Around this time every year, millions of parents in California are working through the school enrollment process. Unfortunately, while many don’t have a choice regarding what school their child will attend, those who do often find their options bewildering.
My wife and I are both educators (her currently, me formerly). We know the education system well, and what qualities to look for in a school. Still, even we were confused when we moved from San Diego to Oakland and began looking at local public schools.
After months of research and hours spent talking about the pros and cons of schools, we filled out our “options” form with our top three school choices. In some ways, this final step was a leap of faith. The school we picked had low scores but we liked the Spanish immersion program and believed that the principal and teachers could turn it around.
Our experience is not uncommon, as conversations with numerous other parents showed us. As parents, we know that the schools we select will have lifetime implications for our children’s success. But as we make these choices, we lack high-quality information on school performance.
The first problem is the school rating system. Every school in California has two separate ratings.
California has a state system called the API (Academic Performance Index) that ranks schools on a point system up to 1000. However, schools are also ranked by the federal rating system based on AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). A school can be highly ranked in the state system and do poorly in the federal system. Neither system provides a full picture of how well a school is performing.
For instance, California’s API system doesn’t tell parents how groups of students – such as English Learners, students with disabilities, Latinos or African-Americans – are doing. The federal model provides this information but fails to give the school any credit for the academic progress of students who haven’t achieved grade level standards.
Under the state system, nothing happens to even the very worst schools. Under the federal system, schools that are making considerable progress can be labeled failing and suffer sanctions. Neither system really tells parents whether the majority of students in the school are on track for graduation and college-readiness.
Recently, the Obama Administration gave state leaders the opportunity to apply for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, which mandates that states apply assessments in basic skills to all students in certain grades if they are to receive federal funding. Such a waiver would allow California the opportunity to develop and use a single school rating system that provides complete and transparent information on school performance for parents and community members.
Eleven states around the country took the option and applied in the first round. Thirty other states have signaled their willingness to apply in the second round in February. California remains undecided, with leaders in Sacramento throwing up an array of excuses as to why we should not join that list.
At a recent State Board of Education meeting, supporters of the waiver asked leaders to quickly come to a decision. Among those gathered were superintendents from the Central Valley’s Sanger Unified School District, Long Beach Unified School District, and Morgan Hill Unified School District in the Bay Area. Advocacy groups including Children Now and Education Trust-West were also at the meeting.
The arguments put forward ranged from building a better accountability system to allowing districts to focus on the highest-need and lowest performing schools, targeting them with the attention, resources and reforms they need to improve. Such steps would help ease the widespread confusion prevalent among parents by providing more concise and accurate information and could also help resolve the widening achievement gap.
Additionally, a waiver from NCLB would offer increased flexibility with federal dollars so state and local leaders can target those dollars at vital areas such as improving teaching and leading, implementing our new state standards, and increasing academic rigor so all of our students graduate college and career ready.
Sadly, no decision was forthcoming form the State Board during the hearing. Instead, leaders stated that they will postpone making a final decision on whether or not to apply for a waiver until March.
In the meantime, it is critical that parents and community groups let state board members know that it is time for California to submit a waiver application. We can’t afford to lose this opportunity to build a transparent, high-quality system for rating schools and districts, one that provides crucial information on how well our schools are doing in preparing all children for college and career.
As parents, we deserve to have all the information we need to make the right educational choices for our children’s future.
Arun Ramanathan is executive director of The Education Trust—West, a statewide education advocacy organization. He has served as a district administrator, research director, teacher, paraprofessional and VISTA volunteer in California, New England and Appalachia. He has a doctorate in educational administration and policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His wife is a teacher and they have two children in a Spanish immersion elementary school in Oakland Unified.
One thing that struck me while listening to supporters, opponents and skeptics alike of the East LA incorporation effort during last week’s LAFCO hearing was that nearly everyone agreed East LA should become a city.
East LA residents have waited almost 40 years for accurate financial data showing where their tax dollars are being spent. While every city, state and nation has to present a balanced budget to its citizens, county government has failed East LA residents in this regard. The county has operated East LA, one of the largest unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County, in financial darkness, without regard or little effort to improve the economic infrastructure of our community.
Some have cited the current economic recession as a reason to wait for incorporation. The recession is not a reason but an excuse to not face the facts. The county is not immune from the economic recession, much like the state and our nation are not immune, but the fact remains that it has been 40 years of neglect and lack of investment, which have us where we are today.
Our community’s perpetual state of dependency did not begin with the recession, but rather has been the result of decades without strategic community planning and a balanced budget. As a result, this has kept thousands of residents wondering what their future holds.
While every elected official/government always asks their constituencies to become civically engaged, the opposite seems to be taking place in East LA. Perhaps, investing countless hours of volunteer work over 4.5 years; collecting over 16,000 signatures (33% of the electorate); spending over $200,000 to pay for all the fees and financial studies to get credible and accurate data to the residents of East LA might be too much civic engagement for the county.
Whether you are an East LA Cityhood supporter or not, is it too much to ask where your tax dollars are going?
If law enforcement costs by some accounts indicate that East LA residents are paying 40% more than what other comparable communities are paying without any clear justification, is it too much to ask why and who is responsible for overseeing these costs? Are we getting 40% more in services or are we paying more for less?
If the fiscal analysis purportedly shows that East LA has a structural deficit of $19 million, is it too much to ask why has this community operated without a balanced budget? Who is responsible to develop a plan of economic recovery?
If the comprehensive fiscal analysis shows that if East LA becomes a city the county stands to gain $27 million as a result, is it too much to ask of our government to do the right thing by working with East LA residents to develop a balanced budget, thus closing the “$19 million gap” and saving the county nearly $8 million annually?
East LA residents deserve more than answers, it deserves a functional local government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
We have not expected or demanded anything more of our government than what we ourselves are willing to do. They have cited financial obstacles and we have provided fiscal solutions!
LAFCO should provide leadership and forge a Revenue Neutrality agreement with LA County to let East LA voters decide at the ballot box whether or not to have its own city.
And to those who use scare tactics to try and prevent full and fair consideration of the East LA Cityhood proposal — we love East LA just as much as you do. We each have our own dream and vision for a better East LA. As Cityhood proponents, we’re demanding full-time accountability from our government. Let’s come together and provide solutions to getting there.
East LA is viable. The question is under what conditions? LAFCO needs to bring options forward so the people of East LA can vote and decide what’s best for their community. Don’t deny the voters of East LA the right to vote on their own local government.
Let’s become a model city and set ourselves on a path to sustainability and improved quality of life for our families, our children, and the generations ahead.
LAFCO: Let us not repeat history, but let’s make history together…
East LA Residents Association
President and Taxpayer
Already, four of the top GOP presidential contenders have dropped out. Michele Bachmann went first, because she was too wacky, followed by Jon Huntsman, because he was too sane. Herman Cain gave up because he was too exposed, and Rick Perry because he was too dim-witted.
But the greatest surprise is the sudden surge of the Adelson campaign. Little-known until now, Adelson was the big winner in South Carolina, has made his mark in Florida, and looks to have the political kick needed to go the distance.
Never heard of the Adelson campaign? It’s the married duo of Sheldon and Miriam, neither of whom is actually on the ballot. Rather, they are running on the cash ticket.
Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas-based global casino baron who has long been a major funder of far-right-wing causes, is Newt Gingrich’s very special political pal.
When Newt’s presidential bid nearly flat-lined after his electoral collapses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sheldon rushed in with emergency CPR: Cash-Powered Resuscitation. This one rich guy wrote a $5-million check to Gingrich’s Super PAC, which is named “Winning Our Future.” The PAC injected Sheldon’s money directly into toxic attack ads against Mitt Romney in South Carolina’s primary, jolting Newt’s campaign back to life.
However, Gingrich still lacked the financial vitality to match Romney’s media buy in Florida’s pricey primary. No worries, though — Miriam Adelson stepped in to infuse Winning Our Future with another $5-million jolt of CPR. The Gingrich campaign, you see, is a vessel for the Adelman campaign, and word is that this one power couple is prepared to spend another $10 million to make their boy the GOP nominee, with more to come if he’s the one to run against President Barack Obama.
Forget “Winning Our Future.” The ultra-rich Adelsons are “Buying Our Future.”
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. Distributed via OtherWords.org.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Asesinatos Impulsan Rumores, Siembran Miedo
The death of redevelopment agencies, often referred to as community redevelopment commissions or CRAs in most cities, took effect Feb. 1.
Cities held their last redevelopment meetings in the days prior to the closure deadline, settling affairs and preparing for the long dismantling process.
On Monday, a Monterey Park city councilwoman, serving on city’s redevelopment commission, approved their final actions as an agency “in protest,” while another city councilwoman compared the process ahead of them to “probate.”
The Commerce city council adjourned in memory of redevelopment Tuesday night, an action usually reserved for memorializing community members and notable figures who have died.
Many cities including Commerce, Monterey Park, Bell Gardens and Montebello have chosen to serve as their own undertaker, voting to be the “successor agencies” tasked with winding down their redevelopment agencies. The city of Los Angeles, fearing potential lawsuits and liability for employees, bowed out of the process, voting to instead let the state dissolve its redevelopment agency.
City officials, across the board, say they foresee legal battles and years of wrangling over provisions of AB X1 26, the state law passed last year that sounded the death knell for redevelopment agencies.
Much of the dispute could be over the liquidation process, what cities get to pay, and what they have to pay out. The rules, city officials complain, are ambiguous.
For decades, cities and other local governments that formed redevelopment agencies used it to eliminate blight, increase affordable housing in their cities, and stimulate economic development in their cities to varying degrees of success.
While some cheered the end to redevelopment, city officials and employees who have worked in the field for decades, and who have used the agencies to bring in major tax revenue generators to their cities as well as affordable housing, mourned its loss.
Officials hopeful for an extension had no choice but to be resigned to their fate Tuesday night.
“After 30 some years, residents should be proud of our Citadel, Casino, which have provided benefits to residents for years,” said Commerce Councilman Robert Fierro.
The City of Bell Gardens on Jan. 23 approved a staff recommendation to become the successor agency to its local redevelopment agency: the Bell Gardens Community Development Commission.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Bell Gardens se Convierte en Sucesor de su Agencia de Desarrollo
As of Feb. 1, redevelopment agencies across the state were expected to cease operations. Those cities that have appointed themselves successor agencies—like Bell Gardens, Montebello and Commerce—will begin phasing out the agencies by paying-off debts, liquidating assets and directing all property taxes to local taxing agencies in accordance with Assembly Bill X1 26, commonly known as the redevelopment elimination bill, and signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year.
The dissolving of local redevelopment agencies is devastating to communities that have used increased tax revenues to invest in projects in blighted areas, according to local officials.
In Bell Gardens, redevelopment was used to create the Market Place and Los Jardines shopping centers, to purchase the parking lots that serve The Bicycle Club, (a major tax generator), and to create several low-income senior housing projects and single-family homes, according to a Jan. 12 staff report.
Bell Gardens does not plan to sell off its low and moderate housing assets right away. AB 26 allows cities to hold onto the low and moderate housing assets and retain the power and duties for performing redevelopment housing functions, according to staff.
New legislation is also currently being considered that could allow cities to keep “Low-Mod” funds for the purpose of continuing to develop affordable housing. Bell Gardens staff recommended the city hold on to its housing assets in case new legislation is approved.
“Staff believes that safeguarding the housing assets is important since the Abode Communities housing project is still under construction. The City has a vested interest in making sure that the project is completed in a method consistent with the City Council’s intent and original version,” the staff report states.
The California Redevelopment Association and League of California Cities are working with state legislators to bring back redevelopment in some form, but “in the meantime, we have no choice but to follow the court’s directive,” according to the staff report.
It was unexpected. A grocery store owner moved to tears, a bank executive calling for greater access to capital for small businesses, and a major developer saying the Occupy Wall Street movement had focused attention on the disparity between the rich and poor in the country, and the need for the country to start investing in workers and businesses here at home.
What was unusual is that these were not speakers at a rally for social or economic justice, but award recipients at the Latino Business Chamber of Commerce of Greater Los Angeles’ 2012 Latino Business Awards Annual Luncheon, held Tuesday at the Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.
The annual event, now in its third year, salutes Latino owned businesses of different types and size for their entrepreneurial initiative and for excellence in business.
A common thread ran through each of the recipients’ acceptance speech on Tuesday: gratitude to be living the American “dream,” and a desire to make the dream a reality for more Latinos.
Miguel González , CEO of the Northgate Gonzalez Market grocery store chain, struggled to gain his composure Tuesday when it was announced his company had been selected to receive the LBCC-GLA’s “Large Private Company” award for excellence.
“I look out, … and I remember my father worked hard in this hotel for many years,” said a teary-eyed González, his voice cracking with emotion.
“And now, tomorrow, First Lady Michelle Obama will make a visit to us,” he said, referring to the planned visit by the First Lady to a future site of a new Northgate Gonzalez Market in Inglewood.
Obama was scheduled to speak about the California FreshWorks Fund, a public-private financing fund that has committed $20 million in financing to Northgate for its first three projects.
The Gonzalez family, immigrants from Jalisco, Mexico, opened their first store in January 1980 in Anaheim. From that 2,000 square foot store they have grown into a chain of 32 stores, averaging 50,000 square feet each, and nearly 5,000 employees in Southern California.
Jonathan Sanchez, Associate Publisher and COO of Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews, publishers of this newspaper and a Silver Sponsor of the event, introduced the “Medium Private Company” award recipient, Julius Argumedo, CEO of Computer 1 Products, a full service IT Solutions Provider, that today partners with some of the most trusted and recognized companies in the world like Cisco, Barracuda, Microsoft, Dell, HP, and IBM, to provide service nationwide.
Argumedo recalled how he saw that there were no dominant minority owned companies in the technology business, and realized there was an opportunity to create such a company. He said that Latinos must prepare for the future, and technology training and access is a key to success in the future.
Promerica Bank Board Chair, Maria Contreras Sweet, thanked the LBCC-GLA for their work on behalf of businesses, including banks like Promerica that are dedicated to building family wealth by providing small to mid-sized businesses with the financial tools, and access to capital needed to succeed. Promerica Bank received the “Large Public Company” award.
Contreras Sweet said access to capital is often challenging for Latino owned businesses, and that the investment made by large corporations in the market and in groups like the Latino Business Chamber, can substantially improve the likelihood of their success. Promerica Bank understands the needs of the Latino community, she said. Despite tough recessionary times, Promerica has had several straight profitable quarters. To better serve its Latino customers, the bank provides bicultural, and not just bilingual service, financial education, as well as a conservative, yet flexible credit culture.
Richard Gutierrez, who together with Carlos Guerra co-founded Guerra Gutierrez Mortuaries in 1969 in East Los Angeles, accepted the chamber’s “Legacy Award” on behalf of the 62-year-old family-owned business.
Gutierrez told the audience that they have always tried to be a good member of the community, and provide the finest care at reasonable prices to the families they serve. On many occasions they provided free funeral services to families who could not afford to bury a loved one, Gutierrez said.
Over the years, the company has expanded to three locations, 50 employees, with more than $5 million in sales.
Maria and Gilbert Romero, owners of Taco Nazo restaurant chain, received the “Small Business” award. They started their business in 1978 as a lunch-truck, and today they operate 6 locations, employ 50 workers, and do over $2 million a year in sales. Thelma Garcia accepted the award, and, speaking in Spanish, said it was a very proud moment for the company that had such a humble beginning. “God Bless America,” she said.
Nonprofit Childrens Hospital Los Angeles was recognized by LBCC-GLA for their dedication to providing quality, transformative care to the children of Los Angeles. The award was accepted by Richard D. Cordova, the hospital’s president and CEO. Cordova noted that over 60 percent of the hospital’s patients are low-income and receive Medi-Cal, yet they receive the highest standard of care available anywhere.
The Latino Business Chamber had previously announced The Meruelo Group as the recipient of its prestigious “Innovation Award.” The investment company owns 5 constructions and engineering companies, Comercial Bank of California, and numerous restaurants, including pizza chain La Pizza Loca. The company has over 5,000 employees.
Accepting the award, Meruelo President/Chief Investment Officer Xavier Gutierrez said that financial disparity is a big problem in the US. He said the Occupy Wall Street movement called attention to the problem, which has been further exacerbated by the country’s deep financial woes.
Latinos, he said, have been especially hard hit, their personal wealth and income dropping by more than 60 percent since the recession started.
Home foreclosures and unemployment have taken their toll, dropping millions of middle-class Americans into poverty, many of them Latinos.
Gutierrez said Latinos need to take control of their future, get educated, become more financially literate, and become business owners.
It’s in their interest, and the country’s interest, that they succeed, he said.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the name of Northgate Gonzalez Markets’ CEO, it is Miguel Gonzalez, according to the Latino Business Chamber of Commerce of Greater Los Angeles.
Dozens of local business owners, community leaders and residents put their game faces on for a casino night fundraiser at Pan American Bank on Jan. 26 benefiting The Lucille and Edward R. Roybal Foundation.
The foundation, which has provided scholarships and internships nationwide, is returning to its roots in East Los Angeles.
In a change from past practices, the foundation will not award any scholarships this year, and has instead opted to offer paid internship opportunities to about a dozen students at the UCLA Center for Study of Latino Health and Cure/MEDPEP program, USC Roybal Institute on Aging, and the Cal State Los Angeles School of Nursing. Each intern will receive $5,000.
“I know my father always envisioned the program as being community based, and in part because of funding we received awhile back, we had to go to a nationwide program. Because of that, decisions were made on paper, students filed very extensive applications and our board would spend hours going through the application and making the selections … So it really wasn’t tied to the community in any way,” the nonprofit’s director, Edward R. Roybal, Jr., told EGP.
“So when I came in as director about a year and a half ago, one of the first things I started doing was reestablishing the foundation as far as the community is concerned … I started meeting with local colleges and universities and then local health care programs with the idea of placing the two together, and placing students to work in the community.
The internship program is to tie what we do to the local community…” Roybal, Jr., said.
Students will conduct their internships at one of the six or seven local community healthcare provider partners, Roybal, Jr. told EGP. Program partners include White Memorial Medical Center, Rancho Los Amigos, AltaMed, Bienvenidos, Casa Cardenas, and Familia Unida, he said.
“We are hoping to have success in fundraising so that we can build on that, maybe add a couple more programs,” Roybal Jr. said.
The foundation internships are competitive and include a requirement that applicants be Spanish-speaking. Roybal Jr. says the requirement is in keeping with their mission to serve the predominantly Latino community.
“We want to maintain our focus in East LA, and be more successful in LA County, and maybe Southern California, but we are really looking to be locally based as opposed to nationwide,” he said.
Roybal Jr. said he was very pleased Pan American Bank’s President and CEO Jesse Torres offered to hold the fundraiser at his East 1st Street location. At this time when banks are held in low disregard, “Here’s a bank that gives back to the community regularly,” he said.
The Roybal Foundation would like to hold more affordable-priced fundraisers in the community, and one is being planned for March at Steven’s Steakhouse in Commerce, he said.
Jesse Torres said the event, approved by Pan American’s Board of Directors and set up by the bank’s staff, cost them about $5,000.
“The monies the foundation has is limited unfortunately, so we need to be able to raise what we can in order to create opportunities for our kids, so they can go ahead and pursue these careers in health,” Torres said, noting that the bank holds three to four fundraisers a year for community organizations.
Torres and the bank’s Board of Directors hope their investment in the foundation will be leveraged to raise thousands of dollars more. “We’d like to see it expand to community colleges … but that can only happen if we have the support of organizations, private entities and enterprises,” Torres told EGP.
Assemblymember Gil Cedillo (45th District) reminded those in attendance that Congressman Edward Roybal, for whom, along with his wife, the foundation is named, is an icon in the community whose work went well beyond public office.
“Being in public service is about your service, not your ambitions. That’s why it’s important to promote the legacy of Roybal,” Cedillo said, noting the former US Representative who passed away in 2006 pushed for AIDS research and civil rights causes for everyone, not just Latinos.
During the event, East LA Rotary Club President Monica Alcantar and Secretary Dolores Diaz-Carrey presented Roybal Jr. with a $5,000 donation on behalf of the club.
The event was organized with support from Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, and Los Angeles Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Jose Huizar. Sponsors included the Rotary Club of ELA, Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce, East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Whittier Boulevard Merchants, VELA, Chivas USA and the Boy Scouts.
For more information on The Lucille and Edward R. Roybal Foundation, visit http://www.roybalfoundation.org
Students from Resurrection Catholic School on Opal Street, just a couple of blocks from the I-5 Freeway in Boyle Heights, are featured in a new documentary sponsored by the Air Quality Management District (AQMD) whose jurisdiction includes Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Niños de Boyle Heights Protagonizan en Documentario Acerca de la Contaminación del Aire
Resurrection students and faculty saw the film for the first time last month, during a screening that included a special recognition for the school’s principal, Angelica Figueroa, who allowed students to participate in the film that aims to educate residents about air pollution and inspire them to become part of the solution.
Children at Resurrection are learning to be part of the solution because they are being taught not to contaminate, Figueroa told EGP.
“Our students were thrilled when the AQMD invited them to be filmed and interviewed as they drew and colored images of unhealthy air and what it means to have clean air,” said Figueroa. “And now they’re excited to see themselves in this documentary.”
In addition to being interviewed for the documentary, some of the students’ artwork was featured in animations in the film.
“As an educator, I feel I have an obligation to teach the children to use their voice regarding taking an active role in telling other children they can do the same,” she said.
“The Right to Breathe” made its debut in August during The Women in Green Forum in Santa Monica. The fast-paced film was directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker and Cinema Vertige creative director, Alexandre Philippe. It tells the stories of individuals from many walks of life including local students, parents, community activists and clergy.
“We wake up in the morning and usually in California there is a blue sky,” says Monsignor Father John Moretta, of Resurrection Church. “But we don’t really understand that there are places, hot spots in Southern California — and where I am at right now in Boyle Heights is one of those places — where the air is not that good.”
The film gives a brief overview of local smog and AQMD’s formation before delving into the compelling narratives of Angelenos who live with the worst air in the nation.
The mission of AQMD is to clean the air in Southern California and make it the “most healthful air people can breathe,” according to William A. Burke, Ed.D., chairman of the AQMD Governing Board.
“This film is a powerful testament to the burden of air pollution on all Southland residents, and especially on those who live in low-income, minority communities close to pollution sources,” Burke said in a written statement.
The 21-minute documentary film is available in its entirety at YouTube.com