Index
Thursday
Apr022015

POLITICS/EDUCATION: Los Angeles Unified School District, dispute, teacher evaluations, control of federal funds?: "Control of L.A. school funds at risk in dispute over teacher evaluations" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Control of L.A. school funds at risk in dispute over teacher evaluations" - From the LAT:

The Los Angeles Unified School District could lose control over $57 million a year in federal funds because of a disagreement over performance evaluations with the teachers union. The dispute centers on the overall rating of a teacher. The union, United Teachers Los Angeles, wants two options: “meets standard performance” or “below standard performance.”

The school system said it is following federal guidelines that require at least three tiers. It is proposing, in contract negotiations, to rate teachers as effective, developing or ineffective. Money is at stake because the new evaluation system was tied to an application, due Tuesday, for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. Without the waiver, the law’s rules require that 20% of federal anti-poverty funds must be spent on private, outside tutoring services and to transport students from so-called “failing schools” to other campuses. Nearly all schools that serve low-income students qualify as failing under federal rules.

School districts across the country have complained about the 20% spending mandate, saying that they could use the money more effectively if it were left under their control. The waiver does just that, allowing a school district to decide how to spend these funds. But there are still strings attached, including a directive to have a teacher evaluation system that relies, in part, on student performance data, and a system with at least three possible grades for a teacher.

The standoff with the union was acknowledged late Tuesday in the application for an extended waiver, which was submitted jointly by L.A. Unified and five other California school districts ....................

Thursday
Apr022015

POLITICS: Education/Demographics: "Literacy gap between Latino and white toddlers starts early, study shows" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Literacy gap between Latino and white toddlers starts early, study shows" - From the LAT:

Latino toddlers whose language comprehension is roughly similar to white peers at 9 months old fall significantly behind by the time they are 2, according to a study released Thursday. The UC Berkeley study found that four-fifths of the nation's Mexican American toddlers lagged three to five months behind whites in preliteracy skills, oral language and familiarity with print materials.

Although earlier studies have shown that Latino children are raised with emotional warmth and develop social skills on par with others when they enter kindergarten, the new research found they are not receiving sufficient language and literacy skills at home, said Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley professor of education and public policy and co-author of the study. "For many Latinos, the home is a nurturing and supportive environment, but it's not necessarily infused with rich language and cognitive challenges," Fuller said. "Being warm and fuzzy may lead to well-behaved youngsters but it doesn't necessarily advance a young child's cognitive agility."

Mothers of toddlers who fell behind were more likely to be foreign-born, low-income and less educated. They were also less likely to read to their children daily or give them as much praise and encouragement as those whose children kept pace with white peers. The study found, for instance, that only 18% of Mexican American mothers who spoke Spanish at home read to their children daily, compared with 59% of white mothers. Among Mexican American mothers who spoke English at home, 28% read daily.

In addition, other research has found . . . . . . . .

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The study tracked a nationally representative sample of 4,550 children from birth to 30 months.

The findings underscore the need for .................

Wednesday
Apr012015

POLITICS (National, State/New Jersey): U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, indictment, federal corruption charges, various reports, sampling of coverage.... 

***Sampling of extensive coverage, indictment of Senator Robert Menendez, federal corruption charges....

* Washington Post:  "Sen. Robert Menendez indicted" - From the WP:

Federal prosecutors unveiled a 14-count indictment Wednesday of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), one of his party’s leading voices on foreign affairs, charging him with using his office to benefit an eye doctor in exchange for many gifts over their decades of friendship.

After a more than two-year investigation, Menendez faces charges related to what prosecutors say were improper efforts by Menendez to help Salomon Melgen, a Florida-based doctor who was also a contributor to Menendez’s campaigns and his longtime friend. Menendez intervened on Melgen’s behalf in a dispute with federal regulators over Medicare charges and in a bid by Melgen to secure a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.

Menendez is only the second U.S. senator to face a federal corruption indictment in the past 20 years. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and suggested that any gifts he received from Melgen were part of a close, personal friendship that dates to the early 1990s.

Federal prosecutors also unveiled charges against Melgen connected to the gifts-for-favors allegations. A grand jury in New Jersey issued eight counts each against Menendez and Melgen for bribery charges and three counts each for honest services fraud, according to a statement from the Justice Department. They also each received one count for conspiracy and one count for violating the Travel Act, and Menendez was also charged with one count of making false statements.

The indictment has been telegraphed for almost a month by officials within the Justice Department, but Menendez’s legal team spent the last few weeks making a furious last-ditch effort to persuade Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s top deputies not to file charges.

The senator has said he has no intention of resigning and plans to stay in office during the trial phase of the case, which could last many months or years .......................

***ALSO:

* New Jersey Star-Ledger:  "Sen. Robert Menendez indicted on federal corruption charges"

* Politico:  "Grand jury indicts Robert Menendez on corruption charges" - "The indictment is filled with salacious allegations about the senator's dealings with a Florida opthamologist"

* USA Today:  "Menendez indicted on federal corruption charges"

Wednesday
Apr012015

L.A. CITY HALL: Broken sidewalks, American with Disabilities Act litigation: "L.A. agrees to spend $1.3 billion to fix sidewalks in ADA case" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "L.A. agrees to spend $1.3 billion to fix sidealks in ADA case" - From the LAT:

Los Angeles is pledging to spend more than $1.3 billion over the next three decades to fix a massive backlog of broken sidewalks and make other improvements to help those with disabilities navigate the city as a result of a tentative deal being described as a landmark legal settlement.

The proposed agreement still must be finalized and approved by a federal judge. It would resolve a lawsuit filed by attorneys for the disabled, who argued that crumbling, impassable sidewalks and other barriers have prevented people in wheelchairs or others with mobility impairments from accessing public pathways, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Attorneys described it as the biggest agreement of its kind in U.S. history. . . . . . . . .

   ****

 

Under the terms of the proposed settlement tentatively agreed to by the City Council and announced Wednesday, the city must spend $31 million annually on sidewalk and other repairs beginning in the next budget year. The amount will increase to a maximum of $63 million annually in future years to adjust for rising costs.

The settlement terms do not identify any new source of funding. But City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana noted that the deal does not limit the type of funding L.A. can use to pay for the repairs, meaning officials could seek various types of grants to pay for the work ......................

Wednesday
Apr012015

L.A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, payment of old political debts: "Special interests pick up tab for Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian" .... 

* Daily News:  "Special interests pick up tab for Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian" - From the DN:

Frank Lima, president of the union representing city firefighters, was approached last year with a pitch to help Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian. The San Fernando Valley politician had debt from an unsuccessful 2000 state Assembly race, Lima said he was told. The union head promptly wrote a $1,000 personal check to Friends of Paul Krekorian, a state campaign committee set up by Krekorian for his 2000 race. A week later, the firefighters union sent a $5,000 check to the committee.

Krekorian is turning to groups with a stake in City Hall decisions to help pay off personal loans and other campaign debt from an Assembly race he lost 15 years ago, state filings show. Over the last five years, Krekorian’s committee has collected more than $80,000 in donations from lobbyists, unions, businesses, and other groups and individuals. Those contributions have helped Krekorian recoup more than half of the $100,000 in personal loans he made over a four-year period to his campaign committee, filings show.

Through FPK, groups with business before the city can legally winnow Krekorian’s old campaign debt. The politician chairs the city’s powerful Budget and Finance Committee, making him a desired ally of unions and lobbyists.

FPK is a state committee, so it isn’t beholden to city laws that cap contributions from individuals and businesses at $700 for an office-holder account or campaign committee or $1,300 for a legal defense fund. Lobbyists are also barred from directly contributing to council members under city rules.

Charles H. Bell Jr., a Sacramento-based campaign law attorney, said Krekorian’s fundraising may be legal, but it looks troubling because the donations are helping pay off the politician’s personal loans to his 2000 campaign. “Going to people who aren’t supposed to contribute at the local level and asking them for money that’s ultimately going into your pocket doesn’t look very good,” Bell said.

Krekorian declined to be interviewed. His spokesman, Ian Thompson, wrote in an email that FPK is compliant with state regulations. Asked about ethical concerns over the committee’s fundraising, Thompson wrote: “The committee is completely unrelated to Council member Krekorian’s current work on the City Council.” ....................