Category: California Education

Flap’s California Morning Collection: May 7, 2012

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Mission San Fernando

Good Monday morning!

The California Legislature is in session.  Today’s schedule is here.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

California Governor Jerry Brown will be attending a memorial honoring fallen police officers.

Gov. Jerry Brown joins law enforcement officials from throughout the state at Capitol Mall to remember fallen peace officers, including eight who died in 2011.

This is the 36th year for the annual memorial ceremony. In a statement released before last year’s memorial, Brown called it “a somber reminder of the bravery and valor of the men and women behind the badge who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our communities safe.”

On to today’s California headlines:

 Schwarzenegger vs. GOP, for old times’ sake

Arnold Schwarzenegger has mostly stayed out of the political ring in California since packing his boxes and moving out of the state Capitol 16 months ago.

But he decided to throw a punch over the weekend at his fellow California Republicans — and the GOP faithful jabbed back.  In truth, both sides doth protest too much… and have done so already.  Multiple times, in fact.

Everything Schwarzenegger said in his weekend op-ed column in the Los Angeles Times had a familiar ring to it.  Even his anecdote about falling in love with the Republican party in the late 1960s, via a Richard Nixon speech, was a throwback to the rousing open of his August 2004 prime time speech to the Republican National Convention.

California controller seeks return of redevelopment agency property, assets transferred last year

Last November, San Jose gave the Oakland A’s an option to buy downtown land for a new ballpark. But the deal wasn’t intended simply to boost the stadium plan; it also aimed to protect the land from the state, which was seeking to nab the assets of city redevelopment agencies in order to plug its budget holes.

Now it appears the move may have come too late.

Other cities around the Bay Area made similar maneuvers to keep threatened projects alive, and they all may find those redevelopment-related deals in the state’s cross hairs as officials argue over the effective date of the law passed last year that ultimately killed the agencies.

Oakland city officials could be on the hook, although they insist they aren’t worried by their decision in March to sign a $3.5 million redevelopment-funded contract for planning work and an environmental impact review on a new coliseum project.

And in Santa Clara, officials say they are confident their contracts for the $1.2 billion 49ers stadium project that recently broke ground — and depended initially on up to $40 million in redevelopment agency funding — made it under an allowable time frame.

But state officials charged with implementing the law that shifted redevelopment agency property tax revenue from city projects to schools and other government programs say the law is clear: Any asset transferred last year from the redevelopment agencies to other government entities after Jan. 1, 2011,

about the time Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to kill the agencies became known, through June 28, 2011, must be returned. And any contracts that redevelopment agencies signed with outside parties after June 28, the date Brown signed the law, also aren’t viable.

Californians to vote once again on modifying term-limits law

For the third time since Californians embraced some of the strictest term limits in the nation 22 years ago, opponents are imploring voters to loosen them.

This time, a carefully crafted initiative on the June ballot — one of only two statewide measures — has fans of the term-limits law worried.

At first glance, the measure appears strict: It would reduce the overall amount of time a lawmaker can serve in Sacramento from 14 years to 12. And its greatest political selling point is it wouldn’t benefit any current politicians, unlike two previous initiatives that voters rejected.

“This design carries with it less appearance of self-dealing and self-interest,” said Lew Uhler, a leading proponent of the 1990 term-limits initiative. “It will be more difficult to defeat.”

By shaving two years off the existing lifetime limit, Proposition 28 proponents were able to list it on the ballot as “Limits on Legislators’ Terms” — an alluring title, given the public’s continuing support for limits.

It certainly sounded good to Gilroy Republican Edwin Natividad. “I’m for it because I’m for term limits,” said Natividad, a 49-year-old postal carrier.

But the measure also allows lawmakers to spend all 12 years in one legislative house, doubling the amount of time Assembly members could serve there. They’re now limited to three two-year terms; senators are restricted to two four-year terms.

CEO Mag Taps CA Worst State to do Business – Again

Chief Executive Magazine’s annual survey of the Best & Worst states for business puts California in a familiar spot: #50. California was named the worst place to do business while Texas retained its position as the best.

The survey was conducted with 650 CEOs from across the country who were asked to evaluate states on a number of issues such as regulations, tax policies, workforce quality, educational resources, quality of living and infrastructure.

The magazine’s editor–in-chief, J.P. Donlon said, “CEOs tell us that California seems to be doing everything possible to drive business from the state.”

Enjoy your morning and here is Dan Walters Daily Video: California’s school system is languishing

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Flap’s California Morning Collection: May 2, 2012

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Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, Oceanside, California

Good Wednesday morning!

The California Legislature is in session. California Assembly and State Senate Floor Sessions will begin at noon.  Today’s schedule is here.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

California Governor Jerry Brown is in Los Angeles today promoting a Pet Lover’s License Plate.

California’s first dog, Sutter Brown, has a barking gig in Los Angeles today.

Sutter is joining Gov. Jerry Brown, actor Pierce Brosnan and dog whisperer Cesar Millan to promote the state’s Pet Lover’s License Plate, which would help fund spay and neuter programs. The presser starts at 2:30 p.m. at Petco, 1873 Westwood Blvd.

How is Sutter getting to L.A.? “FedEx,” joked Brown spokesman Gil Duran via Twitter.

Yeah, right. The Humane Society’s Jennifer Fearing tweeted: “Gas up the @HumaneSociety Prius! Road trip with @SutterBrown! I’m bringing sandwiches, per his request.”

The governor, who recently signed Assembly Bill 610 to extend the period of time for pre-ordering the plate, will take part later this afternoon in a Milken Institute 2012 Global Conference discussion on attracting and keeping out-of-state investment.

On to today’s California headlines:

California tax revenue $3 billion less than target, report says

The legislative analyst’s office has a new number that is adding to California’s financial headache: $3 billion. That’s the total amount that tax revenue has lagged behind goals set by Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration in the current fiscal year.

The shortfall was detailed in a report released on Tuesday by the nonpartisan office, which provides budget advice to lawmakers.

Much of that gap comes from a disappointing April, the most important month for income taxes. Income taxes were $2.07 billion short of the $9.43-billion goal, and corporate taxes fell $143 million short of an expected $1.53 billion, according to the report.

When April’s poor results are tacked on to earlier shortfalls, the state has fallen about $3 billion behind tax goals, the LAO said. The ratings agency Standard & Poor’s already cautioned Tuesday that poor tax revenue was imperiling California’s financial recovery.

Dan Walters: California’s school finance system is both convoluted and irrational

Thousands of California teachers were given layoff notices a few weeks ago because state law requires the slips to be sent out each spring if administrators and trustees believe cuts are needed to balance their budgets.

Later this month, the districts must decide whether to continue or rescind those layoffs on the assumption that by then they’ll know the state of their 2012-13 finances.

That’s problematic in any year, because the Legislature, which supplies most of the schools’ money, typically doesn’t settle the state budget until weeks or even months later.

A law passed by voters in 1988 is supposed to govern what schools receive, but its numbers are subject to annual manipulation, such as “deferring” payments for a year or more.

State and local school financing has dropped by about $700 per pupil since 2008 and 20 percent of state appropriations are being deferred, thus requiring districts to use their reserves or borrow money.

24 San Fernando Valley schools seek charter status

Two dozen high-performing Los Angeles schools are seeking to become charter campuses in search of more money and increased flexibility.

The list reads like an honor roll of academic excellence. Every school has surpassed the state’s target score of 800 on the Academic Performance Index, which is based on standardized tests.

Although many of the schools considered the move in hopes of greater funding, campus officials said they also began to see the benefits of increased freedom over such things as curriculum, testing and schedules.

“Finance is one key factor but not the only one,” said Jose Cole-Gutierrez, who directs the charter school division of the L.A. Unified School District.

The Board of Education heard from several supporters of the schools’ plans Tuesday; it’s expected to vote on the proposals in June.

Charter schools are free from some restrictions that govern traditional schools. Independent charters sever most ties with the school system; L.A. Unified provides periodic oversight.

The 24 San Fernando Valley schools don’t want to go that far. They are seeking to become “affiliated” or “dependent” charters. Affiliated charters are still bound by the district’s union contracts, for example.Becoming a charter of any sort results in a key advantage: The schools get a block grant from the state — about $385 per student — that can deliver more dollars with fewer rules.

“It’s quite positive” for the schools, said L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy, adding that the increased money comes from the state, not from district resources, during a period of sweeping budget cuts.

Herdt: Attack of the independent voters?

Steve Peace is a former Democratic lawmaker from San Diego, producer of the cult satire film “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,” and co-chairman of the Independent Voter Project.

He also was the behind-the-scenes architect of Proposition 14, the measure that created the top-two primary system in California that will debut in June. Under its rules, the major parties are no longer guaranteed a ticket on November’s general election ballot.

Only the top two finishers in each race will move on, and candidates’ party labels guarantee them nothing. Every voter can vote for any candidate. It is a jungle-style system that Democratic and Republican party leaders abhor.

Peace likes that last aspect just fine. In fact, it’s largely what led him to embrace the independent voter movement and to advocate for the top-two primary.

Unless they adapt, Peace believes that political parties are destined to go the way of landline telephones and 2D movies.

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters Daily Video: The Golden State’s population slows:

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Flap’s California Morning Collection: April 10, 2012

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La Purisima Mission, Lompoc, California

Good Tuesday morning!

The California Legislature is in session.  Today’s schedule is here.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

On to today’s California headlines:

California Legislature rushes bills at last minute, cutting public out of process

Among the many bills rushed through when lawmakers passed the state budget last year was one protecting teachers if the state had to resort to automatic spending cuts in the middle of the school year.

The bill prohibited school administrators from furloughing teachers unless their union agreed, and banned them from laying off teachers during the fiscal year, making it virtually impossible for districts to save significant amounts of money. Although it had the potential for severe consequences, the bill was made public just one hour before the vote was taken and passed at 11 p.m.

Dead-of-night votes on rushed legislation such as the teacher-protection bill are common during budget season and toward the end of the legislative session, forcing lawmakers to vote on major issues with little or no time to read the substance of the legislation. Many Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, defend the practice as a necessary evil, but others say the process needs to be changed.

Several attempts to give the public at least 24 hours to examine bills before lawmakers vote have failed, but a Republican lawmaker is trying again this year.

“A bill to let sunshine in has been kept in the dark since 2007,” said Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, who has proposed similar constitutional amendments twice previously. “Whether you agree or not with the policies that are being voted on, it’s simply good government to have the opportunity for everybody who’s interested to read a bill.”

Lawmakers rushed through several hastily written bills last year. Among these were bills that banned future initiatives from being placed on the June primary ballot, accelerated development plans for an NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles and protected farmworker unions against election misconduct.

Many Democrats say last-minute legislation is sometimes necessary to address issues that develop after the February deadline for introducing bills and to pass bills they consider important but politically unpopular.

Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, said Republicans are stoking the debate over rushed bills to create a smoke screen about the legislative process when what they really oppose are the Democrats’ policies.

He said Republicans are not thinking of the public in trying to require a 24-hour waiting period. Instead, Calderon said they would only use that time to gin up opposition and punish lawmakers who approve good but politically risky policies.

“A 24-hour reading period often gets used for mischief,” said Calderon, the longest-serving lawmaker in the Capitol. “Democrats are the majority party, and they have the responsibility to vote for things sometimes that are not popular with the public.”

Jeffries’ proposal, ACA1, would require lawmakers to give three-days’ notice before taking up any legislation and make bills public at least 24 hours before voting. A related measure, ACA2, would ban late-night legislative sessions except in cases of natural disaster.

Jarvis group launches ‘Don’t Sign the Petition’ anti-tax campaign

Less than a week after Gov. Jerry Brown started using robotic telephone calls and mailers to gather signatures for his ballot initiative to raise taxes, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association plans to launch its anti-tax campaign today on the conservative “John and Ken” talk radio show.

The taxpayers group this morning posted a red banner on its website inviting viewers to join a “Don’t Sign the Petition” campaign. The banner links to a campaign website opposing Brown’s effort to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California’s highest earners.

Jon Coupal, president of the Jarvis group, criticized as misleading Brown’s characterization of his tax measure as a tax on millionaires. It includes a proposed sales tax increase and higher income taxes on people who earn at least $250,000 a year.

Congressional panel launches probe of California’s high-speed rail project

A congressional committee has launched a wide-ranging examination of the California high-speed rail project, including possible conflicts of interest and how the agency overseeing it plans to spend billions of dollars in federal assistance.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), notified the California High-Speed Authority about the review Monday and ordered the agency to preserve its documents and records of past communications.

Committee members say they want to ensure that tax dollars are being spent appropriately and check for possible conflicts of interest involving rail officials and contractors. They also plan to determine whether a large government commitment to the bullet train would siphon federal tax dollars away from other important transportation projects.

“California high-speed rail was sold to voters as a grand vision for tomorrow but in practice appears to be no different than countless other pork-barrel projects — driven more by political interests and consultant spending than valid cost-benefit analysis,” Issa said. “Before more taxpayer money is sent to the rail authority, questions must be answered about mismanagement, conflicts of interest, route selection, ridership and other risks.”

As much as $4 billion in federal funds have either been provided or set aside so far for the 500-mile project, the estimated cost of which has fluctuated between $33 billion and $98.5 billion. The current estimate is $68 billion.

State borrowing from schools is adding up

For the past decade governors and state lawmakers desperate to close deficits have adopted budgets that use a little-noticed accounting gimmick called a “deferral” to borrow money from K-12 schools and pay it back in the next fiscal year.

The problem is the state then immediately taps districts for yet another loan, perpetuating a borrowing cycle that persists today.

The cumulative outstanding debt: $9.4 billion to K-12 schools statewide and $600 million to San Diego County districts.

It would be easy to conclude that persistent school budget woes, including teacher layoffs and program cuts, could be minimized — if only the state would stop this temporary pilfering.

But districts eventually do see the money months later. And by delaying payments the state avoids making permanent cuts in school funding on top of the ongoing reduction in spending that have hit education in recent years.

Deferrals also give districts the option of going out and borrowing money on their own to avoid deeper reductions locally.

But the state does not reimburse districts for interest or transaction fees, frustrating school officials who then must dip into local budgets to cover those expenses.

This practice is beginning to cost districts dearly. For example, Grossmont Union High School District says it has incurred between $70,000 and $90,000 in interest and fees annually to meet cash obligations.

“School districts are, in fact, bearing the brunt of the state deferrals and are often referred to as the state’s bank,” said Scott Patterson, a deputy superintendent at the district. “That isn’t really accurate though because of one very significant difference: banks get paid interest on their loans, school districts do not.”

Enjoy your morning and this by Dan Walters who discusses raising oil and gas extraction taxes in California:

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California School Officials to Challenge Legality of California State Budget

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They will hold a press conference tomorrow to outline their case.

Local school officials said today they will sue California over $2.1 billion in education funding they believe state leaders should have provided in the June budget.

The California School Boards Association, the Association of California School Administrators and school districts will hold a press conference Wednesday to explain their case. The San Francisco Unified School District is among those participating.

School administrators have bristled at the state budget ever since Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown brokered a last-minute deal with the California Teachers Association in June. Teachers won job protections and restrictions on how school districts can cut their budgets if the state determines in December that revenues will fall short of expectations.

The backdrop to that deal was the fact that the CTA, one of the most powerful forces in the Capitol, could have filed the same suit against the state that CSBA and ACSA are announcing this week.

K-12 schools are due to receive roughly the same amount of funding they had last year, even as the state expects a surge in tax revenues. Under Proposition 98’s constitutional provisions, California is required to give about 40 percent of any tax spike to K-12 schools, and the school groups believe that amounts to the $2.1 billion they are seeking.

To avoid that requirement, lawmakers and Brown agreed to a onetime diversion of $5.1 billion in sales tax dollars to counties to pay for new responsibilities, such as housing state prisoners in local jails. As part of the deal with CTA, state leaders agreed to seek taxes on the 2012 ballot and to reimburse schools for the $2.1 billion retroactively if those taxes fail.

At the time, state leaders believed that may have been enough to avoid a lawsuit on the Proposition 98 issue. But the school groups were never satisfied with how the budget turned out.

Remember Republicans at the time of the budget passing by a majority vote (No Republicans voted for it) called the Jerry Brown crafted budget a sham. It appears the chickens have come home to roost and the California economy has worsened.

There are some automatic cuts that will be required early in 2012, if the economy does not improve. I wonder how this lawsuit will affect this or whether the entire budget may be ruled invalid and unconstittuional?

Remember Assembly Republicans asked the Attorney General Democrat Kamala Harris to review the budget and decide whether it was legal or not. She declined.

A court will now decide.

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California Schools Gear Up for PREPPY Kindergarten

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The California state budget can support an additional year of kindergarten how?

School districts around the state are gearing up to offer an additional year of “preppy kindergarten,” a term that could become an integral part of the California education lexicon.

It’s not a special class for five-year-olds in plaid pants. It’s the name for the “preparatory” or “transitional” kindergarten classes that all school districts in California will be required to offer next year in advance of regular kindergarten for younger students who only turn five between September and December.

Taught by credentialed teachers, it will mark the first time that a new grade has been introduced into California schools since 1891. That was when regular kindergarten was introduced into the Golden State.

It will also relieve California parents of children who are still 4 when they enter kindergarten of a long-standing dilemma: whether their children are emotionally or cognitively ready to enter traditional kindergarten.

Under current law, students who turn five anytime before December 2 are allowed to attend kindergarten. But under the Kindergarten Readiness Act (SB1381), approved by the Legislature last year, these younger children will no longer be eligible to attend regular kindergarten. Beginning in 2012-13, the law will  be phased in gradually over the next several years.

The goals are perhaps worthy but California has a structural budget deficit. How can the state afford an additional $700-$900 million a year? And, every year.

It is a dilemma and one of my children was born in November. I paid privately for an additional year of Pre-Kindergarten for him and it was worth it.

But, unless the California enacts some major entitlement reform with concomitant cost savings in terms of welfare and MediCal, the money would be better spent in trying to attract more business to California. You know, a rising tide lifts all boats.

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