Who’s minding the store at the OC Department of Education?

Orange County Schools Superintendent Al Mijares does not have the keys to the nuclear codes, but he does oversee a $350+ million-dollar annual budget and almost 1,500 County employees.

Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG

The recent embroglio with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s unannounced absence wasn’t learned by the president until four days after Austin was driven to the hospital.  The public learned about his absence the next day.  Later, we learned his absence was due to complications from treatment for prostate cancer.

An extended version of this scenario is playing out right here in Orange County with Mijares’ conspicuous absence from Orange County School Board meetings.  If one were to watch or attend their board meetings over the past year, you would not have seen Superintendent Al Mijares in attendance.  A good question to ask is why?

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Austin was in the hospital for two weeks. Mijares has not attended an Orange County School Board meeting for over a year – not even via Zoom.

It is unclear why Mijares has been completely absent from his position for such a long time — there has been no public statement issued. However, like the US Defense Department, the Orange County education department is not a driverless car.  Who’s minding the shop? We suppose an unelected and unaccountable bureaucrat.  But how can we know for sure?

Mijares’ absence, like Austin’s, has raised issues about why a leader with that kind of responsibility hasn’t shown up.  Any other Department employee would have been fired.

Orange County taxpayers pay Mr. Mijares more than $330,000 dollars annually, plus benefits.  His salary is higher than every other county-wide elected official except the district attorney and higher than every statewide elected official, including Governor Gavin Newsom.

The superintendent’s office oversees the county department of education, including employment contracts, district budgets, and the department’s expenditures. The office also handles payroll, legal, and fiscal guidance for 28 school districts serving more than 600 schools and approximately 475,000 students, including oversight of the county’s continuation and charter schools.

In Orange County, the superintendent is elected and is on the ballot every four years. Mijares was appointed superintendent in 2012 and ran uncontested for the superintendent seat in 2014 and 2018. He won re-election in 2022 to the non-partisan position over challenger Stefan Bean, 55% to 45%, almost immediately after which he stopped attending public meetings.

That campaign pulled back the curtain on a tug of war between the separately elected board of education and Mijares over ultimate policy authority for the schools and programs administered by the district.  Parents groups, particularly those advocating for charter schools and others advocating against the teaching of critical race theory and for a return to in-classroom learning during COVID, received a tepid response from Mijares, who failed to take a stand for students on these and other issues.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Martin Luther King Would be Distressed with California’s Failing Schools

In Oakland only 8.64% meet ELA proficiency standards and only 14.2% meet Math proficiency

(Photo: Public Domain, Library of Congress)

Monday is a national holiday to celebrate the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Across the nation, tributes will be paid to the man who taught us to dream – a man who was willing to go to jail to ensure that we could–and we would–overcome. In his honor, federal, state, and local governmental offices are closed on this day. His national influence is further observed via the many boulevards, parks and libraries named in his honor. Statues of him have been erected and his portrait hangs in colleges and universities. Schoolchildren read about his life and legacy.

Rather than Gov. Gavin Newsom bloviating about slavery reparations, the greatest slavery-remnant shackle he can break to set African Americans free is to break the chains of a cycle of education failure we have witnessed in California by embracing school choice for kids trapped in these failing schools.  The Golden State has failed over and over to free African American children from the shackles of powerful special interests who fill the coffers of greedy politicians running schools to line their pockets, while mocking the very heroes we teach our kids to honor.

So many honors for King, a man who inspired us to dream.

It’s been:

• almost seventy years since the most powerful Supreme Court decision on education: Brown v. Board of Education’s sweeping end to racial segregation.

• almost sixty years since the historic March on Washington that Dr. King led. One of the march’s key demands was the integration of students in our nation’s schoolhouses.

• some forty years since release of the landmark, “A Nation at Risk,” from the National Commission on Excellence in Education. Intended as a wakeup call, the report declared that “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.”

So how do California’s African American students fare today after decades of a fight for equality? In education, we have failed dismally to realize his dream for African American children in the Golden State.  

Almost every year I have taken the occasion of our national holidays named for American heroes to pen a column showcasing the continued disparities of educational opportunity and attainment.  Sadly, since I first advocated for enhanced parental rights and school choice while a member of the California State Senate, the needle has not affirmatively moved on behalf of African American students.

So, on this Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday, I ask you to consider these California Department of Education facts:

Overall, the numbers of African American students enrolled in California’s public education system continues to decline.  Today there are 273,148 African American students across all grade levels—4.6% of the state’s 5,852,544 million students.

In 2015 only 28% met or exceeded state adopted proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA); only 16% in Math.  Today, those numbers have remained stagnant or even declined:  still only 29.85% met or exceeded proficiency in ELA; only 16.89% in Math.  

Stated in a more shocking way, in one decade of California spending almost half its entire multi-billion budgets in education, the learning outcomes for African American students have increased by a dismal two percentage points in ELA and not even one percentage point in Math.

So, as we celebrate and honor the legacy of yet another Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday by going to parades where politicians wave to crowds of parents, these statistics are beyond shameful.  If education is the key to the American Dream, then African American children in the Golden State have been abjectly prevented from ever attaining such.  At this proficiency rate of one percentage point improvement per year, it would take almost a century for African American children to get to the promised land of educational equality and opportunity in California.

Clearly, Governor Newsom, Superintendent Tony Thurmond—himself African American–and the Democratic-controlled California Legislature have failed California’s African American students.  Yet, we continue to name schools in tribute to Dr. King.  According to a perusal of the EdSource.org data base showing 2024 performance outcomes of all California schools, there are 20 schools named for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr– including both traditional district schools and independent charter schools.

Undoubtedly, every school should excel. But naming a school for a national hero should bear an even greater expectation that all who enter that school should excel.

Yet, overwhelmingly, schools named for Dr. King fail to meet the academic benchmarks established by the state for English and Math proficiency. For example, the Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Elementary School in Sacramento—just blocks from the State Capitol where the Governor, Legislature, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the State Board of Education all meet to decide education policy—only 25.44% meet or exceed English Language Arts (ELA) standards, declining almost three percentage points from the prior year.  While Math proficiency significantly increased this year, it’s still only a dismal, depressing only 25.15%.

From north to south, schools named for Dr. King post similar scores:  At the MLK Elementary school in El Centro only 32.63% of students meet or exceed ELA standards, while only 26.69% reach Math standards.  

At the San Bernardino MLK Middle School learning outcomes significantly decreased in one year.  Today, only 14.6% meet ELA standards; only 7.4% meet Math standards—a shameful decline of almost nine and four percentage points, respectively!

Undoubtedly, the absolute worst performing is the MLK Elementary school in Oakland where only 8.64% meet ELA proficiency standards and only 14.2% meet Math proficiency.  

Certainly, standouts exist:  the MLK Middle School in Riverside shows that 77.3% of its students meet or exceed ELA proficiency and 44.83% do so in Math.  At Berkeley’s MLK Middle School, 74.33% meet ELA proficiency; 64.62% meet Math proficiency. Parents, accompanied by state officials and civil rights leaders, should immediately visit these schools to understand what they are doing to produce such dramatically opposite results from other schools.

We can no longer simply attend feel-good ceremonial events on yet another Monday holiday and then allow our children to return to schools the following day named for a national hero while we  allow and tolerate educational failure and persistent underperformance to continue. Any school named for Dr. King needs to become truly worthy of bearing his name.

And let’s not stop there. California has three schools named for former President Barack Obama, one for Former First Lady Michelle Obama, and Rosa Parks – the mother of the civil rights movement.

Not one of the handful of schools named for President Obama sees students scoring above 14.83% proficiency in ELA, or 9.57% in Math—among the lowest proficiency rates anywhere in California.  These are schools named for the former President who is often reported to be the most admired man in America and who championed education reforms, including Race to the Top, to motivate schools across the nation to seek better learning outcomes. And the one school named for the former First Lady and potential 2024 presidential candidate, Michelle Obama, only 27.72 are proficient in ELA, a meager 27.72% in Math—declining from the prior year.

What of the mother of the Civil Rights Movement—Rosa Parks herself?  There are seven schools named for her. Most fail her. For example, the Rosa Parks Elementary School in San Diego reports only 32.51% meet/exceed ELA proficiency rate while only 22.63% meet/exceed in Math.  Even the highly lauded charter school network, Aspire, reports its Rosa Parks Academy a shameful learning outcome where only 15.91% meet/exceed ELA proficiency rates, and only 11.93% meet/exceed Math proficiency.  With such dismal learning outcomes, one must wonder why that charter school has not been closed for academic failure?

Yet over in Corona and in Berkeley, those districts honor Rosa Parks with significantly better ELA and Math proficiency outcomes.

The one school named for Harriet Tubman is in San Diego where only 27.44% are proficient in English Language Arts—a drop from the already anemic 32.82% from just the year before. Proficiency in Math standards increased—but only by just over one percentage point.  Today, only 19% meet Math standards. Were Ms. Tubman alive today, she most likely, would advocate for the launching an Education Underground Railway to rescue students from that—and other schools named by politicians to “feel good” about civil rights and diversity, yet which consistently fail on a day to day, year to year basis.

Public education—which devours almost 50% of the entire California state budget and has done for years—needs not only change, but a complete overhaul.  Tinkering with budget formulas is not sufficient. Bowing to the most powerful political interest in California—the California Teachers Association—which signs, seals, and delivers education policy to the Democratic Party and its elected officials wanting to move up the political ladder can no longer be stomached. 

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

California spending billions to expand transitional kindergarten. How effective is the program?

Two years ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed off on an ambitious plan to make a pre-kindergarten program available to California’s 4-year-olds for free.

That effort, already underway, is an attempt to reduce learning disparities and improve outcomes for the state’s children.

Education officials and close observers, however, are still grappling with essential questions: Just how effective is the program, known as transitional kindergarten, or TK, and for which children is it most beneficial?

Researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank, explored an early version of the program in the state in a recent study. Transitional kindergarten has been available for a decade in California, on a more limited basis.

The researchers found the pre-expansion version of transitional kindergarten led to earlier identifications of students with special education needs and those who were growing up learning a language other than English. At the same time, they discovered the program did not appear to improve test results for students in third and fourth grades more than other pre-kindergarten options.

Nonetheless, transitional kindergarten has support among education experts who urged caution against reading too much into the PPIC report.

Major shifts in the program have occurred in the years after the period studied, they noted. It also only involved five large districts in the state and the tests were taken years after the students left transitional kindergarten. Beyond that, childhood development can’t just be measured by test scores alone.

The PPIC authors also said their findings weren’t a sign that the program wasn’t helping students.

Still, the results not only raise some questions about the effectiveness of transitional kindergarten in California but also highlight another concern: Despite pledging to spend several billion dollars to expand the program, the state currently has no plans to formally evaluate its benefits before it becomes available to all 4-year-olds by the 2025-26 school year.

H. Alix Gallagher, director of strategic partnerships for Policy Analysis for California Education, a non-partisan research center, points to other unknowns.

“What do we mean when we say TK? Gallagher asked. “Because it’s not all the same, at all.”

For example, Gallagher added, districts can offer either half or full day instruction and be called transitional kindergarten. The benefits and experiences of each for students might not be the same. And the data collected by the state does not distinguish between those two options.

“We need more information about what kids are getting in TK,” Gallagher said, “in order to understand what program features are effective.”

Sarah Neville-Morgan, a deputy superintendent of public instruction for the California Department of Education, said the research from the PPIC and others helps the department refine and improve. Next year, the agency plans to release standards for transitional kindergarten that will identify skills children can develop while in it.

As for evaluating the program, Neville-Morgan said that is hard to do while it is still being rolled out.

“You actually have to wait until things are stable, fully implemented,” she said, ”to be able to look at true effectiveness.”

Catching up

Research has shown that early childhood education programs benefit students in the classroom and beyond. One study found California students who attended an early version of transitional kindergarten entered kindergarten with stronger math and literacy skills than those who didn’t. Less is known about the program’s longer-term benefits.

Head Start, which is federally funded, and the California State Preschool Program are among other pre-kindergarten options. Like those, transitional kindergarten is not mandatory. It is, however, the only program that will be available and free for all 4-year-olds.

One benefit of funding the program is that it provides access to a preschool option “in every corner of the state,” said Jessica Holmes, a chief deputy executive director with the State Board of Education, in an emailed statement. Elementary or unified school districts must offer transitional kindergarten. “While not every community has a Head Start or State Preschool program, they all have public schools and options to meet their needs.”

Deborah Stipek, an professor emerita at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, said the program is still developing and may look different once it is fully implemented.

“In a way,” Stipek said, “we created TK and now we’re catching up with all the policies that are needed to make it work effectively.”

The current expansion concerns Bruce Fuller, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Education.

“We don’t have real-time evidence as to whether this spending is really paying off for kids,” Fuller said.

That includes knowing more about how transitional kindergarten compares with other subsidized preschool options.

“Given the scope,” Fuller said, “it’s shocking that the administration is not carefully trying to commission an evaluation to see if there are short-term and immediate-term benefits to 4-year-olds.”

Holmes said the state is reviewing the transitional kindergarten program, and other preschool options, on an ongoing basis.

State education and social services agencies have formed a group of experts to analyze the quality of and access to all of the state’s preschool options, she added, including transitional kindergarten. The group plans to provide recommendations to the Legislature and Governor’s Office by March, Holmes said.

Neville-Morgan, from the education department, said the agency is hoping a long-term study of the program will eventually occur.

“It would have to happen through the budget process,” she said, “and that isn’t something that we have right now.”

In the meantime, E’Leva Gibson, an assistant superintendent for early learning and care at the Sacramento City Unified School District, is looking for more information.

While calling transitional kindergarten a “wonderful thing” Gibson also wants to know how to make it better and how to best measure students’ progress once they leave the program.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee Via Yahoo News

New ‘Porn-in-Schools Toolkit’ Offers Help for Parents

CRI created a ‘how-to’ guide to get obscene books out of school libraries and classrooms

In 2019, the California State Board of Education approved highly controversial changes to the state’s health and sex education framework including teaching children about bondage, anal sex, pederasty, sex trafficking, sexual orientation and transgender and non-conforming students, the Globe reported.

Notably, California has the nation’s lowest literacy rate, and the California State Board of Education is focused on teaching inappropriate sex to young children.

Across the country, parents have protested the exposure of their children to obscene, pornographic books grooming their children, in school libraries and classrooms. At issue is exposing children to sexually explicit materials without parental knowledge or consent or ability to opt out.

The mainstream media claims parents are demanding book banning.

USA Today reported:

The two most challenged books on the American Library Association’s top 10 list have been in the news often: Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel memoir about sexual identity, “Gender Queer,”and Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy,” a coming-of-age novel narrated by a young gay man. Both have been singled out by Republican officials.

However, even with heightened media attention and endless examples of schools trampling on parental rights, pornographic text books and library books are still in schools, and continue to be aggressively pushed on children by radical activists.

The Globe spoke with Karen England, President of the Capitol Resource Institute who said parents may still think that this is not happening in their schools, but it is.

Capitol Resource Institute has created a BookCheck toolkit to assist parents through the process of removing obscene, sexually graphic and pornographic materials from their public schools.

Most parents don’t know that 43 states have passed obscenity exemption laws that eliminate any liability associated with using these graphic materials if they are employed for “educational” purposes, as part of courses of instruction, or if they are in libraries in K-12 schools, England said. “Distribution of this material off school grounds would be considered criminal, but exposing our children to it during school hours is somehow deemed ‘educational.’”

We discussed some of the books allowed in schools:

Lawn Boy: featured on MSNBC’s Ali Velshi  Banned Books Club, Lawn Boy is billed as a “coming-of-age story,” but is filled with graphic sex acts between children. The interview with Lawn Boy author is just bizarre. The author insists he uses “course language” throughout the book, and not “graphic language.”

More than 35 school districts in 20 states temporarily removed “Lawn Boy” from library shelves.

Since then, many states have passed legislation addressing pornographic, obscene school textbooks and library books.

Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You: Amazon describes Trans+ this way: “A groundbreaking all-inclusive, uncensored, must-have guide for teens who are living in this world, who identify as transgender, nonbinary, gender non-conforming, gender fluid, or are questioning their gender identity or how they express themselves, and for their cis-allies and advocates.”

The book contains 75 QR codes, marked as “resources” which take children to unbelievably graphic obscene sex websites. CRI posted a short video on Instagram showing where the links take children. Warning: video it contains obscenity and pornographic images. England says Trans+ is available in school libraries across the country.

PUSH: Graphic descriptions of rape/sex by a teen girl who has been raped for years by her father.

The Globe reported on “Gender Queer: A Memoir” last year, a book found in school libraries across the country which has cartoon drawings of oral sex, masturbation, and describes how to use sex toys.

This alarming trend in public education pushes inappropriate sexual materials to students, and in many cases in the curriculum, teaches kids to use gender pronouns, cartoon books encouraging homosexuality and transgenderism, cartoons showing graphic sexual encounters between teen boys and trans students, and cross-dressing, among other behaviors.

“The sustained and coordinated effort to include pornographic material in K-12 public
schools is a multi-faceted issue,” England said, “but the most important thing you need to know now is that these graphic materials are more than likely already in your county library, your public-school library, and/or they are being used in your child’s classroom.”

To help get parents get started, CRI lists the American Library Association’s list of the most challenged books. They note the American Library Association is not on parents’ side. “The ALA’s goal is to use your child in their social experiment meant to indoctrinate the
next generation.”

“As an organization, CRI is fully committed to help parents and other concerned citizens remove pornographic books from all school and classroom libraries and thus end the practice of exposing minors to inappropriate, sexualized content in the school setting.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Lengthy Pandemic Closures Weakened Already Low-Achieving California Schools

Gov. Gavin Newsom is fond of rattling off statistics that prove, he claims, California’s enviable status as a national, or even global, leader in all things wonderful.

He tends, however, to cherrypick his numbers rather than provide a full picture, as a recent Sacramento Bee analysis of his economic assertions on national television demonstrates.

However, there’s one aspect of California society – perhaps its most important – that Newsom excludes from his episodes of braggadocio: how the state is educating nearly 6 million public school students.

The sad fact is that California’s students fare poorly vis-à-vis those of other states when it comes to basic skills in language and mathematics, as underscored in a newly published report by the Public Policy Institute of California.

California kids were lagging behind even before Newsom and other officials shut down schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and, the PPIC studies show, educational proficiency plummeted during the closures.

When state academic testing resumed in 2022 after being suspended during the pandemic, it showed “significant declines in proficiency rates.”

Before the pandemic, 51% of students met standards in English language arts (ELA) and it had dropped to 47%. In mathematics, proficiency declined from 40% to 33%.

“Only 35% of low-income students met state standards in ELA and 21% were proficient in math,” PPIC reported, “compared to 65% of higher-income students in ELA and 51% in math.”

Furthermore, PPIC noted, the nationwide test of reading and math proficiency “shows that California has consistently lagged behind most other states … 38th in math and 33rd in reading.”

Since Newsom is particularly fond of comparing California to other states, particularly Florida and Texas, one might wonder how we fare in educational attainment. The answer is, PPIC says, that “Florida ranks much higher than California.” However, the state “is ranked just above Texas in reading but far below in math,” although it does best New York in reading and math.

While school closures loomed large in the overall erosion of educational achievement during the pandemic, there were significant differences within the state because closures were not uniform.

“Most of California’s public school students spent the majority of the 2020–21 academic year fully online – longer than students in other states,” PPIC’s research found, but “the return to in-person instruction varied across the state.” Rural counties tended to return to in-person schooling more quickly than schools in urban areas. By June 2021, San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles counties had fewer than 10% of their school systems returned to classroom instruction.

PPIC did not mention that in urban school districts – Los Angeles Unified most notably – teacher unions often refused to return to the classroom without concessions from their employers, thus continuing online classes for additional months.

Newsom advocated reopening schools and his own kids quickly resumed classes at their private school, but he refused to intervene in districts that were lagging behind in returning kids to the classroom, apparently unwilling to confront the unions.

Variations in reopening meant that “districts with more Black, Latino, low-income, and English Learner students tended to reopen later than other districts,” and “learning gaps widened the longer students remained remote and may have worsened longstanding achievement gaps between low-income marginalized students and their peers.”

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Despite Union Opposition, Many Teachers Support Dyslexia Screening for all Students

For years, the California Teachers Association has opposed universal dyslexia screening for students, helping to defeat legislation that would have mandated it. And yet, many classroom teachers are advocating for all students to be tested. 

As another possible legislative battle looms, the statewide teachers union’s opposition to mandatory screening continues to frustrate many educators. According to classroom teachers across the state, the California Teachers Association’s position will perpetuate a “wait-to-fail” approach to reading instruction that forces educators to sit by while students fall further and further behind.

Dyslexia is a neurological condition that causes difficulties with reading and affects 1 in 5 people in the United States. But early screening and support can mitigate or even prevent illiteracy stemming from the learning disability.

Officials at Decoding Dyslexia CA, a grassroots advocacy group, say hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers working with students who struggle with reading support universal screening. The California Teachers Association doesn’t understand the benefits of screening all students for dyslexia, said Megan Potente, one of the co-directors of Decoding Dyselxia CA. 

“I think there’s some misinformation,” Potente said. “Some of the reasons for their opposition aren’t supported by the research.”

Doug Rich, a veteran teacher and reading specialist at San Francisco Unified, said he’s “gone rogue” and started screening all of his students for signs of dyslexia. He said testing is relatively quick — taking less than 10 minutes — but the results are crucial.

The test results can tell him where his students are struggling, whether it be sounding out letters or recognizing words. If all students were screened in kindergarten, Rich says, fewer would end up working with him.

“We know so much about dyslexia,” he said. “We know the underlying causes. We have these simple tools that are efficient and accurate.”

Reading instructors, education experts and neuroscientists all agree: early screening is one of the best ways to mitigate or even prevent the illiteracy that can be caused by dyslexia. Despite having some of the best experts in the field of dyslexia research, California remains one of 10 states that doesn’t require universal screening.

That’s not for lack of trying. State Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from Glendale who’s dyslexic, tried and failed twice in the past three years to pass legislation that would have mandated universal screening for students in kindergarten through second grade. In February, he said he is trying a third time.

Although it has not taken a position on the latest bill, the California Teachers Association opposed Portantino’s last two bills. Claudia Briggs, a spokesperson for the union, said the association’s leadership team believed that bills would have caused “unintended harmful consequences.” The association’s position is that universal screening will take valuable time away from instruction and may misidentify English learners as dyslexic by mistaking their lack of fluency in English for a learning disability. Briggs said the union would decide its position on the new bill in March.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

How Tolerating Misbehavior Hurts Students

Students need order — not loosely managed pandemonium — to learn effectively. Without it, pandemic-era learning loss will continue to accelerate.

A letter from a teacher to the Milwaukee School Board begins with the line: “Coming to work each day has always brought me excitement” but “those feelings are quickly turning to fear; fear of how my colleagues and I will be abused for yet another day.” The letter continues: “Teachers are trying to put out the ‘bigger fires;’ the fights, the furniture being flailed, protecting their students from bodily harm.” Another letter writer tells of being punched by a student who received “no consequences.”

While woke curricula might be turning math classes into mediocre seminars on critical race theory, the intrusion of progressive discipline policies into schools are changing entire buildings into Lord of the Flies. Among other misbehaviors, America’s children are serially vandalizing school property, challenging other students to slap teachers, and engaging in open sexual harassment against adults.

More worryingly, there are few, if any, signs of improvement. Data collected by the Institute of Education Sciences found that, in a survey of 850 school leaders, one in three reported an increase in student violence and fights. Over half reported an increase in classroom disruptions.

While the pandemic likely worsened the problem, this trend toward pandemonium began earlier. In 2014, President Barack Obama signed a dear colleague letter threatening legal action against schools that doled out consequences disproportionately between white and black students.

Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) reacted accordingly. In place of disciplinary measures, they shifted toward soft-on-consequences approaches such as restorative justice and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), quickly reducing suspension rates throughout the district.

A similar story played out across the country. In New York City, for example, suspension rates fell by half. The George Floyd riots only accelerated its progression. Leading charter networks such as KIPP and Uncommon implemented further steps before suspensions and eliminated detentions for “minor infractions.” In 2021, the Dallas Independent School District announced that it would eliminate in- and out-of-school suspensions altogether, replacing them with social-emotional “Reset Centers.”

But then reality set in. Although total suspensions declined precipitously in MPS, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty found that the proportion of students who felt unsafe in school increased. Schools where a higher proportion of students felt unsafe reported more disciplinary incidents. In other words, lax disciplinary policies did nothing to reduce racial discrimination, and did nothing to improve school safety. But that didn’t stop one Milwaukee principal from proclaiming that, “We are proud to say that we are making strides in the right direction.”

These policy changes are not without precedent. In the 2012-2013 school year, Philadelphia limited suspensions for non-violent behavior. One academic review found that “serious incidents of student misconduct increased,” student truancy worsened, and academic achievement declined. It’s hard to focus on academics in a chaotic school setting.

Once again, the rest of the country has not fared much better. In New York, chronic absenteeism has reached a mind-boggling 37 percent, while weapons confiscations have increased by 80 percent, including 14 firearms and 325 tasers or stun guns. Dallas cut punishments by 80 percent, but teachers continue to report behavioral concerns, and the “Reset Centers” have done little to reduce racial disparities in student punishment. KIPP employees are complaining about student behavior in an institution in which student misbehavior had been previously unthinkable.

Crime spikes and policing reform dominate headlines and societal debates. All the while, a similar scenario is playing out in America’s public schools with little public awareness or controversy. What’s more, as behavior worsens, soft-on-consequences approaches to discipline like Restorative Justice and PBIS are growing in popularity. These approaches cannot account for all of the worsening trends, but they do represent a fundamental shift to how schools respond to misbehavior that’s likely to only worsen the problem.

Yet another letter to Milwaukee Public Schools told how students know that, “They won’t receive any effective consequences,” and so “more students realize that they can come to school” but they don’t “actually have to follow any rules.” If students are permitted to run roughshod over any adult who gets in their way, statistical reductions in school suspensions are meaningless. If data is to be believed, these few letters in Milwaukee represent the learning conditions — if we could call them that — of countless schools across the country.

Click here to read the full article in the National Review

California Governor Rejects Mandatory Kindergarten Law

Beyond what they learn academically in kindergarten, students learn everyday routines: how to take care of class materials and how to be kind to their peers, according to Golden Empire Elementary School kindergarten teacher Carla Randazzo.

While developing those skills became more difficult for students going to school online during the pandemic, occasionally, a student entering first grade at Golden Empire didn’t attend kindergarten at all, Randazzo said. Nearly two-thirds of students at the Sacramento school are English learners.

“Those kids just start out having to climb uphill,” she said. “They need a lot of support to be successful.”

Randazzo always thought it was “peculiar” that kindergarten is not mandatory in California. For now, though, California won’t join 20 other states with mandatory kindergarten. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, vetoed legislation Sunday night that would have required children to attend kindergarten — whether through homeschooling, public or private school — before entering first grade at a public school.

As he has with other recent legislative vetoes, Newsom cited the costs associated with providing mandatory kindergarten, about $268 million annually, which he said was not accounted for in the California budget.

Newsom has supported similar legislation in the past. Last year, he signed a package of education bills, including one transitioning the state to universal pre-K starting in the 2025-26 school year. But the state’s Department of Finance opposed the mandatory kindergarten bill, stating it would strain funds by adding up to 20,000 new public school students.

Proponents of mandatory kindergarten say it could help close the academic opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color, as well as help children develop important social skills before the 1st grade. The bill was introduced after K-12 attendance rates dropped during the pandemic and some students struggled with online learning. 

Kindergarten enrollment in California dropped nearly 12% in the 2020-21 academic year compared to the previous year, according to the state Department of Education. Nationwide, public school enrollment dropped by 3 percent in 2020-21 compared to the previous school year, with preschool and kindergarten enrollment dropping at higher rates, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

Samantha Fee, of Citrus Heights, said her 7-year-old son could solve practically any math equation during the 2020-21 school year, while he attended kindergarten online. But by the end of the school year, he still couldn’t read and didn’t know all his letters.

She said the family made the difficult decision to have her son, who attends Golden Empire, repeat kindergarten to prepare him for first grade. 

“They learn a lot in that first year — how to sit at their desks, and how to raise their hand and all that they’re expected to know in the first grade,” Fee said. “Without kindergarten, they don’t have that.”

Click here to read the full article in AP News

California’s Education Revolution

‘Schools have kids for 9 months out of the year; parents have their kids for a lifetime’

Many parents want to know why public school teachers can’t just let their kids be kids without forcing sex and an inappropriate sexual agenda on them in grade school, middle school and high school.

This, as well as the Critical Race Theory agenda, is what led to the astounding parent revolution first witnessed in Virginia, but now never so prominent as it is in California.

California lawmakers even passed the quixotic Assembly Bill 367 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021, which now requires that one boys’ bathroom in every middle and high school have tampon dispensers.

Christopher Rufo with the Manhattan Institute and City Journal, has chronicled the shocking sexualization of school children as young as pre-kindergarteners. And it’s not the birds and the bees radical teachers are exposing the kids to.

In his most recent report, Rufo exposes the National Education Association promoting a how-to guide for “anal sex,” “bondage,” “sadomasochism,” and “fisting” in public schools.

Rufo says the NEA and its local affiliate in Hilliard, Ohio, which have been providing staff in the Hilliard City School District with QR code-enabled badges, “which point to the “NEA LGBTQ+ Caucus” website and resources from gender activist organizations including Scarleteen, Sex, Etc., Gender Spectrum, The Trevor Project, and Teen Health Source.”

Rufo continues:

One of these linked resources, Teen Health Source’s “Queering Sexual Education,” which promises to “empower youth” and includes a how-to guide for performing “anal sex,” “bondage,” “rimming,” “domination,” “sadomasochism,” “muffing,” and “fisting.” The materials are extremely graphic, explaining how to, for example, “[put] a fist or whole hand into a person’s vagina or bum.”

The Teen Health Source page would make the most hard-as-nails, grizzled longshoreman blush.

This is a screen capture of the NEA LGBTQ+ website, showing the partners: CTA, the  California Teachers Association labor union, as well as California Casualty, auto and home insurer.

It appears that the more parents reveal the fanatical sexual agenda in public schools, the more extremist it becomes.

California is ground zero for all around wackiness

President of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network, and education analyst Larry Sand, writing recently in American Greatness, reports on a recently published PDK International survey which reveals that only 50 percent of all adults have confidence that teachers can teach civics, and just 38 percent believe that they can handle “gender/sexuality issues.”

“What could possibly be causing such negativity?” Sand asks. “For the most part it is due to the ‘woke’ revolution that is impacting the lives of American children.”

Sand explains that California, “ground zero for all around wackiness is where the state puts its stamp on an endless parade of perversity.” He offers these examples:

  • In Los Angeles, the school district proudly hosts a “Rainbow Club,” which is a 10-week district-wide virtual club for “LGBTQ+ elementary school students, their friends and their grown-ups.” The poster specifies that it is for children in TK-5th (“TK” or transitional kindergarten is comprised of 4-year-olds.)
  • A high school teacher in the Capistrano school district has a “queer library” in her classroom. It is filled with over 100 books—some of which contain sex imagery, information on orgies, sex parties, and BDSM.
  • Also, the state’s education department is recommending books to young students that teach expanded sexualities and gender identities. For example, the state recommends “Julian is a Mermaid” for preschoolers and kindergarteners. The book describes a young boy who wants to be a sea-dwelling creature, after he sees a parade of people dressed up as mermaids while out with his grandmother. The boy puts on lipstick, makes himself a mermaid costume, and his grandmother gives him a beaded necklace to complete his outfit.

This is fanaticism. But Sand correctly points out, “On a local level, parents hold the key.”

“The grassroots parents revolution is real and it is going to erupt in all parts of California,” Lance Izumi, the Senior Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, told the Globe. He continued:

“It was parents in San Francisco who threw out far-left extremist school board members who were totally out of touch with the education concerns of the community. Now you are seeing slates of parents running for their local school boards popping up all across California. These parents are fed up with the politicized curricula and ideological indoctrination their children are receiving. They are also fed up with the special-interest agenda of the teachers unions, plus the wholesale failure of the public schools to improve the achievement of their children. Parents have brought their energy to school board meetings and have demanded that their districts be accountable and transparent. Now they will be bringing that energy, focus, and commitment to the polls in November. I predict that there will be wholesale turnover in school boards in many districts and that parents will end up holding the reins of power. It will then be up to them to effect real change in the public schools and ensure that children and parents come first.”

California Superintendent of Public Instruction

The outsider candidate for California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lance Christensen, told the Globe Wednesday, “everything that touches education curriculum comes from the Superintendent’s office,” as the Superintendent sits on the California Board of Education.

Christensen, a father of five said:

“As education policy continues to spiral to things inconsistent with community values and parents’ desires, they realized recourse was not coming from their school boards. No one else was going to stand up and save their kids.”

“So in the year of the parent, people are stepping up to fight for kids and bring sanity back to schools,” Christensen said. “I personally endorse anyone running for school board who supports parents rights and school choice.”

“And it is going to be at the local level that we take our schools back, and I am going to be the voice of that movement,” Christensen added. “Having a massive bully pulpit for parents’ rights is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The rights of parents

“This year, the rights of parents are on the ballot like never before,” Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Granite Bay) says on his endorsements page of school board races. Kiley recently announced he was supporting and endorsing outstanding pro-parent, pro-student candidates running for school board throughout California, and says he will continue to do so.

Kiley’s initial endorsements grew into his “Champions for Kids” directory, which is available on his website.

“The role of school boards has never been more important, and in the upcoming election we have an opportunity to set education in California on a new course,” Assemblyman Kiley said. “I’m proud to be supporting several hundred pro-parent, pro-student candidates for school board throughout our state.”

This catastrophic learning loss

Shawn Steel, California’s committeeman for the Republican National Committee, recently wrote an op ed at the Globeexposing the UTLA, the L.A. teachers’ union, which “strongly opposed standardized tests during the COVID-19 pandemic. That testing data could have sounded the alarm on the catastrophic learning loss caused by remote learning,” Steel said. “At every turn, UTLA aggressively blocked plans to reopen schools. In March 2021, 91 percent of UTLA members opposed reopening schools and remained in distance learning programs that were causing kids to fall behind.”

After denying that learning loss, the UTLA then opposed extra teaching days to help kids catch up. “There is no such thing as learning loss,” Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles told Los Angeles magazine last year.

“This catastrophic learning loss should be the greatest concern for teachers. Instead, the top teachers’ union brass denies that it exists at all,” Steel said.

CA Teachers Union Did Oppo Research On Parents Who Wanted Schools To Reopen During COVID

The Globe recently reported that Reopen California Schools exposed via emails received through California Public Records Act requests that the California Teachers Association labor union conducted opposition research on parent groups pushing for school reopening during the government ordered COVID school shutdowns in California. Instead of a healthy reaction and response to so many parents’ concerns, the CTA doubled down and went on offense and politically targeted moms and dads protecting their children.

The Globe talked with Dry Creek School Board candidate Jean Pagnone (above) on why she made the decision to run for her school board – she definitively spells out her determination:

“I made the decision to run for the Dry Creek School Board when I realized that I could no longer watch state and local schools fail our children, parents, and teachers. Schools have kids for 9 months out of the year. Parents have their kids for a lifetime. I think one of the things we learned from the pandemic is that we don’t have the luxury of blind trust when we send our kids off to school each day. What we’re seeing are parents being ignored and not respected – whether it’s a lack of transparency on subjects that are controversial or sensitive or medical decisions that belong with the parent. I’ve also heard from a lot of teachers who have quit or are thinking of leaving because they aren’t comfortable with what they’re being told to teach. And let me tell you, there are a lot of great teachers out there who are fighting for the kids, but they cannot speak out publicly.”

Click here to read the full article in California Globe

COVID-19 School Closures Undermined Learning

Whether California’s schools should remain open or be closed was a hot issue when the COVID-19 pandemic was raging in 2020 and 2021.

Although medical authorities quickly concluded that children had a much smaller risk of being infected or experiencing severe effects if infected, California schools were mostly closed, in large measure because teachers and their powerful unions insisted on it.

With schools closed, local administrators scrambled to provide on-line classes, what became known as “zoom school,” but they were poor substitutes for the real thing — especially for English-learner students and those from poor families.

Those children — roughly 60% of the state’s nearly 6 million public school students — were already trailing their more privileged contemporaries academically when the pandemic hit. The closures made it worse, for obvious reasons.

They tended to lack internet access and proper equipment for on-line classes. Their parents were often compelled to work outside the home to make ends meet, so kids were often left to fend for themselves. Absenteeism from on-line classes was widespread.

Affluent parents, particularly those who could easily work from home during the pandemic, made certain that their kids attended on-line classes, helped them with their school work, formed informal collaboration groups and/or hired tutors. Thus, the ill effects of closures were mitigated. And, of course, private schools, such as the one Gov. Gavin Newsom’s kids attend, either remained open or minimized closures.

For months, politicians from Newsom downward quarreled over how the schools should function and angry parents formed the core of a movement to recall him from office. Newsom survived the recall, but the educations of millions of kids did not, as new data confirm.

While the state Department of Education has not released 2022 academic test data that would allow comparisons with pre-pandemic results, individual school districts are doing so and the numbers from the state’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, are stunning.

About 72% of the district’s students are not meeting state standards in math and 58% are behind in English, essentially wiping out five years of progress that it had recorded prior to the pandemic.

“The pandemic deeply impacted the performance of our students,” LAUSD Supt. Alberto Carvalho said. “Particularly kids who were at risk, in a fragile condition, prior to the pandemic, as we expected, were the ones who have lost the most ground.”

While the district released gross data, it did not break down the test results by ethnic or economic subgroups. The Los Angeles Times, however, gleaned the detail from a school board document marked “not for public release.”

Why the secrecy? Apparently it was to mask the particularly disturbing data about Black and Latino kids.

“About 81% of 11th-graders did not meet grade-level standards in math. About 83% of Black students, 78% of Latino students and 77% of economically disadvantaged students did not meet the math standards,” the Times reported.

We won’t know how the state as a whole fared until — and unless — the Department of Education finally releases 2022 complete “Smarter Balance” test results. But there’s no reason to believe that what happened — or, more accurately, what didn’t happen — in Los Angeles isn’t also true of other systems, particularly those with large numbers of at-risk students.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters