CALPIRG releases a report on dangerous toys

CALPIRG teamed up with the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles to present their annual “Trouble in Toyland” report. It highlights some of the dangerous toys that shoppers should be on the look out for this holiday season.

“The most important thing is to look out for toxics and plastic hazards. And choking hazards continue to be one of the biggest risks for children,” said Austin Price is with CALPIRG

Two of the main hazards on CALPIRG’s list are related to toxins… For instance, toys that have phthalates, a component in plastics, can affect children’s development and reproductive systems. Also, lead is still found in toys.

One of the most common dangers is choking on small pieces. Jeffrey Upperman is director of the Children’s Hospital trauma center. The hospital performs a lot of airway obstruction surgeries.

“The parents who are shopping for toys need to understand that they need to buy toys that are age appropriate. They need to read the labels and they need to make sure that if they’re picking up a bike, make sure to pick up a helmet first,” Upperman said.

The fourth main hazard is noisy toys like play cell phones that can cause hearing loss. Three years ago, congress passed the consumer product safety improvement act. It requires manufacturers to test toys for toxins and lead. Austin Price urges Congress to continue funding the commission that is enforcing stricter regulations.

“So we’ve seen…over two hundred thousand recalls for lead toys just in the past year. So there are safer toys in the marketplace now than when we started this 26 years ago but there’s still hazards out there parents need to know about,” Price said.

Although those toys with noise or small pieces may look like a blast, they may create more harm than fun.

Karla Robinson, Annenberg Radio News.

“Don’t Hold Us Back” Movement Rallies at LAUSD Meeting

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image “Don’t Hold Us Back” is a coalition of parents, civil rights groups and community organizations that is calling for involvement in contract negotiations. At a rally this morning, the group spoke out to insure that the agreements provide students with quality education.

Marqueece Harris-Dawson is the president of community coalition.

“Typically community members are left out of this process. We are trying to insert ourselves and make it clear that we have opinions about it. We want to and expect to be heard…our kids only get one shot at this education to that’s important to us.”

Parents at the rally said they want to have a bigger role in the process. Felicia Jones is a parent of a LAUSD graduate.

“Parents need to be heard in this matter. For so long this has been a union and district issue but really parents are the ones who are ultimately impacted, students are impacted. And we want our voice heard. We want them to know what we care about as they negotiate.”

Jones says the campaign wants the contract to provide educators and administrators with more flexibility. She believes this will allow teachers to reach their full potential and offer better education.

The United Teachers of L.A. says it welcomes parent’s involvement. However, one point of contention with “Don’t Hold Us Back” is teacher seniority. The campaign calls for an end to the “last hired, first fired” rule. Harris-Dawson says it forces schools that frequently hire inexperienced teachers to bear the brunt of lay offs. The union firmly stands behind the policy and supports tenure for educators.

“Don’t Hold Us Back” also wants to include an objective, fair teacher evaluation system to reward teachers doing well and help those who aren’t.

Non-Profit Day in Los Angeles

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imageJust as the public and private sectors were hit in the recession, non-profits have fought for support as funding declined. The mayor says the non-profit sector in LA is a 35 and a half billion dollar industry and employs six percent of the region’s work force.

The city established nonprofit day to acknowledge the industry and provide encouragement through these tough times.

Jacqueline Hamilton is the executive director of a small nonprofit organization called the Education Consortium of Central Los Angeles. ECCLA works to provide enriched educational experiences to K through 12 students.

Like many non-profits, ECCLA was hit by the economic recession.

“Well everything’s coming down to what measurable results you can provide…so we’re having to look at our funding model and trying to seek new supporters for the work that we do. The tightened economy has made it really difficult for us.”

At a news conference this morning, the mayor said nonprofit day is intended to encourage volunteer participation and donation. He noted that even as funding has decreased, the need for non-profits’ services has increased.

Hamilton commends the city’s efforts.

“I think LA city leaders recognize the important role that non-profit organizations play in meeting a wide range of civic needs. I welcome this raising the profile of non-profits by having a non-profit day…anything that calls attention to the important work done by the third sector, the non-profit sector of the economy is very helpful.”

In a similar effort, the Annenberg Foundation is hosting an event tonight in downtown la, highlighting the importance of non-profits. Ten organizations will give speed pitches in a competition to win a hundred thousand dollars in prizes.

Study Shows Impact of the LA’s BEST After School Program

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From the time the bell rings to the moment their parents collect them, elementary students in the LA’s Best Program are encouraged to both focus on schoolwork and have fun.

Homework is mandatory, and they get help if they need it. But once its done there’s sports, games and art.

The study found that students in the program did better academically in middle school, performed better on standardized tests, and were more likely to take algebra in eighth grade.

Catherine Stringer is the vice president of communications and public affairs for LA’s Best.

“This is very exciting for us because our program only serves elementary school so we’re finding that the effect of the program in elementary school outlasts the program and continues with students as they get into middle school.”

Stringer said after-school programs provide a better environment. And these programs should be available to everyone.

“All children deserve this kind of enrichment, not just those whose families can afford it.”

Denise Huang is a senior research associate at CRESST and she was the project director for the LA’s Best study. She said the program’s effects continued through high school.

“Over the years we find that the la best participants have lower crime rate committed when we look at them into their high school years and they have lower dropout rate.”

Huang said the decrease in crime lowered the public cost for juvenile delinquency facilities. So much so, that every dollar invested in the program meant a two-dollar return in lower crime expenses.

Governor limits legal challenges to LA football stadium

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imageThe SB-292 law limits the time period for legal challenges, just for the stadium project. This will protect AEG’s proposed stadium against competitors who might try to delay the project. The law also ensures that Farmer’s Field is built to be environmentally sustainable.

At the news conference for the bill signing, governor Jerry Brown talked about the millions of Californians who are unemployed. He said SB-292 will create new jobs and get residents back to work.

“We’re going to remove some regulations, speed things up; we’re going to protect the environment but we’re also going to do it in a practical way,” he said. “Because there are too damn many regulations, let’s be clear about that.”

John Perez, the speaker of the California Assembly, said Farmer’s Field will have a significant impact on unemployment.

“This project will create 23,000 new jobs, which will benefit California as a whole,” he said. “And at a time when our state still has the second highest rate of unemployment in the nation, we need to be doing everything possible to create new jobs here in California.”

Some remain skeptical about the stadium’s lasting employment projections and others are concerned about increased traffic.

But now all AEG and the city of LA need is an NFL team to play in the new stadium.

Census numbers show California hardest hit by poverty

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imagePoverty numbers are high across the country but in California, they’re even higher. The 2010 poverty rate was 1.2 percentage points above the national rate.

Jessica Bartholow, a legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty says the numbers are to be expected.

“The Californians can’t be surprised by the newest poverty data released by the census. We’ve been seeing high unemployment and unemployment is a major contributor to poverty.”

Bartholow also expressed her fears for what this might forecast for California:

“In California what we’re most concerned about with increasing numbers of poverty are more families out on the street without housing and more people experiencing hunger.”

Politicians from both parties agree creating more jobs is the key to reducing poverty. Bartholow says the new numbers should give lawmakers even more incentive to find a solution.

“We think that the census data that’s come out today will be really good evidence to the Governor Jerry Brown and to President Obama and to congress that we need some changes in how we are offering jobs for low income individuals but also how we’re relieving poverty.”

As long as unemployment stays high and relief is minimal, California will continue to battle high poverty.