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DC think tank: California online schools group should be investigated

A Washington, D.C., think tank issued a report that says California Virtual Acadmies, a major online school network, has had more dropouts than graduates in most years.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A report released Thursday by a labor group-affiliated Washington think tank is questioning the education provided by an online public school program that says it is in a union fight.

The report by In the Public Interest, a group funded by unions, says the thousands of students enrolled in the California Virtual Academies online public school known as CAVA are receiving a  substandard education by most measures.

"So in every year since CAVA began graduating students, with the exception of 2013, it has produced more dropouts than graduates,” said Shahrzad Habibi, who authored the report.

She said state test score data show that 71 percent of California public schools performed better than the virtual academies.

The report calls on California officials to investigate the online schools’ administration and finances.


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Election 2015: In LAUSD board election, it's charter schools vs. labor unions with others left behind

Los Angeles Unified school board candidates, from left, Andrew Thomas, Ref Rodriguez and Bennett Kayser take a group photo after a debate at Eagle Rock High School on Feb. 5, 2015.
Cheryl A. Guerrero for KPCC

Los Angeles Unified school board candidate Ref Rodriguez collected $21,000 in campaign donations from employees of his charter school network, Partnerships to Uplift Communities, in his bid to unseat incumbent Bennett Kayser in East Los Angeles’ District 5.

Most striking, a handful of his workers – a janitor, maintenance worker, tutor — are donating at or near the contribution limit, $1,100.

The contributions are a measure of supporters' high hopes to unseat Kayser in favor of Rodriguez, a candidate friendly to charter schools.

Rodriguez, an charter school administrator at Partnerships to Uplift Communities, received most of his financial support from the California Charter School Association Advocates, which received donations from such wealthy donors as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and philanthropist Eli Broad.


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Cal Lutheran University plans new art complex

The studio arts program at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif., includes courses in painting.
Photo courtesy of Cal Lutheran/Brian Stethem

California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks has taken the first steps toward building a new, art center with a commitment of at least $8 million in contributions and matching funds.

Over the weekend, the university's board of regents voted to spend $300,0o0 on design and planning for the new project. The complex will include offices and art studios in about 25,000 to 30,000 square feet of space.

RELATED: Top 10 arts education stories for 2014

The center will be the new home for the school's art department, which is currently spread out across the campus. 

"The facilities that they're in now are really not optimal," said Karin Grennan, the media relations manager for the university. 

The school offers instruction in studio arts, design and commercial art, digital art and art history. 


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After recession cuts, LAUSD reconnects with community art groups

In this file photo, students warm up in a mariachi class at Hamilton High School.
Susanica Tam for KPCC

Los Angeles Unified's arts education leaders took steps to renew long-dormant community partnerships with arts organizations Wednesday, part of an effort to revitalize arts education in the nation’s second largest school district. 

At the Los Angeles Cathedral in downtown L.A., the district's new arts ed director, Rory Pullens, held his first meeting with community arts organizations. More than 100 people representing several dozen groups attended the event.

Pullens outlined the district's arts plans and how community partners can help boost the arts for students.

“Guess what," Pullens said, getting a round of applause with cheers of support from some of the attendees. "We're back." 

RELATED: LAUSD decision ushers in new source of funding for arts education

Pullens lauded the district's recent announcement clearing the way for arts funding for low-income students, and pointed to new allocations this year that helped some of the district's schools purchase items like art supplies.


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Spanish-language books for kids have a new LA home

La Librería co-founders, Chiara Arroyo (left) and Celene Navarrete (right) at the opening of their brick and mortar store on West Washington Blvd in Mid-City, Feb 21, 2015. The store sells children literature in Spanish.
Deepa Fernandes / KPCC

A new Mid-City store specializing in Spanish-language books for children may help chip away at a problem facing public schools expanding their dual-language programs and parents working to raise bilingual children: a lack of books beyond translations of "Curious George."

La Librería, the first children’s Spanish-language literature store in Los Angeles, opened Feb. 21 at a location on West Washington Boulevard. The brick-and-mortar is the dream of two moms who started out selling their volumes at book fairs.

When they first started out, co-founders Celene Navarrete and Chiara Arroyo couldn’t believe the lack locally of good, Spanish-language literature for children.

"Especially in Los Angeles, it was shocking to see the books that I read in Mexico, in my hometown, many of them were not available here," said Navarrete.


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