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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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January 13, 2006

The aging of California


The next piece in my ongoing series on the future of California -- California on the Cusp -- will be on the aging of our our state's population, and the problems and possiblities that will bring. I want to look at that from an institutional as well as personal point of view, and I'd like your help.

Please email me with your thoughts and ideas and where we're headed and what we need to do now to prepare for dealing with a population with a much higher share of retired people and ailing elderly.

Also, if you are willing to share anecdotes about how you or your loved ones are handling this transition personally, I'd love to hear from you.


Dan Weintraub

Email me at

Posted by dweintraub at 11:53 AM

A modest proposal

It hasn't received a huge amount of attention since no one is screaming about it, but the increase in education spending in the governor's budget proposal comes to a cool $600 per student in K-12, or an 8 percent increase over the current year. I offer a modest proposal here for how that money might be best spent.

I say we give half of it to the districts to cover general cost increases and give the rest to the teachers to decide how to spend. Really. Why not authorize each classroom teacher to spend $300 per student more in whatever way they think would best improve the education of those children? Even better, I'd take that money and give it all to the teachers who are teaching kids in the bottom half of the socioeconomic spectrum, where the achievement gap is the largest. Since half of the total increase would be going to half the kids, that would bump the amount back up to $600 for each of those kids.

If we did that, a teacher with 30 such kids in say, inner city Los Angeles, would get a chit worth $18,000. I say let them decide how to spend it. They could hire a fully credentialed teacher to work in their classroom for half the day doing small groups and one-on-ones with the toughest kids. Or they could hire a couple of aides to help out. Or they could hire someone to do intensive after-school tutoring. Or they could use it for the finest supplies, new computers, better books. You name it. I'd even be willing to let the teachers pocket some or all of the money as a salary bonus for working with tough-to-teach kids. My only rule would be they would have to write a report detailing how they spent the money and post it it on their classroom door for all the parents to see.

Does anybody doubt that this would be more effective than what the governor is proposing to do, which is give about two-thirds of the money in a general cost-of-living increase and divvy up the rest among targeted initiatives like his after-school program, teacher recruitment and training, arts and music programs and physical education?

After we empower the teachers, my next step would be to audit the results and find out whose decisions brought the greatest gain in achievement. Then publish a list of best practices for teachers to consider the following year.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:31 AM

Finance corrects bad data

On budget day I posted this item noting that buried in one of the appendices was the news that the state's total tax collections had hit an all-time high as a share of personal income. A sharp-eyed reader went to the chart I referenced and noticed an unusually large surge in tax collections reported for 2004-05 that did not seem to track with what we know to be the case. I inquired about it with the Department of Finance, and they have now sent me a revised chart (known as schedule 2) that has different numbers. The original erroneously listed all revenues and transfers, instead of just tax collections. I'm guessing that the big surge that didn't make sense was from the sale of the deficit bond approved by voters in March 2004.

Anyway, total tax collections per $100 of personal income are now shown to be $7.45 in the current year, still high by historical standards but not quite at the level reached at the height of the dot-com boom in 1999-00: $8.18.

Strangely, the old, incorrect chart was still here this morning on the department web site.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:23 AM

Former GOP chair: dump Arnold

Former California Republican Party chairman Michael Schroeder says Schwarzenegger should not run again, and if he does, the Republican Party should withdraw its endorsement. He was, Schroeder says, a "longshot who failed to work out."

Posted by dweintraub at 8:12 AM



At Crossroads, a panel of experts and the public debate the future of health care in California. We'd like you to join the conversation.

Daniel Weintraub


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