Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

Education as a Human Right

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Individualized Education Should be for All Students

Chewy.JPGIn order for children on the autism spectrum to reach their full potential, parents and teachers must work closely together to tailor an educational program that meets each child’s unique needs. For those with mild to severe disabilities, the law specifies that the procedures used be formalized in an Individualized Education Program (IEP). A well executed IEP meeting is a collaborative effort between parents and the team involved in the child’s education.

Faced with two daughters who had stalled in their progress, my wife and I prepared ourselves for a new round of IEPs. Both meetings started well, with the other participants either agreeing with our assessments or providing suggestions that built upon our ideas. However, in the end, they refused to write these into the IEPs. In each case, we were pulled aside by someone who risked their employment with the LAUSD to explain that the District that would not allow them to include what we all agreed was the best course of action.

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The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Monica Garcia

Please list your top 4 priorities for the elective office you are seeking.

  1. Increase graduation
  2. Increase 3rd grade reading
  3. Reduce suspensions
  4. Reduce drop-outs

- Monica Garcia


There are many challenges facing the LAUSD. As an example, just last month the District warned state and county officials that it “may not be able to meet its financial obligations in upcoming years because it faces a cumulative deficit of $1.46 billion through the 2018-2019 school year.” It is also fighting a $1 billion lawsuit filed by Mark Geragos against the LAUSD on behalf of teachers who were victimized by the District’s Teacher Jail program. Parents of children with moderate to severe special education needs are also suing the District in an effort to keep special education centers open. Most concerning, incumbent Board member Monica Garcia states that “most of our kids, all of our kids can’t read.”

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Employees of Charter Group Raided By FBI Among Funders of Mónica García's Campaign

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Federal agents raided the offices of a network of Los Angeles charter schools Wednesday as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of fraud and fiscal mismanagement.

- Los Angeles Times, 1/25/17


Exempting charters “from many of the regulations that govern traditional schools” was supposed to be a way to remove barriers to innovation. Unfortunately, this also provided a way unscrupulous operators to profit from education funds. As an example, the principal of El Camino Real Charter High School got caught charging “first-class airfare and luxury hotel rooms” and personal charges on his school credit card was “punished” with a $215k severance payout. Granada Hills Charter High School made unauthorized transfers from its Associated Student Body bank account. The latest example may be the Celerity Educational Group, which was raided today by federal agents.

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A Failing Charter Gets a Pass

 

We cannot truly have the impact charters were intended to have - to reinvent public education - if we do not close those charters that have demonstrated an inability to meet the challenge of excellence and chronically underperform.

- California Charter School Association (CCSA)

According to the statistics provided by the CCSA, View Park Middle School (VPMS) appears to be accelerating towards failure. In 2015, the charter’s Similar Students Rank was a mediocre four out of ten. Last year, it dropped to a one out of ten. Included in a “Findings of Fact” dated January 10, 2017, the LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) noted that, on the 2014-15 SBAC assessment, only 5% of VPMS’ students met or exceeded the performance standards in math. In 2015-2016, this dropped to 3%. In both years, 0% of students with disabilities met or exceeded these standards. These statistics are part of the reason that the CSD found that VPMS “has presented an unsound educational program” and recommended that the LAUSD Board deny its renewal petition. With a 4-3-0 vote, the Board ignored this recommendation and the charter will continue to operate.

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The Long Shadow of John Deasy

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

- George Santayana

It has been more than two years since LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy was forced to resign in disgrace. Unfortunately, the legacy that he has left for the District’s students echoes into the present day. After spending at least $189 million on the “disastrous” MiSiS computer system, there are still reports of problems with its functionality. His $1.3 billion failed iPad program wasted scarce education dollars as the District faces bankruptcy. The culture of bullying that Deasy propagated may end up costing the District $1 billion and the opportunity for outside lawyers to rack up plenty of billable hours.

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LAUSD Schools Face Bankruptcy While Charters Cheat on Admissions

Through admissions policies that exclude vulnerable students by erecting various barriers to entry, charter schools have the potential to create a two-tiered system of public education.

- ACLU and Public Advocates

The LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) says that “a review of charter school pre- and post-enrollment forms is part of our oversight process”.  It is, therefore, unclear how these regulators missed the fact that both Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) and El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) have admission requirements that appear to violate LAUSD policy, their respective charters, the California Education Code and federal law. These organizations rely on public funds to operate but appear to be screening out students who should have a right to attend. Some examples of this cherry-picking are as follows:

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School's (Not) Out for Summer

Thanks to all the effective voices that made this possible for our youth!

- Mónica García, 12/14/16

During last week’s LAUSD meeting, the Board suddenly reversed course and abandoned a carefully compromised plan that would have slowly returned the beginning of the school year closer to its traditional Labor Day start. Without a warning to the parents who had been pushing for this change, they rejected the calendar that they told Superintendent Michelle King to craft last September and told her to start over again with the schedule that is already in place. After the vote, Board member García took to Twitter to thank “all the effective voices that made this possible for our youth!”, ignoring the fact that she had effectively silenced all other voices through her parliamentary maneuvers. Those who had celebrated their advocacy for change just a few months ago only found out about the reversal in the next morning’s news reports. Once again parents’ voices had not been heard during the deliberative process of the LAUSD Board.

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Charter Principal Gets Caught Engaging in Financial Shenanigans and is Punished with a $215K Payout

Ex-charter school chief gets $215K after resigning in wake of spending controversy

- Los Angeles Daily News, 11/30/16

The administration at El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) admits that David Fehte charged “more than $6,000” in personal charges on his school-issued credit card. An investigation by the Los Angeles Daily News found that “over the two years, Fehte charged more than $100,000 to the card”, including “$15,500 at Monty’s” Prime Steaks & Seafood and “first-class airfare and luxury hotel rooms”. The LAUSD Charter School Division found that the school had “no policy for Credit Card use” and issued a Notice to Cure on October 28, 2015. Almost a year later the “CSD still had ongoing concerns regarding the capacity and accountability of the Charter School, the charter organization, and its governing board, to operate ECRCHS effectively and in compliance with applicable laws and the terms of its charter”. The LAUSD Board scheduled a hearing to discuss Notice of Intent to Revoke ECRCHS’ charter.

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LAUSD's Parent Jail

Disruptive Person Letters (DPL) are issued by principals within the LAUSD when someone interferes with the ability “to maintain a safe campus free of disruption.” There is concern among parents that in addition to protecting against “behavior that poses a danger to staff or students”, these letters are also being used to retaliate against those who question a school’s implementation of policy. For this reason, they are better known as Disruptive Parent Letters. On November 22, 2016, the LAUSD’s Early Childhood and Parent Engagement Committee held a hearing on improving the DPL policy. The following is a copy of my testimony before this committee:


I have heard it stated a couple of times today that these “Disruptive Person Letters” are rare. Truthfully, we have no way of knowing that. I issued a Public Records Act request in August of 2015, and I asked for any email, memo or letter containing the language that is found in these letters. In response, I was told that the District does not capture “specific data on disruptive parent letters.” On September 28, 2015, I was told that “this information is not captured at this time.”

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