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VETOED: funding for child care, special education

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. File photo.Gov. Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto power tonight to cut nearly $1 billion from the budget the Legislature passed this morning.

The governor reduced CalWORKs funding for child care, mental health services for special needs children, and a host of other state programs that were initially included in the $87.5 billion budget.

You can find a copy of the enacted budget here, along with a list of the vetoed items.

From a Los Angeles Times story that came over the wire:

The governor slashed 23 line items from the $87.5-billion general fund budget, including $256 million from a program for school-age children of families moving off welfare, $133 million from mental health services for special education students and nearly $60 million from AIDS treatment and prevention programs.

Schwarzenegger did not explain his actions, but a report issued by his finance department said the savings from his vetoes would “create a prudent reserve for economic uncertainties.” The state’s reserve for emergencies such as battling wildfires will grow from $375 million to $1.3 billion, the report said.

Advocates for the poor said the governor’s cuts were too deep, especially after a months-long standoff had produced a compromise spending plan that largely spared health and welfare programs from the ax.

“This recession is a time when people in communities need the help the most, and yet the governor is unilaterally making these cuts,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group.

The spending plan totals about $125 billion overall and passed the Legislature a record 100 days after the budget year began. It addresses a $19.1-billion deficit without new taxes and relies heavily on creative bookkeeping, as well as on cuts to public schools and state workers’ paychecks.

Democratic lawmakers fought back furiously after Schwarzenegger cut about half as much — $489 million — from last year’s general fund, challenging in court his authority to wield the veto pen so liberally. The courts sided with the governor, and the bitterness appeared to linger.

Schwarzenegger’s vetoes “were directed at making life more difficult for California’s working parents and the poorest, sickest and most elderly Californians. This is disappointing, but not surprising,” Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, a Democrat, said in a statement.

“Now we know we have no say over it whatsoever,” said Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for Democratic Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. “It’s just a question of how cruel he wants to be.”

Other Democrats were calling Schwarzenegger a hypocrite. Earlier this week, he had held a news conference announcing his support for extending foster care to young adults up to age 21; they’re currently cut off after turning 18. But on Friday, the governor vetoed nearly $80 million in child welfare services, which includes money for foster care.

“It is unfortunate that the governor just this past week portrayed himself as a child welfare advocate, and then within days he devastated foster kids with the stroke of his blue pencil,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Karen Bass, the former speaker who is now running for Congress. …

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Governor signs bill to help foster youth

Big news today for foster youth: Gov. Schwarzenegger announced he has signed AB 12, a bill to extend services to those in foster care until age 21, California Wire reports.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 California teens “age out” of foster care each year when they turn 18 or 19; now, the state will be able to provide them with some form of support system — largely, by tapping into additional federal funds — for another three years, according to a fact sheet from the office of Assemblymember Jim Beall, Jr. (D-San Jose), who sponsored the bill with Assemblymember Karen Bass: Continue Reading

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A revived DREAM Act, and what it would mean

TUESDAY UPDATE: The DREAM Act died in the Senate today:

http://www.insidebayarea.com/crime-courts/ci_16135559

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A proposed amendment to the annual defense bill would give at least temporary legal status to people who were brought to the United States illegally before they turned 16. That is, if they’ve been in the country for five years, if they’re under 35 when the act is passed, and if they’ve earned a high school diploma or GED.

DREAM Act letter-writing campaign Sunday at Asian Law Caucus. Bay Area News Group photoMy fellow Bay Area News Group reporters Matt O’Brien and Matt Krupnick wrote a story about this legislative move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They interviewed Aaron Townsend, principal of Coliseum College Prep, about what it would mean for his students if it passed. Here’s an excerpt: Continue Reading

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Behind the screens of the Peralta Community Colleges board: Reporter finds some telling e-mails

Matt Krupnick, my colleague who covers higher education for the Bay Area News Group, requested e-mail correspondence from the public accounts of Linda Handy, Marcie Hodge and William Riley, trustees for the Peralta Community College District who are running for re-election or, in Hodge’s case, for mayor. He tells us what he found.

from Fletcher Prince's photostream on flickr.com/creativecommonsA stack of e-mails I obtained from the Peralta Community College District gives an interesting look into the inner world of trustees — and some shed light on why they never return my calls.

The e-mails, obtained through the California Public Records Act, were sent to and from the public accounts of trustees Linda Handy, Marcie Hodge and William Riley, all of whom are running for re-election or for another public office in November. Most of the messages provided nothing but tedium, but others contained some surprising reactions to what I thought were standard requests for information.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” Handy responded in one message when told of my request for the e-mails. “How racist is that?”

All three of the trustees, who all happen to be African-American, are running for public office — Handy and Riley for re-election and Hodge for Oakland mayor — and none of the three has been willing to answer questions about their performance on the Peralta board. Looking through their e-mail is one of the few ways for a reporter to tell the public about these officials.

The messages show surprising reactions from other trustees as well. Continue Reading

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Dueling press releases, in perfect sync

Is Schwarzenegger standing between California schools and their desperately-needed federal Education Jobs funding, or is the governor simply waiting for lawmakers to send the related state legislation (SB 847) to his desk? (And why do they need to do this? I thought that part was automatic.)

At exactly 1:36 p.m., I got two news alerts — from the offices of U.S. Representative George Miller and Schwarzenegger, respectively — that said opposite things.

First, from Miller:

Continue Reading

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Barbara Lee tours Claremont Middle School

Rep. Barbara Lee visits Oakland's Claremont Middle School. Courtesy photo.

I wasn’t there for Rep. Barbara Lee’s visit to Claremont Middle School in Rockridge, but it sounded from the CTA press release like a chance to promote the benefits of Quality Education Investment Act funding for struggling schools. (And, maybe, a plug for the author of the bill, state Assemblymember Tom Torlakson, who’s running for state superintendent for public instruction with the CTA’s endorsement.)

QEIA (pronounced QUEE-a) money comes from the 2006 settlement of a school funding lawsuit the CTA filed against Gov. Schwarzenegger. Continue Reading

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Schools, the government and appearances

I’ve thought about the relationship between school reform and public perception since 2008, when I watched Gov. Schwarzenegger push – and the California Board of Education approve – a middle school Algebra I requirement (which was halted in court, months later), over the protests of the state superintendent of schools.

The same questions came to mind last week, as I reported on the Obama/Duncan administration’s prescriptions for the country’s lowest-performing schools — remedies that lack research to show that they actually work, according to researchers quoted in Education Week.

Bruce FullerIs the government more concerned about public perception than anything else? Is it trying to look like it’s doing something to improve public schools, whether or not the desired outcomes follow? If so, is this an old phenomenon?

Bruce Fuller, an education and public policy professor at UC Berkeley, is studying some related questions, though he frames them in a more sophisticated way and grounds them in more than just a hunch. His theory is that the American public (since the 1980s) has been so cynical about `big government,’ and so unwilling to pay new taxes, that the government “flailing” around, trying to look “efficacious” with fewer and fewer resources.

Continue Reading

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Smith: OUSD faces an even deeper budget hole

Gov. Schwarzenegger promised to protect education funding last week. I guess that all depends on how you define “protect.”

At the board meeting just now, Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith said the district’s budget hole for 2010-11 — once projected at about $28 million — will deepen to nearly $36 million if the governor’s proposal holds.

That’s about $201 per student.