Archive | August, 2017

Public Advocates Files Appeal for Parents, Children’s Defense Fund-California, Latinos in Action-California Against Long Beach Unified School District

29 Aug



Parents and their supporters, on Thursday, Aug. 24, pose for photo after their press conference announcing their appeal to the California Department of Education regarding their Administrative Complaint against the Long Beach Unified School District; photo by Barry Saks

Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, Children’s Defense Fund – California and Public Advocates, Inc. held a press conference, on Thursday, Aug. 24, to announce that Public Advocates, Inc. had filed an appeal, the day before on Wednesday, Aug. 23, with the California Department of Education, that alleged the response of Long Beach Unified School District to an administrative complaint for poor parents, their children and foster youth was inadequate.

The administrative complaint filed in April alleged $40 million intended for poor students, English-language learners and foster youth was misspent.

Public Advocates, Inc., which according to its website, is “a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination,” filed the administrative complaint and appeal for CDF-California, for Latinos in Action-California and for parents, challenging the district’s budgeting of funds, which are required to be targeted toward new or better services for high-need students under the new school funding law, the Local Control Funding Formula.

The press release distributed at the press conference admits LBUSD has taken steps to address the April complaint.  It states, “The district has discontinued paying $14 million in teacher salary increases out of these funds and significantly reduced challenged technology expenses, resulting in more than $17 million over the next two years….(T)he district also revised its 2016-17 spending and academic plan…to provide greater clarity as to how the district is spending the $40 million.”


Angelica Jungco, Senior Staff Attorney for Public Advocates, Inc., on Thursday, Aug. 24, speaks at press conference, where the appeal to the California Department is announced.  The appeal is for a decision on an administrative complaint filed in April against the Long Beach Unified School District; photo by Barry Saks

Angelica Jungco, Senior Staff Attorney for Public Advocates Inc., said, “We’re here today to celebrate that LBUSD has taken steps to address some of the issues raised in our complaint….Our complaint also prompted the district to making meaningful improvements to its spending and academic plan….In particular, the district revised its plan from last year to better explain how it is spending that the $40 million we asked questions about….While we are encouraged to see the strides the district has made towards providing better information, it should not have taken years of advocacy and a formal complaint to compel LBUSD to explain its strategies for high-needs students.”  Jungco added, “Here in Long Beach, we have parents, youth and community members ready and willing to partner with Long Beach Unified (District) to make the promise of equity and shared decision making at the heart of the new funding law a reality.”


Shimica Gaskins, the Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund, on Thursday, Aug. 24, speaks at press conference; photo by Barry Saks

Shimica Gaskins, who is the Executive Director of CDF-California said, “Today we are proud to stand here as a community to announce the appeal of our case to the California Department of Education and bring Long Beach schools closer to achieving equitable distribution of funds through the Local Control Funding Formula.  The LCFF dramatically changed the way schools are funded in California and for the better….The law requires us to align resources to students’ needs.  As advocates and community members, we have been focused on ensuring the goals of LCFF are achieved when budgetary decisions are made….(S)ome students have had great educational opportunities here, while others have been tracked into a path where they may graduate from high school but without the skills or the support needed for college and career readiness.  These English-learner and low-income and foster-youth students would have benefited from a more early intervention to ensure they did not fall behind and from more individualized support from teachers, a counselor or tutor.  For years, we have weighed with letters to both the State Board of Education and the Long Beach School Board with recommendations on how to better serve these students.  We are not convinced that the investments made thus far are materializing into improved services that are sufficiently accessible for  high-needs students and that’s why CDF-California signed on to the Unified Complaint Procedure.”

Guadalupe Luna, who spoke in Spanish with English translation and who is a complainant and a parent of three school-age children, said, “I have seen in adequate tutoring programs for which my children don’t qualify because the limited slots are for the students with severe learning needs or enrichment for students who are more advanced.  There is nothing for English- learner, low-income and foster-youth students who aren’t in these programs.  The lack of equity in the district affected my children and more students in Long Beach.”

Martha Cota, who also spoke in Spanish with English translation and who is a parent and resident of Long Beach and is the Executive Director of Latinos in Action-California, said, “LBUSD should consider convening a parent-consulting team that focuses specifically on how supplemental and concentration funds will be spent on benefit (sic) for high-needs students.”


Marina Roman Sanchez, a parent and one of the complainants, on Thursday, Aug, 24, waiting to speak at press conference; photo by Barry Saks

Marina Roman Sanchez, who also spoke in Spanish with English translation and a complainant, pointed out she learned she had to become an advocate for her children, which included filing complaints and using a lawyer.  Sanchez, who has two school-age children, one with autism, said, “After 16 years of supporting my children, I found out that there are many other families who do not receive the necessary services they need just because they do not know how to maneuver (through) the policies of the district….I would like for other families to actually receive the appropriate services without having to tirelessly fight for their rights.”

CDF-California, according to its About Facebook page, “provides a strong, effective and independent voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby or speak for themselves.  We pay particular attention to the needs of poor children, children of color and those with disabilities.”

Latinos in Action-California, according to its About Facebook page in Spanish, is a nonprofit organization with the mission to strengthen and enrich the quality of life for families, youth and individuals.

Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, according to its About Facebook page, “works to reduce health disparities and improve community health through systemic changes fueled by adult and youth resident engagement, collaboration and resource sharing, and strategic communication about community needs and solutions.” The California Endowment funds BHC: Long Beach.

On Friday, Aug. 25, Chris Eftychiou, the Public Information Director of LBUSD, provided a statement by email.  The statement reads, “Our school district’s Local Control Accountability Plan meets or exceeds state requirements and the spirit of the law.  The Long Beach Unified School District is one of the most progressive school systems in terms of addressing specific student groups in the plan.  In addition, about 70 percent of our students meet one of the specified populations to be addressed in the plan, so the whole-system work we’re doing benefits these students as well.

“The LCAP is by nature an ongoing, living process.  We consider all viewpoints.  But just because someone disagrees with our approach, that doesn’t change the fact that we’re in compliance and producing steady, significant growth in student achievement.

“When the California Department of Education releases student performance data next week, the public also will see that the Long Beach Unified School District showed greater growth in English and math last year than the state’s other large school districts.  All student subgroups improved here, including all racial/ethnic subgroups, students learning English as their second language, special education students, and homeless and foster children.  Many of our schools closed achievement gaps by 50 percent or more.

“The bottom line is that Long Beach is getting significantly better results than our counterparts elsewhere in the state, but Public Advocates disagrees with how we’re getting there.  So the question is, at what point do such complaints become an attempted end run around local control, when large law firms from well beyond Long Beach continue to assert their vision of how we should be serving our local students?  When Governor Brown successfully pushed for local control of spending in our public schools, he wanted exactly what Long Beach is doing. We surveyed 20,000 of our parents this year, and 94 percent indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed that they felt welcome to participate at their child’s school.”


Guadalupe Luna, another parent and complainant, on Thursday, Aug. 24, speaks at press conference; photo by Barry Saks




Long Beach Area Peace Network Protests the President’s Afghanistan Troop Increase

24 Aug

Outside Congressman Alan Lowenthal’s Long Beach Office, on Tuesday, Aug. 22, stood about a half dozen people protesting the president’s Afghanistan troop increaseion; photo by Barry Saks

About half dozen people, organized by the Long Beach Area Peace Network, on Tuesday, Aug. 22, protested President Donald Trump’s decision to increase U.S. troops in Afghanistan at 100 West Broadway, which is outside Congressman Alan Lowenthal’s Long Beach office.


John Fortier stands, on Tuesday, Aug. 22, with his protest sign

John Fortier, 83, who is a retired teacher from the Los Angeles Unified School District, was at the protest.  Fortier went into the military right out of high school ended up as an airplane gunner in Korea.  He characterized a reoccurring nightmare he had as a “PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) experience.”  Fortier, who taught school for about 35 years, said, “I dreamt I was in a great big plane and that we were flying in among high tension wires and I called, my pilot whose name was Bob, ‘Hey Bob get out of these wires….We’re going to go down.’….I would wake up with a sweat, sometimes I would be yelling (and) sometimes just talking.”  After being discharged for two or three years, he met a friend he served with.  His friend reminded him that North Korea military personnel would string low-hanging ropes or cables to bring down low-flying U.S. military planes bombing railroad tracks.  After being reminded, his nightmares ended.   Fortier added he does a weekly Friday one-man protest in Redondo Beach, where he lives.

Carol Quinlan, 59, who lives in Long Beach, was also at the protest.  Quinlan said, “This is an unwinnable war…and that we need to get out.”  Quinlan, who is a longtime LBAPN activist, added that the money that is being spent on the war in Afghanistan should be spent on infrastructure and schools.

While the president did not specify how large the Afghanistan troop increase would be during his Monday night address Fort Myer, Va., near Washington, the New York Times reported the increase would be “4,000.”  During the presidential campaign Trump argued for a withdrawal from Afghanistan.


Hotel Workers Union Hosts Panel To Move Toward a Long Beach Ordinance to Protect Housekeepers from Excessive Workloads and Sexual Violence

21 Aug

Audience before the panel discussion, on Thursday, Aug.17, on working conditions of hotel housekeepers; photo by Barry Saks

More than 150 people attended a panel discussion, as part of the Stand with Women Campaign on Thursday, Aug. 17, at the First Congregational Church, at 241 Cedar Ave, on women in the hotel industry, toward Long Beach adopting an ordinance to address sexual assault and workloads.

The Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, Clergy and Laity for Economic Justice, and UNITE HERE Local 11 sponsored the discussion.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, of the United Methodist Church, emceed with the panelists: Juana Melara, who is a hotel housekeeper; Nereyda Soto, who translated for Melara; M. Lorena Gonzalez, a citywide Seattle Council woman; Katherine Spillar, the Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation; Long Beach 1st District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez; and Maria Elena Durazo, who served as the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor from May 2006 to December 2014.

Besides the Long Beach Councilwoman Gonzalez on the panel, the other Long Beach council members in the audience were Vice Mayor and 9th District Councilman Rex Richardson, 2nd District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, 5th District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo and 7th District Councilman Roberto Uranga.


Bishop Mary Ann Swenson after introducing Katherine Spillar hands the mic to her, on Thursday, Aug. 17, for her to speak on the panel on hotel housekeepers in Long Beach; photo by Barry Saks.

The Bishop, who served as the Vice Moderator for the Central Committee of World Council of Churches, said, “I think it’s a very special time for us to stand with women, to support women in the workplace and to prepare ourselves to help people to inact the kinds of policies that will ensure dignity and safety for the working women…Unfortunately many of these women are in terrible working conditions and that subjects them…to working to long and also to the problems of sexual harassment.”

Spillar, who is also the Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine, said, “(T)hose of us who are the victims of discrimination or who are oppressed in the workplace banding together and organizing to push forward.  That is how change is made.”


Maria Elena Durazo, on Thursday, Aug. 17, speaks on panel on housekeepers in the Long Beach hotel industry; photo by Barry Saks 

Durazo, who, according to the Los Angeles Business Journal, has declared she is running for a California Senate seat in 2018, added, housekeepers must knock on doors and “hope the person who answers the door is not a sexual deviant.”


Hotel housekkeper Juana Melara (left) with her translator Nereyda Soto (right) speaks, on Thursday, Aug. 17, on panel on working conditions in Long Beach hotel industry; photo by Barry Saks

Melara, who spoke in Spanish, in which Soto translated in to English, said she has been a hotel housekeeper for 22 years and that her workday she gets paid begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m.  However, she must get to work before 8 a.m. to prepare her cart, which her employer doesn’t consider as part of her work.  She said she cleans 14 or 15 rooms each day but she gets frustrated because at times she doesn’t have the necessary tools.

Once she had to work on her hands and knees because she didn’t have the needed tools.  She said she must lift the mattresses, which is heavier than her own body weight and sometimes a room may have more than one bed. Because of the stressful workloads, housekeepers are sometimes not aware of their surroundings, enabling hotel guests physically to take advantage of the housekeepers.

One time a guest tied a worker up with a telephone cord, locked her in the room and sexually assaulted the worker.  The worker left in an ambulance and never returned.

Once a guest asked Melara for a massage and another time a male guest exposed his “private part” to her and feared she would be raped.  Security arrived 20 minutes later.  By the time security came, he had exposed himself two other coworkers and was never caught.

Melara received a standing ovation.


Seattle Councilwoman M. Lorena Gonzalez speaks, on Thursday, Aug. 17, on panel regarding working conditions for housekeepers in Long Beach hotel industry; photo by Barry Saks

The Seattle Councilwoman, who is also a former civil rights attorney, said she grew up as a migrant farm worker, picking fruit, cherries, apples and asparagus that her family could not afford.  She added, “(T)he guest is not always right.  Rape is never right…That’s about power.  It’s about who has it and who doesn’t.”  She spoke about the Seattle law protecting hotel workers.  She said, “If somebody has been raped or somebody is in the process of about to be raped, it is common sense to have a panic button to make sure that they can get the help they need.”


Lena Gonzalez, who represents the 1st District on Long Beach City Council, speaks. on Thursday, Aug. 17 on panel regarding working conditions in hotel industry; photo by Barry Saks

Long Beach Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, said tourism in Long Beach is “looking good,” hotel occupancy is “80 percent,” which “7 percent above the national average,” and “the port has had the best cargo forecast in decades.”  However, she said, “49 percent of hotel housekeepers have reported incidents of sexual harassment” and hotel housekeepers in the service sector have the highest rate of workplace injury.   


Photo by Barry Saks


Long Beach: 300 Gather to Mourn the Death of Heather Heyer and to Show Solidarity with the Victims in Charlottesville, Virginia

15 Aug

The crowd at Harvey Milk Plaza in Long Beach, on Sunday, Aug. 13, to mourn the death of Heather Heyer to show their solidarity with the injured victims; photo by Barry Saks

About 300 people held a flashlight vigil, on Sunday evening, on Aug. 13, at Harvey Milk Plaza in Long Beach, California at 185 E. Third St. to mourn the death of Heather Heyer and to show their solidarity for the injured protesters against the white-nationalist Unite the Right Rally the day before in Charlottesville, Virginia when a car plowed into the protesters.

The vigil was organized by Michelle Connolly and Ashley Moulder, leaders from Indivisible Connected Long Beach, whose About Facebook page characterized itself as “(l)eading the resistance in Long Beach” and “(w)e are the joint forces of the local groups in order to resist the Trump & GOP.”

Connolly said, “We stand against this grotesque act of white terrorism, anti-Semitism and homophobia with outrage and sadness.  White people, I must address you, our work is just beginning and we must be made accountable.  This is our history….Being taught to not see color…has blinded us from the growing evils of institutional and systemic racism.”

Naida Tushnet, from the Long Beach Area Peace Network, told the crowd that Black Lives Matter taught her to say the names of the dead.  She ended her brief remarks by echoing Joe Hill.  Tushnet said, “Don’t mourn for me, organize.”

Kevin Joerger, 25, from the Long Beach chapter of the Democratic Socialist of America, reminded the crowd besides the death of Heyer, injured were members of the DSA, the International Socialist Organization, the Industrial Workers of the World and Antifa, an anti-Fascist group in the United States.

Other speakers from other organizations who spoke to show their solidarity were Together We Will, the Unitarian Church of Long Beach and the National Council of Jewish Women in Long Beach.

Former Long Beach Community College District Trustee Mark Bowen, 42, was in the crowd.  Bowen, who lives in Long Beach and teaches history in the Los Angeles Unified School District, said, “I am here because this is a very horrible time for our country with what’s happened in Charlottesville.  The hate has been ratcheted up to a level that is completely unacceptable and I lay it directly at the feet of our president and the hate he has been spewing for a couple of years.”  He added he’s proud of his veteran grandfather, who stormed the beach at Normandy against the Nazis and that he is disturbed Nazis are trying to empower themselves here in the United States.


Kenneth Unger, on Sunday, Aug. 13, in the crowd listening to the speakers at Harvey Milk Plaza; photo by Barry Saks

Kenneth Unger, a San Pedro resident, was in the crowd.  Hunger, 74, who identified himself as an Ashkenazi Jew, said, “I think it is very important to show solidarity with the protesters in Charlottesville…protesting the Fascist…neo-Nazi movement.”  A little later, he added, “Part of my family was lost in the Holocaust and that must never, ever happen again.”

Heyer, 32, worked as a paralegal.  According to the New York Times, Heyer’s “friends described her as a passionate advocate for the disenfranchised who was often moved to tears by the world’s injustices.”

According to the Washington Post, the driver of the car was James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, and whose former teacher of Fields had said Fields “espoused Nazi ideals in high school.”

Reuters reported on Sunday, Aug. 13, that the White House said President Donald Trump’s remarks condemning violence “at a white nationalist rally were meant to include the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups.”

For the New York Times video of the events on Saturday, Aug. 12, in Charlottesville, Virginia, click here.

Barry Saks is a socialist, an Ashkenazi Jew and an atheist.


Protesters Demand Long Beach Become a Sanctuary City

7 Aug

Protesters chanting and demanding, Friday, Aug. 4, that Long Beach become a sanctuary city; photo by Barry Saks

About 20 people, mostly young and of color, stood on the corner of Willow Street and Santa Fe Avenue on Friday, Aug. 4, and chanted pro-immigrant slogans and demands for the Long Beach to become a sanctuary city.

The Filipino Migrant Center, which is part of Sanctuary LB (Long Beach), organized the protest.

The chants were in English, Spanish and Tagalog, also known as Filipino.  While most of the chants were in English, many were in Spanish and a small number in Tagalog.  Interspersed among the chants, the honking horns in solidarity could be heard, and at least once a hostile voice was heard out of a car.


One chant was “No Ban, no wall, sanctuary for all.”  Another chant was “What do we want?  Sanctuary.  When do we want it? Now.”  A third chant was “Move ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), get out the way ICE, get out the way.”  Another chant was “Education, not deportation.”  A fifth chant was “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”  A sixth chant was “When immigrant rights are under attack, what do we do?  Stand up, fight back.”  A seventh chant was “ICE out of Long Beach.”  And still another chant was “No borders, no nations, stop the deportations.” A ninth chant was “Tell me what you want, what you really want?  Justice.  Tell me what you need, really need?  Sanctuary.  How are we going to get it?  People power.”


Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, during a phone interview, after the protest, said, “I don’t oppose a local (sanctuary city) ordinance.  I don’t know what a local ordinance honestly would do….We can do one, which would be symbolic, but it’s not going to…really have an impact….We have so many individuals that are not only living in Long Beach, they may be undocumented but working outside the city.  So what good is it for us just to have a local Long Beach ordinance per se than a statewide one, where everyone is covered?”

Neither the Mayor, nor any of other eight City Councilmembers of Long Beach were available for comment.

Alex Montances, of the FMC, in an email before the event, said, “Long Beach should be a place where all its residents are cared for and protected, not a place where immigrant mothers, fathers, and children are afraid to walk to school, work, or even outside their house because they fear ICE and deportation raids. Mayor Robert Garcia and City Council need to pass a local Sanctuary City policy here in Long Beach to protect our immigrant community.  We need to make sure that our City is not participating, funding, or assisting Federal immigration enforcement.”

Leanna Noble was at the protest.  Noble said, “We need a local sanctuary city ordinance that’s got teeth, that will make sure that all of the residents…have their rights protected and that they can live here in peace and safety.”

Tamara Romero was also at the protest.  Romero said she was there in solidarity with the immigrant community and wanted Long Beach to have its own sanctuary ordinance because many immigrants live here in fear.

According to the Facebook event page of Sanctuary Long Beach, events are planned for Wednesday, Aug. 9, at 5:30 p.m., at Del Amo Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue, and Wednesday, 5:30 p.m., at Pine Avenue and Broadway.

Meanwhile, according to a Los Angeles Times story in early August, that Federal immigration agents have shown up twice at California labor dispute proceedings to apprehend undocumented workers and that California officials sent a memo in July instructing staff members to refuse entry to ICE agents who visit its offices to apprehend illegal immigrants.

The California Assembly Judiciary Committee, on Wednesday, July 5, passed California Senate Bill 54, known as the California Values Act, and the California Senate, on Monday, April 3, passed it.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday, June 13, passed SB 31, known as the California Religious Freedom Act, and the California Senate on Monday, April 3, passed it.

The about page of the Sanctuary Long Beach reads, “(T)he Long Beach City Council passed a resolution in support of SB 54…which limits information sharing with state and local law enforcement and immigration enforcement agencies. While…this is a step in the right direction, we know from previous statewide legislation that addresses law enforcement, local policies are more effective for accountability, efficiency, and building trust with local leaders and (the) community.”

The Long Beach City Council, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, voted seven to zero with two absent to support SB 31, known as the California Religious Freedom Act, and to support as amended SB 54.

Those in favor were 1st District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, 2nd District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, 3rd District Councilwoman Suzie Price, 4th District Councilman Daryl Supernaw, 7th District Councilman Roberto Uranga, 8th District Councilman Al Austin and 9th District Councilman and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson.  Absent were 5th District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo and 6th District Councilman Dee Andrews.

SB 54 would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest people for immigration enforcement.  However, SB 54 provides two allowed exceptions.  First, it allows efforts to investigate, enforce, or assist in the investigation or enforcement of a violent or serious felony and second it allows the transferring of an individual to federal immigration authorities who has been previously convicted of a violent felony.

SB54 would also require by April, 2018, the California Attorney General to publish policies limiting assistance with immigration enforcement to the fullest extent possible for use by public schools, public libraries, health facilities operated by the state or a subdivision of the state, and courthouses and would require them to implement those policies.  It would also encourage other organizations providing services related to physical or mental health and wellness, education, or access to justice, including the University of California to adopt the policy.  SB 54 would require every six months, that a law enforcement agency participating in a joint task force with Federal immigration enforcement to submit a report to the Department of Justice and would require the California Attorney General by March 1, 2019, and twice a year after to report the types and frequency of those task forces, and to post those reports on the California Attorney General’s website.  SB 54 would require the Board of Parole Hearing or the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to notify ICE of the scheduled release of all people confined to state prison serving for a conviction of a violent or serious felony or who has a prior conviction for a violent or serious felony.

SB 31 would prohibit a state or local agency or a public employee from providing the federal government information regarding a person’s religious beliefs, practices, or affiliation when the information is for compiling a database.  It would also prohibit a state agency from using its resources to assist in compiling such a database.  However, one exception is for targeted investigations of individual based on reasonable suspicion that the individual has engaged or have been the victim of criminal activity and there is a clear connection between the criminal activity and the information collected.  A second exception is to provide religious accommodations.