Saturday, May 24, 2014

Soft and Hard: Money, Decisions, Landings

(This one is a combo platter of information and perspective.)

Even though these Los Angeles Unified School District Family Literacy programs have been proven to help the kids the new Local Control Funding Formula is designed to help, it's set to be closed May 29th.

What's the connection to Adult Education?

This program is run with a combination of Adult Ed money and First Five money.  First Five is what we call "soft money."  It's a grant.  Some of the grant money was used to do research on the program to find out if a combination of Parent Ed and ESL for parents and Early Ed for kids could help kids succeed in school in the long run.

What do you think the answer was?  Yes.  You're Right.  It does.

But soft money is called "soft" for a reason.  There's no guarantees.  Donators, philanthropists, foundations, grant givers can change their minds, choose different programs to fund, or run out of money.

Just like the state, I guess.  But the difference is the state is run by our representatives.  We elect the people who make the decisions.  There is some accountability and transparency.  And if we are unhappy with the decisions being made, we can tell our representatives we want them to choose a different way.

With soft money, there is no such thing.

Sometimes soft money is used to get something started or do as First Five did here, find out if something is really worthwhile.  Then the soft money pulls out and the idea is, if the program is really good, if it serves the people and saves them money in the long run, the state or district stays in.

But that's not what's happening here.    

Just as the soft money is pulling out, LAUSD is pulling out, too. 


Good question.

Maybe because it reads the writing on the wall of AB86.  Parent Education is not funded.  The emphasis is CCR - College and Career Readiness.

Is that legal?

SB91 - the Maintenance of Effort clause - states that K12 School Districts must continue to fund Adult Education at the same levels previous until 2015 when the new Regional Consortia program goes into effect.

But fund what?  Do districts have to fund the same programs they did last year?  Or can they fund whatever sort of Adult Ed they want to so long as it's some sort of Adult Ed?  I don't claim to know the answer but it seems that LAUSD is interpreting it to mean the latter.

What does that mean for the families served by the Family Literacy programs?  And what does that mean for the larger community of Los Angeles? 

What does that mean for us, as a people? 

These programs have been proven to affect children positively years into the future.

"Independent research has demonstrated that the Family Literacy Program is more successful than other LAUSD preschools in building success for children who come from households challenged by illiteracy and poverty. It has been ranked by its peers as one of the highest performing such programs in the nation, as measured by achievements of both children and adults."

Wouldn't LAUSD want that?  Doesn't that save them money and support them in their efforts to educate children?

Of course, it does.

This leads us to the question of whether or not LAUSD has the wisdom to change its mind.  They made the decision to close the program on Thursday, May 29th.  Is that a hard decision?  A soft one? Do they have the wisdom to recognize that perhaps they made this decision too hastily and cutting these programs will be too costly in the long run?   It's a little like selling your shoes before you climb a mountain, in the mistaken idea that those few bucks will make the climb easier.  Stop!  Don't sell those shoes!  Instead, lace them up tighter!

There will be a rally to save the program on Tuesday, May 27th.  Folks will gather outside school district offices carrying signs and chanting in English and Spanish. They will wear red.  Speakers will use a portable PA system. Speeches and interviews will be available in English and Spanish.  Press Release here.

The decision that LAUSD makes about this program will determine where they land as a community in the future, as will the decisions that other districts make. Together, their decisions and the decisions the Governor and Legislature are making now in this time of great change in how we educate and care for ourselves as a people, will determine our future.

What we fund, how we fund it, how open we are to really looking at what we're doing and where it's taking us - these things decide the softness or the hardness of our landing and the joy or pain thereafter.

When we fund something through democratic means... choosing to tax ourselves to pay for something that serves us as a people...  doing this through a democratic process... voting, representation, etc...  there is recourse when we are unhappy about something.  We can use the democratic process to change the course of things.  And we can use the tools gained through education - reading, research, analysis - to follow the money.  Was our money spent as it we intended it to be?

When we don't... when we rely on private sources of money to pay for something that serves us a people... we really have no recourse when, for whatever reason, that funder pulls out. 

This is why I am concerned when folks in the legislature and elsewhere say that we can still provide Parent Education, Older Adults, Home Economics, and Financial Literacy classes, all still listed on the California Department of Education's list of Adult Education programs, so long as we fund them through fees or foundations.

To my mind, education funded through fees and foundations is not public education. 

It's education, but it's not public education.

Democracy cannot function without public education.

To erode education is to erode democracy.

And I don't want to live where that lands us.

It might seem I have wandered far from where I started but I don't believe I have, anymore than I believe it will not be long before we go from closing down these programs and a future where even more money goes to build and run privatized prisons, and deal with the price our people pay for addiction, mental and physical illness, and the breakdown of strong family and community connections.

We need strong families and communities.  Schools - even community schools - can never replace them.  Programs such as this one support and strengthen families and communities so they can do what they do best and schools can do what they best.  Together, we work to create a future where we can live in health and harmony.

For more information on this matter please see:

  • For more information, please contact: 

    Patricia Bauer, spokesperson.; 310-617-5809
    If you are unable to attend the protest, please send an email to lend your support.  
    They need to receive this messageSAVE LAUSD FAMILY LITERACY

    Please copy us on all emails you write:
    LAUSD Superintendent of schools:
    John Deasy <>

    LAUSD Board of education:
    Bennett Kayser <>
    Monica Garcia <>
    Monica Ratliff <>
    Richard Vladovic <>
    Steve Zimmer <>
    Sylvia Rousseau <>
    Tamar Galatzan <>

    LAUSD Department of Adult and Career Education:
    Donna Brashear <>
    Jim Chacon <>

    LAUSD Department of public affairs:
    Thomas Waldman <>
    Gayle Pollard-Terry <>
    Lauren Mendoza <>

    Los Angeles Mayor and staff :
    Eric Garcetti <>
    Ana Guerrero <>

    Los Angeles City Council:

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