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A message from LA Dignity In Schools & the Community Rights Campaign

February 6, 2010

Dear Community Rights Members, Allies and Friends:

In response to the release of the Community Rights Campaign and the Los Angeles Chapter of Dignity in School’s document, Police in LAUSD Schools: The Need for Accountability and Alternatives, and coordinated actions at Manual Arts, Westchester, and Cleveland High Schools, KPCC Southern California Public Radio has posted an online survey asking students, teachers, parents and other community members about their thoughts, feelings and experiences with school police.

Here is the link to the survey:

Please forward this to everyone that you think could help strengthen our case—especially teachers, parents and other community members that believe we need a more holistic approach to addressing student behavioral problems instead of using tickets, arrests and law enforcement as the first and only solution.  We have already seen some responses from individuals that state that they are teachers who are advocating for more police and more zero tolerance policies in our schools.  We can not let that be the only voice out there for the future of education!

We need to organize as many people to respond to this survey—this will help advance our campaign demands and open up the discussion around alternatives to zero tolerance policies and the policing of our students and communities!

When you have finished completing the survey, please take a minute to read the article written by the San Fernando Valley Sun about our Student Day of Action at Cleveland High School!

Thank you in advance for taking the time to complete the survey and sharing our work with your friends, families and organizations.


Kendra Williby
Organizer, Community Rights Campaign
Labor/Community Strategy Center
3780 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200
Los Angeles, CA 90010


IDEA reports on educational inequity

February 1, 2010

On Friday, January 22,  UCLA IDEA held a community briefing to present its yearly Educational Opportunity Report (full report, 28 pages) (executive brief, 3 pages).  The briefing, which took place at the UCLA Labor Center in Central Los Angeles, featured presentations from researchers, community organizations, parents, students, administrators, and elected representatives.

The presentation began with a clear explanation about California’s legacy of educational inequity, a theme that is also reflected in the Educational Opportunity Report.

Even before the current recession began, California public schools were ill-equipped to meet the learning and social welfare needs of many students… Before the recession:
• One in six California students lived in families that earned below the federal poverty level, and more than a half lived in families with earning that qualified students for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
• Many California students experienced unstable housing and lack of secure access to food.
• Ranking 46th of all states in per pupil expenditures, California provided its students with less access to quality learning conditions than the rest of the nation.
• California’s middle school and high school classrooms were more overcrowded than classrooms in any other state.
• California’s high school counselors served more students than counselors anywhere else in the nation.

Presenters explained how the current recession has made aggravated the situation, resulting in massive teacher layoffs, increasingly crowded classrooms, lack of basic teaching materials, and the elimination of summer school and after school programs. Schools that serve low-income students of color have been disproportionately affected.

IDEA presenters applauded the efforts of teachers, administrators, community members and local businesses for donating their time and money to fill the gaps left by budget cuts. However, it was also acknowledged that this reliance on community financial assets has worsened the inequity of educational access. Schools in wealthy communities have received much more support than schools in low-income communities.

IDEA presenters concluded by stating that solutions to educational inequity require immediate state and federal aid and long-term structural reform in the funding process.

Blanca Dueñas, a member of Inner City Struggle, shared her first hand experience of how budget cuts are harming inner city families and teachers.  Dueñas encouraged everyone to take action to fight for equitable school funding.

Eunice Grisby, a worker and parent from Crenshaw High School spoke to the importance of unity between school communities and labor unions in the struggle for school reform.

Students from Manual Arts High School spoke about their participation in UCLA’s Council of Youth Researchers.  These students are conducting their own scholarly research about inequity in school funding.  One student, who has conducted ethnographic interviews throughout LAUSD, expressed her surprise in learning that many affluent west-side schools are microcosms of educational inequity.  Hundreds of commuter students, primarily low income students of color, are tracked far below their more privileged peers.

Assembly Member Mike Davis recounted that most elected officials have responded to the economic crisis by denying services to California’s most vulnerable citizens, low-income children of color.  Unfortunately, the young residents of LAUSD schools cannot afford the expensive lobbying fees that are often required to advocate for representation in federal and state legislatures.  Davis also offered praise for Obama’s Race to the Top (RTTT) proposal to bail out public schools.  However, he failed to address some of the disconcerting aspects of this new federal policy, which threatens to privatize public education and continue the high stakes testing legacy of No Child Left Behind.  Stay tuned for a more detailed analysis of RTTT.

In loving Memory of Howard Zinn

January 28, 2010

Lets take a moment to remember Howard Zinn (1922-2010), the late historian, writer and activist who died yesterday – Wednesday, January 27th, 2010.

Visit Democracy now for a tribute to Zinn’s life.

To truly carry on Zinn’s vision and work, visit the Zinn Education Project, a resource for social studies teachers that provides materials for teaching a people’s history in middle and high school classrooms.

Charter schools, a critical analysis

January 23, 2010

On January 30th, TEP will be hosting a conference about charter schools.  It appears that the primary purpose of this conference is to introduce first-year TEP students to employment opportunities offered by charter schools in the Los Angeles area.  This effort seems particularly important considering the lack of available teaching positions in LAUSD.  But lets not be short sighted.

Though it is crucial to find employment for all newly trained teachers, it is equally important to critically analyze the political context of our decisions.

There are several exciting examples of community-based charter schools that have successfully innovated progressive teaching practices and school management methods.  However, these successes are often overshadowed by charter school conglomerates that are pushing for privatization.

Here are a few resources for you to begin formulating a critical analysis of the charter school movement.

Recently, professor Jeff Share provided us with a thought provoking selection from “Keeping the promise?: the debate over charter schools.”  This book critically analyzes the modern charter school movement.

Alongside more traditionally managed schools, charter schools can both live up to the values of our public system of education and also demonstrate innovation from which all can learn.  When they have not lived up to that promise, it has been in cases where charters have been used by those whose agenda is not to improve the public schools but to abandon them. (Dingerson, 2008.)

The book outlines several of the most prominent charter school models.  “Stand Alone” charters are publicly approved and run schools that reflect the teaching and learning values of a particular community.  “Franchise” charters are national networks of schools based on a particular model and supported by non-profit organizations.  “Private” charters are schools run by for-profit firms.  As private corporations they do not have local boards and often are not required to report publicly on how they spend public funds.  These schools are often controlled by individuals whose agenda is to move public education into the private marketplace. There are also hybrid charter schools that seem to defy easy categorization.

On November 24th, KPFK’s Beautiful Struggle radio broadcast aired a special feature on charter schools (listen here).  The report explained how many private charter schools have been known to make financial profit by cutting corners – subcontracting school services to private companies and opposing unionization efforts for teachers and other employees.

Many non-profit charter schools also have strong ties to the private sector.  In 2003, the KIPP charter school franchise received a generous $3 million donation from the Walton Family Foundation, a charitable project of the Walmart empire (Sen, 2006).  Incidentally KIPP franchise schools have been known to design their school practices around the needs of their private sector patrons, promoting disciplinary methods that impose obedience and consumer oriented values.  On its website, the KIPP foundation boasts about its market driven methods.

Student behavior is tracked through the use of “paychecks.” Students earn up to 50 “KIPP dollars” each week – not actual money, though it can be redeemed in the school store for items like the uniforms students are required to wear Students must average at least 35 KIPP dollars a week to be allowed to go on regular reward field trips, to Chuck E. Cheese for pizza, or to the Six Flags amusement park. Fail to meet that threshold, and they will literally be the ones standing in the schoolyard, waving the buses goodbye. (Olson, 2006)

Franchise charters like KIPP often embody a trend that many scholars and community activists have identified as the Non-profit Industrial Complex (INCITE!, 2009).  Instead of remaining committed to their original purpose of sharing innovative educational practices with the public school system, many of these franchises intend to displace publicly administered schools.  In addition, this focus on expansion often prioritizes growth over quality control.  By “quality” I refer to education that promotes critical thinking, community empowerment and social justice.

One of the most influential supporters of the charter school movement has been Arne Duncan, the current secretary of education appointed by President Obama.  According to a television news broadcast produced by Labor Beat, Duncan’s Chicago Plan has fostered “a relentless wave of privatization, school closings, militarization, union busting and blaming teachers for the problems of urban schools.” (watch video here)  The report highlights the work of teachers and community organizations to challenge this trend.

Many people often ask, “don’t charter schools perform better than public schools?”  This question is complicated and compells us to question what standards of assessment are being used to measure performance.  However, a recent report from Stanford attempts to shed some light on this question.  According to a the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, 17% of charter schools in the country provide superior educational opportunities, about 50%have results that are no different from the local public school options and 37% deliver learning results that are significantly worse than traditional public schools (Multiple choice, 2009).

Another recent report from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) points out a disturbing fact about the national charter school movement.  The report reinforces suspicion that many charter schools select the least challenging students from working class communities, producing a kind of “brain drain” from public school districts.  The AFT report specifically points out that many charter schools enroll fewer English language learners than their public district counterparts.

The Association of Raza Educators (ARE), has also compiled various resources for understanding the role of charter schools in public education.  ARE’s Policy & Issues Brief (Part 1) offers a brief two page introduction to the historical and contemporary context of charter schools.  ARE’s Policy & Issues Brief (Part 2) offers an extensive list of references for additional research.  ARE’s Statement on Public Education in the Context of Public School Choice outlines ARE’s analysis of the charter school movement and proposes a vision for public school reform.

Read more…

Economic Crisis and Public Education, Community Briefing

January 16, 2010

1/29/2009 - "Death March for the Arts." Thousands of teachers, parents, health and human services professionals marched from LAUSD headquarters to Pershing Square to protest the proposed budget cuts to education. (Photographer: Hans Gutknecht)

UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA), along with the UCLA Labor Center and the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, are hosting a community briefing to release the annual California Educational Opportunity Report. This report addresses the impact of economic crisis on public education and working families.

Friday January 22nd, 2010, 10 – 12pm

At the UCLA Labor Center
675 S. Park View St.
Los Angeles, CA 90057

To attend, RSVP with Jessie Castro:
(310) 794-9963
More Details

Paulo Freire Institute Meeting

January 11, 2010

The first Paulo Freire Institute meeting of the Winter quarter will take place on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7PM at the Institute, Math Sciences Bldg 8302, UCLA. All are welcome!

Snacks and drinks to share are appreciated!

Student Discourse on Organizing

January 11, 2010

An interview with two student organizers at Miguel Contreras.
Thursday, October 29, 2009

Luis Hernandez is 18 years old and a graduate of the Los Angeles School of Global Studies (LASGS). Alexi Moreno is 17 years old and a senior at LASGS.

C: So, what neighborhood are you guys from?

Luis: I have been living in the Pico Union neighborhood for about 13 years.

Alexi: I’ve been living in China town since the fourth grade.

C: When you hear the word community organizing, what does that word mean to you?

L: It means to me to go out to a community with a clip board in hand and just get the input of the community members, in schools, in meetings, anywhere where there are community members… just do whatever you have to do.

A: For me community organizing is gather the masses in order to organize and promote a social change.

Read more…