CA Budget/School Funding: Where Do We Go From Here? (The Legislature)

We tried to support Governor Jerry Brown in his call for the State Senate and Assembly to refer to voters the choice to extend existing taxes. The students at Millikan Magnet Middle School in Los Angeles articulated everything that’s at stake beautifully:

These are simply a few of the artistically talented kids who would be hurt by school budget cuts. Students of all backgrounds, with every kind of gift and ability and interest would be affected across the state. In negotiations with Jerry Brown, some GOP holdouts presented a lengthy list of demands at the last minute, and sat on the process with the help of supermajority–2/3 vote–rules. That’s what kept all of us Californians from voting.

When Brown called off talks, there was a brief period of “Now what?”

Well, we are going to have to go directly to the legislature to get our vote there.

Supermajority rules still hold. We need a 2/3 vote to pass a revenue-extension measure. And we can do this by letting our representatives know — LOUDLY and VIGOROUSLY — that we want them to vote yes. Less loudly, but perhaps just as insistently, we’ll have to imply that consequences will be paid for those who turn a deaf ear to constituents.

So here’s what we can do: mobilize everyone who has a stake in the revenue extension passing. K-12 students, their teachers, and parents. College students at the community college level and beyond. Alumni of the CSU and UC systems, to pressure their fellow California public higher ed alums who now serve in the legislature to do right by the next generation of kids.

The good news? We’re only 2 GOP votes short in the Senate and 2 GOP votes short in the Assembly. We can do this before June 30, when taxes we’re already paying expire.

1) There are 11 possibly persuadable GOP Assembly members and State Senators. Don’t get too comfortable. More on this in a bit.

2) Re-districting means every legislator’s seat could be up for grabs. This is probably more so in highly populous districts (one million residents or more) where the re-districting commission has a mandate to make the ratio of people represented to the elected representative smaller and more evenly proportional throughout the state.

3) Open primaries: as a result of the passage of Prop 14 in June, 2010:

[as of June, 2012] voters will no longer be limited to choosing among candidates from their own parties. Proposition 14 puts the top two vote-getters in primary races for congressional, state legislative and statewide offices, regardless of political party, in a face-off in the general election.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, this could mean both Democratic and Republican party candidates would have to moderate their views in order to get elected. This is uncharted waters for us all, but everyone will be watching trial balloons to get a sense of what’s going on.

The bad news?

1) Governor Brown promised voters he would put it to us to decide. He needs to be convinced that we’ll forgive him if we get our revenue-extension measure through the legislature. It’s an approach that sticks to the spirit of his campaign promise and not the letter of it.

Please contact him and tell him you want revenue extended in the legislature.

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160

Twitter: @JerryBrownGov

2) It’ll be a uphill climb. While most of the GOP lawmakers signed the so-called Taxpayer’s Pledge (named in Orwellian fashion to promote an all-cuts budget), about 11 representatives from the State Senate and Assembly have made noises saying they might be open to a vote. Our job is to encourage these folks to vote YES to extend existing revenue. Simply put, without this necessary revenue, we’re looking at an increase in class sizes K-12, the possibility of closing community colleges, tuition increases at CSU/UC’s all across the state, shutdowns of state parks, fewer first responders to emergencies, and something of a downward spiral in the greatness of our state.

3) We’re dealing with a GOP that has signed on to a “Taxpayer’s Pledge” generated by the Koch Brothers’-funded California branch of the national “Americans for Prosperity” group based in Virginia. These are the same people at the national level holding raising the debt ceiling hostage, who back all-cuts budgets that, along with GOP-dominated legislatures, are wreaking havoc in WI, IN, MI, and OH.

Let’s face it–an all-cuts budget is extreme. It’s anti-growth. It’s anti-progress. It flies in the face of rising populations and the expectation of using public amenities like parks and transit, and necessities like schools, colleges, and universities or public safety.

With that in mind, let’s look at all 11 potential GOPers who might, if sense and self-preservation prevail, be convinced to vote YES on our much-needed revenue-extension vote.

Assembly

  • Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, Assembly District 33, 1150 Osos Street Suite 207, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, (805) 549-3381, (805) 549-3400 fax
  • Connie Conway, R-Visalia, Assembly District 34, 113 N. Church St., Suite 505
    Visalia, CA 93291, (559) 636-3440, (559) 636-4484 fax
  • Bill Berryhill, R-Stockton, Assembly District 26, 4557 Quail Lakes Drive Suite C3, Stockton, CA 95207, (209) 473-6972, (209) 473-6977 fax
  • Paul Cook, R-Yucaipa, Assembly District 65, 34932 Yucaipa Blvd., Yucaipa, CA 92399, 909-790-4196, 909-790-0479 fax
  • Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert, Assembly District 64, Riverside Office, 1223 University Ave, Suite 230, Riverside, CA 92507, 951-369-6644, 951-369-0366 fax
  • Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, Assembly District 38, 23734 Valencia Blvd. 303, Santa Clarita, CA 91355, 661-286-1565, 661-286-1408 fax

Katcho Achadjian: San Luis Obispo is a big college town, and a large number of his constituents are students at CSU-SLO. In addition, some of his largest campaign donors are the California Professional Firefighters Association, the California Department of Forestry Fire Fighters, and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. These are all public employees who would also suffer reductions in funding if an all-cuts budget were enacted.

Katcho Achadjian Top Campaign Donors

Bill Berryhill: is a graduate of  and launched his career in public service by becoming elected member of the Ceres Unified School District Board of Trustees. From his official biography:

During his eleven years on the Board, Bill’s efforts were instrumental in transforming Ceres into one of California’s top-performing school districts by emphasizing parental involvement, quality teachers, and strategic planning.

Bill Berryhill voted NO along with almost all the Republicans in the Assembly against SB70, which would have amended 2011-2012 state school funding to adjust school spending to fit the confines of certain prior legislation. He refused cuts, but didn’t propose new revenue to make up for the shortfalls, thus putting school funding on an even more precarious path (the current one). He says here that he won’t vote for revenue measures that would keep schools afloat.

Connie Conway: studied at Fresno State, currently is a member of the Master Plan for Higher Education committee in the Assembly. As of this writing, she and a delegation of California lawmakers (all but two are Republican) are in Texas supposedly to learn how that equally budget-beleagured state “creates jobs.” One GOP lawmaker observed that “8-hour work day and the meal breaks (required in California) are harmful, especially for restaurant businesses.” What? That’s nutty. Why isn’t she solving budget problems at home here in California? Tell her so when she gets back to Visalia.

Paul Cook: from his own biography:

Paul is a graduate of Southern Connecticut State University where he earned a bachelor of science in education. He holds a master’s in political science from the University of California, Riverside and a master’s in public administration from California State San Bernardino. Paul has taught various college level courses that include history, public administration, and political science at Copper Mountain College, Cal State University, San Bernardino, and UC Riverside. [emphasis mine]

So glad he experienced a great public education at a fine California university. Now it’s your kid’s turn — why is tuition so high? How are colleges and universities supposed to function with $500 million in cuts? Don’t pull the ladder up after you, Assemblyman Cook. Plus, what makes you so sure you’ll be hired on to teach at all the places you have (listed above) if budget cuts continue to eliminate lecturers? You’d be cutting off your nose to spite your face to allow an all-cuts scenario.

Brian Nestande: a GOP political consultant and legislative aide all his life; he worked with Congresssman Sonny Bono and Congresswoman Bono-Mack. Despite his belief that government should be small and serve the people, he mostly seems to have profited handsomely from providing services to elected representatives. I’m not hopeful for any movement on him because he was awarded an endorsement from the Howard Jarvis anti-tax group. At the same time as he asks for funding to construct a medical school at UC Riverside (AB 2642), he refuses to fund California higher ed.

But Assemblyman Nestande does support keeping in-home care budgeting at current levels (still in opposition to Governor Brown’s proposal) , so maybe there’s a ray of hope that he can find it in his heart to fund schools.

Cameron Smyth (bio): a moderate Republican who supports clean energy and disability access, and is himself a graduate of UC Davis. He’s the second-ranking Republican in the state, below Bob Huff. As of 4/21/11, this was prominently featured on the home page of his official Assembly website:

As of April 21, 2011, on the front page of Smyth's website

He specifically recognizes the hardship cuts to services to the disabled would be and asks that either revenue be found elsewhere or cuts be made elsewhere.

Cameron Smyth on the “People’s mandate” for majority vote

Yet at an appearance with Governor Brown in Santa Clarita, Smyth seemed immune from the pleas of parents and educators to save award-winning school programs in his district. The LA Times reported that

Smyth, considered one of the Assembly’s more moderate Republicans, said he appreciated Brown’s visit and some of the concerns expressed by his constituents. But “I don’t see where the tax increase ultimately solves the problem,” he said.

There were strategic reasons for Brown to go to Smyth’s district, which extends from the foot of the Grapevine to Glendale and includes Simi Valley, Santa Clarita and parts of the San Fernando Valley. Republicans hold a slight registration advantage here, and the district could become more competitive for Democrats when new boundaries are drawn this year.

I’d like to give a small golf clap of approval to Chris Norby, Republican of Fullerton, Assembly District 72. He was the lone Republican YES vote on SB70, the March 2011 education bill that adjusted by law the amount of school spending in alignment with the State Constitution and other laws, and was previously a teacher in Brea-Olinda Unified School District. Also in his Southern California district is CSU-Fullerton, where he received a Master’s in History, and which is one of many in the Cal State and UC systems that have had to absorb $500 million in budget cuts. Perhaps given his background as a public school teacher, and recipient of a degree from one of California’s higher ed institutions, like 28 other Republican members of the California legislature who are graduates of the CSU and UC system, he’ll want to keep an excellent public higher ed system intact for his four children and any grandchildren.

UCLA Chancellor Block said of these “Master Plan turncoats”:

Of the 42 Republicans in the Legislature — none of whom has yet to provide one of the two GOP votes needed in each chamber to put the tax extension on the ballot — 29 are products of the state’s higher education system. They include the Senate and Assembly minority leaders — who attended Los Angeles Valley College and Fresno State, respectively — as well as the vice chairman of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee, who went to UC Irvine.

Assembly Member Chris Norby is Vice Chair of the Assembly Education committee, and he went to Occidental College and CSU-Fullerton. He has shown some independence with regard to thinking and voting independently, going so far as to agree with Governor Brown on the shift of redevelopment agency money to first responders and other essential state services instead. His district is increasingly Latino in composition, with a concomitant immigrant hunger for upward mobility and access to higher ed feeding those aspirations. With the possible exception of Norby, Republicans are dismantling the higher ed treasure of the state–pulling up the ladder after themselves after having enjoyed the benefits of an affordable and excellent public university system.

So give Chris Norby a call too in his 72d Assembly District office in Fullerton: 1400 N. Harbor Blvd., Suite 601, Fullerton, CA 92835, 714-526-7272, 714-526-7278 fax

 

Senate

I’ve called them out before, but I’ll do so again:

  • Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale, Senate District 14, fax : 559-253-7127, email: senator.berryhill@senate.ca.gov
  • Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, Senate District 15, fax: 916-445-8081, email: senator.blakeslee@senate.ca.gov
  • Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, Senate District 12, Fax: 916-445-0773, Email: senator.cannella@senate.ca.gov
  • Sen. Bill Emmerson, 37th State Senate District, R-Hemet, State Capitol, Room 4082, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 651-4037, Fax: (916) 327-2187
  • Tom Harman, 35th State Senate District, R-Huntington Beach, State Capitol, Room 5094, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 651-4035, Fax: (916) 445-9263

Here is a profile of each:

Tom Harman: Tom “Landslide” Harman will term out in 2012, but he only won his seat by a 256 vote margin in 2006. His state senate  district (35) overlaps a little with a potentially purple congressional district (48) that includes the university town of Irvine, and the Orange County cities of Laguna Beach, and Newport Beach.

Take a look at just one school in Harman’s state senate district:
Laguna Beach Unified School District gets $14,944 per student funding. Are those parents going to be happy when the 900-API scoring schools have their precious programs cut, even though only about $2.6 million of the $40 million school budget comes from the state? According to one local news report

Laguna Beach is unique in that it is a basic aid district opposed to a revenue limit district, which means its approximate $40 million budget is obtained mostly through local property taxes. About $2.6 million—far less than what other districts receive—is backfilled by the state.

But if the vote for an extension doesn’t fly, LBUSD will be solely dependent on property taxes, which are also taking a hit due to economic downturn in recent years, [Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Norma] Shelton says.

Ballpark estimates of home value trends in the wealthy Orange County coastal town show that Laguna Beach houses are valued at 25% less year-over year and almost 50% less than 2007 peak real estate bubble prices. You’d think these people paying taxes on overvalued high-end homes would be eager to shift the tax burden to multi-billion dollar revenue oil companies that extract precious resources from the state.

Tom Berryhill: a Modesto, CA State Senator from a longtime California political family with a father who served in both houses of the state legislature, a brother who’s concurrently serving in a neighboring district, and a cousin who ran for Congress.

In 2010, he was elected in the 14th state senate district with controversy over his residency in the district that was challenged by a Republican opponent who petitioned the California Supreme Court for a hearing, but was declined. He was elected with 68,102 votes (67.6%) in a reliably red, million-person plus California district where the demographic makeup of voters is increasingly Latino.

Sam Blakeslee: In the 2010 elections, he won 72,248  votes with 49.4 % of the votes cast. His closest Democratic challenger, John Laird, won 61,150 votes with 41.8% of the votes cast, a diference of 11,098 votes. He holds a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD from public universities, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara–education without which his current job at his family firm would not be possible. His father is also a professor at Cuesta College. Yet his current “no revenue” position would starve higher ed, including the UC system, of $500 million as a result of budget cuts.

From his biography on his website:

Blakeslee was named “Freshman of the Year” by the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, Legislator of the Year by the California Police Chiefs Association, Outstanding Legislator by the California State Sheriffs Association, was honored by People First of SLO and Tri-Counties Association for Developmental Disabilities for his advocacy on behalf of those with disabilities, and received statewide honors for his work on behalf of staff safety at Atascadero State Hospital.

Senator Blakeslee grew up on the Central Coast and attended public schools. He graduated from San Luis Obispo High School and then began a career in construction. Years later, he returned to school and attended Cuesta Community College, where his father, Earle Blakeslee, taught music when the college first opened in 1965. He later earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geophysics from University of California, Berkeley. Furthering his education, Senator Blakeslee earned a Ph.D. from University of California, Santa Barbara for his research in seismic scattering, micro-earthquake studies, and fault-zone attenuation. He is published in numerous scientific journals.

Blakeslee skipped debate in the 2010 elections and was the only candidate to do so (following a national trend among Republicans across the country who declined to debate their fellow candidates and flouting the vetting process). Discussed at that debate was a California oil extraction fee patterned after Texas to make up for school budget shortfalls which are currently the central problem State Senators and Assemblymembers are being asked to solve right now. (Apparently he had no solutions then and no solutions now.) Only later did Blakeslee agree to a debate when challenged to do so by his chief competitor.

Anthony Cannella: elected in 2010 to the 12th State Senate District after being mayor of Ceres, CA. The youngest of the GOP 5. His father is Sal Cannella, who, as a Democrat, lost a State Senate race in 1998 and had also previously been mayor of Ceres for several terms. Like Blakeslee, Cannella is a graduate of UC Davis, a California public university where he enjoyed an excellent college education funded by taxpayers, and for which he would repay with a $500 million budget cut to California’s colleges and universities because of his refusal to allow the state’s residents to vote on tax extensions. Anthony Cannella’s main challenger was Democrat Anna Cabellero, who fought a closely contested race. Democrats knew the 2/3 supermajority was at stake, which is why Caballero outspent Cannella; the final vote was 92,270 to Cannella, 86,963 to Caballero.

However, in the 12th State Senate District, there is a precedent for district residents to recall an obstinate GOP obstructionist. In 2008, Republican State Sen. Jeff Denham of Merced faced a recall vote:

Supporters of the recall want Denham removed from office in large part due to his refusal to vote for the State Budget last August that was delayed for over 51 days. That delay, supporters of the recall claim, caused widespread panic and harm to thousands of people with disabilities, mental health needs, seniors and others across the State due to the cut off of State funding until a budget was passed. Denham has said his refusal to support the State Budget last August was because it was seriously out of balance and required more spending cuts.

Supporters of Recall Effort Turned in Over 60,000 Signatures of Registered Voters

•    The sponsor of the recall, Gary D. Robbins, filed 61,144 signatures of registered voters in the 12th State Senate District.

•    To qualify a recall election, the supporters of the recall needed to get at least 31,084 valid signatures on a recall petition, which is 20% of the total votes cast in the last 12th State Senate District election, which was November 2006.

•    The recall qualified through a random sample signature check by local county election officials, who reported the results to the California Secretary of State.

•    Candidates seeking to replace Senator Denham must file nomination papers with county elections officials 59 days before the election date.

•    The Secretary of State will certify the candidate list 55 days before the election.

12th State Senate District Includes All of Merced and San Benito Counties

The 12th State Senate District includes parts of Madera, Monterey and Stanislaus counties and all of Merced and San Benito counties. The district includes the cities of Atwater, Ceres, Dos Palos, Gonzales, Greenfield, Gustine, Hollister, King City, Livingston, Los Banos, Madera, Merced, Modesto, Newman, Patterson, Salinas, San Juan Bautista, Soledad and Turlock.

However, Denham survived the recall vote. He left office in 2010 because he was termed out.

The interesting thing about the city of Ceres is that it is 51% Latino and 48% of the district speaks a language other than English at home. Overall, the district is just under a million people and growing.

Bill Emmerson: It’s questionable whether Emmerson moved his primary residence from Redlands to permanently live in Hemet, or whether he switched addresses by simply leasing a residence from homeowners who lived there. According to this newspaper article dating from July, 2010:

When Benoit was appointed to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, Emmerson ran for his vacant 37th Senate District seat.

To establish his residency in the Riverside County district, he leased a home owned by supporters Nick and Charlotte Jones near Hemet’s Ramona Bowl. He plans to follow his June victory by running again when his term ends in 2012.

He still owns his home in Redlands, but when he’s not in Sacramento, he said he regularly stays at his leased Hemet house. He is switching his membership from the Kiwanis in Redlands to the breakfast-meeting Hemet Valley Kiwanis.

According to MapLight, 79% of Emmerson’s political contributions came from outside his district.

If you live in one of the GOP districts above, call and ask why they won’t vote to extend revenue for our state. Ask them why they’ve enjoyed the fruits of California’s excellent but struggling public education system, yet they’d deny that to kids coming up after them. Tell them that their party is on life support and with changes coming in re-drawing district lines in big districts like Berryhill’s or Cannella’s, they’ll have to adapt to the electorate or go extinct.

1 Comment

  1. Leonard Isenberg - April 25, 2011, 9:53 pm

    According to Professors Lois Weiner, Diane Ravitch, and others, value added assessment has a 42% margin of error, which is never acknowledged by L.A. Times Jason Song or any of the other mainstream media that only report what Ravitch facetiously calls "the dominant narrative," which is really the neo-liberal agenda to scapegoat teachers for a system they have no say in the running of, so that public education can be monetized and privatized to get to the somewhere between $250-370 billion a year "business." Hedge funds that invest can double their money in 7 years, while getting great federal and state tax benefits. Then- in the style of sub prime mortgages and credit default swaps- they will dump the debt laden charters back on the taxpayer and the state. In 1906, when the NYC School District came into existence, it was, according to Ravitch, to counter the widespread corruption of small charter-like schools of the time. Professor Charles Kerschner of the Claremont Graduate University, who wrote a book about LAUSD, said the same thing happened in L.A. in 1903. So now, 105 years later, we are marching backwards.

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