Not a single member of the California Legislature earned an A from the tough graders at the University of California Student Association, who released their first-ever legislative scorecard at the regents meeting in Sacramento Wednesday.
Not Sen. Marty Block, a former professor who chairs the Senate Education Committee. Not even Sen. Leland Yee, who holds a doctorate in psychology and takes every possible opportunity to publicly bash university management.
"As students we get a lot of grades, and we're turning the table on legislators," said Justin Chung, a grad student at UC Irvine.
The legislative scorecard is a common lobbying tool for interest groups around the Capitol. They list the bills they care about and "grade" legislators on how they voted. For UC students, important bills from last session included Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's effort to create free digital textbooks, Assemblywoman Toni Atkins' stalled bill to put polling places on every college campus and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's failed attempt to give scholarships to middle-class students by taxing out-of-state corporations.
But the most heavily weighted bill on the student association's scorecard was last year's budget bill, which called for cutting UC's funding by $250 million if voters rejected Proposition 30 on the November ballot. (The initiative passed.) Students opposed that budget, and that's what hurt the grades of Democrats like Block, Yee and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, who each earned a B on the student report card. They voted the students' way on every other bill, but had their grades docked because they approved the budget.
On the flip side, most Republican lawmakers earned F's from the students. Even though they voted against the budget, they also voted against policy bills students supported.
UC Santa Cruz student Maria Jennings said the student group is giving legislators a list of their priority bills for this year, "so they know how to improve their grades."
PHOTO CREDIT: UC Santa Cruz student Maria Jennings (right) explains the University of California Student Association's first legislative report card to the press at the Sacramento Convention Center on Wednesday May 15, 2013. Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall.