In Oakland, transitional kindergarten is still a go

photo of transitional kindergarten pilot at Greenleaf Elementary by Laura A. Oda/Staff

It’s been a confusing few months for families with children who are turning 5 in November — kids who, until this year, would have been eligible to start kindergarten.

First, they hear that their local district will be required to offer a two-year kindergarten program for their child this fall (and, eventually, children who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2). Then, they learn the governor wants to overturn the law instituting transitional kindergarten, and that districts — such as San Francisco Unified — are worried they might not have the funding for it.

Now, legislative analysts say that districts will have the per-student funding needed to pay for transitional kindergarten, even if Gov. Jerry Brown succeeds in repealing the mandate. And if the mandate stands, of course, districts will have to provide it.

Jeff Bell, who directs management consultant services for School Services of California, told me this: Whether current law stands or Brown’s proposal overturns it, “It looks like there will be resources in some fashion to have transitional kindergarten.”

Oakland Unified is going forward with transitional kindergarten , launching the new grade at 10 schools in the fall. Yvonne Delbanco, who is coordinating the Oakland school district’s new program, said her message to families and preschool providers has been simple: “We are moving forward exactly as planned.”

Have you signed up for transitional kindergarten? How has your district handled the uncertainty? We expect to have a full story about this next week.


The end of NCLB?

Wonk alert! Here is a look at the (major) changes a bipartisan group of lawmakers have proposed for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, otherwise known as No Child Left Behind.

The law was up for renewal in 2007, but the process has moved so slowly that President Barack Obama announced last month his administration would circumvent Congress’s halting progress by letting states apply for waivers in exchange for agreeing to certain education reforms.

Education Week blogger Alyson Klein has a nice summary of the proposal, which is a dramatic departure from the current federal law in that it leaves much up to the states’ discretion. It was introduced by by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Here’s what our nation’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, had to say:

“A bipartisan bill will not have everything that everyone wants, but it must build on our common interests: high standards; flexibility for states, school districts and schools; and a more focused federal role that promotes equity, accountability and reform. This bill is a very positive step toward a reauthorization that will provide our students and teachers with the support they need, and I salute Senators Harkin and Enzi for their good work and their bipartisan approach.”



Former Oakland teacher a lead organizer for Save Our Schools March

Anthony Cody (courtesy photo)

Anthony Cody, an Education Week blogger and former math and science teacher and coach in OUSD, is one of the organizers of Saturday’s Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C. March participants don’t like the direction in which education reform is headed; among other demands, they are calling for an end to the practice of using student test scores as the basis for decisions about school closures, layoffs and pay.

I reached Cody on Tuesday for this story about the movement. I also talked to Molly Servatius, from San Francisco’s Paul Revere Elementary, who is about to begin her third year in the classroom.

Servatius said she joined the Save Our Schools movement online on the day she saw the Waiting for Superman documentary about the failings of the nation’s public schools — a film that many teachers criticized as skewed and simplistic. She said she looked around and saw people crying during one of the film’s poignant scenes.

She was crying too, she said — but for a different reason. Continue Reading


Cyberbullies, beware

Bullying is grounds for suspension or expulsion in California, whether it’s done face to face or through electronic media. And if there was any doubt that Facebook and other social networks came under the state’s definition of electronic media, there isn’t anymore.

Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose) introduced the Cyber Bully Prevention bill, AB 746, this year. Not surprisingly, it won bipartisan support and faced little opposition before Gov. Jerry Brown signed it on Friday, according to a news release from Campos’s office. (I wouldn’t imagine many politicians would vote against an anti-bullying bill, even if they didn’t like it, though some did.)

The new rule takes effect in January. Here it is:  Cyber bully prevention law

Does anyone at your school or your child’s school monitor social networks? Have students been disciplined after allegations of cyberbullying? Do you think this will make a difference in how kids interact with each other online?


A pending budget deal, but no change to OUSD plan

UPDATE: California’s main budget bill has passed both houses of the state Legislature, John Myers of KQED reports. (He’s posting live Twitter updates here.)


This might be the first time in the history of my education reporting that California lawmakers pass a budget before the Oakland school district (or any school district) does.

The proposal includes flat funding for k-12 schools, but only as long as some rosy state revenue projections — an extra $4 billion — bear out. If not, look for midyear cuts and a shortened school year in district’s throughout the state.

The OUSD budget proposal, which is up for approval tomorrow night, wasn’t yet posted online as of a few minutes ago, but I understand it will be very similar to recent ones.

Here’s what spokesman Troy Flint had to say this afternoon: Continue Reading


CA budget proposal: More funding for schools

Gov. Jerry BrownBecause of rising tax revenues, California’s public schools (k-12) would get $3 billion more than expected in 2011-12 under Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget revision.

At a news conference this morning, Brown said the amount of money guaranteed to public schools under Proposition 98 — a Constitutional amendment that voters approved in 1988 — increased by $3 billion since January. He said his plan would honor that guarantee (rather than ask the Legislature to suspend it), and that it called for the state to start repaying $8.2 billion in debt to schools.

Another change from Brown’s January proposal relates to delayed payments to school districts — money owed one year, but not paid until the following year. Continue Reading


Video of Oakland bank protest, teacher arrests

Oakland teacher and union leader Craig Gordon took this video of a demonstration this evening at a Wells Fargo branch at 12th Street and Broadway. Gordon reported in a mass email that seven teachers were arrested during a sit-in to demand that the rich pay higher taxes. I’ll post those names once I’ve been able to confirm them.

By 10 p.m., at least one of the teachers had been released, and a welcoming committee awaited the others at the downtown jail.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, California Teachers Association President David Sanchez and about two dozen others were arrested today during a sit-in at the offices of Republican legislators Connie Conway and Bob Dutton, who are fighting the tax extension ballot measure, Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones has reported.

Here is a link to the Sacramento Bee story.


AFT president visits East Bay, defends union rights

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. (photo courtesy of the AFT)American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten came to the Bay Area today. I heard her on KQED this morning and again tonight, at a Commonwealth Club event in Lafayette.

Weingarten appeared in the “Waiting for Superman” documentary about the state of public education in the country; UC Berkeley Professor Bruce Fuller, who moderated this evening’s talk, joked that the audience might remember her as the “evildoer who resists all reforms presented in public policy circles.”

Weingarten’s central message was — no surprise, given what’s been happening in Wisconsin — in defense of collective bargaining. While it’s perceived to be an adversarial process, she said, it doesn’t have to be. Continue Reading


Wisconsin lawmakers cut union bargaining rights

The standoff is over, the New York Times reports.

Tonight, while the state’s Democratic senators were out of state in an attempt to block the vote on a proposal to curtail the rights of public workers, their Republican counterparts managed to push it through in less than 30 minutes.

Here’s how the Times summarizes the bill:

The bill makes significant changes to most public-sector union rules, limiting collective bargaining to matters of wages and limiting raises to changes in the Consumer Price Index unless the public approves higher raises in a referendum. It requires most unions to hold votes annually to determine whether most workers still wish to be members. And it ends the state’s collection of union dues from paychecks.


Will Oakland’s teachers union stand against the tax extension?

UPDATE: Betty Olson-Jones, the Oakland teachers union president, said the OEA executive board’s anti-tax extension position has since been revised to a more neutral stance. The union’s official position will depend on how the representative council votes Monday evening.


The fate of a proposed ballot measure to extend temporary sales, vehicle and income taxes in California could mean the difference of $330 in state funding per public school student. In Oakland Unified, that amounts to about $12 million — or $15 million, if you include the city’s independently run charter schools. But it might not even make it onto the ballot.

The Republican lawmakers’ opposition to the tax extension is widely known, but it’s not only the right that’s against the idea. Some of the far-left members of the Oakland teachers union have taken the same position, saying the state should be taxing the rich instead.

Continue Reading