California Watch - K–12 en Bill seeks to limit school police in discipline matters <div class="field field-type-userreference field-field-authors"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <span class="author vcard"><a href="/user/susan-ferriss" title="View user profile." class="fn">Susan Ferriss</a></span> and <span class="author vcard"><a href="/user/ben-wieder" title="View user profile." class="fn">Ben Wieder</a></span> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-insert" style="width: 304px;"><img alt="" class="imagecache-image-insert" src="/files/imagecache/image-insert/CPI-LA-citations-protest.jpg" title="Students protest last year in Los Angeles against school police tickets issued heavily at middle schools, low-income schools." /> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit"><a class="image-insert-photo-credit-url" href="" target="_blank">Vanessa Romo/</a></span> <span class="image-insert-description"> Students protest last year in Los Angeles against school police tickets issued heavily at middle schools, low-income schools.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>As the national debate grows louder over&nbsp;<a href="">deploying police in schools</a>, the largest state in the union &shy;&ndash; California &ndash; is considering a bill that would require schools to set &ldquo;clear guidelines&rdquo; defining the role of school police and limit their involvement in disciplinary matters.</p> <p>The Golden State joins Texas and Connecticut &shy;&shy;&shy;&ndash; home of the December Newtown school shootings &ndash; in considering legislation that would set limits on how schools involve police officers in discipline. Colorado adopted limits last year.</p> <p>The proposals come amid burgeoning concern nationally over harsh school punishment policies, and police involvement in seemingly routine discipline. Police presence on campuses nationwide has grown steadily since two teens went on a killing spree at Columbine High School outside Denver in 1999. But a growing group of&nbsp;<a href="">juvenile-justice researchers and judges</a>&nbsp;argue that putting students into conflict with officers over minor infractions &ndash; and needlessly placing kids in the justice system &ndash; increases risks students will drop out and get into more serious trouble.</p> <p>Since last December, lawmakers in various states and school administrators have rushed to fortify security in reaction to a young adult&rsquo;s shooting rampage, which killed 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Conn. President Barack Obama and California&rsquo;s own senator, Democrat Barbara Boxer, have urged appropriating money to schools that want to increase security.</p> <div id="caw-inset-1-placeholder">&nbsp;</div> <p>California State Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from Los Angeles, introduced the state school police bill, <a href=";search_keywords=">AB 549</a>, to &ldquo;get out in front,&rdquo; he said, of the drive to put more security personnel in schools. A first hearing on the bill is set for Wednesday before the Assembly Education Committee.</p> <p>California lawmakers are considering restricting other discipline practices critics say have become counterproductive, including suspensions that remove pupils from school for days at a time, often causing them to fall behind in classwork and leaving them unsupervised at home. The Assembly education panel&nbsp;recently approved a bill April 17 that would restrict out-of-school student suspensions and expulsions for &ldquo;<a href=";search_keywords=">willful defiance</a>,&rdquo;&nbsp;the basis of almost half of all suspensions in 2011-2012,&nbsp;<a href=";cType=ALL&amp;cCDS=34673143432572&amp;cName=Statewide&amp;cLevel=State&amp;cChoice=DefByEth">new state data</a>&nbsp;shows.</p> <p>The Jones-Sawyer bill faces opposition from the Association of California School Administrators. Laura Preston, the group&rsquo;s legislative advocate, told the Center that the proposal takes too much control away from local districts and schools because it limits what they can do with school safety dollars.</p> <p>In an April 29 letter, the group argued that the bill&rsquo;s requirements to put police guidelines in school safety plans added up to an imposition &ldquo;without regard&rdquo; for &ldquo;the additional time needed to do this work.&rdquo; Preston suggested &ldquo;a conversation&rdquo; about improving school police training could be an alternative to Jones-Sawyer&rsquo;s bill.</p> <p>Jones-Sawyer&rsquo;s bill does have support from the California Federation of Teachers, the union representing many Los Angeles teachers. That support helps it over one major political hurdle. The California Teachers Association, an even larger union, has no position yet.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is not anti-police. I do believe there is a role for public safety on campuses,&rdquo; Jones-Sawyer said of his bill. &ldquo;But before we get the guns and guards out, let&rsquo;s get some mental health (care) in there for students.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;There should be guidelines for when you&nbsp;don&rsquo;t&nbsp;need police involved in discipline,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p><strong>Troubling history</strong></p> <p>Last year, the&nbsp;<a href="">Center for Public Integrity</a>&nbsp;documented the ticketing of about 10,000 mostly black and Latino students a year,&nbsp;<a href="">including middle-school-age children</a>,&nbsp;in lower-income neighborhoods in the&nbsp;<a href="">Los Angeles Unified School District</a>. L.A. Unified is the nation&rsquo;s second-biggest school district, and with more than 300 officers and additional security guards, it has the country&rsquo;s largest district-controlled school police agency. At one point, school police were issuing about 1,000 tickets, or court citations, a month in 2011.</p> <p><a href="">New York City police</a>&nbsp;in schools, by comparison, issued 1,666 tickets to students during the entire 2011-2012 school year, according to records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is suing New York City police for alleged abusive treatment of students, which the department denies.</p> <p>Arguing that citations had spiraled out of control, community activists and juvenile-court judges have in recent months&nbsp;<a href="">pressured L.A. Unified and police</a>&nbsp;to seek other ways of handling some seemingly minor allegations &ndash; allegations like vandalism or possession of a marker to commit vandalism, trespassing, marijuana and tobacco possession, daytime-curfew violations and many charges of disturbing the peace or public fighting.</p> <p>Fresh data obtained by the Center shows that L.A. Unified&rsquo;s tickets have fallen sharply, driven mostly by a drop in daytime-curfew and tardiness violations. Between January and March, about 60 students were ticketed for minor cases of tardiness, or skipping school. The truant or tardy students were referred directly to counseling under a new agreement.</p> <p>For other alleged legal violations, L.A school police issued 316 tickets this past January, 454 in February and 282 in March.</p> <p>In January of last year, by comparison, officers issued more than 650 tickets.</p> <p>Despite the decline, the new data also shows that certain L.A. Unified middle schools in lower-income areas continue to remain hot spots for ticketing pupils who are almost all black or Latino. The most frequent allegation for younger students is disturbing the peace &ndash; a charge that often stems from student fights, shouting matches or allegations of threats to fight.</p> <p>Out of 1,590 tickets issued from last November through March, half went to children 14 and younger.</p> <p>In fact, if ages are considered separately, fewer 16- and 17-year-olds were cited than students who were 13, 14 or 15 years old. Black students represent 10 percent of the district&rsquo;s enrollment, but were more than 37 percent of those ticketed for disturbing the peace. And 56 percent of black students cited for this infraction were between 11 and 14 years old.</p> <p>L.A. Unified officials did not respond to a request for comment on the Center&rsquo;s new findings or Jones-Sawyer&rsquo;s proposal. Last December, the district said it was continuing &ldquo;to work&nbsp;with our internal and external stakeholders to identify and evaluate non-penal alternatives to various minor violations.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Another way?</strong></p> <p>Jones-Sawyer, 56, attended L.A. Unified schools and remembers kids who scuffled being taken into the office of a vice principal, who put an arm around their shoulders and talked through problems. &ldquo;We have to find out why kids are angry,&rdquo; the assemblyman said. Reprimands were not in the form of police citations back then, he said.</p> <p>He acknowledged educators&rsquo; complaints that California&rsquo;s school counselor ranks have been decimated by budget cuts, leaving schools less able to deal with kids&rsquo; conflicts. Compared with a national average of&nbsp;<a href="">457 students for every counselor</a>, California&rsquo;s ratio of 814 students for every counselor in 2008-2009 was rock bottom among the states, according to data gathered by the&nbsp;<a href="">American School Counselor Association</a>.</p> <p>Nonetheless, critics of involving officers in discipline matters say peer counseling, intermediate steps prior to police involvement and other cost-effective alternatives exist and are practiced in other states, and in schools in Oakland and San Francisco now as well.</p> <p>Jones-Sawyer&rsquo;s bill says schools&nbsp;&ldquo;shall consider existing strategies and model approaches to minimize the involvement of law enforcement in pupil conduct and minor offenses that do not rise to the level of a serious and immediate threat to physical safety.&rdquo;</p> <p>In addition to requiring that schools&rsquo; mandatory safety plans define police roles, the bill would also require schools to &ldquo;prioritize&rdquo; federal and state public-safety funding on mental-health aid and other supportive behavioral-intervention programs &ndash; not just police. Schools would also have to publicly develop &ldquo;memorandum of understanding&rdquo; about officers&rsquo; duties.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think this bill is a huge shift in how we are talking about school safety,&rdquo; said&nbsp;<a href="">Zoe Rawson</a>, a lawyer with the Labor/Community Strategy Center, a community group listed as a nonlegislative &ldquo;sponsor&rdquo; of Jones-Sawyer&rsquo;s bill. The Strategy Center has represented students who received tickets and is negotiating with L.A. Unified and school police on standards that limit police involvement on district campuses.</p> <p>The legislation gives &ldquo;leverage&rdquo; to local communities to set standards, Rawson said. &ldquo;Right now, there is nothing required around police having frequent contact with young people.&rdquo;</p> <p>Any district in California with a school police force, or school resource officers, would be affected by Jones-Sawyer&rsquo;s bill. Oakland&rsquo;s district has its own school police, as does the Central Valley&rsquo;s Kern Union High School District, which has more than two dozen high school campuses in Kern County.&nbsp;</p> <p>After the Newtown massacre, the Obama administration proposed allocating $150 million in federal funds for schools to&nbsp;<a href="">hire police or counselors or install bullet-proof glass</a>&nbsp;or other security technology. The recommendations are in the 2014 Obama budget proposal now winding its way through the budget process.&nbsp;</p> <p>Boxer, a California Democrat, introduced a bill to&nbsp;<a href="">bring back federal funding cut in recent years for school police</a>&nbsp;and offer grants to schools in need from a pool of at least $40 million a year. The measure was folded into the gun bill that stalled in the Senate on April 17, but Boxer is expected to revive it.</p> <p>Various states are also considering how to fund more school police through property taxes or by tapping other state coffers.</p> <p><strong>Urging caution</strong></p> <p>Los Angeles County Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash is so concerned about the rush to put police in schools that he wrote &ndash; as president of a national judges&rsquo; group &ndash; to Vice President Joe Biden, who was chairing a post-Newton gun-violence task force.</p> <p>Penned by Nash as president of the&nbsp;<a href="">National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges</a>, the January letter warns that &ldquo;the influx of police in schools&rdquo; in recent years is already &ldquo;one of the main contributors&rdquo; to minors sent unnecessarily into the criminal justice system.</p> <p>Nash told the Center he supports Jones-Sawyer&rsquo;s bill.</p> <p>&ldquo;I like this bill,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I have been asserting that, in considering school safety&nbsp;and enlisting personnel to maintain safety, we have to be clear in differentiating between security and discipline.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="">Colorado</a>&nbsp;&ndash; the state that was shaken by the 1999 Columbine High School massacre &ndash; enacted reforms last year that require police to &ldquo;de-escalate&rdquo; student fights and for schools to ease up on referrals of students to law enforcement due to &ldquo;zero tolerance&rdquo; policies.&nbsp;<a href="">Denver public school discipline data</a>&nbsp;shows a 71 percent increase in referrals of students to police between 2000 and 2004, with 7 percent of referrals for serious offenses like carrying a weapon, according to analysis by the nonprofit Advancement Project.</p> <p><a href="">Texas legislators</a>&nbsp;are considering a bill that requires schools with police to adopt &ldquo;graduated sanctions&rdquo; and other means rather than having officers send children to court for disruption and disorderly conduct. The bill, which has bipartisan support, also requires school staff to submit sworn statements and prove steps were taken to counsel students before police referral to court. The state Senate has already approved the bill, which is now before its House of Representatives.</p> <p>In&nbsp;<a href="">Connecticut</a>, where legislators are trying to balance new calls for security with concerns about over-policing,&nbsp;the legislature&rsquo;s joint Committee of the Judiciary on April 19 voted overwhelmingly, 40-4, to approve a proposal requiring school boards to draft memorandum of understanding with police to limit their use in disciplinary responses. The proposal says agreements should spell out the need for &ldquo;a graduated response model&rdquo; to discipline problems.&nbsp;The bill is now before the state&rsquo;s House of Representatives and, if approved, will go to the state Senate.</p> <p>A Senate bill in&nbsp;<a href="">Florida</a>&nbsp;that would have required that schools refrain from referring students to law enforcement for &ldquo;petty acts of misconduct&rdquo; or misdemeanors &ndash; without written explanations &ndash; died when it failed to get out of legislative committees this spring.</p> <p><strong>Making changes</strong></p> <p>In March, the U.S. Justice Department&rsquo;s civil rights office reached a court-sanctioned agreement stemming from a federal investigation into alleged excessive involvement of police in discipline meted out in Meridian, Miss.</p> <p>The agreement with the district of 6,100 students in Meridian essentially&nbsp;<a href="">regulates school police on the district&rsquo;s campuses</a>. The district is required to train school police officers in &ldquo;bias-free&rdquo; policing and stop involving police in minor behavioral disputes in the majority-black district. Civil rights investigators said police in Meridian told them they were ferrying students to jail on allegations of defiance and disrespect at schools.</p> <p>L.A. Unified, last summer, started referring most tickets not to court but directly to the Los Angeles County Probation Department. Because of a budget crisis, the county had to close its lower-level juvenile courts, where parents and students were usually summoned to answer to citations school police issued that carried hundreds of dollars in fines.</p> <p>Judges and civil rights advocates saw the closure as an opportunity to keep most students out of court, and instead first divert students, through probation officers, to community-based counseling or other family treatment.</p> <p>Between November and March, the big three infractions students were cited for were allegations of possessing or using less than an ounce of marijuana &ndash; 514 tickets &ndash; and disturbing the peace, for which 496 students were cited. Tobacco or smoking &ldquo;paraphernalia&rdquo; was next with 252 tickets.</p> <p>Rawson, with the Labor/Community Strategy Center, said it is a positive step that most ticketed students at L.A. Unified are no longer sent directly into court.</p> <p>But as a lawyer who has represented students, she&rsquo;s concerned that black and Latino students in lower-income neighborhood schools are &ldquo;over-policed&rdquo; compared to students in more affluent areas. L.A. Unified&rsquo;s school police chief,&nbsp;<a href="">Steven Zipperman</a>, told the Center last year that officers are generally evenly distributed to schools &ndash; mostly high schools &ndash; but that schools of all grade levels can request that officers be dispatched to intervene in a problem.</p> <p>Conflict with police officers, Rawson said, can leave students with a sense that their citation is a first step toward future clashes with law enforcement. The youngest student cited between March and December was a 9-year-old accused of vandalism.</p> <p><em>The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, independent investigative news outlet. For more of its stories on this topic go to <a href=""></a>.</em></p> <!-- Place with body copy. Can go at bottom if story is not paginated. If story is paginated, please put on every page. --><!-- Place with body copy. Can go at bottom if story is not paginated. If story is paginated, please put on every page. --><div id="cpi_widget">&nbsp;</div> <script type="text/javascript"> (function() { document.getElementById('cpi_widget').innerHTML = '<iframe src=\"'+escape(window.location.hostname)+'&href='+escape(window.location.href)+'&referrer='+escape(document.referrer)+'\" width=\"0\" height=\"0\" frameBorder=\"0\" style=\"border: none; background: transparent; width: 0px; height: 0px;\"></iframe>' })(); </script> K–12 Daily Report citations Los Angeles Unified School District police school discipline Tue, 30 Apr 2013 10:05:02 +0000 Susan Ferriss Ben Wieder 18867 at In California, thousands of teachers missing needed credentials <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-credits"><div class="field field-type-userreference field-field-authors"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <span class="author vcard"><a href="/user/joanna-lin" title="View user profile." class="fn">Joanna Lin</a></span> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-extra-credits"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p> This story was edited by Robert Salladay and copy edited by Nikki Frick and Christine Lee. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-body"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="image-full-width" style="width: 640px;"><img alt="" class="imagecache-image-full-width" src="/files/CharlieParker_01_daa_crop.jpg" style="width: 640px;" title="Charlie Parker, a longtime biology teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, was assigned for two years to teach histo" /> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit">Daniel Anderson/California Watch</span> <span class="image-insert-description">Charlie Parker, a longtime biology teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, was assigned for two years to teach history and social studies &ndash; subjects he&rsquo;s not licensed to teach. Thousands of teachers in California&rsquo;s public schools every year are placed in classes they lack the credentials or legal authorizations to teach.</span></p> <div id="caw-inset-1-placeholder">&nbsp;</div> <p>The last time Charlie Parker took a social studies class, he was a teenager with an Afro and Jimmy Carter was president of the United States. Yet here he was, standing at the front of a classroom, trying to teach dozens of high schoolers subjects that never appealed to him when he learned them more than 30 years ago.</p> <p>On his first day teaching U.S. history, world history and economics at McAlister High School in Los Angeles nearly four years ago, Parker struggled to keep his course materials straight and handed a student the wrong textbook. Some days, his students&rsquo; questions went unanswered or were directed to the Internet. Later, Parker said, when his students took state tests, their scores were low.</p> <p>After school, Parker said, &ldquo;I was doing homework, just like the kids.&rdquo;</p> <p>These were not the troubles of a rookie teacher. In fact, Parker had taught for more than 20 years, including 11 at McAlister.</p> <p>The problem for Parker, who taught social studies at McAlister for two years and now teaches at another Los Angeles high school, was that he should not have taught history to begin with.</p> <p>Every year in California, public school administrators assign thousands of teachers to classes for which they lack the credentials or legal authorization to teach. Untrained teachers have been assigned to a variety of difficult classes, including those filled with English-language learners and others with special intellectual and physical needs. Or, in Parker&rsquo;s case, to teach social studies when they&rsquo;re credentialed for biology.</p> <p>Nearly 1 in 10 teachers or certificated personnel &ndash; more than 32,000 school employees &ndash; did not have the credentials or authorization for their positions from 2007 through 2011, according to data compiled by the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing.</p> <p>The problem is greater at low-performing schools, where students are overwhelmingly low-income and Latino. The average rate of improperly assigned teachers at these schools was 16 percent over the same period.</p> <p>&ldquo;That isn&rsquo;t something that should be acceptable to anybody,&rdquo; said Brooks Allen, director of education advocacy at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.</p> <p>In the 2010-11 school year, more than 12,000 teachers and certificated personnel at more than 1,000 low-performing schools served in positions they should not have held. On average at these schools, 82 percent of students qualified for free or reduced-price meals, and more than three-quarters were Latino, a California Watch analysis found.</p> <p>Research and interviews with state and local education officials suggest that staffing turnover and shortages, insufficient resources, poor planning and mismanagement contribute to assigning teachers to classes for which they lack specialized training.</p> <p>This problem of &ldquo;misassignments,&rdquo; as they&rsquo;re known, has improved dramatically since the 2005-06 school year, when the state began giving greater attention to teacher assignments at low-performing schools. At the time, 29 percent of teachers at these schools lacked licenses for their positions.</p> <p>Teachers gaining authorization to instruct English-language learners have driven much of that progress. The extra scrutiny &ndash; a product of Williams v. California, a landmark class-action lawsuit that in 2004 charged the state with ensuring all students had qualified, credentialed teachers &ndash; also has helped.</p> <p>Still, the rate of improperly assigned teachers at low-performing schools has hovered above a persistent 12 percent. (It&rsquo;s unclear how California ranks nationally; states have different standards and policies for employing teachers, making comparisons difficult.)</p> <p>&ldquo;The persistence of misassignments, year over year, even with annual monitoring, certainly suggests that it&rsquo;s something that needs to be looked at,&rdquo; said Allen, the attorney assigned to implement the Williams settlement.</p> <p>Public Advocates, which represented students in the Williams lawsuit, has called for the Legislature to hold a hearing on the problem and for the credentialing commission to push the issue.</p> <p>Alamo Democrat Joan Buchanan, chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, said that while she is open to holding a hearing, she is &ldquo;not sure passing a law is going to be like waving a magic wand and solve the problem there.&rdquo; She said she hoped the State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson would also look into the issue.</p> <p>Ensuring teachers are appropriately licensed &ldquo;is very important back-office work that nobody ever sees and can pay huge dividends and, in some instances, be very harmful to kids,&rdquo; said Michael Hanson, superintendent of the Fresno Unified School District.</p> <p>In one case, at the public Berkeley Technology Academy, a student failed the California High School Proficiency Examination after enrolling in a class intended to prepare her and other credit-deficient students for the test. The student later told her mother that the class included nothing she encountered on the exam, which allows students to receive the equivalent of a high school diploma.</p> <p>&ldquo;I paid good money for my daughter to participate (in) this CHSPE experiment only to find out that the teacher may have been unqualified to teach it, and that she did not adequately prepare the students to take the final exam,&rdquo; the student&rsquo;s mother wrote in a June 2011 complaint.</p> <p>The Berkeley Unified School District acknowledged in a letter to the mother that a noncredentialed staff member had taught the course. It offered her daughter 20 hours of private instruction and the option to enroll at the high school for a fifth year.</p> <p><strong>Lengthy process</strong></p> <p>While credentials and legal authorization do not guarantee effective teachers, they represent the baseline qualifications that educators must have. If a teacher has been assigned to the wrong class, his or her performance evaluation is nullified under state law, making it more difficult to identify bad &ndash; and good &ndash; teachers.</p> <p>The Commission on Teacher Credentialing typically needs to work with only a handful of school districts that struggle to resolve improper assignments on their own, said Roxann Purdue, a consultant in the agency&rsquo;s professional services division.</p> <p>Yet the lengthy, laborious and often paper-heavy process of monitoring assignments means that teachers and other staff can remain in the wrong positions for months.</p> <p>County offices of education typically begin compiling paperwork from school districts in late fall or winter. Once they identify teachers who lack necessary credentials or authorization and notify the district, the district has 30 days to address the problems. By the time it&rsquo;s all resolved &ndash; teachers must be reassigned, get the appropriate credentials, receive emergency or short-term permits or local authorizations, obtain waivers or resign &ndash; the school year could be nearly over.</p> <p>In the 2011-12 school year, for example, Alameda County notified the Oakland Unified School District on May 15 to correct any remaining teacher assignment problems by June 30 &ndash; 15 days after the school year ended, records show. A letter listed 50 teachers whose qualifications were unclear or who held inappropriate assignments.</p> <p>&ldquo;If we had a whole bunch of people working on it, we could identify the misassignment sooner. You&rsquo;re talking about one manager, one analyst &ndash; that&rsquo;s all we are,&rdquo; said Stephanie Tomasi, Alameda&rsquo;s credentials manager.</p> <p>County officials said there&rsquo;s little they can do to expedite the monitoring process. School schedules and staffing tend to shift during the first month or two of school, so counties don&rsquo;t begin monitoring until classes are settled. Schools, too, need time to gather their records.</p> <p>&ldquo;It seems like we want to catch it (improperly assigned teachers) really early in the school year so you don&rsquo;t have a student going all year without services or whatever they need,&rdquo; said Teresa Ussery, a credential analyst for Stanislaus County, which requests district documents in October and reports assignment problems in March and April. &ldquo;But just because of timelines and processes, it&rsquo;s very hard to do that &ndash; especially if it&rsquo;s a large district.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still, Ussery said, problems identified late in one school year pay off the following school year. Schools learn to not repeat the same mistakes, she said.</p> <p>In the Berkeley case, for example, the district said that the class led by an uncredentialed staff member would no longer be offered and that credentialed teachers would teach all courses at the school.</p> <p><strong>Success with English-learner authorization</strong></p> <p>Improper assignments often are the result of school administrators who do not know that even elective or short-term courses require appropriate certification, said Purdue of the credentialing commission.</p> <p>Middle and high schools in particular, she said, are offering more experimental courses that are less straightforward to staff than, say, a physics class.</p> <p>Still, nearly 2,400 teachers in low-performing schools were assigned to teach core academic subjects &ndash; English, math, science and social science &ndash; without the appropriate credentials or authorization during the 2010-11 school year.</p> <p>By comparison, teachers lacking authorization to teach English-language learners &ndash; which numbered more than 22,200 in the 2005-06 school year &ndash; plummeted to 1,575.</p> <p>&ldquo;That is a success story,&rdquo; said Allen of the ACLU. &ldquo;So the question is, what is it that needs to be done to have that similar trend across the board?&rdquo;</p> <p>California teachers of all subjects must have authorization to teach English learners, even if they have just one student in their class who is learning the language. But Purdue said what worked to increase authorizations for teaching English-language learners does not apply to other subjects.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s an isolated problem with a permanent solution, whereas the other subjects areas, it&rsquo;s a new opportunity to misassign them every semester and every year,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>The commission tackled the problem with English-learner authorization by first offering training opportunities to existing credentialed teachers. It then phased in English-learner training at educator preparation programs so that all new teachers would automatically have the authorization.</p> <p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;d keep closing the circle until it becomes smaller and smaller,&rdquo; Purdue said. &ldquo;But you can&rsquo;t do that for math, because if someone&rsquo;s misassigned in math, we have to have all teachers authorized in every subject to close every loophole.&rdquo;</p> <p>Hanson, of Fresno Unified, said assigning teachers outside of what their credentials allow is sometimes the best solution to a Rubik&rsquo;s cube of teachers, students, courses and schedules.</p> <p>In the last school year, for example, scheduling conflicts led to a high school algebra teacher instructing one period of geometry, a course the teacher&rsquo;s credential did not permit. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not going to find a geometry teacher who can work one period during the day,&rdquo; Hanson said. &ldquo;Here&rsquo;s the only way I can get it done.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Teacher shortages add to problems</strong></p> <p>In certain locations and subjects, such as math, science and special education, incorrect assignments could reflect teacher shortages. These shortages are most critical in schools concentrated with low-income and minority students and in districts with fewer resources, a state task force reported in September.</p> <p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t leave it up to local principals to find good teachers and well-prepared teachers if they don&rsquo;t exist,&rdquo; said Linda Darling-Hammond, chairwoman of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, who also co-led the task force. &ldquo;Ultimately, you have to invest in getting enough teachers in shortage fields and invest in getting enough teachers who will teach in shortage locations.&rdquo;</p> <p>Teacher layoffs &ndash; California schools cut about 32,000 teachers between 2007-08 and 2010-11 &ndash; ought to have produced a larger supply of qualified teachers, said John Affeldt, who served as lead counsel on the Williams lawsuit and is a managing attorney at Public Advocates.</p> <p>But most districts have policies that allow them to hold on to teachers in high-need areas, even when layoffs are required, said Sharon Robison, the Association of California School Administrators&rsquo; liaison to the credentialing commission. Teachers who are laid off are not always qualified in the subjects or available in the locations that schools need, she said.</p> <p>It took Oakland Unified five months to find a permanent teacher for a class of 12 severely disabled children at Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy. Seven substitutes led the class before a teacher from Washington state could take over Nov. 1, more than two months after the start of the school year.</p> <p>Of the 30 to 40 applications Principal Charles Wilson saw prior to the teacher&rsquo;s hiring, seven applicants had appropriate credentials and three were interviewed. None was a good fit for the position, he said.</p> <p>Low-performing schools like his are sometimes accused of &ldquo;intentionally trying to hire young, kind of throwaway teachers because they&rsquo;re cheap,&rdquo; Wilson said. &ldquo;But the reality of it is those kinds of (qualified, experienced) teachers don&rsquo;t apply to these kinds of schools. They don&rsquo;t take an interview.&rdquo;</p> <p>Even though his elementary school has a positive reputation as being supportive of teachers, Wilson said, &ldquo;people are scared. &hellip; It&rsquo;s too much of a stress they don&rsquo;t want to take on.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Revamping a school</strong></p> <p>Education officials and critics agree that much progress has been made in reducing the number of incorrect assignments. Among nearly 300 low-performing schools that had improper assignments for six consecutive years, 79 percent had fewer instances of the problem in 2010-11 than they did in 2005-06.</p> <p>Seven years ago, Huntington Park Senior High School, south of downtown Los Angeles, had more improper assignments than any other school in the state. In fact, it had more misassignments than it had teachers &ndash; 477 in all, indicating that staff members lacked more than one necessary credential or authorization for their positions.&nbsp;</p> <p>After years of poor student performance, Huntington Park underwent a dramatic district-ordered transformation in 2011 that switched it from a year-round calendar to traditional school year and required teachers to reinterview for their jobs. The school replaced about 70 percent of its staff in less than two months.</p> <p>School administrators, themselves newcomers, saw the process as an opportunity to ensure all teachers had the credentials for a predictable stable of classes that mirror those required for admittance to California universities, said Freddy Lara, the school&rsquo;s assistant principal. Lara said the Los Angeles Unified School District referred the school only qualified, credentialed candidates for each position.</p> <p>Today, the school&rsquo;s principal, Lupe Hernandez, reports that the campus has no incorrect assignments. But Huntington Park may be an outlier. Most schools cannot require all their teachers to reapply for jobs, and doing so would not necessarily prevent future assignment problems.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is really about the tension between what students need every year and the adults that we&rsquo;ve already hired in the system and probably have permanent (tenured) status,&rdquo; said Hanson of Fresno Unified.</p> <p>Schools should always strive to have no improperly assigned teachers, Hanson and other education officials said. But they doubted that was a realistic possibility.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s a menacing problem that people haven&rsquo;t really tried to work on,&rdquo; said Robison of the Association of California School Administrators. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just that you have over 1,000 school districts, hundreds of thousands of students, and on any given day, you&rsquo;re going to have a vacancy you need to fill because you have students who are there and ready to learn &ndash; and expecting to learn &ndash; and you have to teach them.&rdquo;</p> </div> </div> </div> K–12 Thu, 21 Feb 2013 08:05:03 +0000 Joanna Lin 18814 at State’s calculation of teacher misassignments gives skewed rate <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-credits"><div class="field field-type-userreference field-field-authors"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <span class="author vcard"><a href="/user/joanna-lin" title="View user profile." class="fn">Joanna Lin</a></span> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-body"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="image-insert" style="width: 304px;"><img alt="" class="imagecache-image-insert" src="/files/imagecache/image-insert/CharlieParker_112912_05_daa.jpg" title="Charlie Parker, a longtime biology teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, was assigned for two years to teach histo" /> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit">Daniel Anderson/California Watch</span> <span class="image-insert-description">Charlie Parker, a longtime biology teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, was assigned for two years to teach history and social studies &ndash; subjects he&rsquo;s not licensed to teach. Thousands of teachers in California&rsquo;s public schools every year are placed in classes they lack the credentials or legal authorizations to teach.</span></p> <p>Teachers are required by law to have appropriate credentials, authorizations or permits for the subjects and students they teach.</p> <p>But in California every year, thousands of teachers do not. They instruct English-language learners without the training to do so, teach U.S. history when they&rsquo;re licensed to teach biology and serve students with disabilities whose needs they&rsquo;re not prepared to address.</p> <p>These improper assignments are known as &ldquo;misassignments.&rdquo; The state tracks the problem annually at low-performing schools and once every four years at all traditional public schools. The rate of improper assignments has hovered above a persistent 12 percent at low-performing schools, whose students are overwhelmingly low-income and Latino.</p> <p>How the state calculates that rate, however, obscures the magnitude of the problem.</p> <p>County boards of education monitor teacher assignments by verifying that certificated personnel &ndash; primarily teachers &ndash; are licensed for their positions. Some employees hold multiple positions or teach various subjects that require different credentials, permits, authorizations or waivers.</p> <p>As a result, one staff member could have one or more assignments.</p> <p>The state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which compiles the assignment data, calculates&nbsp;an annual&nbsp;misassignment rate&nbsp;at low-performing schools&nbsp;by dividing the number of improper assignments&nbsp;reported&nbsp;at those schools&nbsp;by the number of&nbsp;those schools&#39;&nbsp;full-time equivalent certificated staff.</p> <p>This does not show an accurate rate because it compares two different things &shy;&ndash; the number of&nbsp;reported&nbsp;improper assignments&nbsp;against&nbsp;the total number of staff&nbsp;members.&nbsp;Because a single teacher could have three incorrect assignments, for example, the official rate of misassigned teachers at low-performing schools would be inaccurate.</p> <p>The commission has calculated the rate this way since 1987, when the Legislature began requiring assignment monitoring. Because the misassignment rate has been consistently calculated the same&nbsp;way, the rate can be compared year to year, said Teri Clark, director of the agency&rsquo;s professional services division.</p> <p>&ldquo;This method of calculation represents the best, and really only, reflection of the misassignment rate available at this time based on the available data,&rdquo; Clark wrote in an email.</p> <p>Neither the commission nor the California Department of Education has data on the number of assignments that each staff member holds, which would allow an accurate rate to be calculated.&nbsp;</p> <p>California Watch used the commission&rsquo;s data in its reporting because it represents the best &ndash; and only &ndash; available data on improper assignments.</p> <p>In September, our <a href="" target="_blank">analysis</a> of the commission&rsquo;s data revealed that the state had reported an inflated rate of misassignments in the 2005-06 school year. The commission revised its data, and California Watch based its reporting on the corrected figures.</p> <p>We verified the names of all schools and districts with reported misassignments against the state&rsquo;s public school directory. We then identified those schools&rsquo; Latino and low-income populations using the state&rsquo;s enrollment data on student ethnicity and eligibility for free and reduced-price meals.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> K–12 Thu, 21 Feb 2013 08:05:03 +0000 Joanna Lin 18816 at In one Calif. school district, teachers help teachers get better <div class="field field-type-userreference field-field-authors"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <span class="author vcard">Anonymous</span> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-insert" style="width: 304px;"><img alt="" class="imagecache-image-insert" src="/files/imagecache/image-insert/Hechinger Long Beach teacher 1.jpg" title="Writing coach Jandella Faulkner helps students at Edison Elementary School in Long Beach use thinking maps to tell a story." /> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit">Stephen Smith/The Hechinger Report</span> <span class="image-insert-description"> Writing coach Jandella Faulkner helps students at Edison Elementary School in Long Beach use &quot;thinking maps&quot; to tell a story.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>LONG BEACH &ndash; Jandella Faulkner crouches beside a table of busy third-graders in Jennifer Larsen&rsquo;s class at Edison Elementary School. The students have pencils in hand, outlines spread around them, and a story about penguins and otters in progress.</p> <p>Faulkner stands to call across the room: &ldquo;Loving how this group is already talking, Ms. Larsen.&rdquo; Then she swoops down on another table of young authors.</p> <p>Faulkner is a teaching coach in the Long Beach school district. Her job is to train a select group of teachers at Edison Elementary, including Jennifer Larsen, in a new literacy curriculum called <a href="">Write From The Beginning</a>. It&rsquo;s part of a districtwide training system that relies on teachers working with each other to improve classroom practices. So, with Faulkner&rsquo;s help, Larsen and the other site coaches at Edison train their colleagues at the school how to use Write From The Beginning in their own classrooms.</p> <p>Many American school districts rely heavily on outside experts, professional conferences and traveling consultants to conduct on-the-job training (also known as professional development). New York, the nation&rsquo;s largest school district, spent about $100 million last year on professional development consultants. In most cases, there&rsquo;s little evidence to show whether the outside groups are helping schools improve, says&nbsp;Pamela Grossman, a professor at Stanford University&rsquo;s Graduate School of Education.</p> <div id="caw-inset-1-placeholder">&nbsp;</div> <p>&ldquo;There is a lot of money spent on professional development that does not really support teachers in learning how to improve,&rdquo; Grossman says.</p> <p>Long Beach creates its own training teams. For years, the Long Beach Unified School District has had one of the nation&rsquo;s best-regarded professional development programs for new and veteran teachers, according to Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, a national nonprofit organization focused on teacher education.</p> <p>&ldquo;Our system is really invested in building internal capacity,&rdquo; says Jill Baker, the district&rsquo;s assistant superintendent for elementary and K-8 and its chief academic officer. &ldquo;What that means is teachers become leaders and trainers. We&rsquo;re not bringing someone in from the outside. We&rsquo;re teaching teachers within to go back to their school sites to train others.&rdquo;</p> <p>Professional development is seen as a critical component of many education reform initiatives. National studies show that good training programs are especially important in high-poverty districts like Long Beach, according to Learning Forward. With some 84,000 students, Long Beach is California&rsquo;s third-largest district. Most of the students are from families of color. Some 70 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, an indication that families live at or below the poverty level.</p> <p>Education experts say that good, independent research on what constitutes professional development for teachers is relatively scarce. Even so, more than $1 billion is spent on teachers&rsquo; on-the-job training each year in the United States, according to an <a href="">analysis</a> of data collected by the U.S. Department of Education.</p> <p>The Long Beach district is &ldquo;ahead of the curve,&rdquo; Grossman says.</p> <p>&ldquo;Professional development that&rsquo;s embedded in teaching and embedded in practice is likely to have more impact on what teachers do,&rdquo; Grossman says. &ldquo;A model where coaches are familiar with the schools, the districts and the curriculum &ndash; and are therefore able to offer fairly tailored coaching &ndash; has a better chance of moving practice along.&rdquo;</p> <p>Long Beach administrators credit the Write From The Beginning curriculum &ndash; and the teacher training that accompanies it &ndash; with turning around dismal test scores at many of the participating schools. District figures show that schools scoring at or below 20 percent proficiency in state writing tests have boosted their numbers above 50 percent since 2007. Some once-struggling schools have posted writing test results above 80 percent.</p> <p>Long Beach administrators say there have been no independent, peer-reviewed studies of its professional development program. But the district has been a winner, and a five-time finalist, of the prestigious <a href="">Broad Prize</a>, given by the California-based Broad Foundation to recognize urban school districts that improve student academic performance and narrow achievement gaps between poor and more affluent students.</p> <p>The Broad Foundation cited the district&rsquo;s professional development program as an essential element in Long Beach&rsquo;s ability to outperform other high-poverty school districts in student achievement. (Disclaimer: The Broad Foundation is among the <a href="">funders</a> of The Hechinger Report.)</p> <p class="image-insert-right-align" style="width: 304px;"><img alt="" class="imagecache-image-insert-right-align" src="/files/imagecache/image-insert-right-align/Hechinger Long Beach students.jpg" title="Third-graders at Signal Hill Elementary School in Long Beach work on a writing assignment." /> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit">Stephen Smith/The Hechinger Report</span> <span class="image-insert-description"> Third-graders at Signal Hill Elementary School in Long Beach work on a writing assignment.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>At Signal Hill Elementary, another Long Beach school, Principal Lauren Price points out that elementary school teachers must master a range of subjects, while middle and high school teachers specialize in single subject areas. Professional development is essential to keep teachers up to speed, she says.</p> <p>&ldquo;Every year, researchers are learning more about the way kids learn and grow and develop,&rdquo; Price says. &ldquo;There are new and different ways to do things.&rdquo;</p> <p>The principal at Edison Elementary enlisted Larsen and her colleagues, Kevin Quinn and Ruby Gaytan, to be the Edison site coaches for writing. They&rsquo;re veteran teachers; all have been in the classroom 15 years or more. Each member gets 48 hours of training in the curriculum, starting with a summer workshop. Faulkner visits their classrooms about once a month. The Write From The Beginning curriculum was developed by Thinking Maps, a North Carolina education company.</p> <p>&ldquo;Writing was something that had been neglected for so many years because it was so difficult to teach,&rdquo; Larsen says. &ldquo;I saw this as something the kids really need.&rdquo; Long Beach writing teachers are being trained to use graphical organizers &ndash; the so-called &ldquo;thinking maps&rdquo; &ndash; to help students organize their thoughts, describe characters, marshal evidence, come up with key words and plot other writing elements.</p> <p>Fourth-grade teacher Ruby Gaytan points to a thinking map projected on her classroom wall with a list of qualities that describe Ivan, a character her students are writing about. He wants to sell salt but is thwarted by a greedy king. How to describe Ivan?</p> <p>&ldquo;Broke, no money!&rdquo; one student calls out.</p> <p>&ldquo;Determined!&rdquo; another declares.</p> <p>Gaytan directs her students to use their freshly minted list of adjectives in Ivan&rsquo;s story of struggle. &ldquo;If you can think it &hellip; &rdquo; Gaytan prompts.</p> <p>&ldquo;You can say it,&rdquo; the class responds in unison.</p> <p>Gaytan says the off-hours training she gets with the writing curriculum keeps her fresh in the classroom. &ldquo;The majority of teachers love to learn; that&rsquo;s why we teach. It keeps me motivated,&rdquo; she says.</p> <p>Kevin Quinn, also a fourth-grade teacher, says the training will help teachers stay &ldquo;ahead of the game,&rdquo; as Common Core State Standards are adopted by California schools in 2014. The Common Core curriculum puts a heavy emphasis on student achievement in writing.</p> <p>Larsen says the curriculum and coaching have made her both a better writer and a better writing teacher. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m more aware when I&rsquo;m reading aloud to the kids of all the great descriptions and the vivid language in every text,&rdquo; Larsen says. &ldquo;When I model writing for them, I express myself better.&rdquo;</p> <p>Coaches and teachers get paid for the time they spend on professional development, but Quinn and others describe it as &quot;minimal compensation.&rdquo; Meanwhile, budget woes and accompanying teacher layoffs of recent years mean that Larsen, Gaytan and Quinn face classrooms of 30 children every day instead of 20.</p> <p>&ldquo;Whereas the majority of our staff wants to participate in the professional development, there is a lot of burnout,&rdquo; Quinn says. &ldquo;My workload has increased, my accountability has increased, but my discretionary time has not increased. So it becomes very difficult.&rdquo;</p> <p>Lisa Worsham, head of English curriculum for K-5 schools in Long Beach, acknowledges that teachers are under stress. But she says professional development can help overcome the sense of isolation a busy teacher can feel.</p> <p>&ldquo;There are a lot of us in the building, but we show up for work, we close our door, we teach all day, we&rsquo;re exhausted, we leave the classroom and go home,&rdquo; Worsham says. Without signing up for training, &ldquo;there&rsquo;s not a lot of opportunity to sit down with five other teachers and collaborate,&rdquo; she says.</p> <p>In addition to the in-class training, local site coaches meet four times a year with Jandella Faulkner at the district&rsquo;s training center. Faulkner&rsquo;s classroom is stocked with flip charts, baskets of colorful markers and a small mountain of sticky notes &ndash; the raw materials of professional development workshops. A tall and magnetic figure, Faulkner encourages a group of nine site coaches to swap stories about what is working &ndash; and what&rsquo;s floundering &ndash; back in their respective schools.</p> <p>Faulkner holds up a training notebook. &ldquo;When do you have the time to open up this binder and say, &lsquo;What does my site need?&rsquo; This is your time to do it,&rdquo; she declares.</p> <p>Coaching one&rsquo;s colleagues can be a politically tricky enterprise. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about having a rapport, really forming a relationship with each individual teacher,&rdquo; says Jeff Lamperts of Willard Elementary.</p> <p>Cheryl Hubert of Starr King Elementary, another site coach, says being a teacher in the local trenches gives her more credibility with her peers than an outside consultant who parachutes in. &ldquo;They know who I am,&rdquo; Hubert says. &ldquo;They feel more comfortable with me than someone from a business (where they) think, what are they selling?&rdquo;</p> <p>Faulkner says many Long Beach teachers are eager to take up the new writing techniques that she&rsquo;s helping to spread across the district &ndash;&nbsp;but not all. &ldquo;We have teachers at the end of their careers say, &lsquo;I&rsquo;m not trying anything new.&rsquo; And convincing them to try something is a huge challenge,&rdquo; Faulkner says.</p> <p>At Lindsey Middle School, the language arts staff is using a similar literacy curriculum called Write For The Future And Beyond. The local site coaches at Lindsey get released from class nine days during a year for ongoing training. The district also sends teaching coaches to the school for in-class visits once a month or more, depending on how well the writing program takes hold, according to Stacy Casanave, a middle school literacy coach.</p> <p>Lindsey teacher Shauna Hutchinson says the fat curriculum binder looked overwhelming at first. &ldquo;But once you went to training, they broke it down for you,&rdquo; she says.</p> <p>Another facet of the Long Beach professional development program is a close, long-standing relationship with the College of Education at CSU Long Beach. School personnel help with teaching and research at CSU, and CSU students do their student teaching in Long Beach schools.</p> <p>Historically, most of the district&rsquo;s beginning teachers have been CSU graduates, according to Jill Baker, the district&rsquo;s assistant superintendent. The district requires newly minted teachers to go through a prescribed on-the-job training program in their first years. But California&rsquo;s fiscal crisis and the recession have caused the Long Beach school district to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from its budget, laying off hundreds of teachers and cutting programs. Newer teachers were the first to go. Few beginners get hired.</p> <p>Long Beach spends $5.4 million a year on professional development, less than 1 percent of the district&rsquo;s $691 million budget. Professional development was cut nearly in half during and after the recession. In fiscal year 2006-07, 4,546 employees attended 11,763 training sessions. In fiscal 2011-12, 1,945 employees attended 6,982 sessions. Baker says the district has focused teacher training on areas that can have the most impact on how students learn. These include writing, mathematics and school behavior programs. There is less opportunity for individual teachers to select workshops or training programs in other areas such as creative arts and social studies.</p> <p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had to take a lot of things that we liked to do in the past and really narrow it down to what your students are showing us they need,&rdquo; Baker says. &ldquo;Professional development for teachers, and for principals as well, has been at the core of the work that we&rsquo;ve done that has garnered results. It&rsquo;s part of the district culture, and it continues to work over time.&rdquo;</p> <p><em>This story was produced by <a href="" target="_blank">American RadioWorks</a> and&nbsp;<a href="" style="text-decoration: none; color: rgb(48, 140, 170); font-weight: bold; ">The Hechinger Report</a></em><em>, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet based at Teachers College, Columbia University.</em></p> K–12 Daily Report CSU Long Beach teacher training teachers Tue, 19 Feb 2013 18:07:37 +0000 Stephen Smith 18813 at Video: Build now, pay later <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-credits"><div class="field field-type-userreference field-field-authors"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <span class="author vcard"><a href="/user/sharon-pieczenik" title="View user profile." class="fn">Sharon Pieczenik</a></span> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-body"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Many cash-strapped California school districts have found a way to fund new, multimillion-dollar projects.&nbsp;<br /> And they don&rsquo;t have to make payments right away.</p> <p>But when those bills come due, a generation of taxpayers will be saddled with a much bigger tab.</p> <p>This California Watch video explains why some districts will owe more than 20 times what they borrowed.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" width="640"></iframe></p> </div> </div> </div> K–12 Thu, 31 Jan 2013 15:32:04 +0000 Sharon Pieczenik 18797 at Controversial school bonds create ‘debt for the next generation’ <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-credits"><div class="field field-type-userreference field-field-authors"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <span class="author vcard"><a href="/user/trey-bundy" title="View user profile." class="fn">Trey Bundy</a></span> and <span class="author vcard"><a href="/user/shane-shifflett" title="View user profile." class="fn">Shane Shifflett</a></span> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-extra-credits"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p> This story was edited by Richard C. Paddock. It was copy edited by Nikki Frick and Christine Lee. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-body"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" width="640"></iframe></p> <p><small>Produced by Sharon Pieczenik</small></p> <div id="caw-inset-1-placeholder">&nbsp;</div> <p>Herb Calderon stood on the campus of Hillcrest High School, staring at a wall that cost $10 million to build.</p> <p>The mile-long barrier was constructed to prevent the hillside above from sliding into the new school during a heavy storm. The state-of-the-art campus with its extravagant sculpted concrete wall, he said, has helped upgrade the image of the downtrodden district.</p> <p>&ldquo;They wanted a beautiful high school, and we gave them a beautiful high school,&rdquo; said Calderon, assistant superintendent for business services of the Alvord Unified School District in Riverside. &ldquo;If people knew how much it cost, I&rsquo;m sure we&rsquo;d get some flak.&rdquo;</p> <p>The school, including the wall, cost $110 million to build, but by 2046, when it is finally paid for, it will have cost taxpayers at least $485 million.</p> <p>Alvord is one of at least 1,350 school districts and government agencies across the nation that have turned to a controversial form of borrowing called capital appreciation bonds to finance major projects, a California Watch analysis of bond financing data in the U.S. shows. Relying on these bonds has allowed districts to borrow billions of dollars while postponing payments in some cases for decades.</p> <p>This form of borrowing has created billions of dollars in debt for taxpayers and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for financial advisers and underwriters. Voters are usually unaware of the bonds&rsquo; high interest. At least one state, Michigan, has banned their use<strong>. </strong></p> <p>In California, where rules governing the loans are among the loosest, more than 400 school districts and other agencies have racked up greater capital appreciation bond debt in the past six years than in any other state.</p> <p>They have borrowed $9 billion that will cost taxpayers $36 billion to repay over the next 40 years, according to data compiled by California Treasurer Bill Lockyer. He called it &ldquo;debt for the next generation.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;The average tenure of a school superintendent is about three and a half years, so they aren&rsquo;t going to be around in most instances to worry about paying that off,&rdquo; Lockyer said in an interview. &ldquo;Nor will the voters, probably, that enacted it in the first place.&rdquo;</p> <p>The capital appreciation bond business in California has been lucrative for dozens of private financial advisers, banks and credit rating firms that have charged government entities nearly $400 million for financial services since 2007, state data show.</p> <p>The bonds are unusual in public finance because they postpone debt far into the future. Typical school bonds require borrowers to begin making payments immediately and cost two to three times the principal amount to repay. But with deferred payments, districts have ended up paying as much as 23 times the amount borrowed.</p> <p>The decision to issue these bonds instead of traditional bonds typically is made by district officials after voters have approved bond measures, and the public usually has no knowledge of how much they will cost to repay.</p> <p>Earlier this month, Lockyer and Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, called for a statewide moratorium on capital appreciation bonds until new legislation limiting their use is in place.</p> <p>The issue first came to light last year after the Voice of San Diego and a Michigan blogger reported on a questionable capital appreciation bond issued by the Poway Unified School District.</p> <p>But a California Watch analysis shows that the issue is not unique to California.</p> <p>Since 2007, school districts and government agencies in at least 27 states and Puerto Rico have financed projects with capital appreciation bonds.</p> <p>In Texas, 590 districts and other government entities have issued these bonds over the past six years &ndash; more than any other state, according to a California Watch review of a database maintained by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, a federal regulatory agency that oversees the municipal bond market. California was second, with 404, followed by Ohio, with 202.</p> <p>Nationally, the total amount of debt generated by these bonds is unclear.&nbsp;States rely on varying methods for reporting, and in some cases the data is incomplete. Many capital appreciation bonds&nbsp;were issued in packages with other types of bonds, and national databases do not tally&nbsp;their&nbsp;independent values.&nbsp;</p> <p>In California, some of the most dubious deals occurred in San Diego County, where the Poway Unified School District in 2011 used the bonds to borrow $105 million that will cost $982 million to pay back, a repayment rate of about 9.4 to 1. The same year, the Santee School District borrowed $3.5 million that must be repaid at $58.6 million, or 16.6 times the principal.</p> <p>Besides school districts, four agencies that receive tobacco-company payments from a court settlement have issued these bonds to construct health care facilities and operate programs. The largest was issued by the Inland Empire Tobacco Securitization Authority &ndash; a $206.4 million bond that will cost $3.8 billion to pay back, or more than 18 times the principal.</p> <p>To finish building Hillcrest High School, the Alvord district issued a $57 million bond in 2011. By 2046, when the loan is paid off, Calderon said, it will have cost taxpayers $375 million &ndash; 6.6 times the principal.</p> <p>Calderon, who joined the Alvord district as chief business officer in July, called the deal &ldquo;a necessary evil&rdquo; and said falling property tax revenue and dwindling state funding had left districts with no choice but to engage in risky borrowing.</p> <p>&ldquo;If this was a mortgage, you would run,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But this type of creative financing is what we&rsquo;re forced to do.&rdquo;</p> <p class="image-insert-right-align" style="width: 304px;"><img alt="" class="imagecache-image-insert-right-align" src="/files/imagecache/image-insert-right-align/CABS photo_A_dwb.jpg" title="Herb Calderon, Alvord Unified School District’s assistant superintendent, walks the football field at Hillcrest High School in R" /> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit">David Bauman/The Press-Enterprise</span> <span class="image-insert-description"> Herb Calderon, Alvord Unified School District&rsquo;s assistant superintendent, walks the football field at Hillcrest High School in Riverside. The district issued a controversial $57 million capital appreciation bond but ran out of money to build bleachers.</span></p> <p><strong>Bypassing state tax cap </strong></p> <p>Some California districts, including Alvord, have used the bonds to get around a state limit on property taxes. To pay off bonds, unified school districts are allowed to tax residents no more than $60 per $100,000 of their assessed property value each year. By issuing capital appreciation bonds, districts that have reached that limit can push the tax burdens of new bonds far into the future.</p> <p>When districts issue these bonds, they are betting that property values will increase enough over time to pay their debts. They often hire private firms to calculate property value projections and structure the deals.</p> <p>The private firms are paid to determine how much money is safe for districts to borrow, but Lockyer said some financial advisers appear to have exaggerated property value growth projections to get the deals approved.</p> <p>Although private firms are not obligated to report their fees to state regulators, the state treasurer&rsquo;s office has compiled some fee information found in official bond statements. At least 42 financial firms have charged school districts and other agencies in California a total of $389 million since 2007, Lockyer&rsquo;s office reported.</p> <p>Since 2008, according to data available to the treasurer, Caldwell Flores Winters, a California-based company specializing in public finance, made the most money advising on California&rsquo;s capital appreciation bonds &ndash; $6.8 million on 84 deals. Second was Dale Scott &amp; Co. in San Francisco, with 55 deals worth $4.6 million. California Financial Services, a financial planning firm, was third with $3.5 million on 28 deals.</p> <p>Financial advisers have been meeting with Lockyer and state legislators to discuss a measure that would limit repayment rates to as little as four times the amount borrowed with capital appreciation bonds, also known as CABs.</p> <p>&ldquo;Even though CABs can be a useful tool in managing a district&#39;s debt, it appears there have been a number of abuses,&rdquo; said Dale Scott, whose firm was hired by Alvord last year to help manage the district&rsquo;s debt. &ldquo;That&#39;s why we strongly support the proposed legislation that would provide significant taxpayer protections.&rdquo;</p> <p>While financial advisers help districts structure the bonds, underwriters &ndash; typically large banks and investment firms &ndash; broker the deals for a commission, selling the bonds whole or breaking them into smaller pieces and selling them to multiple investors.</p> <p>According to state records, Piper Jaffray was the busiest underwriter since&nbsp;2008, brokering 165 capital appreciation bonds for a price of&nbsp;$31.4 million. Goldman Sachs made $1.6 million on a single deal with the San Diego Unified School District.</p> <p>Both firms declined to comment for this story.</p> <p class="lightbox-image-insert" style="width: 302px;"><a href="" rel="lightbox"> <img alt="" class="imagecache-lightbox-image-insert" src="/files/imagecache/lightbox-image-insert/school-debt-payments-blue-01.png" title="" /> </a> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit">Brian Cragin/California Watch</span></p> <p><strong>Highly leveraged deals</strong></p> <p>Nationwide, falling property values have hurt districts&rsquo; tax revenues, prompting some to turn to long-term bonds. Outside California, however, tighter regulations helped curb their use.</p> <p>Ohio, for instance, prohibits the type of ballooning debt structures found in many California deals by requiring bonds to maintain a flat debt service. That means the annual payment must remain roughly the same each year.</p> <p>California removed its flat debt service requirement on long-term bonds in 2009 with the passage of AB 1388. The bill was sponsored by the California Public Securities Association, which lobbies state lawmakers on behalf of financial consultants and underwriters. An association official declined to comment.</p> <p>While districts have been relying on capital appreciation bonds for more than a decade, there was a slight increase in their use after the bill took effect, state data shows.</p> <p>&ldquo;Looking back, the Legislature&#39;s decision to eliminate the flat debt service requirement in 2009 is what led to a lot of these highly leveraged deals,&rdquo; said Scott, the financial adviser.</p> <p>School districts that issued these bonds fall into two categories: those that could not issue standard bonds because they had reached the $60 state tax cap, like Alvord, and others, like the Napa Valley Unified School District, that simply promised voters they would keep their tax rates low.</p> <p>Napa issued its bonds in 2009 and 2010, in part, because officials had pledged to keep the tax rate well below the state limit.</p> <p>&ldquo;Our promise to the voters of Napa was to keep their tax bill at or below $36, and we were able to accomplish that,&rdquo; said Jose Hurtado, a Napa school board member.</p> <p>In 2006, Napa voters authorized $183 million to repair old school buildings and build a new high school in American Canyon, a rapidly growing area in southern Napa County.</p> <p>By 2009, when the high school was nearly completed, property values had dropped and the district suddenly found itself short of cash.</p> <p>On the advice of KNN Public Finance, an Oakland firm, Napa issued a nearly $22 million capital appreciation bond. The loan will cost $154 million &ndash; seven times the principal &ndash; when it is paid off in 2049. &nbsp;</p> <p>Three months later, the district issued another bond for $7 million that will have cost $28 million by 2033.</p> <p>Hurtado said the board did not explain to voters the high cost of repaying the bonds, as far as he knows.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t recall any of those conversations going on,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t mean they didn&rsquo;t happen, I just don&rsquo;t recall.&rdquo;</p> <p>KNN charged the district $156,000 for advising on the deals, according to state records. Advisers at KNN declined to be interviewed, but Dave Olson, a managing director for the firm, said in a statement to California Watch that, ultimately, districts set their own fiscal policies.</p> <p>&ldquo;The role of the financial advisor is to present the full range of reasonable alternatives to implement that policy,&rdquo; the statement said. &ldquo;We hope that the district feels we did so in this case.&rdquo;</p> <p>Some officials have criticized districts like Napa for shifting debt to future taxpayers instead of asking voters to pay now.</p> <p>&ldquo;If they&rsquo;re trying to stay under a tax rate promised to the voters, that&rsquo;s completely egregious,&rdquo; said Glenn Byers, assistant treasurer of Los Angeles County, who has been critical of capital appreciation bonds that take longer than 25 years to repay.&ldquo;If they&rsquo;re not at the tax rate&rsquo;s legal limit, it&rsquo;s a slam dunk: They shouldn&rsquo;t be doing (it).&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Complex finance plans </strong></p> <p>Whether Napa&rsquo;s school board understood the long-term implications when it approved the deal remains unclear. When California Watch first asked school board member Joe Schunk about the deal in November, he said Napa had not issued any capital appreciation bonds.</p> <p>A week later, he called back and said he had been mistaken.</p> <p>Fellow board member Hurtado said that KNN had explained the deal but that &ldquo;it was hard to understand.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;When you&rsquo;re trying to have discussions about CABs versus traditional (bonds) and tax rates, occasionally it all runs together,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Lockyer said the inability of district leaders to grasp complex municipal finance is a problem around the state.</p> <p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve seen materials that went to a school board when they authorized the original issuance and there were blanks where the interest rate amount was to be determined someday,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But that&rsquo;s what they saw when they agreed to a deal.&rdquo;</p> <p>Ben Johnson, a longtime school board member in Alvord, said he could not remember how the district&rsquo;s $57 million deal was explained to the board when members approved it 2011.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think the thought process was that housing prices would increase,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;If you&rsquo;re asking me if I would do it in the future, I would not, but you can&rsquo;t go back in time.&rdquo;</p> <p>Piper Jaffray charged the district $569,416 to underwrite the bond, according to state data.</p> <p>Calderon, Alvord&rsquo;s chief business officer, lamented the lack of financial expertise that leaves many districts unqualified to navigate complex bond deals &ndash; or to do business with high-powered financial advisers and Wall Street investors.</p> <p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re swimming with the big sharks,&rdquo; said Calderon, who likened running a school district to heading up a large corporation. &ldquo;These are principals and assistant superintendents of curriculum, and they&rsquo;re being promoted in the role of a chief business officer.&rdquo;</p> <p>Unlike Napa, Alvord had reached the $60 tax cap at the time it decided to issue its capital appreciation bond.</p> <p>Before Hillcrest High School opened in 2012, Calderon said, Alvord&rsquo;s other two high schools were bursting at the seams. Postponing construction on the new school would have meant holding classes in portable structures, &ldquo;like a tent city.&rdquo;</p> <p>With the district unable to borrow more money with traditional bonds and voters demanding a new school, district leaders began to feel the political heat.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s one of those situations that people are forced into when there&rsquo;s a lot of pressure put on by either boards or superintendents, that they want this building finished and they want it today,&rdquo; Calderon said.</p> <p class="image-insert-right-align" style="width: 304px;"><img alt="" class="imagecache-image-insert-right-align" src="/files/imagecache/image-insert-right-align/CABS photo_C_dwb.jpg" title="Hillcrest High School was supposed to have an Olympic-size pool, but it was halved to 25 meters when construction funds ran shor" /> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit">David Bauman/The Press-Enterprise</span> <span class="image-insert-description"> Hillcrest High School was supposed to have an Olympic-size pool, but it was halved to 25 meters when construction funds ran short. A large concrete deck fills the space where the rest of the pool was meant to be.</span></p> <p><strong>Cycle of borrowing</strong></p> <p>Alvord&rsquo;s financial troubles date back at least five years, when the district got stuck in a cycle of borrowing money to pay off previous loans.</p> <p>&ldquo;Our whole issue is that, technically, the district is bankrupt,&rdquo; said Scott Andrews, an Alvord district resident who has led opposition to the district&rsquo;s borrowing practices, which according to district officials have left taxpayers $500 million in debt. &ldquo;No one has been able to explain to me how they&rsquo;re going to pay this back in the future.&rdquo;</p> <p>Johnson brushed off criticism that the district had dug a hole for itself by spending more than it could afford.</p> <p>&ldquo;Alvord at times has been secondary in some people&rsquo;s minds in the county of Riverside,&rdquo; Johnson said. &ldquo;We want to make sure our students don&rsquo;t go without any opportunities, not just educational but in terms of facilities.&rdquo;</p> <p>Hence the extravagant design of Hillcrest High School.</p> <p>Built into the side of a hill, the campus features state-of-the-art facilities, including a stadium, aquatic center and air-conditioned gym. But even after issuing the $57 million bond to complete the school&rsquo;s construction, parts of the campus remain unfinished because the district ran out of money.</p> <p>For starters, the stadium has no seats. The district could not afford them, so families bring lawn chairs to watch the school&rsquo;s football games.</p> <p>What was supposed to be an Olympic-size swimming pool was scaled down by half to 25 meters when construction money ran out, leaving a large concrete deck where the rest of the pool was meant to be.</p> <p>When Calderon first toured the aquatic center after joining the district last summer, he was shocked. &ldquo;The first words out of my mouth were, &lsquo;Where is the rest of the pool?&rsquo; &rdquo; he recalled.</p> <div id="caw-inset-2-placeholder">&nbsp;</div> <p>Although Hillcrest originally was designed to serve 2,500 students, the district had to scratch an entire wing of classrooms from the building plans due to budget shortages. The school now has space for 1,600 students.</p> <p>Each classroom cost $10,000 to furnish with hardware and technology, including digital blackboards that likely will be obsolete when the district&rsquo;s first bond payment comes due in 2026.</p> <p>The school sat empty for a year after it was built because the district did not have enough money to operate it.</p> <p>Still, Calderon insists that Alvord didn&rsquo;t overreach. Although the district is $500 million in debt, he said, it&rsquo;s &ldquo;good debt&rdquo; put toward facilities that will enhance learning for generations of students.</p> <p>&ldquo;Maybe one of these years or one of these decades,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;if we ever get to sell another bond or do fundraising, maybe we can break open that concrete and build ourselves a true 50-meter, Olympic-size pool.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong><em>Correction:&nbsp;</em></strong><em>An earlier version of this article misstated the timeframe for data taken from the state treasurer when discussing financial firms; it should have been since 2008. The earlier version also misstated the amount of money underwriter Piper Jaffray was paid during this period; it should have been $31.4 million.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> K–12 bonds Capital Appreciation Bonds Napa Unified School District School Bonds school finance Thu, 31 Jan 2013 15:30:48 +0000 Trey Bundy Shane Shifflett 18795 at Despite budget woes, superintendents’ pay rises <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-credits"><div class="field field-type-userreference field-field-authors"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <span class="author vcard">Anonymous</span> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-extra-credits"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p> This story was edited by Robert Salladay and copy edited by Nikki Frick and Christine Lee. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-body"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="image-insert" style="width: 304px;"><img alt="" class="imagecache-image-insert" src="/files/imagecache/image-insert/Gov. Chris Christie.jpg" title="In 2011, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie succeeded in tying the pay of school superintendents to enrollment, with a maximum +++" /> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit"><a class="image-insert-photo-credit-url" href="" target="_blank">L.E.MORMILE/Shutterstock</a></span> <span class="image-insert-description"> In 2011, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie succeeded in tying the pay of school superintendents to enrollment, with a maximum salary aligned with Christie&rsquo;s pay &ndash; $175,000.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>With California&rsquo;s public school system facing economic uncertainties &ndash; even with the passage of a tax increase under Proposition 30 &ndash; some of the most financially troubled districts have been elevating the payroll for top administrators, a review of district data shows.</p> <p>In the 2012-13 school year, a record 188 districts &ndash; with about 2.6 million students &ndash; have landed on a special California Department of Education list designed to sound the alarm on possible financial peril.</p> <p>One is the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation&rsquo;s second-largest district, which has been buried under a cumulative $2.8 billion deficit for the past five years and has eliminated more than 12,000 teaching and staff positions.</p> <p>Los Angeles Unified pays Superintendent John Deasy $384,948 a year, about five times the salary of the average teacher. Deasy turned down an increase in his base pay, from $275,000 to $330,000, when he became superintendent in 2011, but accepted the raise in 2012.</p> <p>Since 2009, the district has raised its superintendent&rsquo;s salary 32 percent.</p> <p>Also in the financial basement is the South Monterey County Joint Union High School District. Between 2010 and 2012, average teacher pay dropped 13.5 percent, from $86,703 to $75,018.</p> <p>But after a takeover of the district in 2009, state officials awarded a $24,606 pay boost, also to be paid by the district, to top administrator John Bernard.</p> <p>The resulting salary of $201,606, which remains in place for new State Administrator Daniel Moirao, is more than the base pay of Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, and Gov. Jerry Brown, who get $143,571 and $165,288, respectively.</p> <p>A California Watch examination of 40 of the largest districts on the&nbsp;financial watch list revealed that 21 have raised their&nbsp;superintendents&rsquo; salaries since 2009. Some of the raises are modest &ndash;&nbsp;a small percentage. But others are more dramatic. Among them:</p> <ul style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px; line-height: normal;"></ul> <ul> <li>The Riverside Unified School District &ndash; which has made $100 million in cutbacks since 2008-09 &ndash; raised Superintendent Richard Miller&rsquo;s total pay for the current school year from $267,208 to $314,963, including benefits, a boost of 18 percent. Since 2009, the district has raised its superintendent&rsquo;s salary more than 14 percent.</li> <li>The Lynwood Unified School District, which projects a 2012-13 operating deficit of $6.8 million, raised its superintendent&rsquo;s base pay by about 23 percent, from $200,000 to $245,000, two years ago. Counting benefits, district chief Edward Velasquez makes $287,681.</li> <li>The Alvord Unified School District in Riverside has seen the superintendent&rsquo;s pay and benefits increase from $192,375 in 2009-10 to $249,060 this fiscal year, a boost of nearly 30 percent. Teacher salaries range from $57,136 to $113,460.</li> </ul> <p>Last year, voter approval of a tax increase under Prop. 30 relieved pressure from schools that were facing steep budget cuts. But the initiative, spearheaded by Brown, comes amid a national debate over high salaries for superintendents.</p> <p>In February 2011, against heavy opposition, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie succeeded in tying the pay of superintendents to enrollment, with a maximum salary aligned with Christie&rsquo;s pay &ndash; $175,000. Districts with more than 10,000 students can apply for a waiver to pay its superintendent slightly more.</p> <p>&ldquo;In these hard economic times, superintendent salaries in New Jersey are costing taxpayers more than $100 million per year,&rdquo; the governor&rsquo;s office said in announcing the reforms. The state estimated an initial savings of nearly $10 million.</p> <p>New York is pursuing similar legislation for school district superintendents across the board. Currently, the state caps the salaries, at $166,572, only of those who head the state&rsquo;s 37 regional education agencies.&nbsp;</p> <p>No such efforts to cap salaries are under way in California.</p> <p>&ldquo;Given that taxpayers are the source of the incomes of superintendents, abnormally high six-figure salaries for these and other top administrators are indefensible,&rdquo; said Lance Izumi, senior director of education studies at the conservative Pacific Research Institute and a Koret senior fellow. &ldquo;Gov. Christie&#39;s salary cap is one very legitimate way to address the local salary issue.&rdquo;</p> <p>Superintendents may be likened to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, said Lawrence Picus, vice dean for faculty affairs and a professor at the USC Rossier School of Education. But superintendents, Picus added, are charged with something more important than simply raising money: They help shape the minds of children.</p> <p>As such, their duties are more essential than the chief of, say, Citibank, he said.</p> <p>&ldquo;Superintendents,&rdquo; Picus said, &ldquo;are horrendously underpaid&rdquo; compared to those charged with running the same-sized organization in the private sector, adding that &ldquo;beating them up over salaries seems unfair.&rdquo;</p> <p>Compounding the problem is that California has slashed the amount of per-student funding to an average of $8,908 in the 2010-11 school year, compared with $11,764 for the rest of the nation, according to the California Budget Project.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;California dramatically underinvests in schools,&rdquo; Picus said.</p> <p><strong>Raises amid money troubles </strong></p> <p>Few school districts are in more financial trouble than the Inglewood Unified School District in Los Angeles County, which was seized by the state and given a $55 million loan in mid-September. It was the ninth district since 1990 to request such a bailout. The district&rsquo;s elected school board lost its decision-making authority in the process.</p> <p>Competition from private, parochial and charter schools; declining enrollment; and a bleak local economy have impaired the district&rsquo;s ability to stay afloat, according to the state Fiscal Crisis &amp; Management Assistance Team, an independent agency that has reviewed the budgets of more than 700 school districts, county offices of education, community colleges and charter schools since 1992.</p> <p>Yet, for the 2011-12 school year, the district raised then-Superintendent Gary McHenry&rsquo;s total compensation by $17,938, or 6 percent, to $295,187. Currently, the superintendent position is vacant.</p> <p>The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District also is among those in the worst financial state. The district was near insolvency last fiscal year and will be taken over by the state unless it takes &ldquo;corrective action,&rdquo; a San Luis Obispo County grand jury warned in a report last year.</p> <p>From 2008 to 2011, during which a &ldquo;perfect storm&rdquo; was brewing, Paso Robles &ldquo;ignored dwindling reserves for three straight years &rdquo; while continuing to fill nonessential positions, the grand jury said in its report. The district also discovered faulty accounting practices led to a &ldquo;$1.58 million hit to last year&rsquo;s bottom line.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still, Superintendent Kathleen McNamara has received raises in base salary since 2009, from $161,813 to $182,500 for 2012. Factoring in the district&rsquo;s 12 furlough days this school year reduces her salary to $172,767. McNamara has declined both 5 percent and 10 percent longevity increases based on years of service.</p> <p>As to whether her salary is fair, McNamara said only others can make that determination.</p> <p>&ldquo;However,&rdquo; she added, &ldquo;I do feel taking the eight furlough days for the past four years and 12 furlough days this year as part of my commitment to assist in balancing the district budget was very appropriate and the right thing to do.&rdquo;</p> <p>Some school boards that have struggled with finances have found allies in the public.</p> <p>For parent David Hadley, who has four school-aged children in Manhattan Beach schools and is president of an investment firm, Hadley Partners Inc., a good superintendent can make or break a district. He referred to the giant Los Angeles Unified to illustrate his point.</p> <p>&ldquo;Because these institutions are big, employ lots of people and have a big impact on society &hellip; a good manager is the greatest bargain in the world,&rdquo; Hadley said in an email.</p> <p>Hadley estimated that in Los Angeles Unified, which has a 2012-13 budget of about $6 billion, even a &ldquo;1 percent difference in how well that budget is spent &hellip; is arguably worth $60 million to the LAUSD.&rdquo;</p> <p>Good superintendents &ldquo;are worth their weight in gold,&rdquo; Hadley said. &ldquo;And bad ones are consuming valuable resources and delivering inferior educational outcomes even if you pay them zero.&rdquo;</p> <p>Robert Haley, superintendent at the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District &ndash; which, like South Monterey, is among California&rsquo;s bottom 12 districts &ndash; doesn&rsquo;t find anything wrong with pay raises. Haley, who came on board in July 2011, when the salary was $177,043, chose to accept $140,000, &ldquo;as I knew the fiscal state of the district.&rdquo; He is now getting $147,500.</p> <p>&ldquo;While $175,000 may seem like a high salary, and it is, perhaps it would give some context to see how many state employees in the Department of Corrections or working for the Legislature make far in excess of that without the same responsibility and risk,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p><strong>Administrators&rsquo; pay outpaces teachers&rsquo;</strong></p> <p>Salaries for school administrators started to rise significantly in the flush early 2000s. At the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District, for example, administrators saw their compensation soar by as much as 74.5 percent between June 2001, when teachers began a 10-day strike over pay, and July 2006, according to the California Teachers Association.</p> <p>Teachers received a 2 percent pay increase during the same period. For Melanie Driver, president of the local teachers association, the relatively meager increase for teachers compared with the substantial raise for administrators is unfair.</p> <p>&ldquo;Things got out of whack,&rdquo; Driver said. &ldquo;As long as I can remember, administrators&#39; salaries have been higher in proportion than teachers&#39; salaries.&rdquo;</p> <p>Fairfield-Suisun&nbsp;Superintendent Jacki Cottingim-Dias defended her pay of $321,266, counting a $15,850 giveback. She has donated $23,650 back to the district in the past two years.</p> <p>&ldquo;My job is not anything like a teacher&rsquo;s,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;My job is more like the CEO of a corporation with 1,200 employees and a $75 to $80 million operating budget each year.</p> <p>&ldquo;My basic work day is 10 hours &ndash; that&rsquo;s a good day. Usually, I work between 12 and 16, 17, 18 hours on board meeting nights. I&rsquo;m on call 24/7. For example, (in September) I have community events Saturdays and Sundays and am expected to be there as a community leader. And I work roughly seven and a half weeks longer than a teaching position does.&rdquo;</p> <p>Driver credits Cottingim-Dias for rekindling trust between the administration and teachers. Still, it&rsquo;s difficult to take back a raise once it&rsquo;s been awarded, Driver said, adding that a disparity remains.</p> <p>Salary obligations leave districts with little wiggle room to devote money to other needs, a situation growing more pronounced as the state slashes the money it provides districts.</p> <p>&ldquo;Wages and benefits account for 86 percent of the total budget in a typical healthy school district,&rdquo; said Paso Robles board trustee Field Gibson. &ldquo;In our district, that had gotten to be a little over 91 percent. But a school district is not in the position to materially reduce that level of expenditure without the agreement of the unions and labor bargaining units.&rdquo;</p> <p>Higher salaries mean higher retirement contributions and pensions, adding additional financial burdens for districts.</p> <p>Districts also have made big payouts when superintendents are changed. Walnut Valley Unified School District in Los Angeles County paid a total of $474,163 for its superintendents in 2010-11, buying out the contract of Cyndy Simms for $342,944 and giving incoming chief Dean Conklin $131,219.&nbsp;</p> <p>Izumi, with the Pacific Research Institute, noted that a recent Sacramento County grand jury report found that the Sacramento city school district had an annual budget of $366 million and an unfunded retiree health benefit obligation of $560 million.</p> <p>&ldquo;As bad as the salaries of top administrators might be, the real threat to district solvency is the unfunded liability that many of them face due to unfunded health benefits for retired teachers,&rdquo; Izumi said.</p> <p>The California State Teachers&rsquo; Retirement System has a long-term unfunded liability of about $64.5 billion.</p> <p><strong>State administrators&rsquo; salaries</strong></p> <p>While school district boards typically set salary levels, the state takes that over when it assumes control, at least for the superintendent&rsquo;s salary. This was the case at South Monterey County when Bernard, the state administrator, came aboard.</p> <p>Bernard soon concluded that the district, which had discovered a huge accounting error that left it with a deficit of $4.5 million, was dysfunctional and that the task of restoring its fiscal health amounted to a &ldquo;daunting task,&rdquo; according to Department of Education spokeswoman Pam Slater.</p> <p>The state later instructed the district to increase Bernard&rsquo;s pay from about $177,000 to $201,606. &ldquo;Once the severity of the problems came to light,&rdquo; Slater said, the state and Bernard &ldquo;believed the additional compensation was appropriate.&rdquo;</p> <p>In fact, the state Fiscal Crisis &amp; Management Assistance Team found that the district had begun struggling financially as far back as 2002, partly due to &ldquo;inconsistent leadership&rdquo; and &ldquo;ineffective governance.&rdquo;</p> <p>The state continues to monitor such situations closely, said Paul Hefner, communications director of the Department of Education.</p> <p>When asked if a district deep in red ink should be forced to pay a salary boost, Hefner said: &ldquo;The severity of the situation made additional compensation necessary and appropriateand, despite the costs involved, created the best chance for the district to put itself back on solid financial ground.&rdquo;</p> <p>Mike Foster, president of the South Monterey board of education, did not respond to email inquiries.</p> <p>New administrator Moirao said the state administrator has a tough job, requiring that he or she go it alone, often without support from the district board.</p> <p>&ldquo;They must make decisions,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;that are not very popular.&rdquo;</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="828" scrolling="no" src="" width="620"></iframe></p> <p><em>**Benefits not included</em></p> <p><em>(a) Superintendent left in September; received partial pay of $48,183. New superintendent will make $194,443 for remainder of the school year.</em></p> <p><em>(b) $15,850 donated back to district</em></p> <p><em>(c) Retiring Jan. 31, 2013, and will receive $163,266</em></p> <p><em>(d) 2011-12 salary; latest available</em></p> </div> </div> </div> K–12 Wed, 23 Jan 2013 08:05:03 +0000 18791 at 'Parent trigger' strikes again in California <div class="field field-type-userreference field-field-authors"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <span class="author vcard"><a href="/user/natasha-lindstrom" title="View user profile." class="fn">Natasha Lindstrom</a></span> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-insert" style="width: 304px;"><img alt="" class="imagecache-image-insert" parent="" src="/files/imagecache/image-insert/24th St Mtg 11.JPG" title="The 24th Street Parent Union members have been working since for months to collect signatures for a " /> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit">Courtesy of Parent Revolution</span> <span class="image-insert-description"> The 24th Street Parent Union members have been working since for months to collect signatures for a &quot;parent trigger.&quot;&nbsp;</span></p> <p>LOS ANGELES &ndash; The first time Amabilia Villeda tried to fix her children&rsquo;s school, she joined several dozen fellow parents and teachers in a protest outside <a href=";piid=&amp;vpid=1327494456903">24th Street Elementary</a>.</p> <p>That was three years ago. Villeda and the rest of the loosely organized group believed the struggling school just a few miles west of downtown Los Angeles needed a jolt. They collected a couple hundred signatures from parents and community members who decided the first step toward improving the abysmal test scores and poor campus climate should be to oust the principal, Villeda recalled.</p> <p>But they didn&rsquo;t make much of an impact. None of the school or district officials really seemed to notice, Villeda said, and the effort folded quietly.</p> <p>The 41-year-old mother of three expects Thursday to be different. That&rsquo;s because she and fellow parents have formed their own union, spurred to action by California&rsquo;s so-called &ldquo;parent trigger&rdquo; law and the well-funded education advocacy group <a href="">Parent Revolution</a>.</p> <p>&ldquo;We have the opportunity to make a change at this school because now we have the right support to do it,&rdquo; Villeda said in Spanish. &ldquo;They weren&rsquo;t listening to us before, and with the law, now they&rsquo;re listening.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="">California&rsquo;s Parent Empowerment Act of 2010</a>, known as the &ldquo;parent trigger,&rdquo; enables parents to organize and force major overhauls of underperforming schools, from replacing the principal and half the staff to shutting the schools down altogether. The legislation &ndash; now enacted in various forms in seven states and <a href="">up for consideration in some 20 others</a>&nbsp;&ndash;&nbsp;requires petitioners to secure signatures from parents representing at least 50 percent of students at an eligible school.</p> <div id="caw-inset-1-placeholder">&nbsp;</div> <p>After two months of canvassing the neighborhood, running phone banks and soliciting parents at a table outside campus, the 24th Street Parent Union leaders believe they have collected about 65 percent of the signatures they need, representing more than 300 parents, said Derrick Everett of the Los Angeles-based Parent Revolution. The school has about 685 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.</p> <p>On Thursday, the parent union plans to present its petition to officials at the <a href="">Los Angeles Unified School District</a>&nbsp;office. The petition threatens to force the school into the control of a charter operator unless parents can negotiate major changes in the way the school is run under the district. Specifically, the parents are demanding stronger leadership, better academics, safer and cleaner facilities and a new culture of high expectations.</p> <p>The 24th Street campaign is going public one week after parents at <a href="">Desert Trails Elementary</a>&nbsp;in Adelanto, Calif., celebrated the first parent trigger success in U.S. history. It took Desert Trails parents nearly two years and a bitter legal battle <a href="">to win approval for a charter-school conversion</a>.</p> <p>The first parent trigger attempt was at McKinley Elementary in Compton, about 10 miles south of 24th Street, and it ultimately <a href="">failed to advance</a>. Parent Revolution, which lobbied for the law and bankrolls interested parents, has helped drive all three campaigns, along with several others still in the early stages of organizing throughout California.</p> <p>In both Adelanto and Compton, <a href="">the trigger push proved divisive and hostile</a>, with counter-campaigns emerging against the petitions and each side accusing the other of harassment and intimidation. Proponents of the law blamed teachers union members for instigating the opposition. Opposing parents questioned the political motives of Parent Revolution, which is funded by major education policy players such as the Bill &amp; Melinda Gates and Walton Family foundations. (Disclaimer: The Bill &amp; Melinda Gates Foundation is among the <a href="">funders</a> of The Hechinger Report.)</p> <p>With one win on the books, Parent Revolution organizers say they hope this next campaign has a more cooperative flavor.</p> <p>&ldquo;As this movement progresses, the idea of parent power becomes less novel and more normal,&rdquo; said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution. &ldquo;We hope to demonstrate that parent trigger can be collaborative &ndash; teachers and district officials coming together with a kids-first agenda.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="">United Teachers Los Angeles</a>&nbsp;Elementary Vice President Juan Ramirez said his union membership isn&rsquo;t completely opposed to what the parents want and agrees that changes should be made by working together. The &ldquo;restart&rdquo; model in the parent trigger law &ndash; which could reopen 24th Street under a charter operator &ndash; might mean the school&rsquo;s teachers will lose their jobs.</p> <p>&ldquo;The concern we have is that sometimes the parents are misled, and (Parent Revolution) doesn&rsquo;t explain to them the whole issue of this parent trigger law,&rdquo; Ramirez said. &ldquo;Many teachers also feel threatened because the outside operators, they want to fix schools on their own terms, and I think that&rsquo;s where the problems start.&rdquo;</p> <p>As they recruit parents, the 24th Street petitioners cite the grim statistics: More than 80 percent of third-graders and 71 percent of fifth-graders can&rsquo;t read at grade level, and the school&rsquo;s 8 percent suspension rate is the second highest out of all elementary schools in the Los Angeles district. Last year, 24th Street scored a 667 on the state&rsquo;s Academic Performance Index, a 1,000-point scale that ranks California schools. That was 32 points lower than Desert Trails &ndash; the school that won its parent trigger push last week &ndash; and well below the state target of 800.</p> <p>&ldquo;It hasn&rsquo;t been that difficult to rally parents,&rdquo; Villeda said. &ldquo;Many parents say that if significant changes don&rsquo;t happen at this school this year, they&rsquo;re going to take their kids out.&rdquo;</p> <p>School officials acknowledge that&rsquo;s already happening, as parents vote with their feet by taking their children to the suburbs or to charter schools, including Crown Prep Academy, which shares a campus with 24th Street. The school&rsquo;s leaders cited declining enrollment as one of many problems that need tackling in a proposed plan under the <a href="">Public School Choice process, a program the Los Angeles school district launched in 2009</a>&nbsp;to turn around failing schools and open new, higher-performing ones.</p> <p><a href=";;hl=en&amp;gl=us&amp;pid=bl&amp;srcid=ADGEESg8nYXAxSMhZlHEcg7Fka6CCLdC3PFtSo06PohqjXj3fKVwQbP2NSRMqIj4eBZ2hLhv5CdoVdkYW5GqUB07GXH9TgS2SrwRzV6Wdt3cOjYtL3opPzT48kPwTLjVgFrZr6K9NdQb&amp;sig=AHIEtbTHwg0w0noJ9MXN6tyLmT6_ZkfM3Q">The 2012-13 plan for 24th Street</a>, guided by the principal with input from teachers and parents, addresses many of the school&rsquo;s major shortcomings, including stubbornly low test scores, ineffective teaching methods and student concerns about bullying and cleanliness. It also highlights some problems that start at home, such as high absenteeism and transiency rates. The plan calls for several solutions, including better systems in place to check for student understanding and promote re-teaching, more comprehensive teacher evaluations and increased parent involvement on school committees.</p> <p>But the parent union leadership says the plan doesn&rsquo;t go far enough, and argues that the process of developing it was too rushed and unclear for parents who wanted to participate. They also lament having fewer options for change after the teachers union fought to exclude outside groups from submitting plans under the Public School Choice program.</p> <p>&ldquo;That was something we fought hard for because changes should come from inside,&rdquo; Ramirez said. &ldquo;We noticed there were a lot of politics being played with the school board.&rdquo;</p> <p>Villeda said it&rsquo;s hard for her to vote with her feet because she can&rsquo;t drive. She also doesn&rsquo;t think she should have to pull her kids out of the neighborhood where she&rsquo;s lived for 15 years &ndash; though she was outraged when her third-grade daughter couldn&rsquo;t read but was still being promoted grade after grade. By fifth grade, she was reading at a third-grade level.</p> <p>Parent Laura Wade, 37, said 24th Street shouldn&rsquo;t get a pass just because it serves a low-income area &ndash; 100 percent of students there are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged. Eighty percent of its students are Hispanic and 18 percent are black. Nearly half of the students don&rsquo;t speak English at home.</p> <p>Wade, who volunteers in the classroom nearly every day, said the school is also in desperate need of greater stability and better communication among parents, teachers and administrators. Since her 5-year-old, Zarion, started kindergarten last fall, she said he&rsquo;s had 11 teachers, most of them substitutes.</p> <p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m a new parent coming into the school, and I&rsquo;m frustrated that my kid has to be exposed to numerous teachers in his first kindergarten year,&rdquo; Wade said. &ldquo;They need to put teachers in there who stay and make sure that their students learn.&rdquo;</p> <p>It&rsquo;s unclear how the L.A. school district administration and board will respond to the 24th Street trigger effort. Los Angeles <a href="">Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa</a> has been a <a href=";pageNo=1">vocal supporter of parent trigger laws</a>, but he isn&rsquo;t in charge of the district.</p> <p>The principal of 24th Street, Renee Dolberry, referred all questions to the district office. <a href=";type=d">Superintendent John Deasy</a> said he will not comment before a petition is submitted.</p> <p>Parent Revolution organizers say they&rsquo;ve learned to tweak their approach with each campaign &ndash; from how to avoid technical errors on petition forms to ensuring that the parents, not the organizers, choose the method of reform. The advocacy group officially started working with 24th Street parents in August, and rented an office space to serve as the parent union&rsquo;s headquarters. Similarly, in Adelanto, Parent Revolution rented a five-bedroom house to serve as the Desert Trails Parent Union headquarters and community center through next spring.</p> <p>The Desert Trails petitioners took some heat for having parents sign two petitions &ndash; one that called for a charter school, and one for changes under the district &ndash; but submitting only the charter-school petition. The strategy was to use the charter petition as a negotiating tactic.</p> <p>At 24th Street, parents are submitting only one petition, which calls for reopening the school under either a charter operator or a partnership model within the district. But at the same time they proceed with the trigger process, they will try to negotiate changes with the district in hopes of meeting their goals without the restart.</p> <p>&ldquo;The dual track ensures that either through open negotiations or the parent trigger process, the parents of 24th Street will have a good school for all students next fall,&rdquo; Everett said. &ldquo;This does not have to be an antagonistic process, but the parents demand a good school for their children, and they have every right to do so.&rdquo;</p> <p>The 24th Street parent union stresses that its top goal isn&rsquo;t to become a charter &ndash; though that&rsquo;s the same thing the Desert Trails parents said before going that very route.</p> <p>&ldquo;I hope charter is the last option for 24th,&rdquo; Wade said. &ldquo;I feel that the district and the teachers and us parents, we should come together to make this school the best.&rdquo;</p> <p><em>This story was produced by <a href="">The Hechinger Report</a></em><em>, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet based at Teachers College, Columbia University.</em></p> K–12 Daily Report charter schools Los Angeles Unified School District parent trigger law Wed, 16 Jan 2013 20:59:54 +0000 Natasha Lindstrom 18787 at School discipline reform groups question plans for armed security <div class="field field-type-userreference field-field-authors"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <span class="author vcard"><a href="/user/susan-ferriss" title="View user profile." class="fn">Susan Ferriss</a></span> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-insert" style="width: 304px;"><img alt="" class="imagecache-image-insert" src="/files/imagecache/image-insert/LA school police.jpg" title="Los Angeles police Sgt. Frank Preciado and Officer Wendy Reyes watch children arriving at Main Street Elementary School." /> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit">Nick Ut/Associated Press</span> <span class="image-insert-description"> Los Angeles police Sgt. Frank Preciado and Officer Wendy Reyes watch children arriving at Main Street Elementary School.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>As the White House considers proposals to allocate federal money for armed guards in schools, prominent school discipline reform groups have issued a report denouncing the idea as a misguided reaction to the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.</p> <p>&ldquo;Placing more police in schools has significant and harmful unintended consequences for young people that must be considered before agreeing to any proposal that would increase the presence of law enforcement in schools,&rdquo; says an <a href="" target="_blank">issue brief [PDF]</a> released Friday by the Advancement Project, Dignity in Schools and other organizations.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">Advancement Project</a>, founded in 1999, has offices in Washington, D.C., and California and has worked with school districts and states to adopt alternatives to suspensions and expulsions. <a href="" target="_blank">Dignity in Schools</a> also is devoted to working with districts and advocating fewer suspensions and less involvement of law enforcement in school discipline.</p> <p>The groups called on the White House and Congress, before they act, to consider how the school discipline climate changed after more police were introduced to schools in response to the Columbine shootings in Colorado nearly 15 years ago.</p> <div id="caw-inset-1-placeholder">&nbsp;</div> <p>&ldquo;We have seen what happens when (schools) ramp up police presence and other security measures in response to a shooting or other violent act. In Colorado, it resulted in more students getting arrested for minor misbehaviors, more students being pushed out of school, and a declining sense of safety in schools,&rdquo; the brief says.</p> <p>&ldquo;These unintended consequences,&rdquo; the report continues, &ldquo;are persistent and pervasive &ndash; despite efforts by parents, students, and the school district, the high arrest rates and racial disparities that resulted from increased police presence and zero tolerance policies still exist.&rdquo;</p> <p>Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading a White House effort on gun control and school safety, is reportedly interested in the idea of allocating federal money to schools that wish to have armed guard protection, according to a recent <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> by The Washington Post.</p> <p>The idea is being championed by one of Congress&rsquo; most ardent liberals, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who told The Postthat Biden is &ldquo;very, very interested&rdquo; in a plan she presented to finance the deployment of police at schools.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see why anyone should object to it, left or right,&rdquo; Boxer told The Post. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s an area where I think I can find common ground with my colleagues on all sides.&rdquo;</p> <p>Biden has met with a number of groups this week in his role as leader of the post-Newtown effort &ndash; among them the National Rifle Association.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">NRA</a>, under scrutiny for its intense efforts to preserve gun ownership liberties, has suggested that schools consider training and arming teachers or other appointed staff inside schools. The NRA has <a href="" target="_blank">offered</a> to pay for and provide training.</p> <p>&ldquo;If we truly cherish our kids more than our money or our celebrities, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained &ndash; armed &ndash; good guy,&rdquo; NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at a press conference explaining the group&rsquo;s recommendations.</p> <p>LaPierre also urged Congress to appropriate &ldquo;whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school.&rdquo;</p> <p>But in its brief, the Advancement Project, whose ideas have gained traction recently in Washington, reacted with dismay to both the NRA and Boxer&rsquo;s recommendations.</p> <p>Following the Newtown killings, Boxer also proposed placing the National Guard in schools.</p> <p>&ldquo;We object to using the limited resources of the federal government to expand the presence of police in schools,&rdquo; the Advancement Project brief says. &ldquo;More specifically, we oppose the legislation offered late last Congress by Senator Barbara Boxer to facilitate the installation of National Guard troops in U.S. schools. We cannot support any such actions that have not been shown to make schools safer and instead can lead to terrifying, fatal mistakes.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Advancement Project report cites specific examples of students ticketed or arrested for minor infractions in various cities with a beefed-up school police presence, including Denver, New York and Los Angeles, as reported by the Center for Public Integrity in a <a href="" target="_blank">series</a> of recent stories.</p> <p>In Denver, where parent-led reforms now are aiming to reverse harsh discipline practices, schools saw a 71 percent jump in referrals of students to police or courts between 2000 and 2004. Most referrals, the brief notes, were for minor infractions such as using obscenities, disruptive appearance and destruction of non-school property.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;Serious conduct, like carrying a dangerous weapon to school, accounted for only 7% of the referrals,&rdquo; the report says.</p> <p>The Obama administration has noticed these patterns, the report says, and has taken action to encourage or require schools to adopt alternatives to suspensions and involvement of law enforcement in discipline matters.</p> <p>On Dec. 12, Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis testified at the first congressional <a href="" target="_blank">hearing</a> on the so-called &ldquo;school-to-prison pipeline.&rdquo; That&rsquo;s a term coined by groups arguing that the involvement of police in what should be school disciplinary matters is putting some students, especially&nbsp;low-income minorities, on a path to more serious trouble.</p> K–12 Money and Politics Daily Report campus police guns police school discipline schools shooting Tue, 15 Jan 2013 16:03:52 +0000 Susan Ferriss 18784 at LA school police still ticketing thousands of young students <div class="field field-type-userreference field-field-authors"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <span class="author vcard"><a href="/user/susan-ferriss" title="View user profile." class="fn">Susan Ferriss</a></span> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-insert" style="width: 304px;"><img alt="" class="imagecache-image-insert" src="/files/imagecache/image-insert/studentprotest.jpeg" title="L.A. city councilman Tony Cardenas and L.A. Unified board member Monica Garcia join students protesting citations in February." /> <span class="image-insert-photo-credit">Tami Abdollah/KPCC</span> <span class="image-insert-description"> L.A. city councilman Tony Cardenas and L.A. Unified board member Monica Garcia join students protesting citations in February.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Even as Los Angeles authorities continue efforts to reform school-discipline standards, fresh data show that police from the city&rsquo;s biggest school district are continuing to ticket thousands of young students, especially minorities, at disproportionate rates that critics charge are putting them on a track for dropping out.</p> <p>Citation rates for last year are little changed from 2011 data. Disclosure of the 2011 data this past spring led to&nbsp;<a href="">federal civil rights scrutiny</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="">promises</a>&nbsp;that policies at the Los Angeles Unified School District would be reviewed, and likely changed.</p> <p>In 2011, children 14 or younger in the school district, the area&rsquo;s biggest, were issued 43 percent of the nearly 10,200 tickets school police handed out to students for fighting, daytime curfew violations and other minor infractions &ndash; indiscretions that community groups and judges have maintained might better be handled by school officials or referred directly to community-based counseling.</p> <p>But during the first six months of 2012, even as local juvenile judges&rsquo; skepticism about ticketing grew, the share of younger students issued citations increased &ndash; to about 48 percent of approximately 4,000 tickets issued, according to a review of the data by the Center for Public Integrity.</p> <div id="caw-inset-1-placeholder">&nbsp;</div> <p>Critics concede there has been some progress. Data from September and October reveal district school police officers issued fewer daytime curfew tickets than a year before &ndash; the result of&nbsp;<a href="">new rules</a>&nbsp;adopted last February that stopped&nbsp;<a href="">police &ldquo;sweeps&rdquo; ticketing kids</a>&nbsp;as they arrived to school,&nbsp;<a href="">even a few minutes late.</a>&nbsp;But records also show that during these two months, school police still wrote up more than 1,000 citations to students mostly for other infractions, including disturbing-the-peace allegations and suspected marijuana smoking.</p> <p>Since last school year, community and parent representatives have met occasionally with school police officials to discuss their concerns about police involvement in discipline matters. Some school administrators also say they&rsquo;d like to see clarification as to when an incident merits police officers citing &ndash; or arresting &ndash; students. L.A. Unified&rsquo;s school police force is the nation&rsquo;s biggest such agency, with about 350 sworn officers and 125 school safety officers.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think you have to save (police action) for really egregious things, like assault,&rdquo; said Jorge Cortez, the principal at Judith Baca Arts Academy, a Los Angeles Unified elementary school.</p> <p>Cortez told the Center that a mom&rsquo;s complaint last April led to school police issuing tickets to two African-American first-graders who had gotten into a pushing match at his school. The mother of one child called 911, Cortez said.</p> <p>Sheriff&rsquo;s deputies declined to get involved, Cortez said. School police officers responded and issued &ldquo;disturbing the peace&rdquo; tickets for &ldquo;mutual fighting&rdquo; to the 6- and 7-year-old boys. The citations were referred to the Los Angeles County Probation Department.</p> <p>L.A. Unified School Police Chief Steven Zipperman called citations of children as young as 6 &ldquo;an anomaly.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;When we take a look at citing any student or arresting anybody for a crime,&rdquo; the chief said, &ldquo;it is all going to be based on whether they have the knowledge of whether what they were doing is right or wrong.&rdquo;</p> <p>Records show that in September and October, tickets were issued to children as young as 10 years old. They also show that 13-year-olds were cited more often than 14-year-olds, or 17-year-olds. Zipperman explained that kids in the middle-school age group are &ldquo;probably one of our largest populations (involved)&nbsp;in a fighting-type activity.&rdquo;</p> <p>The chief said he and district officials are continuing to discuss standards for when officers should refer cases back to administrators, rather than issuing tickets &ndash; especially for incidents like fighting. Zipperman said he still believes, however, that school police officers need to have the discretion to make decisions on a &ldquo;case-by-case basis.&rdquo;</p> <p>Additional findings from September-October school police data show:</p> <ul> <li>A 10-year-old African-American child was ticketed in September for trespassing at Menlo Avenue Elementary School.</li> <li>At the Bret Harte Preparatory Middle School, seven African-American students between 11 and 13 were given disturbing-the-peace citations by police for fighting, also in September.</li> <li>Black students were ticketed at twice the rate of their percentage of school population.&nbsp;</li> </ul> <p>District officials did not respond to inquiries about these and other specific incidents, but issued a statement that the school police force &ldquo;has not, and will not, engage in any form of biased or discriminatory enforcement activities.&rdquo;</p> <p>The statement says the district &ldquo;will continue to work with our internal and external stakeholders to identify and evaluate non-penal alternatives to various minor violations.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Partnership for reform</strong></p> <p>But concerns remain. Los Angeles Delinquency Court Judge Donna Quigley Groman, in an interview, noted that &ldquo;if the approach was the same now when we went to school, a lot of us wouldn&rsquo;t be where we are now.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>Groman credits Zipperman with a&nbsp;<a href="">positive response</a>&nbsp;to concerns about the role of school police, who are critical to student and staff safety. Both the judge and the chief have joined a reform &ldquo;partnership&rdquo; that first met in September in the wake of <a href="">protests over police intervention</a>&nbsp;in discipline matters and&nbsp;<a href="">Center</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="">Southern California Public Radio&nbsp;</a>stories analyzing previously undisclosed police citation records.</p> <p>The school-based Arrest Reform Partnership is attempting to negotiate a protocol for when it&rsquo;s appropriate for police to arrest students in situations that don&rsquo;t necessarily require it. The talks include representatives of L.A. Unified and its school police force; the city of Los Angeles&rsquo; police department; and the L.A. County&rsquo;s sheriff&rsquo;s department, probation department, district attorney&rsquo;s office, public defender&rsquo;s office, and parents and civil rights groups.</p> <p>Three meetings have taken place, and one is planned for this month. The first goal is to reach consensus on which offenses might be candidates for an alternative series of responses before resorting to arrest. Such steps could include written warnings and referrals to counseling, said Ruth Cusick, an attorney with <a href="">Public Counsel</a>, a pro bono law firm in Los Angeles.</p> <p>Cusick said the partnership also would like to bring in a representative of United Teachers of Los Angeles, a union representing district teachers. A union representative said the group hasn&rsquo;t heard from Public Counsel yet.</p> <p>The meetings come on the heels of other changes that occurred last year, when L.A. Unified struck an agreement with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Education to reduce suspensions of black students, especially.</p> <p>The district is pressing all its schools to start practicing &ldquo;positive behavioral&rdquo; support methods that emphasize frequent praise to help engage students in school. Some schools have started peer &ldquo;courts&rdquo; to sort out disputes, as well as referrals to community-based counseling.</p> <p>&ldquo;Citations, we need them in there, but we also need to educate our kids as well,&rdquo; said Earl Perkins, L.A. Unified&rsquo;s assistant superintendent of school operations.</p> <p><strong>Positive change, but complaints remain</strong></p> <p>The efforts to set new standards for police action are a function of both a desire for clarity and new fiscal realities.</p> <p>This summer, budget cuts led to the closure of low-level juvenile courts in Los Angeles County, which had adjudicated cases involving ticketed students. Children were obliged, ironically, to miss school to go to court with parents so they could answer to truancy or other offenses that carried fines. If they hid a ticket from parents and skipped going to court &ndash; as many did &shy;&ndash; the result was a misdemeanor record.</p> <p>With those courts now closed, all initial citations for daytime curfew violations are now referred back to schools, or to one of a new series of L.A. community centers with after-school counseling options.</p> <p>All other types of tickets are going to probation officials, who decide on a course of action. Hopefully, probation officials say, most of the kids currently referred to them will resolve their problems by successfully completing mandated counseling services, sometimes with their families.</p> <p>Children who are arrested or whose offenses are judged more serious still face higher-level delinquency court.</p> <p>Groman said she&rsquo;s been troubled to see kids as young as 11 referred to her court when they&rsquo;re charged with criminal offenses at school.</p> <p>Recalling her own youth, Groman related a story of scaring a teacher by running around a classroom with a scissors. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know how to express myself any better,&rdquo; Groman said. &ldquo;But would I be where I am today if the school had expelled me for being in possession of a weapon? I highly doubt it.&rdquo;</p> <p>Similar concerns were aired nationally Dec. 12 at the first congressional hearing on the&nbsp;<a href="">&ldquo;school to prison pipeline,&rdquo;</a>&nbsp;and the impact of&nbsp;<a href="">zero-tolerance discipline</a>&nbsp;policies. It was held before the Senate Judiciary Committee&rsquo;s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.</p> <p>Schools have increasingly become &ldquo;a gateway&rdquo; to the criminal justice system, said Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who presided over the hearing.</p> <p>Federal justice and education officials testified that research clearly shows that placing students in the criminal justice system for relatively minor offenses only increases their risk of dropping out and going on to more trouble.</p> <p>Within the Los Angeles district, some schools are struggling with dropout rates higher than 50 percent.</p> <p>Some community activists would like to see an age limit on kids who could be issued police citations, or a civilian review board to monitor school police.</p> <p>Hostile contact with school police can have a very profound impact on kids, said <a href="">Manuel Criollo</a>, an organizer with the Labor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles, which led the charge to rein in daytime curfew sweeps around inner-city Los Angeles schools.</p> <p>Many students are struggling in school or at home, Criollo said. Even those who are doing well, he said, get discouraged if police treat them as potential troublemakers.</p> <p>The Strategy Center helped file complaints with Zipperman on behalf of two boys who were stopped by officers near their school, minutes late, and were searched, handcuffed and allegedly intimidated inside a squad car before officers took them into school and wrote them curfew tickets. The complaints,&nbsp;<a href="">reported by the Center</a>&nbsp;earlier this year, are still under review, Strategy Center lawyer Zoe Rawson and police said.</p> <p><strong>The national picture</strong></p> <p>U.S. schools have only recently been required to disclose ticket and arrest numbers to the U.S. Department of Education&rsquo;s Office for Civil Rights, which is trying to measure the extent of student referrals to police and courts.</p> <p>L.A. Unified, along with other districts, failed to submit its data last year. District officials explained that calculating referrals is daunting because multiple police agencies operate in the L.A. district.</p> <p>But records reviewed by the Center suggest that L.A. Unified&rsquo;s school force, which by far has the most contact with students, tickets them at higher rates than police assigned to New York City&rsquo;s schools. With about 1 million students, New York&rsquo;s system is the only U.S. school district bigger than L.A. Unified, which has fewer than 700,000 students.</p> <p>The American Civil Liberties Union &ndash; which is&nbsp;<a href="">suing New York City police</a>&nbsp;for alleged excessive force in schools &ndash; regularly obtains and reviews quarterly figures for that district&rsquo;s school-based citations and arrests.</p> <p>During the 2011-2012 academic year, the&nbsp;<a href="">ACLU recently said</a>, New York police issued 1,666 citations to students. By comparison, L.A. Unified school police issued more than 1,000 tickets in September and October of this year alone.</p> <p>New York police made 882 arrests in schools during the 2011-2012 academic year. L.A. school police made 4,333 arrests over the course of three calendar years, from 2009 through 2011, according to data that the Center for Public Integrity reviewed.</p> <p>More than 1,960, or 45 percent, of the Los Angeles arrests were of students 14 or younger.</p> <p>The single biggest type of offense for which L.A. students were arrested was battery, including battery on school staff and police officers, said Cusick of Public Counsel. She said it is not uncommon for students to become emotional and struggle if they are grabbed during an encounter with police. First-time battery incidents, with no serious injury involved, Cusick said, are among the offenses that authorities could consider putting on a list for referral to prompt professional counseling rather than to court. &nbsp;</p> <p>For Groman, the case of an 11-year-old accused of battery on a teacher sums up flaws in the current court-referral system.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t condone any kind of physical violence against a teacher,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;However, to send an 11-year-old boy to juvenile court, where he&rsquo;s sitting in the waiting room with many more sophisticated youth, gang-related youth, it&rsquo;s just not the place for an 11-year-old.&rdquo;</p> <p>Like many kids, Groman added, the 11-year-old&rsquo;s day in court did not take place until 60 days after the incident &ndash; too late for a child to effectively make a connection to what he or she did two months ago.</p> <p>&ldquo;This young boy needed some therapy,&rdquo; Groman said. &ldquo;The family needed some counseling. Yet none of that was done because the case, instead of being handled at the school level, was referred to the juvenile justice system, which does not move very fast at all.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Alternative ideas</strong></p> <p>In September, justice authorities from Clayton County, Ga., traveled to Los Angeles to talk to Groman and others about a protocol they follow for referring students to court. Clayton County has emerged as a model for reformers.</p> <p>Until firm standards were set, Clayton County Chief Juvenile Court Judge Steven Teske said, more than 90 percent of referrals to his court came from schools.</p> <p>Lt. Francisco Romero, former Clayton County school resource officer, accompanied Teske to L.A. Romero told the Center that he supported instituting a protocol after realizing that he had arrested more students than any other officer in his county during one period of time.</p> <p>&ldquo;I never had any positive engagement with the kids,&rdquo; Romero said. &ldquo;All they saw me as was an arresting machine,&rdquo;</p> <p>Some school staff resisted a formal protocol at first. But ultimately, Romero said, schools accepted it, and Romero found he could focus on serious crimes. Kids grew to trust him. Teske testified at the recent congressional hearing that the protocol helped drive up graduation rates and reduce felonies.</p> <p>Zipperman said that in Los Angeles, the citations his officers write don&rsquo;t always lead to &ldquo;punitive&rdquo; action against a student. For many, he said, it&rsquo;s a path to getting the counseling they need.</p> <p>Hellen Carter, juvenile field services chief of the Los Angeles County Probation Department, praised Zipperman as a &ldquo;tremendous problem solver.&rdquo; But she said it still takes weeks to get kids processed and into counseling, which isn&rsquo;t ideal. Schools could accomplish a lot more, she said, with more &ldquo;teen courts&rdquo; and mediation on campus. And school staff could benefit, she said, from training to distinguish between what is a serious incident and what is not. &nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;We know that kids are going to do some dumb things,&rdquo; Carter said. &ldquo;And we want to give them the opportunity to make amends for what they&rsquo;ve done, learn from what they&rsquo;ve done, but also not put them in a position where it can literally destroy their future.&rdquo;</p> <p><em>Center for Public Integrity data editor David Donald contributed to this report.</em></p> K–12 Daily Report citations Los Angeles Unified School District police student Fri, 04 Jan 2013 02:17:54 +0000 Susan Ferriss 18780 at