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Kaiser CEO named to First 5 Commission

Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO George Halvorson was named today to the First 5 California Children and Families Commission by Gov. Jerry Brown.

george-halvorsenHalvorson, 66, of Sausalito, has been Kaiser’s head honcho since 2002; earlier, he was CEO of Group Health Inc. from 1986 to 1992 and when the company merged with MedCenters Health Plan Inc., he became president and chief executive officer of the newly-formed HealthPartners from 1992 to 2002. Halvorson also is a member of the Bay Area Council, where he has held various leadership positions since 2002.

Halvorson announced in October that he intends to retire from Kaiser at the end of this year.

The California Children and Families Act, approved by voters in 1998, required the formation of a state commission to oversee and support funding of education, health and child care programs for children ages 0 to 5 and their families. Also known as First 5 California, the commission also works with 58 First 5 County Commissions across the state to develop and fund programs for young children that are tailored to local communities’ needs.

This position does not require state Senate confirmation and compensation is $100 per diem. Halvorson is registered to vote without any party preference, but records from the California Secretary of State’s office indicate his few contributions have favored Democrats – including $2,000 to Brown’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and $4,000 to Brown’s 2006 attorney general campaign.

Posted on Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Under: education, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Lofgren bill would create U.S. Science Laureate

The nation would have an official Science Laureate – a renowned expert in a scientific field who would travel the nation to inspire future scientists – under new legislation coauthored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren.

The idea of the bipartisan legislation, cosponsored in the House by Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and in the Senate by Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., is to promotes science education and celebrate scientific achievement – a key goal as the nation emphasizes the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to produce a more skilled workforce.

EinsteinThis new honorary position would be appointed by the president from nominees recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and serve for a term of one to two years. The laureate would be empowered to speak to Americans on the importance of science broadly and scientific issues of the day; the position would be unpaid, and the scientist would also be encouraged to continue his or her own important scientific work.

“Scientists like Albert Einstein or Sally Ride can capture the public’s attention and inspire Americans if they are given a platform to speak from,” Lofgren, D-San Jose, said in a news release. “As our society becomes ever more technical, a role model for how important scientific advancement is for our nation’s future will help us. The Science Laureate can serve that role, as an accomplished individual to engage Americans on the importance of science in our lives and who can encourage our students to be the innovators of tomorrow.”

The legislation is supportred by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society; the STEM Education Coalition; the American Chemical Society; and the Hands-On Science Partnership. The original cosponsors of H.R. 1891 include Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, another member of the House Science Committee.

Posted on Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Under: education, U.S. House, Uncategorized, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

U.S. Education Secretary visits Bay Area this week

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan arrives tomorrow, Tuesday, April 30, for a three-day Bay Area visit to highlight the need for more high-quality early learning programs and innovative teaching strategies.

Arne DuncanDuncan tomorrow will tour and host a media availability at San Francisco’s Cross Cultural Family Center, which provides child-care services in cross-cultural settings — emphasizing the big role family and community play in promoting positive development of young children. After that, he’ll speak at the American Educational Research Association’s 94th annual meeting in San Francisco, delivering remarks on major issues facing students, educators, policymakers, and other education stakeholders.

On Wednesday, Duncan is scheduled to join Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, at Fremont High School in Sunnyvale to help kick off a nationwide effort to improve early education. The initiative follows the release in February of a “For Each and Every Child” report by the 27-member Equity and Excellence Commission, which was formed under legislation authored by Honda.

Duncan also is scheduled Wednesday and Thursday to deliver remarks at the New Schools Venture Fund’s annual summit, an event at San Francisco’s Everett Middle School, and at the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar at Stanford University.

Duncan is touting the Education Department’s new blueprint for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT), which among other calls for teacher salaries to be competitive with professions like architecture, medicine and law, more support for novice teachers and more career opportunities for veterans.

Posted on Monday, April 29th, 2013
Under: education, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Oil severance tax measure to start circulating

A proposed ballot measure to enact an oil severance tax, with most of the revenue spent on education, has received its official title and summary and is about to start circulating for petition signatures.

California oil wellsConceived by UC-Berkeley students, the California Modernization and Economic Development Act places a 9.5 percent tax on oil and gas extracted from California; supporters say it would bring about $2 billion of new revenue per year. Of that, about $1.2 billion would be allocated in four equal parts towards K-12 education, California Community Colleges, California State University and the University of California.

Another $400 million or so would be used to provide businesses with subsidies for switching to cleaner, cheaper forms of energy, and about $300 million would go to county governments for infrastructure repair, public works projects, and funding public services.

Californians for Responsible Economic Development, the group behind the measure, has 150 days to collect 505,000 signatures in order to qualify it for the 2014 ballot. The group says it’ll do both grassroots organizing and fundraising for paid signature gathering.

California over recent decades has seen many legislative bills and ballot measures – either proposed, or unsuccessful with voters – to impose such a tax. More than 30 states have oil and gas severance taxes, but opponents say such a tax could reduce California’s oil production, costing jobs.

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a Cal professor, endorsed the effort in February, saying using oil severance tax revenue for education “should be a no-brainer. It will only improve our schools. The real question is why California hasn’t done this long before now.”

The measure last week won support from state Senator Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, whose SB 241 would impose an oil severance tax to fund education and parks in California. She said she supports any effort to let “California to collect on these vast and irreplaceable natural resource revenues that should fund one of the most important core services of government – education. It’s past time California ends the oil industry’s free ride and finally sets a solid revenue stream towards funding government’s education obligations.”

CMED campaign manager Jack Tibbets, a junior at Cal, said his staff will be working closely with Evans’ office. “Should the Senate fail to vote and pass SB 241, our campaign will work with public officials, donors, interest groups and students to produce an extraction tax for the 2014 ballot.”

Here’s the official title and summary issued today by the state Attorney General’s office:

TAX ON OIL AND NATURAL GAS. REVENUES TO EDUCATION, CLEAN ENERGY, COUNTY INFRASTRUCTURE AND SERVICES, AND STATE PARKS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Imposes 9.5% tax on value of oil and natural gas extracted in California. During first ten years, allocates revenues: 60% to education for classroom instruction (split equally between UC, CSU, community colleges, and K-12 schools); 22% to clean energy projects and research; 15% to counties for infrastructure and public health and safety services; 3% to state parks. Thereafter, allocates 80% to education, 15% to counties, and 5% to state parks. Prohibits passing tax on to consumers through higher fuel prices.
Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Increased state revenues from a new oil and gas severance tax of $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year initially (which could either grow or decline over time), to be spent on public schools, colleges, and universities; clean energy research and development; local infrastructure projects; and state parks. (13-0002.)

Posted on Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Under: ballot measures, California State Senate, education, taxes | 13 Comments »

Brown names Bay Area people to workforce board

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday appointed 14 people to the , including four from the Bay Area, to help him set policies to develop the state’s workforce.

The California Workforce Investment Board helps the governor perform the duties and responsibilities required by the federal Workforce Investment Act of 1998. All of its members are appointed by the governor from the business, labor, public education, higher education, economic development, youth activity, employment and training sectors, as well as the Legislature.

Josh Becker, 43, of Menlo Park, is a founding general partner at New Cycle Capital and has been CEO at Lex Machina since 2011. He was founder and CEO at L7L MP Corporation from 2005 to 2007 and director of corporate development at Agile Software from 2001 to 2005. Becker was a founding team member at Redpoint Ventures from 1999 to 2001 and an associate at Brentwood Venture Capital in 1999. He holds a law degree and an MBA from Stanford University, and is a Democrat.

Karl Mehta, 42, of Fremont, has been a venture partner at Menlo Ventures since 2013 and was founder and CEO at Playspan from 2007 to 2012. He has been an advisory board member at the Ralph W. Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics at Chapman University, and Simpa Networks board of directors member since 2012. Mehta has been a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow for the 20 Percent Initiative since 2012 and has been an Intel Capital advisory board member since 2011. Mehta is a Democrat.

Floyd Trammell, 42, of Oakland, has been executive director of the West Bay Local Development Corporation since 2003 and senior pastor at the First Friendship Institutional Baptist Church since 2002. He was a business instructor at the City College of San Francisco from 2001 to 2005 and operations manager at the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco from 1996 to 2002. Trammell has been an Ella Hill Hutch Community Center board member since 2009 and was president of the Fillmore Community Jazz District from 2010 to 2012. He’s a Democrat.

Carol Zabin, 57, of Berkeley, is research director at the University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, where she has served in various positions since 1998, including chair. She was visiting professor at UCLA from 1994 to 1998 and assistant professor of economics at Tulane University from 1992 to 1994. She earned a doctorate in economics from Cal. Zabin is a Democrat.

These appointments don’t require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $100 per diem.

Posted on Friday, March 29th, 2013
Under: economy, education, Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »

Boxer leads call for student-loan justice for troops

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer this week led two dozen Senate Democrats in urging the student loan industry to ensure military service members have all the benefits that they’re entitled to by law.

Barbara Boxer “We were alarmed to learn that some student loan servicers are providing incomplete or inaccurate information regarding service members’ options for reducing their debt —often leading individuals to make decisions that have costly long-term consequences,” the senators wrote to Student Loan Servicing Alliance Executive Director Winfield Crigler. “In one particularly egregious example, a service member was guided toward a deferment plan that ended up increasing his total debt by $25,000. This is simply unacceptable.”

Boxer’s office noted about 41 percent of service members are now carrying student loan debt, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that the main reason why troops lose security clearances is because of financial problems.

Congress in the past has enacted loan repayment protections and benefits — such as loan forgiveness programs and interest rate reductions — to help service members manage their debt. But a report issued last month by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs found many military men and women are facing significant challenges in fully accessing these benefits. Specifically, it found that some student loan servicers aren’t providing clear, accurate information about available benefits or are forcing military borrowers to clear unnecessary hurdles in order to access the benefits they deserve.

“Our brave military men and women—and their families—make tremendous sacrifices each and every day in service to our nation. They should never have to fight for full access to the benefits they have earned, including student loan repayment protections,” the senators wrote.

Read the full letter, and a list of signatories, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, education, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Initiative to fund higher ed cleared for circulation

The proponent of a proposed ballot initiative that would hike various taxes to fund California’s public universities and community colleges has been cleared to start collecting petition signatures, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said Monday.

Here’s the official title and summary prepared by the state attorney general’s office:

TAXES TO FUND CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES AND COMMUNITY COLLEGES. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE. Imposes new taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel ($0.025 per gallon), alcohol ($0.05-$1.65 per gallon), and cigarettes ($0.0125 each); raises vehicle license fees by 0.5% of vehicle market value. Allocates new revenues 80% to University of California and California State University, 20% to California Community Colleges. Maintains state funding for higher education at or above 2009-2010 levels and student financial aid at or above 2010-2011 levels. Caps student tuition and systemwide fees at 2009-2010 levels. Creates joint commission to recommend cost efficiencies in higher education. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Additional state tax revenues from increases in various taxes of about $2.2 billion annually that would be dedicated to public universities and colleges. Depending on whether the new state tax revenues are sufficient to replace lost tuition and fee revenues (due to lower student tuition and fee levels), unknown effect on total funding for public universities and colleges. Depending on whether the new state tax revenues are sufficient to satisfy increased state spending requirements on public universities and colleges, unknown effects on other parts of the state budget and the state General Fund. (12-0015.)

Proponent Jesse Lucas – the California State University-Los Angeles Associated Students’ Legislative Affairs Committee Student-at-Large – must collect at least 807,615 valid signatures from California registered voters by April 15 in order to qualify this for the ballot in November 2014.

Posted on Monday, November 19th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, education, taxes | 8 Comments »

Tom Steyer’s next big push: ‘Too Small to Fail’

Yesterday’s editions carried my story about what the future might hold for billionaire hedge fund mogul Tom Steyer, fresh off his win with Proposition 39 and about to turn his full attention to public policy.

Today we’re starting to see what Steyer’s next big push will be.

Tom Steyer (photo by Karl Mondon)As described in a Mercury-News op-ed piece he co-wrote, the Center for the Next Generation – a philanthropic effort founded last year by Steyer and his brother, Common Sense Media Founder and CEO Jim Steyer – today is launching Too Small to Fail, a national movement to focus attention on the need to invest in children and address the challenges they face in leading healthy, happy, productive lives, particularly in areas of education, technology, health, parents’ work lives and social mobility.

Too Small to Fail’s website went live today, and this ad – produced by Obama advisor Jim Margolis and Bush advisor Mark McKinnon – has begun airing on Fox, MSNBC and CNN:

From Too Small to Fail’s website:

The world is changing faster than any parent can predict. We have 21st century technology and a 20th century mindset; the slickest smartphones with the dullest outlook for our kids.

Parents work longer hours for smaller paychecks. Kids are weighed down by schools that don’t work and bombarded by media meant for people twice their age. Governments across the country have done less and less to lay a foundation for future success – a future where we build our society from the smallest up and where all kids have the opportunity to thrive.

Too Small to Fail is a movement. One built to change the conversation around kids in this country. We mean to create a groundswell to prompt Americans to rise to the challenges facing our nation’s children.

We can build a stronger future for our children.

The site indicates partners participating in Too Small to Fail include the Children’s Defense Fund – California, Common Sense Media, the Families and Work Institute, First Focus, Moms Rising, Opportunity Nation and Voices for America’s Children.

Posted on Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
Under: education | 22 Comments »

Oakland attorney named to CSU Board of Trustees

Gov. Jerry Brown today announced his appointment of Rebecca Eisen, 62, of Oakland, to the California State University Board of Trustees.

Eisen, a Democrat, is a partner in Morgan Lewis‘s labor and employment practice, and leader of the practice in the law firm’s San Francisco office; she’s been a partner at the firm since 2003. Earlier, she was an attorney at Brobeck Phleger and Harrison from 1980 to 2003, serving as a partner there from 1989 to 2003.

She is president of the board of directors of the Oakland School for the Arts – a charter school Brown helped found while serving as Oakland’s mayor – and has been a board member since 2007.

Eisen holds a Master’s degree in English from San Francisco State University and a law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law. This position requires state Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem.

The 25-member Board of Trustees meets six times per year to adopt rules, regulations, and policies governing the CSU system; it has authority over curricular development, use of property, development of facilities, and fiscal and human resources management.

Posted on Friday, September 28th, 2012
Under: education, Jerry Brown | 5 Comments »

California parents value college but aren’t saving

California parents value a college education more than a good-paying job for their kids, but most have not started saving to help pay for that education, according to a new survey conducted for ScholarShare, the state’s “529” college savings plan.

“The good news is parents realize the importance of a college degree to their kids’ future and economic prosperity,” State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who chairs the ScholarShare Investment Board, said in a news release. “The bad news is higher education costs continue to rise, and most parents have not been able to start making preparations to help ensure their family can afford those costs. A ScholarShare account can help fill that critical financial need.”

Named for the section of the IRS code under which they were created, 529 plans let earnings on investments grow tax-deferred, and disbursements, when used for tuition and other qualified higher education expenses, are federal and state tax-free. ScholarShare accounts can be opened with as little as $25, or $15 when combined with regular, automatic monthly contributions of at least $15. The program has no annual account maintenance fee, no income limit and offers a high maximum contribution cap of $350,000. ScholarShare now holds more than $4.4 billion in assets in about 250,000 accounts.

The survey conducted by Hart Research Associates found 84 percent of parents considered it “very important” that their children attend college. That’s a higher percentage than those who prioritized having a good-paying job (75 percent) or owning a home (69 percent). Latino (93 percent), black (88 percent) and Asian (90 percent) parents said attending college was “very important” at significantly higher rates than white parents (72 percent). And 78 percent of parents overall said a college education was more important now than it was 10 years ago.

The survey also that when asked what they would be willing to do to improve their current financial situation, 65 percent of parents would be willing to delay their retirement and 46 percent would be willing to save less for their retirement. But only 45 percent said they would delay saving for their kids’ college education and 40 percent said they would save less for their kids’ education.

Yet most parents worry about being able to afford their kids’ tuition: 53 percent said they’re “very concerned” about their ability to pay.

Only 43 percent of parents have a college savings account. Parents who have been saving more than 10 years have set aside an average of $25,193, compared to $14,733 for those saving 6-10 years and $4,663 for those saving five years or less.

Fifty-nine percent of parents surveyed said it’s certain or very likely their children will attend a University of California or California State University school; 51 percent said it was certain or very likely their children would go to a community college; and only 26 percent said it was certain or very likely their children would attend a private university. (That adds up to more than 100 percent because the “very likelies” have some either-or.)

And 44 percent of parents said they expected scholarships or grants to cover at least half of their children’s higher education costs; 35 percent said cost coverage would come from their own savings and income, and 28 percent said it would come from student loans. (That adds up to more than 100 percent because parents expect to use more than one funding source.)

Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
Under: Bill Lockyer, education | No Comments »