Po, Vivian

Vivian Po is a staff reporter for New America Media.

California Schools Under More Stress

By Vivian Po
New America Media

A new education report finds that California schools are under more stress than ever after years of budgets cuts.

The first report by EdSource to analyze school stress factors, “Schools under Stress: Pressures Mount on California’s Largest School Districts” identifies eight factors that make it more difficult for a school to provide quality education to all of its students.

“Unless you are a parent or a student, you don’t know what is going on in schools,” EdSource executive director Louis Freedberg told reporters from ethnic media outlets at a recent briefing in downtown Los Angeles co-organized by New America Media.

“What we really try to do with this report is to bring together a list of factors that are often reported on but not in a comprehensive, holistic way,” he said.

The Incredible Shrinking State Dollars for K-12 Schools

By Vivian Po
New America Media

State funding for California’s K-12 public schools has fallen by $7 billion since the onset of the recession. The state now spends $1,000 less per student than it did in 2007-2008.

“There has been a very large reduction in revenues that determine Prop 98, California's formula for calculating minimum school funding,” said Jonathan Kaplan, senior policy analyst with the California Budget Project, a nonpartisan group that monitors fiscal and policy issues.

Per student spending is now close to the 1989-90 level, after adjusting for inflation. “We are basically at a similar level of funding than we were at 20 years ago,” Kaplan said.

California Childcare Cuts Extend Family Homelessness

By Vivian Po
New America Media

Leni Haunga, an immigrant from Tonga, said that without the childcare services she had received at a homeless shelter, her family would not have gotten back on its feet so soon.

But planned state-budget cuts could leave families like the Haungas on the curb with few opportunities to resettle and stabilize their living situations.

Two years ago, a pair of local sheriffs, a bank official and a locksmith awakened Haunga, her husband and six children--ages two to 13--informing them that they had foreclosed on the house the family had been renting for three years.

Although the foreclosure team expressed sympathy, they gave Haunga’s family only eight minutes to pack up and vacate the premises. She had just enough time to roust her children from their beds and grab some personal belongings. In a matter of minutes, her stunned and drowsy family became homeless.

School Matters: Can Public Schools Really Do More With Less?

By Vivian Po
New America Media

EDITOR’S NOTE: As the U.S. economy continues to falter and states struggle to balance their budgets, cuts in education funding have become ubiquitous. Yet students face new pressures to remain competitive in the global market. Once again, the big question for reformers is: “Can schools do more with less?”

To answer that question, NAM education reporter Vivian Po spoke with Ulrich Boser, author of a recent report by the Center for American Progress: “Return on Educational Investment: A district-by-district evaluation of US educational productivity.” The report, the first attempt to evaluate the productivity of almost every major school district in the country, found that some districts have spent their dollars more wisely than others—and most schools can improve their efficiency, if they try.

What does the report tell us?

Low-Income Preschoolers in Freefall

By Vivian Po
New America Media

In a scene that is likely to be repeated in school districts throughout California in coming weeks, teachers and staff at the Helen Turner Children’s Center in Hayward spent last week packing boxes, hugging their colleagues and students goodbye—and collecting their last paychecks.

The center, which provides nearly 12 hours of care a day to 267 low-income preschoolers, was forced to shut its doors on Thursday, a victim of some $1.2 billion in proposed budget cuts to early childcare programs around the state.

For Parents, Shortened School Year Proves Costly

By Vivian Po
New America Media

For some low-income parents, the decision by many school districts to shorten the school year has raised anxieties about the extra costs it could impose on them.

Unlike more affluent parents, most are not in a position to pay for extra classes or tutoring to make up for time lost. So they are also trying to find innovative ways to make sure their child does not fall behind academically, according to interviews in Los Angeles and San Francisco by New America Media.

Gabriel Medel, whose son will be a freshman at Hamilton High in Los Angeles in the fall, is the volunteer director of Parents for Unity, an education advocacy group formed by Latino parents in Los Angeles. He believes students who are less fluent in English – typically designated as English Language Learners – will be among the first to feel the impact of a shorter school year.

Fewer Poor Kids Getting Free Summer Meals

By Vivian Po

A new report reveals that due to budget cuts the government-funded summer nutrition programs fed only one out of six low-income children in the United States last year.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) report, “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report 2010,” which was released on Tuesday, found that education cutbacks forced many state and local governments across the country to reduce or eliminate their summer school programs for kids.

As a result, the report said, only 2.8 million children participated in summer nutrition programs in July 2009 — about 73,000 children fewer than in July 2008.