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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 »

Brown names East Bay people to education posts

Gov. Jerry Brown today appointed two East Bay people to influential education posts.

Lupe Garcia, 43, of Alameda, was appointed to the California State University Board of Trustees. Garcia has served in multiple positions at Gap Inc. since 1999, including associate general counsel, senior corporate counsel and corporate counsel; earlier, she served as an associate at Lafayette and Kumagai LLP from 1995 to 1999. Garcia is a member of the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned a degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law. She is registered to vote without a party preference.

The trustees oversee the CSU system, adopting rules, regulations, and policies and exercising authority over curricular development, use of property, development of facilities, and fiscal and human resources management. The 25-member board meets six times per year.

And Brown named Bruce Holaday, 59, of Oakland, to the State Board of Education. Holaday has been director of educational advancement at Wildlife Associates since 2010. He was director of Newpoint Tampa High School from 2009 to 2010 and director of the Oakland Military Institute – a charter school Brown founded – from 2004 to 2009. Earlier, Holaday served in multiple positions at the Culver Academies from 1976 to 2004, including development director, director of summer programs and English teacher. Holaday is a Democrat.

The State Board of Education is the governing and policy-making body of the California Department of Education, setting K-12 education policy in the areas of standards, instructional materials, assessment, and accountability. It adopts textbooks for grades K-8, adopts regulations to implement laws, and can grant waivers of the Education Code. Its 11 members are appointed by the governor.

Both appointments require state Senate confirmation and carry a compensation of $100 per diem.

Posted on Friday, July 6th, 2012
Under: education, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Boxer seeks political truce to pass vital bills

It’s time to put politics aside for a few weeks and pass some vital bills, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer told reporters on a conference call this morning.

Boxer, D-Calif., said partisan gridlock has brought Congress to record-low approval ratings and productivity.

“Things are really dismal but we have a window of time between now and the election,” she said, adding Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., still seems pre-occupied mainly with ensuring that President Obama doesn’t win a second term. “We all are going to get out there and fight for our candidates… but not on the Senate floor. We need to come together and pass these important bills.”

Boxer identified four priorities. One, she said, is Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), the two-year surface transportation authorization bill that’s being heard in conference committee next Tuesday, May 8. This is the successor to SAFETEA-LU, the 2005 surface transportation funding bill, which expired more than two and a half years ago; that earlier bill’s latest extension is up at the end of June, so time is of the essence, Boxer said. She said the bill has no earmarks and is revenue-neutral, but would create or save about 3 million jobs nationwide, about a tenth of which are in California.

“This is the only jobs bill that we can pass this year, in my opinion,” she said.

Another priority is legislation to ensure that the interest rate on student loans doesn’t double to 6.8 percent on July 1. The Republican-controlled House has passed a bill to extend the lower rates for a year, paid for by eliminating funding for a preventative health care fund established under the Affordable Care Act; the Democrat-controlled Senate has proposed paying for it instead by eliminating tax loopholes for shareholders of certain small corporations.

A third priority is reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, an anti-domestic-violence measure that expires in September, Boxer said. The Senate passed its version – which would expand the law’s funding and protections for same-sex couples, immigrants and tribal communities – last week with bipartisan support, but House Republicans are working on their own version of the bill without those updates.

And Boxer said Congress must move to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would bar employers from retaliating against workers who share their salary information with co-workers – a means of uncovering salary discrimination. The House passed a version of this in 2009, but it was filibustered in the Senate, she said.

“It’s time to get things done right this second, there’s not a minute to waste,” she said.

Posted on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, education, Transportation, U.S. Senate | 27 Comments »

Local Dems running hard with student-loan issue

Democrats are running hard with the student-loan issue, including some efforts here in the Bay Area.

The interest rate on need-based student loans will double to 6.8 percent July 1 unless a law is passed. Both sides of the aisle appear to favor freezing the interest rate, yet each side is using the question of how to pay for it against the other as a political issue.

The House last week passed Republicans’ HR 4628 to maintain the rate at 3.4 percent for another year, paid for by eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act health care reform law. Democrats say the GOP has set up a false dilemma by cutting flu vaccines, cancer and heart disease screenings and other services for children and families.

The White House has threatened a veto, but the bill isn’t expected to get past the Democrat-controlled Senate, anyway. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has introduced S.2343 to pay for freezing the interest rate by making it harder for owners of so-called S corporations to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes on some of their earnings.

The Senate might consider Reid’s bill Monday, so politicians are hitting the streets and phones to drum up support.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will be joined by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Mills College President Alecia DeCoudreaux, Holy Names University President William Hynes, and Cal State East Bay President Leroy Morishita for a news conference tomorrow morning at Cal’s Haas Pavilion.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, will address this and other issues during a conference call tomorrow with reporters.

And Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, will attend a rally Thursday morning at San Jose State University with local students who’ll discuss how the interest-rate increase would affect them. An estimated 7.4 million students nationwide, including more than 570,000 in California, would pay an average of $1,000 more over the life of their loans.

UPDATE @ 4:25 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, was banging the drum today at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, while Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, did so at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park.

Posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, education, Harry Reid, healthcare reform, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

Angry words over student loan interest bill

The House today voted 215-195 to pass HR 4628, which extends lower student-loan interest rates for a year by eliminating a preventative care fund created by President Obama’s health-care reform law.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill, but it won’t come to that: It’s dead on arrival in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has advanced a plan to pay for extending the lower student-loan rates by levying taxes on those who make $250,000 or more per year from certain small “S corporations,” private businesses that don’t pay corporate taxes. House Democrats had wanted to pay for it by ending subsidies to oil and gas companies.

Here’s what Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said on the House floor before today’s vote:

“Mr. Speaker, I’m here today to speak out against H.R. 4628, the so-called Interest Rate Reduction Act.

“It is clear to me that Republicans are not serious about addressing the student loan interest rate hikes, with this so-called Interest Rate Reduction Act. Their bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and would permanently end the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a key component of the Affordable Care Act that promotes wellness, prevents disease, and protects against public health emergencies.

“This prevention Fund is the first mandatory funding stream dedicated to improving public health – and it is extremely important in our fight to prevent chronic diseases, including HIV/AIDS, in Women’s health.

“This is such a sad and sinister ploy. Instead of pitting student loan relief for middle and low-income families against critical preventive services for middle and low-income families, we should be working toward real solutions. Instead of paying for subsidies to big oil, we should invest in our students, who are our future.

“This bill jeopardizes the health of our nation and it uses our students as pawns. And it is morally wrong. I hope we defeat this insincere proposal.”

After the vote, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio said:

“Students and families are struggling in President Obama’s economy. Nearly half of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, and laws like ObamaCare have only made it harder for small businesses to hire them. That’s why House Republicans voted to extend current student loan rates and to pay for it by eliminating an ObamaCare slush fund President Obama himself proposed cutting from his budget. It’s time for the president and Democrats in Congress to stop exploiting the challenges facing young Americans for political gain, and start working with Republicans to create a better environment for private-sector job growth.”

But, from Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee:

“Today’s vote shows that the Republicans are on very thin ice on this issue, barely being able to pass their bill, and by less than a majority of the House. They should join us now on a bill to lower the loan rates and pay for it in a way that does not harm middle class women and children.

“Republicans call the Prevention and Public Health Fund a ‘slush’ fund. That’s amazing. Breast and cervical cancer screenings are not things you pay for with a slush fund. You don’t immunize children from infectious disease with a slush fund. You want know what a slush fund is? A slush fund is the tax loophole Republicans are protecting for the five largest oil and gas companies making record profits. That’s a slush fund.”

Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, education, George Miller, John Boehner, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Poll: More back Brown’s tax plan than Munger’s

Almost two-thirds of California’s likely voters favor raising income taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents to pay for public schools, but most oppose increasing the state sales tax for the same purpose, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll.

Both are elements of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed ballot measure for this November.

The PPIC poll found 65 percent of likely voters favor raising the top rate of state income tax paid by the wealthiest Californians, while 34 percent oppose it. But only 46 percent support raising the state sales tax while 52 percent oppose that.

When read the ballot title and a brief summary of Brown’s proposed measure, 54 percent of likely voters say they would vote for it while 39 percent would vote against it – about the same numbers as were found last month. Unsurprisingly, there’s a sharp partisan divide – 75 percent of Democrats support it, 65 percent of Republicans oppose it – but independents favor it 53 percent to 43 percent. Public school parents support it widely: 60 percent yes, 36 percent no.

Brown has said that if voters reject his measure, there’ll be automatic budget cuts for public schools; 78 percent of likely voters oppose such cuts.

Another proposed measure, bankrolled by Molly Munger, would raise income taxes on most Californians. The poll found 57 percent of likely voters oppose this, with 40 percent in support.

Brown’s own approval rating is holding steady, the poll shows: 47 percent of likely voters approve of his job performance, 40 percent disapprove and 12 percent don’t know, similar to one year ago (46 percent approval, 32 percent disapproval, 21 percent don’t know). And the Legislature remains unloved: Only 15 percent of likely voters approve of its job performance, while only 10 percent approve of its handling of K-12 education.

Lots more slicing and dicing, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, education, Jerry Brown, polls, taxes | 11 Comments »

Fremont teen questions President Obama

My colleague Rob Dennis is writing the story on a student from Fremont’s Kennedy High School who took some time out from his advanced-placement government class today to pose a few questions to the leader of the free world.

Adam Clark, backed by some of his classmates and his teacher, Olivia Santillan, took part in a Google+ “Hangout” with the president, a virtual interview streamed live on YouTube. Here’s the archived video; the Fremont kids’ segment starts at about 30:19:

Posted on Monday, January 30th, 2012
Under: education, Obama presidency | No Comments »