LOCAL Education

Welcome to Essential Education, our daily look at education in California and beyond. Here's the latest

  • A state audit out this morning says he UC system overpays top employees and did not disclose millions in budget reserves.
  • The L.A. school board's early childhood education committee is meeting today to discuss trauma-informed instruction, among other topics. You can read more here.
Higher EducationUniversity of California

This California university has a vending machine that sells the morning-after pill

A new vending machine at UC Davis dispenses emergency contraception. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
A new vending machine at UC Davis dispenses emergency contraception. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Students at UC Davis can purchase emergency contraception from a campus vending machine.

The machine, installed at the school’s Activities and Recreation Center over spring break, dispenses the morning-after pill as well as condoms, pregnancy tests, tampons and over-the-counter medication such as Advil.

Higher EducationUniversity of California

University of California administration is paying excessive salaries and mishandling funds, state audit says

UCLA campus (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA campus (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The administration of the University of California system pays top workers salaries significantly higher than the pay of similar state employees, has provided millions of dollars in benefits not typical to the public sector and failed to disclose to the Board of Regents and the public that it had $175 million in budget reserve funds, a state audit found Tuesday.

The audit triggered a dispute with UC President Janet Napolitano, who said charges of hidden funds were false.

Betsy DeVosHigher EducationK-12LAUSDUniversity of California

DeVos' Common Core mistake, marching to remember Armenian genocide, a Coulter lawsuit: What's new in education today

 (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • L.A. School Board president Steve Zimmer joined a march to commemorate the Armenian genocide.
  • A reassigned Sherman Oaks principal says race was a factor in parents' complaints about her.

In California:

  • The Berkeley College Republicans are suing their school over the cancellation and rescheduling of Ann Coulter's campus visit.
  • About half of California's school districts lowered suspension rates enough to earn high marks on the new school measurement system.

Nationwide:

  • Betsy DeVos told Fox that "there really isn't any Common Core anymore." That's not true. Numerous states, including California, teach to the Common Core standards.
  • Homelessness among New York City students continues to increase.

Republican students sue to allow Ann Coulter's speech this week at UC Berkeley

A leaflet detailing the controversy over a speech by Ann Coulter is stapled to a message board near Sproul Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. (Associated Press)
A leaflet detailing the controversy over a speech by Ann Coulter is stapled to a message board near Sproul Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. (Associated Press)

UC Berkeley student group on Monday filed a lawsuit demanding that the university allow conservative pundit Ann Coulter to speak on campus Thursday as originally planned.

Citing unspecified threats, administrators had rescheduled Coulter’s appearance for May 2, when they said they could provide adequate security.

K-12

Wake up, cross the border, go to school: For some Mexican students, it's a daily routine

 (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In the era of Donald Trump and his talk of building an impenetrable — and “beautiful” — wall to beat back illegal immigration, the border has become a hardening line in America’s cultural wars.

But to many of the people in Calexico, the fence that separates the two countries is neither fully a bulwark against invasion nor a foreboding stop sign to immigrants’ hopes. It is a mundane part of the environment that must be crossed every day to live, work and study.

Betsy DeVosCharter SchoolsK-12LAUSD

Students who cross borders, new charter school construction, repeat decathlon winners: What's new in education today

 (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • Granada Hills Charter High School won the national Academic Decathlon for the sixth time in seven years.
  • New charter school construction in Pacoima provided a moment of truce in the war between district and charter schools, but the fight continues.

In California:

Nationwide: 

Charter SchoolsLAUSD

Despite new construction in Pacoima, the question remains: How much will L.A. Unified spend on charter schools?

Construction workers use a crane to lift prefabricated classroom sections made of recycled shipping containers into position at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)
Construction workers use a crane to lift prefabricated classroom sections made of recycled shipping containers into position at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

New classrooms under construction at a charter school in Pacoima mark a moment of truce — even mutual respect — in a hot and cold war between charters and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

But the battle continues over how much money the district will spend on charter-school construction projects in the future. Just last week, L.A. Unified won a court case focused on that issue — and it could have enormous consequences.

Higher EducationUniversity of California

Conservative group threatens legal action against UC Berkeley over Ann Coulter appearance

Protesters demonstrate during an appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley on Feb. 1. (Noah Berger / European Pressphoto Agency)
Protesters demonstrate during an appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley on Feb. 1. (Noah Berger / European Pressphoto Agency)

A conservative group on Friday threatened to take legal action against UC Berkeley if student sponsors are not allowed to pick the date and location for an appearance by commentator Ann Coulter.

Coulter had been scheduled to speak on the demonstration-weary campus on April 27, but Berkeley officials refused permission, citing safety concerns. Amid public criticism, the administration on Thursday agreed to set the event for May 2, at midday, in a science hall away from the central campus.

For ParentsHS InsiderK-12

Secretary of State Alex Padilla visits J.W. North High School to encourage pre-registration

 (Dylan Stewart / HS Insider)
(Dylan Stewart / HS Insider)

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla held a rally at John W. North High School as part of a wider effort to encourage youth to pre-register or register to vote.

“Who is it that’s eligible but not registered? Who is it that’s registered but doesn’t vote every single time? It’s disproportionately working-class families, communities of color, and young people,” Padilla stated during his speech as he reached out to the North student body, which is nearly 75 percent socioeconomically disadvantaged.

The state has recently implemented a policy which allows teenagers that are 16 or 17 the ability to pre-register to vote. Once they turn 18, they will automatically be registered to vote.

This policy followed a presidential election wherein 55 percent of eligible millennial voters stayed at home, according to exit poll data.

The rally began with opening remarks by Riverside Unified School district President Brent Lee and student remarks by senior Cameron Allen.

Allen spoke on the importance of having the choice to vote.

For ParentsK-12LAUSD

Over 300 L.A. neighborhoods had higher rates of children with elevated lead levels than Flint, Mich.

The Exide Technologies plant in Vernon (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
The Exide Technologies plant in Vernon (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

As part of a nationwide investigation, the Reuters news service asked the Los Angles County Department of Health for records of blood tests and found that many children across the county have high levels of lead in their systems. You can read the investigation here.

A few numbers stand out:

  • More than 15,000 children younger than 6 had high lead levels in their blood between 2011 and 2015.

  • In 323 neighborhoods, the rate was as high or higher than that in Flint, Mich., whose toxic water has received intense news coverage.

  • San Marino is one of those places. There, 17% of younger kids tested had "elevated levels of lead in their blood." That's almost triple Flint's rate of 5%.

Why does it matter?  "Even a slight elevation [of lead] can reduce IQ and stunt childhood development," the Reuters report said. "There’s no safe level of lead in children’s bodies."

Lead has been found on the property of schools such as Jordan High School in Watts, where the school district sued the city's housing authority to cover the costs of cleaning up contamination from a nearby site. Last August, three Los Angeles elementary schools near the closed Exide Technologies battery recycling plant were found to have lead-contaminated soil.

Higher EducationUniversity of California

UC officials to ask judge to halt alleged health fraud scheme they claim stole millions

Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley in 2014. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley in 2014. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The University of California is alleging that it’s uncovered a scheme that targeted hundreds of students through its student healthcare plan and cost UC almost $12 million.

In a complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, UC said the scheme used information from more than 500 students enrolled in its system-wide Student Health Insurance Plan that allowed doctors to write fraudulent medical prescriptions.

K-12

President of Buena Park School District arrested on suspicion of trafficking in child pornography

Dennis Brian Chambers (Fontana Police Department)
Dennis Brian Chambers (Fontana Police Department)

The president of the Buena Park School District board has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking in child pornography, Fontana police said Thursday.

Authorities said Dennis Brian Chambers, 50, was found with thousands of pornographic videos and images of children on an electronic storage device after police tracked an IP address to his Buena Park home.

California State University

State audit says Cal State hires too many managers

 (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A state audit released Thursday found that California State University has been hiring managers and providing them raises at a rate that “significantly outpaced” other employees.

It also raised concerns about budget oversight at the largest public university system in the nation.

The audit, titled “California State University: Stronger Oversight is Needed for Hiring and Compensating Management Personnel and for Monitoring Campus Budgets,” specifically found that between fiscal years 2007-08 and 2015-16, the number of full-time equivalent “management personnel” — which includes administrators, supervisors and other professional staff — grew by 15%. Over the same period, the number of faculty rose by 7%, while non-faculty support staff rose 6%.

Betsy DeVosCalifornia State UniversityHigher EducationK-12LAUSDUniversity of California

A principal reassigned, Berkeley's Ann Coulter flip-flop, the end of a law school: What's new in education today

Protesters demonstrate against Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley on Feb. 1. (Noah Berger / European Pressphoto Agency)
Protesters demonstrate against Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley on Feb. 1. (Noah Berger / European Pressphoto Agency)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • Whittier Law School has stopped accepting new students and will shut down entirely once all current students have graduated.
  • After complaints from parents, L.A. Unified officials have reassigned a Sherman Oaks administrator.

In California:

  • UC Berkeley reverses its decision and says conservative commentator Ann Coulter can speak at the campus after all.
  • A state audit of California State University said the system hires too many managers.
  • The University of California said it has uncovered a fraud that targeted students in its student healthcare plan.
  • Former Cal State Fullerton president Milton A. Gordon, 81, died after a long illness.

Nationwide:

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited public schools in Ohio with teachers union leader Randi Weingarten. DeVos held her line on school choice.
  • A Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old student was arrested in California.
Higher EducationUniversity of California

UC Berkeley reverses decision to cancel Ann Coulter visit

UC Berkeley officials on Thursday reversed their decision to cancel conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s appearance at the university, but have rescheduled it from next week to May 2, according to a statement from the university.

Coulter’s speech on immigration will be held at an “appropriate, protectable venue,” the university said. The university did not disclose the location of the speech. But the university said it had advised Coulter’s representatives and the Berkeley CollegeRepublicans, which organized the April 27 Coulter event, that the speaking engagement would take place next month.

Higher Education

It's the end of the line for Whittier Law School

 (Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa has stopped accepting new students and will close entirely once all current students have graduated, trustees announced Wednesday.

Citing such challenges as low student outcomes, the board of trustees voted not to accept new students this fall.

“We believe we have looked at every realistic option to continue a successful law program. Unfortunately, these efforts did not lead to a desired outcome,” read an online statement from the board.

Some students weren’t happy with the decision.

“Dropping this bomb on all of us three weeks before final exams and Commencement Ceremony demonstrates a lack of loyalty to everyone especially the students,” Antonia Reyes, a second-year student at the law school, wrote in an email.

School administration did not give students or faculty the opportunity to ask questions about the decision in emergency meetings this week or explain the logistics of the closing, Reyes said.

Higher Education

Milton A. Gordon dies at 81; former Cal State Fullerton president oversaw an era of increased diversity and growth

 (Karen Tapia / Cal State Fullerton)
(Karen Tapia / Cal State Fullerton)

Milton A. Gordon, the former Cal State Fullerton president who fought for equitable access to higher education and transformed the campus into one of the state’s most prominent and diverse, has died after a long illness at 81.

When Gordon took the helm in 1990, he was the fourth African American president in the nation’s largest public university system. At that time, about 60% of the student body was white. By the time he retired in 2012, the percentages had reversed, with students of color making up 57% of the enrollment. During his leadership, the school became first in the state and fifth in the nation in graduating Latinos.

Betsy DeVosK-12

Obama's former Education secretary ticks off how Trump is changing the department

 (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

It's been a long few months for John B. King Jr. 

Since finishing his tenure as President Obama's second Education secretary, King has watched a new administration implement policies diametrically opposed to his own. 

"As a teacher, as a parent and as a citizen, it’s distressing to see the department walking away from its core responsibility of advancing equity," he said Wednesday.

King is starting a new job as president and chief executive of the Education Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit focused on educational equity. He spoke at an outdoor reception organized by the group's California outpost, EdTrust-West, in downtown Los Angeles.

After his speech, he outlined in an interview the different ways the federal government's role in education has changed since the inauguration of President Trump. The new administration, he said, has been: 

  • throwing out school accountability rules: Trump signed a bill that rescinded the Obama administration's rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act, a school accountability law. What that means is that states get much more freedom in how they grade schools. "The regulations would have helped to ensure that states honor the law," King said. "It was wrong to undo them."
  • scrapping school diversity grants: The Obama administration created a grant program to promote socioeconomic integration in schools, but Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded it "with little explanation," King said. "I think it was a mistake."
  • pulling back on civil rights enforcement: The Trump administration has already rescinded Obama-era protections for transgender students — a move King called "cruel and wrong" — and student loan recipients. In DeVos' public appearances, King sees signs that the administration might withdraw in other areas too. "The signals ... have been that she doesn’t think there does need to be a robust federal protection of civil rights," King said.

Overall, he said, "it's distressing, dismaying, upsetting, but unfortunately, it has been a consistent pattern since the start of the administration."

In his new post, King says he plans to fight the actions by using data to drive home arguments and organize parents.

Civil rights activist and organizer Dolores Huerta, 87, spoke before King, talking about her experience working alongside Cesar Chavez and the need to organize parents and communities around public education.

"There are so many levels of injustice in our school system right now — and the thing is, only we can [fix] it," she said. "It's not going to change unless you are the ones to change it."

Betsy DeVosCalifornia State UniversityCharter SchoolsHigher EducationK-12LAUSDUniversity of California

College libraries with fewer books, Coulter canceled, school board votes: What's new in education

At Moffitt Library, individual study carrels come with their own lights and outlets (David Butow / For The Times)
At Moffitt Library, individual study carrels come with their own lights and outlets (David Butow / For The Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

In California:

Nationwide: 

  • Former U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr. says the Trump administration is retreating from the department's mission of promoting equity.
  • Current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is joining union leader Randi Weingarten on a visit to a public school in rural Ohio on Thursday.

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