Welcome to Essential Education, our daily look at education in California and beyond. Here's the latest:
- Friends and foes of L.A. school board president Ref Rodriguez are puzzled about why he allegedly engaged in a campaign money-laundering scheme when he could have simply written himself a check.
- Nine people were arrested as conservative writer Ben Shapiro visited UC Berkeley; hundreds of law enforcement officers, many in riot gear, prepared for violence but no major skirmishes were reported.
The California State University system faces difficult problems that don’t seem likely to disappear soon. The state covers a smaller proportion of CSU costs than it used to, and the number of students who want to attend keeps growing — with demand particularly high for certain popular campuses and programs.
The trustees of the nation’s largest public university system will be discussing how to make progress on both fronts when they meet in Long Beach, starting Tuesday.
In and around Los Angeles:
- When should the school year start and end? L.A. Unified wants to know what you think.
- Cal State is teaming up with Univision this weekend to host a free festival focused on showing young Latinos and their families the educational resources and opportunities available to them.
- UC Irvine's record-breaking $200 million donation aims to embed integrative health approaches in research, teaching and patient care.
- We still don't know when California's standardized test scores from the last school year will be released to the public.
One couple’s passion for integrative health has led to the largest donation ever made to UC Irvine. On Monday, UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman announced that the Samuelis have donated $200 million to launch what he billed as the nation’s first university-wide enterprise to embed integrative health approaches in research, teaching and patient care.
“The human body is a very complex and highly interconnected system. Therefore our healthcare needs to be looked at through a more holistic lens,” Henry Samueli, who also owns the Anaheim Ducks, said in remarks at UC Irvine. “Our genetics, our surrounding environment, our nutrition, our physical activity and our mental state all play critical roles in our well-being.”
We previously reported that the public release of California's standardized test scores from last school year had been delayed indefinitely.
Schools and parents got scores back this summer. At issue are the overall results for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress.
The results were first scheduled to be released on Aug. 29, but the California Department of Education said that it needed to fix a glitch first. About 25,000 special education students' scores had wound up included in the wrong districts.
That was three weeks ago.
First, officials said they were working to have the results ready for last week's State Board of Education meeting. Then, the target date became this week. As of Monday, California Department of Education spokesperson Bill Ainsworth said, "It's just taking longer to put everything together than we expected." The priority, he said, was making sure all the information is accurate. There is no firm date for release, but the scores won't come out this week, he said.
In and around Los Angeles:
- Some of Ref Rodriguez's friends and foes are confused by the school board president's involvement in what investigators call a campaign money-laundering scheme.
- A local law school is helping "Dreamers" apply to renew their DACA status before the Oct. 5 deadline set by the Trump administration.
- UC Berkeley administrators say the organizers of a controversial far-right festival missed the deadline for reserving two major event spaces on campus.
- California's legislature didn't pass a bill that would have made middle schools and high schools start a little later in the morning.
UC Berkeley officials said Saturday that organizers of a far-right speakers’ series scheduled for later this month have missed the deadline to reserve two of the largest indoor venues on campus for the event, but that they will continue to work with organizers on planning for the festival.
“The university cannot defend spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide security arrangements for events” based on the press releases of organizers, Dan Mogulof, assistant vice chancellor of the university’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs, said in a statement.
When news broke that Los Angeles school board President Ref Rodriguez was caught up in a criminal case over his campaign contributions, friends and foes alike were baffled.
Rodriguez, who won his school board seat in 2015, legally could have poured as much of his own money as he liked into his upstart campaign. So why would he, as prosecutors claim, have arranged for others to donate and then use his funds to illegally pay them back?
A teacher at the elite Brentwood School was charged Friday with repeatedly having unlawful sex with a 16-year-old male student this summer, prosecutors said.
Aimee Palmitessa, 45, who worked for nine years at the private school, was arrested Aug. 18 after the teen reported the alleged assaults to authorities, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said. She was released on bail hours afterward.
A state pharmacy inspector made a surprising discovery last year while conducting a routine records review at a Westside facility that compounded drugs for patients at UCLA medical centers.
More than 1,000 IV bags of sterile medications for heart patients and others with serious health issues had been made with expired and potentially dangerous ingredients, according to state Board of Pharmacy records.
In and around Los Angeles:
- L.A. Unified school board members and charter school advocates said they got no warning about Ref Rodriguez's legal troubles before the news broke Wednesday.
- L.A. Unified agreed to pour $151 million into 50 schools in a settlement over whether the district appropriately spends money earmarked for English learners, students from low-income families and students in the foster-care system.
- Some UC Berkeley professors are calling for a shutdown of classes and activities when conservative speakers visit campus during "Free Speech Week."
- Nine people were arrested in protests at UC Berkeley over conservative writer Ben Shapiro's visit.
- The State Board of Education approved and submitted California's plan for satisfying the Every Student Succeeds Act, but some say the document lacks urgency on equity.
Hundreds of protesters swarmed UC Berkeley on Thursday evening as conservative writer Ben Shapiro spoke on campus, with law enforcement out in force to prevent a repeat of recent violent clashes between far-left and far-right agitators.
Nine people were arrested, four of them on charges of carrying banned weapons. One was held on suspicion of battery on a police officer. Hundreds of law enforcement officers, many in riot gear, prepared for violence and seized potential weapons, but no major skirmishes were reported. Several shouting matches erupted but ended peacefully.
The California State Board of Education had been focused for hours on how to meet requirements to help its lowest performing schools and districts.
But after long, jargon-laden discussions about “building capacity” and “creating new systems,” board member Feliza Ortiz-Licon took a step back and apologized to civil rights groups.
More than 200 UC Berkeley instructors and faculty members are calling for a shutdown of classes and activities when right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and other conservative speakers visit campus this month.
In a letter sent to the campus community this week, the faculty members said that a boycott of Yiannopoulos’ “Free Speech Week” would protect their students from potentially deadly violence. The letter cited shootings, stabbings and beatings during confrontations between the right and left in Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Charlottesville, Va.; Maryland and Virginia.
Charter school advocates in Los Angeles had been having a great year. With millions of dollars at their disposal, they had won their first majority on the school board and installed a pro-charter board president, Ref Rodriguez.
They had ambitious plans for the future and they had the leadership of Rodriguez, a figure in the national education reform movement.
Then, on Wednesday, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged Rodriguez with three felonies in a 14-page criminal complaint.
No one — not district or charter school leaders or his fellow board members — said they knew it was coming before the news broke.
The Los Angeles Unified School District will pour $151 million into a group of 50 schools to settle a lawsuit over how the school system spends money intended for some of its neediest students.
The funds, to be distributed over three years, will go to schools in low-income neighborhoods, mostly in South and East Los Angeles, and will pay for such efforts as increased tutoring, mental health support, counseling, parent participation and restorative justice.
The extra help is supposed to benefit three groups of students: those from low-income families, English learners and those in the foster-care system.
Districts receive extra funding from the state to benefit those students. In L.A. Unified, where most students fall into at least one of those categories, the targeted money adds up to more than $1 billion annually.
Nearly all of the students at the 50 campuses named in the settlement are in these targeted groups.
To see what free speech looks like in 2017 at the birthplace of the famed movement, consider the elaborate preparations underway for a talk Thursday by a conservative writer.
Ben Shapiro isn’t nearly as controversial as some right-wing speakers who have roiled the campus over the last year.
Nonetheless, UC Berkeley has told students that counseling is available to those stressed by all the commotion. A large swath of the campus will be closed off, including the plaza where the free speech movement began in the 1960s. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on security, and police can now use pepper spray on protesters after a 20-year-old ban was lifted by the City Council this week. Shapiro’s appearance is a key test for Berkeley.
UC Berkeley, home of the free speech movement, has become the nation’s most prominent stage for violent confrontations between the left and the right. This month, conservative speakers Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon all are expected to visit Berkeley, and the campus is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in security costs to prevent violence.
Chancellor Carol T. Christ, who has more than three decades of teaching and administrative experience at Berkeley and also served as president of Smith College, said a “combustible mix” of changing youth sensibilities, political polarization and the choice of university campuses as battlegrounds has made protecting free speech more fraught than ever. She spoke with The Times on Wednesday in San Diego, during a break in the UC regents meeting.
UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman apologized Wednesday for the “unacceptable distress” caused to students after the campus abruptly rescinded nearly 500 admission offers this summer, and pledged the mistakes would not recur.
Gillman, speaking at the University of California regents meeting, said he could not fully explain what went wrong or craft a corrective plan until an internal audit is completed in the next month. The campus has readmitted all but about 50 students, he said.
In and around Los Angeles:
- L.A. Unified board president Ref Rodriguez faces felony charges over campaign contributions.
- The district settled its lawsuits with fired teacher Rafe Esquith.
- Some Burbank Unified high school students are protesting the dress code, saying that it's sexist against girls.
- California State University's chancellor flew to Washington this week to protect DACA.
California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White, who flew to Washington, D.C., this week to speak out against President Trump's decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, said he was "cautiously optimistic" that Congress will find a way to preserve the program that protects nearly 800,000 young immigrants.
In back-to-back meetings with Republicans and Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) and U.S. Department of Education undersecretary James Manning, the chancellor made his case for the more than 8,000 students without legal status at Cal State, the nation’s largest public university system.
“Folks were empathetic and impressed with how many of our students are involved in the DACA program, how important it is, and how the uncertainty around the possibility of the program going away is debilitating to our students,” White said in an interview Wednesday. “I think there's a will to get something done. There are some who think it might get done in the next handful of weeks and others who think it might take another calendar year. Politics is politics, but I'm cautiously optimistic that there's a permanent, workable legislative solution that's in the mix now."
White’s efforts are part of a larger push by education officials and California state leaders to push back against the Trump administration's call for expanded immigration enforcement and deportation orders.
Trump’s decision to phase out DACA sparked nationwide protests and objections from lawmakers across the political spectrum.
UC President Janet Napolitano sued the Trump administration — the first legal effort by a university to block the decision.
Dozens of higher education groups, such as the American Council on Education, have called on congressional leaders to pass legislation that protects “Dreamers.”
“These bright and talented young people are working, serving in the armed services, or studying at colleges and universities. Because they now have work permits, they are making contributions to our society and our economy. They are paying taxes and buying cars, homes and consumer goods, which generates economic activity and increases tax revenue for federal, state and local governments,” ACE President Ted Mitchell wrote in a letter to Congress this week. "Colleges and universities have seen these remarkable people up close, in our classrooms and as our colleagues and friends. Despite the challenges they face, they have made an incredible mark on our country and economy. They should continue to be able to do so.”
In California, Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislative leaders this week agreed to earmark $30 million for financial aid and legal services to help DACA recipients — $10 million allocated to supporting students at Cal State, the University of California and the community colleges. The rest would go to nonprofits that contract with the state to help people with their DACA status.
Looking ahead, White said, Cal State administrators will “double down” on making sure that all students and employees who are able to renew their DACA status have the support to do so.
The renewal fee is almost $500 and might be a financial hardship for some families, he said, and Cal State's financial aid offices at its 23 campuses are finding ways to provide additional aid. (Nonprofits such as the Mission Asset Fund are also offering scholarship funds to cover the renewal costs, which students can apply for here.)
White will also be calling on his students and staff, particularly those in districts with Republican representatives, to continue to make the case for DACA, their peers, their professors and their community.
“The more people talk about why this matters, the more we can get something done,” he said.