Oakland, SF education officials meet with Obama

Three California education officials – including two from the Bay Area – met Monday morning with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to highlight the need for funding as Congress mulls a new budget and a revamp of the No Child Left Behind law.

Jumoke Hinton HodgeOakland Unified School District board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza and Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Mike Hanson were among the dozen officials from across the nation who met with Obama and Duncan at the White House.

All were from districts that are part of the Council of the Great City Schools; Hodge chairs the board of that national organization, which represents the needs of urban public schools. School districts eligible for membership must be located in cities with populations over 250,000 and student enrollment over 35,000.

Obama said in the meeting that he’s ready to fight with Republicans for school funding and his education priorities, the Associated Press reported. He hopes that Republican lawmakers focus on educating every child and not shifting money away from needy districts, he said; he’s also calling for a focus on low-performing schools, annual assessments and investments in special education and English-language learners.

If the Republican budget doesn’t reflect those priorities, he said, they will have “a major debate.”

“My hope is that their budget reflects the priorities of educating every child,” he said, according to a pool report from the New York Post’s Geoff Earle. “We are making too much progress here … for us to be going backwards now.”

Obama and Duncan are touting improved high-school graduation rates as evidence that the administration’s policies are working. In California, the high school graduation rates from 2012 to 2013 increased by 2.4 percent overall, including a 2.7 percent increase for Hispanic students and a 2.1 percent increase for African-American students.

Richard CarranzaHinton Hodge is co-founder of the Parent Leadership and Engagement Academy Initiative (PLEA), a community-building project dedicated to the education and support of West Oakland parents and families. She collaborated with California Tomorrow to develop programs aimed at increasing parents’ ability to navigate the public school system; has worked extensively with low-income youth and students identified as severely emotionally disturbed; and she has provided gender-specific services to urban girls.

Carranza has been San Francisco’s schools superintendent since June 2012; earlier, he had been the district’s deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation and social justice at the district since 2009.


Marijuana bill advances, Oaksterdam U mulls fate

California medical marijuana’s situation again still seems stuck in neutral as a regulatory bill advances even while an Oakland institution prepares to announce its fate.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee voted 4-2 on Tuesday to pass AB 2312 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, which would create the first statewide regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry. The bill now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“Only by regulating medical cannabis will California be able to regain control and ensure safe access for patients,” Ammiano said in a news release. “Effective regulation benefits everyone – patients, providers, doctors and law enforcement. Passing AB 2312 is an opportunity for the Legislature to defend Prop. 215 by regulating and controlling an industry that has the clear support of the people of California.”

AB 2312 would create a nine-member Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement with the Department of Consumer Affairs to enact and enforce regulations on growing, processing, manufacturing, testing, transporting, distributing and selling marijuana and marijuana products for medical purposes; the board. It also would authorize local taxes on medical cannabis up to 2.5 percent.

Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access, said police, lawmakers and patients “want clarity about what is legal under state law. AB 2312 answers their questions and provides a path towards the sensible, well-regulated medical marijuana program the voters wanted when they approved Proposition 215.”

Yet even if the Legislature passes this bill (where others, including earlier ones by Ammiano, have failed), it would put California further at odds with federal law’s total ban on marijuana.

Federal agents raided Oaksterdam University a few weeks ago, casting doubt upon the future of this and other marijuana-related businesses founded and owned by Richard Lee, who largely bankrolled an unsuccessful 2010 ballot measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Lee will hold news conferences tomorrow – live at the school at 11 a.m., and then a national press call at 1 p.m. – to discuss his plans and the fate of his businesses.
Besides Lee, those scheduled to speak include former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, who helped draft the state’s current regulations; Americans for Safe Access Executive Director Steph Sherer; United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 International Vice President Ron Lind; and representatives from local elected officials’ offices.

It’s a run-up to a national day of action this Friday, April 20, which will include an 11:30 a.m. protest outside the federal building on Oakland’s Clay Street.


Oakland woman announces bid for BART board

With BART Director Bob Franklin giving up that post to run for Oakland City Council this year, candidates are emerging to vie this November for the open seat he’ll leave on the transit agency’s board.

Environmental activist and local blogger Rebecca Saltzman, 30, of Oakland, announced her candidacy in a fundraising e-mail to friends and potential supporters Tuesday morning. She wrote that her years “of public transit and policy advocacy, coalition building, grassroots organizing, and management experience with local, state, and national issue-based organizations and campaigns has prepared me well for this job.”

Saltzman said that as government affairs manager for the California League of Conservation Voters, she coordinates Green California, a network of more than 80 environmental and social justice groups working to pass and protect environmentally friendly laws in the Legislature.

Earlier she worked for four years as chief of staff of Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based medical marijuana advocacy nonprofit. She graduated last year from Emerge California, a candidate training program for Democratic women.

She also is vice chairwoman of Oakland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee; has been active in several local and state political campaigns; and is the longtime proprietor of the “Living in the O” local news blog. Until recently she was an avid tweeter as @OaklandBecks; now she’s @RebeccaForBART.

“As a BART Director, I will work hard every day to make BART fiscally and environmentally sustainable, to increase transit-oriented development around BART stations, and to coordinate more closely with other transit agencies – especially AC Transit,” she said in the e-mail. “I will also work to make a dream I’ve had since my college days at UC Berkeley come true – making BART run later on Friday and Saturday nights.”

BART’s District 3 includes all or parts of Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Lafayette, Moraga, Oakland, Orinda, Piedmont, San Leandro, and unincorporated areas of Alameda and Contra Costa counties; it includes the Bay Fair, San Leandro, Rockridge, Orinda, Downtown Berkeley, North Berkeley, El Cerrito Plaza and El Cerrito Del Norte stations.

Filings at the Secretary of State’s office show Nashua Kalil, 53, of Berkeley, a former BART planner, also intends to run for the seat, but apparently has not yet made the candidacy public.