LOCAL Education

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

  • A new study found that Oakland's charter schools have received less public funding than Oakland’s traditional public schools, but that traditional schools have had a more challenging student population.
  • African American students at UC Riverside graduate at rates similar to those of whites and Latinos and just below Asian Americans.
K-12

Supreme Court rules church school has a right to tax funds for its playground

 (Olivier Douliery)
(Olivier Douliery)

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a church-run preschool has a religious-freedom right to receive a tax-funded grant to improve its playground and may not be excluded from such aid on the grounds of church-state separation.

The court’s 7-2 decision is an important, but modest victory for religious-rights advocates. It stops well short of saying that church schools have a right to public funds for teaching, for example.

K-12

Supreme Court rules for Missouri church in playground case

 (Annaliese Nurnberg / Missourian / Associated Press)
(Annaliese Nurnberg / Missourian / Associated Press)

The Supreme Court has ruled that churches have the same right as other charitable groups to seek state money for new playground surfaces and other non-religious needs.

The justices on Monday ruled 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Mo. The church sought a grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground, but was denied any money even though its application was ranked fifth out of 44 submissions.

Charter SchoolsK-12LAUSD

LAUSD's newest goal, new charter school research, the mayoral control debate: What's new in education

 (Christian K. Lee / Los Angeles Times)
(Christian K. Lee / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • L.A. Unified set a new goal for graduation: "biliteracy for all."
  • The district is also stepping up its training to help teachers reach students with dyslexia.
  • The parents of a 14-year-old shot and killed by police in Boyle Heights are suing the city and the officer over their civil rights.

In California:

  • A new study gives ammunition to both the supporters and critics of charter schools.
  • Will districts get to be "innovation zones" under the state's new school accountability plan? Early signs say probably not.

Nationwide:

  • New studies show that some students who used vouchers to switch to private schools saw a dip in their academic performance, but ultimately caught up.
  • Is it better to put mayors or elected school boards in charge of public schools?
Charter SchoolsK-12LAUSD

Do charters or traditional schools have it worse? A new study says both

 (Dave Getzschman / For The Times)
(Dave Getzschman / For The Times)

Charter schools remain a subject of intense debate in Los Angeles, especially with the arrival soon of two new school board members who were supported by charter backers.

While research on charters often is inconclusive and partisan, a new study has ammunition for both their enthusiasts and their critics.

The research commissioned by a coalition of educational and philanthropic organizations focused on charter schools in Oakland. It determined that they have received less public funding than Oakland’s traditional public schools, but that traditional schools have had a more challenging student population to educate.

K-12University of California

African American students thrive with high graduation rates at UC Riverside

 (Ringo Chiu / For The Times)
(Ringo Chiu / For The Times)

UC Riverside has one of the smallest racial achievement gaps in the nation. African Americans at Riverside graduate at rates similar to those of whites and Latinos and just below Asian Americans.

The six-year graduation rate in 2015 for students who started and finished at UC Riverside was 73% for blacks, 71% for whites, 69% for Latinos and 77% for Asian Americans, according to campus data.

Other UC campuses have higher black graduation rates. But in a study this year of 676 public and private campuses, UC Riverside ranked first in California and sixth in the nation among universities with similar student populations. 

Betsy DeVosCalifornia State UniversityHigher EducationK-12LAUSD

Mourning an almost-graduate, picking Betsy DeVos, a sixth-grade food show host: What's new in education

 (Ryse Williams, left (James Escarcega)
(Ryse Williams, left (James Escarcega)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • Standout athlete Ryse Williams, 18, died of cancer the day before his high school graduation.
  • L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck personally arrested a police officer accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl in the LAPD's cadet program.
  • A teacher in South El Monte was arrested on the suspicion of molesting students.
  • Foster parents and young people living on extended foster care assistance went months without receiving the checks that the Department of Children and Family Services owed them.

In California:

  • Colleges are counting on changes in remedial education to improve graduation rates.
  • A Northern California sixth-grader is honored for his YouTube cooking show.

Nationwide:

  • The young children in Minnesota who knew Philando Castile are grappling with the acquittal of the officer who shot and killed the school nutrition services supervisor.
  • Betsy DeVos' pick to run the federal government's financial aid program is Arthur Wayne Johnson, the chief executive of a private loan company.
  • New York Times columnist Gail Collins asked readers to name the worst Trump Cabinet member. Their top pick was DeVos.
K-12

A day before his high school graduation, Redondo High standout guard Ryse Williams dies of cancer at 18

 (James Escarcega)
(James Escarcega)

The high school basketball community was dealing with the stunning news Thursday that standout guard Ryse Williams of Redondo High School had died of cancer, according to his former Redondo coach, Reggie Morris Jr.

Williams was 18 years old.

“Everybody is hurting,” Morris said.

Williams signed with Loyola Marymount and was scheduled to graduate on Friday from Redondo.

K-12

South El Monte teacher arrested on suspicion of molesting students

 (Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)
(Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)

A fifth-grade teacher in South El Monte has been arrested on suspicion of inappropriately touching students, and investigators are trying to determine whether there are other potential victims, authorities said.

Joseph Baldenebro, 54, was arrested Wednesday and accused of multiple counts of molesting children and lewd or lascivious acts involving children, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department news release. He is being held on $404,000 bail.

Baldenebro is a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in the Mountain View School District.

K-12

L.A. County foster care agency botched many more payments than initially reported

 (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

For months, Bea Watts waited as the Los Angeles County child protection agency failed to pay her more than $4,500 for taking care of two children in her foster care.

As bills piled up, she issued an ultimatum: The Department of Children and Family Services would have to take the children back, she said, unless it paid her by March 1.

DCFS finally paid Watts, a Simi Valley resident, but her experience wasn’t unique.

Thousands of regular assistance checks from DCFS failed to reach recipients like Watts after the agency implemented a new computer system in October. Because of glitches in the conversion, the department for several months failed to pay foster care parents, young people living on extended foster care assistance, group homes and others.

Higher EducationUniversity of California

Parents of UC Irvine grad who died at Electric Daisy Carnival sue LiveNation and others over his death

 (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The parents of a 24-year-old who died from a drug overdose at the Electric Daisy Carnival filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the rave’s promoters, claiming the slow response to their son’s medical emergency led to his death.

Nicholas Austin Tom, a UC Irvine graduate who resided in San Francisco, died of intoxication of MDMA, or Ecstasy, at the rave on June 21, 2015, according to the Clark County coroner’s office. That year’s event was held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

K-12LAUSD

L.A. Unified approves more spending and layoffs

 (Christian K. Lee / Los Angeles Times)
(Christian K. Lee / Los Angeles Times)

Faced with mounting costs and declining enrollment, the Los Angeles Unified School District board approved a $7.5-billion budget Tuesday that will increase spending and lay off more than 100 library aides, clerks and other support staff next school year.

The layoffs represent a growing acknowledgement by district officials that the nation’s second-largest school district has to downsize, adjusting to the reality of population loss caused by falling birth rates, gentrification and competition from charter schools. Supt. Michelle King’s budget plan, the second of her tenure, forecasts that L.A. Unified will continue to shrink. It assumes that enrollment, which stands at about 514,000 students, will decline by nearly 34,000 students, or about 2% a year, over the next three years.

Such a drop probably would worsen the district’s financial problems because state funding is tied to enrollment and accounts for most of the district’s revenue.

Higher EducationK-12LAUSD

L.A. Unified's new budget, a scholarship from Beyoncé, San Francisco State lawsuit: What's new in education

San Francisco State University (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)
San Francisco State University (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • L.A. Unified's budget proposed laying off over 120 staffers, including librarians and administrators.
  • The L.A. Unified board approved those layoffs as part of its $7.5-billion budget on Tuesday.

In California:

  • Jewish students and community members are suing San Francisco State University for allegedly cultivating an environment that is hostile to them.
  • A breakdown of education spending in the newly approved state budget.

Nationwide:

  • Each year, guns kill over 1,000 children in America, according to a new report.
  • What happened when a valedictorian went rogue.
  • An aspiring music therapist got a scholarship from Beyoncé.
LAUSD

More than 120 layoffs proposed in L.A. school district budget

 (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A $7.5-billion Los Angeles schools budget set for approval Tuesday includes 121 layoffs and 180 “reassignments” that would result in pay cuts and possible additional job losses.

Among the hardest hit in the proposal are library aides: 30 would lose their jobs, leaving 43 elementary schools without library staffing because some of the aides work at two campuses. That’s about 9% of the library aides in the nation’s second-largest school system.

Others who would lose their jobs include some clerks, payroll specialists, accounting technicians, teaching aides and security aides. The number of central office administrators, coordinators and managers also would shrink by about 150. Many of them have tenure as school administrators or teachers and could return to these other positions — with reduced pay. The district believes it will have enough vacancies to accommodate them. No teachers are targeted for layoffs.

Guns kill nearly 1,300 children in the U.S. each year and send thousands more to hospitals

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

Handguns and other firearms cause the deaths of more children in the United States each year than the flu or asthma, according to a comprehensive new report on gun violence and kids.

Each day in the United States, an average of 3.5 people under 18 are shot to death and another 15.5 are treated in a hospital emergency department for a gunshot wound. Between 2012 and 2014, an average of 1,287 children and adolescents died each year as a result of gun violence, making firearms second only to motor vehicle crashes as a cause of injury-related deaths. Another 5,790 were treated for gunshot injuries in U.S. hospitals.

Higher Education

Lawsuit alleges hostile environment for Jews on San Francisco State campus

 (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)
(Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)

Students and Jewish community members filed a lawsuit Monday against San Francisco State University and Cal State’s board of trustees, alleging that the San Francisco campus of the country’s largest public university system has long cultivated a hostile environment in which Jewish students are “often afraid to wear Stars of David or yarmulkes on campus, and regularly text their friends to describe potential safety issues.”

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California by attorneys from The Lawfare Project and the firm Winston & Strawn LLP, was prompted by a confrontation in April 2016, when the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, was invited by SF Hillel to speak on campus.

Higher Education

Lawsuit claims San Francisco State, university leaders, have history of cultivating campus environment hostile to Jews

A group of athletes runs past Mary Park Hall at San Francisco State University (Robert Durell/Los Angeles Times)
A group of athletes runs past Mary Park Hall at San Francisco State University (Robert Durell/Los Angeles Times)

Students and Jewish community members filed a lawsuit Monday against San Francisco State University and Cal State’s Board of Trustees, alleging that the San Francisco campus of the largest public university system in the country has long cultivated a hostile environment in which Jewish students are “often afraid to wear Stars of David or yarmulkes on campus, and regularly text their friends to describe potential safety issues.”

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California by attorneys from The Lawfare Project and the firm Winston & Strawn LLP, was prompted by a confrontation in April 2016, when the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, was invited by SF Hillel to speak on campus.

According to the lawsuit, protesters used bullhorns to drown out the mayor’s speech and yelled and chanted “Intifada,” “Get the [expletive] off our campus,” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” while university administrators allowed the disruption to continue and instructed campus police to “stand down.”

“SFSU has not merely fostered and embraced anti-Jewish hostility — it has systematically supported … student groups as they have doggedly organized their efforts to target, threaten, and intimidate Jewish students on campus and deprive them of their civil rights and their ability to feel safe and secure as they pursue their education,” the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit contends that the way administrators handled the April confrontation is consistent with other incidents on campus over the years. It lists other alleged incidents including a 10-foot mural put up on the student union building in 1994 that featured yellow Stars of David intertwined with dollar signs, skulls and crossbones, and the words “African Blood.”

After a 2002 peace rally, the lawsuit alleges, a group of students shouted “Hitler didn’t finish the job,” “Get out or we’ll kill you,” and “Go back to Russia” to the Jewish students who stayed behind to clean up and hold a prayer service.

Daniel Ojeda, the university’s counsel, said in a statement that San Francisco State “was not aware of the complaint and has not had an opportunity to review or respond to it.”

“We have been working closely with the Jewish community, among other interest groups, to address concerns and improve the campus environment for all students,” he said. “Those efforts have been very productive and will continue notwithstanding this lawsuit.”

The lawsuit comes at a time when free speech has become a highly charged issue on college campuses across the nation, with many debating the line between hate speech and academic freedom.

Reports of anti-Semitic incidents on campuses across the country have increased in recent years. Assaults, vandalism, and harassment grew by 34% in 2016 and jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, according to a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League.

Betsy DeVosHigher EducationK-12University of California

Legal services for UC's immigrant students, Lynwood's AP change, an empty ESSA forum: What's new in education

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

In and around Los Angeles:

  • Lynwood Unified took away prerequisites and encouraged most of its students to take AP classes.
  • The state scheduled a session for Angelenos to provide feedback on the implementation of a federal schools law. Eight people showed up.

In California:

  • Uncertainty over President Trump's immigration policies has boosted demand for UC's immigration student legal services.
  • The state budget approved last week lets more families qualify for subsidized childcare.

Nationwide:

  • The Trump administration's new guidelines on transgender student protections change course on bathroom access cases.
  • A look at private emails Seattle parents sent to school staffers after teachers came to school wearing Black Lives Matter shirts.
Higher EducationUniversity of California

Demand for UC immigrant student legal services soars as Trump policies sow uncertainty

 (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

As uncertainty over President Trump’s immigration policies persists, attorneys at the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center have become academia’s go-to experts. Should students apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and give their personal information to the Trump administration? Should they travel abroad and risk being denied reentry?

Can students rest easy with the recent news that U.S. immigration officials actually approved more DACA applications in the first three months of this year than in the same period last year?

The center’s attorneys wrestle with such questions daily — along with a soaring workload. Maria Blanco, an attorney who heads the University of California Immigrant Legal Services Center, estimates that cases totaled more than 800 for the 2016-17 academic year, compared with 362 last year. Most of them involve DACA applications, travel permissions, help for students’ families and general consultations.

In Lynwood, Advanced Placement classes are no longer only for the elite

 (Lynwood Unified School District)
(Lynwood Unified School District)

By the time Elizabeth Valenzuela entered her senior year at Lynwood High School, she had taken seven Advanced Placement tests and earned potential college credit on five of them. It was an impressive accomplishment, made more impressive still by the fact that in her small school district she wasn’t one of a kind.

Increasing numbers of students from low-income Latino and black families are taking advanced courses and passing AP exams in Lynwood Unified School District, south of downtown Los Angeles.

To make this happen, the district of 15,000 students provided incentives and assistance and eliminated prerequisite courses and grade requirements that used to limit who enrolled.

Betsy DeVosK-12

DeVos' new transgender student guidance changes course on bathroom access cases

Transgender student Gavin Grimm, whose case the Supreme Court recently vacated. (Associated Press)
Transgender student Gavin Grimm, whose case the Supreme Court recently vacated. (Associated Press)

Shortly after President Donald Trump's inauguration, the administration made waves by revoking President Barack Obama's guidance for transgender students.

The Obama guidelines required schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms according to their stated gender identity, or provide them with private facilities.

At the time, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that such students do receive civil rights protections, and that her office would be releasing an update on how they could be implemented.

Those new guidelines were made public on Friday, and are dated June 6. The letter, written by acting assistant secretary for civil rights Candice Jackson, said officers should use court decisions and these guidelines in assessing gender discrimination, whether or not students identify as transgender. Advocates have major questions about what the guidelines mean in practice.

The memo lists specific instances where officers could have specific jurisdiction, such as failure to use a student's preferred pronoun or a school or district's failure to fix an environment that is hostile toward transgender students. Investigations into  transgender students  being denied the right to use the bathrooms of their choice is not on that list — and the memo states that based on jurisdiction, some complaints might go forward while others, involving bathrooms, might be dismissed.

According to HuffPost, an employee familiar with the guidance interpreted it as a return to the policies of the Bush administration, which did not explicitly emphasize one set of concerns over another.

In a statement, Jackson said some cases were left in limbo by the administration's revocation. "It was very important to the Secretary that our investigators not make the mistake of assuming that just because this particular guidance has been rescinded that all complaints by transgender students are going to be dismissed by OCR," she said. She added that investigators should "individually examine every complaint."

The Obama guidance had been questioned in court, and a Texas judge blocked its implementation. In light of the Trump administration's revocation of the Obama guidelines, the U.S. Supreme Court in March vacated a case in which a transgender student in Virginia sought the right to use the boys' bathroom. 

Catherine Lhamon, who wrote Obama’s transgender rules, says the new letter is “dangerous” for transgender students because it provides language for officers to dismiss cases before they even investigate them. “It says you have jurisdiction over sex discrimination and sex stereotyping, but here’s how you could dismiss it,” she said. “They can’t have it both ways.”

She added that she has heard about bathroom-access cases that have been filed and closed without an investigation since the June letter was issued.

Former OCR deputy assistant secretary Dianne Piche said the letter is confusing. "If the regional offices no longer need to check in with headquarters, and are given the OK to process cases as they see fit, we will easily end up with inconsistent outcomes among similar cases across the country," she said.

Similarly, Eliza Byard, executive director of the LGBT group GLSEN, criticized the letter for lacking clarity. She called on OCR "to specify whether they will defend trans students' access to safe and appropriate school facilities – regardless of where the student lives or what local protections may or may not exist."

UPDATES

11:50 a.m.: This article was updated to include comment from Dianne Piche.

12:09 p.m.: This article was updated to include comment from Eliza Byard. 

This article was originally posted at 10:22 a.m.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
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