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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 »

For-profit college VP named to student aid panel

Gov. Jerry Brown this week named an East Bay woman to the California Student Aid Commission, but an article I read recently makes me wonder whether he’s appointed a fox to guard the henhouse.

Brown appointed Terri Bishop, 58, of Lafayette, to the California Student Aid Commission, the stated mission of which is “making education beyond high school financially accessible to all Californians. The appointment requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Bishop is a Democrat.

According to its website, the commission is “the principal state agency responsible for administering financial aid programs for students attending public and private universities, colleges, and vocational schools in California” and “provides financial aid policy analysis and leadership, in partnership with California’s colleges, universities, financial institutions, and financial aid associations.” It administers the Cal Grant program, which provides public money to students for use at colleges and universities within the state; the program has suffered grievous cuts in recent budgets, even as public university and community college tuitions have increased.

Bishop has worked at the Apollo Group – parent company of the University of Phoenix, a for-profit system of more than 200 campuses plus online learning – since 1997, including serving most recently as executive vice president of academic strategy and senior advisor to the chief executive officer. From 1989 to 1997, she was senior vice president of the Online Campus at the University of Phoenix.

Now, I don’t know Bishop, and I have no reason to doubt her or her motivations on an individual, personal or professional basis. But the hair on the back of my neck rose a bit when I read about this appointment, as I recalled an article in the October issue of Harper’s which cast the University of Phoenix and schools like it in a not-so-favorable light.

From that article:

Currently, proprietary institutions educate about one in ten American college students while taking in nearly a quarter of all Title IV funding – $4 billion in Pell Grants and $20 billion in guaranteed loans in 2009.

All this government funding is notable because enrolling at for-profit colleges turns out to be a terrible deal for most students. Almost three fifths drop out without a degree within a year, and virtually all take on debt to help pay for their education. They default on their loans at about twice the rate of students at public colleges and universities and three times the rate of students at private ones. Those who graduate often wind up in low-paying jobs, doing tasks with minimal connection to their degrees.

The article also notes that University of Phoenix gets about 88 percent of its revenue from federal funding.

Those one or two who get degrees and otherwise would have been shut out of the system may justify the cost of letting schools like Phoenix occupy such a prominent place in our educational landscape. What isn’t clear is how many Americans understand that this is the bargain we’ve signed up for: throwing enormous resources at places like Phoenix so that they can graduate one or two out of every twenty entering freshmen.

Posted on Thursday, December 29th, 2011
Under: education, Jerry Brown | 6 Comments »

Miller denounces end of ‘No Child Left Behind’ talks

Rep. George Miller

The House has ceased bipartisan talks around the reworking of No Child Left Behind, national legislation intended to help boost the quality of education in poor and minority communities.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, one of the authors of the original legislation and the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, issued this statement:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Committee, issued the following statement after committee Republicans confirmed that they are abandoning bipartisan talks to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as ‘No Child Left Behind’ in the law’s recent iteration. Miller has been working in a bipartisan manner since 2007 to rewrite the law so that it works better for our nation’s students and families.

“I have communicated to Chairman Kline my disappointment that he has chosen to go the partisan route. Partisanship means the end to NCLB reform in this Congress. Bipartisanship is the only successful way forward. The Senate has moved a bipartisan bill out of committee. The House could do the same if it had the political will to do so. Our nation’s children deserve a real process for achieving consensus, not partisan political games.”

Posted on Friday, December 16th, 2011
Under: Congress, education, George Miller | 3 Comments »

Brown names two to college financial aid board

Gov. Jerry Brown today named two Bay Area students as student representatives to the California Student Aid Commission, a body charged with “making education beyond high school financially accessible to all Californians” by administering Cal Grants and other programs.

Ishan Shah, 19, a Democrat from Fremont, is pursuing a degree in political science at Ohlone College. Shah served as a commissioner on the Human Relations Commission in Alameda County from 2010 to 2011, and as a student senator for the California Community Colleges from 2010 to 2011.

Johnny Garcia Vasquez, 22, a Democrat from Berkeley, is pursuing a degree in ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley while working as a student assistant at Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at Berkeley School of Law. He was a community outreach program assistant for the Health Initiative of the Americas in 2011.

These positions require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem.

The Cal Grant program gave financial aid to more than 370,000 students last year. Brown last month signed into law the rest of the DREAM Act so that, starting in 2013, illegal immigrants accepted by California’s public universities will have the same access to Cal Grants as do legal citizens.

Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011
Under: education, Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »

Loni Hancock speaks in support of faculty strike

State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, joined striking faculty members, staff, students and California Faculty Association supporters at a rally this afternoon at California State University, East Bay in Hayward.

From her prepared remarks:

“This is a pivotal moment for California’s educational system. In times of economic fragility such as we are in now, we are faced with gut-wrenching choices. It is all too easy for high-level managers to shift a disproportionate burden of cutbacks and suffering to those who are the real heart of the university system – the faculty, staff and students.

“I am here to congratulate and support the faculty of this great university for having the courage to stand up for fairness and for making a stand against the destruction of our education system.

“You have been more than patient as you have watched the California university system diminished by drastic budget cuts, skyrocketing tuition and fee increases, reduced resources for faculty and staff and an intransigent administration refusing to compromise on contracts.

“You have been more than patient as you have watched students suffer the consequences. Every day, I hear from frustrated and angry Americans worried about being able to send their kids to college because their savings have been depleted thanks to Wall Street greed and mismanagement.

“I urge the university’s administration to listen to you – to heed the voices of the faculty, staff and students who are the heart and soul of this great university. You are the 99 percent, and your voice will be heard.”

Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Under: California State Senate, education, Loni Hancock, state budget | 6 Comments »