California’s child care cuts, explained

Preschool. Photo by Laura A. Oda/StaffIn California, more than a half million children take part in a publicly funded child care program while their parents work or go to school.

But the waiting list for one of the coveted seats is 180,000 children long — and about to get longer, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

On Nov. 1, nearly 60,000 children whose families have been off welfare for two years or more will lose their spaces.

Those children and their families are  in what’s known as “Stage 3″ of CalWORKs, the welfare-to-work program. Gov. Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto powers on Friday to strike Stage 3 from the budget.

Continue Reading


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. …


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


Foot Race to the Top?

Race to the Top?

California’s lackluster Race to the Top ranking in Round 1 (27) came as a disappointment to state officials, who had pushed for legislation to make the state more competitive for the grant.

Today, the governor and the state superintendent of public instruction announced they were proposing a new set of performance criteria for the next round: race times in the 50-yard dash and half-mile.

Schwarzenegger, who declared war on “couch potatoes” as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness years ago, is leading the charge. “We test in math, English, science — why not test in the area of physical fitness too?” he said in a statement released this afternoon.

But the fitness evaluation wouldn’t be limited to students. The race times of teachers, principals and even custodians and food service personnel would be averaged and submitted as part of the school’s grant application. Schools with less than a 90 percent participation rate would be ineligible for the funds.

Schwarzenegger says he’s confident the state board of education will approve this proposal — which, he said, would hold school staff and students accountable for their speed and cardiovascular fitness as well as their proficiency in the “three Rs”. He concluded his press release with a characteristic quip: “Now, drop and give me 20.” Continue Reading


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


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.


Guv promises to “protect education funding”

Arnold SchwarzeneggerI just received a transcript of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s State of the State Address, which he opened with a story of teamwork — between his family’s miniature pony and pot-bellied pig.

Later in the speech, the governor said he would “protect education funding,” despite the state’s projected $20 billion deficit through the end of 2010-11.

That’s a tall order without raising taxes, since education makes up roughly half of the budget, so I’ll be curious to see the details of his budget plan on Friday. Maybe the state Legislators will take his pony and pig story to heart.

Here’s an excerpt of his speech:

Now, I will address our immediate budget situation more fully in a few days, when I present my budget but let me just give you an overview. Continue Reading


Schwarzenegger says he stands with Obama, calls for swift changes to California ed laws

File photo

During a press conference this morning that veered suddenly into a Q & A about prison reform (and never really went back), the governor announced he was lining up with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama — and that the state planned “to go all out” to make California eligible for competitive federal stimulus funding.

Schwarzenegger said he was calling a special legislative session to do away with laws that might make California ineligible. He has asked state Legislators to present him with a package by early October that would lift the state’s charter school cap and allow teacher evaluations to be linked to student test scores.

“The Obama administration has pointed to California and said we have no way to distinguish good teachers from bad teachers, and I happen to agree with that,” Schwarzenegger said. “They call it a firewall and I say, `Let’s tear down that wall.”‘ Continue Reading


Free digital textbooks are up: Any takers?

Remember Arnold’s digital textbook initiative that we discussed in June?

Well, a review of 16 of these newfangled `books’ came out yesterday, and the materials — all free — are posted online.

It looks like they’re all for high school math and science: geometry, algebra II, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, biology/life science and earth science.

Ten of the textbooks reviewed covered at least 90 percent of the state content standards for the subject, and four met all of them. Only three of the 16 really bombed the review. (Step it up, Earth Systems!) Continue Reading