Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 9, 2014
Ricardo Lara proposes undocumented student loan program

Lara_undocumented_students.JPGSeeking to close a gap undocumented students face in funding their education, state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, has proposed a new loan program for California's public universities.

Senate Bill 1210 would make available $9.2 million for University of California and California State University campuses to administer loans to undocumented students, who are ineligible for federal financial aid and most private loans.

"Many undocumented students still lack the financial wherewithal to pay for school," Lara said at a press conference Wednesday. Faced with an estimated financial aid gap of $5,000 to $6,000 at UC and $3,000 at CSU, "they are having to risk a withdrawal from college."

California has already taken several steps over the past 13 years to make college more affordable for undocumented students. In 2001, the Legislature extended in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who graduated from a California high school. Three years ago, it made them eligible to apply for Cal Grants.

But undocumented students at the press conference said that can still leave them thousands of dollars short to cover costs such as housing, books, transportation and food.

"Unfortunately, immigrant students like me sometimes need extra funds to pay for school, but we have nowhere to turn," said Deisy Caro, a recent Sacramento State transfer who said she worked while attending community college part-time for seven years to pay for her education.

Lara was joined at the event by Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez and UC President Janet Napolitano, who said the university "stands strongly behind this bill" to put undocumented students on equal footing with their peers.

"They have done everything right," Napolitano said. "It's about opportunity and it's about fairness."

Napolitano's support for the bill comes amid continuing controversy over the role she played in deporting undocumented immigrants as Secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama.

Her appointment as UC president last fall was strongly opposed by campus immigration activists. UC Berkeley law students had planned another protest for Wednesday evening outside an event Napolitano was scheduled to attend.

"If you look at my record going back to when I was governor (of Arizona), I was always strongly in support of the DREAM Act," the deportation deferment for undocumented minors, Napolitano told The Bee following the press conference. "Those students don't know the whole story or the whole record."

PHOTO: Sen. Ricardo Lara announcing SB 1210 to expand college financial aid for undocumenmted immigrants. He is joined, left to right, by UC Davis student Ana Maciel, UC President Janet Napolitano and Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez at the State Capitol on April 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

April 2, 2014
Website allows tracking of Prop. 30 money to schools

PROP30.JPGProposition 30, enacted by voters in 2012 to temporarily raise sales taxes and income taxes on the wealthy, was touted by Gov. Jerry Brown and other proponents as an alternative to making billions of dollars in cuts to state school spending due to state budget deficits.

Since its enactment, state Controller John Chiang reported Wednesday, Proposition 30 has pumped about $13 billion into local school district coffers. Chiang unveiled a new website, entitled Track Prop. 30, that allows users to plug in their local school districts and see their total budgets and the portions being financed through Prop. 30.

As large as the $13 billion may be, it's still a relatively small portion of K-12 and community college finances, which approach $70 billion a year from all sources. The website reveals, for instance, that during the 2012-13 fiscal year, the latest for which complete data are available, Los Angeles Unified, the state's largest district, had $5.7 billion in revenues from all sources, but Proposition 30 provided just $659.4 million or 12 percent.

Proposition 30, which raised sales taxes fractionally and imposed surtaxes on high-income taxpayers, generates about $6 billion a year and by long-standing constitutional law, a large chunk of the revenue stream must go to schools.

The tax hikes will begin expiring in 2017-18, however, and whether - and how - their revenues to schools will be replaced is still uncertain. Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, has called for making the tax increases permanent, but that would take another ballot measure or two-thirds votes in both houses of the Legislature, plus Brown's signature.

PHOTO: Students, dignitaries and supporters cheer on Gov. Jerry Brown who holds up a campaign sign and encourages students to vote yes for Proposition 30 at Sacramento City College. Thursday, October 18, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

March 12, 2014
New ad campaign tells California parents to talk, read and sing

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Jack and Jill's climb up the hill received a rare mention at a Capitol press conference Wednesday morning, as several legislators touted a new $9 million publicity campaign to get California parents to spend more time talking, reading and singing with their children.

That kind of face-to-face interaction between parents and small children helps young brains develop and leads to greater achievement later in life, according to research promoted by First 5 California, which uses money from cigarette taxes to offer services for children up to age 5.

The agency is required to spend 6 percent of its funds on mass media efforts. It's spending $9 million on an advertising campaign that launches statewide on Thursday pushing a simple message on parents: "Talk. Read. Sing."

Several wriggly toddlers sat through the unveiling of the ad campaign Wednesday that included Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva leading the room in reciting the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme.

"Why do you remember that? Because you were taught it," said Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton.

"We have entered a decade where many of our favorite rhymes and songs have stopped being taught. We see people on their cell phones. We see people texting and they're not talking. I see moms with their strollers and they're not talking (to their children). They're talking on their phones."

Other legislators used the event to promote their bills on early childhood education. Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, plugged his SB 837 which would create public preschool for all 4-year-olds at a cost of at least $1 billion a year.

"By age 3 kids born into low-income families have heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers. That leaves many California children predestined for success or failure before they enter kindergarten," Steinberg said.

As he pointed to the front row of the press conference, where several parents tried to keep their children quiet with bottles and snacks, Steinberg said: "Parents, all parents, should understand that what they choose to do on a daily basis makes a huge difference. And these little ones are never too young to start learning."

PHOTO: Parents and children listen as legislators and advocates in the Capitol introduce a new ad campaign geared at them. The Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall

March 10, 2014
Financial aid program sees big boost in electronic submissions

financial_aid.JPGThe California Student Aid Commission reports a rise in the number of high schools submitting students' grade-point averages electronically, as state legislators weigh whether to require the electronic GPA reports.

The commission, which runs the Cal Grant scholarship program, said it has received 383,948 electronic GPA submissions for this year's awards, up from 290,468 in 2013. Verification of GPA is the second part of a two-step process for determining whether students qualify for the scholarships.

Diana Fuentes-Michel, executive director of the student aid commission, credited pilot partnerships with school districts such as Los Angeles Unified for the boost in electronic GPA submissions. The commission is still sorting through another 30,000 paper applications.

"The numbers continue to show that students, especially those trying to enter college, have gotten the message that there is student aid available," Fuentes-Michel said. "But we need to do more to streamline the process."

That is the goal of the bill introduced last month by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, which would require high schools to submit electronic GPAs for all graduating seniors to the student aid commission. About 50,000 Cal Grant applications last year were not considered because the GPA could not be verified.

PHOTO: Prospective student Eva Vega, left, is counseled by financial aid technician Sonia Diaz during a college workshop at the Mexican Consulate office in Sacramento on February 1, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

March 6, 2014
California school spending goal would cost $36 billion more

schoolkids.JPGRepresentatives of the Education Coalition told a state Senate budget subcommittee Thursday that despite increases in school spending in the current state budget and promises of more in the next one, California still needs to spend much more money on education.

The Education Coalition, a consortium of unions, school boards and administrators, backed voter approval of Proposition 98, the state's school finance law, in 1988 and lobbies for higher school spending continuously.

How much more would be needed to meet its goal?

Steve Henderson of the California School Employees Association, representing the Ed Coalition, told the committee that its aim, implied in Proposition 98, is to raise spending to the per pupil average of the nation's 10 highest-spending states on education.

No number was mentioned, but Census Bureau data indicate that reaching that goal for six million K-12 students would cost about $36 billion more a year.

The latest data Census Bureau report on school spending is three years old, and pegs California's per pupil spending from all sources at $9,139 per pupil in 2011 and the national average at $10,560. Individual states ranged from a high of $19,076 in New York to $6,824 in Idaho.

The average for the 10 highest-spending states was $15,181, $6,042 above California, and raising it to that level would translate into $36.3 billion more a year. Since 2011, California has increased spending substantially - to at least $10,000 per pupil from all funds - but other states have done so as well, so the California's relative standing probably hasn't materially changed.

The Education Coalition cites Education Week magazine's rankings, which count only state and local funds and omit federal funds, that peg California's spending at $8,341 per pupil, $3,523 under the average of $11,864 for all states. Raising California school spending to that level would cost about $20 billion more a year.

PHOTO: At right, Maiya Miller, 8, hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary school in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, September 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

February 3, 2014
California's school money fight heads to new venue

kirst_blog.jpgThe Office of Administrative Law is an obscure branch of the governor's office that was created more than three decades ago, during Jerry Brown's first governorship, to ensure that rules issued by state agencies comply with the law.

That function makes it the next venue for opponents of the state Board of Education's newly adopted rules governing the expenditure of billions of extra dollars meant to enhance the educations of poor and "English learner" students.

It's Brown's pet education reform and he supported the state board's embrace of "flexibility," giving local school districts leeway in determining how best to spend the extra money on the targeted kids, who are nearly 60 percent of the state's six million K-12 students.

However, critics - civil rights advocates and business-backed reform groups - say that the flexibility could mean that the additional spending is diverted into other uses, such as raises for teachers. And one of the opposition groups, EdVoice, is asking the Office of Administrative Law to declare that the new rules - which are technically emergency regulations - violate the authorizing legislation enacted last year.

EdVoice has submitted a letter to the OAL, detailing how it believes that the state school board acted beyond its statutory authority.

"The unlawful elements must be cured and ambiguities must be resolved within the formal rulemaking process," Ed Voice president Bill Lucia told the OAL.

PHOTO: Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 3, 2014
California only mediocre in use of Internet

Google.JPGCalifornia, the birthplace of the personal computer, is only mediocre in its Internet use vis-à-vis other states, a new Census Bureau report reveals.

California's 35.9 million residents over the age of 3 are less likely to access the Internet from home or other locations than those in other states.

California's home access rate in 2012 was 68.5 percent, under the national average of 69.1 percent, while its non-home access rate, 73.5, is below the 74.7 percent national rate.

Only in a third category, living in a home with Internet access, does California's 81.3 percent surpass the national rate of 79.3 percent.

The Census Bureau survey found that Oregon had the highest percentage of residents with Internet access at home, 87.9 percent, while Mississippi was lowest at 64.8 percent.

California's relatively mediocre use of the Internet may reflect its racial and ethnic complexity and wide income disparities. The survey found that home Internet use was highest among Asians at 85 percent, followed by whites at 78.6 percent, with use by Latinos (64.5 percent) and blacks (61.9 percent) much lower.

Likewise, 91.7 percent of Americans with college degrees accessed the Internet from home, dropping down to as low as 39.3 percent of those with less than high school educations.

Therefore, states with large white majorities, such as Oregon, and/or relatively high levels of education had the highest rates of Internet access and use.

Educators have tabbed Internet access as a key ingredient in overcoming what they call the "achievement gap" between white and Asian students on one end and black and Latino youngsters on the other. Los Angeles Unified and some other school districts with high levels of non-white students are trying to overcome the Internet gap by issuing tablets to their students.

PHOTO: In this Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, file photo, Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman, speaks during a press conference in New York. Associated Press/Bebeto Matthews.

January 29, 2014
California sees sharp drop in school expulsions, suspensions

willful.JPGA campaign by civil rights groups and their political supporters to reduce suspensions and expulsion of public school students due to their disproportionate effect on black and Latino youngsters may be paying off.

The state Department of Education reported Thursday that there were sharp drops of both kinds of disciplinary actions during the 2012-13 school year - 14.1 percent in the former and 12.3 percent in the latter - from the previous year.

State schools chief Tom Torlakson hailed the trend, saying in a statement, "Educators across California work hard to keep students in school and learning. It can be a challenge to find the balance between maintaining a safe learning environment and giving young people the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. But we're working with schools and districts throughout the state to do exactly that."

While the declines were similar among all ethnic groups, black and Latino students still had suspension rates higher than their proportions of the state's six million K-12 students, while those of white and Asian students were lower.

Critics have said that school officials are too quick to rid themselves of troublesome students, often by citing "willful defiance" as the cause, and have pushed legislation to make such discipline more difficult. "Willful defiance" suspensions dropped 23.8 percent in 2012-13 while expulsions for that rationale declined by 18.6 percent.

Overall, suspensions decreased from 709,596 to 609,471 and expulsions from 9,758 to 8,562.

A bill making it more difficult to expel students for willful defiance, Assembly Bill 420, cleared the Assembly last year and is pending in the Senate. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed two bills on the topic in 2012.

PHOTO: Actors Marcenus Earl as Principal Burton, left, and Donald Calhoun as Thomas play out a scene from a production called, "Willfull" in a hearing room at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The people in the play are students, community members and actors who are supposed to have had personal experience with harsh discipline. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton


January 27, 2014
California school-construction needs as high as $12 billion, subcommittee reports

cityschools.JPGCalifornia needs as much as $12 billion in additional school-building money and almost $5 billion in modernization money, according to estimates in a report to the state board that oversees school-construction dollars.

Voters have approved about $35 billion in school-construction and modernization bonds since 1998, most recently in 2006. But the money is nearly exhausted amid talk of crafting another school bond for a future ballot.

Officials, though, have called for changes to the state School Facility Program that awards bond funding. Last Wednesday's report to the State Allocation Board by the subcommittee on the school facility program included recommendations to discourage the use of bond money for portable classrooms, to require districts to commit to spend money maintaining bond-funded buildings, and to conduct an inventory of all school facilities.

The report does not suggest a specific dollar amount for a future school bond. The state needs anywhere from $6 billion to $12.3 billion in school-construction dollars, according to the report, and about $4.7 billion in modernization funding.

Gov. Jerry Brown also has raised concerns about the cost to the state of borrowing to build schools. In his budget proposal earlier this month, Brown wrote that a revamped school-construction program should "avoid an unsustainable reliance on state debt issuance that characterizes the current school facilities program."

The subcommittee included representatives of the Brown administration, schools superintendent Tom Torlakson, Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who leads the Assembly Education Committee.

Buchanan is crafting school-bond legislation for the November ballot that will reflect some of the report's recommendations.

PHOTO: At right, Maiya Miller hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary school in Sacramento on Tuesday, September 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

January 23, 2014
California low in education spending, high in welfare

kindergarten.JPGCalifornia spent a below-average proportion of its state budget on education in 2012, vis-à-vis other states, but had one of the nation's highest relative levels of welfare spending, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The report lists California's expenditures from all funds, including federal aid, at $215.1 billion in 2012 and says that the $72.7 billion it spent on education represented 33.8 percent of the total, two percentage points lower than the national average.

At the same time, however, California spent $69.1 billion on welfare, or 32.1 percent, well over the national average of 29.7 percent and 8th highest among the states.

To look at the data another way, California spent more on education than the entire budgets of all but three other states - New York, Texas and Florida - and its welfare spending was higher than total spending of all but four other states, those three plus Pennsylvania.

PHOTO: Kindergarten teacher Katherine Hoffmore, left, works on a bead project with McKayla Parker, 6, right, where they learn to repeat patterns at Greer Elementary School in Sacramento on Jan. 17, 2013.

January 10, 2014
California schools rank low - again - in Education Week report

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California's public education system — not for the first time — has been given a low grade in Education Week's annual state-by-state evaluation of school finances, teacher preparedness, academic achievement and other benchmarks.

The magazine gives California a "D" with a cumulative score of 72.4 on a 100-point scale, 10th lowest among the states. Subpar financing — the lowest in the nation — and poor academic achievement weighed heavily on the state's evaluation.

But the data are not up-to-date, especially the financial data, and a $10 billion boost in state aid to schools proposed this week by Gov. Jerry Brown could improve its standing.

The Education Week finance information, published Friday, is three years old. It pegs per-pupil spending from state and local sources on California's six million students at $8,341 in 2011, a few hundred dollars less than what the state calculated because Education Week adjusts the number downward for California's relatively high cost of living.

That number is the lowest among the 50 states, about $3,500 under the national average of $11,864.

Brown's proposed 2014-15 budget would, he says, raise per-pupil spending to $9,194, but whether it would increase California's standing vis-à-vis other states depends on what they do this year as well.

Clearly, however, it would still leave California well below the national average, whatever it might be. Reaching the national average, California authorities have calculated, would cost at least $18 billion more a year.

California students' performance on achievement tests also drags down the state's standing vis-à-vis other states. It consistently ranks near the bottom in elementary and middle-school reading and mathematics tests and mediocre in high school graduation rates.

Brown, citing the particularly low achievement of poor and "English-learner" students, persuaded the Legislature last year to direct more state aid to districts with large numbers of those kids.

Massachusetts scored the highest in the Education Week evaluation with 91.4 while Nevada was lowest at 65.7.

PHOTO: Pleasant Grove High School students get off their bus on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 9, 2014
Fun with numbers - details of Jerry Brown's proposed budget

Brownbudget.pngIt's time for some fun with numbers -- state budget numbers -- as found in the summary of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed 2014-15 budget:

-- Brown's proposed budget for 2014-15 is about 15 times as large as the first one he managed for the 1975-76 fiscal year.

-- The governor pegs the total 2014-15 budget of the general fund, special funds and bond funds at $154.9 billion, but the real number is well over $200 billion, when federal funds are included. That's the equivalent of more than 10 percent of California's entire economic output.

-- Most of the federal money underwrites health and welfare services and K-12 education. The "health and human services" budget, for instance, is $118 billion, but the state's general fund would contribute only $28.8 billion of that total, with most of the rest coming from the feds.

-- Spending on elementary and high schools would top $76 billion, with $45.3 billion from the general fund, another $16 billion from local property taxes and the final $15 billion mostly from the federal government. That translates into $12,833 for each of the state's six million K-12 students.

-- During the 2007-8 fiscal year, the state pumped $3.3 billion of general fund money into the University of California's $12 billion general purpose spending, but during 2014-15, the state's contribution would be $2.8 billion while revenue from tuition and student fees would have climbed from $6.6 billion in 2007-08 to $12.2 billion in 2014-15.

-- During that same period, the state's share of running the state university and college system would shrink less dramatically, from $3 billion to $2.5 billion while student fees would increase from $2.8 billion to $5.5 billion.

-- Although the state's prison population has dropped by about 30,000 inmates in recent years, thanks to pressure from federal judges about overcrowding, the state's spending on "corrections and rehabilitation" hasn't shrunk and, in fact, appears to have grown.

The 2014-15 budget pegs corrections at just under $12 billion, including sales taxes that the state gives counties to handle felons that have been diverted into local jails and supervision under "realignment." Spending on inmate health and dental care alone - another source of federal judicial pressure - has risen from an average of $7,580 per inmate in 2005-06 to a projected $18,415 in 2014-15.

-- During Brown's first stint as governor nearly four decades ago, the sales tax was the No. 1 generator of general fund revenues at 41 percent in 1975-76, with income taxes trailing at 34 percent. The 2014-15 budget projects income taxes to be almost 66 percent of the state's revenues and sales taxes just 23 percent.

--The proposed budget, if enacted, would spend the equivalent of 8.17 percent of Californians' personal incomes, by no means the highest level, but also not the lowest, since 1950, according to a chart in the budget.

The highest relative level of spending, 8.83 percent, occurred during the 1980-81 fiscal year, when Brown was serving his first stint as governor, and again in 2007-08 during Arnold Schwarzenegger's governorship. The lowest level, 4.62 percent, occurred in 1951-52, when Earl Warren was governor. Since 1975, the lowest has been 7.28 percent in 1983-84. the first budget for then-Gov. George Deukmejian.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. to include more historic data.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown presents his proposed budget at the state Capitol on Jan. 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Alexei Koseff


January 9, 2014
State school board seeks compromise on spending rules

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The state Board of Education appears to be playing King Solomon — splitting the baby — as it contends with competing demands on how to implement the state's new program of giving extra money to school districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students.

With billions of dollars at stake in the "Local Control Funding Formula" championed by Gov. Jerry Brown, civil rights groups and other advocates for poor children denounced the original version of regulations as being too loose, while school officials tended to praise them for the "flexibility" they sought.

The board, its staff and its consultants digested the criticism and have released a revised version of the rules, which will be discussed and perhaps approved at a Jan. 16 school board meeting.

The board's agenda for the meeting includes not only the revised rules themselves but
a chart that explains the revisions and how they responded to the criticism.

Overall, they appear to tighten up the rules for spending the extra money, but don't go as far as the critics - who included the Legislature's leadership - had wanted. The biggest change is providing more specificity and detail on how districts calculate the extra services they must provide to the targeted kids. But the new rules do not, as the critical groups sought, require that the extra money be spent exclusively on those students.

Brown, citing the principle of "subsidiarity," has called for giving districts as much flexibility as possible, but critics say that leaving the extra spending to the districts could result in its being diverted into other purposes.

Overall, about 60 percent of the state's six million K-2 students are classified as poor because of their qualification for free or reduced-price school meals and/or English-learners.

Meanwhile, EdSource, a website that intensively covers California education, has published a complete guide to the new program and how it would work.

PHOTO: California Board of Education president Michael Kirst in November 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 7, 2014
Children Now faults California for well-being of its children

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California is doing a poor job of meeting the health, education and economic needs of its children, Children Now, an Oakland-based advocacy organization, says in its latest Children's Report Card.

The unmet needs for well-being are especially acute among the nearly half of California's children who live in low-income households, the organization's president, former Assemblyman Ted Lempert, said.

"The declining status of kids in California is the biggest threat to the health and economy of our state," Lempert said in a statement accompanying the report. "Californians across the board want to see children doing better and we need to hold the state's policymakers more accountable this year for making that happen."

The annual report covers 27 issues, giving the state a grade in each, noting where there has been progress and making recommendations for action. It praises, for example, the newly enacted overhaul of state school finance that directs more money to school districts with large numbers of poor and English-learner students, but says that overall financing of the state's schools remains about $3,500 per pupil below the national average.

All of the Children Now recommendations would cost substantial amounts of money. Just raising school spending to the national per-pupil average, for instance, would take another $21 billion a year. But the organization's report contends that spending the money would pay economic dividends for the state in the future.

PHOTO: Children participate in the 10 years-old and under race during the Superheroes 5K run on June 16, 2013 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

December 16, 2013
California low in school spending, but high in teacher salaries

teacher1.JPGGenerally, the states that spend the most on their public schools also have the highest teacher salaries, but there's one notable exception - California - as newly compiled data reveal.

California's average teacher salary is the fifth highest in the nation this year, but its per-pupil spending is the 12th lowest - indicating that the state is committing an extraordinarily high proportion of each school dollar to those salaries and relatively little on administration and other school expenses.

California's estimated average teacher salary, $69,324, comes from the newly published Digest of Education Statistics, compiled by the federal government's National Center for Education Statistics.

Its 12th lowest level of per-pupil spending, $9,202, is found in the statistical report from the National Education Association for the 2012-13 school year. The national average is $11,068.

The states immediately above and below California in teacher salaries all spend much more on their schools, as measured by the average per pupil.

December 12, 2013
Rules on spending extra California school money redrafted

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With a January deadline looming, the state Board of Education appears to be seeking a middle path between highly polarized positions among education stakeholders on how a new program aimed at raising achievement by poor and "English-learner" students will be implemented.

While school boards, administrators and unions want "flexibility" in spending the extra money going to districts with large numbers of the targeted students, civil rights groups and business-backed reform groups want more specificity in how the money is to be spent.

The latter sharply criticized the first draft of regulations and during a lengthy board hearing earlier in the fall and more recently, legislative leaders have joined in the criticism.

In response, a consultant to the board, WestEd, has published a revised draft of guidelines that appears to be more specific than the original, but still may not satisfy the critics.

The board is supposed to finalize its regulations by late January and both factions have been hammering Michael Kirst, the education professor who presides over the board and is the originator of the "weighted formula," which Gov. Jerry Brown embraced.

The new draft proposes more specific burdens on school districts to demonstrate that the extra money is being spent on the targeted students, rather than on broader categories. The civil rights and reform groups have said they fear that the money will be dissipated into higher salaries for teachers and other areas than don't directly impact the educations of children who have fallen behind their peers in education skills.

PHOTO: Pleasant Grove High School students get off their bus in 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

December 11, 2013
Assembly Democrats seeking to spend most of California surplus

ha_perez_III.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez unveiled a "blueprint for a responsible budget" Wednesday that appears to spend most, if not all, of the state's projected surplus in the 2014-15 fiscal year and may conflict with Gov. Jerry Brown's priorities.

Pérez didn't place a price tag on the new spending, which he termed "investment," but said he and his fellow Assembly Democrats want to boost state aid to colleges and expand safety net services to the poor, including a boost in welfare grants.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, Pérez and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, said they want to end the 2014-15 fiscal year with a $2 billion reserve and build that to as much as $10 billion over the next several years.

Mac Taylor, the Legislature's budget analyst, forecasts that without new spending, the state would end the year with a $5.6 billion surplus, thus indicating that the price tag for the Assembly's expansion plans would be at least several billion dollars.

Pérez and Skinner said they want to restore money to some programs that were slashed during recession-induced budget deficits, especially those in education and safety net services.

The new spending would include a expansion of the earned income tax credit, expanded eligibility for welfare payments to low-income workers, expanding the "CalFresh" program of food benefits, raising Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, expanding child care, and making transitional kindergarten universally available to all four-year-old children.

PHOTO: Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, speaks during a press conference on Friday, December, 11, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

November 26, 2013
California legislative leaders raise school-funding concerns

SteinbergAtHighSchool.jpgTop Democrats in the Legislature have poured cold water on proposed regulations to carry out the landmark overhaul of the state's school-funding formula.

Suggesting that the draft rules are "inconsistent with the intent and letter" of the Local Control Funding Formula law enacted in June, Monday's letter to Board of Education President Michael Kirst calls for changes that would provide "required state guidance to ensure that funds allocated for the neediest students are spent for their benefit."

"If statutory changes are needed to realize the promise of the of the LCFF, we are prepared to make them," concluded the letter from Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and the Democratic leaders of education and budget committees in both houses.

The Local Control Funding Formula, championed by Gov. Jerry Brown, aims to target more state money at English learners, students receiving free meals and foster children. The formula was part of this year's budget package, but lawmakers left the regulatory details up to the state Board of Education. The state board took testimony earlier this month and is scheduled to adopt final regulations in January to carry out the formula.

Brown champions the concept of "subsidiarity" and has said that local school officials are in the best position to decide how to use the money to best help students.

Some civil-rights and school-reform groups, though, want tighter rules to ensure that the money is actually spent to help the neediest students.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg talks with students at Health Professions High School in Sacramento on October 28, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall

November 13, 2013
VIDEO: Janet Napolitano says student protesters have the wrong impression

UC Regents.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - University of California President Janet Napolitano only occasionally looked up to watch the students hurling insults at her - "mass deporter," "top cop," "the person responsible for tearing apart families" - or demanding her resignation Wednesday.

After all, it has been like this ever since it was announced in July that Napolitano, President Barack Obama's then-homeland security secretary, would come to California to take over UC.

The Department of Homeland Security deported a record number of undocumented immigrants during Napolitano's tenure, and protesters at a meeting of the UC's governing board Wednesday were not quieted by Napolitano's previous assurances that the UC welcomes undocumented immigrants and that she will push for a change in federal law to prevent the deportation of students brought here illegally as children.

At a news conference held during a break in the meeting Wednesday, a reporter pointed out that "the students really didn't welcome you with open arms."

"Well, some of the students, yeah," Napolitano said.

The Democrat and former Arizona governor suggested the protesters didn't know her.

"I have to say, with all respect, that I think some of the protests were based ... not on knowing me, I mean, just, you know, kind of a paper representation, as it were, that wasn't even complete," Napolitano said. "I think as I continue to work with these students and talk with them, and also with faculty and staff - everybody involved in the educational enterprise of the UC, that's how I'll be judged, not on, you know, some kind of a false impression."

Bruce Varner, the UC's governing board chairman, wasn't asked, but he was standing beside Napolitano and felt compelled to defend her.

"We really are totally confident in her ability to lead the university," he said.



PHOTO: University of California police look out at a group of protesters against new UC President Janet Napolitano outside a UC Board of Regents meeting Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, in San Francisco. Associated Press/Eric Risberg

November 13, 2013
University of California president proposes tuition freeze

USNEWSNAPOLITANO.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - University of California President Janet Napolitano on Wednesday proposed freezing undergraduate tuition for the 2014-15 academic year, a move she said will give officials time to consider overhauling the UC's tuition system.

Napolitano, speaking at her first meeting of the UC regents since becoming president, said administrators will look for a "better way" to set tuition to avoid dramatic price increases in future years.

"We need to figure out, in the real world in which we live, how to bring clarity to, and reduce volatility in, the tuition-setting process," she said. "It's time for this university to collaboratively come up with a better way."

One option she said officials will consider is a so-called "cohort tuition," in which students are assured the tuition they pay when entering college will not dramatically change during their four years in school.

Napolitano's proposal to keep undergraduate tuition steady for a third consecutive year is in line with Gov. Jerry Brown's funding proposals. The Democratic governor has called for moderate annual increases in the UC budget as long as the UC does not raise tuition at least through 2016-17 academic year.

PHOTO: Janet Napolitano, then director of the Department of Homeland Security, shown on April 17, 2013. Abaca Press/ MCT/ Olivier Douliery.

November 8, 2013
California again scores low in nationwide academic tests

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California again scored very low in the latest round of nationwide biennial testing of elementary students' reading and mathematics skills.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tests were administered earlier this year to fourth and eighth graders and fewer than a third of California's students were rated as proficient in the two skills. Overall, the state ranked in the bottom 10 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia; its worst score was 47th in four grade reading, and its best was 42nd in eighth grade reading.

The brightest spot in the NAEP report on California is that it was one of only 13 states that saw gains in eighth grade reading scores.

While State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the scores showed "that we are moving in the right direction," the continued low - and largely flat - performance of California students was another black eye for the state's largest-in-the-nation education system.

As with past state and federal tests, the newest NAEP results for California also showed a wide gap between the achievements of white and Asian youngsters and black and Latino students - a gap that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature are addressing with a new way of distributing state aid.

Under the new system, school districts with high numbers of poor and/or English-learner students will receive extra money. The state is also at work implementing the Common Core curriculum, a multistate effort to raise academic achievement.

PHOTO: A second-grader reads her assignment in her English language learning class at Cordova Villa Elementary School on Monday, June 10, 2013 in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

November 7, 2013
California's new school finance plan sparks big debate

RB_Clean_School_3_classroom.JPGUpwards of 200 people -- each limited to just a minute -- told members of the State Board of Education on Thursday how an overhaul of California school finance should be implemented to upgrade academic achievement, and all said they represented the interests of the state's 6 million public school students.

However, the 188 speakers -- many of them parents speaking through interpreters -- disagreed sharply on how the extra money should be handled, and some disagreement was evident within the board itself.

November 7, 2013
School survey examines California's Common Core readiness

20120426_PK_FORTUNE_0558.JPGLate last session, after Gov. Jerry Brown had already won approval of his new school funding formula, a bill to nix California's existing standardized tests again pushed education policy into the spotlight.

The bill sought to ease the arrival of new assessments aligned to the Common Core educational standards, aimed at college and career readiness, that nearly every state has adopted. It eliminated California's existing Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR tests.

Rebuffing warnings from the U.S. Department of Education that suspending the tests would dilute accountability, lawmakers said the bill would give districts a needed reprieve from the old system as they prepared teachers for the incoming Common Core standards. Brown's budget also allocated $1.2 billion to prepare districts for the new standards, and lawmakers invoked a sense of urgency.

"The train has left the station," Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, said during a floor debate at the time. "Common Core is here. The teachers are out there doing it."

A new statewide survey of school districts, conducted jointly by the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association and the Sacramento County Office of Education, gauges how far schools have come in preparing for the new standards since the State Board of Education approved them back in 2010.

October 28, 2013
VIDEO: Steinberg talks about trip to Switzerland

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and a small delegation of California state senators recently returned from a trip to Germany and Switzerland to learn about the way those countries teach high school. Today Steinberg visited Sacramento's Health Professions High School, where he talked about what he liked in the Swiss public education system:

October 28, 2013
Steinberg: Making high school relevant is 'top focus'

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California high schools could see an infusion of new programs that link academics with career exposure to provide students a richer learning experience. That's the goal of a competitive $250 million grant process Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is promoting to schools and businesses.

The Sacramento Democrat joined several local education and business leaders at Health Professions High School today to highlight a piece of the 2013-14 state budget that he hopes will give high school a boost of relevancy by connecting students to the world of work. Steinberg encouraged schools and community colleges to collaborate with employers in their region and apply together for grants to create more opportunities for applied learning.

"We want business, we want lead industries to step up and see this not just as a philanthropic add-on or something that would be nice to do for kids, but to see this opportunity as the beginning of a change in our American culture," Steinberg said. "For business, helping educate and train the next century work force is an indispensable part of the bottom line."

High schools could use the grants, for example, to hire someone to serve as an internship coordinator to match students with businesses, or to train teachers to teach academic subjects in a more hands-on way that shows how they relate to careers.

Educators bill the approach as "linked learning," and hold up Sacramento's Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions High School as an example. The school teaches a college-prep academic curriculum but blends it with preparation for careers in health care. During a tour, Steinberg visited an English class where students had read "The Hot Zone," a book about the Ebola virus, and were doing a project about its symptoms.

"Linked Learning students understand how their high school education relates to their next step and beyond," said Deborah Bettencourt, superintendent of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District.

October 16, 2013
Prop. 39 energy retrofit funds heading to California schools

SCHOOLS_0154.JPGState officials have directed $381 million to California schools to retrofit aging campuses for energy efficiency, releasing a list Tuesday that shows how much each district will get.

The money comes from voter approval last year of Proposition 39, which raises taxes on out-of-state corporations. The ballot measure was pushed by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer and state Sen. Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat.

"Used wisely, school districts that are most in need will be able to put a big dent in their energy bills and direct more money to classroom needs," De León said in a statement today. "Everyone wins with energy retrofitting - the students, the environment and workers."

De León's hometown includes California's largest school district and stands to gain the most from the program. Los Angeles Unified is slated to get more than $26 million in grants for energy efficiency, according to the list released by the state Department of Education. The 20 school districts in line to receive the most money are listed below. Scroll over the blue bars to see more detail:

You can see the full list of school districts and charter schools eligible for Proposition 39 funds at this page. Click on the spreadsheet called "Proposition 39 - 2013-14 Entitlements."

PHOTO: A teacher keeps an eye on her class at Greer Elementary School in Sacramento on Jan. 17, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:50 p.m. to clarify that Los Angeles Unified is the state's largest school district.

October 10, 2013
Kamala Harris sues for-profit parent of Heald College, WyoTech

RBDemConvention.JPGA for-profit college chain intentionally deceived prospective students and investors about the value of its degrees and sought out the socially isolated and disadvantaged, according to a lawsuit California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed Thursday.

According to the complaint, Corinthian Colleges Inc. boasted of unrealistically high job placement rates -- as high as 100 percent in some cases -- while discussing in internal documents how to recruit low-income and disillusioned students who are "impatient," have "low self-esteem" or can claim "few people in their lives who care about them."

Part of that strategy entailed "aggressive and persistent internet and telemarketing campaigns" and placing spots on daytime television shows.

Corinthian Colleges Inc. tried to lure students with connections to the military by using the seals of various branches of the armed forces without government approval, according to the attorney general's office.

Originally organized under Delaware state law and based in Santa Ana, Corinthian Colleges Inc. manages more than 20 campuses around the United States. That includes Heald College locations in Fresno, Modesto, Rancho Cordova, Roseville and Stockton and a WyoTech campus in Fremont.

October 9, 2013
Think-tank website compares schools in California, other states

LS_STAR_TESTS_1.JPGEver wonder how California's public schools compare to those of other states?

EdSource, an Oakland-based think tank devoted to California schools, has published an online "motion chart" that compares California's schools to those of other states, not only currently but how yearly comparisons have changed since 1970 with inflation adjustments for economic data.

The interactive website allows users to choose the states for comparison on 16 measures, including such overall factors as population and income, and specific school-related factors such as spending and national test scores. It also includes charts that merge factors, such as correlations between state spending on schools and test scores.

The charts, developed by Jeff Camp of the Full Circle Fund, reveal, among other things that California's spending on schools has decreased over time, both in comparison to other states and relative to such factors as personal income. In 1970, the state was spending 4.4 percent of its personal income on schools. By 2012, that had slipped to 3.2 percent, one of the lowest levels in the nation.

The charts also reveal that California teachers are among the nation's highest paid, while the state's student-teacher ratio is among the highest and its academic test scores are among the lowest.

PHOTO: Sacramento area second graders prepare for the annual state school exams on April 26, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

September 18, 2013
California school aid change already enmeshed in controversy

lunch.jpgA brand-new overhaul of how state aid is distributed to California schools - focusing more money on districts with large numbers of poor and/or English learner students - is already generating controversy.

Big school districts that would be in line for much of the extra money are chafing at new requirements from the state Department of Education on counting eligible students. The law says that children who qualify for free or reduced meals are considered to be poor for purposes of calculating the extra money.

"Never has school lunch meant so much for California education," writer Jane Meredith Adams comments in her article on the dustup on the EdSource website devoted to California public education.

Adams says officials in Los Angeles Unified and Fresno Unified, which stand to benefit greatly from Gov. Jerry Brown's new distribution system, are angry "over a last-minute change in how children who receive free means are counted."

More than half of LA Unified's 650,000 students would be considered poor by qualifying for reduced price meals under federal guidelines. But the Department of Education now wants school systems to re-certify that eligibility.

Local and state education officials have been squabbling over the new requirement for several weeks with John Deasy, LA Unified's superintendent, beating the drums of protest the loudest.

"People will become unglued" if the new requirement makes a significant difference in the money flow, Adams quotes Deasy.

State officials say that recertification is necessary to avoid double- or even triple- counting of students as poor, English-learner or foster children, a third category of qualification for the extra aid.

PHOTO: Fourth-grader Isidro Vasquez, 10, eats a breakfast provided by the school district at Woodbine Elementary School in south Sacramento on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

September 17, 2013
Parcel tax vote change may not change much, PPIC concludes

school.jpgParcel taxes are applied evenly to property parcels regardless of value, unlike regular property taxes, and thus don't run afoul of Proposition 13's constitutional limit.

Some affluent school districts have gained voter approval for parcel taxes. However, they require two-thirds approval and there's been a movement in the Legislature to lower that threshold to either a simple majority or the 55 percent level required of school bonds, saying it would provide much-needed funds for schools.

Legislative leaders have postponed any consideration of a constitutional amendment on parcel taxes at least until next year because changing the vote margin would itself require a two-thirds legislative vote and then statewide voter approval.

Anti-tax groups are geared up for a battle on parcel taxes in the Legislature and, if necessary, at the ballot, while school employee unions and their allies would finance a campaign for change.

It may be much ado about nothing, a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California indicates.

PPIC's researchers studied parcel tax and school bond election results and concluded that even with a lower vote threshold, it's unlikely that many new taxes would be imposed in poor communities, where the need is greatest.

Parcel taxes have been approved in relatively small, affluent districts, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area but tend to be rejected by strong margins in poorer communities, whose residents are less willing to tax themselves.

"A lower vote threshold for parcel tax passage is unlikely to do much to bridge these basic inequalities," PPIC's study team said.

"It is hard to say that lowering the vote threshold for parcel tax passage would expand their reach into new areas of the state or to more disadvantaged students," researcher Eric McGhee said. "This change would likely make it easier for more of the same kind of districts to pass parcel taxes and for districts that already have them to pass more."

PHOTO: At right, Maiya Miller, 8, hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary school in Sacramento on Tuesday, September 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

September 10, 2013
Teacher dismissal bill, once stalled, moves to Senate floor

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Union-backed legislation to revise how teachers can be dismissed, which had been rejected by the Senate Education Committee in July, was resurrected Tuesday, two days before the Legislature's scheduled adjournment.

It moved to the Senate floor after several committee members changed their votes.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, made some minor revisions to the legislation, Assembly Bill 375, last week and then asked the committee to consider it again.

The Buchanan bill was introduced as an alternative to a much-tougher measure that Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, had written in response to a sex abuse case involving a Los Angeles teacher.

Opposed by the California Teachers Association and other unions, the Padilla bill was blocked in the Assembly after clearing the Senate. But Buchanan's measure, which she said would streamline dismissal procedures, was stalled in the Senate committee after winning Assembly approval.

Last week's amendments didn't seem to change the lineup of supporters - unions and state schools Supt. Tom Torlakson - or opponents, a coalition of school districts, administrators and school reform groups.

The latter complained that although the measure changes procedures, it would make some aspects of teacher dismissal, especially in sex cases and other criminal and moral matters, more difficult.

However, Padilla told the committee that he's supporting AB 375, even though it is "a slightly different approach than my bill."

In July, four Democrats voted for AB 375, but three other Democrats, including the committee's chairwoman, Carol Liu, refused to vote, thus leaving it one vote short of passage. On Tuesday Liu voted for the bill, and with other vote changes, it got the five votes it needed to move to the floor.

September 4, 2013
California schools may dump decade-old standardized tests

HA_SCHOOL_BUS2565.JPGCalifornia leaders are proposing to immediately suspend the state's standardized tests that have become a routine part of assessing its schools for the past decade.

New amendments to Assembly Bill 484 would end the use of STAR tests in math and English for the school year now underway. In its place, schools could opt in to new assessments aligned to Common Core Standards.

The bill originally called for 20 percent of the state's schools to participate in a trial run of the new tests. Now, any district can opt in to test the computer-based test this school year.

"I believe that will allow classroom time to be focused correctly on Common Core," said Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a former high school teacher from Concord, who authored the bill.

August 22, 2013
With new money, California schools report less stress

.SCHOOLS_0154.JPGWith billions more dollars to spend, California's school districts are exhibiting fewer signs of financial stress, a new survey from EdSource, a California public education research organization, concludes.

EdSource surveyed officials in California's 30 largest districts, which together account for a third of California's 6 million students.

"Our 2013 survey shows that these school districts are experiencing fewer stresses this year compared to last," the report concluded. "Most notably, there has been a dramatic reduction in teacher layoffs. In addition, many districts have been able to restore some or all of their instructional days trimmed in the prior three years because of budget cuts.

"The foreclosure crisis has eased significantly, and unemployment is lower than it has been in five years, which means some students are likely to be experiencing less stress at home. That should relieve at least some of the pressures on schools to provide a range of support services to ensure that students succeed."

The 2013-14 budget enacted in June provided enough money to keep school spending roughly flat, in comparison to the cuts that had been enacted in previous years, when the state faced severe deficits. The new money came from a temporary sales and income tax increase approved by voters in 2012, along with revenues from a slowly improving economy.

July 31, 2013
University of California 2012 payroll up 6 percent

berkeleycampus.jpgBy Phillip Reese
preese@sacbee.com

The University of California paid its employees across the state $11.22 billion last year, up 6 percent from 2011, according to figures released today.

Academic pay rose by 4 percent to $4.34 billion. Pay for executives and managers rose by 7 percent to $725 million.

"This increase is likely attributable to a combination of factors, including increased research activity and market pressures for more competitive compensation, particularly in the areas of health care, instruction and research," says a statement from UC's Office of the President.

Pay has been a controversial subject across the UC system as tuition continues to increase and state funding has lagged in recent years. The UC Board of Regents recently approved the hiring of a new president, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, at a salary of $570,000 - about $21,000 less than her predecessor.

According to the figure released Wednesday, the number of UC employees grew 2 percent to 191,000 in 2012.

The largest increase in payroll and funding came at the university's teaching hospitals. Pay in health care and allied sciences jumped nearly 10 percent from 2011 to 2012 to $2.56 billion.

Since 2006, UC payroll has increased 37 percent.

PHOTO: This June 1, 2011 photo shows people as they walk through Sproul Plaza near the Sather Gate on the University of California, Berkeley campus Associated Press/Eric Risberg)

July 30, 2013
California will spend $232.9 billion in new state budget

mactaylor.jpgCalifornia will spend $232.9 billion during the 2013-14 fiscal year if the recently enacted state budget is precisely followed.

But the total, outlined in a followup report by the Legislature's budget analyst, Mac Taylor, is only an educated guess, and if past patterns hold true the real levels of income and outgo will be billions of dollars different.

One differential is already known. State revenues are running about $2 billion ahead of the budget's assumptions - as Taylor predicted they would be - and that will affect the money the state must spend on public education, the largest single category in the budget, as well as potentially pay for mid-year increases in health and welfare spending that the Legislature's majority Democrats are seeking.

The state's general fund, from which education and other major state expenditures are financed, is tagged at $96.3 billion in the report, with special funds, such as those devoted to transportation, accounting for another $42 billion, bond spending for $7 billion, and federal funds, mostly for education and health and welfare services, for another $87.6 billion.

Taylor's report - in effect an explanation of the budget in layman's language - not only deals with the money but how it will be spent, including a major overhaul in how school funds are being allocated, with more money going to school districts with large numbers of poor and/or English learner students. It also includes the state's plans to expand Medi-Cal to serve more of the state's medically insured residents, using funds from the federal health care overhaul, and a boost in higher education spending.

PHOTO: Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor, in 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

July 26, 2013
Moody's gives blessing to California's additional school aid

brownbudget.jpgThe extra state aid flowing to California's school districts this year after a half decade of cutbacks is a "credit positive," Moody's Investor Service said Friday, while cautioning school officials against overspending the new money.

"The liquidity of all school districts will improve as the budget reduces payment deferrals and thereby improves the timeliness of aid payments," the credit rating house said in its weekly bulletin. "However, the credit positive budget measures are not a panacea because some school districts will continue to be challenged by expense pressures and growing pension costs."

It notes that under the school finance plan championed by Gov. Jerry Brown and adopted by the Legislature, all districts will receive more money, but those with large numbers of poor, English-learner students will receive markedly more.

"The added funding, which is an important credit factor, could enhance these districts' credit profiles," Moody's says. "Nonetheless, effective management and budgeting of the funding enhancements will shape their longer term credit profile."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs the state budget during a ceremony at the Capitol, Thursday, June 27, 2013, in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

July 24, 2013
CA officials encourage Latino students to pursue higher education

latino.jpgLegislators and state officials extolled the power of education to a group of 120 students participating in the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

High school juniors and seniors from across the state gathered in Sacramento for a weeklong leadership program that included meetings with lawmakers and mock policy debates.

Prominent Latino officials, like Anna Caballero Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing agency and Diana Fuentes-Michel executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, encouraged the students to seek higher education.

Caballero told the students her success would not be possible without education.

"Education is what opened the door to opportunities in my life," Caballero said. "To become a lawyer, to have my own business, to become the mayor of Salinas, to be elected to the state Assembly, and now to be appointed as a cabinet secretary to Gov. Jerry Brown."

More than 90 percent of the 3,800 students who have participated in the 31 years of the program have gone on to attend college. Alicia Vidales-Vera, a 17-year-old student from Wasco., hoped to become one of them.

Vidales-Vera's parents are farmworkers, who she said had to drop off her and her four siblings with a babysitter every day at 4 a.m. to get to work on time. Their struggle to support her family inspired her to apply to the program, she said.

"I am a first-generation college bound, and I am inspired to attend a university," she said. "Without the support given to me by my family and friends, I would not be here today."

July 18, 2013
Report: Online ed project backed by Jerry Brown on pause

udacity.jpgSix months after Gov. Jerry Brown touted a deal between San Jose State University and an online education startup, Inside Higher Ed reports that the arrangement is on pause.

Under the deal, Udacity was to provide entry-level courses for credit online. According to the website:

San Jose State Provost Ellen Junn said disappointing student performance will prompt the university to stop offering online classes with Udacity this fall as part of a "short breather."

Junn wants to spend the fall going over the results and talking with faculty members about the university's online experimentation, which extends beyond the Udacity partnership and has proved somewhat controversial. She said the plan is to start working with Udacity again in spring 2014.

"I think the commitment is to look at the data carefully and make adjustments," Junn said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Read the full story here.

PHOTO: San Jose State University President Mohammad Qayoumi, right, laughs as Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during a news conference in San Jose on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. San Jose Mercury News/Gary Reyes

July 18, 2013
California redistributes $4 billion in redevelopment funds

HA_SCHOOL_BUS2565.JPGThe erasure of California's local redevelopment agencies and the redistribution of their revenues and assets resulted in nearly $4 billion in payments, according to a new report from the state Department of Finance.

K-12 schools and community colleges received about $1.5 billion from the redistribution. That indirectly lowered their payments from the state's general fund -- the main rationale for dissolving the local redevelopment agencies.

Most of the redevelopment agencies had been operated by cities, which also received redistributed funds, as did school districts, counties and special districts. Cities got $605 million, the report said, and counties $862 million.

The report lists payments to each local government and school district, along with county totals. Agencies in Los Angeles County, which contains about a quarter of the state's population, received $1.1 billion in redistributed funds.

PHOTO: Students get off a school bus at Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/ Hector Amezcua

July 17, 2013
Gavin Newsom: Napolitano's pay at UC 'in the ballpark'

AOC_Gavin_Newsom_097w.JPGLt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said today that Janet Napolitano will be a good leader for the University of California, despite objections from immigration activists about the large number of deportations during her tenure as the U.S. secretary of homeland security.

"She works for the president of the United States. Her job is to execute in that position the policy of the chief executive officer. Those were the president's policies," Newsom said in a phone interview with The Bee this morning.

The lieutenant governor serves on UC's board of regents and is acting governor while Gov. Jerry Brown is on vacation in Europe,

"They were particularly effective on the deportation side to a degree we haven't seen in recent history," Newsom added. "But it was not a policy, I believe, ... that emanated from Janet Napolitano. I believe that policy came from the White House."

July 12, 2013
Rapid Response: Janet Napolitano is new UC president

napolitanoobama.jpgDepartment of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday that she will leave the federal government to become president of the University of California system.

Politicians and officials were quick to issue statements on Napolitano's decision. Here's a few of their reactions:

President Barack Obama

"I want to thank Secretary Napolitano for her outstanding work on behalf of the American people over the last four years. At the Department of Homeland Security, Janet's portfolio has included some of the toughest challenges facing our country. She's worked around the clock to respond to natural disasters, from the Joplin tornado to Hurricane Sandy, helping Americans recover and rebuild. Since day one, Janet has led my administration's effort to secure our borders, deploying a historic number of resources, while also taking steps to make our immigration system fairer and more consistent with our values. And the American people are safer and more secure thanks to Janet's leadership in protecting our homeland against terrorist attacks. I've come to rely on Janet's judgment and advice, but I've also come to value her friendship. And as she begins a new chapter in a remarkable career of public service, I wish her the best of luck."

Gov. Jerry Brown

"Secretary Napolitano has the strength of character and an outsider's mind that will well serve the students and faculty. It will be exciting to work with her."

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein

"I congratulate Secretary Napolitano on this appointment and wish her great success as she meets the many challenges and embraces the opportunities as the next president of this world-class university system. I know Secretary Napolitano to be both smart and competent--qualities she has demonstrated as Secretary of Homeland Security, an enormous organization with 22 departments and more than 240,000 employees. Her recent support for immigration reform--particularly the bipartisan Senate bill--aided its strong 68-vote passage in the Senate. As the well-respected former governor of Arizona, Secretary Napolitano will also bring to UC a distinguished record of executive experience. Janet Napolitano will make a fine president of the University of California. I welcome her to California and look forward to a new constituent."

U.S. Sen. John McCain

"Janet Napolitano has served our nation with honor over the last four years as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security - one of the toughest and most thankless jobs in Washington. We have had our share of disagreements during her time as Secretary, but I have never doubted her integrity, work ethic or commitment to our nation's security. The people of Arizona can be very proud of our former Governor's service, and I wish her all the best as she assumes leadership of the nation's largest public university system."

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco

"Secretary Napolitano's extensive experience at all levels of government will likely serve her well in the days ahead. I hope she keeps the needs of students, faculty and staff at the forefront after years of devastating tuition increases, questionable spending priorities and a general lack of transparency throughout the UC system. I will be happy to work with her in her efforts to keep the UC's reputation as an affordable means of bringing quality education to all Californians."

Rep. Doug LaMalfa

"It's disappointing to see an individual with such a poor record on civil liberties and government transparency selected to run the University of California. University of California students can look forward to the same authoritarian management style Secretary Napolitano brought to the Department of Homeland Security, hardly a bastion of free speech and open government. While I am pleased to see her leave Homeland Security, Napolitano's views are entirely incompatible with the UC system's history of civil liberties and the decision to appoint her is perplexing."

July 12, 2013
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to head UC system

napolitano.jpgDepartment of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will resign her federal position Friday in order to become president of the University of California system.

Napolitano released a statement confirming a report first made public in the Los Angeles Times:

"After four plus years of focusing on these (homeland security) challenges, I will be nominated as the next President of the University of California to play a role in educating our nation's next generation of leaders," Napolitano said.

Her departure comes as President Barack Obama tries to move a massive immigration overhaul with a divided Congress struggling to find common ground on how to deal with the estimated 11 million people who are in the country illegally.

Napolitano will be the first woman to head the 10-campus system. The former Arizona governor, a graduate of Santa Clara University and the University of Virginia Law School, has previously been mentioned as a potential Supreme Court nominee.

"The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the frontlines of our nation's efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career," Napolitano said.

"We have worked together to minimize threats of all kinds to the American public. The Department has improved the safety of travelers; implemented smart steps that make our immigration system more fair and focused while deploying record resources to protect our nation's borders; worked with states to build resiliency and make our nation's emergency and disaster response capabilities more robust; and partnered with the private sector to improve our cybersecurity."

"While some may consider her to be an unconventional choice, Secretary Napolitano is without a doubt the right person at the right time to lead this incredible university. She will bring fresh eyes and a new sensibility - not only to UC, but to all of California," said Sherry Lansing, a University of California regent.

A former movie executive, and chair of the university's presidential selection committee, Lansing added that Napolitano "rose to the top" among some 300 potential candidates considered.

"Janet Napolitano will make a fine president of the University of California. I welcome her to California and look forward to a new constituent," said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose husband, Richard Blum, has served as a UC regent.

PHOTO: Janet Napolitano, director of the Department of Homeland Security, shown on April 17, 2013, announced on July 12, 2013, that she will resign. Abaca Press/Olivier Douliery

July 3, 2013
California Legislature stalemates over teacher discipline bill

Buchanan.jpgThe Legislature appears to be in a stalemate over changing the disciplinary process for teachers -- an issue that arose out of a high-profile molestation case involving a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Last year, the Senate passed a bill by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, that would make it easier to fire teachers who are accused of gross misconduct, such as sexual abuse. But the measure, Senate Bill 1530, died in the Assembly Education Committee due to strong opposition from teacher unions.

The measure's demise generated broad editorial criticism, and the political fallout reverberated in last year's elections. One Democratic Assembly member who refused to vote for the bill, Betsy Butler of Santa Monica, lost her seat to fellow Democrat Richard Bloom, who hammered her on the issue.

This year, the unions sponsored their own teacher discipline bill, essentially streamlining the process now engraved in the law but not going nearly as far as the Padilla measure.

The union-sponsored measure, Assembly Bill 375, whizzed through the Assembly with strong Democratic support but on Wednesday was rejected by the Senate Education Committee.

The bill, carried by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, garnered four votes from Democrats on the committee, one short of the five required, but no other members voted -- echoing how Padilla's measure had died in the Assembly Education Committee.

Wednesday's non-voters included the chairwoman of the committee, Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge. Buchanan chairs the Assembly Education Committee and had voted against the Padilla bill last year.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan D-Alamo, in 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

July 3, 2013
California bill to restrict long-term school bonds moving again

SCHOOLS_0154.JPGLegislation to crack down on California school districts' issuance of long-term "capital appreciation bonds," which had stalled in the Senate after passing the Assembly, is moving again.

On Wednesday, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, on a 5-0 vote, approved the measure, Assembly Bill 182, after its author, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, softened its restrictions on the bonds.

The changes, however, did not placate school district representatives, who continued to oppose the measure, arguing that it will damage their ability to meet needs for new school construction and upgrading, especially in areas with relatively low levels of taxable property.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer pushed for the legislation, arguing that the use of the CABs, as they have been dubbed, puts local taxpayers on the book for interest payments to bond buyers that may be 10 times or more of the original loan amounts.

June 19, 2013
Website lists earnings for California community college grads

RB_Medical_Class_3.JPGCalifornia Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris debuted a new tool Wednesday that students can use to scope out potential earnings for their course of study.

Salary Surfer lets users search through the median salary for community college graduates two years before, two years after and five years after completing a degree or certificate program. The data covers 179 community college programs and breaks down the colleges that offer each program.

While Salary Surfer caters primarily to current and prospective students who want to look at a specific course of study, Harris said the tool also could help counselors, college directors and policy-makers determine which courses are the most viable.

One of the highest earning programs include a one-year certificate in electrical systems and power transmission at a median salary of $123,174 five years after graduation. Certificate earners in this subject netted higher median salaries than students who earn the corresponding degree, according to the website.

June 19, 2013
Senate committee postpones action on school-bond legislation

SCHOOLS_0154.JPGLegislation aimed at curbing California school districts' use of bonds that have extended repayment periods and high costs stalled in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday after school officials mounted a heavy lobbying campaign against it.

The committee, without a vote, postponed action on the measure, Assembly Bill 182, to give its author, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, an opportunity to seek a compromise acceptable to the school officials.

The measure was sparked by revelations that many school districts had issued capital appreciation bonds, dubbed CABs, at the behest of bond lenders, without revealing their terms before seeking voter approval.

The bonds have maturity periods stretching into several decades rather than the more common 20 years, requiring districts to pay lenders several times the bonds' original face values by postponing principal repayment. They are analogous to widely criticized interest-only home mortgages.

June 6, 2013
Steinberg calls Jerry Brown's education plan '80 percent there'

20121203_HA_ASSEMBLY0856 (1).JPGWith just nine days of budget negotiations left, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg called the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown "basically aligned" on public education funding.

In a conversation with Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, on Thursday, Steinberg credited Brown for including "significant augmentations" to public education in his version of the budget. Steinberg noted only a few points on which he differed from the governor.

"The governor suggested an equity formula that to me was about 80 percent there, but I still object to about 20 percent of it," Steinberg said.

Like Brown, Steinberg wants to include a 35 percent bump in funding for low-income or disadvantaged students. Steinberg, however, championed Senate Bill 69, which would use a different formula to dole out additional money to disadvantaged students in both low- and high-income districts.

"Kids that come from more disadvantaged backgrounds ought to have more resources -- spent well, that's the key piece -- in order to be able to achieve their dreams in life," Steinberg said.

Steinberg also downplayed the role that personality differences play in negotiations, saying his experiences working on budgets with three different governors have been relatively similar.

"In terms of some of the tension points as far as my frustrations at times, I can repeat the same things I've said this budget cycle that I've said in all previous budget cycles," Steinberg said. "The executive is the executive."

Steinberg seemed confident the Legislature and governor could work out the remaining kinks in the budget before the June 15 deadline.

"If there is no creative tension, we're not pushing each other hard enough," Steinberg said.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento during the first day of session at the State Capitol in December 2012. The Sacramento Bee/ Hector Amezcua

June 6, 2013
California politicians still wrangling over Proposition 39 funds

RP_MATH_TEACHER_AND_STUDENT.JPGCalifornia voters last year passed Proposition 39, which changed the way multistate corporations are taxed, creating a big pot of money - about a billion dollars a year - with half required to be spent on energy-saving projects in schools, colleges and other public buildings.

Seven months later, the Capitol's politicians are still wrangling over how to divvy up the more than $400 million going to schools. It's one of the stickiest of several high-dollar issues still in limbo with scarcely a week remaining before the June 15 constitutional deadline to pass a budget.

Just before the Legislature's budget conference committee recessed indefinitely late Wednesday, Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, a co-sponsor of Proposition 39, engaged in a pointed exchange with Gov. Jerry Brown's budget point man, Michael Cohen, over Brown's plan to distribute the school money widely, based on attendance, with every school in the state getting at least a token amount.

That runs counter to plans by de León and other Democratic legislators to concentrate the money on fewer schools with, they say, the largest potential to achieve greater energy savings and create jobs in low-income areas.

May 28, 2013
California's budget conference committee set to convene Friday

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A "conference committee" is a parliamentary device to reconcile differing versions of legislation passed by both houses of the Legislature, but in California's Capitol is rarely used except to produce a final legislative version of the state budget.

The 2013 budget conference committee is scheduled to convene on Friday - 15 days before the constitutional deadline for budget passage - but there are few major differences between the Senate's version of the 2013-14 budget and the Assembly's version.

That doesn't mean that there aren't some serious differences over the budget. However, the conflicts are not within the Legislature, but between its Democratic majorities in both houses and Gov. Jerry Brown. And they will be aired when Brown's representatatives appear before the committee.

Brown wants to take a conservative approach on estimating revenues while the Legislature's budgets embrace a projection by its budget analyst, Mac Taylor, that the state could have $3.2 billion more to spend than Brown assumes.

The legislative budgets would give most of the extra money, if it materializes, to schools, as the state education financing law dictates, and spend much of the remainder to bolster health and welfare programs.

Brown has warned the Legislature publicly that he'll resist any expansion of spending beyond his parameters.

Another point of budget conflict has to do with how the school money, whatever its size, will be distributed. Brown wants to shift more money into districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students but the Legislature has balked at Brown's plan and wants to scale back the extra spending on those students in favor or broader grants of aid to all districts.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown stands for applause with Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento before delivering his State of the State speech in January. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 15, 2013
Brown, Legislature remain at odds on school finance overhaul

steinbergbrown.jpgGov. Jerry Brown reiterated his resolve to remake how California finances public schools by giving districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students more money when he presented a revised state budget this week.

"I think it's fair. I think it's just," Brown declared, adding, "I think it has great moral force."

Defending his plan, Brown stressed that overall, schools will see substantial increases in state aid and 80 percent of the money would still be distributed in "base grants" on a per-pupil basis, with the remaining 20 percent going to districts based on their numbers of poor and English-learner students, and just 4 percent going into "concentration grants to districts with especially large proportions.

But Brown's school plans are continuing to take heavy flak in the Legislature as education factions outside the Capitol ramp up pressure.

May 7, 2013
New revenues ease California school district fiscal woes

RP GOVERNOR PROP 30 SIGN.JPGVoter approval of a multi-billion-dollar tax increase last year has reduced financial pressure on California's nearly 1,000 school districts and thus dropped the number of districts in fiscal distress, the Legislature was told Tuesday.

Joel Montero, who heads the Bakersfield-based Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, told an Assembly budget subcommittee that the number of districts in distress is half what it was a few years ago, when the state was routinely "deferring" billions of dollars in aid to local districts because of its own budget problems.

Last year, voters passed Proposition 30, which hikes sales and income taxes by about $6 billion a year, much of which will go to schools. Gov. Jerry Brown says he wants to spend much of the new revenue to repay the state aid deferrals.

"The impact of Proposition 30 has been positive," Montero said during his annual update on school financial problems.

May 1, 2013
California teacher evaluation bill fails again

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Legislation that would alter how California schools judge teachers flunked another test on Tuesday, failing to advance for the second time in a week.

The Senate Education Committee decided to reconsider the bill after deadlocking last week on a 4-4 vote (it needed five to pass), with Democrats and Republicans falling on both sides. The bill's author, Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, said he had altered his legislation to try and persuade opponents to shift their stance.

Currently, districts are required only to rank teachers as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Senate Bill 441 would create four different grades, which Calderon said is essential for allowing schools to flag the lowest-performing educators, and would increase the frequency of evaluations for veteran teachers from at least every five years to at least every three years.

Calderon said he had amended the bill to emphasize that a section calling for more parent input would not affect collectively bargained contracts. He said he had no intention of dictating how schools would implement the new four-tiered grading system.

"I am not, in this piece of legislation, prescribing what those levels should be or what they should say," Calderon said.

April 18, 2013
UC admits more out-of-state students

MC_CHINESE_UCDAVIS_01.JPGUniversity of California campuses admitted a record high number of students for this fall, data released today show, including fewer in-state residents than last year and more students from other states and countries.

Across campuses statewide, UC admitted 82,850 students for fall enrollment as freshmen, amounting to an acceptance rate of 59.2 percent. Although UC admitted more students than it did last year, it also received more applications, so the statewide acceptance rate was down, meaning a smaller portion of those who applied have been invited to attend. The admissions include 1,354 fewer California residents than last year and 3,915 more non-Californians.

"California students continued to make up the lion's share of admitted students - 60,089. The overall number of admitted state residents varied slightly by campus -- some increased, a few decreased, and others stayed the same," says a statement from UC's Office of the President.

"The slight decline in the number and proportion of admitted students who are Californians reflects the fallout from years of severe budget cuts to UC, which has enrolled thousands of California students for whom it received no state funding."

April 17, 2013
Brown's school funding plan gets thumbs up in statewide poll

jbbudget.jpgKey elements of Gov. Jerry Brown's school-funding proposal are getting passing grades from Californians, a new statewide poll shows.

Brown's push to eliminate most state-driven earmarks and to direct more money to districts with impoverished students was supported by more than two of every three adults surveyed, according to the Public Policy Institute of California poll.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank polled 1,705 adults on weekend days and weekday nights from April 2-9 on landlines and cellphones.

Brown's goal of giving school districts more spending flexibility by eliminating most state education earmarks -- funding restricted to specific programs -- was supported by 78 percent of adults surveyed.

Support dropped only slightly, to 71 percent, when pollsters asked about the governor's plan to direct more funding to districts with large numbers of impoverished students and English learners.

April 9, 2013
California's high school graduation rate rises sharply

PK_CHRISTORY 0259.JPGCalifornia's high school graduation rate rose sharply last year with Latino and black students showing gains higher than those of white and Asian students, state schools chief Tom Torlakson announced Tuesday.

Overall, the Department of Education's annual report said, 78.5 percent of those who started high school in the 2008-09 school year had graduated by 2012, up 1.4 percentage points from the previous year.

Latinos, who were nearly half of the Class of 2012, saw their graduation rate jump by 1.8 percentage points to 73.2 percent and black students' graduation rate rose by 2.9 percentage points to 65.7 percent, still the lowest of any major ethnic group.

The graduation rate among white high-schoolers was 86.4 percent, up 0.7 percent, and that of Asians was 91 percent, also up 0.7 percent.

Not surprisingly, as the graduation rate rose, the dropout rate declined, Torlakson said, to 13.2 percent, down 1.56 percentage points. Another 8.3 percent "are neither graduates or dropouts" and most are still enrolled in school, the report said.

Statistics on individual school districts can be found at the Department of Education's DataQuest website.

PHOTO CREDIT: Students wait to line up the first graduation ceremony of Cristo Rey High School at St Ignatius Loyola Church in Sacramento in 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

March 21, 2013
Steinberg pushes privately funded career training program

steintotheb.jpgCiting a desire to get the business community involved in public education, Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is promoting a bill that would encourage industry to invest in what he's calling "social investment bonds."

Steinberg's SB 594 would authorize California to issue bonds aimed at curbing high school dropout rates by creating programs that train high school students for specific careers. Businesses would be encouraged to put money into those bonds with a promise of a high return on their investment if the program met certain measures of success like graduating more students.

"The principle behind it, which is unique and could be far-reaching in the state and the country, is to say to private industry 'you can do better financially by investing in high schools than you do investing in Wall Street,'" Steinberg said.

The bill would also establish regional trust funds that would be governed by district superintendents, community college leaders and business and industry leaders. Those funds would be used to pay for initiatives like developing new curricula tailored to certain careers and funding fellowship or apprenticeship programs.

March 12, 2013
$10,000 college degree just a 'sound bite,' says CSU chancellor

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During a visit with The Bee's editorial board today, the new chancellor of the California State University system shot down an idea Assemblyman Dan Logue has proposed to create a bachelor's degree that would cost students $10,000.

"A $10,000 degree is a good sound bite. But to be honest, it's flawed public policy because it's misleading," said Timothy P. White, who took the reins of the 23-campus system in December after spending four years leading UC Riverside.

Logue's Assembly Bill 51 calls for closer coordination between high schools, community colleges and California State University campuses, allowing students to earn some college credit in high school through Advanced Placement classes and greater access to community college courses.

White and other CSU leaders are in Sacramento for their annual day of advocacy and meetings with lawmakers. Building relationships with the large number of new legislators is a high priority, he said.

"If California cares about African American students being successful, we are a big part of the success story. Same for the Latino population. We graduate 17,000 Latinos every year. They are all going to vote, for these folks," White said, gesturing toward the Capitol.

"So I just want to remind them of the connection between our success and their success."

March 6, 2013
Mixed bag for Michelle Rhee in Tuesday's school board races

MichelleRhee1.jpgMichelle Rhee's biggest foray yet into local politics in California yielded mixed results yesterday as voters in West Sacramento rejected the school board candidate backed by her education advocacy group while voters in Los Angeles handed a victory to one of the three candidates StudentsFirst supported.

Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools who is married to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, created StudentsFirst to counter the power of teachers unions in state and local politics.

The group formed a campaign committee that supported Francisco Castillo for school board in Washington Unified, the West Sacramento school district. Castillo works as a spokesman for StudentsFirst. Voters in West Sac elected Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, who was backed by the local teachers union.

March 4, 2013
Fewer California school districts in financial distress

RP RALLY TORLAKSON.JPGThe number of California school districts in financial jeopardy has dropped by a third in the last year, state schools superintendent Tom Torlakson said Monday.

Last May, 188 school districts, including several of the state's largest, were either in "negative certification" or "qualified certification," denoting levels of financial distress, but the number has since dropped to 124 - in part because the state is pumping more money into local school coffers from the sales and income tax increase approved by voters last November.

The new list has seven districts with "negative" status, meaning they cannot meet their financial obligations now, the largest of which is Inglewood Unified in Los Angeles County.

Another 117 districts have "qualified" status, meaning they may not be able to meet their obligations. They include the state's largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, and a number of other large districts, such as Oakland Unified, Antelope Valley Joint Union High School, Compton Unified, Pomona Unified, Capistrano Unified, Elk Grove Unified, Sacramento City Unified, San Juan Unified, Folsom-Cordova Unified and San Diego Unified.

Overall, Torlakson said, 500,000 fewer of California's 6 million K-12 students are being schooled in financially distressed districts, but 2.1 million remain in those districts.

PHOTO CREDIT: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, urges legislators to support the tax extension proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown. on March 14, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

February 28, 2013
New school funding plan wins cautious praise in Capitol hearing

RB_Clean_School_3_classroom.JPGThe first legislative public hearing on Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal for a new school funding formula drew scores of people Thursday who generally applauded the concept but criticized details.

Brown is pushing to consolidate funds for state-mandated programs in order to provide a "base grant" of about $6,800 per student, which would be supplemented with extra funds for districts with large numbers of poor students, English learners or foster youth.

The new formula would distribute $1.6 billion in the coming fiscal year.

The governor's goal is to let districts decide for themselves how best to spend money for various school-related "categorical" programs, such as summer school or foster youth programs, while targeting communities with special needs to receive a fiscal boost.

"Clearly a big step has been presented to us, a lot of moving pieces, and we want to do it right," state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said in closing Thursday's nearly five-hour public hearing of the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee he chairs.

February 27, 2013
California appellate court dismisses school budget challenge

In the ongoing tussle over budget rules, a state appellate court has dismissed a challenge from school groups who said California leaders had illegally manipulated the state constitution when they wrote the 2011-12 budget.

The San Francisco-based First District Court of Appeal said Tuesday that even if it ruled in favor of the school groups, "there unquestionably is no effective relief that can be granted" because voters overrode potential legal problems by passing Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 last fall.

Besides increasing income taxes on top earners and the statewide sales tax, the initiative retroactively changed the state constitution so the state could divert just over 1 percentage point of sales tax to local governments without giving a share to schools.

The state's complicated school funding formulas remain an ongoing battleground in the Capitol, with rules still being defined 25 years after voters approved the underlying initiative, Proposition 98. As part of the 2011 budget deal, Brown and lawmakers sent about $6 billion to local governments so they could assume former state responsibilities, most notably housing inmates and watching parolees.

February 22, 2013
California analyst says K-12 funding overhaul has merits

Thumbnail image for Brown.jpgThe nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says in a new report that Gov. Jerry Brown's school funding overhaul has many strengths but questions the retention of some "irrational" relics from the current system that benefit powerful constituents.

California for years has funded schools with a combination of general per-pupil dollars and earmarks dedicated for state-driven purposes. Brown, right, wants to blow up the earmarks and create a new system that gives districts more control and directs more money to schools with impoverished students and English learners.

The governor's proposal would generally help urban and rural districts while proving less beneficial to suburban districts with wealthier families. The Bee explained today how this would play out in the Sacramento region, based on Department of Finance estimates.

The analyst's office finds Brown's system "simple and transparent" compared to the current ways in which the state funds K-12 schools. It relies on a uniform funding formula and gives districts more say in how dollars get spent.

"Currently, the state's categorical programs, as well as the broader education funding system, are based on overly complex and complicated formulas," the report says. "Very few policy makers, taxpayers, school board members, or parents understand or can explain why a particular district receives a particular level of funding."

February 12, 2013
California fiscal analyst assails 'high cost' of state's universities

UC Berkeley 2011.JPGIn a new report issued today, California's top fiscal analyst questioned Gov. Jerry Brown's desire to pour more money into state university systems without demanding a bigger detour from their "high-cost" model.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office believes Brown correctly identified inefficiencies in the state's higher education systems. But it disagrees with the governor's approach and recommends that lawmakers reject several of his higher education proposals, particularly his ongoing funding increases for University of California and California State University.

"Why the state would invest more in a system that is high cost and has poor outcomes without requiring explicit improvement is unclear," the report states.

February 6, 2013
Report: K-12 districts take kids' lunch money for other purposes

RB HealthyFood 5 School Lunch.JPGAs demand for subsidized school meals went unfulfilled, K-12 districts diverted food service money for other purposes such as a new roof and sprinklers, a new state Senate report finds.

Public schools provide 2.4 million free or reduced-price lunches every day in a system that serves 6 million schoolchildren in California. The federal government provides the bulk of funding at $2 billion, with an additional $145 million annually from the state, the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes report says.

But the federal government relies on California Department of Education officials to monitor school lunch programs and ensure the money is being spent appropriately. CDE has required eight districts to repay nearly $170 million in meal money, but the report says the education department is ill-equipped to ensure compliance and that districts may be raiding those funds on a broader scale.

January 18, 2013
UC President Mark Yudof to step down Aug. 31

University of California President Mark Yudof is stepping down from the position he's held for the last five years as head of the prestigious 10-campus system.

Yudof announced today that he will resign on Aug. 31 and assume a new job teaching law at UC Berkeley.

"The prior 18 months brought a spate of taxing health issues. Though these challenges have been largely overcome, I feel it is time to make a change in my professional lifestyle," Yudof wrote in a statement.

He also said the time is right for UC to seek new leadership because a spate of budget cutting appears to be near an end.

"When I arrived in 2008, the economy had begun to unravel and state coffers were tumbling deep into the red. With its budget slashed, the University was presented with one of the most severe challenges in its history. Now, it appears the storm has been weathered. We are not fully in the clear, but we are much closer than we were even a few months ago. I look forward to working closely in the months ahead with Governor (Jerry) Brown, Assembly Speaker (John A.) Pérez, Senate President Pro Tem (Darrell) Steinberg and other state leaders to ensure that the University is positioned to continue on this forward course, which ultimately will benefit all Californians."

January 16, 2013
University of California officials to push ahead with online education

RP YUDOF SPEAKS.JPGSAN FRANCISCO - University of California officials said today that they will move to expand the university's online course offerings, in an apparent political victory for Gov. Jerry Brown.

If successful, the effort could result in a new class of online students treated like those at community colleges, with the opportunity to transfer their credits to UC campuses and enroll.

"The idea would be to create another entry point to the University of California," UC President Mark Yudof said.

Yudof said that within two months he will announce an incentive program for UC professors to develop online courses, focusing on introductory or other high-enrollment courses that can be difficult to get into. He said the UC will establish a system to let students on one campus take online courses at another campus for credit, envisioning a day when 10 percent to 15 percent of all undergraduate courses are taken online.

Yudof said the university has "hit a wall" with regard to traditional instruction and that "it's not the time to be timid."

He said, "Intellectually, emotionally, we're ready."

January 15, 2013
Jerry Brown touts online education pilot at San Jose State

SAN JOSE -- Amid a push by Gov. Jerry Brown to expand online course offerings at public colleges and universities, San Jose State University and an online education startup today announced a deal to provide three entry-level courses for credit online.

The pilot program, if successful, could eventually be expanded statewide, officials said. It is unique because of the low price -- $150 a course -- and because it makes courses available to students who are not enrolled at the university.

The deal with Palo Alto-based Udacity Inc. was announced after Brown approached Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun in June.

"We're talking about our society, our future and how we can all improve our skills, how we can exercise our imagination, and we can come to understand this great learning environment called California," Brown said at a news conference here. "We're about inquiry. We're about knowledge, and we're about reflection and wisdom. Technology helps that."

The Democratic governor is lobbying the University of California and California State University systems to expand online offerings to reach more students. He is also encouraging them to reduce costs, and he is expected to attend a meeting of University of California regents on Wednesday.

January 11, 2013
UC official: Brown's budget likely enough to avert tuition hike

Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan appears to provide sufficient funding to avoid tuition increases at the University of California next year, a UC administrator said this afternoon.

"When you add everything up, I think our initial reaction is that we can manage without a tuition increase for '13-14," Daniel Dooley, senior vice president of external relations at the UC, told The Bee. "We're pretty excited about what he's proposed."

Brown promised while campaigning last year for Proposition 30, his initiative to raise taxes, that its passage would avert tuition increases at public universities this school year. The prospect remained, however, of tuition rising in the fall.

Brown's budget proposal includes an additional $250 million for the University of California system. That amount is less than the UC requested, and the Democratic governor said he would lobby regents to hold tuition steady.

Dooley said, "We think we can get there."

January 2, 2013
Could Californians get a college degree for $10,000?

With the cost of going to college already more than $30,000 a year at many California campuses, is it possible to earn a bachelor's degree for just $10,000 - total?

Assemblyman Dan Logue hopes so.

Borrowing an idea being promoted by Republican governors in Texas and Florida, the Republican Assemblyman from Linda has introduced a bill that would create a pilot program in California for what he's billing as a $10,000 bachelor's degree. The degree would be available to students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math disciplines.

Assembly Bill 51 calls for closer coordination between high schools, community colleges and California State University campuses and targets three regions for the pilot: Chico, Long Beach and Turlock. Participating students would earn some college credit in high school through Advanced Placement classes and greater access to community college courses. The bill calls for participating community college students to go to school full-time. CSU campuses, moreover, would be required to freeze tuition for those in the program.

December 6, 2012
California State University applications keep going up

For the fourth year in a row, the California State University has received a record number of applications.

During the application period that ended Nov. 30, nearly 295,000 students applied for fall admission to at least one school in the 23-campus system, CSU officials reported today. That was an increase of 10 percent from last year.

Freshmen applications were up to 173,985 from 166,028, while transfer applications grew to 108,726 from 92,806. Officials attribute the increase in transfer applications to limits they put on transfer admissions this year because of an uncertain budget situation before voters decided on tax increases in the November election.

"Every CSU campus received more applications from first time freshmen and transfer applicants than last year," said a statement from the CSU Chancellor's Office.

University of California officials plan to release application data for their system in January.

December 6, 2012
California budget spends less than U.S. average on education

Education may be the largest single segment of California's budget, but the state proportionately spends less of its money on elementary and high schools and colleges than the national average, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The statistic is gleaned from the bureau's annual report on state government finances, the latest of which covers 2011.

The report tallies California's "general expenditures" last year at just under $225 billion -- spending from both the state's own taxes and other resources as well as $64.5 billion in federal funds. Education is almost $75 billion of that, according to the report -- or exactly one-third, somewhat below the national average of 35.8 percent.

California's level of education spending in 2011 was fractionally lower than in 2010. Other states ranged from a high of 46.6 percent in Georgia to a low of 24.9 percent in Alaska.

November 14, 2012
New CSU chancellor requests 10 percent pay cut

Timothy P. White, California State University's incoming chancellor, has requested a 10 percent pay cut, saying in a letter to trustees, that he hopes the move will send a signal that "public higher education matters to all of us, and that we each must play a part in the rebuilding."

CSU's board of trustees met today in Long Beach to approve White's compensation package. He was in line to receive the same pay as outgoing Chancellor Charles Reed: a $421,500 salary plus a $30,000 supplement from CSU foundations. After rounding the pay cut White requested to his base salary, he will be paid $380,000 plus the $30,000 supplement.

White, 63, comes to CSU after four years at the helm of UC Riverside, where his pay in 2011 was $327,200.

In his letter to CSU trustees requesting the pay cut, White said voter approval last week of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative does not alleviate all of CSU's financial problems.

"Despite the passage of Proposition 30, there remain grave economic issues to solve in California and the California State University. Indeed, the success of Proposition 30 was the voice of the voters and taxpayers of California to start to reinvest in education," he wrote.

"I also recognize that Californians expect me to properly steward these resources. Consequently, as l join the faculty, staff and students who have experienced cuts, salary freezes, and increased fees, I too must do my part."

The union that represents CSU professors has had a contentious relationship with Reed, frequently criticizing him for executive pay packages that the union felt were unfair.

Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association immediately posted her reaction to White's request on Twitter: "Looks like a fresh start."

Editor's note, 12:36 p.m.: This post was updated to reflect White's pay of $380,000.

November 8, 2012
CSU considers charging new fees on 'super seniors'

Would California college students work harder to pass a class the first time they take it if they had to pay an extra fee to repeat it? Would "super seniors" hurry up and graduate if they had to pay a penalty for sticking around?

California State University officials are betting that establishing three new fees will encourage students to meet their goals faster -- thereby freeing up space for 16,000 new students to get into classes on the crowded campuses. They are considering a three-prong plan that would charge extra fees to students who remain enrolled though they have enough credits to graduate, take extra-heavy course loads or repeat a class because they got a D or F the first time they took it.

"What's motivating this is to increase access so we have more students taking classes, and taking them in a more efficient way," Eric Forbes, CSU's assistant vice chancellor for student academic services, said in a phone call with reporters today.

CSU trustees are voting on the plan on Tuesday. It proposes these fees:

November 1, 2012
Two senators demand answers on CSU's legislative scorecard

Two state senators - one Democrat and one Republican - demanded Thursday that the California State University system's trustees tell them who authorized spending for a "legislative report card" that rated lawmakers on how well they supported the system's political goals.

Sens. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, both received low marks in the CSU compilation of votes and other actions affecting the system's political agenda this year.

The report card was apparently a parting gesture by Chancellor Charles Reed, who has announced his retirement. No legislator earned an "A" grade in the report.

"The scorecard is to inform the public on lawmakers' support of the CSU and public higher education," CSU said in a statement when it released the report on Oct. 17. "Just as California has charged the university with educating and graduating well-prepared students, the university holds state elected officials accountable for supporting that mission."

October 29, 2012
Think tank report slams Jerry Brown's school finance plan

Gov. Jerry Brown has been seeking implementation of a "weighted student formula" that would give more school money to districts with high levels of poverty and other educational impediments and low levels of achievement.

But the proposal has been a hard sell in the Legislature, because districts that would lose money under the redistribution plan are opposed. This year, the Legislature passed only legislation that would create a "task force" to study the issue, but Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 18, saying, "a task force ... may actually delay action on reforms" and adding, "Rather than create a task force, let's work together and craft a fair weighted student formula."

The issue is expected to be joined again in 2013, but prospects for increasing overall school financing are dim. Brown's own tax measure, Proposition 30, is fading, and a rival tax measure just for schools, Proposition 38, is faring even worse. And without more money to lubricate the politics of the situation, districts that would lose under a weighted formula would be even less willing to accept it.

Brown's proposal, which has never been fully fleshed out, is now receiving flak from another source, Education Trust-West, an education think tank based in Oakland. It has issued a report that enthusiastically embraces a weighted formula, noting that only a handful of states are not using such a system, but says that Brown's proposal may fall short.

October 18, 2012
Taxpayer group sues Cal State for advocating on Prop. 30

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has sued the California State University alleging a professor at the Monterey Bay campus sent students an email advocating in favor of a tax measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The email is from Professor Ernest Stromberg, director of the humanities division, according to the lawsuit. It urges students to help pass Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to raise taxes to alleviate the state budget deficit. The email notes that students will face higher fees and fewer classes if Prop. 30 fails, while they stand to receive a $498 refund if the initiative passes.

The state plans to cut CSU funding by $250 million if voters reject the measure.

October 4, 2012
CSU names head of UC Riverside as new chancellor

California State University trustees have picked a leader from the state's other public university system to replace outgoing chancellor Charles Reed.

Timothy P. White, who heads the University of California's Riverside campus, will take the top position in the Cal State system, overseeing 23 campuses that serve 427,000 students and employ 44,000 faculty and staff.

White, 63, has been in charge of UC Riverside since 2008. During his time there the campus established new graduate schools - in public policy and medicine - and served more minority students than any other UC campus.

September 27, 2012
Brice Harris named chancellor of CA community colleges

Brice Harris.JPGBrice Harris, the longtime leader of Sacramento's Los Rios Community College District, has a new job as chancellor of California's statewide community college system.

Scott Himelstein, president of the California Community Colleges board of governors, announced Harris as the system's 15th chancellor this morning. Harris, who retired last month from Los Rios, replaces Jack Scott, who retired earlier this month.

Harris led the four-college Los Rios district, which includes Sacramento City, American River, Cosumnes River and Folsom Lake, for 16 years. In his new role, he will oversee 112 colleges up and down the state that serve 2.4 million students.

RELATED STORIES:

Jack Scott to join Claremont University as scholar in residence

BEE EDITORIAL: Brice Harris set the bar high for Los Rios


PHOTO CREDIT: Brice Harris during a 2003 groundbreaking at Folsom Lake College. Bee photo by Randall Benton.

August 30, 2012
Jack Scott to join Claremont University as scholar in residence

Thumbnail image for 120830 Jack Scott.JPGJack Scott, a former state senator who is retiring this week after three years as chancellor of California's community college system, will become a "scholar in residence" at Claremont Graduate University's School of Educational Studies, the university announced Thursday.

Among his other duties, Scott will launch a certificate program for community college profssionals. Scott was a Democratic state senator from Pasadena for eight years before becoming community college chancellor in 2009 and also is a former president of Pasadena City College and Cypress College. His Claremont position begins Sept. 17.

PHOTO: Jack Scott / Sacramento Bee 2011 file, Hector Amezcua

August 29, 2012
California community college enrollment 17 percent below peak

Enrollment at California Community Colleges has dropped 17 percent below its 2008-09 peak, system officials said today, blaming the decline on post-recession state budget cuts.

The 112-college system had 2.4 million students last school year, 485,000 fewer than in 2008-09. Community colleges have long served a variety of needs, including recent high school graduates, adults seeking new skills and retirees taking recreational courses. It is unclear who comprises the group that fell off.

Community colleges are heavily subsidized by the state, and leaders said campuses have cut back their course offerings by 24 percent to save money. The state has also raised costs from $26 per unit in 2010-11 to $46 per unit now, though more than half of students have their fees waived.

Schools have tried to protect courses necessary for a degree, remediation or vocational education. But even those essential courses have filled to the brim, leaving long wait lists, said spokeswoman Paige Marlatt Dorr. System leaders believe students have fled community colleges because they can't get the classes they need or want.

"The real tragedy in all of this is the students we're pushing out of our institutions," said Los Rios Community College District Chancellor Brice Harris in a statement. "At the high water mark of January 2009, Los Rios had 93,000 students. This week we opened the doors with 82,000 students but that's only half of the story because state projections showed us at about 100,000 students. So, really the number of students being denied access to these colleges in the Sacramento region is somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 to 18,000."

August 20, 2012
Jarvis group's new ad calls Jerry Brown's tax bid street robbery

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is up with its second radio advertisement against Gov. Jerry Brown's November ballot initiative to raise taxes, comparing Brown's tax campaign to street robbery.

"Hey, lady, hand over your purse or the schools get it," a voice at the top of the ad says.

The ad, an issue-advocacy spot running statewide beginning today, comes as the Democratic governor begins in earnest to campaign for Proposition 30, his proposal to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners. The Democratic governor has characterized the election as a choice between higher taxes and $5.4 billion in cuts to schools and community colleges.

The taxpayers group declined to say how much money is behind the ad, which is replacing a previous one that hammered "Sacramento politicians" for their approval of California's $68 billion high-speed rail project.

The current ad, in addition to criticizing the rail project, lambastes pay raises given to more than 900 legislative employees this year and the disclosure of nearly $54 million in hidden parks money.

"Sacramento politicians are threatening cuts to education and public safety unless you pay more taxes," Jon Coupal, president of the taxpayers group, says in the ad. "These same politicians just gave hundreds of staffers pay raises. They approved the bullet train against the wishes of most Californians, and now, after Jerry Brown announced the closure of 70 state parks, we find out that the state parks department has been hiding $54 million. What else are they keeping from us? It's time to stop the deception politicians are using to force tax increases on the working people of California."

Brown said last week that his tax measure is "not about any other issue," and he is trying in a series of appearances at schools to refocus public attention on education.

August 10, 2012
New director named for Sac State's Center for California Studies

The head of higher education for the Legislative Analyst's Office is taking a new job at California State University, Sacramento.

Steve Boilard, who has been with the LAO for 14 years, was named the director of Sac State's Center for California Studies, which runs the Capital Fellows Program that places college graduates in the Legislature, executive branch and courts. The Center also runs the LegiSchool Project that runs programs to engage high school students in public policy.

Boilard begins his new post Sept. 10.

"I've long had an interest in governance, in particular the relationship of the citizens to the government," Boilard said in a statement. "I think it needs a lot of attention, and the center can help provide that."

Sacramento State officials praised Boilard's combination of experience in both government and academia. Before joining the LAO, Boilard was an assistant professor at Western Kentucky University, an instructor at UC Santa Barbara, and a policy analyst with the California Department of Housing and Community Development. He has a PhD in political science from UC Santa Barbara and a masters degree in government from Sacramento State.

Boilard fills the position previously held by Tim Hodson, who died in October of last year.

August 9, 2012
UC payroll up 6 percent: See who made $1 million or more

The University of California spent more on payroll in 2011 than in the prior year, though officials say the money for higher salaries is coming more from hospital fees than from rising tuition.

UC's total payroll grew by 6 percent last year, from about $10 billion in 2010 to $10.6 billion in 2011, according to salary data the university released today.

"This increase is likely attributable to a combination of factors, including restoration of furlough reductions, increased research activity and market pressures for more competitive compensation, particularly in the areas of health care, instruction and research," says the university's employee pay report.

About 36 percent of the funding for compensation in 2011 came from fees at UC hospitals, the report says, while less than 26 percent came from general funds and tuition, down a percentage point from 2010.

UC had 22 employees statewide who made at least $1 million in 2011 - mostly doctors and coaches. Scroll over the blue bars below to learn more about them:

Here's a look at the highest-paid employees at UC Davis. Scroll over the yellow bars to see details:

UC's searchable 2011 salary database is available here.

July 18, 2012
UC regents freeze undergraduate tuition - for now

Yudof.jpgUniversity of California's governing board today approved higher fees for 57 graduate professional schools while freezing tuition for undergraduates.

UC regents, meeting in San Francisco, voted to freeze tuition at $12,192 for the coming school year pending the outcome of the November election. If voters reject Proposition 30 - Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase - UC will likely raise tuition mid-year. The resolution they approved also gives UC's formal endorsement of the ballot measure.

"This tax initiative affects us. It deeply affects us," said Sherry Lansing, chair of the board of regents. "I enthusiastically endorse support for this."

Regent Russell Gould cast the only vote against endorsing Proposition 30.

Two regents - Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and student regent Jonathan Stein - voted against raising fees at UC professional schools. The proposal calls for steep increases at some UC business, law and nursing schools, and expanding the number of programs that charge professional school fees.

UC's endorsement of Proposition 30 follows a similar move Tuesday by the California State University's board of trustees.

PHOTO CREDIT: University of California President Mark Yudof gestures during a news conference at a UC Regents meeting in San Francisco, Wednesday. AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

July 17, 2012
AM Alert: California State University board talks cuts, pay raises

VIDEO: In today's report, Dan Walters says bad news for CalPERS may be good news for Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown's tax initiative - aka Proposition 30 - will be top of mind for California State University trustees as they gather for their board meeting today in Long Beach. On the agenda is a major discussion about what CSU will do if voters reject the tax measure in November, triggering a $250 million cut to the university system.

Two contingency plans are on the table. The first raises student tuition by $150 in January and trims employee pay and benefits by 2.5 percent. The second option keeps tuition level but cuts enrollment by 6,000 students and trims employee compensation by 5.25 percent.

"Nothing but difficult trade-offs" was how Assistant Vice Chancellor Robert Turnage described the situation Monday.

CSU is also looking at saving money by having professors spend less time on research and committee work (and more time in the classroom), increasing tuition by $1,000 for out-of-state and international students, and charging students more for any class they repeat more than once or take beyond 16 credits each semester.

A decision on the contingency cuts is expected in September. Read all the details here.

CSU trustees are also voting today on compensation packages for seven campus presidents, including three who will make more than their predecessors because they're in line for salary supplements from campus foundations.

July 11, 2012
Cal State trustees to vote on pay for new campus presidents

California State University trustees will vote next week on compensation packages for seven campus presidents, including three who would make more than their predecessors because they're slated to receive salary supplements from campus foundations.

The pay packages meet the terms of CSU's new executive compensation policy, but have angered the faculty union, which is planning to protest at Tuesday's meeting. The policy was established after public outcry last year when CSU hired a new president for San Diego State and paid him $100,000 more than his predecessor. It calls for paying new presidents a base salary no more than that of the person they are replacing, and allows for a supplement of up to 10 percent paid from campus foundations.

The board is voting on compensation for these campus presidents whose base salaries would be the same as their predecessors but who would receive additional boosts from foundations:

  • Dianne F. Harrison, president of CSU Northridge: Annual salary of $295,000 and annual foundation supplement of $29,500.
  • Tomás D. Morales, president of CSU San Bernardino; Annual salary of $290,000 and annual foundation supplement of $29,000.
  • Leslie E. Wong, president of San Francisco State University: Annual salary of $298,749 and annual foundation supplement of $26,251.

A fourth new president -- Admiral Thomas A. Cropper of the California Maritime Academy -- would receive a salary of $250,000 and no supplement. That salary is $8,600 less than his predecessor's, said CSU spokeswoman Claudia Keith.

The board is also voting on compensation for the following interim presidents, who are in line to receive the same pay as the presidents they are replacing:

  • Willie J. Hagan, interim president of CSU Dominguez Hills, $295,000
  • Joseph F. Sheley, interim president of CSU Stanislaus, $270,000
  • Eduardo M. Ochoa, interim president of CSU Monterey Bay, $270,315

The California Faculty Association, which represents CSU professors and is in contentious negotiations with the university for a new contract, criticized the salary proposals.

"This latest round of pay hikes will come despite months of public outcry from students, faculty and lawmakers about the merits of such pay increase at a time when student fees have skyrocketed, faculty and staff are being laid off and state funding for the CSU has been slashed by nearly a billion dollars," said a statement from the union.

Read the details of the compensation proposals here.

June 28, 2012
UC president Mark Yudof wants to freeze tuition

University of California President Mark Yudof said today that he will ask UC's governing board to freeze tuition for the coming school year, responding to the state budget just as Gov. Jerry Brown had hoped.

Brown and lawmakers added provisions to the state budget this week that would give an additional $125 million to UC and the California State University in 2013-14 if the systems didn't raise tuition for this year -- and if voters approve the governor's tax initiative in November.

"The budget legislation signed by the governor is a significant step toward bringing stability to public higher education funding in California," Yudof said in a statement. "Based on the incentives in this budget package, I intend to recommend to the Board of Regents that our current tuition levels remain in place for the upcoming year."

Previously, UC officials had said they would consider a 6 percent tuition increase this summer.

The situation is more complicated at CSU, whose trustees have already approved a 9 percent tuition hike that has been collected from current students. If CSU wants the $125 million Brown promised, it would have to issue refund checks to students after the election in November.

June 27, 2012
Sacramento trade school wants to make up for Cal Grant cut

The owner of a Sacramento vocational school that can no longer accept Cal Grant money because of cuts in the state budget says his company will find another way to provide the scholarships to needy students, using private instead of public funds.

"We're going to come up with something so that our students will know no difference," said John Zimmerman, president of MTI College, which will be eliminated from the state's Cal Grant program this year based on new performance standards established in the budget. "Instead of the check coming from the state of California, it's going to come from us," he said.

Zimmerman said he plans to move $1 million from his company's reserves to a scholarship fund that would support about 200 students who qualify for Cal Grants because of their low incomes.

MTI College is in the same situation as the vast majority of for-profit colleges in California, which do not meet new criteria the state is establishing for schools to receive Cal Grants in 2012-13. The state is allowing only those schools with graduation rates of at least 30 percent and loan default rates lower than 15.5 percent to participate in the Cal Grant program for the coming year, a move that will eliminate Cal Grants to some 11,000 students statewide.

Zimmerman said he expects his school will be eligible to accept Cal Grants next year because its loan default rate is improving.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 4:45 p.m. to clarify the state's performance standards.

June 27, 2012
California's high school graduation rate edges upward

More than three-quarters of California's public school students who entered the 9th grade in 2007 were awarded diplomas four years later, the state Department of Education reported today.

The 76.3 percent graduation rate in 2011 was up 1.5 percentage points from the previous year, and gains among Latino, African American and "English learner" students were somewhat higher, state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said.

"Every graduate represents a success story in one of the most effective job and anti-poverty programs ever conceived, our public schools," Torlakson said in a statement. "These numbers are a testament to the hard work of teachers and administrators, of parents and, most of all, of the students themselves. While they are a great illustration of all that is going right in California schools, they should also remind us that schools need our support to continue to improve so that every student graduates prepared for college, a career, and to contribute to our state's future."

Torlakson said that the remaining 23.7 percent of 2007's 9th graders who did not graduate in 2011 were not all dropouts. Using the state's new computerized tracking system, the Department of Education calculated that 14.4 percent were dropouts and 9.3 percent were either still enrolled in school, were special education students or had passed a high school equivalency examination.

Asian-American students had the state's highest graduation rate at 89.7 percent while blacks had the lowest at 62.9 percent. Filipinos, at 89 percent, were second highest, followed by non-Latino whites at 85.5 percent, Pacific Islanders at 74.3 percent, Latinos at 70.4 percent, and American Indians at 68 percent.

The new data are broken down not only by ethnicity, but by grade, county, school district and individual school.

June 21, 2012
Census Bureau says California school spending 35th in US

Is this serendipitous or what?

Just as two rival tax measures, both purporting to help struggling schools, qualified for the state's November ballot, the Census Bureau today released its annual report on school finance, revealing that California ranks 35th in per-pupil spending, more than $1,200 per year under the national average.

Furthermore, the Census Bureau report said, California ranks even lower - 42nd - in school spending vis-à-vis personal income.

The report provides new ammunition for Gov. Jerry Brown and civil rights attorney Molly Munger as they peddle their rival tax measures to voters. Brown says his sales and income tax boost would shield schools from deep spending cuts and increase it sharply over time. Munger's broader income tax measure would raise per-pupil spending for the state's 6 million public school students by more than $1,500 a year, roughly to the national average.

The Census Bureau report, covering the 2009-10 fiscal year, differs from the measures of per-pupil spending that are used in California's ceaseless political debates over the issue. The report includes all sources of income, including federal funds, whereas in state budget scoring, only state and local funds are counted and about $4 billion in state payments on school construction bonds and teachers' pensions are excluded.

Thus, the Census Bureau tagged California's $58.9 billion in 2009-10 "current spending" at $9,375 per pupil, which was $1,240 less than the national average of $10,675 and placed it 35th . The District of Columbia was highest at $18,667, followed by New York, Wyoming, New Jersey and Connecticut. Utah was lowest at $6,064.

Total California spending, including $7.2 billion in capital outlay and ancillary costs, was pegged at $68.1 billion.

In terms of revenue from all sources, California's $10,581 per pupil was 40th in the nation. Its revenue, some $65 billion, was calculated at 4.25 percent of personal income, while its spending, 3.77 percent of personal income, was 42nd. In relation to personal income, Alaska was tops in both revenue and spending.

The state government supplied $34.2 billion of school revenues in 2009-10, or 52.6 percent, which was higher than the national average of 43.5 percent. The federal government's 15 percent was also higher than the national average of 12.5 percent, while local source revenues at 32.5 percent were below the national average of 44 percent, reflecting Proposition 13's limits on local property taxes.

The report also provided details on how states divvied up school spending among different categories. Relatively speaking, the only two categories in which California rose above national per-pupil averages were in support staff and school administration.

May 24, 2012
Charles Reed retires as California State University chancellor

Charlesreed.jpgCharles Reed, chancellor of the California State University System for the past 14 years, announced Thursday that he's retiring as it and other state-supported higher education institutions cope with severe budget cuts.

Reed, who came to California after 13 years as chancellor of Florida's state university system, didn't cite money woes as the reason for retiring, but did allude to them in his announcement.

"Our campuses have continued to flourish even in the face of budgetary challenges and tremendous growth, he said. "Throughout my time here, the CSU has grown by more than 100,000 students, and I have been honored to sign more than a million diplomas. I take great pride in the CSU's mission to serve California's students, and I am proud to have played a role in carrying out that mission during these critical years."

As state aid has dwindled in recent years, CSU, the University of California and the state's community colleges have reduced class offerings and raised fees. CSU has been hammered in recent weeks by controversy over raising the salaries of top administrators while increasing students' costs.

Photo Credit: Charles Reed in 2009. Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee

May 22, 2012
Assembly school finance guru sides with Brown on Prop. 98

The state's fiscal analyst has explained one way lawmakers could avoid Gov. Jerry Brown's deepest cuts, but the Legislature's top education finance aide said today that solution is unconstitutional.

Rick Simpson, the Assembly's education finance guru, said he believes Brown accurately calculated how much the state owes K-12 schools and community colleges at $53.7 billion in 2012-13. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office contends that Brown overestimated that amount by $1.7 billion.

Simpson said he wrote the language in the 2009 budget bill spelling out the formula by which the state must pay schools in years when revenues grow faster than inflation and attendance. "The governor is following what the law says," Simpson said today.

He added that he believes the law merely confirms what voters placed in the constitution with Proposition 98 and Proposition 111.

But the Analyst's Office says that interpretation leads to "irrational outcomes" - such as when Brown announced last week that California owes schools more money despite revenues being lower than expected.

The outcome of the disagreement will likely affect how other programs are treated in the budget and how voters view Brown's push for tax increases in November.

LAO education analyst Edgar Cabral reiterated today, "We think our interpretation is the correct interpretation." Even if the 2009 bill spells out a different formula, Cabral noted that it can be reversed through new legislation and does not reflect what his office believes is in the constitution.

May 21, 2012
Torlakson says 188 California school districts in 'financial jeopardy'

School districts with 2.6 million of the state's 6 million K-12 students are in "financial jeopardy," state schools Supt. Tom Torlakson declared Monday, including 12 so troubled that they are virtually insolvent.

Although the 188 districts rated either negatively - unable to meet their obligations - or "qualified" are just a fraction of the state's 1,037 districts, county offices of education and other "local educational agencies," they included some of the state's largest, including huge Los Angeles Unified, and therefore a major chunk of the student population.

"This is the kind of record no one wants to set," Torlakson said in a statement. "Across California, parents, teachers, and administrators are increasingly wondering how to keep their schools' lights on, their bills paid, and their doors open. The deep cuts this budget crisis has forced - and the uncertainties about what lies ahead - are taking an unprecedented and unacceptable toll on our schools."

The Department of Education's report was issued as the Legislature began perusing Gov. Jerry Brown's revised 2012-13 budget that calls for reconfiguring how state aid to schools is distributed and proposes major cuts in state aid should his sales and income tax package be rejected by voters in November.

Most school districts appear to be planning for a worst case scenario by keying their own 2012-13 budgets to an assumption that taxes do not pass, leading to massive layoff notices for teachers and other school employees.

The largest school district in Torlakson's negative list appears to be Vallejo Unified, but a number of large districts are on the qualified list, which denotes financial problems, including LA Unified, San Diego Unified, Oakland Unified, Elk Grove Unified, Sacramento City Unified and San Juan Unified.

May 16, 2012
VIDEO: Student protest disrupts UC regents meeting in Sacramento

University of California students disrupted a meeting of the UC regents in Sacramento this morning, protesting tuition increases in a sustained chant that forced regents to break early for a closed session meeting.

The regents were about to discuss the impact of Gov. Jerry Brown's May budget revision on the university system when about 18 students dressed in orange prison garb and complaining they were "sentenced to debt" began marching in a circle in the audience.

Regents were expected to return to open session before noon to discuss the budget. The protest died down about 30 minutes after it began.

"The UC regents are closer to Wall Street than they are to the people of California," UC Berkeley student Charlie Eaton said.

The UC system last year raised tuition by about 18 percent over the previous year, and administrators are considering further increases. Brown's May budget revision, released Monday, did not include an additional $125 million for the college system that administrators said they need to avert a potential 6 percent tuition hike.

The crowd included students from UC Davis, where last year's pepper-spraying incident still resonates.

Students in the audience hissed when Nathan Brostrom, a UC vice president, said administrators have "full, unequivocal confidence" in UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi.

A member of the audience yelled, "Is that a joke?"

The regents are meeting in Sacramento for the first time since 1993, as administrators lobby lawmakers at the Capitol for additional funding.

May 7, 2012
How to say we like you? Tom Torlakson counts the ways -- to 10

torlakson.jpgKeep the day job, Tom Torlakson.

Similar to David Letterman's "Top 10" lists, the state's superintendent of public instruction has cited 10 specific ways to celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week through Saturday.

Here is Torlakson's list, with numbers six through 10 meant for parents, the remainder for students:

10 - Parents should hold fundraisers and donate proceeds to schools.

9 - Donate school supplies.

8 - Help in class or at sports events, field trips or on campus.

7 - Treat teachers as professionals and give them the same respect you would give a good friend or child caretaker.

6 - Send a thank-you note or e-mail.

5 - Kids should raise their hands, answer teachers' questions and participate in class.

4--Respect your teacher and fellow students.

3 - Behave in class.

2 - Do your best on homework and in-class assignments.

Number one on Torlakson's Top 10 list is - drum roll, please:

1 - Thank your teacher for all of his or her hard work.

At least one glaring omission, perhaps:

No apple?

PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, shows a chart that gives the progress California schools have made in testing on Wednesday, August 31, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 3, 2012
Report: Much talk, little progress on California schools

Five years after a team of researchers at Stanford University issued a massive study of California's public schools, concluding that the system needed much more money but also major reforms, a followup report from the University of California says there's been a lot of talk but not much progress.

In fact, the new study says, school spending has dropped sharply, largely due to recession and state budget deficits, while politicians and educators discuss structural reforms but haven't been very successful in making them.

"Our initial optimism was unwarranted," says the introduction by Susanna Loeb, an education professor at Stanford and a director of UC Berkeley's Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) who was a major player in the Stanford study, which was called "Getting Down to Facts."

Loeb said that while the issues raised in the Stanford report have generated much discussion, "the past five years have seen only small improvements."

The new study was unveiled Thursday during a Sacramento conference marking the fifth anniversary of the Stanford report, which was embraced at the time by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Republican governor wanted it to become the centerpiece of what he called "the year of education." However, the state's economy tanked shortly thereafter, resulting in a series of cuts in state support of schools, and changes in how schools are governed and financed have been mostly topics of debate.

The state has installed a centralized computer system to track educational performance, as the PACE report notes, and both Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown have pushed for elimination of many of the "categorical aids" that dictate how local school districts must spend state aid. Brown is also proposing a change in aid allocation to give more money to low-performing districts and schools, but he faces stiff opposition from districts that would lose money as a result.

May 3, 2012
From the notebook: More on UC's push for non-residents

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328-thumb-216x184-12396.jpgWe reported today on University of California campuses enrolling more non-resident students in the wake of state budget cuts. Non-residents pay a nearly $23,000 premium on top of the full $12,192 tuition, and they are ineligible for state financial aid.

We follow up here with some more thoughts that we couldn't include in today's story:

After nearly 30 percent of its incoming freshman class for 2011-12 were from out-of-state - almost three times the proportion just two years earlier - Berkeley slightly reduced its non-resident admissions for Fall 2012, the lone UC to do so. The school accepted 12.6 percent fewer non-resident students for the upcoming year than for Fall 2011 - though still 110 percent more than it did for Fall 2009.

More out-of-state students agreed to come to Berkeley last year than the university anticipated, according to spokeswoman Janet Gilmore. "So, for 2012-13, we offered admission to fewer non-residents, anticipating that we can still hit the same 30 percent target without having to offer admission to as many non-residents as we did the previous year," she said in an e-mail.

The biggest non-resident admissions jump came at UC San Diego, which admitted 75 percent more non-residents for Fall 2012 than it did for last fall's freshman class. That is a significant increase for a university that already saw a huge leap in non-residents last fall.

According to UC registration data, UC San Diego went from 6.7 percent non-residents in Fall 2009 to 18.2 percent non-residents in Fall 2011. If the yield rates hold steady from last year, nonresidents will make up roughly 25 percent of the Fall 2012 freshman class at UC San Diego.

May 3, 2012
Moody's applauds plan to let UC campuses set own tuition

Ratings agency Moody's Investors Service applauded a new University of California, Berkeley proposal to give each UC campus more autonomy, particularly when it comes to setting tuition rates.

Because its seats are so coveted, Berkeley has wanted to charge higher tuition and admit more out-of-state students than other campuses. The school's Center for Studies in Higher Education released a report last month that suggests giving the system's 10 schools greater ability to set policies that fit the "uniqueness of individual campuses."

As we reported today, Berkeley has moved aggressively to admit more non-resident students, who pay a nearly $23,000 premium on top of full tuition, and fewer California residents than the school did prior to 2010.

It is far from clear that UC Regents would consider giving up power to set tuition or admissions policies. And student groups say the campuses have already moved too far toward privatization in the wake of state budget cuts.

But Moody's said the latest proposal "would be a credit positive for UC because the system's leading campuses could better utilize their market potential to generate new student revenues and offset continuing reductions in state support." The ratings agency said the UC system has "considerable untapped pricing power."

The plan might bolster the schools' credit ratings, but not without a cost. Moody's notes, "If the proposal is implemented, the university would be able to command much higher tuition for resident and nonresident students seeking to study at a top research school."

May 2, 2012
California K-12 districts not yet planning to spend tax hike money

Gov. Jerry Brown wants K-12 districts to plan for the next school year as if voters will pass his $9 billion tax hike in November, but the vast majority of them are refusing to do so, according to a new Legislative Analyst's Office survey.

Nearly 90 percent of respondents said they will wait until after November to spend the money. In doing so, districts will likely lay off more teachers and increase class sizes beyond the level that Brown wants heading into the election.

District officials typically budget conservatively, assuming a worst-case scenario. This year, they have a huge uncertainty in not knowing how the November tax initiative will fare, yet they are required to decide how many teachers and staff to lay off before the school year starts.

According to the survey, 36 percent of districts said they would budget this year without the governor's tax hike but plan to spend the money in 2013-14. One-third of districts said they would wait until after November to figure out how to spend the money in the second half of the school year, while one-fifth said they would predetermine an automatic trigger spending plan that kicks in next spring if the taxes pass.

Only 8 percent of districts said they will pursue Brown's preferred path of installing trigger cuts for the second half of the year should the tax hike fail.

April 25, 2012
California voters narrowly support Jerry Brown's tax measure

California voters are inclined to support Gov. Jerry Brown's sales and income tax increase, but by a less than overwhelming margin, a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California has found.

The PPIC poll of likely voters found 54 percent in favor of Brown's tax measure, for which signatures are now being gathered, and 39 percent opposed. The poll also indicated that a rival measure sponsored by civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the state PTA to raise income taxes on most taxpayers for schools faces an uphill struggle.

Brown has attempted to persuade Munger to drop her initiative, but she's poured millions of dollars into signature-gathering and is likely to turn in signatures soon.

Brown has portrayed his measure as one that would save schools from massive cuts, building on an assumption -- confirmed by the PPIC poll -- that K-12 education is the most popular area of the state budget. But Munger contends that Brown's measure would actually give schools little or no new money.

Overall, the poll found, voters are more than willing to tax high-income Californians, as Brown's measure would do. The poll didn't ask about Munger's plan specifically, but showed nearly three-fifths of voters opposed to raising income taxes on most taxpayers for schools, which her measure would do. They also oppose the sales tax component of Brown's proposal, a quarter-cent increase. That opposition drags down overall support for the governor's approach.

The PPIC poll also found that Brown's approval rating among all adults is 43 percent and among likely voters 47 percent, but support for his handling of public education - -the broad subject of PPIC's polling -- drew approval at just half of those levels. In fact just 23 percent of likely voters like his education policies.

However, Brown is doing much better than the Legislature, which gained the approval of just 15 percent of likely voters in the PPIC poll.

April 17, 2012
UC sets records for applicants, admits, non-Californians

The University of California system accepted a record number of 80,289 freshmen for this fall, including a 43 percent increase in students from outside California who would pay higher tuition rates, according to preliminary data released this morning.

The system's nine undergraduate schools saw a combined record 126,455 applicants this year despite massive tuition hikes in the wake of state budget cuts. The systemwide acceptance rate dropped from 69.7 percent to 65.8 percent compared to last year.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed spending 21 percent less in 2012-13 than the state did in 2007-08, while undergraduate resident tuition has increased 84 percent, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. Between 2007-08 and 2011-12, the number of nonresident students, who pay tuition above what it costs to educate them, increased by about a third.

For this fall, UC accepted 18,846 out-of-state and international students, compared to 13,144 last year, a 43 percent rise. By comparison, the number of residents admitted increased by only 3.6 percent, from 59,288 students to 61,443 students.

UC was quick to point out that out-of-state students typically decline admission offers more than California residents and that the system expects to remain below its 10 percent cap on out-of-state population.

Every campus except UC Berkeley saw a rise in out-of-state and international admissions. The biggest spike in non-California admits came at UC San Diego, which saw a 75 percent increase. Berkeley, on the other hand, saw a 12.5 percent decrease in non-California admits.

March 27, 2012
Judge tentatively rules for California in school funding suit

MC_SCHOOL_FUNDING_01.JPGIn a court battle that could shape how schools are funded, a judge tentatively ruled Tuesday that California lawmakers can reduce education funding by diverting state revenues into new pots of money.

School boards and administrators sued the state last fall alleging that Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers had shortchanged schools by shifting about $5 billion in sales tax revenues to counties in a new realignment fund.

Under voter-approved Proposition 98, the state is required to devote a specified share of overall general fund revenues to K-12 schools and community colleges. School officials said that by diverting $5 billion in sales taxes, the state avoided sending $2 billion it owed to education last year under the constitution.

In recent years, recalculating Proposition 98 has become a popular solution to balancing the budget in the final days -- as long as the powerful school lobby signs off. Last year, the California Teachers Association agreed to the shift after winning concessions that protected jobs. But school administrators were upset because they said the budget had tied their hands in terms of midyear layoffs or furloughs while cutting $2 billion in the process.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn issued a preliminary ruling today indicating that he believes the state has the power to create new special funds, and that none of those dollars have to be devoted to schools under Proposition 98.

March 21, 2012
Lawmakers reject bill to curb pay hikes at California public universities

yee.JPGThe Senate Education Committee Wednesday rejected legislation that would have curbed pay increases for college administrators, just a day after trustees of the California State University System gave 10 percent boosts to two university presidents.

Sen. Leland Yee (right), D-San Francisco, argued that his measure, Senate Bill 967, was needed to send a message to trustees that hefty raises are inappropriate while student fees are being increased and enrollment is being curtailed.

But just four members of the Democrat-controlled committee, two short of a majority, voted for Yee's measure and three voted against it.

The bill would prohibit trustees from increasing any monetary compensation of an university executive officer for two years if fees were rising or state appropriations for the system were being reduced. It also would cap the salary increase for any new executive at 5 percent of that paid to his or her predecessor. And it would ask University of California regents to abide by the same rules, although the UC system is constitutionally independent.

On Tuesday, CSU trustees, meeting at the system's headquarters in Long Beach, approved raises for the presidents of CSU East Bay and CSU Fullerton, despite complaints from students and faculty members and public criticism by Gov. Jerry Brown. The 10 percent increases were the maximum allowed under a board policy.

A university official conceded to the Senate committee Wednesday that the raises were "bad optics...bad juju" in light of budget cuts and enrollment restrictions. Critics of the bill said it would set a bad precedent of micromanaging university affairs.

""It is another sad day for our students," Yee said in a statement after the committee action. "Unfortunately, the Education Committee has sent the completely wrong message. Rather than stand up for students and faculty, they protected the 1 percent and condoned CSU's bad behavior. CSU students and California taxpayers deserve better than the status quo."

March 16, 2012
California student leaders criticize Jerry Brown in open letter

Frustrated by tuition increases and ongoing spending cuts, California college student leaders criticized Gov. Jerry Brown in an open letter Thursday and complained he hasn't met with them.

"When you were elected in 2010," the students wrote the Democratic governor, "many students hoped that your election would usher in a new era for public higher education in California and reverse the approach taken by your predecessor.

"Thus far, things have not improved, and in fact, in many ways they have worsened."

In their letter, presidents of the University of California Student Association, California State Student Association and Student Senate for California Community Colleges complained Brown hasn't invited them to participate in meetings with college administrators.

Read the letter below.

Press Release Open Letter to Brown 3.15

March 13, 2012
New report finds low college attendance by California Latinos

While California's Latino population is growing, and is likely to become the state's largest ethnic group within a few years, only a tiny percentage of Latinos are seeking and receiving college educations, according to a new data compilation by the Campaign for College Opportunity.

The Los Angeles-based organization says in a new report that while 57 percent of Latino students graduated from high school in 2009 - markedly lower graduation rates than those for white or Asian American students - just 16 percent graduated with the course requirements for the state's four-year colleges, and just 8 percent enrolled in one of those colleges.

The bottom line, the organization says, is that just 7 percent of California's Latinos 25 years or older have baccalaureate degrees, while 30 percent of all Californians have at least bachelor's degrees.

Latino attendance at community colleges is higher. Of Latinos who pursue college educations, two-thirds go to community colleges, but just 20 percent earn certificates or associate degrees or transfer to four-year colleges.

Michele Siqueiros, the campaign's executive director, calls the data "cause for significant alarm" because with the overall Latino population continuing to expand, low Latino college attendance could affect the larger society, especially in jobs that require post-high school education.

"California cannot succeed if its Latino students do not succeed," she said in a statement accompanying release of the report. "At present, our education system, including the community colleges, do not serve Latino students well."

Editor's note: Comments on this story were closed due to hate speech.

March 8, 2012
Torlakson calls Jerry Brown's spending cut triggers 'blatantly unfair'

Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of schools, said Thursday that while he supports Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase ballot measure, he considers Brown is being "blatantly unfair" to schools in targeting them for spending cuts should voters reject new taxes.

Brown holds school financing level in his proposed 2012-13 budget, which assumes passage of his package of sales and income tax increases, but would whack the schools by more than $4 billion if voters reject the package via automatic "triggers."

The either-or nature of the budget is seen in political circles as a way of selling the tax package because schools, polls say, are the single most popular areas of government spending. But it still must be enacted by the Legislature, which is already balking at many of Brown's budget proposals.

Torlakson's criticism of the school spending triggers was just one of several aspects of Brown's budget that drew criticism from the schools chief in an appearance before a state Senate budget subcommittee.

He said he agrees with Brown that a first priority should be to beginning pay down the state's multi-billion-dollar debt to schools from aid deferrals. And he likes Brown's notion of recasting school finance to put more emphasis on schools and students who are performing poorly.

But Torlakson was critical of Brown's plans to move away from academic testing and flatly opposed the governor's proposals to overhaul child care, calling them "misguided" because they would neglect early childhood development while reducing state support.

March 6, 2012
Jack Scott to retire as California community college chancellor

20110401_ha_higher_ed6837_jack_scott.JPGJack Scott, California's community college chancellor for the past three years, announced Tuesday that he will retire on Sept. 1.

Scott, a former communtiy college administrator and Democratic state legislator, revealed his retirement plans to the system's statewide board of trustees and said he and his wife, Lacreta, "plan to return to our home in the Pasadena-area. We will enjoy travel and visiting with family and friends."

Scott, 78, said he will do some consulting, but "mainly, retirement will be a time to take it easy after a 58-year career."

Scott, who had been president of Pasadena City College, won an Assembly seat in 1996 and moved to the Senate for two terms in 2000.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jack Scott, chancellor of California Community Colleges, talks about the effects of budget cuts on students during a higher ed advocacy day in the state Capitol on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

March 6, 2012
Schools chief Tom Torlakson backs Brown tax plan - and his rivals

Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of schools, took a stand Tuesday on the three-way political wrestling match over asking voters to raise taxes - sort of.

Gov. Jerry Brown has a proposal to raise income and sales taxes, and is trying to persuade sponsors of two other November ballot measures to benefit schools, a so-called "millionaires' tax" and a broader income tax hike, to drop their campaigns. He says that if all three are on the ballot, voter confusion could sink all of them.

Torlakson told an Assembly budget subcommittee that he sees "the success of governor's November revenue initiative as a vital and essential step...and I urge you to build your budget accordingly."

But under questioning from legislators, Torlakson conceded that education advocacy groups are "all over the map" on which tax plan to support and added, "I personally support all three."

While Torlakson urged lawmakers to build a budget based on Brown's tax increase, and endorsed portions of Brown's proposed overhaul of the state's school finance system, he was skeptical about the governor's plans to also change testing and other academic accountability systems. And he was sharply critical of Brown's plans to overhaul child care.

Finally, Torlakson said it would be "both unfair and harmful" to force schools to take the brunt of spending cuts should voters reject Brown's tax plan, as the governor proposes.

February 23, 2012
Third of California school kids in financially distressed districts

As California school districts cope with declines in local and state revenue, more of them are showing up on the state Department of Education lists of financial distress.

The latest of the semi-annual listings, released Thursday, reveals that a third of the state's 6 million K-12 students are attending schools in 127 districts rated as in danger of being unable to meet their financial obligations, 17 more than made the list a year earlier.

Seven districts were given "negative certification" for being in imminent fiscal danger while 120 others were given "qualified certification," including the state's largest district, Los Angeles Unified.

February 22, 2012
California State University faculty to vote on strike

In the midst of a contract fight, the statewide union representing California State University professors will vote this spring on whether to impose a "rolling" strike at all 23 campuses.

The California Faculty Association, which represents 23,000 professors, counselors and other campus staff, announced that its members will decide in late April whether to impose two-day strikes if mediation fails. Spokesman Brian Ferguson said the strikes could take place toward the end of the spring semester or next fall, depending on the status of talks.

The union said it opposes moving more courses into "extension" programs and wants greater restrictions on class sizes. Faculty also want general salary increases for the past two school years and oppose the chancellor's ability to reopen contract provisions on wages and benefits in the near future.

Faculty struck for one day in November at the East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses over a separate contract matter.

The April strike vote comes after a series of state budget cuts and tuition hikes in recent years. The system lost $750 million in state funding this past year, while it raised tuition by 23.2 percent.

The CSU Chancellor's Office had no immediate comment Wednesday.

February 10, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill restoring school-bus money

169902_Rural-Schools_SIK_Death Valley School Bus.JPGGov. Jerry Brown today signed legislation restoring $248 million for school buses after rural and urban districts complained that the midyear cut would sink their budgets.

Senate Bill 81 replaces the $248 million bus cut with an across-the-board reduction of roughly $42 per student that affects all K-12 districts. Under the previous plan, the isolated Death Valley Unified School District would have lost $1,734 per student, while Davis Joint Unified would have lost less than $8 per student, according to the California School Boards Association.

The state's coalition of education groups, including teachers, school boards and administrators, supported the change, as did lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The only opponents were charter schools and some suburban districts that stand to lose more under SB 81 than they did under the bus cut.

The bus reduction was triggered in December when fiscal forecasters determined California would fall $2.2 billion short of the optimistic revenue projections that Brown and lawmakers used last June.

Brown has proposed eliminating bus funding next school year and launching a new block grant for school districts that could pay for some of those costs. But lawmakers seem intent on trying to preserve earmarked school bus money next year.

PHOTO CREDIT: Marlee Redwolf-Rave, 14, left, and another student get off a school bus at Timbisha Shoshone Tribe Reservation in Death Valley on Jan. 10, 2012, after a long drive from Death Valley High school in Shoshone. (Irfan Khan/ Los Angeles Times.)

February 8, 2012
LAO sees problems with Jerry Brown's higher education plan

The Legislative Analyst's Office raised concerns with Gov. Jerry Brown's higher education budget in a new report today, including his plans to tighten Cal Grant requirements and automatically increase funding if his tax plan passes.

After the state slashed its higher education spending by 21 percent during the recession, the Democratic governor has proposed 4 percent annual increases to the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges for three fiscal years starting in 2013-14 -- but only if voters approve his plan to hike taxes on sales and wealthy earners. If voters reject the plan, the systems would lose state funding in 2012-13.

Brown made the 4 percent promise as a sweetener to his tax proposal, which he's trying to bill as a plan for funding education and public safety. The analyst's office recommended that lawmakers reject the 4 percent promise. Pledging to give automatic increases presents problems, the LAO said, because other parts of the budget could suffer, lawmakers would have little discretion if one higher education system needed more money than another, and the pledge ignores enrollment and inflation, among other reasons.

Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said the governor wants to give the education systems "a level of stability and predictability."

The analyst's office also raised questions with Brown's plan to increase grade-point average requirements to receive Cal Grant awards.

February 6, 2012
Analyst raises education concerns with Jerry Brown's Plan B

Gov. Jerry Brown built his budget on the hope of voters passing a multibillion-dollar tax hike in November, but the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office raised questions about his treatment of education funding in a new report issued today.

The governor has said that if voters reject his tax hike on upper-income taxpayers and sales, schools would face mid-year cuts equal to eliminating three weeks of instruction.

The analyst's office said that in order to cut school funding that much, the governor would have to pursue "risky" budget maneuvers that raise serious policy questions. Beyond that, the analyst warned that districts will find it difficult to absorb a roughly 5 percent mid-year program cut and may need special ability to lay off teachers after the November vote.

Brown has political motivation to put education funding on the line in the November election - polls show voters list it as their top priority. While it is true that education takes roughly 40 percent of the state budget - and any revenue loss would thus have to fall partly on schools - the governor's plan may run into problems with the constitution and education groups.

January 20, 2012
Lawmakers push bill to replace California school bus cut

HA_SCHOOL_BUS2565.JPGAfter a mid-year budget cut wiped out school bus funds, state lawmakers are pushing a bill to restore transportation money by cutting general purpose dollars in all districts.

The Senate budget committee amended its Senate Bill 81 in the Assembly yesterday, signaling lawmakers' intent not only to preserve school bus service now, but in the future as well. Gov. Jerry Brown proposed eliminating school bus funds permanently in his 2012-13 budget.

Brown has shown little willingness to reverse cuts, especially with the state facing a new $9.2 billion deficit. With that in mind, SB 81 would replace the $248 million school bus cut with an across-the-board reduction to all districts equal to about $42 per student, shifting more of the pain to suburban districts that don't offer much bus service.

The midyear bus cut hit rural and urban districts particularly hard. According to data compiled by the California School Boards Association, the isolated Death Valley Unified School District would lose $1,734 per student. Meanwhile, Davis Joint Unified would lose less than $8 per student and Rocklin Unified less than $10.

The state's coalition of education groups, which includes teachers, school boards and administrators, supports the change. Brown's Department of Finance does not yet have a position, said spokesman H.D. Palmer.

The reduction was triggered in December when fiscal forecasters determined California would fall $2.2 billion short of the optimistic revenue projections that Brown and lawmakers used last June. Since last month, rural school districts have lobbied lawmakers to reverse the bus cut, noting that it would cause uneven hardship throughout the state.

The Los Angeles Unified School District filed a lawsuit to block the bus cut last month, alleging it would violate federal busing mandates and past court decisions ensuring equal education funding across districts. LAUSD would lose $61 per student, according to the CSBA data.

Updated to clarify that the cut would apply to general purpose funding, which largely pays for classroom instruction but also goes toward administration and other costs.

PHOTO CREDIT: Pleasant Grove High School students get off their bus on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/ Hector Amezcua

January 17, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown to call for less state testing in schools

Gov. Jerry Brown will call for less statewide testing and expanding classroom focus beyond math and English in his annual State of the State address tomorrow, according to his top education adviser.

Sue Burr, executive director of the State Board of Education, told hundreds of school finance officials today that Brown will seek to reduce student testing and push districts to focus on a broader array of subject areas. She spoke at an annual workshop produced by School Services of California, which advises districts on how to budget for the next school year.

"We think there's way, way too much testing in our system right now," Burr said. "Just as an example, a 10th grade student takes 15 hours' worth of tests. So that sophomore is losing 15 hours of their instructional program."

Burr said that while some testing is necessary for measuring schools, Brown will ask lawmakers to "take (hours) away from testing and give it back to instruction."

January 12, 2012
Education Week gives California a 'C' for its schools

California's 6 million-student public education system receives high marks for setting high academic standards but very low grades for meeting those standards and school finance in the latest national rankings by Education Week magazine.

Overall, the state receives a "C grade for its public schools with a mark of 76.1 on the 1-100 scale, slightly below the nation as a whole. For the fourth year in a row, Maryland's schools came out on top at 87.8 while South Dakota came in last with 68.1.

The magazine rates states' schools on six criteria - chances for successes, K-12 achievement, standards and assessments, teaching profession improvement, finance and preparing students for work or college. California received an "A" grade for standards and assessments, a "B" for preparing students, a "C" in chances for success, teaching profession improvement and finance, and a "D" in K-12 achievement.

School finance is the area that draws the most political attention, and in that, Education Week says California does well in equalizing support among schools, with a "B-plus," but is given an "F" for spending, reflecting the state's relatively low level of per-pupil support from state and local taxes.

The state's schools have lost billions of dollars in state aid due to chronic budget deficits and are likely to see more cuts this year, but Gov. Jerry Brown has also proposed an overhaul of how aid is allocated, eliminating many "categorical aid" programs and creating a simpler method that gives more aid to schools with poor and/or low-performing students.

December 16, 2011
California finally grabs school money from Race to the Top

California shot and finally scored in the competition for more federal education dollars, as the state was one of nine winners named Friday in the Education Department's Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant program.

But don't count on the funds to relieve California of K-12 cuts. The state will receive $52.6 million, largely to build a new child-care rating system that measures learning environment, teachers and parent involvement, according to the California Department of Education.

California and the eight other states will divvy up $500 million, with the money targeting K-12 school reform plans that, in the words of the Education Department, "raise academic standards, improve teacher and principal quality, build cradle to career data systems and turn around persistently low-performing schools."

The state had previously failed to secure federal grants under the initial round of Race to the Top funding.

The White House announced the grant winners, saying that individual state grants will range from between $50 million and $100 million depending on state population and specific reform plans.

December 14, 2011
UC Berkeley offers new aid to families earning less than $140K

A day after the state cut $100 million to the University of California system, UC Berkeley announced a new plan this morning to cap costs for families earning less than $140,000 a year.

The UC Berkeley aid program, dubbed the Middle Class Access Plan, would limit the required contribution for total attendance costs at 15 percent for families grossing between $80,000 and $140,000 annually. That amounts to a cap between $12,000 and $21,000. The current in-state cost of attending UC Berkeley is $32,634, which includes tuition, living costs and books.

Students would still be required to contribute a share of costs beyond their family contribution, this year set at $8,000, according to spokesman Dan Mogulof.

UC Berkeley estimates the plan will cost the campus an additional $10 million to $12 million starting in 2012-13. The school plans to pay for it with existing financial aid funds, donations and higher revenues generated from out-of-state students.

Families of an estimated 6,000 students would save more than they would under current guidelines, Mogulof said. It was not immediately clear which income groups would benefit most. Those at the upper end of the plan's income range, between $120,000 and $140,000, currently receive little aid, so the plan may provide new relief for those families.

December 8, 2011
Audit rips California's school construction safety oversight

State oversight of seismic and structural safety standards on school construction projects throughout California has been ineffective and incomplete, with thousands of projects left uncertified even after they are finished, the state auditor said today.

State Auditor Elaine Howle said in a report that the Division of the State Architect "has not provided an effective, comprehensive level of oversight of school construction processes," including no evidence of site visits in some cases, and only infrequent site visits in others.

The report, which you can read in full at this link, also criticized the division's oversight of local project inspectors, who are either school district employees or contractors. The state sometimes excused those inspectors from required training and has not always ensured inspectors passed current exams, the audit said.

In violation of regulations, the audit said, California school districts often started construction before the division approved their inspectors.

December 6, 2011
Yolo County's Mike McGowan to head California counties' lobby

Yolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan.JPGYolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan has been elected to a one-year term as president of the California State Association of Counties, moving up the ladder from first vice president.

CSAC, based in Sacramento, is the chief lobbying arm for the state's 58 counties, and has been deeply involved in the realignment of some state services to counties, particularly incarceration and parole for low-level felons who had previously been sent to state prison.

Counties are receiving several billion dollars from the state this year to pay for the realaigned functions, which also include some health and welfare programs, but they are demanding that financing be guaranteed by a constitutional amendment.

Separately, the California School Boards Association announced that Jill Wynns, a member of the San Francisco Unified School District board, has been elected president of that organization, which is based in West Sacramento and is a major component of the Education Coalition that lobbies the Capitol on school finance issues.

Schools are targeted for major cuts if the triggers in the current state budget are pulled because revenues fall short of the budget's estimates. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a tax increase for next November's ballot that would restore some funding to the schools.

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Mike McGowan, Bee file 2009.

December 5, 2011
UC names task force members to investigate pepper spraying

University of California President Mark G. Yudof has appointed the members of a task force to investigate the UC Davis police department's use of pepper spray on Nov. 18.

The task force, headed by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, will begin its work after the Kroll Consulting firm completes its investigation by early January, said a statement from Yudof.

"The task force will review the findings and, based on available information, assign responsibility for the events of Nov. 18," Yudof's statement says.

It also says the task force is expected to make recommendations to Yudof and UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi on improving police procedures, command protocols, campus policies and oversight structures.

"My intent in forming this task force is to allow the UC Davis community to take a fair and uncompromising look at what happened on Nov. 18," Yudof's statement says.

The task force members Yudof named today are:

  • Patrick Blacklock, Yolo County administrator and immediate past-chair, nominated by the Cal Aggie Alumni Association
  • Peter Blando, business services manager, UC Davis Office of the Vice Provost--Information and Educational Technology, and past chair, UC Davis Staff Assembly, nominated by the UC Davis Staff Assembly
  • Alan Brownstein, professor, UC Davis School of Law, nominated by the Academic Senate
  • Tatiana Bush, UC Davis undergraduate student and former Associated Students senator, nominated by the Associated Students of UC Davis
  • Daniel M. Dooley, senior vice president of external relations, UC Office of the President and designated system-wide administrator for whistleblower complaints; alumnus, UC Davis
  • Penny Herbert, manager, UC Davis Department of Clinical Operations, and staff advisor to the UC Board of Regents
  • Kathryn Kolesar, chair, UC Davis Graduate Student Association, nominated by the Graduate Student Association
  • William McKenna, UC Davis law student, nominated by the Law Students Association
  • Carolyn Penny, director in International Law Programs and principal and mediator, Common Ground Center for Cooperative Solutions, UC Davis Extension, nominated by the UC Davis Academic Federation
  • Eric Rauchway, professor, UC Davis Department of History, nominated by the Academic Senate
  • Judy Sakaki, vice president, student affairs, UC Office of the President and former vice chancellor for student affairs, UC Davis
  • Rebecca Sterling, UC Davis undergraduate student and former Associated Students senator, nominated by the Associated Students of UC Davis

The task force's work is one of several investigations taking place into the use of pepper spray on seated protesters. UC Davis and its academic senate are also reviewing the campus police department's response to the Nov. 18 demonstration, and Attorney General Kamala Harris is reviewing a request to look into it as well.

November 30, 2011
California State University cancels trustees meeting next week

California State University has canceled a meeting scheduled for Monday of a committee of trustees examining compensation for campus presidents, the chancellor's office announced this morning.

The move comes a few weeks after a similar move by the University of California's governing board, which canceled a meeting earlier this month due to threats of violence and vandalism. It also comes on the heels of a turbulent CSU trustees meeting Nov. 16 where protesters shattered a glass door, several police officers were injured and four students were arrested.

"We made this decision based upon our experience at the last board meeting where a large number of protestors attended, which is difficult to manage under the best of circumstances," CSU Board Chair Herbert L. Carter said in a statement.

"Our ability to guarantee the safety of crowds that we anticipate may wish to attend has been further compromised due to the damage to the entrance of our building that is still under repair. In light of all of this, and the fact that the agenda for the special meeting included only one action item, the board made the prudent decision to cancel the meeting."

The committee was scheduled to vote on updating its policy on compensation for campus presidents, an issue that came to the fore over the summer when a new San Diego State president took the job at a salary of $400,000 -- which was $100,000 higher than his predecessor's. The compensation policy will now be considered by trustees during its Jan. 24-25 meeting.

Many demonstrators at a meeting of UC regents on Monday said they planned to go to Long Beach next week to protest at the CSU trustees meeting, and urged people to wear black on that day.

November 29, 2011
University of California regents OK raises for several executives

University of California regents approved raises for several high-level employees during their meeting Monday, as we reported in this morning's Bee.

Here are more details about the raises they approved. The first two batches are executives whose salaries are paid for with state funds:

  • Two vice chancellors at UC Irvine and a vice chancellor at UCLA got raises of 9.9 percent. That brings salaries for Wendell C. Brase and Meredith Michaels at UC Irvine to about $247,000, and salary for Steven A. Olsen at UCLA close to $317,000.
  • Joseph I. Castro was appointed interim dean of the graduate division of UC San Francisco and given a 7.5 percent raise, bringing his salary to $252,625.

The head lawyers of six UC campuses received raises ranging from 6.4 percent to 21.9 percent:

  • Steven A. Drown, chief campus counsel at UC Davis, got a 21.9 percent raise, bringing his salary to $250,000.
  • Diane F. Geocaris, chief campus counsel at UC Irvine, received a 14.3 percent raise, bringing her salary to $255,000.
  • Carole R. Rossi, chief campus counsel at UC Santa Cruz, received a 13.9 percent raise, bringing her salary to $215,000.
  • Michele Coyle, chief campus counsel at UC Riverside, received an 11.4 percent raise, bringing her salary to $215,000.
  • Marcia J. Canning, chief campus counsel at UC San Francisco, received an 8.9 percent raise, bringing her salary to $255,000.
  • Daniel Park, chief campus counsel at UC San Diego, received a 6.4 percent raise, bringing his salary to $250,000.

Regents also approved three compensation items for positions that are not paid for with state money:

  • Lynda Rogers was appointed dean of University Extension at UC Santa Cruz, with a salary of $165,000
  • A new position of chief strategy officer for the UC Davis Health System was created, to oversee the Medical Center and the School of Medicine. Salary for the position will range from $214,700 to $333,700.
  • Vincent L. Johnson, chief operating officer of the UC Davis Medical Center, got a 23 percent raise, bringing his salary to $553,500. A staff report says Johnson is being recruited by another hospital offering him more than $650,000.

"We consider these retention efforts to be essential," UC President Mark Yudof said during the meeting at which regents approved a budget request asking the state for an 18 percent increase in funding. "I understand it's not a great time, but we can't really close down shop and say we're not going to make any effort to retain our best people."

More information on the compensation items approved Monday is available here.

November 28, 2011
Jerry Brown says he's 'seriously concerned' about protest response

In the wake of violence on UC campuses, Gov. Jerry Brown today asked a statewide law enforcement commission to review guidelines for crowd control and "without delay" make "whatever changes are necessary to ensure compliance with First and Fourth Amendment protections against excessive force."

Brown said the commission should consider changes to its 2003 Crowd Management and Civil Disobedience Guidelines.

"I am seriously concerned that the rules governing the use of force, in particular the use of pepper spray, are not well understood in the context of civil disobedience and various forms of public protest," Brown wrote to Paul Cappitelli, director of the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. "The recent 'occupation' protests in cities throughout California and on campuses of the University of California underscore the urgency of articulating guidelines that are crystal clear and comport with constitutional requirements."

Brown, who returned to California over the weekend after a vacation out of state, had been silent about the pepper spraying of protesters by police at UC Davis and a clash between protesters and police at UC Berkeley.

The commission sets operation and training standards for about 600 law enforcement agencies in California that participate voluntarily.

November 22, 2011
Legislature schedules hearing on UC's use of police

The Legislature will hold a hearing next month to investigate the recent use of police force in response to protests on University of California campuses.

The joint hearing of the Assembly Higher Education Committee and Senate Education Committee will be held Wednesday, December 14, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez announced today.

"Like most Californians, I have been absolutely appalled at some of the incidents that have taken place in recent days against peaceful protestors," Pérez said in a statement. "Students, parents and the public deserve to have answers to the myriad of troubling questions these incidents have raised."

Police at UC Berkeley jabbed protesters with batons two weeks ago, and video footage of police pepper-spraying seated protesters at UC Davis last week has been watched by millions of people worldwide. UC leaders responded yesterday by announcing they'll conduct a "thorough examination of police procedures, protocols and training," and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California is investigating the incidents.

November 18, 2011
University of California reschedules meeting canceled by threats

University of California regents have rescheduled the meeting that was canceled this week by threats of violence. They are now planning to meet on Monday, Nov. 28.

UC's governing board was never scheduled to vote on a tuition increase at the November meeting, though some groups planning protests distributed publicity material saying it was. Regents canceled the meeting scheduled for Wednesday in San Francisco, citing "credible intelligence" that planned protests could result in violence and vandalism.

The newly scheduled meeting will take place at four campuses -- in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Davis and Merced -- that will be connected by teleconference. Regents have expanded the time available for public comment, from 20 minutes to one hour. Members of the public can attend the meeting at any of the four locations.

The board is scheduled to discuss several financial matters, including its request to the state for a 2012-13 budget of $2.8 billion.

You can see the agenda and specific meeting locations on each campus here.

November 17, 2011
Californians worry about college funding, don't want to pay for it

Most Californians are worried about decreased funding for the state's public colleges and universities -- but don't want to pay higher taxes to alleviate budget cuts and tuition increases.

Those are some findings from a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California on state residents' views on higher education. Specifically, the survey found that:

  • 62 percent of residents think public higher education in California is headed in the wrong direction
  • 61 percent say affording college is a big problem for students
  • 74 percent say there is not enough state funding for higher education
  • 65 percent say that public colleges and universities have been affected a lot by budget cuts

But it also found that:

  • 69 percent are opposed to increasing student fees to maintain current funding
  • 52 percent are unwilling to pay higher taxes to maintain current funding

So how should California come up with money for colleges and universities?

The survey says that 59 percent of Californians would rather see the state spend more on public higher education "even if this means less money for other state programs."

It says 52 percent favor admitting more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition, though support for that idea drops to 20 percent if it means admitting fewer students from the Golden State.

And one idea that garners support is "a hypothetical statewide bond measure to pay for construction projects in the state's higher education system." Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed said they would vote for such a measure, which would require a simple majority vote to pass.

Read the full survey at this link.

November 16, 2011
CSU approves 9% fee hike amid raucous protests

Cal State Tuition.JPEG-0615.JPGCalifornia State University trustees today approved a 9 percent tuition increase to take effect this fall, university spokeswoman Claudia Keith said, increasing the cost of attending a state college by $498 a year.

The vote came after trustees reconvened their meeting in a different room following an outburst of protests in the normal meeting room at the CSU Chancellor's Office in Long Beach. Protesters broke a glass door, injuring three police officers, said CSU spokesman Erik Fallis. One of the officers has been transported for medical care, he said.

Four people were arrested, Fallis said. One is a Cal State Long Beach student, two are San Diego State students. Fallis did not identify the fourth person, but said he was arrested for breaking the glass door.

The California Faculty Association -- the union that represents CSU professors -- sent an email report saying:

Police pepper sprayed the front door of Chancellor Reed's HQ, where the trustees were meeting to push the students out. Faculty members are trying to leave the building now as riot police are marching toward the protest.

A group called ReFund California, which is backed by several large labor unions, had pledged to protest at today's trustees meeting. Many members of the group spoke before the chaos erupted, calling on Cal State leaders to support higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy to fund public education and other services that have been reduced as the state has struggled with ongoing budget deficits.

Check back for continued updates to this story.

PHOTO CREDIT: An injured California State University police officer stands with other police near the entrance to the California State University Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach. A struggle erupted between demonstrators and police Wednesday as trustees of the huge CSU system met to vote for another tuition hike. Associated Press/Nick Ut

November 16, 2011
VIDEO: University of California students protest tuition hikes

Angry about tuition increases and budget cuts in California's poor financial state, about 100 University of California students protested at the Capitol this morning and flooded elected officials' offices with phone calls.

The protest came after the University of California, fearing student protests could turn violent, canceled governing board meetings scheduled for today and Thursday in San Francisco.

"We wanted to let them know that canceling a meeting will not impede upon our efforts to protect and defend higher education," Joey Freeman, a student organizer from UC Berkeley, said at a news conference on Capitol's north steps.

The students came on buses from UC Berkeley and UC Davis. A bus that was scheduled to pick up students in Merced failed to show up at that campus, said Jonathan Stein, an organizer.

"Student activism is consistently hampered by logistical problems," he said.

Before the news conference, Stein distributed scripts to students, and they spent about 30 minutes calling the offices of Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders from their cellphones.

November 15, 2011
Laurel Rosenhall talks higher education on Capital Public Radio

The University of California regents canceled their meeting this week for fear of violent protests.

California State University trustees could vote on a proposal to raise tuition 9 percent starting in the fall of 2012.

The Bee's Laurel Rosenhall talked to Jeffrey Callison this morning on Capital Public Radio's program "Insight" about California's higher education systems, including the impacts of the Occupy movement, the state's budget cuts and labor issues such as the upcoming faculty strike.

If you missed the show, you can listen to the archived broadcast by clicking here. Her interview is during the first 12 minutes of the show.

November 14, 2011
UC cancels regents meeting this week after threats of violence

The University of California has canceled the meeting of its governing board scheduled for later this week out of fears that protests against UC regents could turn violent.

Protests by labor unions and student groups are not uncommon at regents meetings, but UC officials announced today that they had reason to believe the actions planned for the meeting on Wednesday and Thursday in San Francisco would be unusually disruptive. UC decided to postpone the meeting after law enforcement officials disclosed credible threats.

"From various sources they had received information indicating that rogue elements intent on violence and confrontation with UC public safety officers were planning to attach themselves to peaceful demonstrations expected to occur at the meeting," said a joint statement from Regents Chair Sherry Lansing, Regents Vice Chair Bruce Varner and UC President Mark Yudof.

"They believe that, as a result, there is a real danger of significant violence and vandalism," the statement says.

The statement does not name any individuals or groups that posed a threat.

A union-backed group called Refund California planned to organize buses to bring people from college campuses across the state to the regents meeting. The group wants UC regents -- many of whom serve on corporate boards -- to support the its proposal to raise taxes to alleviate the budget cuts public universities have faced in recent years.

UC has not yet scheduled a new date for the meeting, at which regents were to discuss the university's 2012-13 budget proposal.

November 14, 2011
California State University considers 9% tuition hike

California State University trustees will vote Wednesday on raising fees by $498, or about 9 percent, for fall 2012. That would bring annual tuition for undergrads at CSU's 23 campuses to $5,970, not including books, room or board. Most campuses charge an additio