LOCAL Education

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

  • Gov. Jerry Brown proposed the creation of California’s first public fully online community college.
  • Home-schooling kept the spotlight from the Perris couple arrested after their 13 children were found chained.

UCLA fraternities ban booze at in-house events

UCLA fraternities no longer can host parties with alcohol at their houses, the university’s student-led Interfraternity Council announced Wednesday.

A collection of fraternity leaders “self-proposed an indefinite ban on events involving alcohol that take place within IFC chapter facilities,” and approved it unanimously Tuesday, according to a statement from UCLA’s Interfraternity Council Executive Board.

“Safety will always be the main priority when evaluating the IFC community and we are working towards enacting measures to promote security and prioritize safety,” the statement read.

When it comes to education policy, it's 'the California way' vs. Betsy DeVos

California is headed toward another standoff with the federal government — this time, over education.

The U.S. Department of Education, led by Betsy DeVos, had told the state that its plan to satisfy a major education law had significant flaws. On Thursday, the California State Board of Education voted to send a revised version of that plan, still missing an important component, back to Washington.

The plan is supposed to lay out how the state intends to satisfy the main federal education law, called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the 2015 Obama administration successor to the No Child Left Behind Act. Where No Child took a prescriptive, test score-based approach to evaluating the quality of schools, Every Student Succeeds gives states more agency to design their own systems.

Betsy DeVosHigher EducationK-12LAUSDUniversity of California

UCLA's frat rules, LAUSD's dual language push, chronic absenteeism in D.C.: What's new in education

UCLA has new rules for fraternity parties. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA has new rules for fraternity parties. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • UCLA’s fraternities have indefinitely banned alcohol at in-house events.
  • L.A. Unified is expanding its dual language offerings.

In California:

  • The California State Board of Education voted to send an incomplete education plan back to Betsy DeVos.
  • UC Merced representatives lobbied California’s congressional delegates, asking them to extend DACA.


  • DeVos’ pick for a crucial civil rights post made it through a Senate committee.
  • Over 10% of Washington, D.C. public school graduates missed most of the academic year.

Couple invested $50 million in L.A.'s neediest kids and it made them richer

Melanie Lundquist, a philanthropist from Palos Verdes Estates, stood in the hall near the principal’s office at Santee Education Complex near downtown Los Angeles.

Jaden Pitts, a 17-year-old senior from South L.A., happened to be walking by. He is a Lundquist fellow, which means he’s no slouch. The young man has served as student body treasurer, was a member of the committee that chose the current Santee principal, plays guard on the basketball team, runs sprints on his track team, and started a campus club — Brothers and Hermanos — to explore why male students lag behind females in school performance.

Lundquist was curious about his college plans.

Federal audit finds problems with California's graduation rate calculations

Every year, the California Department of Education and many of its school districts boast about record-high graduation rates.

But a federal audit raises questions about the accuracy of the local and statewide numbers.

The report by the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Inspector General, released Wednesday, looked at samples of graduation-rate data from the class of 2013-14 and found that quality control was lacking in self-reporting by school districts.

Betsy DeVosCharter SchoolsK-12LAUSD

Graduation rates questioned, bridging the rural digital divide, a Puerto Rico school gets power: What's new in education

Esperanza Hernandez, left, and Teagan Garcia use Chromebooks in Joanie Bryant's class at Waggoner Elementary School in Winters. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Esperanza Hernandez, left, and Teagan Garcia use Chromebooks in Joanie Bryant's class at Waggoner Elementary School in Winters. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • A federal audit questioned the accuracy of graduation rates in California, and in L.A. in particular.
  • As Democrats ask Trump to focus on school infrastructure, LAUSD contends with leaky roofs following last week’s rains.

In California:

  • How rural communities trying to bridge the digital divide became enmeshed in a political fight.
  • An LGBT college student in Orange County was stabbed 20 times, and prosecutors are trying to determine whether it’s a hate crime.


  • The U.S. Department of Education stopped publishing a list of colleges under investigation for sexual misconduct. Instead, it posted this searchable database of all academic institutions that face open civil rights complaints.
  • A Puerto Rico school finally gets power, after having none since September.
Betsy DeVosK-12

Betsy DeVos criticized California's education plan. How defiant will state officials be?

 (Erik Lesser / European Pressphoto Agency)
(Erik Lesser / European Pressphoto Agency)

Less than a month after Betsy DeVos’ U.S. Department of Education sent California a scathing critique of its educational plans, state officials must decide just how defiant they want to be.

The December letter from Washington asked the state to resubmit its plan for satisfying the Every Student Succeeds Act. The California State Board of Education will discuss an updated draft at this week’s meeting, which starts Thursday morning.

President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015 to replace the No Child Left Behind Act. Where No Child took a punitive, test-score-based approach to rating schools, ESSA gives states more agency to design their own systems. 

But the state has pushed the limits of independence — the initial plan kept key details minimal — and the federal government noticed.

And in DeVos’ first major policy address of 2018 on Tuesday, she clarified that when she says education should be locally controlled, she means by districts, not states.

The letter said the plan lacked learning goals, used tests improperly and did not set up an adequate system to identify underperforming schools.

California State Board of Education president Mike Kirst said the state would make technical clarifications, but maintained that “there are areas of disagreement over the interpretation of federal statute.”

The state’s proposed new draft, critics charge, doesn’t change its substance but rather justifies California’s decisions. 

“We have seen no substantive changes to the ESSA plan,” said Carrie Hahneldeputy director of research and policy at the Education Trust-West, an advocacy group. “It’s clear that California wants to press ahead and is not going to make adjustments because the federal government asked for them.”

The board will also discuss how to support recently identified low-performing districts under state law.

You can follow along with us here.

California State UniversityHigher EducationUniversity of California

UC Merced chancellor: For young immigrants, DACA 'is not a reality show'

UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland, from left, and student Boe Mendewala meet with U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and Whittier College representatives at the U.S. Capitol. (UC Merced)
UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland, from left, and student Boe Mendewala meet with U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and Whittier College representatives at the U.S. Capitol. (UC Merced)

UC Merced doctoral student Boe Mendewala dreams of helping the world as a scientist specializing in solar energy. But she fears she won’t be able to finish her studies, continue as a teaching assistant or launch a career in the United States unless Congress renews DACA.

On Wednesday, the 27-year-old lobbied lawmakers in Washington to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has helped thousands of young immigrants like herself study and work without threat of deportation.

She and UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland met with U.S. Reps. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), as well as U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and staff members of fellow California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. 

“I’m here to put a face on ‘Dreamers,’” Mendewala said. “This is not just a policy issue.” 

Born in the Indian city of Mumbai, Mendewala arrived in the United States legally at age 5, but her family overstayed their visas, she said. She grew up in Fullerton and majored in physics at Cal State Long Beach. When she was a senior there and her DACA application was approved, she burst into tears, hugged her friends, then applied to UC Merced’s doctoral program.

Waiting and wondering about the fate of DACA has been stressful for Mendewala and her husband, a U.S. citizen, she said.

“Every day we don't know if we should be afraid, if we should be hopeful, and it's so hard to have to go in to work every day and try really hard to get this degree that I don't know if I'll be able to complete,” she said. “But I have to have faith in the country. I want to live here so bad, so I have to have faith that it will come through for me and for all the Dreamers like me.”

Leland also spoke Wednesday at a news conference sponsored by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a new national organization promoting a “welcoming environment” for immigrant and international students.

More than 230 university and college presidents and chancellors have signed on, including 45 from California. Three California campus leaders — Leland, Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White and David Oxtoby, president emeritus of Pomona College, are steering committee members.

“This is not a reality show for them or a political debate du jour,” Leland said about DACA recipients. “Their lives and futures are at stake. Like so many other immigrants, these students are … hard-working, respectful young people who just want to create a better life for themselves and their families. They should not be treated as political poker chips — tokens to be wagered or bartered in exchange for legislative favors and budget appropriations.”

In separate events on Wednesday, UC President Janet Napolitano urged students to apply to renew their DACA status. She also called on Congress to permanently enshrine the DACA protections into law, saying it was a “fair compromise” to do so in exchange for increased border security. Napolitano created the DACA program while serving as President Obama’s secretary for Homeland Security.

California is the state with the largest number of DACA recipients — about 223,000, nearly twice as many as Texas, which comes in second. 

Betsy DeVosK-12LAUSD

Democrats ask Trump to invest in fixing crumbling school infrastructure

Hawthorne High School under construction in 2014. (Los Angeles Times)
Hawthorne High School under construction in 2014. (Los Angeles Times)

Many of the nation’s schools are crumbling, according to 150 Democratic members of Congress. They want President Trump to help change that.

On Wednesday, the lawmakers, including Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, sent a letter to Trump, asking him to support legislation Scott wrote last year to invest $100 billion in school upgrades.

“In addition to upgrading our bridges and roads, we must also invest in the critical infrastructure that affects every city and town in the nation — our public schools,” the lawmakers  wrote. “Too many of the over 50 million students and six million staff who learn and work in our public schools spend their days in facilities that fail to make the grade.”

The letter cites a 2014 U.S. Department of Education study that found it would take nearly $200 billion to upgrade public schools to “good” condition.

Democratic committee staffers said they were highlighting the issue now because of Trump’s promises to promote infrastructure. If an infrastructure bill is signed, they want to make sure schools are a part of it.

School facilities made national news this month when Baltimore Public Schools shut down because of inadequate heating during frigid snowstorms. The Baltimore Sun reported that since 2009, the city schools have had to return about $66 million in state funding for building repairs because heating and roof upgrades got too expensive or took too long to complete. 

Last week, the rains in Los Angeles created challenges in some schools. Over the course of the week, L.A. Unified received 1,166 rain-related service calls, said district spokeswoman Elvia Perez Cano. By Friday, 128 had been completed and the district had a backlog of 1,344 rain-related requests — some predating the rain.

At Dyer Elementary School, the auditorium roof had sprung a leak. A storm drain was clogged at Lantern High School. At Normandie Elementary, administrators observed water coming from a wall.  

For Perris couple arrested after kids found chained, home-schooling kept spotlight away

Days after law enforcement authorities found a dozen siblings locked up in a foul-smelling, dark home in Riverside County, the discovery is focusing new scrutiny on California’s loose home-schooling regulations and raising questions about whether they contributed to the children’s prolonged neglect.

Arrested on nine counts of torture and child endangerment, David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, have so far offered no public insight into why they shut their 13 children inside their home in Perris.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said deputies had never been called to the home while the family lived here, nor had the county Department of Public Social Services. Had the children attended a public school, they would have interacted daily with teachers who might have noticed their emaciated bodies and contacted law enforcement, authorities say.

L.A. Unified approves a plan to reveal more information about its schools

If you are a parent considering one of two special academic programs at Hamilton High School in Palms, you face something of a challenge: The Los Angeles school district provides no data to the public that allows for a direct comparison — even though it has this data.

On Tuesday, the Board of Education took a step toward making available its data, preferably in a form that the public can make sense of. The goal is to start with a single webpage that would lead to information that could be downloaded, sorted and searched.

The initial expense is estimated at $1.255 million, but whether the effort will cost much more or actually save money in the long run remains uncertain.

Betsy DeVosCharter SchoolsFor ParentsHigher EducationK-12LAUSDUniversity of California

LAUSD's data improvements, fact-checking DeVos, how home-schooling masked abuse: What's new in education

Riverside County Sheriff's Capt. Greg Fellows discusses the Turpins, who are suspected of holding their children hostage and starving them. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Riverside County Sheriff's Capt. Greg Fellows discusses the Turpins, who are suspected of holding their children hostage and starving them. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

In California:

  • Neighbors of David and Louise Turpin in Perris suspected something was weird about the way they treated their 13 children, but the reality was far worse than they imagined.
  • The Turpins’ home-schooling helped keep the spotlight away from the abuse of their children, who were found chained to beds.
  • Some University of California regents want to delay a vote on a potential tuition increase.


  • Washington, D.C.’s charter school board voted to shut down the district’s only public all-girls school.
  • Betsy DeVos gave her first major policy address yesterday. Chalkbeat fact-checked her.
Higher EducationUniversity of California

Some UC regents push to delay vote on possible tuition increase

 (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)
(Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)

Controversy is brewing over whether University of California regents should vote next week on another possible tuition increase — or delay a decision to allow more people to weigh in.

UC officials have floated the idea of another increase of 2.5%, which would amount to about $290 more in tuition for the coming 2018-19 academic year.

The regents approved a similar increase last year — the first since 2010-11 —  which brought tuition for California resident undergraduates to $11,502.

Regents last year also increased the student services fee by $54, but offered enough financial aid to cover the higher costs for two-thirds of the university system’s roughly 175,500 California resident undergraduates. 

State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, an ex-officio regent, asked UC President Janet Napolitano over the weekend to delay a vote because he and some of the other regents won’t be able to attend the budget discussion scheduled for Jan. 25 at UC San Francisco. That’s because Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address is scheduled for the same day.

At least two other ex-officio regents, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torklakson, also will attend Brown’s address and miss the regents meeting. Newsom opposes any tuition increase, his spokesman said.

“To start, it lets the Legislature off the hook of addressing the state’s underfunding of public higher ed,” Rhys Williams, Newsom’s spokesman, said in a text Tuesday. 

Students also have asked Napolitano to delay any vote until the March meeting, to be held at UCLA. Student Regent Paul Monge said he and two other student leaders met with Napolitano on Friday and asked for a delay, saying more students would be able to voice their views at a meeting at UCLA than at UCSF, which has no undergraduate campus. 

“We’re wanting to provide access to the meeting and make sure there’s robust input from students,” Monge said Tuesday. 

Monge said UC officials told students that they wanted a decision on tuition in January to give families time to prepare for any increase. But students countered, he said, that admission decisions for freshmen and transfer students usually are not released until the spring anyway. Freshmen have until May 1 to commit to enroll and transfer students, until June 1.  

Delaying a vote, Monge argued, also would give the UC community more time to lobby the Legislature and governor for more money. That, in turn, could eliminate the need for another tuition increase, he said.

Brown made it clear in the 2018-19 budget proposal he unveiled last week that he did not support another tuition increase at UC or Cal State.

“The Administration remains concerned about the impact of tuition increases on lower income students and families and believes more must be done to reduce the universities’ cost structure,” his budget proposal said. “Further reforms should be implemented before the segments consider charging students more.”

At the same time, Brown proposed a 3% increase in base funding for 2018-19, down from a 4% increase in each of the last few years. Leaders of UC and Cal State have expressed concern over the smaller funding increases. 

Napolitano and UC Board of Regents Chairman George Kieffer could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. 

Betsy DeVosK-12LAUSD

Transgender bias complaints dismissed, a call to focus more on history of Reconstruction: What's new in education

Delaine Eastin, left, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom listen as former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks during a gubernatorial debate Saturday. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Delaine Eastin, left, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom listen as former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks during a gubernatorial debate Saturday. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • The Clippers and L.A. Unified are helping students in need get glasses.
  • The district urged students to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day of service.

In California:

  • Police freed children who were malnourished and shackled to beds in Perris.
  • Education was yet again a major flashpoint in a recent gubernatorial debate.


  • The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed transgender students’ complaints of discrimination, saying they fall outside the department’s purview.
  • Some educators are asking schools to teach students more about America’s Reconstruction era.

Clippers are partnering with LAUSD to give eyeglasses to students

Blake Griffin was in third grade when his mother took him and big brother Taylor to the eye doctor. Blake’s vision was fine.

“My brother couldn’t see at all,” said the Clippers forward, a five-time All-Star.

His brother was in sixth grade. He would need glasses. Two decades later, what remains most vivid about that day to Griffin is the reaction of his mother.

Betsy DeVosHigher EducationK-12LAUSDUniversity of California

UC San Diego 'Dreamer' arrested, Texas' special-education missteps, Manual Arts lockdown: What's new in education

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

In and around Los Angeles:

  • A UC San Diego student and “Dreamer” originally from Israel was arrested after he took a wrong turn into Mexico.
  • Manual Arts High School was placed briefly on lockdown Thursday after a nearby officer-involved shooting.

In California:

  • Schools across the state are preparing for the possible loss of students after the Trump administration announced it would revoke temporary protected status for thousands of Salvadorans.
  • Early education advocates say they’re glad Gov. Jerry Brown increased funding for the state’s littlest learners in his latest budget proposal, but they say much more help is needed.


  • The U.S. Department of Education found that the Texas Education Agency has been violating a major special education law.
  • Columbia University Teacher College’s former financial aid chief and three students face criminal charges amid accusations of running a financial-aid kickback scheme.

UCSD 'Dreamer' arrested after wrong turn into Mexico

On the day before Orr Yakobi’s final quarter at UC San Diego, he was arrested by border officials after his roommate took a wrong turn and drove into Mexico.

Yakobi, 22, is originally from Israel and came to the U.S. on a visa with his family when he was about 5, according to his attorney. When his visa expired, he became an unauthorized immigrant.

He joined the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program in 2013, his attorney said, which gave him a renewable two-year permit protecting him from deportation and authorizing him to work. DACA does not authorize recipients to reenter the U.S. if they leave.

Gov. Brown proposes California's first fully online public community college

Gov. Jerry Brown wants California to launch its first fully online public community college to help 2.5 million young adults without college credentials gain skills for better jobs and greater economic mobility.

In the 2018-19 budget plan he unveiled Wednesday, Brown proposed spending $120 million to open such a college by fall 2019, with a focus on short-term credential programs for careers in fields including advanced manufacturing, healthcare and child development.

The governor is a longtime advocate of online learning, which he sees as more cost effective than traditional education.

Community CollegesHigher EducationK-12LAUSD

Brown's big idea, Connecticut's aid to Puerto Rico, schools and the governor's race: What's new in education

Ben Carson (John Locher / Associated Press)
Ben Carson (John Locher / Associated Press)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • School superintendents often don’t stay in place for long. A look at the churn, locally and nationally, as the school board starts considering a replacement for Michelle King.
  • District officials praised Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal.

In California:


  • Detroit’s school board voted to allow schools to be named after living people, which could lead to a school named for Ben Carson.
  • Schools in Connecticut have opened their doors to students arriving from storm-ravaged Puerto Rico. Hartford has taken in nearly 400.
California State UniversityHigher EducationK-12LAUSDUniversity of California

L.A.'s superintendent search, Cal State's budget worries, recruiting teachers: What's new in education

Students at Cal State Northridge (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Students at Cal State Northridge (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • The L.A. Unified school board voted to keep Vivian Ekchian on as interim superintendent and move deliberately on a search for a permanent replacement.
  • UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools aims to help local schools identify new strategies for improvement.

In California:

  • Cal State officials, tasked with expanding their student body, are disappointed that Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to propose only a 3% budget increase.
  • The state created a new advertising campaign for teacher recruitment.


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