s strict ordinance by ticketing residents who watered on the wrong days.

In later months newscasts brought us dramatic videos almost nightly of water mains literally bursting at the seams and flooding streets throughout the city.

The folly continued until a panel of academics hired by the LADWP concluded that it was the ill-engineered ordinance limiting landscape water to two days a week that caused water mains to cycle between sudden high and low pressures and thus crack.

Then there is the damning evidence, the thirty years of data which demonstrated that for all the ink spent in past reports about increasing water supply through various schemes such as increased storage, recycled water, capturing storm water runoff, the city’s annual water deliveries would not break what has become the 700,000 AF glass ceiling.

Will the new 2010 Urban Water Management Plan’s reserved assessment offer us some relief from the aggressive development that came with the overstated assessments we have saw over the last decade?

Perhaps, and then, perhaps not. According to previous management plans, the UWMP “is only a guideline.”

The decision to provide water connections to new projects, thus manage growth is a political decision; and I might add that it’s not the result of any calculation that considers both supply and demand. With that in mind you won’t find any new verbiage in the plan that protects the community by linking development to water supply, real or projected.

If there is any relief in sight it will probably have to be the result of political pressure or a court decision.

With far lower projections in this latest plan it would not be unreasonable for residents to expect, even demand a moratorium on new developments. Water supply had dropped to dangerously low levels when projects were approved and built within the scope of the previous UWMP projections. The new UWMP has served notice; the margin of safety is gone.

Officials can’t keep ducking from reality and ignore the regions limits to water supply and then compound the problem by repeatedly approving new developments that consume more water.  It’s a one-way ticket to disaster.

Westchester Skate Park Passes Neighborhood Council Review

Good news for Westchester/Playa skateboarding teens, the Daily Breeze reports that the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa threw their support behind the construction of a skateboard park at Westchester Park.  (Read the Daily Breeze Story here)

The skateboard park is supported by The Berrics, a website dedicated to skateboarding and a foundation called explore/Annenberg which is affiliated with the Annenberg Foundation.

The skateboard park would replace the side by side basketball courts adjacent to Manchester Blvd and would be partially funded by explore/Annenberg with the rest coming from developer fees that have been collected over the years by the city. Explore has provided funding for other skateparks in the Los Angeles in Watts and Mar Vista as well as the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals -LA. A full list of explore/Annenberg grants can be found at www.explore.org/grants/

The nearest skateboard parks to Westchester/Playa are in El Segundo, Venice, and Culver City.