We engage, educate and activate public school parents to advocate for excellent, equitable public education at their schools, in their communities, with elected representatives and at the ballot box.
FROM SPEAK UP BOARD WATCH
LAUSD is losing enrollment at an even faster pace than projected, meaning $17 million less revenue this year and $18 million next year.
With a total of 501,271 kids enrolled this fall, LAUSD lost just over 13,000 students from last year, a decline of 2.55 percent, which was higher than the 2.1 percent expected.
“That’s like a small school district we’re losing every year,” said LAUSD CFO Scott Price during a presentation at Tuesday’s board meeting, which also exposed the difficult feelings of board members who are no longer in the majority voting bloc since the May school board elections.
“I feel disenfranchised,” said Board Member Richard Vladovic (BD7). “I’m not being heard, and nobody cares … I don’t even feel like it’s worth coming to the meeting anymore because it’s like talking to the air … I know my vote doesn’t count.”
As UTLA prepares to picket at school sites Wednesday, LAUSD Board Vice President Nick Melvoin (ND4) offered some straight talk on union demands and what’s at stake for kids.
"Again, we all agree we need more revenue. I join UTLA and have been calling for more state funding since I launched the campaign. But if you have a finite pool of money, which we do -- unless there is money we don’t know about it, and if so, we hope the union will tell it where it is -- then if you decrease class sizes, then you have to hire more teachers. And that costs a lot of money. And then there’s less money for raises. So while both are noble goals, it is magical thinking unless we’re tying it to potential increases in funding. And that’s one thing I talked about on the campaign: Let’s look at more statewide funding, let’s look at a parcel tax, and let’s have some bargain where some of it would pay down the liability, some would be for class size reduction, and maybe some would be for art instructors. Those are conversations we should have. But this idea of we want class size decreases and more teachers without showing us where the money is, that’s magical thinking."
We spoke to Monica Garcia as on the eve of her first regular LAUSD Board Meeting as President. She talked about the new board that was seated in July, parent power, union negotiations and threats of a teachers strike.
"We have to do more. If the system stays the same, I think that’s where there’s a lot of crisis that we would inflict upon ourselves...Those are choices before us, and the choice to do nothing is a bad choice."
LAUSD Board Vice President Nick Melvoin (BD4) plans to introduce a resolution at the board meeting Tuesday directing the district to create a new app to better help parents access information about LAUSD and communicate their needs to the district.
Co-sponsored by Board President Monica Garcia and Board member Richard Vladovic, the Transforming Engagement via Communication Hubs, or TECH app resolution, will be voted on at the regular board meeting in November.
“One of the things I talked about explicitly on the campaign was a better way of communicating with our stakeholders, everything from emergency communications to two-way communications,” Melvoin told Speak UP. “It’s basically the one-stop for parents and stakeholders to be able to see what’s happening at LA Unified, how to navigate their school, how to get in touch with key people, how to give feedback. I imagine a survey piece of this. And also for the district to move beyond paper bulletins and Robocalls to do push notifications and update information in real time.”
The LAUSD Board voted unanimously to deny the renewal of Lashon Academy, LA County’s only Hebrew language charter school Tuesday, despite strong and growing academic performance of its students. The school plans to appeal the decision to the Los Angeles County Board of Education.
The denial of Lashon’s renewal petition, which had nothing to do with how well the school serves kids, was a result of a breakdown in communication between the school and LAUSD’s Charter Schools Division after the school challenged language that LAUSD requires charters to include in their petitions.
The LAUSD Board of Education will vote on four charter school renewal petitions Tuesday at the monthly LAUSD Board meeting dedicated exclusively to charter school issues. Three are recommended for approval. But one Hebrew language charter elementary school, Lashon Academy in Van Nuys, is recommended for denial, despite the fact that student achievement in math and English were far above the LAUSD resident school’s median average, including among low-income and Latino kids, and had improved since the prior year.
New Board President Expected To Be Chosen Tuesday
Highlights of the Sept. 19 Committee of the Whole Meeting:
· Dr. Ref Rodriguez has stepped down as LAUSD Board President while retaining his board seat as the representative for District 5.
· LAUSD disclosed that it has a higher number of students on track to graduate, and a higher number on track to graduate with a C or above in A-G classes than at the same time last year.
· The board discussed the shortage of qualified college counselors to help students close the gap between their ambitions to attend four-year colleges and their post-graduation realities.
FROM THE BLOG
But our job is not finished -- far from it. In many ways, it’s just beginning. Now that we have succeeded in electing a kids-first majority to the board, we need to follow through and make sure the agenda we worked for is implemented amid pressure from special-interest groups intent on perpetuating the status quo.
We must remain alert and ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice on behalf of our kids. We need to be tireless in our efforts to hold our new board members accountable to their promises to give parents a seat at the table and to make all decisions with the best interests of our kids in mind and at heart.
Parents who worked hard to elect a new kids-first majority to the LAUSD Board congratulated the new and returning members sworn in earlier this month -- Nick Melvoin, Kelly Gonez and Monica Garcia -- in this Speak UP video tribute. We also spoke in depth to Kelly Gonez, the newly elected representative for Board District 6, about her priorities for the district and the ways Speak UP members can help. Her message to parents: “The most important thing is to hold us accountable.”
They cheered. They celebrated. After months of knocking on doors, calling voters and mobilizing their fellow parents and friends, Speak UP parents welcomed new Los Angeles Unified School Board member, Nick Melvoin - the candidate they helped to elect. Like Melvoin, newly-elected Kelly Gonez and incumbent Monica Garcia, were sworn in as LAUSD board members during a ceremony last week in downtown Los Angeles.
Speak UP extends its congratulations to Allison Holdorff Polhill, who has joined the staff of newly elected District 4 Board Member Nick Melvoin as Senior Adviser and Director of Community Engagement.
“I heard a lot from parents and voters, especially in the primary, that they wished they could have both Allison and me on the board,” Melvoin told Speak UP. “This seems to me like the perfect way to do that. She will be the first line of response when it comes to parent concerns.”
Polhill, who ran as a primary candidate for the BD4 board seat, most recently served as Director of Strategic Initiatives and Outreach for Speak UP, where she was highly successful in convincing her primary supporters and parents at schools in Pacific Palisades to vote for Melvoin in the run-off.
“I am honored and thrilled to be working with Nick,” Polhill told Speak UP. “I am looking forward to seeing all the amazing things that he is going to do with LAUSD.”
Newly elected board members, Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez, will be sworn in at the Annual Board of Education meeting on July 6 at 10 a.m. A reception will immediately follow at 11 a.m.
We spoke to Nick Melvoin, the new Board District 4 representative, who will be sworn in next Thursday. The civil rights activist and former teacher with a ‘Kids First’ agenda said he is ready to roll up his sleeves to fight for good quality education, regardless of a student’s zip code.
The newly elected board, to be seated in July, will have to live with this new budget for its first year but is expected to tackle some of the tough decisions needed to address LAUSD’s fiscal crisis.
“People have to get ready,” Melvoin said. “Righting a ship that has been wrong for so long is not going to happen overnight.”
It’s been a long and contentious election season, but there’s been one inspiring, unsung aspect that sets this election apart from any other school board race we have seen in Los Angeles: Speak UP members have created a powerful grassroots movement of parents rising up to demand change on May 16.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, we want to celebrate our Speak UP moms from all kinds of LAUSD schools – traditional neighborhood schools, charters, pilots, magnets and dual language immersion schools – who have joined together to knock on doors and call voters to get out the word about Nick Melvoin and his kids-first agenda.
Mothers make all kinds of sacrifices for their kids, and Speak UP moms have given up countless weekend and evening hours with their own kids in order to help create positive change in the lives of all kids in Los Angeles. We are in awe.
And now we need to finish the job by getting out the vote for Nick and by going to the polls ourselves to cast our votes on Tuesday.