Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How negative news becomes positive with the spin of political operatives


SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell today issued the following statement regarding student progress on the SAT:

"Young people in our schools today face an increasingly demanding and competitive global economy once they graduate. Strong communications skills, critical thinking skills, and math skills are essential to their success.

"While the mean SAT score in math and critical reading in California did not increase this year, California students did outpace the national average on the written portion of the SAT. This is the first year that writing is included in this exam.

"I am pleased that many more ethnic minority students in our state are taking the SAT than ever before, and that overall more of our test takers are also taking four or more years of English-language arts and mathematics coursework during their high school careers. These are very positive trends that show students are working hard to attain the higher level skills that will help them survive and thrive in the global economy of the 21st century."

For more information on SAT results, please see: (Outside Source).

Background information on major school issues

Here is a good site from UCLA with information on the major crises in California Schools.
Last updated Sept.2005, thus the school finance pages may be out of date.

Mayor Villraigosa and L.A. Schools

Legislators OK School Plan; Gov. Vows Approval
Assembly Waffles, Then Gives OK After Intense Lobbying
By Nancy Vogel
Times Staff Writer

August 30, 2006

SACRAMENTO — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's bid for greater control over the Los Angeles Unified School District cleared the Legislature on Tuesday evening and headed for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who praised the mayor for "bold leadership."

"I ask the Legislature to immediately send this bill to my desk so I can sign this measure to give all LAUSD students the quality education they deserve to succeed," Schwarzenegger said in an unusually quick endorsement of legislation.

The bill embodying Villaraigosa's plan for more mayoral involvement in public schools passed the Assembly, its last legislative hurdle, on a 42-20 vote, with 17 members not voting.

The bill passed two hours after an initial vote attracted only 30 "ayes," well below the minimum 41 needed.

That early vote triggered frantic lobbying by Villaraigosa and the friends who wrote his legislation, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) and Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles).

"This is a big day," said Villaraigosa, who led the Assembly from 1998 to 2000 and is a potential Democratic candidate for governor. "I can tell you, I always knew this would be a tough battle. But the real work begins. The work of putting [together] the broad and comprehensive plan of turning around our schools, the work of building consensus in the city of Los Angeles and the schools to create a new partnership for education reform. I'm very heartened."

Romero described herself as "walking on clouds."

"To me, that vote that was delivered," she said, "it's a vote of hope and a belief that we can do better."

The bill, AB 1381, would shift budget and contracting authority from the seven-member board that sets policy for the Los Angeles Unified School District to the district superintendent.

The bill would also give the Los Angeles mayor and the mayors of the 26 other cities in the district the power to veto the school board's choice of superintendent. And it would give the Los Angeles mayor direct control over about 30 low-performing schools.

Villaraigosa, once a high school dropout, has said he sought the legislation to prevent micromanagement by the school board and to unite parents, teachers and civic leaders to reverse the district's high dropout rate and history of low academic performance. The mayor campaigned on education reform and negotiated the elements of the bill in closed-door meetings with teachers' unions.

District officials have fought hard against Villaraigosa's plan, arguing that it will add layers of bureaucracy, blur accountability and jeopardize the steady academic improvement L.A. Unified students have made in the last five years.

As they have on many days in recent months, Supt. Roy Romer and board President Marlene Canter spent Tuesday making their case to legislators.

After the bill passed the Assembly, district officials sounded a conciliatory note, saying that they would cooperate with Villaraigosa even though they disagreed with his legislation.

"We're going to have to join together and work together," said Romer, who is retiring from the district next month. "I think you've got to put personality aside. You've got to put past competition aside and say, 'Hey look, our job is to work cooperatively and collaborative to improve the education of children in Los Angeles.' "

But even as district officials offered to work with Villaraigosa, they were planning to meet in closed session Thursday to discuss a possible lawsuit to block the legislation.

The bill passed out of the state Senate on Monday on a 23-14 vote, with every Democrat from Los Angeles in support. Two Republican senators also voted for it.

Support was not so solid in the Assembly, where no Republicans voted for the bill and several Los Angeles-area Democrats abstained. They included Mark Ridley-Thomas of Los Angeles, Carol Liu of La Cañada Flintridge and Paul Koretz of West Hollywood, who missed the vote due to illness.

Liu said the changes should have been made by a vote of L.A. Unified residents, not the Legislature.

Ridley-Thomas is on the district's search committee for a new superintendent and said he therefore wanted to avoid taking a public position on the bill.

The Assembly Democrats who initially abstained but then voted for the bill included Jerome Horton of Inglewood, who said he got "personal commitments" from Villaraigosa that the clusters of schools overseen by the mayor will not get more financial backing than other district schools.

"There is a lot in the bill that I think is unconstitutional," Horton said. "I think it goes to the court and I think it gets overturned. But to stimulate the debate about school reform — it serves to do that purpose."

Another Democrat who initially abstained and then voted "aye" was Gloria Negrete-McLeod of Chino, who said she was lobbied by Romero.

"I still have some problems" with the legislation, said Negrete-McLeod, whose district does not include L.A. Unified territory. "But she said that it's only for five years and so if it doesn't work, we'll see that it doesn't work."

Nuñez said that many members were nervous about the bill because it had gotten so much publicity, and many needed to be reassured that the provisions would apply only to L.A. Unified.

"It allows the superintendent the freedom to run the day-to-day operations of the school district without being hamstrung by a school board that oftentimes micromanages that school district," he said.

"These are school board members that have a larger staff than Assembly members and they hold back progress sometimes by getting involved in too much detail," he said.

Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) voted against the bill, as he had said he would, out of fear that the plan would diminish African American influence in the district.

Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) recused herself from voting for the bill on the Assembly floor and earlier in the day in the Assembly Education Committee, which she heads. She said she is a candidate to replace Romer and recused herself "out of an abundance of caution."

"I've checked — there is no legal conflict of interest," she said, "but I think there's an ethical conflict of interest in choosing between the two sides on this."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Yes on 89 : Clean Money Campaign

We Have a Crisis of Corruption in Our Government
Lobbyists and special interests contribute millions to politicians who pass their pork barrel projects and tax loopholes – costing taxpayers like you billions.
Prop 89: Politicians Accountable to Voters Instead. Its Three Powerful Components Are:
1) Strict contribution limits
Prop 89 ends the fundraising madness with constitutional limits so regular voters aren’t drowned out by big money.
Bans contributions from lobbyists and state contractors
Limits contributions from corporations, unions, and individuals to state candidates
Limits corporation donations to initiatives to $10,000
2) Clean Money public financing of political campaigns
Prop 89 levels the playing field so new candidates can win on their ideas, not because of the money they raise.
Candidates who agree to spending limits and to take no private contributions qualify for public funding
$5 contributions from voters required to prove viability
Clean candidates receive enough to run competitive campaigns. They can't raise money beyond public funds
3) Tough disclosure and enforcement for politicians
Prop 89 stops candidates from hiding behind negative ads and punishes politicians who violate the law.
Makes wealthy self-funded candidates disclose the amount of personal funds they will spend
Publicly financed candidates must engage in debates
Imposes mandatory jail time and provides for removal from office of candidates who break the law.
Full details about Prop 89
Bottom line:
Prop 89 Makes Elections About Ideas Not Money
That’s why trusted groups representing your interests — like the League of Women Voters of California, California Common Cause, the Consumer Federation of California, and the California Clean Money Campaign — support Prop 89.
And why lobbyists and special interests — like big oil, drug companies, insurance firms, HMOs and some unions — don’t.

Get the full story.

Monday, August 28, 2006

L.A. Schools

LAUSD Reform Legislation Approved by Senate, 23-14
By Nancy Vogel and Michael Muskal
Times Staff Writers

11:52 AM PDT, August 28, 2006

The state Senate today passed a bill that would give Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa some control over Los Angeles' public schools.

In a 23-14 vote, the Senate approved AB 1381, the compromise school reform measure. It now goes to the Assembly, where it is expected to pass despite strong opposition from Los Angeles Unified School District officials.

Four Democrats either voted no or abstained, which meant that Republican votes were needed to get the measure out of the Senate.

Two Democrats, Dean Florez of Shafter and Jackie Speier of Hillsborough voted against the bill.

Mike Machado (D-Linden) abstained because his wife is on a school board. Also abstaining was Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont).

Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) abstained but later asked to have her vote recorded as yes, changing the originally reported vote.

Two Republicans, Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield and George Runner of Lancaster voted yes.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is up for election this year, has pledged to sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.

The legislation strips the elected school board of much of its power while strengthening the school superintendent's authority.

It creates a council of mayors that would help run the district but it gives the mayor of Los Angeles, where most of the students reside, an overwhelming voice in the district's affairs because the council voting system is based on population.

Villaraigosa would also have direct control over three underperforming high schools and their feeder schools.

The compromise is far from the complete control and accountability that Villaraigosa had sought. But it does give the mayor standing in the debate over how to improve the schools.

Once signed, the bill is expected to go to the courts.

The LAUSD has retained a Sacramento law firm and some district officials have said they intend to sue.

"Thank God there is a judiciary branch," school board member David Tokofsky said recently.

Last week, the state's legislative counsel issued another analysis questioning the constitutionality of the bill.

"In our view," wrote the nonpartisan legislative counsel, Diane F. Boyer-Vine, "an amendment of the California Constitution would likely be necessary" because the mayor lacks "authority to operate and administer the schools of a school district."

It was the second similar opinion by Boyer-Vine.

The mayor's legal counsel, Thomas Saenz, said that he disagrees with Boyer-Vine's analysis and is confident that the bill is constitutional. The Legislature, he said, has the constitutional authority to transfer power over schools.

Kevin Reed, LAUSD general counsel, has been making arguments similar to Boyer-Vine's, especially about Villaraigosa's plan to personally take over a group of low-performing schools in a "demonstration project."

Times staff writer Mitchell Landsberg contributed to this report.

The Education consultant racket: why politicos should stop listening to consultants

New York Daily News -
Schools hired guns' fat checks
Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Seven of the high-powered consultants hired by City
Hall to cut fat from the school bureaucracy are
charging taxpayers more than a million dollars each
for work over the next 18 months, the Daily News has
The most expensive consultant, Sajan George, is
billing the city a staggering $450 per hour as part of
a $17 million contract that the city awarded his firm,
Alvarez & Marsal, without competitive bidding, records

George's fees alone will cost taxpayers $1.7 million -
more than four times what Schools Chancellor Joel
Klein will earn during the same 18-month period.

And in an unprecedented move, the contract appears to
make some of the consultants responsible for work
historically performed by top Education Department

Hired gun Sam Mehta - who will bill taxpayers for $1.6
million - is already sitting a few paces away from
Klein's office at the Education Department's lower
Manhattan headquarters. Until recently Mehta's desk
was occupied by now-retired Chief Financial Officer
Bruce Feig, who earned $178,156 a year.

Mehta has been introduced during meetings as the new
chief financial officer, according to two city
officials who requested anonymity. Mehta also has
signed employee time cards, according to a source.

But Education Department spokesman David Cantor - who
maintains the consultants will save the city hundreds
of millions of dollars a year - said Mehta's title is
chief restructuring officer. Cantor said a budget
document that listed Mehta as CFO was a typographical

"For a one-time charge of $17 million, we're
implementing internal restructuring that will cut at
least $200 million annually from our administrative
budget to give to schools," Cantor said.

"We're also developing financial systems that will
help us to better manage our budget and give
transparency to our spending decisions. We don't have
the capacity in-house to do this kind of work - nor
does any government agency or private company, as a

As private employees, the consultants are not required
to file financial disclosure forms or follow other
rules governing public employees, though they oversee
the schools' $15 billion budget.

Public school and government watchdogs expressed
concern over the consultants' fees.

"If they drive more money to the schools [that the
city has] been starving, then it's really wonderful,"
said Noreen Connell of the Educational Priorities
Panel. "But if they don't, then it's another wasteful
extravagance that's taking money away from other vital

"It boggles the mind," Connell added. "I think there's
enough budget people in New York City who ... could do
it at far lower costs."

The consulting contract is the largest of the roughly
$120 million worth of no-bid contracts that educrats
awarded during the last fiscal year - a total that far
surpasses previous years, as The News revealed last

No one currently holds the title of chief financial
officer in the Education Department. The former acting
CFO, Susan Olds, is listed on the department Web site
as executive budget director. When she was acting
finance director, she was paid $162,000 a year,
records show.

Klein's annual salary is $250,000. He is the
second-highest-paid city employee.

City Council Education Chairman Robert Jackson pledged
to hold hearings on all the no-bid contracts in the

"If they'll save us $300 million, okay, it may be
worth it," Jackson said. "But to pay $17 million on a
contract that was not competitively bid and knowing
the contract is paying employees over 18 months $1.6
or whatever millions, I think anyone has to question

The Alvarez & Marsal contract calls for its six
highest-paid consultants to work 55 hours a week for
17-1/2 months. Another 13 consultants will work the
same hours for shorter periods, ranging from a month
to a year. The billing rates range from $275 to $450
an hour.

"Quite frankly," Jackson said, "those individuals are
making more money than any city employee in New York."

Dream team of bean counters

What the highest-paid financial consultants are
charging the Education Department:

Sajan George, Project leader
$1.7 million

Sam Mehta, Chief restructuring officer for finance
$1.6 million

Michelle Lewis, Setting up system for principals to
choose programs and services
$1.3 million

Erin Covington, Overhauling budgeting process
$1.3 million

Cory Schupp, Integrating financial accounting with
$1.3 million

Andrew Thung, Assisting with budget overhaul
$1.3 million

Nate Arnett, Chief restructuring officer for school
food and student transportation
$1 million

Saturday, August 26, 2006

L.A. Teacher and the war,0,3387189.story?coll=la-home-headlines
Retaliation Alleged for Teaching on Iraq War
By Jessica Garrison
Times Staff Writer

August 26, 2006

Among the students at San Fernando High School, a sun-baked campus in a poor, mostly Latino area on the northern fringe of the San Fernando Valley, the issue of military recruiting looms large.

The school sends hundreds more students to college than it does into the military, but still, according to senior Erika Preciado, "more recruiters are here for the military than for colleges."

The 17-year-old is co-editor of the school newspaper, El Tigre. In her journalism class this week, almost all of the students said they had been contacted by a military recruiter, and several said recruiters had been guest speakers in their classes or had talked to them at school events, such as one where recruiters brought a chin-up bar onto campus.

Seven of the 28 students said they knew someone who had died in Iraq while serving in the U.S. military.

The issue concerns the school librarian, Kitty Kroger, so much that she banned recruiters from placing their literature in the library and has waged a campaign to "make kids fully aware of what it would mean to be in the military."

Now the issue figures in a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District by a San Fernando High teacher who says the principal retaliated against him because he urged students to think critically about the military and the war in Iraq.

Alberto Gutierrez, a 33-year-old social studies teacher who is known on campus as a passionate educator with a left-wing tilt, says in a suit filed this week that after he "offered objective discussion … regarding the United States' involvement in the war in Iraq to his students," then-Principal Jose Luis Rodriguez began filling Gutierrez's personnel file with negative reviews and surreptitiously encouraging parents to complain about him.

The teacher says he received only glowing performance reviews until two years ago, after he began teaching about the war.

At the same time, according to the suit, Rodriguez didn't object when another teacher required students to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, designed by the Department of Defense to measure aptitude for military service.

The suit contends that Rodriguez "strongly supports the United States' involvement in the war and adamantly opposes any other opinions."

Rodriguez, who has since been promoted to director of secondary services for one of Los Angeles Unified's local district headquarters in the Valley, denied those claims. He said he limited military recruiters' presence on campus to Wednesdays at lunch.

And he said his concerns about the teacher "weren't specific to the war in Iraq." Rather, he said, he spoke to Gutierrez because of complaints from parents that the teacher had required students to visit a cafe in Sylmar to watch movies including "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's 2004 antiwar film, and "Crash," which won the Academy Award this year for best picture.

District policy requires that students have their parents' permission to see such adult-oriented movies, Rodriguez said. He added that Gutierrez is a committed teacher and called it unfortunate that he had chosen to sue.

Gutierrez responded that he did not require students to visit Tia Chucha's Cafe; he only offered them an extra-credit opportunity.

As for "Fahrenheit 9/11," Gutierrez said, he showed it to students in his classroom in response to unannounced and uninvited visits from military recruiters.

"I had military recruiters walk into my class two times in one week," he said. After those visits, he said, he decided to show the movie, which includes scenes of recruiters — one of whom was later killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq — before allowing recruiters to address his class. He also said Rodriguez placed limits on the recruiters only after Gutierrez and other teachers exerted pressure.

Gutierrez, who grew up in North Hills, said he was once affiliated with a gang but has dedicated himself to improving conditions in his community and at San Fernando High.

"As a teacher, my goal is to bring awareness and make the connection between the textbook and the real world," he said.

Military recruiters' visits to high schools have led to disputes around the country in the last few years, with some teachers and parents complaining that they use overly aggressive tactics and target schools with low-income and minority students.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act allows the Pentagon to gather the home addresses and telephone numbers of public school students.

An opt-out clause lets parents sign a form preventing information about their child from being released.

In addition, the law says any school that allows college recruiters must also allow military recruiters if it wants to keep its federal funding.

At San Fernando High, Kroger, the librarian and sponsor of the now-defunct Peace Club, said she was taken aback when some of her students talked of joining the military and bombing Middle Eastern countries.

"I think we should have separation of the school and the military," she said. "It's become much too enmeshed in the school."

But Kroger said she blames the federal law that allows recruiters on campus — not the former principal.

"I personally haven't seen any crackdown on dissent," she said.

Friday, August 25, 2006

School Budgets and Prop. 98

California Insider
A Weblog by 
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

AUGUST 25, 2006
CTA v. Schwarzenegger
Bill language is circulating in the Capitol to implement the terms of the legal settlement between the governor and the California Teachers Assn. over the funding the teachers claim the state illegally withheld from the schools in 2004 and 2005. The bill provides about $3 billion in new money for the schools through 2013-14.
The best thing about the settlement is that it tries to target all of the money to low-performing schools, those whose student test scores are in the bottom 20 percent of schools statewide. Most of those schools serve primarily poor and minority, mostly immigrant, children. The achievement gap between them and white and middle-class Asian-American kids is the biggest problem in education today.
The question is how the money should be spent, assuming it should be spent on those kids. As always, I favor maximum flexibility and decentralization. Having said that, I would have some concern about pouring all of this money into schools whose students are already failing, since we don't know whether that failure is due to the students themselves and their family backgrounds and living conditions, a shortage of resources, or the operation of the schools. Some guidance and/or extra accountability from Sacramento seems appropriate.
On the other hand, this bill requires those schools that get the money to reduce class size beyond the 20 to 1 ratio already common in kindergarten through third grade. For grades 4-12, schools would have to have an average of 25 students per class, or five fewer than they did in 2006-07, whichever is lower.
…Dan Weintraub
And, you may want to respond there.
See the entire piece at
I post it here to draw your attention to the piece.
It is certainly a good idea that the money is targeted to where the problems are. The remainder of the argument needs examination.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Los Angeles School take over by Mayor

Antonio Villaraigosa, (D) Mayor of Los Angeles, has proposed having the Mayor’s office take over the governance of the Los Angeles school district in response to the persistent failure of the schools.
While there may be some advantages to the Mayor’s proposal, it requires a substantive change in governance.
The Bill is AB 1381
AB 1381 was heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee last Monday. As expected, the bill was sent to the suspense file on Monday but released and passed out of the committee on Thursday.

There were number of significant amendments to the bill, all of which were intended to remove opposition
Yes - Murray, Alarcon, Alquist, Ashburn, Dutton, Escutia, Ortiz, Romero, Torlakson

No - Aanestad, Battin
Absent, abstain, no vote - Florez, Poochigian

What could a progressive Mayor do to improve the schools that would not require a constitutional change?

Mayors could deploy police and probation to eliminate gang violence around and near the schools. School safety is a major issue.
Mayors could use their political capital to achieve adequate funding of schools. Note, California has under funded its schools for at least twenty- five years. Mayor Villaraigosa was Speaker of the California Assembly, the body which writes the budget. During his time as Speaker, California did not significantly improve school funding.
Mayors could provide safe after school facilities for recreation and home work help.
Mayors could provide safe and modern buildings for schools rather than over crowded temporary building.
Readers are invited to add to this list.
Duane Campbell

Also: see the important update on the Oaxacan teachers strike on the Ed Justice blog. Just click on the link on the right.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Women's Equality Day Parade

Women’s Equality Day Parade Sat. August 26
Help us commemorate and reaffirm women’s right to vote

Join the Progressive Alliance Contingent; or others

9:30 Am. South Side Part ( 8th. and T Street)

go to for details.

They were spit upon, beaten, jailed, vilified in the pulpit, and sometimes scorned by their own sex. They were courageous risk takers who took on a government and the president of the most powerful nation in the world for a democratic principle, the right to vote. Yes, these were the "suffragettes" so-dubbed by the press and other detractors. Modern women are indebted to them and should appreciate their 72 years of sacrifices to gain that long-denied right to vote.
They who gave so much would shudder to learn that 22 million single women voters failed to vote in a presidential election with the potential to greatly impact their lives with steps backward on issues that affect not only of them, but of the world. Those women need to be awakened to their ability to change the course of history as their foremothers did.
How to do it? Hold a parade! Organizers hold before them the image of the 1913 one in Washington, D.C. when "6- 8,000 suffragists marched in a procession featuring colorful banners, marching bands, symbolic floats, and regiments of women marching by states alongside those of business and professions, delegations of women in their native costumes representing full or partial suffrage, a float showing women working beside men in the field and factory and another of elaborately costumed Women of the Bible."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bob Moses in Sacramento

I am proud to announce that on Aug. 24 & 25, Mr. Robert Moses will participate in events organized by SVOC here in the region. Mr. Moses is a legendary organizer from the voting rights movement of Mississippi, but most recently founded and leads the "Algebra Project", an effort to teach math and science to at-risk students; he calls these efforts the "new civil rights project".

SVOC leaders are planning and preparing for an event on Thursday, Aug. 24 from 6-9 p.m. at St. Anthony Parish (660 Florin Rd.). The focus of this gathering will be to hear of Bob's approach and method, and to engage him around our stories and experience from a Sacramento context. On Friday, Aug. 25, we would like to gather Superintendents, School Board members, and other educational professionals in a conversation with Bob about what he does and how it can positively impact schools in local districts. If he decides to develop a project here in Sacramento, he wants to do it within an organizing context of SVOC and the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) --here and elsewhere.

If this sounds interesting to you, please reply to me here or call me directly at (916) 802-4593. I will be contacting as many of you as possible to talk about this exciting opportunity for education reform efforts here in Sacramento. I would like to talk to you about what kind of an event would make sense for you on the 25th.

Thank you in advance for your interest and cooperation.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Free Film:Nurses Vrs. Arnold

Prop 89 is the best thing to come along in ages, it will help clean up CA politics as similar laws have done in Arizona and Maine. Please support it and pass this on.

Don't miss the showing of "Nurses vs. Arnold: Terminating Political Corruption" showing for free at the Crest Theatre on Thursday, August 24th. This film was produced by award-winning producer Robert Greenwald and documents the historic struggle the California Nurses Association (CNA) engaged in with Arnold Schwarzenegger and which is widely credited with sparking Schwarzenegger's fall in approval ratings from near 70% to 35%. The film will premiere simultaneously in Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Sacramento.

CNA is sponsoring Proposition 89, "Clean Money" on the November 2006 ballot. Proposition 89, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, sets tougher limits on contributions from corporations, unions and private individuals and establishes provides public financing for candidates who reject private money. It also closes current campaign finance loopholes and bars contributions to candidates by professional lobbyists and state contractors. It contains tough penalties for candidates who break the law, including jail time and removal from office.

The purpose of showing this film is to energize and mobilize a massive grassroots organizing campaign around the state that will bring thousands of activists together in hundreds of house parties and other venues to fight for the passage of Prop. 89, and will also be distributed to activists online.

Support CNA and Proposition 89 by attending this premiere on Thursday, August 24th at the Crest Theatre…remember, it’s free!

Learn more at:

The Best War Ever

Original Article at
August 20, 2006
The Best War Ever
By David Swanson
By David Swanson

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber have a new book, which is always a good thing; but this one is especially good. It's called "The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq." It's 206 pages and you'll read it in one sitting, because it's more entertaining than the corporate media whose infotainment is the book's focus. While this book is every bit as well researched as Congressman John Conyers' 350-page report "The Constitution in Crisis," it's written as a compelling narrative rather than a list of evidence or a draft indictment. I recommend reading these two works together.

Rampton and Stauber present a case not only that Bush, Cheney, and gang lied us into a war, but that the lies fooled the liars themselves at least as much as anyone else, and that the lies impeded the planning. According to this analysis, the reason the occupation of Iraq was not planned was primarily that the undertaking of such planning, had it become known, would have conflicted with the lies about Americans being welcomed as liberators. The authors also make a case that the viciousness of the Bushies' attacks and retribution against whistleblowers significantly helped to expose the lies the Administration had been telling. 

Rampton and Stauber recount the twists and turns in this war's narrative from the point of view of careful consumers of media. Because the media has repeatedly erased old storylines and begun anew, a review of where we've actually been is helpful. One of the first major stops on this chronicle of media wonders is the effusive praise bestowed on Colin Powell's U.N. presentation by the U.S. corporate media. Here was a list of blatant and in some cases quite obvious lies, lies that Powell's own staff had warned him would not even seem plausible. And yet, corporate U.S. media outlets universally decreed that the case for war was made undeniable by this speech. Tellingly, however, U.S. newspapers stated that Powell had told the truth because he couldn't possibly have done otherwise, not because the newspapers had checked out any of the claims.

Rampton and Stauber quote, to refresh our memories, what several newspapers and pundits had to say about Powell's performance, including these gems and others like them: 

"It is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction." – The Washington Post

from London Guardian,,1854731,00.html

Their bodies as weapons

Rapes in conflict zones result from the idea that violence is erotic, and it
pervades the US military

Robin Morgan

Monday August 21, 2006

When news surfaced that four GIs allegedly stalked, gang-raped and killed an
Iraqi woman, the US tried to minimise this latest atrocity. Now article 32
hearings - the military equivalent of a grand jury - have ended at Camp
Liberty, a US base in Iraq. In September, a general will rule whether the
accused should be court-martialled. The defence already pleads post-traumatic
stress disorder: in four months preceding the crime, 17 of the accused GIs'
battalion were killed.

The victim's name was Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. Abeer means "fragrance of
flowers". She was 14 years old. According to a statement by one of the accused,
the soldiers first noticed her at a checkpoint. On March 12, after playing cards
while slugging whisky, they changed into civvies and burst into Abeer's home.
They killed her mother, father and five-year-old sister and "took turns" raping
Abeer. Finally, according to the statement, they murdered her, drenched the
bodies with kerosene, and set them on fire. Then the GIs grilled chicken wings.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

California Star Test Results and NAEP

Reports on test scores
Good news. The State Schools supt. Reports that school test scores have improved.
Also. See below.
Glendale/San Francisco — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today released results of the 2006 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program that show California students remain on a steady trajectory of improved student achievement.
Forty-two percent of students statewide scored at the proficient or advanced level in English-language arts, an increase of 2 percentage points over last year, and 40 percent of students scored at the proficient or advanced level in mathematics, an increase of 2 percentage points over last year.
Since 2003 when all state tests were completely aligned to state standards for the first time, the number of California students who scored proficient and above in English-language arts has grown by 7 percentage points, and the number of students who scored proficient or above in mathematics grew by 5 percentage points.
"I am extremely pleased that these results show that California’s public school students continue to make steady gains in nearly every subject and grade level," O’Connell said. "Since our state adopted rigorous standards for what every student should learn in every grade, and began systematically integrating those standards into classroom materials and instruction, student achievement has continued to improve.
"While movement from year to year is certainly worth noting and analyzing, the real test of sustainable academic achievement is steady gains over multiple years. At this point in California’s transition to a standards-based assessment system, it is worth stopping and taking note of our struggles and success. It is now clear that after almost 10 years of standards based reform, including four years of complete alignment between our standards and our tests, education in California is clearly making meaningful, sustained improvement. There is no doubt we still have a lot of work to do, and no one should be satisfied with our current position, but reforming an entire education system is slow, difficult work. Yet thanks to the hard work of our students, teachers, and administrators, more students than ever before are being prepared with skills and knowledge essential to their future success in our competitive global economy. This improvement deserves recognition and celebration."
Noteworthy gains were made this year in many areas, including mathematics, where 23 percent of students statewide scored at the proficient and advanced level in Algebra 1, an increase of 4 percentage points over last year. In addition, 25,714 more students took Algebra I in 2006 than in 2005. Second through fourth graders also made steady gains in math with scores ranging from 54 to 59 percent at proficient and above. The greatest gains in English-language arts came in grade two, where 47 percent of students scored at the proficient and advanced levels, and in grade three, where 36 percent scored at that level – marking a 5 percentage points increase over last year for each grade.
Each ethnic and socioeconomic subgroup of students has also shown steady improvement over the four years since the tests became standards-aligned. However, the achievement gap persists between African American students, Latino students, or socio-economically disadvantaged students and their white or Asian peers.
"I remain deeply concerned that the achievement gap continues to be unacceptably wide," O’Connell said. "The academic achievement of our Latino, African American, and socio-economically disadvantaged students lags far behind the rest of their peers. We are working to address this problem by providing struggling schools extra resources and additional interventions, and with better training for teachers. But clearly, we must work harder, faster, and with more focus to narrow this gap and to permanently close it. This will be my top priority as I start my second term as Superintendent."
The above is certainly good news. However, we must ask, if state scores are improving, why are not the scores improving signigicantly on the national test, the NAEP?
The National Assessment of Educational Progress. (NAEP)
Report. On-line.

“In 2005, the average scale score for fourth-grade students in
California was 207. This was not significantly different from1 their
average score in 2003 (206), and was higher than their average
score in 1992 (202).
California's average score (207) in 2005 was lower than that of the
Nation's public schools (217).
Of the 52 states and other jurisdictions2 that participated in the
2005 fourth-grade assessment, students' average scale scores in
California were higher than those in 1 jurisdiction, not significantly
different from those in 6 jurisdictions, and lower than those in 44
The percentage of students in California who performed at or
above the NAEP Proficient level was 21 percent in 2005. This
percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (21
percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1992 (19
The percentage of students in California who performed at or
above the NAEP Basic level was 50 percent in 2005. This
percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (50
percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1992 (48

From the available data we can conclude:
On the state STAR tests, closely tied to the state standards and the state textbooks, students are making modest progress.
However, if the question is, Do students read better? Or do they know math better?
If students read better, they should achieve at a higher rate on any respectable reading test- not only the test that precisely matches the words selected on the test. Here NAEP scores are important.
There has been no significant change in reading and math scores on the NAEP.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bob Moses : Algebra Project and Organizing

Sacramento Valley Organizing Community

Announces a Presentation/Workshop with:

Legendary voting rights organizer of Mississippi

Now, the founder and leader of the Algebra Project, Bob has long-focused his attention to the teaching of math and science to at-risk students as the “new civil rights project”. Presently based in Miami, Florida Bob has agreed to meet and discuss his approach and methods to SVOC leaders and allies here in Sacramento for potential collaborations.

What: Presentation/Workshop with BOB MOSES
When: Thursday, August 24, 2006
Where: St. Anthony Parish, 660 Florin Rd., Sacramento (95831)
Time: 6-9 p.m.

Seating is limited and priority will be given to those individuals connected to SVOC-affiliated institutions. Please contact Lisa Lopez at the SVOC office (916-648-2260) to make your reservations or contact an SVOC organizer directly for other arrangements:
Tyrone Netters: (916) 494-1603
Ken Fujimoto: (916) 802-4593

455 University Av., #370
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 648-2260

Clean money : Film : Free

Thursday, August 24
7:00pm Crest Theater: Sacramento

Sponsored by CNA

Monday, August 14, 2006

Social class in Miami Vice

'Miami Vice': The Class Analysis
By Barbara Ehrenreich, AlterNet
Posted on August 11, 2006,

Everyone knows that the new big-screen "Miami Vice" is "darker" than the old one, meaning that the light-hearted, wise-cracking Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas have been replaced by the brooding, inarticulate Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, who favor dingy blues and grays over their predecessors' lavender and turquoise outfits. But the real darkness of the movie has gone unnoted by the critics: In his latest "Vice," Michael Mann offers up an economically globalized world populated only by the grimly poor and the breathtakingly ultra-rich, all of whom are bigtime felons.

Here, the poor serve largely as scenery, reminding us that we are now in Port-au-Prince (black faces), Ciudad del Este (brown), or a trailer park in the industrial wastelands of Miami (white and often tattooed). A few of them seem to be employed as lookouts or, a little higher up the career ladder, "shooters," for the drug gangs. Otherwise, they might as well be signposts.

As for a middle or working class: In crime fiction, this is the historical role of the cops or private eyes. In "Miami Vice," though, the good guys have not a shred of material existence to betray their social class. Crockett and Tubbs don't live anywhere, and touch down only in unfurnished apartments provided by their employer, where they use the showers for sex. They never sleep or eat, so we cannot know whether they prefer, for example, burgers to blackened sea bass. Only bad guys eat and then not much. The one who did appear to be chewing may have been just gnawing on his meth mouth.

In general, it's a starkly stripped-down world our heroes now inhabit. What is all the shooting about? Drugs, of course, but these are rarely mentioned by name, nor do the good guys ever hint at any moral impulse for the war. Are the drugs destructive? Could they possibly be more destructive than the shootouts, bombings, and torturings occasioned by their illegal status? No one seems to care. Drugs are just the "product," and the only issue is their delivery -- successful or intercepted in a hail of automatic weapon fire.

In Mann's hyper-abstract version of global capitalism, the "product" could be anything, so long as its price is high enough. To make sure we get the point, the coldhearted drug queen played by Gong Li suits up in high-corporate minimalism and refers to herself as a "businesswoman."

It's the ultra-rich -- Gong Li and her colleagues -- who hold our eyes in "Miami Vice." They live too large for movies; they need IMAX. I gasped when the camera swept over Brazil's Iguassu Falls, which are surely the very suburbs of heaven, and settled on the evil ones' mountaintop mansion, where the drug lord and his lady were cuddling and scheming, attended by a small army of servants. They may not have much fun -- Gong Li's thoughts are elsewhere -- but whatever they have, they have it fast. Want to dash over to Geneva to make a deposit? The personal jet awaits.

There's an instructive scene when things begin to heat up between Colin Farrell and Gong Li. (They're on opposite sides of the drug war, but in the same zone of hotness.) He offers her a drink. She favors mojitos and tells him the best ones are in Havana. They're in Miami when this exchange takes place, but -- no problem -- a high-speed power boat whisks them off to the mojito source. If she'd asked for a Stoli on million-year-old ice, no doubt they would have hightailed right down to Antarctica.

All right, it's just a silly summer movie, lacking either comprehensible dialogue or plot. But Mann's bleak vision of a world divided between shanty-towns and trailer parks at one end, and unimaginable luxury at the other, is not far off the mark. Take the crucial matter of travel: While the poor creep around in buses and the affluent creep a little faster in taxis, there's a class of people who take helicopters to the airport, where they then embark on private planes. According the Aug. 6 New York Times, private aviation has gone "mainstream," with even the "merely rich," who can't afford their own planes, buying up 25 hours of air travel for $299,000.

No pretzels on their menu. As the Times reports, one private fleet met a passenger's requirement for "Grey Goose vodka frozen two hours before flight, ice cubes made with Fiji water, filet mignon of precise cut and dimension, and Froot Loops ... for the kids."

Meanwhile, according to, nearly half the world's people -- 3 billion -- live on less than $2 a day. Their lives are too cramped and squalid to make for good summer viewing. But they do serve a function as local color -- and by catching the occasional bullet or bomb.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of 13 books, most recently "Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream." This piece originally appeared on Barbara's blog.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Clean Money campaign

The new website for Prop 89 has arrived!
We are happy to announce this new informational and activist website for Proposition 89, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act.
Check it out! is brought to you by the California Clean Money Action Fund, the League of Women Voters of California, California Common Cause, and the Greenlining Institute, who have together formed the Clean Money Now - Yes on 89 committee to work with the California Nurses Association and a growing coalition of organizations to pass Proposition 89.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Details of Los Angeles takeover

Published: July 26, 2006
Power Over Curriculum at Heart of L.A. Deal
Mayor, union team up to push plan some fear would turn back clock.
By Lesli A. Maxwell
In Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s latest vision for overhauling the Los Angeles public schools, teachers would be given an “authentic and central role” in selecting curriculum and instructional materials for the nation’s second-largest district.

Exactly what those four words would mean in practice has become one of the most debated details in the Los Angeles mayor’s bid to assert some control over the 727,000-student school system.

To opponents of Mr. Villaraigosa’s plan—which still must win approval from the California legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger—those words portend abandonment of the districtwide, uniform curricula in core academic subjects that have been central to the district’s improvement efforts. Gains in student achievement that have occurred under the Los Angeles Unified School District’s tightly controlled “managed instruction” system would be jeopardized, they warn.

“The problem is that nobody really knows and nobody is really explaining what it will mean,” said Superintendent Roy Romer, who opposes Mr. Villaraigosa’s bid to gain a governance role. “In a district where the student-mobility rate is 25 percent, we have really benefited from having some common, uniform approaches to instruction.”

‘Equal Say’
To supporters, including the city’s powerful teachers’ union, the words would guarantee that teachers become bigger players in deciding what they teach and how they teach. Without that promise, union leaders would not have agreed to support Mr. Villaraigosa’s plan.

“Right now, teachers are held accountable for the success or failure of students, yet we have no meaningful say over curriculum,” said A.J. Duffy, the president of the 48,000-member United Teachers Los Angeles, which is affiliated with both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. “We want to give teachers an equal say to administrators when it comes to deciding what happens in the classroom, but we are not talking about giving every school the right to have its own curriculum.”

Mayor Villaraigosa, who took office last year and so far has focused his administration on improving the Los Angeles schools, had originally sought sweeping authority over the district, which includes students who live in 26 municipalities outside the city of Los Angeles.

To stave off fierce opposition that was threatening to doom his plan, Mr. Villaraigosa last month struck a deal with UTLA and its parent California Teachers Association to share authority with the elected school board and an appointed superintendent. Part of that deal is the provision that could alter the district’s close management of classroom instruction, which requires teachers to adhere to highly regimented curricula, such as the Open Court Reading program published by the McGraw-Hill Cos. of New York City.

“It makes no sense to follow a script if your students are behind and you need to spend more time helping them review something,” said Thomas A. Saenz, the top lawyer for Mr. Villaraigosa. “This is not about giving the union the power to control curriculum—it’s about putting more discretion in the hands of schools.”

The school board and the superintendent would retain their authority to “make decisions about instruction as a whole,” said Mr. Saenz, “but would have to leave some flexibility for involvement at the school site.”

In particular, teachers want to set the pace for teaching the managed-instruction programs, especially Open Court, which follows a strict schedule and requires student assessments every six weeks, said Mr. Duffy, the UTLA president, whose compromise with the mayor has drawn sharp criticism from many teachers who are angry that union leaders made a deal without consulting UTLA’s representative body.

“We want less testing, and we want teachers to be able to adjust the pacing and slow it down if their students need it,” he said. “A lot of children are being left behind at the district’s insistence that every teacher in every classroom be teaching the same lesson on February 1.”

Marlene Canter, the president of the Los Angeles school board, believes that tampering with the district’s managed-instruction approach would undo the improvements in students’ standardized-test scores for the past six years.

“When you have a district this large and that sees so much student movement within the district, you owe it to students for equity purposes alone to offer the same thing regardless of which school they are in,” she said.

Superintendent Romer, who plans to leave his post in September, said the district gives teachers a meaningful role in choosing curriculum and developing instructional strategies. He cited a recent revamping of mathematics instruction for the 2nd through 5th grades that involved dozens of teachers.

“I have an elementary-math instructional guide in my elbow right now that 70 teachers worked on writing,” he said. “I think that’s an authentic role.”

Mr. Villaraigosa’s plan—which state lawmakers are scheduled to resume debating next month—also calls for creating a “demonstration project” that would give the mayor’s office control over three of the district’s lowest-performing high schools and the elementary and middle schools that feed into them.

PHOTO: Roy Romer, the superintendent of the Los Angeles district, testifies about rising test scores before the Senate education committee in Sacramento on June 28.
—Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Vol. 25, Issue 43, Pages 5,20

The Los Angeles Unified School District posts instructional resources.
Read a June 21 press release from the California Teachers Association on its school reform deal with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

© 2006 Editorial Projects in Education

Sex, politics, and textbooks plus lies

The article, Sex, politics and textbooks,” by Stephen James in Sacramento News and Review for Aug.3, was a reasonable description of the conflict over the inclusion of Gay and Lesbian people in the social sciences as presented by California textbooks. Unfortunately, the writer took the statement by Sabrina Lockhart, “We’re nationally recognized for our approach to selecting curriculum materials.” As a statement of fact.
Actually this statement is only propaganda. This is the viewpoint of the people in charge of education at the State Board of Education.
As a scholar in the field, and an author, I can tell you that many scholars totally disagree with this statement. Instead, as described in my book, Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education,” (Merrill, Prentice/Hall 2000-2004) the California frameworks, the guides to textbook selection, and the state standards were hijacked by ultra conservative forces in 1987, and we have not yet recovered.
The Frameworks, and the state standards, the basis for textbook selection, “does not describe the displacement and destruction of Native Americans, Mexican, and Mexican American communities from 1850 to 1930 throughout the Southwest.” [including Sacramento] Campbell, 2006. P. 362.
The treatment in the seventh and eigth grade texts of the history of African Americans under slavery was challenged by scholars. Indeed, the term racism is hardly mentioned in the texts. And, the concept imperialism is something strange that only existed from 1890 until 1914. Such propaganda means that students have a hard time understanding our present policies in Latin America, Iraq, and the Middle east.
Adding to the absurdity, world history basically gets students up through the fall of Communism. According to the texts, little has happened since then. Try that as preparation for life in the real world.
Unfortunately, the California standards and textbooks, and the California State Board of Education and the Curriculum Commission were hijacked by the right wing politicians almost 20 years ago.
The texts present a right wing ideology. They are not balanced, they do not represent a reasonable academic balance, and they are not adequate to preparation for young people in this modern world. Piecemeal amendments won’t really change that.

Dr. Duane E. Campbell
Professor. Social Studies Education.
CSU –Sacramento.
Author: Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. (2004) Merrill, Prentice Hall.
For discussion of democracy and public schools, see

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Corporate owned political parties

From Joe Costello on the site

The nihilistic cynicism of American politics was laid bare today, again, with the decision of Judge J. Frederick Motz against the state of Maryland and in favor of the Walmart Corporation. Judge Motz, a Reagan appointee, said the state of Maryland had no business telling Walmart they needed to provide healthcare for their employees.

Of course this is an appointee of the Reagan Revolution -- states' rights and all of that. It reveals the real Reagan, he of unfettered corporate power, which has since been carried on by both Bushes, Clintons, and the Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

Of course this cynicism is no worse than that of the DC Democrats. The DSCC and DCCC, who want to talk about the culture of corruption, all the time they are sucking corporate money as fast as possible. If you vote for a Democrat this November based on corruption, you're being played.

So instead of wasting your vote this November, go knock on your neighbor's door, ask them what we're going to do about the war, energy, and self-government -- it's only us folks.

Mayor Villaraigosa continues

Ray Cortines Begins Stint as Education Advisor to L.A. Mayor
Ramon Cortines, who won praise as the district's interim head six years ago, starts today as Villaraigosa's education advisor.
By Howard Blume, Times Staff Writer : Los Angeles Times
August 1, 2006

When Ray Cortines took charge of the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2000, its problems were overwhelming: poor test scores, dilapidated campuses, a fractious school board, a divided administration, massive overcrowding and a disastrous school construction effort headlined by the Belmont Learning Complex scandal. Legislators talked seriously about breaking up the nation's second-largest school system.

So what was the agenda of the veteran educator who, as a superintendent elsewhere, had dueled with Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York, integrated schools in Pasadena and brought back San Jose schools from bankruptcy?

The Mayor of Los Angeles continues in his effort to take over Los Angeles schools. He has brought in an advisor who has run several school systems; and those school districts did not improve. Pasadena, San Jose, and temporarily in Los Angeles.
This is like so many political decisions.

Now, to remind readers. Mayors have the ability to incraeas enforcement and gang intervention near schools, to provide after school academic and recreational support, and most important;;; to work for adequate funding of schools.
Why do Mayors and politicos seek power in school districts rather than work with teachers to improve schools.
Note: Villariagosa is not a bad guy.
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