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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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.


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.”


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.”


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; SendHub.com 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.


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.