Berkeley-based National Writing Project in jeopardy

The Berkeley-based National Writing Project, a 37-year-old program to help teachers of all grade levels and disciplines teach writing, received some tough news this week. It lost all of its federal funding for the upcoming school year in a temporary spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law Wednesday in an effort to avoid a federal government shutdown.

Ed Week’s Alyson Klein reports that the writing project was one of more than a dozen educational programs that will lose federal funding temporarily, if not permanently. Support for such programs is technically defined as an earmark, since it is a non-competitive grant, though some of the organizations — such as Teach For America — are national in scope.

The National Writing Project’s network receives more than $25 million from the U.S. Department of Education; it encompasses 200 programs at colleges and universities in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Bay Area Writing Project, anchored at UC Berkeley, is the oldest one.

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Hinton-Hodge: hopes for Oakland’s new mayor

Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, an Oakland school board member who represents District 3 (West Oakland, Jack London, Lake Merritt and Adams Point), gives us a recap of an event Mayor Jean Quan held on Feb. 5 in West Oakland and shares her hopes for the city’s new leader. – Katy

Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, Oakland school board member (courtesy photo)A recent town hall meeting with Mayor Jean Quan was inspiring, and I wanted to share some reflections.

The meeting was held at the Lowell school site, which is home to West Oakland Middle School and KIPP Bridge Academy. The mayor plans to hold a town hall in all seven districts by the completion of her first one hundred days in office. I was pleased to hear that she chose to hold her first town hall in District 3, and I appreciated that it was held at a school as a reminder to folks that schools are the center of our community.

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On Saturday, you can (indirectly) vote on the CA budget

After years of declining revenues and short-term budget gimmicks, California’s Legislature has some painful choices to make. What’s your best advice for your local representatives?

Oakland school board member Jody London and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner are co-hosting an interactive workshop at 2 p.m. Saturday at Claremont Middle School in Rockridge for parents, school staff, students and other interested community members. Skinner says she will take that information back to Sacramento.

From the event flier: Continue Reading


Brown’s proposal to spare K-12 from cuts

Gov. Jerry BrownThe governor releases his 2011-12 budget proposal today. This is what his office sent out this morning. (If you want to watch the news conference live, info’s at the end of the news release):

Governor Brown’s Budget Slashes State Spending by $12.5 Billion

Sacramento – Governor Jerry Brown will release a balanced state budget today that slashes spending by $12.5 billion, including an eight to 10 percent cut in take-home pay for most state employees, and proposes a “vast and historic” restructuring of government operations.

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Meet CA’s new state superintendent

Tom Torlakson, California Superintendent of Public Instruction. AP file photoTom Torlakson was sworn in as California’s superintendent of public instruction yesterday at Mt. Diablo High School, where he once taught and coached track. It sounds like it was quite a pep rally.

Torlakson will likely have more authority than his predecessor, Jack O’Connell. KQED reports that Gov. Jerry Brown will not appoint a secretary of education, as previous governors have.

What do you hope Torlakson will accomplish during these difficult times? Are there any policies embraced by O’Connell, such as the high school exit exam requirement, that you think he should support — or try to reverse?


Brown: More school budget cuts coming

Governor-elect Jerry Brown. File photo/Bay Area News GroupCalifornia schools have lost $7 billion in state funding in the last three years, but all signs point to more cuts down the road — likely in the middle of the school year.

Gov.-elect Jerry Brown told educators today at a Los Angeles budget conference to “fasten your seat belts,” AP is reporting.

Ed Source tells us just how bad it might get in a new report detailing the extra pressures facing California’s public schools. Continue Reading


Kaplan wins Oakland’s Youth Vote

It wasn’t a close contest. Kaplan won 70 percent of the vote in last night’s mock election. It might have helped her cause that Don Perata wasn’t there, but who knows? (The reason given for the absence of one of the leading mayoral candidates — laryngitis — was announced by the teenage emcees at the beginning of the forum. “Don Perata, he’s sick…”)

School board incumbent Gary Yee edged out Ben Visnick by five votes. Here’s a short video I made of the event:


Fact check: Jerry Brown and charter schools

The below television ad promises “more money in the classroom, more charter schools, a chance for change” if Meg Whitman is elected governor of California.

The ad suggests that Whitman’s Democratic opponent, Jerry Brown, wouldn’t support the expansion of independently run charter schools — or school reform, in general — because his campaign has been backed by the California Teachers Association.

What it doesn’t mention is that Brown opened two charter schools while he was Oakland’s mayor — the Oakland Military Institute and the Oakland School for the Arts — a fact he has often touted in his campaign.

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Assembly speaker proposes extension of child care subsidy

John Perez, California Assembly Speaker. AP Photo/Rich PedroncelliWEDNESDAY UPDATE: No resolution was reached at today’s First 5 California Commission meeting. (I’ve posted a short statement from First 5 in the comments section.)

California Assembly Speaker John Perez wants to extend to Jan. 1 subsidized child care benefits that the governor recently vetoed out of the budget, the Sacramento Bee reports today.

According to the Bee, Perez estimates it will cost $60 million to provide the benefit in November and December, and he will ask First 5 California —  a commission created from a 50-cent cigarette tax that voters approved in 1998 — to contribute the bulk of it.

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