As I visit schools and programs throughout the District I am humbled by the incredible work that happens every day. Amazing stories and unsung heroes. I wanted to take a moment to share this great work with you. These are some of the events in my month of May. This is what keeps me going and inspires me. Thank you to everyone working with our students, their families, our schools and our communities. Please take a few minutes to visit the links, websites and stories.
http://http://www.teamprimetime.orgprovides full-inclusion intervention programs in the form of athletics, academic support, leadership training and arts programs to youth from low income areas in Los Angeles. This organization is an excellent example of an outside group supporting our goal of enriched and diverse educational and recreational opportunities for all students.
We have amazing historic campuses throughout Board District 4. Through groundbreaking work with Hollywood High School's Alumni Association the High School received its National Historic Designation. We were able to unveil the plaque this month with Council Members Tom Labonge and Mitch O'Farrell.
Graduation Reception for Homeless Students
Every year, hundreds of students graduate who have faced issues of homelessness and housing insecurity. This year, Monica Ratliff and I co-sponsored a luncheon in their honor.
Phoenix High School Student Advisory Council Members
Though we were unsuccessful in securing an LAUSD Student Board Member position this year, I will continue to meet regularly with the Board District 4 Student Advisory Council. Jeisson and Catherine are two graduating senior representatives from Phoenix High School.
60 Years After Brown v. Board of Education
The UCLA Civil Rights Project released a comprehensive study this May marking the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board ruling. I was privileged to read this important research and reflect on its implications in an excellent piece by the LA Daily News.
Celebration of Bilingualism at Grand View Elementary
At Grand View Elementary, students, parents, teachers and staff celebrated the building of a K-12 Pathway to Biliteracy in Spanish in our Venice Schools. Together, they are ensuring a new generation is preparing not just for college and career, here and abroad, but for honoring their language and culture. I am supporting Assembly Bill 2303 (Bloom-D Santa Monica) which recognizes Districts that have created these pathways and that support students so they may graduate with the Seal of Biliteracy.
I am honored to represent Board District Four. Have a safe, wonderful weekend.
Over the past three months, I have engaged in a conversation with our families, our teachers, our school employees and advocates across my district and beyond. The conversation was supposed to be about the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Local Control Accountability (LCAP), and the Budget. It turned out to be much more of a conversation about who we are and what public education can be.
I decided that I needed to go directly to our school communities rather than listen to scripted speeches at large public meetings. I visited 17 parent centers. I made sure that each person who attended these sessions had a chance to speak to me directly. The conversations with teachers, parents, students and school employees have been amongst the most direct and honest I have ever had.
It's impossible to summarize our dreams for our children. I don't know how to address all the needs that folks shared with me. Never have I felt the cuts more. As with so many things, we realize how much we've lost when we try to figure out how to restore.
These are some of the priorities that were identified:
There were long discussions about how we should do this. Sometimes the priorities contradict each other, but I think we can figure out a way to make it work.
Here are some of the most important principles:
The LCFF does not give us nearly enough funding to reach these principle-based goals.
Proposition 30 was a watershed moment because it was the first time in a generation that the voters of this state choose to invest and tax themselves to support public education. It was a lifeline because we almost lost public education.
I do not need to remind any of you of the agony of the five years of budget cuts. We hurt our schools, our teachers, and our communities. We hurt our children. Only Proposition 30 stopped this.
Proposition 30 was the great stabilizer, but it was not the investment we truly need. In 7 years, Proposition 30 and the LCFF will bring LAUSD back to its 2007-08 budget levels. So, we are no longer in budget free fall. Proposition 30/LCFF will allow us to build a foundation. But our students deserve more. Our families deserve more. Our teachers and school employees deserve more. The California economy and our collective future need us to invest more in our schools now.
But the LCFF is not nearly that investment.
Here is what we must do together to build that investment:
In the coming weeks I will be communicating with you more about our budget. I will argue for some things that you may or may not agree with. But I need you to know this: I have decided that we must use this opportunity to build first what could be, in the places where it most should be. And that does mean concentrating resources to create models for transformation instead of spreading limited resources fairly but thinly in ways that won't create the type of change we need.
Some of the resources we could provide include:
We can't do this everywhere right away. We can't even do this right away everywhere there is urgent need. But we can start where the need is the greatest and create the schools we will look to for the best models of practice and the best outcomes for children. At long last, the most desirable schools will be where our children need us the most.
We all know the promise of public education has been fulfilled for some students but not all students. And we all know the demographic reality of whose promises we've met and who we have abandoned. It is time for us to rebuild trust and promise and hope where we have let our children down the most for the longest time. Its not idealism; it is just doing the right thing.
Let us move forward and with every moment we have let us try to do our part to do the right thing. The LCFF and the LCAP have provided us with this moment and this opportunity. Let us use it together.
I will be in touch with you as this process continues.
With great hope,
By now all of you have seen the horrific pictures of the crash that killed and injured students and their chaperones on the way to an accepted applicant's weekend designed especially for first generation college students at Humboldt State University. There were 19 LAUSD students involved in the accident. The remaining students were from charter schools and other districts in Los Angeles County. All were scheduled to graduate this spring. All had been accepted to Humboldt and more than likely other Cal States, UC's and private colleges. Most were the first in their family to be accepted to a four year college. In the coming weeks, the stories of those we lost will surround us and we will see the positive difference these students had already made at their schools and in their communities.
At this moment we are one greater Los Angeles community as we share the sadness of the Dorsey, Los Angeles Animo, El Monte and Riverside communities. We grieve the loss of students Jennifer Bonilla, Ismael Jimenez, Denise Gomez, Adrian Castro, and Marisa Serrato, as well as the loss of chaperones Michael Myvett, Mattison Haywood and Arthur Arzola. To the friends and family of these amazing young people, we embrace you and offer any comfort we can provide as you grieve this unimaginable loss.
I want you to know that in the midst of unspeakable tragedy, our LAUSD crisis intervention team has mobilized to coordinate, facilitate, communicate, comfort and stabilize one of the worst situations in LAUSD history. I can't thank our team enough. And every time I try, they cut me off to tell me how brave our students and their families have been throughout this ordeal. We will continue to provide support to affected schools even throughout Spring Break.
But even the best school based supports and services cannot repair shattered hearts and broken dreams left behind in the wake of Thursday's accident. That will take each one of us. That will take a whole district. That will take our entire community.
There are immediate and direct ways to help. The District, in partnership with Los Angeles Unified School Police has established a fund through the California Credit Union to offset hospital, medical, burial, transportation and related expenses incurred by the victims and their families. Any support would be greatly appreciated. Please visit the LAUSD Family Support Fund at http://www.laspoa.com/ for more information.
It is not lost on any of us that this trip was designed especially for first generation college students. We are beginning to understand the challenges that these college students must overcome. That is why Humboldt and other universities sponsor trips like this one. Unlike those of us who were second or third generation college students, the students on the bus are forging a pathway for their children and grandchildren. I am convinced that this generation of first time college students understands the significance of their success for both their families and their communities. They have already overcome, in ways we can understand and in ways we cannot. Let us have the courage to learn from them.
We know the bus did not finish the trip it started here in Los Angeles, but we must make sure each student who can, finishes their journey. And we as a community must finish our journey. We must continue to invest in programs like the Humboldt program at all of our colleges and universities. We must continue the difficult work of eradicating the opportunity gap and ensuring every first generation student in every school has the support they need. We know there were hopes and dreams on that bus. And we also know that when we work together, our community can move from grief to healing and again towards hope.
I know the coming week is a significant holiday for many of us. For those of you observing the holidays and those of you who pray or reflect in different ways, I ask you to keep the memory of each of the souls lost and the struggle of the survivors in your thoughts and in your hearts.
I have had a lot of difficult moments since I've been on the School Board. But the most painful, personal and public moment thus far has been the loss of my mentor, colleague and friend Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. She passed away over a month ago and the feelings of loss are with me every day. Ms. LaMotte and I didn't always agree, but we always disagreed with love and respect. From her earliest days in segregated Louisiana to her last days representing Board District 1, she worked tirelessly for every child. She was my conscience on the Board.
A few weeks ago, the Board of Education heard from over 80 community members from Board District 1 before debating whether we should choose a process of election or appointment to fill Ms. LaMotte's vacant seat. From the moment folks began campaigning for either an election or an appointment, I was torn. There were compelling arguments on both sides.
Community leaders and activists pushing for an election rightly and justly demanded that the people of the district, not 6 politicians from outside the community, select their next representative. They powerfully invoked the voting rights struggle to emphasize the importance of enfranchisement for District 1.
Advocates for appointment correctly prioritized representation for Board District 1 children, families and schools during the pivotal next couple of months and quickly illustrated the almost unprecedented impact a vacancy would create. They highlighted the hundreds of millions of dollars that were at stake in the next few months.
Two issues were crystal clear to me. The first is that both "sides" were right. It was right to demand a vote and immediate representation. The second was that the Los Angeles City Charter artificially limits the Board to choose either an election or an appointment.
My goal at that meeting was not to determine which "side" was right but rather to make sure that a solution for representation was found. First, I voted to approve an appointment, but that motion failed. Next, I moved that the Board challenge the limits of the City Charter by authorizing an election and also a process to appoint an interim representative to serve between March and July, when the most critical budget decisions will be made.
A vigorous debate ensued about the parameters of the charter. I argued that the charter is a living document that can, in unique and urgent circumstances, be interpreted and adjusted to do what is right for the community. Unfortunately, my motion failed.
Eventually the Board voted to authorize a June 3rd special election. I supported this motion for three reasons: first, because my colleagues agreed to an amendment to consider options for interim representation; second, because I was unwilling to send this issue to the courts and the county to order an election; and finally, because ultimately I do believe in voter enfranchisement in District 1.
The Board President then asked me to form an ad hoc committee to gather community input on defining the responsibilities of an interim representative. This meeting will take place on February 4th at 6:00 pm in the LAUSD Board Room. At the February 11th meeting the Board will consider the selection process and at the March 4th Board meeting the Board of Education could appoint an interim representative to serve until the June 3rd (or August 12th) election is certified and the new Board Member can be sworn in to complete Ms. LaMotte's term. I will push to ensure that the responsibilities of the representative mirror those of a Board Member, and I will need the support of those who care about District 1 every step of the way.
I cannot stress enough the importance of representation during the next eight months. These are not just any eight months; they are critical. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) decisions will be made dictating how State education funds will be spent. The Board will decide whether, and how, to fund the Common Core Technology project (CCTP), as well as where tablets and laptops will be distributed. Perhaps most significantly, the Board will set priorities for Measure Q, which is over 7 billion dollars in bond money for school renovation and modernization. Decisions like these require advocacy.
It is estimated that the Board will be making decisions and providing guidance for over 10 billion dollars of funding for our schools. Ten billion dollars. If distribution is equitable, over a billion dollars of this money should be earmarked for District 1 schools. The potential fiscal impact of the vacancy on schools in District 1 could not be more serious.
Then there is the question of direct advocacy. Every day I make somewhere between 5-10 calls to advocate for schools, principals, teachers, students and families in my district. I'm not sure anyone was better at this than Ms. LaMotte. She knew her schools, her community, her families and she knew how to fight for them. To leave District 1 without an interim representative would mean a loss of voice and influence in literally every department within LAUSD and every single government agency that connects or overlaps services with the District.
I didn't want to think about how to replace my friend. I still don't. Partially because Ms. LaMotte is irreplaceable and partially because I knew any process would divide the community she loved and cared for so much. I never doubted where Ms. Lamotte stood. And I always knew she would stand. Tall, beautiful and dignified. Even if she stood alone. Especially when she stood alone.
Please help me honor Ms. LaMotte's lifework and her memory as I seek a just solution for this representation dilemma.