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The Los Angeles Schools Bond Measure Is It Needed?

On November 8th, the voters of who live in the Los Angeles schools district will be faced with their fourth proposition, called Measure Y. The $3.985 bond measure, which will be paid by property taxes, is for more planned expansion within the Los Angeles schools, allowing them to add another 25 elementary schools to the current list of 160 schools that are scheduled to be constructed by year 2012. Some of the money also is slated for other needs, such as new school buses, repairs and charter schools. The other three bond measures were passed for Los Angeles schools new construction and repairs that were long overdue. Classrooms were literally falling apart, and classes were excessively overcrowded with year-round schedules for many schools.

The previously passed measures underwrote the current 160 schools on the list for construction. Many people, however, are asking if this fourth measure is truly needed. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the traditional Los Angeles schools are slowly but steadily losing students from their rolls. Since the 2002-2003 school year, the traditional Los Angeles schools have lost 4,471 students. According to Los Angeles schools officials, they expect another 4,304 to be dropped this year.

There are several reasons for these drops in enrollment. First, one in every 20 students is choosing to attend a charter or private school, rather than attend traditional Los Angeles schools. The 88 charter schools within the state now enroll about three percent (about 200,000) of the public school students. About 35,000 of these students attend charter schools within the Los Angeles schools. The number of charter schools within the state continues to increase, with another 20 new charter schools planned for this fall. The California Charter Schools Association predicts that ten percent of public school students within the state will attend charter schools by the year 2014, with perhaps an even higher percentage in the Los Angeles schools area. They cite that the number of charter schools would need to triple in order to accommodate all of the students currently on waiting lists. With the smaller size and flexibility of charter schools, they can be created and implemented in a very short time, as compared to the large, traditional Los Angeles schools that take years to construct. The second reason for the drastic drop in enrollment at the Los Angeles schools is birth and lifestyle trends: Los Angeles County statistics have shown that hundreds of fewer babies are being born in the county each year. The trend is expected to continue through to the end of the decade.

Upper income singles and couples with few children have replaced neighborhoods that were once inhabited by large immigrant families. With the rising housing prices in the Los Angeles schools area, most young families or families with many children can no longer afford to live there, opting to move to areas with lower costs of living. Additionally, according to researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California, another trend is smaller immigrant families. In their 2002 report, they show that after the first generation, immigrant families successively have smaller families. Glenn Gritzner, special assistant to the Los Angeles schools, says that the Los Angeles schools have taken the changes in demographics into consideration, but they are not critical enough to change the school building plans. Gritzner states that, if school plans and trends/statistics remain on course through 2012, there still will be 200,000 Los Angeles schools students in portable classrooms and plenty of overcrowded Los Angeles schools remaining. Plus, trends are only current patterns that are subject to change. Measure Y definitely is warranted.


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