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DeSaulnier bill would lower student loan rates

Student loan borrowers would be able to refinance their interest rates at the rate offered to banks by the Federal Reserve, under a bill announced Monday by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier.

DeSaulnier, D-Concord, held an event at the University of California, Berkeley to roll out H.R. 3675, the Student Borrower Fairness Act, which would offset its costs by increasing corporate tax rates on companies that pay their CEOs or highest paid employees more than 100 times the median compensation of all employees.

Mark DeSaulnier“It is patently unfair that the same big banks that toppled our economy borrow from the federal government at extremely low interest rates while student borrowers are struggling to pay back their loans,” DeSaulnier said in a news release. “Meanwhile, people of all ages are buried in student loan debt which holds them back from being able to buy a car, purchase a home, save for retirement, or start a family. This bill is a first step toward making sure our students can emerge from under their piles of crippling debt and enter tomorrow’s highly-trained workforce.”

Congress acted on student loan rates in 2013, but the changes only applied to new borrowers.

UC-Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks applauded the bill. “College students and their families depend on student loans to access higher education,” Dirks said in the congressman’s release. “At Berkeley, we are proud that 61 percent of our undergraduates graduate without debt and the average debt of students who do borrow is only $17,584, much lower than the national average. This legislation would benefit all borrowers because it will help them manage their debt and repayment.”

James Donahue, president of St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, said his college “is built on the idea that education has the power to transform lives. The Student Borrower Fairness Act will provide opportunities for all students to pursue their dreams of a higher education, and ultimately highly successful lives. Student loan debt is a national issue and reducing it must be a national priority.”

DeSaulnier’s office said outstanding student loans now total more than $1.3 trillion, surpassing total credit card debt. More than 37 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt, with an average outstanding balance of $29,400 for those who borrowed to get a bachelor’s degree. From 2004 to 2012, student loan debt rose an average of 14 percent per year.

Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2015
Under: education, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

George Miller part of new early-childhood panel

Former Rep. George Miller is among the high-profile members of a new “Right Start Commission” aimed at helping modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The commission, rolled out Thursday by Common Sense Kids Action, will develop a plan for providing universal, high-quality access to early learning and support systems from birth to age 5. The panel will examine both government’s role in providing such services, and the private sector’s responsibility to ensure a good start for employees’ children; its recommendations will become a legislative blueprint.

“Every child deserves a fair start in life and the only way we can ensure that happens is to provide all kids with the care, support and quality learning experiences they need to be successful from day one,” Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer, who’ll also serve on the commission, said in a news release. “We know that improving early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make. Yet, across the nation millions of American kids are denied this critical opportunity year after year. With the Right Start Commission, Common Sense Kids Action will kick off an effort to reimagine early childhood services in California and create a model for the nation to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

The commission’s launch is in conjunction with the Invest In US coalition President Obama unveiled in 2014 to improve the quality of and access to early childhood education for children throughout the country. It will hold a series of statewide and national events over the remainder of the year to collect input from early education and care practitioners, parents, educators and respected researchers.

Besides Steyer and Miller, who just retired after 40 years in the House as a leader on education issues, the commission’s members include Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff; PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell; Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond; Institute for InterGroup Understanding Chair and CEO George Halvorson; Center for Youth Wellness Founder and CEO Nadine Burke Harris; Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson; Heising-Simons Foundation President Elizabeth Simons; and former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

“Early investment in our youngest children is essential to their long-term success as individuals and a bright future for California,” Steinberg said in the news release. “Now, more than ever, we must move kids to the top of our agenda and provide them with the resources they need to compete and succeed in a global economy. The Right Start Commission is a critical first step toward achieving that vision.”

Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2015
Under: Darrell Steinberg, education, George Miller | 2 Comments »

UC Regents urged to finish gun industry divestment

Activists preparing to mark Saturday’s anniversary of last year’s murderous rampage in Isla Vista, in which six UC Santa Barbara students were killed and 13 were wounded, urged the UC Board of Regents on Thursday to finish divesting the system from any investments in the firearm industry.

Thousands of petition signatures were delivered to the board’s meeting at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus by Allie Clement, a 2012 UC Santa Barbara graduate who hails from Newtown, Conn. — the site of 2012’s schoolhouse massacre. “I couldn’t believe that both my hometown and my college town were affected by gun violence.”

Bob Weiss of Thousand Oaks described to the board how his 19-year-old daughter, Veronika, was among those gunned down by Elliot Rodger that awful day.

“If this body is invested in the gun industry, that means you’re in the gun business, and if you’re in the gun business, I’m in the gun business. I don’t want to be in the gun business,” Weiss said, his voice breaking. “I don’t know how any of you can sleep at night with all of the students who have been killed.”

UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said the system divested itself of any direct gun-industry investments in 2013, and is now combing through its vast portfolio to see if any of its mutual funds have such stakes; any that are found will be sold, she said.

Posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Under: education, gun control | 1 Comment »

SD7: Would they extend Prop. 30 taxes?

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer says Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla flip-flopped on extending Proposition 30’s tax hikes to fund California’s schools, but Bonilla’s campaign said she has been consistent all along: She doesn’t support extending those taxes, but would support imposing new ones in their place.

The two Democrats are facing off in the 7th State Senate District’s special election, scheduled for May 19.

A new Bonilla campaign mailer that attacks Glazer for distorting her positions says she opposes extending the Prop. 30 taxes: “Glazer and his billionaire mega donor Bill Bloomfield are lying about Bonilla because they want to hide the fact that Steve Glazer was the ‘mastermind’ behind Prop 30, the $13.1 billion tax increase.”

The mailer follows that with a direct quote from Bonilla: “Steve Glazer and I both oppose extending Prop. 30.”


Josh Pulliam, Bonilla’s campaign consultant, said late Thursday afternoon that Bonilla has never supported an extension – whether by legislative action or another ballot measure – of Proposition 30’s taxes, and on several occasions has publicly corrected those who said otherwise.

She does, however, support a new, different, voter-approved tax hike measure to fund education in place of Prop. 30, he said.

Many apparently have been confused by this – perhaps including me.

In January, I reported on a TriValley Democratic Club forum at which Bonilla and then-candidate Joan Buchanan (who was eliminated in March’s special primary election) made their pitches.

Unsurprisingly, both said they would work to extend the Prop. 30 sales taxes and income taxes on the rich – due to expire in 2016 and 2018, respectively – in order to keep bankrolling education.

“The governor has made it very clear that the word ‘temporary’ means temporary, but … we need to go out to the people, I believe we can make the case,” Bonilla said. “There’s no way that you can get education on the cheap, it just doesn’t work.”

Contra Costa Times columnist Tom Barnridge wrote this after asking questions at a televised candidates’ forum in February:

What to do when Proposition 30 expires, ending temporary increases in sales and income taxes? Buchanan, Bonilla and Kremin would put an extension before voters. Glazer would let it expire because a temporary tax, he said, is meant to be temporary.

And the Lamorinda Democratic Club’s March newsletter recounted a Feb. 4 candidates’ forum thusly:

Susan Bonilla and Joan Buchanan favored extending Proposition 30 taxes, and a oil severance tax to continue to improve California schools—especially for the less fortunate. Steve Glazer, meanwhile, was against any new taxes and instead believed the government would have to live with the revenues it already receives.

Glazer campaign spokesman Jason Bezis said “there are more flips and flops in the Bonilla tax position than an amusement park roller coaster.

“She blindly supported a Prop. 30 tax extension in the primary, even though the promise to voters in 2012 was that it would be temporary. Now, in the general election, she flops away from it because that broken promise hurts her,” he claimed. “After this duplicity is uncovered, she flips yet again and says she wants to raise billions in new taxes, but just not ‘Prop 30’ taxes. You can see why voters are dizzy with Sacramento politicians like Bonilla. They have had enough of the political doublespeak.”

Incidentally, the Lamorinda Democratic Club – Glazer’s home turf – was scheduled to take an endorsement vote last week, president Katie Ricklefs said Thursday. But the vote was scrapped when a Glazer campaign operative cited a club bylaw – not updated since before the top-two primary system took effect – that essentially precludes the club from picking one Democrat over another in a general election. “We did a straw poll that showed 100 percent support for Susan, though,” Ricklefs said.

Posted on Thursday, April 16th, 2015
Under: California State Senate, education, Susan Bonilla, taxes | 3 Comments »

Bay Area students at White House Science Fair

Three Bay Area students’ projects will be among those featured in the White House Science Fair on Monday in Washington, D.C.

Holly JacksonHolly Jackson, 14, of San Jose, investigated the art of sewing from a unique, architectural point of view. After learning to sew in the 4th grade from her grandmother, Holly’s scientific curiosity led her to explore the relative strength and compatibility of threads and fabrics, important information to better understand innovative sewn materials for the 21st century. She engineered a device to measure the capacity and strength of stitched fabric, and designed experiments and procedures to yield precise measurements. Her research has potential applications in the design of high-performance protective gear, hazmat and space suits, parachutes, and more. Her work won the top award of $25,000 at the 2014 Broadcom MASTERS competition.

Natalie NgNatalie Ng, 19, of Cupertino, developed two micro-RNA-based prognostic models that can predict metastasis in breast cancer, and identified two micro-RNAs that independently impact the ability of breast cancer cells to metastasize. Ng’s project has important implications for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer diagnosed in women worldwide, according to the latest WHO report. A frustrating reality about cancer is that even when initial hormonal treatment seems to work, metastatic cancer cells can survive and spread to distant sites in the body. So, accurate prediction of metastatic outcome, such as with the aid of genetic signatures, can significantly improve the ability to predict the recurrence risk and to devise appropriate treatment strategies for individual cancer patients. Ng won First Place at the 2013 International BioGENEius Challenge.

Ruchi PandyaRuchi Pandya, 18, of San Jose, combining nanotechnology, biology and electrochemistry to use small biological samples – only a single drop of blood – to test for specific cardiac biomarkers. She developed a one-square centimeter carbon nanofiber electrode-based biosensor that has the potential to improve cardiac health diagnostics for patients around the world. Ruchi takes her passion for STEM education beyond the lab by mentoring 9th and 10th grade students on research and engineering as a teaching assistant for her school’s STEM-research class. She has competed at the California State Science Fair every year, and has won 18 category and special awards for scientific research. After graduation, Ruchi intends to major in materials science and engineering, and hopes to pursue a career as a technology entrepreneur.

Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Under: education, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

Oakland, SF education officials meet with Obama

Three California education officials – including two from the Bay Area – met Monday morning with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to highlight the need for funding as Congress mulls a new budget and a revamp of the No Child Left Behind law.

Jumoke Hinton HodgeOakland Unified School District board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza and Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Mike Hanson were among the dozen officials from across the nation who met with Obama and Duncan at the White House.

All were from districts that are part of the Council of the Great City Schools; Hodge chairs the board of that national organization, which represents the needs of urban public schools. School districts eligible for membership must be located in cities with populations over 250,000 and student enrollment over 35,000.

Obama said in the meeting that he’s ready to fight with Republicans for school funding and his education priorities, the Associated Press reported. He hopes that Republican lawmakers focus on educating every child and not shifting money away from needy districts, he said; he’s also calling for a focus on low-performing schools, annual assessments and investments in special education and English-language learners.

If the Republican budget doesn’t reflect those priorities, he said, they will have “a major debate.”

“My hope is that their budget reflects the priorities of educating every child,” he said, according to a pool report from the New York Post’s Geoff Earle. “We are making too much progress here … for us to be going backwards now.”

Obama and Duncan are touting improved high-school graduation rates as evidence that the administration’s policies are working. In California, the high school graduation rates from 2012 to 2013 increased by 2.4 percent overall, including a 2.7 percent increase for Hispanic students and a 2.1 percent increase for African-American students.

Richard CarranzaHinton Hodge is co-founder of the Parent Leadership and Engagement Academy Initiative (PLEA), a community-building project dedicated to the education and support of West Oakland parents and families. She collaborated with California Tomorrow to develop programs aimed at increasing parents’ ability to navigate the public school system; has worked extensively with low-income youth and students identified as severely emotionally disturbed; and she has provided gender-specific services to urban girls.

Carranza has been San Francisco’s schools superintendent since June 2012; earlier, he had been the district’s deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation and social justice at the district since 2009.

Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, education, Oakland, Obama presidency, San Francisco politics | 12 Comments »

Today’s congressional odds and ends

Sacramento_San_Joaquin_Delta_NHA Oct 2012-page-001DELTA NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA: The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta would become a National Hertiage Area, to be managed by the Delta Protection Commission, under companion bills introduced Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. The lawmakers say the goal is to protect and promote the vast history, resources, and economy of the Delta community. Property owners and tribes are explicitly protected in the bill and capable of opting out of any recommendations, and the bill will have no effect on water rights or water contracts and creates no new regulatory authority or burden on local government or citizens. The bill’s original cosponsors are Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; and Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento. “Covering more than 700 square miles and nearly 60 islands and boasting more than 400,000 people, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the largest delta in the world and a critical resource for California,” Feinstein said. “With a National Heritage Area designation, we can support a future for the Delta that is sustainable and bright.”

FAMILY ENGAGEMENT IN EDUCATION: Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, joined with Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., to introduce H.R. 1194, the Family Engagement in Education Act, to provide money for schools to promote effective strategies to get parents involved. “Education doesn’t stop at the end of the school day,” DeSaulnier said. “Research shows that family engagement in a child’s learning experience increases student achievement, improves attendance, and reduces dropout rates.” The bill is supported by the National PTA.

e-verifyE-VERIFY FOR ALL EMPLOYERS: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, blasted a proposal to mandate use of E-Verify – an online government system for determining people’s eligibility to work in this country – for all employers. The House Judiciary Committee advanced the Legal Workforce Act on Tuesday on a 20-13 vote. But Lofgren, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, noted the bill is opposed by the agricultural sector, unions, civil liberties groups and many others. Without comprehensive immigration reform, “expanding E-Verify would devastate the agricultural economy, resulting in closed farms, a less-secure America, and the mass off-shoring of millions and millions of U.S. jobs, including all of the upstream and downstream jobs created and supported by agriculture,” Lofgren said. Expanding E-Verify alone would also increase the deficit and decrease tax revenues. Last Congress, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that the Legal Workforce Act would have resulted in a net revenue loss of $39 billion over ten years.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Under: Dianne Feinstein, education, Immigration, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Uncategorized, Zoe Lofgren | 4 Comments »

Actors tout Tuck for schools superintendent

Marshall Tuck, the Los Angeles school-reform advocate who’s running neck and neck with incumbent Tom Torlakson for superintendent of public instruction, has added a little star power to his campaign.

Tuck’s new two-and-a-half minute campaign video features actors Joel McHale, Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell and Adam Scott sitting down with the candidate in a “strategy session.”

My favorite line (of course): “You’ve been endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle. Who gives a s—?”

Tuck’s campaign issued a news release saying that while the video provides some humor amid a heated campaign, it takes a serious look at key issues facing the race.

“As a parent, I want to make sure we give every child access to a great education,” Bell said in the news release.

Celebrity factoid: Of these four actors, only Scott is a California native, born in Santa Cruz. Bell and Shepard hail from Detroit’s suburbs, McHale from Seattle.

UPDATE @ 11:47 A.M.: Good questions from Twitter follower Steven Herbert: “Do any of them have children old enough to be in public schools? If so, how many are in public schools?”

Bell and Shepard have one daughter, Lincoln Bell Shepard, born in March 2013, and they’re now expecting a second child; they live in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles. Scott and his wife, Naomi, have two children, son Graham, 7, and daughter Frankie, 5, and live in LA’s Hollywood Hills section. McHale and his wife, Sarah Williams, have two sons, Eddie, 8, and Isaac, 6; they live in Hollywood Hills as well.

I don’t know what schools the kids attend.

Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, education, Tom Torlakson | 2 Comments »

Checking in on money in Torlakson-Tuck race

In today’s story about the Field Poll showing Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a dead heat with challenger Marshall Tuck, I didn’t have room to mention that Tuck appears to have outraised Torlakson in recent months.

Marshall TuckReports filed with the secretary of state’s office show Torlakson’s campaign had about $195,000 cash on hand as of June 30, and he looks to have raised at least about $239,000 in major donations since then. Tuck had about $180,000 banked at mid-year, and seems to have raised about $303,000 since.

That said, Torlakson is likely to be the beneficiary of massive independent spending by the teachers’ unions as the general-election season proceeds, just as he was before the primary. Tuck has received more modest but still-significant IE support from Manhattan Beach real estate mogul William Bloomfield Jr. (traditionally a giver to GOP causes and committees, though Tuck is a Democrat) and the California Senior Advocates League (which is funded mainly by Bloomfield and Eli Broad).

Tom TorlaksonTorlakson has fundraising receptions scheduled for Wednesday in Sacramento, with tickets costing $100 to $6,800 each, and Thursday in Salinas, for $100 to $5,000; he also is asking $75 to $6,800 for tickets to his annual BBQ on Saturday, Oct. 4 at a union hall in Martinez.

Tuck did a whirlwind bus tour last week through Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills, Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento, Stockton, San Jose and Oakland. He has a fundraiser set for Thursday, Sept. 18 in Costa Mesa, with tickets costing from $100 to $6,800, and he’s scheduled to address the Sacramento Press Club on Thursday, Sept. 25.

Posted on Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, campaign finance, education, Tom Torlakson | 23 Comments »

Neel Kashkari praises teacher-tenure ruling

A Los Angeles judge’s ruling Tuesday that California’s teacher tenure, layoff and dismissal laws are unconstitutional is “an important first step in transforming our schools,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari said.

“I applaud today’s ruling by Judge Treu, which recognizes that every student in California has a Constitutional right to a quality education but that their rights are being violated by failing schools,” Kashkari said in a statement issued soon after the ruling.

“California ranks 46th in the nation in education, and it will take the joint efforts of parents, teachers and political leaders to make the bold changes our kids deserve,” he said. “Today’s ruling is an important first step in transforming our schools; if we are to close the achievement gap, reduce income inequality and rebuild the middle class, then we must continue to pursue bold education reform. I have made transforming our schools a centerpiece of my campaign for Governor and I am encouraged by today’s development.”

UPDATE @ 12:40 P.M.: Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s senior Democrat, also applauded the ruling:

“Judge Treu’s ruling affirms the simple and undeniable premise that every child, regardless of background or zip code, has the right to a high-quality education and an effective teacher. It is not only Californians who should celebrate today’s decision, but families in every state and school district across the country.

“For years, our nation’s courts have been the arbiter of equity in education. Like Brown v. Board, Serrano, Butt, and the many other landmark educational equality cases before it, Vergara will help refocus our education system on the needs of students.

“Unfortunately, school districts nationwide have policies in place that mirror those challenged in Vergara—policies that constrain the ability of schools to put the very best teachers in front the children that need them most. This is simply indefensible. Today’s ruling puts every school with similar policies on notice.

“I call upon all stakeholders in my home state—elected officials, community and school leaders, and teachers—to be bold and do what is right for kids. This is an historic opportunity and a defining moment for California, one that we must not squander. The Vergara decision underscores the state’s responsibility to protect the rights of children to constitutionally mandated equal educational opportunities. We owe it to the six million students in California’s public education system to be thoughtful and deliberate, and to put their needs first as we move forward.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Under: education, George Miller, Neel Kashkari, U.S. House | 21 Comments »