Welcome to Essential Education, our daily look at education in California and beyond. Here's the latest:
- The charter school network that Ref Rodriguez co-founded and ran has filed a complaint alleging that the L.A. school board member had a conflict of interest when he authorized about $285,000 in payments from school accounts.
- Michelle King is recuperating from surgery and has appointed a subordinate to run the school district in her stead.
Required paid pregnancy leave is off the table for California teachers and school employees.
On Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed AB 568, which would have required schools to give teachers six weeks of paid time off for pregnancy, childbirth, miscarriages or other reproductive health issues.
The charter school network that L.A. school board member Ref Rodriguez co-founded and ran for years has filed a complaint with state regulators alleging that Rodriguez had a conflict of interest when he authorized about $285,000 in payments drawn on its accounts.
Officials at Partnerships to Uplift Communities, or PUC Schools, filed the complaint Friday with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
Van Nuys High School classes are in session Monday morning as police investigate reports that someone threatened the school on Snapchat, authorities said. Police determined that the threat was not credible.
Around 8 p.m. Sunday, Los Angeles police received reports that there was a social media threat against the high school, said Det. Ross Nemeroff. Officers completed an initial preliminary investigation, and the matter is now being handled by the LAPD major crimes division, he said.
In and around Los Angeles:
- A USC fundraising official quit amid allegations that he sexually harassed female colleagues.
- Someone took to Snapchat to send messages threatening to "just kill everyone" at Van Nuys High School.
- A UC Davis emergency room doctor is leading an effort to find patterns that will help prevent gun violence.
- Say goodbye to California's high school exit exam.
The low-slung building in Sacramento is locked and unmarked for a reason. It’s the nerve center of the newly inaugurated University of California Firearm Violence Prevention Research Center.
The center’s 15 UC Davis researchers, along with others from UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine, plan to use a five-year, $5-million state appropriation to conduct the most extensive examination ever of gun violence — who is at risk and how to prevent it. The state dollars help fill a void created when the federal government largely stopped funding gun violence research two decades ago.
A USC administrator responsible for raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the university has left his post in the wake of allegations that he sexually harassed female colleagues, the latest blow to a campus already dealing with the arrest of an assistant basketball coach and the departures of two medical school deans accused of misconduct.
David Carrera, a university vice president who helped lead USC’s historic $6-billion fundraising campaign, is the subject of an internal university investigation in which dozens of employees have been interviewed about his treatment of women, university officials confirmed Tuesday in response to inquiries from The Times.
Enrollment has dropped even more than anticipated in the Los Angeles Unified School District, exacerbating budget problems and signaling that efforts to reverse the decline are falling short.
L.A. Unified had been expecting enrollment to shrink 2.1%, but the actual drop has been 2.55%. That small percentage difference translates to about 5,400 students, said Scott Price, chief financial officer for L.A. Unified.
Eighteen years after lawmakers agreed that California high school students should prove their skills on a final exam before earning diplomas, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday to permanently repeal the requirement.
The move comes two years after Brown and lawmakers imposed a three-year suspension of the law, which would have expired next spring. It marks the final chapter of a law that was originally promised to ensure students should be able to prove a series of basic reading and math skills before graduating.
In and around Los Angeles:
- L.A. Unified superintendent Michelle King is out on medical leave.
- The district's enrollment fell short of expectations — and fewer students means less money from the state.
- A new poll finds that most Californians support increasing state-funded financial aid.
- Nine Orange County schools were shut down because of the fire in Anaheim Hills. Officials reported at least 14 school closures across seven counties in Northern California.
- Schools in Florida are resegregating, according to UCLA research.
- One in every 10 students in the nation's largest public school system was homeless at some point last school year.
Los Angeles schools chief Michelle King is recuperating from surgery and has appointed a subordinate to run the school system in her stead.
In an email over the weekend, she told senior staff that Associate Supt. Vivian Ekchian would serve as acting superintendent “for the remainder of my absence.”
The district has not discussed King’s medical problems, but some insiders said she injured herself in an accident while on vacation with her family. Whatever the details, she was apparently suffering from severe leg pain, which ultimately required surgery, said district sources, who could not be named because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
Tina Takhmazyan, a junior at Hoover High School, grew up obsessed with ballet. Then she had an accident.
I just thought my life wasn’t exciting enough.
I read about it in books and articles, see it in documentaries and movies; people who do the impossible and get an article published or movie made in their honor. I was inspired, but not truly touched because I could never understand what it really felt like to have everything you loved ripped away from you because of something you couldn’t control. Then, I did.
I was 3 when I joined my first dance lesson. I was sticky handed, rosy-cheeked and smelled like the afternoon’s apple juice. As I ran into my ballet class for the first time, I knew I never wanted to leave.
The silky, soft pink ribbon in my hair would not sit right, but I felt special regardless. My fingers, with the remains of my peanut butter and grape jelly snack, would grab my hair and attempt to construct the chignons I saw my ballet instructor, Madame Camille, pin. They never turned out right and she would float across the room to help.
She smelled like powdery rose and black tea leaves, and the scent would linger behind and tickle my nose. She would brush my hair until it stuck straight onto my head, then twirl the hair as she held the pin between her teeth. In a movement swifter than the pirouettes we did at the barre, she placed the pin by the hair and secured the chignon. The chignon that I made just chose to flop onto my face.
I went to my lessons four days a week for ten years. I made some of my closest friends there, but greater than anything, I found something I was good at. I put every free moment I had into practicing my foot placements and becoming stronger. Then, something changed.
Alex Schapiro, a senior at CHAMPS, believes social media apps such as TBH instill narcissism in teens.
Social media applications like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter train us to use others’ opinions of ourselves in place of building our own self-image, thus, requiring constant validation from others and eliminating the possibility of complete independence.
Continuing this trend of replacing self-value with superficial comments and likes supplied by social media, a new opponent enters the ring with an innocuous appearance but claws sharp enough to make millennials susceptible to damage in their self-esteem for their whole lives.
The app is called TBH, standing for To Be Honest. It is the best example of how detrimental social media is to the self-image of kids and adolescents who have grown up with it. TBH is different from other forms of social media because it is centered around compliments and avoids negativity entirely, whereas the others are teeming with insults and even death threats.
In and around Los Angeles:
- When Ref Rodriguez ran for the L.A. school board, three janitors vouched for him in campaign mailers. They also appear on prosecutors' list of campaign donors he allegedly illegal reimbursed.
- Marlborough School, a private girls school, settled a case with Chelsea Burkett, who was abused by her English teacher.
- Meet Cal State student trustee Jorge Reyes Salinas, a Peruvian immigrant and DACA recipient who didn't understand what his lack of legal status meant until high school.
- The state has beefed up the online tools it uses to track how many high school seniors complete and submit college financial aid applications.
When Ref Rodriguez ran for his seat on the Los Angeles school board, opponents accused him of underpaying the lowest-wage workers at the charter-school group he helped found.
His supporters quickly countered with testimonials on mailers — from three of the charter schools’ janitors.
These janitors who so wholeheartedly backed their boss also are connected to the criminal case now plaguing the school board member — who has been charged with three felonies and more than two dozen misdemeanors.
My parents don’t remember exactly when they told me. But I do.
I was 8 or 9 years old. My teacher gave me a pamphlet about a school trip to Washington.
At dinner that night in my family’s Mid-City apartment, I told my parents I really wanted to go and experience my nation’s capital. At first, my mother danced around the request, focusing on how much it would cost. But eventually, she grew more serious.
“No tienes un ID para viajar, mijo.”
“You don’t have an ID to travel, son.”
I knew something was off, but I wasn’t exactly sure what.
I considered myself American, just like any other kid in my class. I learned U.S. history, bopped along to Snoop Dogg — and, of course, adored a Happy Meal. My parents had often told me I was born in Veracruz, Mexico. But until that night, I’d never given much thought to what that meant.
Knowing that I was in this country without permission from the government changed the way I lived my life — but I have tried not to let it limit me. At times, it has made me cautious and reserved; at other times, brave and ambitious. It’s a basic fact, a part of who I am.
When Jorge Reyes Salinas was 10, his parents cobbled together enough money to leave Peru to start a new life in Los Angeles. They wanted a better future for their only son, who thought he was going to Disneyland.
Reyes Salinas didn’t understand what his lack of legal status meant until, as a sophomore in high school, he was encouraged to enroll in advanced classes at a local community college. The forms asked for a Social Security number, which he did not have.
State support made it possible for him to attend the one university he applied to: Cal State Northridge. Because he couldn’t qualify for any federal financial aid, he went by bus to a machine shop after class each day and worked 30 to 40 hours a week.
In 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, allowed young people such as Reyes Salinas — who had come to the U.S. on a tourist visa that expired — to go about their lives, studying and working, without fear of deportation. He immediately got a job on campus, which led him to student government. He went from planning events to being campus student president and a vice president for the statewide California State Student Assn.
Now as the student appointee to the Cal State Board of Trustees, the 24-year-old meets with students at all 23 campuses and lobbies for them in Sacramento, often flying back just in time to make an afternoon class. He hopes to earn his master’s degree in communications in 2018. In his free time, he volunteers for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
He took a moment this week to talk about DACA and other issues weighing on the nation’s largest public university system.
Marlborough School has reached a settlement with Chelsea Burkett, 33, who was impregnated by an English teacher when she was a student there.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael P. Linfield presided over the agreement, whose details have been sealed under a confidentiality clause.
In and around Los Angeles:
- With a newly reconfigured school board behind them, L.A.'s charter schools are trying to change some of the rules.
- Parents are shocked and concerned about plastic flutes that might have been tainted with semen.
- The L.A. County education office conceded that Long Beach's school spending plan should not have been approved.
- Thanks to the high cost of housing, the number of homeless students is on the rise in California. More than 200,000 K-12 students in the state lack stable housing.
- California is launching a Race to Submit campaign at the start of this year's financial aid application season.
- A Senate hearing on Tuesday showed how far lawmakers are from striking a deal on DACA.
- President Trump has nominated an opponent of the Common Core for a top Department of Education job, but most of the key positions in the department remain empty.
Bonus, because you're probably in the mood for something lighter right about now:
- Ashton Kutcher and LAUSD alum Mila Kunis are reportedly disagreeing about whether to send their kids to public schools.
A small Hebrew-immersion charter school found out Tuesday that there were limits to how far it could push a new school board majority that is widely regarded as pro-charter.
But Lashon Academy Charter School’s challenge to the rules set by the Los Angeles Unified School District is widely seen as a sign of things to come.
Phillipa Villalobos, a senior at Grossmont Middle College High School, describes her experience taking college courses while in high school.
My teeth chattered as I reluctantly joined the crowd, desperately trying to read the buildings and find my class. My heart was waiting to stop at the ring of a bell that would inform me I was late, but a bell would never come. Although I was 16 and starting my junior year of high school, it was actually my first day of college.
The previous spring I had decided to apply to a Middle College program where 11th and 12th graders attend a community college to fulfill both high school and college credits simultaneously, with the exception of two mandatory high school classes that were held on the college campus and essentially the core of the program. The program has not only saved me money on AP and IB tests while offering college credit, but it has also served as a great transition to gain experience and confidence in college classes and communicating with college professors and staff.