Celia Rubi Medina is quick to raise her hand when her teacher asks about the meaning of the word, metamorphosis.
“It’s when the little caterpillar becomes a butterfly,” says the 4-year-old girl, a Head Start student at Tracy Elementary in the Baldwin Park Unified School District (BPUSD).
The school is located in the San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angeles, in a predominantly working class community. More than 86% of the students receive free or reduced lunch (compared with 56.7% in the state’s general student population).
“We don’t have a lot of money, but we strive to (give) the best education for our children,” says Gema Morales, mom of Celia Rubi and her twin sister, Gema Mariana. They are two of the more than 1,600 students attending preschool at Tracy, thanks to the BPUSD’s consistent efforts to get funding for the educational cycle.
“We have been providing early childhood education since 1942,” states Froilan Mendoza, associate superintendent of BPUSD, emphasizing that the district takes early education very seriously.
Dodging the effects of financial swings over the years has been challenging, but even during the educational cutbacks of recent years, BPUSD has managed to keep open the same number of preschool slots. The 1,635 children attending preschool this year represents a 235 increase over the last school year.
“State funding cuts eliminated 20 slots, but we were able to fund an additional hundred through the federal Head Start program,” said Ricardo Rivera, director of Early Childhood Education at BPUSD, noting that each year brings a new challenge in balancing federal and state funds, and ensuring that the net number of students served is not diminished.
Glovin Salido, mother of a 4-year-old girl who also attends preschool at Tracy, emphasizes that for families like hers what matters most is to having an option for quality preschool, wherever the funds come from.
“If I had to pay, my daughter would’ve missed this important phase of her education,” said Salido, noting that her husband is a minimum wage construction worker.
“In this area, private preschool costs about $700-a-month, something we just can’t afford,” she said.
Closing the gap
Parents, like the overwhelming majority of education experts, are convinced that early childhood education plays a crucial role in narrowing the achievement gap for minority and low-income children.
“I have no doubt that my daughter is excelling in kindergarten because she attended preschool,” says Sasha Alvarenga, mother of Tirsa who, after two years of preschool at Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP), is now a student at 49th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). After being diagnosed with autism at 3, Alvarenga said, Tirsa was categorized as a special education student.
“She didn’t speak at all, and the doctor told me she wouldn’t be able to learn in a regular classroom,” Alvarenga said.
Alvarenga said she witnessed first hand the transformation of her daughter during the first months of preschool.
“By the time she entered kindergarten, the autism diagnosis had been withdrawn, and she is now one of the advanced students in her class,” she said.
LAUP does not maintain data about the academic performance of its preschool children in subsequent years. But studies show its benefits.
Some of those benefits are still evident 30 years later, according to the findings of a study announced in late January by the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.
The study started in the 70’s with 111 children (98% African-American) and to the present has been able to follow the evolution of 101 of them. The research — which provides new data for the prestigious Abecedarian Project led by the FPG Child Development Institute at UNC, suggests that the participants were four times more likely to have earned a college degree (23%, compared to 6% in a similar group where children did not receive early education).
“This achievement applied to both boys and girls, an important finding given the current low rate of college graduation for minority males in our country,” said Elizabeth Pungello, scientist at FPG Institute and co-author of the study.
Research on the Chicago Child-Care Centers initiative, published in mid-2011, also emphasizes the positive effects of early education. The study, conducted among 1,400 low-income African American children who were observed for 28 years, show an increased high school graduation rate (50% compared to 39%), lower participation in special education (14% versus 25%), and better results on standardized tests of language and mathematics.
Among Hispanics, data from the Universal Pre-K program in Oklahoma conducted during the early 2000s by the Center for Research on Children in the United States (CROCUS) at Georgetown University, indicates that Latino preschoolers benefited the most from quality preschool. While all students showed improvements in letter and word recognition (+52%), spelling (+27%) and mathematical problems (+21), the progress among Latino children was even higher, at +79%, + 39 and + 54%, respectively.
Silvia de la Rosa, a mother of two girls, aged 3 and 1 year, isn’t surprised by these findings. “For me it is just common sense. If there were more studies, there would be more evidence showing that the academic success of disadvantaged children starts in preschool.”
However, this resident of Pacoima — one of the poorest districts in the San Fernando Valley — fears her daughters will be among the 87% of California’s low-income children without access to quality early education. The $517 million in cuts to child development services that Governor Jerry Brown outlined in his budget proposal, issued in January, could eliminate access for another 62,000 children.
De la Rosa is actively looking for a place where her eldest daughter can attend preschool this coming fall, but so far she has not found any openings.
“I can’t afford a private preschool, and the only one I have found that’s free is far away from home,” says De la Rosa. As a single mom with no driving license, she finds it very challenging to travel everyday by bus with two young children.
For now, she occasionally uses the services of a neighbor who charges her $30 per day, when De la Rosa gets work cleaning residential homes.
“She is a very nice lady, and loves my daughters. But, what can she teach them, when she didn’t have the chance to finish elementary school herself?” says De la Rosa, convinced that the achievement gap begins long before low-income children start school.
This article originally appeared in New America Media.
The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday approved new graduation requirements designed to ensure that students leaving high school are eligible for admittance into a state university.
Beginning with the class of 2016, students will be required to complete the “A-G” requirements that were initially adopted by the district in 2005.
The requirements include a series of core classes that must be completed for students to be eligible for admission at California State University or University of California campuses.
Beginning with the class of 2017, however, students will have to earn a C grade to pass the core classes, up from the current D — matching the requirement set by the UC and CSU systems.
To give students more time to pass the required courses, the district will drop the number of credits needed to graduate from 230 to 210.
Superintendent John Deasy originally recommended that the requirement be lowered to 180 credits, saying he wanted to free up students’ schedules so they can focus on passing the core classes. But board member Steve Zimmer said he opposed making the requirement so low
“The risks that are involved, in my opinion and in the opinion of some of our experts on the ground, to some of the programs that are working best to engage our students and keep them connected and in school would be in great danger if you lower down to 180,” Zimmer said.
Board member Richard Vladovic said he opposed any lowering of the credit requirement.
“I don’t believe in lowering the credits because I believe we’ve got to keep contact time (between students and teachers) as high as we can,” he said.
Deasy deflected criticism that the new graduation requirements would lead to a higher drop-out rate or an inability of high school seniors to meet the standards. He conceded that the standards could be challenging for some students, but he was confident they would succeed.
“They will rise to the challenge, as they always do,” Deasy said.
He added that students do not drop out of school because of tough graduation requirements, saying, “Students drop out because they’re bored out of their minds.”
Several board members, however, opposed the new requirements, saying there was no adequate plan for implementation — to ensure there will be adequate training for teachers and support for students to achieve the guidelines — and no defined budget of what the changes would cost the district.
The issue passed on a 5-2 vote, with board members Marguerite LaMotte and Bennett Kayser dissenting.
A proposal to drop the subject of transferring Monterey Park’s fire services to Los Angeles County was defeated May 2, with the council voting 3-2 to move ahead with a plan to form an ad hoc committee to study the possible transfer.
Mayor David Lau and Councilman Anthony Wong supported ending the process, and were in the minority in voting against the formation of the committee.
The council appointed Peter Chan, Christine Chandler, Paul Isozaki, Mary Betty Morin and Joseph Rubin to the committee, which will be tasked with looking through several studies on the impact closing down the city’s fire department and contracting those serves out to the county could have on the city, and making a recommendation to the city council.
“This is not an automatic train to an election,” said City Manager Paul Talbot. Several years ago, Monterey Park residents approved a measure to require any changes to fire service be put on the ballot. Talbot said the decision to put a county transfer measure on the ballot would not be up to the ad hoc committee, but rather to the city council.
In 2010, the city entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Monterey Park Firefighters Association to conduct feasibility studies on transferring services, according to Talbot. Two studies have been done, and another study will be completed next month.
Several residents who spoke at the meeting supported ending the review process, saying that fire service quality would suffer if the city gives up local control and that the county’s response time would be much slower than their current service.
“I know people that have [county-run fire service], and the difference between life and death is just a matter of a couple of minutes,” said Rita Miller, an elderly Monterey Park resident who recommended the city cut back on firefighter overtime instead.
Wong, who proposed stopping the ad hoc committee appointments, said he “loves our firefighters” and does not think that transferring to the county will actually save the city money.
Councilwoman Theresa Real Sebastian who supported continuing with the ad hoc committee appointments pointed to the city’s budget situation saying, “we’re exploring different avenues,” to closing a projected budget gap.
A recent attempt to implement an overnight parking fee was defeated. “Okay fine, then how do we balance our budget?” Sebastian asked.
She also questioned why two city council members are now proposing to stop the ad hoc committee process when it was first proposed back in January.
By now, the city has already gone through the process of soliciting and accepting applications, she said.
Real recommended the public come prepared to the committee meetings. “I really ask the residents to compile your questions, to compile your concerns.
To the extent you have facts, bring them forward so that when we have the ad hoc committee meetings, we can have an informed discussion … to shed light on how the Monterey Park Department works … to see if there are deficiencies, to see where it fails…” she said.
Initial plans were to have the ad hoc committee make recommendations to the city council by the end of June, but because the issue has been delayed for several months, they will likely have the recommendations in August or September, according to Talbot.
Several other cities that have traditionally funded their own fire services may also be looking into transferring some services to the county. Montebello considered a proposal to begin studying a transfer at Wednesday’s city council meeting, and the business chamber in Vernon is recommending the city consider outsourcing public safety services to the county in order to keep utility rates and other costs down.
Mexico and other Latin American countries celebrate Mother’s Day on May 10th, no matter what day of the week it happens to fall on. In the United States, Mother’s Day is always celebrated on the second Sunday in May, and this year it falls on May 13.
This year we want to encourage our readers to embrace both dates, and to remember that the holiday observances are really just a reminder to do what we should probably be doing all year long: telling mom, or that special person who has been like a mother, how much we appreciate their sacrifice, compassion, good advise and support.
It does not take a big outlay of cash to show you care; it’s the little things that often mean the most. So start with:
A phone call
A bouquet of spring flowers
And say I love you
These are things only you can do – and coming from you, they mean everything.
Security. It’s something we all want and need. Especially mothers. It is also something that I, as many Americans, often take for granted.
It is different elsewhere in the world. In Afghanistan, women and girls are caught in the crossfire of war. A recent article from CNN said, “At least 140 Afghan schoolgirls and female teachers were admitted to a local hospital … after drinking poisoned water,” after local health officials in Kabul, Afghanistan reported the incident and “blamed the act on extremists opposed to women’s education.” The people responsible for this are doing what they can to ensure that Afghan women and girls cannot feel safe or secure in their own communities. Unfortunately this targeting of women and their fundamental rights is all too common during war.
When the Obama administration issued the National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security, it acknowledged that women are uniquely victimized by war with sexual violence and incidents like the poisoning in Afghanistan. But the National Action Plan also recognizes this empowering truth: “Deadly conflicts can be more effectively avoided, and peace best forged and sustained, when women become equal partners in all aspects of peace-building and conflict prevention, when their lives are protected, their experiences considered, and their voices heard.” In Afghanistan, and elsewhere, women must be at the
table when discussing peacemaking and postwar recovery.
Along with a majority of the American people, I hope that our combat troops will begin to leave Afghanistan soon. At, the same time, we need to make sure U.S. engagement with Afghanistan does not end. Instead, the United States should focus attention and resources on helping Afghanistan to build a sustainable peace. As we withdraw U.S. combat troops, we should leverage leadership and seize opportunities to strengthen support for development and cultivation of civil society. We have unique power to encourage and support Afghan women’s participation in reconciliation and reintegration activities. We need to shift from trying to impose military solutions with drone strikes and night raids, to developing real political solutions.
It was Boston resident Julia Ward Howe who first tied Mother’s Day to women taking action for peace in her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” of 1870. “In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held … To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions, The great and general interests of peace.”
The costs of war are too high – a truth that is not new. In that same proclamation, Howe wrote, “‘Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.’ Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.” More than 140 years ago, we knew that violence and war were not the answer to conflicts, yet they continue to wreak havoc on the lives of women everywhere.
This Mother’s Day, let us support and empower the women and mothers in Afghanistan, who are trying to do what is necessary to create a safe and peaceful environment, and sincerely need our help. It is these women who are the ones left to deal with the aftermath of war. Who are the ones responsible for rebuilding families and communities without crucial resources. Who are the victims of war crimes that go undocumented and unrecognized because they are not able to report them without risking more harm. Who live under threats of violence every day.
I call on the women and mothers of America, as Howe did: “Arise, all women who have hearts.” It is up to us to let the leaders of our nation hear our voices on behalf of those Afghan women who cannot speak out. We must not leave these women and mothers to fend for themselves in an unsafe environment. We need to support these women and mothers. We must help them gain security to allow for sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
Our troops may be coming home, but the plan for a peaceful transition in Afghanistan is still up to us.
Shaer is the executive director of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) and cofounder of Win Without War. American Forum. 5/12
At a time when working families across the country are struggling to make ends meet, some have proposed mandating that every American employer use the deeply flawed E-Verify program to assess whether new hires are eligible to work in the
United States. According to their logic, if we can make it sufficiently difficult for undocumented immigrants to find work, most of them will pack up and leave. Not only will the dramatic expansion of E-Verify fail to solve our immigration challenges, its serious deficiencies are causing significant harm to lawful workers.
Since 2008, the use of E-Verify has dramatically expanded nationwide. In the past year, approximately 17 million people were processed in the program, and every week another 1,000 new employers enroll. This rapid growth makes it imperative that workers in the program are processed quickly and accurately.
Unfortunately, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data show that .5 percent of all Final Non-Confirmations (FNC) are issued erroneously; meaning people who are legally eligible to work are told they are ineligible in error. While an error rate of .5 percent might appear insignificant, under current law, employers are required to dismiss any worker who receives a FNC. With 17 million E-
Verify queries over the past year, as many as 85,000 people may have lost their jobs because of this E-Verify error. In today’s struggling economy, these erroneous FNCs are devastating, and in states where participation in E-Verify is mandatory, they can serve as a total bar to obtaining employment.
Moreover, the program’s defects have disproportionately affected minority communities. E-Verify error rates are thirty times higher for naturalized U.S. citizens and fifty times higher for legal non-immigrants than for native-born U.S. citizens. This means that foreign-born workers—who already face higher unemployment rates than the general population—are more likely to be locked out of jobs than their native counterparts.
In light of these disturbing figures, I believe a fair process should exist for authorized workers to effectively challenge wrongful work-eligibility determinations. Unfortunately, the USCIS currently lacks any official means for individuals to correct an inaccurate FNC.
On February 13, 2012 the Verification Division and Office of Public Engagement at USCIS held discussions with key stakeholders about how to rectify this problem. I am currently working with my colleagues to urge the USCIS to build on this important first step by moving swiftly to establish a transparent review process that would enable authorized individuals to overturn FNCs issued in error. Doing so is critical—particularly for low-income citizens unfairly harmed by E-Verify—and would address one of the program’s most significant weaknesses.
As it stands now, far from being a solution to our immigration challenges, E-Verify is simply another example of why our immigration system is so badly broken. These errors are completely unacceptable at a time when so many people are struggling to make ends meet. We owe it to workers to establish a simple, transparent process for fixing these mistakes.
U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard represents the 34th Congressional district that includes Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Maywood, Vernon and unincorporated areas of East Los Angeles, and other areas.
If you invented a pill that offers long life, good health, and a body to be proud of, you’d make a fortune. Bottles would fly off the shelves.
Suggest a change in behavior that achieved the same result, however, and what do you get? Catcalls, derisive comments, and rude e-mails.
Such was Michelle Obama’s reward when she launched her “Let’s Move” campaign more than two years ago. All she did was recommend feeding our kids better meals — fewer sweets, more vegetables, less calories — combined with more exercise.
You would have thought she’d advocated giving the little dears rat poison for lunch. Sarah Palin was characteristically obnoxious in her response, flaunting her passion for s’mores (that chocolate bar-toasted marshmallow-graham cracker horror) while she mocked the First Lady for attempting to substitute the judgment of the “Nanny State” for that of parents. Even for her, it was dumb.
After all, Let’s Move addresses a real issue: the super-sizing of our children. Studies have estimated that nearly one in five of our young people are obese and more than a third of them are overweight. Apparently we’re raising a generation of youngsters who think the basic food groups are fat, salt, and sugar, and that changing the battery in your Gameboy is exercise.
This isn’t merely a recipe for being fat; it’s an invitation to diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, asthma, and even cancer.
Actually, the main problem with Ms. Obama’s efforts is that they’re too timid. If you really want to make the nation healthier, you have to declare war on American agriculture in general and meat in particular. There are mountains of persuasive research that indicate a plant-based diet is far, far healthier than the meat-based model.
Studies have found that a little meat is better for you than a lot, no meat is better than a little, and a vegan diet — no meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products (in others words, 90 percent of the farm economy) — is best of all.
Good luck trying to sell that one. The Bad Food lobby is one of the most powerful in Washington, up there with guns and oil. Any suggestion that our toxic agricultural industry is less than noble will bring instant political extinction. (Can you imagine a politician trying to win Iowa on a vegan platform? A gay atheist would have a better chance.)
I myself am a vegan of sorts and I’m here to tell you that it’s not an easy life. You’re OK when you can cook your own food (really), but going out is hard. Most restaurants offer very limited, unappetizing fare for people who don’t eat meat or dairy. Grocery stores, while better than they used to be, still aren’t great.
And you have to get used to that sickening silence on the other end of the line when you tell the person who’s inviting you to dinner that you don’t eat meat, cheese, fish, soup made from beef stock, or anything else he or she was planning to cook.
The way I handle that is…I cheat. I’ll order fish in a restaurant and eat what I’m served in someone else’s home. And when I go to a ballgame, I declare hotdogs a vegetable for the day. Mostly, though, I’m a vegan.
Why not? Catholics, for example, profess a high moral standard but still sin from time to time. That doesn’t mean they’re not Catholics; it simply means they’re human. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking of starting a Church of the Holy Vegetable and offering online confession booths to vegans who fall off the wagon from time to time. They could confess, be assigned a small penance, and receive absolution.
The life of a vegan is hard enough without walking around feeling guilty all of the time.
Columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Distributed by otherwords.org.
The California Department of Health has adopted a team of educational cartoon characters developed by Montebello Unified School District, the district’s nutritional services director, Victoria Cheung, said at a recent school board meeting.
The state is recommending that other districts and agencies use MUSD’s “Harvest Heroes,” a series of masked superheroes modeled after produce grown in California, such as asparagus, strawberries, squash, apples and artichokes. One character is featured each month to teach facts about the produce, familiarize students with it, and to introduce them to recipes using the produce.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Estado Aprueba los Personajes ‘Héroes de Cosecha’ de MUSD
With the help of these characters, students learn to enjoy produce that is usually not very popular, including kale.
“We’re excited that the kids are excited about it,” said Cheung. The drawback of some of the less popular produce, such as artichoke and asparagus is that they can sometimes be too expensive for the district to offer on a regular basis.
The district has used the characters to introduce students to new foods for the past five years, Cheung said, and now similar characters can sometimes be seen in ads put out by the state.
Meanwhile a long-standing nutrition education tradition at the district was continued this year. As in years past, students from MUSD won big in the state’s Nutrition Advisory Council drawing contest.
Bell Gardens High School students Briana Stokes and Kimberly Zaldana won the grand prize and the runner’s up prize respectively this year. Eastmont Intermediate student Cynthia Gastelum was also a runner-up winner. The grand prize drawing was printed on a t-shirt, and all winners receive $75.
Stokes’ winning drawing follows the district’s “heroes” themed approach to nutrition, and features a girl caped crusader, standing with her hands on her hips amid a colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables.
When this news was given at a recent school board meeting, Board Member David Vela, an alumnus of Bell Gardens High School, said he was also a winner in the contest and had his drawing printed on a t-shirt.
Cheung says the popularity of nutrition education has grown in the district, with more and more teachers in the district seeing its value and bringing it into their classrooms. At one point there were only 50 classrooms in the district teaching nutrition, and now there are 500, she says. “They are not just telling students to eat properly during testing, but every day, telling them to eat more healthfully, to eat smarter,” Cheung said.
In addition to education, the district has also been able to offer healthier breakfast and lunch options, including pizza made out of whole-wheat dough, and breakfast sandwiches that use turkey ham. At the same time, students are increasingly choosing to eat school breakfasts and lunches. Cheung says their goal is to make sure students are interested in the food they provide, and they do not skip meals.
Cheung says it is helping that vendors are slowly updating their offerings.
“Manufacturers are realizing the whole culture is slowly changing and there is more demand from customers, Cheung said.
“Their products now have less salt, fat, less additives… the processing still has a ways to go, but at least they’re trying.”
After nearly two years without a permanent superintendent, it appears the Montebello Unified School District may be close to filling the position. Four potential candidates for the spot are scheduled to be interviewed on Saturday, May 19.
The candidates will meet with the school board, and a decision could be made soon thereafter. Recruitment firm Dave Long & Associates was contracted to conduct the candidate search.
In the meantime, the city is being run by two interim superintendents, Cleve Pell and Robert “Bo” Henke, both of whom were already serving as assistant superintendents when former superintendent Edward Velasquez left to head the Lynwood School District. Considered a cost saving measure, each assistant superintendent received a $25,000 raise to their salary when they were promoted, bringing their annual salary up to $189,000.
The salary for the vacant position is being advertised as negotiable. According to Assistant Superintendent Michael Cobarrubias, the four candidates come from districts within California, and some could be from outside of the Los Angeles area. Each of the candidates currently serves as a superintendent or assistant superintendent.
The district’s job advertisement requested that the candidates have at least a master’s degree if not a doctorate, experience in a multi-cultural setting, and bilingual language skills. MUSD serves 32,000 K-12 students and 30,000 adult learners; and is 94 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian or Pacific Islanders, 2 percent Caucasian, and 1 percent other ethnicities.
A celebration was held Wednesday at the site where construction of a new 110,226 square-foot 6-story medical office building is getting underway this month just east of downtown Los Angeles. The new facility, to be located at the corner of
State Street and Cesar E. Chavez Ave, is part of the ongoing expansion of the non-profit White Memorial Medical Center Campus in Boyle Heights.
The new $15 million dollar medical facility is expected to be completed by July 2013, and is being funded by the hospital and medical center’s corporate parent, Adventist Health.
More than 100 physicians, community members, board members and employees attended Wednesday’s groundbreaking event for what will be White Memorial’s third medical office building in the area. Planning for the Medical Plaza III started about three years ago, according to the health care provider.
“This is an important project for us,” said White Memorial President and CEO, Beth Zachary on Wednesday. “We are so proud to provide this new building for our physicians, employees and our patients. In this building we will care for the health of our community, create jobs and train new physicians, nurses and health care professionals.”
According to White Memorial, Medical Plaza I and II are full to capacity with medical providers and services to the community, sparking the need for more space.
“We need more office space for physicians to expand their offices and for new physicians who want to serve in our great community,” White Memorial said in a written statement.
“The new building will accommodate approximately 15 physician practices and will provide medical services in a newly state of the art facility meeting today’s Green standards and sustainability.”
Councilman Jose Huizar was at the groundbreaking ceremony and called the new facility being built “a great improvement to our local community. He said, “Not only will it provide improved medical services, but it will beautiful our great city.”