Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

October 8, 2011
Jerry Brown suggests local observer panels to improve schools

Gov. Jerry Brown suggested in a veto message this afternoon that California might improve its schools by establishing a system of local panels to observe teachers, interview students and examine their work, among other things.

Brown, a critic of the state's existing testing program, vetoed Senate Bill 547 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, that sought to change how the state measures high school performance, including factors such as graduation and promotion rates and career readiness.

"There are other ways to improve our schools - to indeed focus on quality," Brown wrote. "What about a system that relies on locally convened panels to visit schools, observe teachers, interview students, and examine student work? Such a system wouldn't produce an API number, but it could improve the quality of our schools."

The Democratic governor called the legislation, a priority of Steinberg's, "yet another siren song of school reform."

The bill, he said, "certainly would add more things to measure, but it is doubtful that it would actually improve our schools. Adding more speedometers to a broken car won't turn it into a high-performance machine."

October 8, 2011
Jerry Brown vetoes bill to let colleges consider race, gender

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation today that would have allowed the University of California and California State University systems to consider race, ethnicity and gender in student admissions.

The interpretation of Proposition 209, which prohibits the use of race- or gender-based preferences in hiring, contracting and admissions, is a matter for the courts - not the Legislature - to decide, he said. The matter is the subject of pending litigation.

"I wholeheartedly agree with the goal of this legislation," the Democratic governor said in a veto message. "Proposition 209 should be interpreted to allow UC and CSU to consider race and other relevant factors in their admissions policies to the extent permitted under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In fact, I have submitted briefs in my capacities as both governor and attorney general strongly urging the courts to adopt such an interpretation."

However, he wrote, "Our constitutional system of separation of powers requires that the courts - not the Legislature - determine the limits of Proposition 209."

Senate Bill 185, by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Los Angeles, became controversial when a Republican group at the University of California, Berkeley, held an "Increase Diversity Bake Sale" in opposition to the bill, charging different prices based on race, gender and ethnicity.

October 8, 2011
Jerry Brown signs California Dream Act

Gov. Jerry Brown today signed legislation allowing undocumented immigrant college students to receive public financial aid, marking California's relatively liberal ground in a bitter row over immigration nationwide.

The California Dream Act allows access to public financial aid, including Cal Grants, for undocumented students who came to the country before turning 16 and attended California high schools. Those students already are eligible for in-state tuition, and Brown in July signed a companion measure affording them access to private financial aid.

"Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking. The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us," Brown said in a prepared statement.

Brown, a Democrat, supported the act during last year's gubernatorial campaign, and his signature was all but certain. He had negotiated amendments to the bill, Assembly Bill 131, to reduce costs, excluding graduates of technical and adult schools and delaying implementation until January 2013.

The bill, by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, was passed by lawmakers on partisan lines. Democrats said it would result in a more educated population. Republicans said awarding scholarships to undocumented students would encourage illegal immigration, and they objected to the cost.

The program's expansion is expected to cost the state $23 million to $40 million annually.

Brown's signature comes amidst tension nationwide about immigration, most recently over strict new laws in Georgia and Alabama. Meanwhile, the Obama administration announced it would suspend deportation proceedings against undocumented immigrants who aren't a danger to public safety, including people who immigrated as young children and are in school.

Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly said the legislation would encourage illegal immigration and force students who are in the country legally to compete with undocumented immigrants for public resources.

"I think that it is perhaps the biggest mistake that Gov. Brown has ever made," he said, "other than unionizing public employees."

Donnelly, of Twin Peaks, is setting up a website, "STOP the Nightmare Act," and pledged to launch a referendum campaign.

In a prepared statement, Cedillo said the bill "will send a message across the country that California is prepared to lead the country with a positive and productive vision for how we approach challenging issues related to immigration."

Editor's note: Post updated at 1:25 p.m. to include remarks by Donnelly and Cedillo.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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