SD9: School funding activist launches campaign

Katherine Welch, an education funding activist from Piedmont, will formally announce her 9th State Senate District candidacy Saturday, joining two longtime East Bay politicos in the race.

Katherine WelchWelch, 54, was registered as a Republican as of early 2014 but is running as a Democrat against Democratic former Assembly members Nancy Skinner of Berkeley and Sandre Swanson of Alameda, as well as San Pablo Vice Mayor Richard Kinney, a Republican.

“I’ve always been a Democrat, if you look at my political contributions,” Welch said Friday, adding that registering for a time with the GOP “was more my frustration with the political process than about the candidates I support … It was a little bit of a protest.”

Campaign finance records support her claim. Welch has contributed to the unsuccessful Proposition 34 of 2012, to abolish the death penalty; ActBlue California, an online Democratic fundraising clearinghouse, in 2012 and 2014; Joan Buchanan’s and Sandra Fluke’s unsuccessful Democratic state Senate campaigns in 2014; and Democrat Betty Yee for state controller in 2014. And her federal contributions dating back to 2004 have supported only Democrats.

She also sank money into last year’s effort by Educate Our State – a nonprofit of which she’s a board member and former chairwoman – to field a ballot measure that would’ve protected local property tax revenues designated for schools from being borrowed or otherwise re-directed by state lawmakers. The measure failed to get enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Welch said Friday she’s making her first run for public office partly to encourage more moms like herself to “go up there (to Sacramento) and start talking about the things we’re not talking about in this state” – mainly, about fully committing to full funding for public schools.

“I’m fortunate enough that I have the time and the passion to do it,” she said, adding that “this whole ‘it’s my turn’ mentality” among politicians is unhealthy for the state and nation.

But asked whether Skinner’s and Swanson’s platforms are lacking, Welch replied, “I’m not running against anyone. … It’s not a question of who’s more progressive, it’s a question of priorities.”

She’s running because “kids, public education and people who don’t really have a voice in Sacramento,” she said. “Money and power and lobbyists have a voice, and kids don’t.”

Welch is working with Democratic political strategist Lisa Tucker of Pleasant Hill, who has worked for figures including former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin. Though she tweeted her intent to run on Sept. 23, she and about 100 of her supporters will kick off her campaign at 11 a.m. this Saturday, Oct. 24 in Crocker Park, 81 King Ave. in Piedmont.

Welch served on the board of Gateway Public Schools, a pair of public charter schools in San Francisco, from 2008 to 2014; she currently serves on the board of Head Royce School, an exclusive and very expensive private school in the Oakland Hills. She worked as an analyst for Goldman Sachs for a few years in the 1980s, then as an operations manager for a film and video service, and then as associate director of the Breakthrough Collaborative, a San Francisco nonprofit that helps high-potential, low-income middle school students reach college and inspires high school and college students to pursue careers in education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy studies from Duke University and an MBA from Harvard University.

The 9th District – from which state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will be term-limited out next year – is a swath of Contra Costa and Alameda counties from Rodeo in the north to San Leandro in the south, including Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Piedmont, Emeryville, Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Hercules, Kensington and other communities. The district’s voter registration is 63 percent Democrat, 8 percent Republican and 21 percent independent.


Neel Kashkari’s new TV ad depicts drowning child

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari‘s new television ad uses imagery of a drowning child to highlight what he says is Gov. Jerry Brown’s “betrayal” of California public school students:

Kashkari’s campaign says the ad will start airing statewide on Tuesday.


Kashkari video attacks Brown on schools

Republican Neel Kashkari’s gubernatorial campaign released a web video Wednesday claiming Gov. Jerry Brown is in the California Teachers Association’s pocket, perhaps presaging an avenue of attack in Thursday’s first – and probably only – debate between the candidates.

“The California Constitution guarantees that every child is entitled to an equal and quality education,” Kashkari said. “Apparently, Jerry Brown doesn’t agree that the civil rights of poor and minority children are worth fighting for.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris last week filed a brief on behalf of Brown and the state signaling they’ll appeal the recent Vergara v. California decision which struck down teacher tenure laws.

“It is clear where Jerry Brown’s priorities lie, and sadly, his priority is not the children of our state,” Kashkari said.

The one-hour debate starting at 7 p.m. Thursday is cosponsored by KQED, the Los Angeles Times, the California Channel and Telemundo California, and will be held in the California Channel’s studio with John Myers, KQED’s politics and government editor, as moderator.

KQED Public Television (Channel 9) and Telemundo stations in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno and Sacramento will televise it live and provide a simultaneous Spanish-language translation. The California Channel will also broadcast the debate live to more than 5 million homes across the state.

KQED Public Radio will broadcast the debate live on its stations in San Francisco (88.5 FM) and Sacramento (89.3 FM) and will distribute the debate live for broadcast to 30 public radio stations across California via its statewide news service, the California Report.

KQEDnews.org, Telemundo52.com and CalChannel.com will offer a live video Web stream.


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.

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Brown calls special session on Rainy Day Fund

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature to replace the “Rainy Day Fund” measure on November’s ballot with a dedicated reserve to let the state to pay down its debts and unfunded liabilities.

“We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid Rainy Day Fund,” Brown said in a news release, which accompanied a proclamation convening the special section next Thursday, April 24.

Voters enacted the current Rainy Day Fund in 2004 by approving Proposition 58, which directs 3 percent of annual revenues into the Budget Stabilization Account. The current system has no restriction on when funds can be withdrawn and requires deposits even in deficit years, unless the law is suspended.

Lawmakers in 2010 approved the proposal on the November 2014 ballot – ACA 4, which would raise the fund’s cap from 5 percent to 10 percent of the General Fund, among other things. But Brown said Wednesday it doesn’t address the volatility of capital gains revenue, doesn’t provide a reserve for schools to help cushion future downturns, and limits California’s ability to pay down long-term liabilities.

Brown in January proposed changes including increasing deposits when the state has spikes in capital gains revenue; allowing supplemental payments to speed up the state’s payoff of its debts and liabilities; limiting withdrawals to ensure the state doesn’t drain too much at the start of a downturn; and creating a Proposition 98 reserve, after school funding is fully restored to pre-recession levels, to smooth school spending and avoid future cuts.

UPDATE @ 11:15 A.M.: Assembly Speaker John Perez calls this “a welcome and helpful development.”

“Assembly Democrats first proposed a permanent rainy day fund last May, and we look forward to working with our Republican and Senate colleagues to build a reliable system that handles short-term revenue spikes differently than ongoing, stable revenue streams,” said Perez, D-Los Angeles. “We need to establish a solid system for saving money in good years, so that we can better weather the bad years. We need a mechanism that not only strengthens our constitutional reserve, but also gets us off the rollercoaster ride of revenue spikes and dips that has caused so much trouble in recent years.”

UPDATE @ 2:02 P.M.: State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, says he’s glad Brown is doing this, but doubts whether Democrats share the enthusiasm. “It’s just common sense for California to put away money during the ‘boom’ years to avoid future tax increases and spending reductions in the ‘bust’ years. However, we are mindful that legislative Democrats have undermined similar efforts in the recent past,” he said.

“Despite agreeing to, and voting for, the rainy day reserve fund in Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 (ACA 4) as part of the 2010-11 budget agreement with Republicans, Senate Pro Tem Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Perez denied Californians the opportunity to vote for it on the ballot in 2012 as promised,” Huff continued. “Now they want to remove it from the 2014 election ballot, preventing the people of California from establishing strong protections against future budget crises. I think today’s announcement is a message to the Democrats that the Governor is serious about doing something.”

The California Chamber of Commerce supports Brown’s move, too. “Adopting an effective Rainy Day Reserve should be the state’s top fiscal policy. California’s budget crises were caused by the Legislature spending one-time revenues for ongoing programs,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg. “A solid reserve requirement will remove the California budget from the fiscal roller coaster. It is crucial that the Legislature pass a consensus proposal that the Governor can support to get approval by voters in November.”


NJ hedge fund prez bankrolls anti-AB 1266 effort

A hedge-fund manager from New Jersey has contributed another $50,000 to the campaign to repeal California’s new law that gives transgender K-12 students rights such as access to the restrooms and locker rooms that they choose.

Wedding AnniversaryThis latest contribution, made Nov. 1 and reported Monday, brings Sean Fieler’s total contributions to the “Privacy for All Students – Stop AB1266” committee to $200,000 – almost as much as all other contributors to that committee have given so far.

Fieler, of Princeton, N.J., is president of Equinox Partners and chairman of the board of the American Principles Project, a conservative 501(c)(3) “founded to reinvigorate and restore those principles that made our country great. We take pride in leading the conversation, defending and promoting the universal truths that we are all ‘created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’” Fieler also has been a prolific donor to efforts opposing same-sex marriage.

AB 1266 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, requires that a K-12 pupil be permitted to take part in sex-segregated school programs, activities and facilities including athletic teams and competitions, consistent with his or her gender identity and regardless of the gender listed on that pupil’s records. Though the law applies to a wide range of access, conservative opponents have dubbed it the “bathroom law.”

The Assembly approved it 46-25, the state Senate approved it 21-9, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law Aug. 12. The law will take effect Jan. 1, unless its opponents succeed in placing a repeal referendum on the ballot.

We don’t know yet whether they succeeded. Referendum supporters had until Nov. 10 to gather and submit valid signatures from at least 504,760 registered voters in order to put this on the ballot; hitting that mark usually requires gathering about 700,000 signatures to be safe. The Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 20 that they had gathered about 500,000. Southern California Public Radio reported Sunday that supporters said they’d submitted 620,000 signatures.