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Reich visits Capitol on CEO pay, oil extraction tax

It’s Robert Reich day at California’s State Capitol.

No, there hasn’t been an official proclamation. But the former U.S. Secretary of Labor, now a UC-Berkeley public policy professor, will be under the dome Thursday to speak on behalf of two bills introduced by Bay Area lawmakers.

Reich is doing a news conference with state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; and California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski in support of DeSaulnier’s SB 1372, which would create a new corporate tax table that increases taxes on businesses with big disparities between the salaries of their workers and their CEOs. The bill is being heard Thursday morning by the State Governance and Finance Committee.

“For example, if the CEO makes 100 times the median worker in the company, the company’s tax rate drops from the current 8.8 percent down to 8 percent. If the CEO makes 25 times the pay of the typical worker, the tax rate goes down to 7 percent,” Reich wrote on his blog Monday. “On the other hand, corporations with big disparities face higher taxes. If the CEO makes 200 times the typical employee, the tax rate goes to 9.5 percent; 400 times, to 13 percent.”

“Pushing companies to put less money into the hands of their CEOs and more into the hands of average employees creates more buying power among people who will buy, and therefore more jobs,” he wrote. “For the last thirty years, almost all the incentives operating on companies have been to lower the pay of their workers while increasing the pay of their CEOs and other top executives. It’s about time some incentives were applied in the other direction.”

And, Reich will testify to the Senate Public Education Committee in favor of SB 1017 by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, which would create an oil extraction tax to fund higher education, health and human services, state parks and more.

Reich endorsed a similar student-organized ballot measure effort last year, saying that 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 California Chamber of Commerce this month put both bills on its list of “job killers,” arguing they create barriers to economic development.

“The economic recovery is still the number one issue for Californians,” Chamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg said when announcing the list. “These bills pose a serious threat to our economy and, if enacted, would dampen job growth in the state.”

Of Evans’ bill, Zaremberg said “an oil extraction tax will drive up consumer prices, push jobs away and upset a fragile economy that is showing strong signs of life.”

Posted on Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Under: economy, education, state budget, taxes | 12 Comments »

Neel Kashkari rolls out his education plan

State funding would be routed directly to schools so principals, teachers and parents can spend it as they see fit while much of California’s Education Code would be eliminated under a plan unveiled Tuesday by Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari.

NEEL KASHKARIThe education reform legislation that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last summer was called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), so perhaps Californians can think of Kashkari’s plan as EMLCFF: Even More Local Control Funding Formula.

Handing over the purse-strings to local educators and families would let them adopt new priorities and methods – perhaps including increased vocational training and lengthening the school day and academic year – even as they’re held to strict accountability standards, Kashkari says. He also wants charter schools to have the same level of funding and facilities as traditional schools, and would eliminate the cap that limits California to 100 new charter schools per year.

For higher education, Kashkari wants to tie state funding to campuses’ success rates – as measured by credits accumulated, students retained, courses completed and degrees awarded – while putting more UC and CSU courses online and offering free tuition to science, technology, engineering and math students in exchange for a cut of their future earnings.

Kashkari’s education plan, which he’s rolling out Tuesday morning at Central City Value High School in Los Angeles, is a cornerstone of a campaign he launched in January with the slogan, “Jobs and Education. That’s It.” The former Treasury Department official and asset manager from Laguna Beach says California’s schools rank 46th in the nation in reading and math, with a huge achievement gap leaving low-income kids wanting for an adequate education.

“California used to boast one of the best education systems in the nation, and we do know how to fix our schools,” Kashkari said. “States around the country have implemented bold reforms that can help improve educational outcomes for our students, both in our K-12 schools and in our institutions of higher education.”

Yet Gov. Jerry Brown “continues to pursue superficial measures that treat only symptoms instead of undertaking bold education reforms that will help lift student achievement and rebuild the middle class,” Kashkari accused.

Brown last year signed the LCFF legislation that changes the state funding formula for K-12 schools in a way that he hopes will help boost disadvantaged students’ academic achievement. It will send $2.1 billion more to school districts with high numbers of students who are from lower-income families, who have limited English proficiency, or who are foster children.

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, education, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari | No Comments »

Fremont teen’s film featured at White House

A Fremont teen’s short film was featured today at the first-ever White House Student Film Festival.

Irvington High School sophomore Tiffany Lin’s film, “Discovery,” uses stop-action animation to show how technology can inspire and advance students.

Lin’s is among 16 films selected from more than 2,000 entries. Her film was placed in the “Young Visionaries” category; other categories are “Future Innovators,” “World of Tomorrow,” and “Building Bridges.”

The festival for K-12 students showcases the power of technology to boost learning and the Administration’s commitment to bringing America’s classrooms into the 21st century with high-speed internet and cutting-edge educational technology. The winners’ films were screened at the White House today, presented by Kal Penn, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and American Film Institute President and CEO Bob Gazzale. Conan O’Brien addressed the students by video.

President Obama is using the occasion to highlight progress on his ConnectED goal of transforming American education by connecting 99 percednt of students to next-generation broadband and wireless technology within five years.

Obama also announced $400 million in new private sector commitments from Adobe and Prezi to make free software available to teachers and students to help introduce creative learning materials to classrooms all across the country and help realize the promise of e-learning.

Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2014
Under: education, Obama presidency | No Comments »

Assembly Dems to take aim at CalSTRS liability

Assembly Democrats say they’re ramping up an effort to solve the long-term, crushing unfunded pension liability in the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS).

“The Assembly will pursue a solution to the STRS shortfall this legislative session,” Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles, said at a news conference today in Sacramento. “Further delay only means further cost and further exposure for the state’s general fund. We believe there must be shared responsibility for a funding solution between school districts, the state and teachers. Our end goal is a State Teachers Retirement system that is 100 percent fully funded.”

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee he chairs will start holding hearings next month.

“I am eager to begin this process and confident that an equitable and permanent solution can and will be found to the CalSTRS funding problem,” he said. “Ensuring the long term financial security of California’s hardworking and dedicated teachers is a goal we are hopeful we can achieve this year.”

As Jessica Calefati reported Sunday, CalSTRS’ unfunded liability is around $80.4 billion and constitutes a huge chunk of the looming costs threatening the state’s long-term fiscal health.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Controller John Chiang, both of whom serve on CalSTRS’ governing board, immediately welcomed the lawmakers’ call to action.

Perez and Bonta “are spot-on in calling for immediate action and shared sacrifice in addressing CalSTRS’ unfunded liability gap during the coming year,” Chiang said in a news release. “If lawmakers can meet the challenge with courage and fiscal prudence today, Californians can avoid a risis tomorrow that imperils not only teachers, but taxpayers and the education system in which they have entrusted our children’s future.”

It’ll be interesting to see how the state’s teachers’ unions buy into this (or don’t) especially regarding Perez’s call for “shared responsibility” including teachers.

The CalSTRS shortfall “does not have to be paid overnight,” the California Teachers Association states in its retirement position paper. “Like a mortgage, this is an amount that will need to be closed over a 30-year period. The shortfall has to be addressed, and teachers are committed to partnering with CalSTRS in finding a long-term funding solution.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Under: Assembly, education, John Perez, Rob Bonta | 8 Comments »

Oil-extraction tax measure dies, but will return

A student-led campaign to put an oil-extraction tax ballot measure before California voters has failed – and is starting all over again with renewed vigor.

Monday was the signature-gathering deadline for the “California Modernization and Economic Development Act,” a measure conceived at UC-Berkeley that would’ve imposed a 9.5 percent tax on oil and natural gas extracted in the state. Petition circulation began April 25, but the proponents couldn’t hit their 504,760-signature mark.

But Californians for Responsible Economic Development, the student-led group that drafted the initiative, plans to resubmit a revised measure.

California oil wells“This summer has been busy for the CMED team,” said Aaron Thule, the campaign’s grassroots coordinator. “After a lot of hard work, we have built a signature gathering coalition for fall and winter that will be ready to activate and qualify this initiative come November.”

The tax would’ve raised an estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year. In its first decade, 60 percent of its revenue would’ve been split equally among K-12 education, community colleges, the California State University system and the University of California system; 22 percent would’ve gone to clean-energy projects and research; 15 percent would’ve gone to counties for infrastructure and public health and safety services; and 3 percent would’ve gone to state parks. After the first decade, 80 percent would’ve gone to education, 15 percent to counties and 5 percent to state parks.

The revised initiative will have a sliding scale tax of 2 percent to 8 percent, which the proponents say will protect small business owners and jobs while still bringing in about $1 billion per year.

The revised initiative also will change the revenue allocation: 50 percent would be put in a special 30-year endowment fund for education, which after three years would start paying out equally to K-12, community colleges, CSU and UC. The proponents predict that after 30 years of collecting interest, it would bring in as much as $3.5 billion per year for education.

Another 25 percent would provide families and businesses with subsidies for switching to cleaner, cheaper energy, and the final 25 percent would be put toward rolling back the gas tax increase enacted last July, to make gas more affordable for working-class Californians, the proponents say.

Working to qualify the measure by early spring will be the University of California Student Association, groups at San Francisco State University, Sonoma State University, CSU Bakersfield and several community colleges. California College Democrats and California Young Democrats, both of which have endorsed an extraction tax for education and clean energy, are also lending support.

“It’s hard to believe that California is the only state that practically gives away our energy – especially when, as a state, our schools and colleges continue to struggle and we have yet to provide adequate funding to meet our own renewable energy standards,” College Democrats President Erik Taylor said.

The UCSA, representing hundreds of thousands of UC students, plans to organize across several campuses. “Affordability and funding are critical issues at the UC and Prop 30 simply is not the solution in itself that we need,” UCSA President Kareem Aref. “Our campaigns for this year are designed to ensure a stable and long term funding stream for the UC.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
Under: ballot measures, education, energy, taxes | 6 Comments »

CA17: Honda mingles at Silicon Valley econ forum

I spied with my little eye: Rep. Mike Honda slapping backs, shaking hands and otherwise mingling with Silicon Valley’s business elite at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Regional Economic Forum on Friday morning in Mountain View.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, took part in a panel discussion entitled, “How can Washington, D.C., help Silicon Valley succeed?” with Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; CEO Garrett Johnson; ChargePoint vice president Dimitrios Papadogonas; and SunPower CEO Tom Werner. The moderator was Working Partnerships Executive Director Cindy Chavez, a former San Jose councilwoman, current Santa Clara County supervisorial candidate and longtime Honda ally.

They were speaking to about 400 local government and business leaders – key constituencies that Honda wants on his side as he faces an electoral challenge from fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration official. Khanna’s campaign strategy depends in large part on convincing voters he’s more in touch with Silicon Valley’s needs than Honda.

Honda clearly tried to prove otherwise Friday as he talked on topics including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Outside, he insisted this isn’t a new cause for him – he said he started at least six or seven years ago, with bills to consolidate approximately $2 billion in STEM education grants that were spread across almost a dozen federal agencies, and to elevate STEM education to the level of a presidential committee.

He said he also has pushed for additional financial support to college students who want to teach STEM subjects, and for having more personnel with technology and corporate backgrounds working on Capitol Hill either as fully-paid interns or permanent staffers: “Most congresspeople don’t have a background in everything that you need.” And, he said, he wants President Obama’s push for universal preschool to include STEM education that starts in the pre-kindergarten to third-grade years – an earlier start to introduce a future workforce to the wonders of science.

Khanna – a former deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Commerce Department – also has emphasized STEM education as a cornerstone of his campaign, but has suggested that Honda is late to the party on this issue.

My chat with Honda was briefly interrupted by Palo Alto Councilman Marc Berman, who greeted the congressman with a hug and a vow of support. Honda said Berman had been a student volunteer for his first House campaign, back in 2000.

Posted on Friday, May 31st, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, education, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

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:

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 »