Thursday, January 31, 2008

Obama + Campaign of hope

Obama closes in on California

By Frank D. Russo

You can see it in the late breaking polls, feel it out on the street, and in conversations with neighbors, relatives, and political insiders, and even the last minute endorsement of elected officials and the state’s newspapers. There’s some serious shaking going on in California and once firm predictions that Hillary Clinton will win the primary in this state have become a lot more tentative.

Polls only get you so far with predicting state primaries, as we have learned in recent days. Elections are determined by those who come out to vote and as this race tightens in the golden state, field operations, ground level enthusiasm, and excitement matter. Polls can’t explain what causes volunteers to stand in the drizzle in the early morning traffic rush, such as those pictured above just a few minutes ago in Oakland. They sure did get quite a few honks as cars streamed by.

The well respected California based polls, the Field Poll and Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll, have shown Clinton to be ahead by 12% and 15%, but tracked opinions of what they considered to be likely voters for the week ending January 20 and are now 11 days out of date.

Even here, there were signs of movement as Clinton’s advantage in the Field Poll dropped from 30 points in August to 25 in October, 18% in December, and 12% where they left off. The same is true in the PPIC’s survey which showed a 24 point Clinton lead in December which had shrunk to 15 points when they stopped polling.

The latest poll from Rasmussen released yesterday showed Clinton with a very narrow three-percentage point lead over Obama, 43% to 40%. The survey was conducted two days ago, Tuesday, January 29, 2008, in the hours immediately following Florida's Presidential Primary and before John Edwards dropped out of the race. It was of 807 likely Democratic primary voters and Obama is actually within the 4% margin of error of the poll.

And there is more evidence from tracking polls that the race may be even tighter as San Francisco Chronicle political reporters Matier and Ross wrote yesterday: Two surveys of 400 likely Democratic voters each—Sunday and Monday—by the No on 94-97 proposition campaign had Obama leading Clinton 35% to 32%. As they report, however, these numbers must be interpreted with caution: “A prominent political consultant following the numbers emphasizes that while a single night's tracking isn't considered statistically reliable, it does show movement and direction.”

The Chronicle also has a story about the race on the front page this morning “And then there were two—Edwards bows out,” where Mark DiCamillo, the head of the Field Poll , tells us that the data indicates Edwards’ withdrawal gives Obama another 2% advantage on Clinton.

Early on in California, with the “inevitability” argument being made, Clinton wrapped up an impressive list of endorsements amongst California’s Democratic elected officials, many of whom wanted to back a winner. But in the month of January, in addition to the blockbuster endorsement by Senator Ted Kennedy and other national figures, there has been a surge of California elected Democrats supporting Obama.

Endorsements do not generally win elections, certainly by themselves, but one can see the swing here towards Obama.

Obama clearly has the edge in grass roots support. He has 18 field offices in California, double the 9 offices opened by the Clinton campaign. Obama’s offices have that energy with many young volunteers who are organized in all 53 California Congressional Districts. The campaign also has a network of over 50,000 Californians who have signed up online. Well over a million phone calls have been made by volunteers to registered voters this month including an early focus on decline-to-state votes who are not registered with a party but may vote in the California Democratic primary.

Obama also has, for whatever it is worth, the lion’s share of endorsements by newspapers in the state—at least across the state from the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Daily News, San Jose Mercury News to the Sacramento Bee. You can’t even find on the Clinton California campaign site a list of newspapers in the state who have endorsed her.

The candidates are now in the state, preparing for tonight’s debate—which itself could be very important to Californians and gives us and the nation the opportunity to focus on just the two of them and see what appeals to the 20% or so who can vote in the Democratic primary who are undecided—and those who may even switch in this fluid race.

Five days out, this part of Super Tuesday is turning into an interesting battle between parts of the establishment within the Democratic Party and fresh enthusiasm from an insurgency. What matters is that voters here care about the Democratic nomination and hopefully this stew of excitement will bring out a large vote, whoever wins the primary and whatever share of our delegates. We matter and that counts as well.

Posted on January 31, 2008
From California Progress report

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

California: the State of Education

Interesting. Apparently Supt. O'Connell does not know that the Colleges of Education have been requiring courses on culturally responsive education, previously called multicultural education, since about 1976. They were strengthened in the 90's. Then, since 2000, they have been weakened in response to legislative mandated reforms of teacher preparation.
One of the important elements of culturally responsive preparation is to have members of the appropriate groups at the table. Few teacher preparation programs have improved on this. We are getting worse- not better.
One exception. My own department of Bilingual Multicultural Education at CSU-Sacramento.
If you follow the links to the State Dept. of Education web site, the Superintendent's P-16 council report on closing the Achievement Gap has some reasonably concrete steps to take:

State Of Education 2008: State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell
Lays Out Ambitious Plan For Closing Achievement Gap

SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today delivered his fifth annual State of Education Address and unveiled an ambitious, comprehensive plan aimed at closing California's pernicious achievement gap that exists between students who are white and students of color, as well as with English learners, students in poverty, and students with disabilities.

O'Connell also released a new report by his statewide P-16 Council that outlines what the state can do to create the conditions necessary to close the gap. O'Connell's new initiatives are based on his P-16 Council's recommendations.

"Closing the achievement gap is the key to ensuring California will have a well-qualified workforce that will secure a healthy economy in the future," O'Connell said.

Holding Schools Accountable for Closing the Achievement Gap

O'Connell announced the development of a set of Achievement Gap Intervention Benchmarks, which will contain key indicators that research shows are highly correlated with closing gaps in student achievement.

"To help me identify these benchmarks and ensure they measure what works best, Christopher Edley, Jr., a national leader in civil rights law and Dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall), has agreed to co-chair a Superintendent's advisory committee to develop such a system," O'Connell said. "I've also directed my staff to ensure that, starting in 2009, to earn the California Distinguished School award, schools will have to not only meet the current criteria but they will also have to narrow their achievement gap."

Other new initiatives O'Connell announced include a plan to increase quality preschool in California, offer increased flexibility to districts as part of a pilot partnership between the K-12 community, higher education, and the business community to better ensure high school graduates are ready for college or the world of work, plans to enhance the state's data system to improve student achievement, and plans to develop culturally responsive professional development.

Streamlining and Improving Prekindergarten in California

"I am sponsoring legislation that will consolidate all of the current Title 5 programs serving preschool-aged children to create the largest state-funded pre-Kindergarten program in the nation," O'Connell said. "This will make our pre-K delivery programs more streamlined and efficient and within this new streamlined program, I'm going to focus on delivering preschool of the highest quality."

To measure the quality and effectiveness of preschool providers, O'Connell released new "Preschool Foundations." These foundations are grounded in the best research on socially and developmentally appropriate benchmarks for learning as well as on how to reach English learners. They will provide the framework to guide the state's early childhood educators in providing the playful, enriching early learning experiences that create both kindergarten readiness and a love of learning.

Pilot Partnership for School District Success

In talking about the need for greater flexibility so schools and districts are able to raise student achievement and close the achievement gap, O'Connell stated: "The time for action is now; we needn't wait for further study or legislation. I intend to bring before the State Board of Education a pilot program allowing Long Beach and Fresno unified school districts — the third and fourth largest districts in the state — significant new flexibility in how they allocate their resources. This flexibility will allow them to be more innovative in designing programs to close the achievement gap. In exchange for the increased flexibility, the two districts have agreed to form a partnership to learn together, model, and replicate effective practices. Long Beach, which has been a national model for successful urban district management, will receive more flexibility, while Fresno, a district that greatly has improved but is still in transition, will receive a little less. Both districts, however, will commit to specific benchmark progress goals as a result of their partnership and increased flexibility."

Aligning Systems

"At my request and with the agreement of the Governor, all four systems of public education in California — K-12, community colleges, California State University, and the University of California, joined by private colleges, the business community, and career technical education community — have agreed to join 30 other states in the American Diploma Project. This endeavor will help to ensure that when a student graduates from a California high school, they will be fully prepared with the necessary skills to enter the world of work or higher education."

Using Data and Building a Continuous Learning Environment

The California Department of Education (CDE) is in the process of building an information system to track student achievement over time. But there is additional data the state can and should be collecting that would help educators make more informed decisions about effective programs and interventions. In his speech, O'Connell said that collecting and using such data effectively are key to creating a continuous learning system that leads to improved student performance.

"I am pleased to announce today we've been awarded a generous grant of more than $2 million from the Gates and Hewlett foundations to help create a vision and roadmap for the kind of data our state needs to truly improve teaching and learning as well as decision making at both the state and local level. I also pleased to be joined by Governor Schwarzenegger as a full partner in this process. The grant we have received will allow us to partner with highly regarded strategic management advisors, McKinsey and Company, to help guide this project. Together we will create a document by this summer that clearly lays out what additional information the State of California needs to collect and how much it will cost us to do it. This roadmap will then serve as the basis for the data commission I'm serving on with Governor Schwarzenegger, a commission that has the charge of turning our work into a reality."

Creating Culturally Responsive School Environments

O'Connell announced he has directed the CDE to include evaluations of racial and cultural issues within the existing California School Climate Survey or the California Healthy Kids Survey. This will cost schools no additional money or time, but it will provide valuable information to guide them in the important dialogue that must occur.

"Over the next year, I'm going to bring together experts from around the country to help develop world-class professional development on what it means to be culturally responsive in the classroom, principal's office, and administration building," O'Connell said. "This curriculum will help our educators provide a school climate in which students from all cultures and races feel equally supported in learning to high expectations.

"I also will be collaborating with the deans of California's schools of education to work to imbed culturally responsive instruction in California's teacher pre-service and professional development programs."

For a complete text of O'Connell's 2008 State of Education Address and accompanying materials, please visit State of Education Address - January 22, 2008 - State of Education.

# # # #

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

California budget troubles

Budget analyst’s bleak outlook
By Capitol Staff (published Thursday, January 17, 2008)
Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill, who examines budget issues for the Legislature, has offered an assessment of California’s economic outlook. Hill, although hired by a Legislature controlled by Democrats, is a nonpartisan analyst who each February compiles a detailed assessment of the governor’s proposed state budget. Her study serves as the linchpin of the Capitol’s budget negotiations. In addition to her budget analysis, Hill provided her view of the state’s economic outlook. What follows was taken from Hill’s report on California’s economic climate, which offers an overarching view of business conditions, employment, and fiscal and population growth.

California’s economic situation and outlook are generally similar to the nation as a whole, although the turmoil in the state’s housing and mortgage markets has been more pronounced than nationally, making its outlook a bit more sluggish.

Economic growth in 2008 is expected to be slow, especially in the first half of the year, with recovery beginning later in the year and continuing into 2009. After healthy gains in 2004 through 2006, economic indicators suggest that economic growth slowed for the state as 2007 progressed. For example, growth in both wage and salary employment and taxable sales declined, the unemployment rate rose, and new residential building permits dropped.

The key forces behind the economic slowdown that is being experienced in California are the same as for the nation. Those are sharply declining real estate markets and, to a somewhat lesser degree, high energy and gasoline prices. In fact, the adverse effects of these negative forces tend to be even greater in California than for the rest of the country because of the state’s volatile real estate sector and its higher-than-average gasoline prices and gasoline consumption.

While both of these factors are expected to negatively impact California’s economic performance in 2008 and 2009, this is especially true for the real estate sector. A major real estate correction is currently under way that is expected to get worse before it runs its full course. Although its initial major adverse effects appear to be primarily falling on homeowners, housing-related industries and financial institutions directly involved, there will undoubtedly also be various eventual negative spillover effects on the economy at large.
For more: Capital Weekly

Defeating NCLB and the campaign of Movement Conservatives

Defeating NCLB and the Campaign of Movement Conservatives which produced it (NCLB)
Kenneth Goodman
In Saving Our Schools (2004, RDR Books), I outlined how movement conservatism is organized with the methods and morality of a long range political campaign. NCLB is the key result of such a campaign. Its long range goal is. to privatize education. Those in control of the campaign have been able to strongly influence the policies of both the Republicans and the Democrats. NCLB was presented as a major educational reform by newly elected George W. Bush on September 11, 2001. The Reading Excellence Act which preceded NCLB and mandated the narrow reading focus carried forward in NCLB was passed under the Clinton administration. Andy Rotherham who presents himself as a neo-liberal was the author of the Kerry education platform which strongly supported NCLB. The money and political clout of the campaign comes from the National Business Roundtable and various conservative foundations. Their political power makes it possible to use NICHD, and various scientific groups as covers for the National Reading panel and the Snow Group reports and to control the press treatment of NCLB and related aspects of the campaign. There is no difference between neo-liberals and neo-cons in their attitudes about public education.

David Berliner in his new book with Sharon Nichols, Collatoral Damage, How High Stakes Tesiting Corrupts America's Schools (Harvard Education Press, 2007), has documented a remarkable switch in the press focus on education that happened abruptly in the '90s. Up to a particular point, press reports dealt primarily with failures of government to provide equal access and equal educational opportunities for the nation's children and paricularly minorities. Suddenly the coverage shifted to concern about outcomes and failures of the schools to achieve universal success in learning. This reached its peak in the passage of NCLB with its impossible goal of reaching excellence for all in math, reaidng, and science by 2014 through punishing states, districts and schools that are not successful. Only a very powerful campaign could have so controlled the press across the nation.

The key thing to understand is that in movement conservatism a small, well-connected, highly funded, totally amoral and very intelligent group orchestrate and control a campaign which uses many disparate groups who don't even know they are being used by the campaign- in fact they are led to believe that they are using the campaign.

See more of this important piece:

Open licensing of textbooks ?

Bringing open resources to textbooks and teaching
Jimmy Wales,Rich Baraniuk
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
As the founders of two of the world's largest open-source media platforms - Wikipedia and Connexions - we have both been accused of being dreamers. Independently, we became infected with the idea of creating a Web platform that would enable anyone to contribute their knowledge to free and open learning resources. Jimmy started with his popularly generated encyclopedia. Rich developed a platform for authors, teachers and students to create, remix and share courses and textbooks.

Just about everybody dismissed these dreams. Now, with the support of untold legions of people from Nobel laureates to junior high school kids sitting in the back rows of classrooms, from East Timor the long way around to East Los Angeles, Wikipedia and Connexions have spread around the globe and today are organic, growing, information bases used by hundreds of millions of people.

We want to infect you with the dream that anyone can become part of a new movement with the potential to change the world of education: A movement that can redefine forever how knowledge is created and used. Imagine a world where textbooks and other learning materials are available to everyone for free over the Web and at low-cost in print. (Today, some community college students have to drop out because their textbooks cost more than their tuition; and today, some third-graders have to share math texts because there aren't enough to go around.)

Imagine textbooks adapted to many learning styles and translated into myriad languages. (Today, language barriers prevent many immigrant parents from helping their children with their homework because the texts are only in English.) Imagine textbooks that are continually updated and corrected by a legion of contributors. (Today, Pluto remains in the list of planets in the nation's science textbooks, and who knows how long it will take for it to be removed.)

This world was just a dream a decade ago.

But the puzzle pieces of the Open Education movement have now come together so that anyone, anywhere, can author, assemble, customize and publish their own open course or textbook. Open licenses make the materials legal to use and remix. Technical innovations like XML and print-on-demand make delivering the output technically feasible and inexpensive.

The new development and distribution models promoted by the Open Education movement represent a natural and inevitable evolution of the educational publishing industry in a way that parallels the evolution of the software industry (toward Linux and other open source software); the music industry (recall the band Radiohead's recent "pay what you like" digital download); and the scholarly publishing industry (recall the government's recent decision to mandate online public access to all research funded by the National Institutes of Health - some $28.9 billion in federal funding this year).

The exciting thing about Open Education is that free access is just the beginning. Open Education promises to turn the textbook production pipeline into a vast dynamic knowledge ecosystem that is in a constant state of creation, use, reuse and improvement. Open Education promises to provide children with learning materials tailored to their individual needs in contrast to today's "off the rack" materials. Open Education promises quicker feedback loops that couple student learning outcomes more directly into content development and improvement. And Open Education promises new approaches to collaborative learning that leverage social interaction among students and teachers worldwide.
An interesting opinion piece. What do readers think?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Registered to vote?

If you want to participate in the California Democratic primary on February 5th, you must register to vote by this Tuesday, January 22nd.

Make sure you are registered, and then forward this email to your friends, family, and neighbors. Remind them that they need to be registered if they want to support Barack.

Remember, you do not need to be a Democrat to participate in the primary. Republicans and unaffiliated voters who choose "Decline to State" as their party preference can vote for Senator Obama.

Once someone is registered as "Decline to State," here's how it works:

Unaffiliated voters must specifically request a Democratic ballot. If they are voting in person, they can request the ballot at the polling place.
If they are voting by mail, they must contact their County Elections Officer and request a Democratic ballot by January 29th:
Our campaign wants as many Californians as possible to participate in the Democratic primary -- to support Barack, but also to reconnect with the political process.

For the full rules on registering to vote, visit the website of the California Secretary of State:

Make sure you are registered and spread the word,


Mitchell Schwartz
California State Director
Obama for America

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Is NCLB Dead ? Should it be?

Is NCLB dead? Should it be?
Duane Campbell , Sacramento
Both major teachers’ unions, the National Educational Association and the American Federation of Teachers have made changing or amending the No Child Left Behind act of 2001 as a top priority in this election year. (
Each of the major Democratic Party candidates call for substantive change – and this debate will be an important part of the Fall election. And the NEA has a major law suite against the Bush Administration for imposing the mandates of NCLB without providing the necessary funding.
After over a decade of corporate and conservative assaults on public schools, focused primarily in the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind act of 2001, according to the data of the National Assessment of Educational Progress there has been no improvement in students reading scores and only a small improvement in math scores. In California, with its large English Language Learner population, there has been no measured improvement in scores by ELL students. At the same time The U.S. has one of the highest rates of high school drop outs in the industrialized world as well as one of the highest rates of incarceration for young people, particularly African American and Latino males.
That is to say, we do not have a general education crisis in the nation, we have a crisis for Black, Latino, Asian and working class white kids. We have an unjust and unequal society. While the rich get richer the working people barely hold on to their jobs and housing. Rich kids get good schools, poor kids get poorly funded schools including teachers with limited preparation in subjects such as math and science.
Rather than facing the inequality issue , major corporate sponsored school reform efforts and politicians stress standardized testing as the driving force behind schooling at the k-12 level, particularly in low income districts. The testing measures small bits of memorized information. It can not measure critical thinking skills nor commitment to a building a just and democratic community.
Teachers unions ague that the testing has not improved schools, improved school funding, nor improved teaching. The low level testing tells us what we already know, students in low income schools do poorly. The schools do not usually make up for the inequality in our society.

Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute describes the problems of the NCLB act and its current status here:

“The next president has a unique opportunity to start from scratch in education policy, without the deadweight of a failed, inherited No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The new president and Congress can recapture the "small d" democratic mantle by restoring local control of education, while initiating policies for which the federal government is uniquely suited -- providing better achievement data and equalizing the states' fiscal capacity to provide for all children.
This opportunity exists because NCLB is dead. It will not be reauthorized -- not this year, not ever. The coalition that promoted the 2001 bipartisan law has hopelessly splintered, although NCLB's advocates in the administration and the Congress continue to imagine (at least publicly) that tinkering can put it back together.
NCLB, requiring annual reading and math tests in grades 3 through 8 (and one such test in high school), represents an unprecedented federal takeover of education. It punishes schools not making "adequate yearly progress" toward having all students proficient at "challenging" standards by 2014, regardless of students' socioeconomic disadvantages or even of their cognitive disabilities.”
For the full article go to:

Duane Campbell is the author of Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. ( Prentice Hall, 2004) A new edition is presently being written.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why I Support Barack Obama

Why I’m Supporting Barack Obama for President

By Darrell Steinberg
California State Senate

On February 5th, California Democrats will play a major role in electing our next President.

For this good fortune, we face a difficult choice between talented and qualified candidates. While every one of them would be an improvement over George W. Bush, Sen. Barack Obama is Democrats' best choice in 2008.

Up until last week I supported former Sen. John Edwards, a passionate advocate for improving the lives of the millions of Americans living in poverty. Whatever happens this year, I hope John Edwards remains in public life – the country needs his important voice.

But I switched to Obama because he's the only candidate who can awaken a significant number of Americans – the apathetic and disengaged – who have turned away from an unresponsive government and, in turn, our civic life.

Just look at Iowa, where younger voters and independents boosted Democratic Caucus turnout from 124,000 in 2004 to 239,000 in 2008. These voters, who do not normally participate in elections in these kinds of numbers, responded to Obama's call for Americans to “build a coalition for change that stretches through red states and blue states.”

With a resume unique among American presidential candidates (he was a paid community organizer before he was a politician), Obama recognizes that increasing public participation in our Democracy is the only way to build a consensus for change to take on our most intractable challenges – like passing universal health care and lessening America’s dependence on oil.

While Obama is a consensus-builder at heart, he’s not afraid to stand on principle, even when it’s not politically expedient – he was alone among the leading Democratic presidential candidates in coming out against the Iraq War from the start.

There’s much more to Barack Obama than I can write about here. Go to to find out more about the man and how you can join his fight for change, either as a precinct captain in your neighborhood or even as a contributor to his campaign.

No matter which candidate wins the California primary, I believe that a Democrat will occupy the White House in 2009, riding a message of change and leadership to improve our country's standing in the world.

In my view, only Barack Obama can turn that message into a mandate.

Darrell Steinberg represents Sacramento in the California State Senate.

Posted on January 14, 2008
From: California Progress Report

Monday, January 14, 2008

Liberal Fascists ?

“The quintessential liberal fascist,” says the cover blurb on Liberal Fascism, the new book of National Review writer and right wing blogger Jonah Goldberg, “is not an SS storm trooper. It is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.”*
And they’re worried about how WE teach history?
From Edwize.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

School Budgets

I don't necessarily agree with this assessment, but at least they are talking about real dollars. Note, they do not propose raising taxes to adequately fund the schools.

Finding right mix for school funding
By Michael Kirst and Goodwin Liu - Special to The Bee
Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, January 13, 2008
When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared 2008 the Year of Education, he didn't expect to be facing a $14 billion deficit. In his State of the State speech, the governor acknowledged the need to reform K-12 education and to "fund those reforms" but said "this is not the year to talk about money."
Grim as this year's budget may be, a better fiscal picture lies ahead for K-12 education. State revenues will eventually rebound, as they historically have, and declining enrollment will make more money available per pupil over the next five years.
Additional dollars won't make a difference, however, if we don't act now to change how California funds its public schools.
California's school finance system is deeply flawed. The state allocates revenue to districts through complex formulas that few people can understand. Revenue allocations bear no relation to what it costs to educate children to state standards. The proliferation of revenue programs, each for a specific purpose, generates costly compliance burdens and onerous paperwork. And program restrictions limit the ability of school officials to shift dollars to meet local needs.
In a forthcoming report, the governor's own blue-ribbon education advisory committee will call for a major overhaul of the finance system. Now is the time to create a more rational, simple and fair system that can be phased in as new money becomes available.
We propose a new approach based on four principles. First, revenue allocations should be guided by student needs. If all students are to meet state learning standards, then the finance system must systematically provide greater resources to districts with more disadvantaged students.
Second, revenue allocations should be adjusted for regional wage differences so that education dollars have similar purchasing power across the state.
Third, the system should be simple, transparent and easily understood.
Fourth, to promote stability and political feasibility, reforms should apply only to new money without reducing any district's current revenue, and Proposition 98 should be left intact.
To implement these principles, we envision a system with three parts:
• Base funding: Each district should receive a base funding level to buy textbooks and materials, maintain safe and clean facilities and employ qualified teachers and other personnel. Base funding should enable an "average" child to meet state learning standards.
• Special education: The finance system should maintain its current approach to special education, with a goal of equalizing funding across the state within five years.
• Targeted funding: We propose a single program of targeted funding to meet the additional needs of low-income students and English learners. Funding should be based on the concentration, not just the number, of those students in a given district because the challenges faced by disadvantaged students intensify as more of their peers are similarly disadvantaged.

Cut short to respect copyright provisions asserted by the Sacramento Bee. See earlier posts on Fair Use.
See the entire piece at:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Governor proposes cutting school funds

Governor: Slash school aid
He'll reportedly propose suspension of Prop. 98
By Judy Lin -
Published 12:16 am PST Thursday, January 10, 2008
In a politically charged move to help whittle down the state's $14 billion deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today will propose billions in cuts to public education and a suspension of schools' constitutional funding guarantee under Proposition 98.
Schwarzenegger will ask the Democratic-led Legislature to waive Proposition 98's minimum funding requirement for K-14 education programs when he releases his state spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and declares a fiscal emergency, according to three sources who have seen the proposal. The sources demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to speak.
The suspension, which requires a two-thirds vote of lawmakers, has been done only once before – during the fiscal crisis of 2004 – and ultimately left Schwarzenegger reeling from accusations that he broke a promise to restore education funding in subsequent years.
The Governor's Office declined to comment on a proposal certain to draw fierce opposition from teachers unions and other education advocacy groups.
"We would enlist all of labor to resist the cuts and to resist the suspension of Prop. 98," said Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, which represents over 120,000 education employees. "We would consider it an assault on working families."
Hittelman said 90 percent of education funding is dedicated to salaries, much of which is protected by contracts. A 10 percent cut would leave no money for basic school operational needs such as water and electricity, he said.
"He's going to have a fight on his hands," said Kevin Gordon, a school funding expert and consultant. "Proposition 98 isn't some mechanism to try to get decent funding for public schools; it is a minimum level."
Proposition 98, passed in 1988, provides a minimum guarantee for K-12 school districts, community colleges and instructional activities at state agencies. Under a complex calculation established by the initiative, the state dedicates the lion's share of its general fund spending plan to supplement property taxes for education programs. This year, $41 billion of the state's $100 billion general fund budget goes to schools.
Schools also get smaller amounts of money from the federal budget and state lottery proceeds, neither of which is counted in the Proposition 98 calculation.
It's unclear how much the governor will seek in savings from education, although Schwarzenegger has indicated that he will seek an average of 10 percent cuts from all agencies.
For education, that could range from $4 billion to $6 billion, depending on the source of funding, Gordon said.
While labor leaders vowed to call on Democrats to oppose education reductions, many Republicans in the Legislature would responded favorably to the governor's proposal.
In recent weeks, the governor has met privately with school unions, and associations of administrators and school boards – known around the Capitol as the Education Coalition. Participants said Schwarzenegger has told them education cuts will have to be a part of closing the deficit.
The coalition and Schwarzenegger have a politically turbulent history:
When he first arrived in office, Schwarzenegger struck a deal with education leaders for a $2 billion reduction in school financing to deal with a fiscal crisis in the 2004-05 budget.
Coalition leaders said the governor made a verbal pledge to repay the money as state revenues improved, and ultimately they accused him of reneging on the deal.
The California Teachers Association and other groups spent more than $100 million to defeat Schwarzenegger's 2005 ballot measures, including one to change Proposition 98's minimum funding requirements.
CTA President David Sanchez said it was too early to speculate how teachers would respond to a suspension of Proposition 98.
"Our students are not the ones that created this budget crisis," Sanchez said. "Their education shouldn't be ransomed to solve it. If there has to be any kind of budget cut, it should be kept as far away from the classroom as possible."
Education advocates said the proposal, if passed, would create a bad precedent for school funding in the future. The last thing education advocates want is for the Legislature and governor to develop a habit of suspending Proposition 98, Gordon said.
Advocates grew more anxious after Schwarzenegger's State of the State address. In his speech, the governor did not say what they wanted to hear.
"No self-respecting politician would miss the opportunity to say I'm not raising taxes and preserving Prop. 98," Gordon said.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Obama wins in Iowa

If Barack Obama can win in Iowa (my home state), he can win in the U.S. ( I left Iowa a long time ago)

Barack Obama is the runaway winner of the Iowa Caucuses. What began as a virtual tie between the major candidates on election night quickly turned into a decisive victory for Obama. Hillary Clinton, who has frequently touted her electability, came in a close third behind John Edwards.

With 76 percent of precincts reporting, Obama had the support of 36 percent of voters, compared to 31 percent for Edwards and 30 percent for Clinton.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Obama campaign

So far, I have read on a number of comments on the Obama campaign that consist of little more than veiled references and feigned insider knowledge. I have not read much substantive analysis, mostly name calling.

For a good essay by a seasoned antiracism activist from the Jackson campaign, see Http:///

I have previously posted a comparison of the candidates as developed here in Sacramento for our electoral group the Progressive alliance. You can find arguments for Edwards and Obama on our blog at

Here I would like to take up two of the most frequent characterizations of the Obama campaign which I find lacking.

The argument that Obama is an example of color blindness offered by Angela Davis in The Nation is not consistent with the campaign. While I respect the opinion of Angela Davis on many issues, there is a problem here. We should look at the actual campaign and the actual programs.
Also see Shelby Steele, of all people, on this topic in Time Magazine along with an essay by Joe Klein. 
Rather than dismissing Obama, or relying upon others views, I urge readers to look at what he is actually saying. His campaign, for example, is far from color blind. It is not “beyond race” at all.

You can read his positions at

If you wish to see more see the article on the South Carolina “Black” primary.
On this issue I think it is important to recall a little history. Most African Americans did not support Martin Luther King Jr. while he was active and organizing. Particularly, most “militants”, and many leftists did not.
They found MLK, too accomodationist. Not militant enough.
Of course now writers all claim to have been active supporters of SCLC and King, but if you read history, and his own speeches, you will find how often he was criticized and even denounced as too integrationist.

Now I think there are real issues in the case of Obama and Oprah. What is this role of an African American from the post civil rights generation?
I am not saying that Obama is a new M.L. King. He is an elected official, not a movement leader. However, a fair and accurate analysis of the role of this campaign is in order.

A second major critique, one which I am of two minds about, is the critique of his post partisanship talk. According to the Des Moines Register poll of today, Barack is leading in Iowa --- and his strong support is among independents who will vote in the Democratic primary.

Here is the problem as I understand it.

Bill Clinton etal ( and Hillary) created the DLC arguing that the old politics, the old party structure was obsolete. His critics claim that Sen. Obama is repeating this refrain.
It was different in the DLC era. Their primary argument was that the Democratic Party looked as if it were captured by “special interests” and critics meant Blacks. The DLC was after the Reagan Democrat voter, an older White Male.
Well, obviously with Obama as the candidate, he is not repeating that argument. He is, however, like Clinton, not kneeling to each special interest (such as the NEA, etc.)

I, and many others cringe at this. We tend to see this as an argument against party politics, the sort of beyond ideology stuff. Yes, this is a problem.

At the same time, there is another side. If you think of the actual Democratic Party, of the really existing Democratic Party, that is a corrupt, incompetent, disorganized mass that usually ends up supporting corporate capitalism (see Robert Reich’s new book, supercapitalism),
Given the real nature of the really existing D.P. , then the Obama line of reaching out beyond the existing partisan dueling in the capitol, which is really about who gets the most corporate money for their campaign chests is a reasonable approach. Given this party, then I am less certain of my own position on Barack’s line on the post partisan debate.
How many of us try to recruit people into the D.P.? Why? Then, if Barack argues to move beyond partisanship, why is there such criticism.

So, these are two of the items that concern me about the criticism of the Obama campaign. And they are two items that concern me about the campaign itself. I do not have a clear answer on these. However, in electoral time lines, we do have to make some choices.

Inside the Black Primary, Bob Moser.

Reflections on Black Group Identity in the 21st. Century,
Dr. Milton Kilson

Duane Campbell
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