California shoots for 90 percent HS graduation rate

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For the first time ever, more than 80 percent of high school students in California are graduating within four years. New numbers show the graduation rate in 2013 climbed to 80.2 percent. The dropout rate also improved, falling fell from above 13 percent to 11.6 percent. At LAUSD, the graduation rate was 67.9 percent and the dropout rate was 17.3 percent – both improvements. Graduation for black and Latino students both made gains statewide, but those groups continue to lag behind their white and Asian peers. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson says that moving forward, the goal is to boost the graduation rate to 90 percent. But that won’t be easy. A new report from Johns Hopkins University says California will need to graduate 440,000 more students by the year 2020 – including 300,000 from low-income families – to reach that goal.

clippersThe controversy over racially offensive remarks allegedly made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling on a leaked audiotape continues to boil. A stream of sponsors has abandoned the team yesterday and today the NBA will announce the results of its investigation into the matter. Meanwhile, a coalition of civil rights groups says it will call for a boycott of the Clippers at a rally outside of Staples Center this afternoon. L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks says he’ll introduce a motion today asking colleagues to denounce the racist remarks attributed to Sterling – and demanding that he apologize to the city. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson – a former NBA star who now works with the league’s player union – plan to hold a news conference after the NBA spells out its punishment for Sterling.

An L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy has agreed to plead guilty to building an illegal assault rifle. Richard Piquette is one of 20 current and former Sheriff’s officials who have been indicted as part of a federal investigation into corruption and brutality in the L.A. jail system. He’s the first to plead guilty. As part of his deal, Piquette will resign from the Sheriff’s Department. Piquette manufactured an assault rifle with a barrel that is shorter than is allowed by federal law. He also admitted being in possession of a shotgun that was stolen from the Sheriff’s Department and three assault weapons banned under state law. He was not charged in connection with those guns.

mentallillState officials have approved $75 million in grants aimed at keeping mentally ill people out of jails and hospital emergency rooms. More than half of the money – nearly $41 million – will go to L.A. County. The money comes from the Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act, which was passed by the Legislature last year to help make up for years of budget cuts to mental health services. It supports programs intended to diffuse emergency situations involving people with severe mental illness.  L.A. County plans to open 16 new residential crisis care facilities, staff more than a dozen mobile support teams and establish new urgent care facilities in the South Bay and San Gabriel Valley.

BROKAWNBC is honoring long-time news anchor Tom Brokaw by naming the network’s new West Coast news center for him. The complex at the edge of Universal Studios has newrooms for KNBC and Spanish–language Telemundo News. It also houses satellite offices for NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. Brokaw is taking a break from cancer treatment to celebrate with family and friends at the ceremony today. The 74-year-old newsman and author of “The Greatest Generation” is undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed last summer with multiple myeloma. Brokaw worked in L.A. between 1966 and 1973.