George Miller part of new early-childhood panel

Former Rep. George Miller is among the high-profile members of a new “Right Start Commission” aimed at helping modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The commission, rolled out Thursday by Common Sense Kids Action, will develop a plan for providing universal, high-quality access to early learning and support systems from birth to age 5. The panel will examine both government’s role in providing such services, and the private sector’s responsibility to ensure a good start for employees’ children; its recommendations will become a legislative blueprint.

“Every child deserves a fair start in life and the only way we can ensure that happens is to provide all kids with the care, support and quality learning experiences they need to be successful from day one,” Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer, who’ll also serve on the commission, said in a news release. “We know that improving early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make. Yet, across the nation millions of American kids are denied this critical opportunity year after year. With the Right Start Commission, Common Sense Kids Action will kick off an effort to reimagine early childhood services in California and create a model for the nation to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

The commission’s launch is in conjunction with the Invest In US coalition President Obama unveiled in 2014 to improve the quality of and access to early childhood education for children throughout the country. It will hold a series of statewide and national events over the remainder of the year to collect input from early education and care practitioners, parents, educators and respected researchers.

Besides Steyer and Miller, who just retired after 40 years in the House as a leader on education issues, the commission’s members include Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff; PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell; Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond; Institute for InterGroup Understanding Chair and CEO George Halvorson; Center for Youth Wellness Founder and CEO Nadine Burke Harris; Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson; Heising-Simons Foundation President Elizabeth Simons; and former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

“Early investment in our youngest children is essential to their long-term success as individuals and a bright future for California,” Steinberg said in the news release. “Now, more than ever, we must move kids to the top of our agenda and provide them with the resources they need to compete and succeed in a global economy. The Right Start Commission is a critical first step toward achieving that vision.”


State Senate panel to hold media violence hearing

A state Senate subcommittee hear testimony Wednesday on media violence’s impact on public safety – an issue the panel’s chair says has arisen from recent months’ gun-violence debates.

The informational hearing of the Senate Public Safety Subcommittee on Gangs, Guns and Drugs is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 10, in Room 113 of the State Capitol.

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who chairs the Public Safety Committee as well as this subcommittee, said the hearing’s goal “is to provide legislators with the latest research on media violence and to present information regarding possible policy solutions from a constitutional perspective.”

“In our consideration of gun safety regulations during the last few months, questions were often raised about the relationship of mental health to gun violence, as well as repeated exposure to media violence on young people and marginalized individuals,” Hancock added.

Among those scheduled to take part are Laramie Taylor, a UC-Davis associate professor of communications who’ll testify on “Media Violence and Public Health;” Derek Burrill, a UC-Riverside associate professor of media and cultural studies who’ll testify on “Video Game Culture;” Dr. Andrew Giammona, medical director and director of the Division of Mental Health and Child Development at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland, who’ll testify on “Media Violence Impact on Child Development;” Ashutosh Bhagwat, a UC-Davis law professor who’ll testify on “Media Violence, Constitutional Law and the First Amendment;” and Colby Zintl, vice president of Common Sense Media.

The hearing comes even as a slew of gun-control measures continue to wend through the Democrat-dominated Legislature toward Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Some were approved last week by the Assembly Public Safety Committee, including SB 53, to require background checks for ammunition purchases, and SB 293, which could eventually require that all handguns sold in California be “smart guns” that can be used only by their authorized owners.

Perhaps the very most controversial bill – SB 374, which would ban all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines and retroactively require ownership records for all guns – has been passed by the state Senate but has not yet been heard by any Assembly committees.


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.


New justice’s wife to run kids & families program

The wife of new California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu has been hired to run a national media campaign on the state of America’s kids and families.

The Center for the Next Generation announced today that Ann O’Leary, 40, of Berkeley, will run its Children and Families Program. The campaign, now in development, will launch later this year with a national advertising campaign, town-hall meetings, social media campaigns, research and other public events aimed at building support for proven private and public investments in programs and policies that benefit kids and families, the group said.

The group cited O’Leary’s more than a decade of experience working in the White House and on Capitol Hill; she most recently has been executive director of the Berkeley Center for Health, Economic & Family Security at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

“Ann provides TCNG with the perfect mix of legislative and policy experience to help us achieve our goal of increasing support for America’s children and families,” TCNG President Matt James said in a news release. “Ann is widely respected as one of the nation’s top experts on kids and families, and her deep understanding of these issues will help TCNG enormously as it works to focus the nation on the needs of children and families.”

The Center for the Next Generation describes itself as “a nonpartisan strategic communications nonprofit organization that supports programs and policies that benefit the next generation of young Americans. Driven by high-quality research and data, TCNG uses targeted communications to drive the development of an advanced energy economy and to build support for ensuring that America’s young people grow up healthy, are properly educated and well-prepared for the workforce. TCNG believes that these are the keys to a stronger, more prosperous America.”

“At a time when our economy is wreaking havoc on America’s families and children, Jim and Tom Steyer, through the creation of TCNG, have committed to waking up the public and our political leaders to the devastating consequences that will result if we do not all come together — businesses, community and faith leaders, families themselves and our government — to ensure that our children have the tools they need to thrive now and into the future,” O’Leary said in the news release.

Jim Steyer is the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based nonprofit “dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.” Tom Steyer is the founder and senior managing member of San Francisco-based Farallon Capital Management, and a prominent philanthropist.

At Cal, O’Leary conducted research, public education and technical support for policy makers in the areas of health, income and job security. She’s also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that’s usually tightly intertwined with the Obama Administration’s policies; there, she has authored policy reports and advised policymakers on the need to update our country’s workplace policies and social insurance system to reflect changing family and workplace demographics.

Before being at Cal and CAP, O’Leary was a San Francisco deputy city attorney; a law clerk for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; legislative director for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; a special assistant to the president in the White House Domestic Policy Council as head of the Children and Family Policy Team; and a senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Education.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in critical social thought from Mount Holyoke College; a master’s in administration, policy analysis and evaluation from Stanford University’s School of Education; and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.


Ellen Corbett’s internet privacy bill fails again

Closer, but still not close enough for state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro.

Corbett’s SB 242, would have required that social-networking sites default to hiding information unless users choose to have it shown; that they create a process for new users to set their privacy settings as part of their registration, using plain language; and that they remove personal identifying information in a timely manner upon the user’s request. A violation would have been punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.

Last Thursday, the state Senate’s vote on SB 242 was 16 to 16, five votes short of what it needed to pass. After several days of arm-twisting, Corbett gave it another go today – and fell two votes short. Friday is the last day for Senate-originated bills to pass out of the Senate this session, so this battle is over for now.

But Corbett vowed today to keep working on the issue and organize a summit on internet privacy dangers.

“I feel terrible for children, their parents and the many others who are at risk of being victims of identity theft or other criminal activity because their private information falls into the wrong hands,” she said in a news release. “It is clear to me that everyone, and especially children, who use social networking sites needs their personal information better protected.”

Corbett said that she has received letters and emails of encouragement from across the country, and that polls show a growing number of Americans are worried about the lack of protection of their personal information on the internet. The San Franciso-based national nonprofit Common Sense Media issued a floor alert yesterday telling legislators it supported AB 242 as “an important step forward in ensuring the privacy rights of social network users” with “important implications for kids and their families” who would be empowered “with more information and more control over how their personal information is being used and displayed.”

Facebook staunchly opposed the bill; company spokesman Andrew Noyes last week said Corbett is threatening California’s internet economy by trying to impose “unnecessary regulations that ignore the extraordinary lengths that companies like ours go to in order to protect individuals’ privacy and give them the tools to determine for themselves how much information they wish to share online.”

Noyes emailed reporters yesterday to note the company’s response to a letter he said it received from Corbett in which the Senator purportedly said she had “been unable to engage representatives of [Facebook] in any dialogue.” Facebook’s public policy people met with or talked to Corbett’s office 13 times this year, Noyes wrote, including a February meeting at the company’s Palo Alto headquarters between Corbett and Facebook’s chief operating officer, safety programs manager, chief security officer and vice president of public policy.