Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banking Collapse Lands on America’s Schools

From Truthdig.org

By Bill Boyarsky

One of the worst casualties of the Iraq war and the Wall Street failures is the U.S. public school system, which is central to the nation’s economic, intellectual and social health. With financial resources being consumed, education cuts are on the way.

We’ll be paying for this for many years. Poorly educated young people will be unable to get good jobs. We’ll lose our intellectual capital. For that, we can thank Wall Street and its anti-regulation political friends. Thank you, John McCain and President George W. Bush. And thank you both for the war.

Sen. Barack Obama has some pretty good ideas about education, but he might as well forget them. His education proposals would cost at least $18 billion in federal funds. When Jim Lehrer, moderator of last week’s presidential campaign debate, asked him what would happen to all his plans in the wake of the Wall Street bailout, he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, answer.

The importance of the question was clear last week when I visited with several high school teachers at Los Angeles High School.

The school is located between the poor neighborhoods east of the city’s downtown and the more affluent neighborhoods toward the west. Its student body of about 3,000 draws from them all. Some come from comfortable homes with professional mothers and fathers. Others live in crowded one-bedroom apartments with two underpaid working-immigrant parents who may or may not speak English.

I walked through the halls with my friend John Ogden, a veteran Los Angeles High School teacher who had set up my meeting with the teachers. As he greeted a colleague and then a student, I felt that I had entered a community—a complicated one, I knew, but still a community united in a common purpose: education.

Although the Bush administration and Congress took a hands-off attitude toward Wall Street—until the collapse—Washington enthusiastically reached into the classrooms of every public school in the country with the No Child Left Behind Act. This legislation, passed early in the Bush administration with bipartisan support, requires the states to assess students before they receive high school diplomas. Without such testing—in California it is called the California High School Exit Examination—schools could lose federal funding, which amounted to $24.4 billion last year under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The testing is the most controversial feature of No Child Left Behind. The controversy reached into the Los Angeles High School faculty.

Several of the teachers were gathered in a classroom for a faculty meeting on teaching projects. After they finished, I got up and explained that I wanted to talk to them about education for a piece for Truthdig. They were polite but didn’t say much until I raised a question that has always puzzled me in reporting on L.A. public schools: What kind of test scores can be expected from a Hispanic kid with working parents who is trying to do homework in a noisy and overcrowded apartment?

The discussion turned lively. One veteran teacher talked of the obstacles faced by his poor students, who often have to maneuver through gang territory on their way to school.

“Testing has the reek of punishment about it,” he said. “There is something unfair about it. … Is it fair to apply the same standards to parents with little education and who are unable to help their children? … Is it fair to compare that with a Beverly Hills High School student whose parents can offer help? It isn’t fair in my view to apply the same standards.”

A younger teacher disagreed. He said that the tests were good. They required teachers and students to meet standards that will be required of young men and women when they move on from high school. “We have to step up to meet the expectations that the kids in Beverly Hills have,” rather than “give excuses for not knowing what they are supposed to know,” he said. Students should know “you have to move up your game when you go to a university.”

We talked for about an hour. Our discussion covered other controversial areas, such as merit pay for teachers.

I thought they were a dedicated bunch. No matter how they felt about standardized testing, the school’s California High School Exit Examination score was substantially up in the 2007-2008 school year.

But they have been let down by Washington. It imposed the standards but now doesn’t have the money to help school districts finance the classes and extra other programs that will permit the Los Angeles High School children of poor immigrants to compete with their contemporaries in Beverly Hills High School just a few miles away.

They and other public students across the country are real, but unnoticed, victims of the financial crisis. They are another reason why the Wall Street failures and the war are two of the great calamities of our age.


“No Child Left Behind” is written above each of these “little red schoolhouse” entrances at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education building in Washington, D.C.

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.
Copyright © 2008 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Web site development by Hop Studios | Hosted by NEXCESS.NET

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A bailout for us all

A Call for Common Sense

Every man, woman, and child in America is now being told
to ante up $2,000 - an estimated $700 billion in all -
to bail out Wall Street's recklessness, or the very
people who created this crisis are telling us that they
will bring down our entire economy.

The Treasury Department's proposal that the Secretary be
given essentially unlimited authority to spend $700
billion to bail out any financial institution across the
world is irresponsible and unacceptable.

We urge the Congress to insist on some basic conditions
for any bailout.

1. Public Oversight. This kind of power can never be
centralized in a single individual - much less one who
did not even stand for election. Any funds must be
controlled by an independent entity, with consumers and
workers given seats on its board. Congress should be
empowered to name independent monitors and to approve
all board members.

2. Protect the Taxpayer. The Treasury bill would have
taxpayers buying paper that nobody else wants at prices
far above its current value. If a firm wants to auction
off its toxic paper to the US Government, taxpayers
should get equity in that firm equal to any amount paid
in excess of the paper's value. This will deter
profitable firms from using the government as a dumpster
for their toxic paper. And it will insure that if the
bailout works and the firms become profitable,
taxpayers, not simply bankers, benefit from the upside.

3. Curb the casino. This crisis was caused because
sensible regulations of the banking system that worked
for dozens of years were dismantled or went unenforced.
No bailout can go forward without requiring the
necessary regulation to insure this does not happen
again. Any institution, which receives assistance,
should agree to come under a microscope going forward in
terms of disclosure requirements, and it should have
stringent capital requirement imposed upon it.

4. Invest in the real economy. Ending the bankers strike
is not sufficient enough to avoid the recession into
which we have been driven. Major public investment in
new energy and conservation, rebuilding schools and
infrastructure, extending unemployment and food stamps,
helping states avoid crippling cuts in police and health
services - is vital to get the real economy moving and
put people back to work. No bailout should proceed
without being linked to support for a major public
investment plan to get the economy going.

5. Hold CEOs and Boards of Directors Accountable. Wall
Street CEOs shouldn't be pocketing millions while
taxpayers are forced to bail them out. Any firm that
applies for relief must agree to cancel all stock option
programs and CEOs should have stringent limits placed on
their compensation until the Company has repaid all
taxpayer assistance.

6. Aid the victims, not just the predators. Both bankers
and home owners made foolish bets that home prices would
keep rising. Many homeowners, however, were misled by
predatory lenders into taking mortgages that they didn't
understand and couldn't afford. It would be simply
obscene to help the predators and not those that they
preyed upon. No bail out of the banks should take place
without measures to help people in trouble stay in their
homes. Explicit provisions should ensure use of the full
array of financial and legal tools available to the
government to stop foreclosures and restructure home
mortgage loans for ordinary Americans, including
amending the bankruptcy code to allow judges to modify
mortgages. Where workouts are not feasible, people
should be allowed to stay in their homes as renters.

-- Robert Borosage, co-director, Campaign for America's
-- John Sweeney, president, AFL-CIO
-- Andy Stern, president, Service Employees
International Union (SEIU)
-- Gerald McEntee, president, Am. Fed. of State, County
and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
-- Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of
Teachers (AFT)
-- Larry Cohen, president, Communications Workers of
America (CWA)
-- Dennis Van Roekel, president, National Education
Association (NEA)
-- Leo Gerard, president, United Steelworkers (USW)
-- Maude Hurd, national president, ACORN
-- Nan Aron, president, Alliance for Justice
-- Amy Issacs, national director, Americans for
Democratic Action
-- Kevin Zeese, executive director, Campaign for Fresh
Air & Clean Politics
-- John Podesta, president, Center for American Progress
Action Fund
-- Deepak Bhargava, president, Center for Community
-- Deborah Weinstein, executive director, Coalition for
Human Needs
-- Donald Mathis, president, Community Action
-- Jane Hamsher, firedoglake.com
-- James D. Weill, president, Food Research & Action
Center (FRAC)
-- Brent Blackwelder, president, Friends of the Earth
-- John Cavanagh, director, Institute for Policy Studies
-- Sarita Gupta, executive director, Jobs with Justice
-- Wade Henderson, president, Leadership Conference on
Civil Rights
-- Carissa Picard, esq., president, Military Spouses for
-- Sally Greenberg, executive director, National
Consumers League
-- Christine L. Owens, executive director, National
Employment Law Project
-- Gary Bass, executive director, OMB Watch
-- Adam Lioz, program director, Progressive Future
-- Joanne Carter, executive director, RESULTS
-- William McNary, president, USAction
-- Paula Brantner, executive director, Workplace
-- Dan Cantor, executive director, Working Families
-- Mark Lotwis, executive director, 21st Century

The Campaign for America's Future (CAF) is a center of
progressive strategy, organizing and issue campaigns.
CAF anchors a progressive leadership network, enlisting
leaders at the national, state and local levels to build
a more just and democratic society. The Campaign is
leading the fight about America's priorities - against
privatization of Social Security, for investment in
energy independence, good jobs and a sustainable
economy, for affordable health care and more.


Friday, September 26, 2008

New Community -Education Coalition

Coalition backs plan to improve public schools
A coalition of leading educators and community organizations has produced a "Community Agenda for America's Public Schools." The group, which includes Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, seeks to address complex social problems -- including poverty, violence, substance abuse, and family instability -- by focusing on schools. The agenda calls for more partnerships between public schools and local community groups, health-care providers, and other social services to help struggling students, especially in the nation's urban and rural areas.
Read more at http://www.thecommunityagenda.org

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Who is protecting us?

A Fox to Protect the Henhouse?

Posted on Sep 23, 2008

By Robert Scheer

Does it really matter which party is in charge when it comes to bailing out the Wall Street hustlers whose shenanigans have bankrupted so many ordinary folks? Not if the Democrats roll over and cede power to the former head of Goldman Sachs, the investment bank at the center of our economic meltdown.

What arrogance for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson—who the year before President Bush appointed him treasury secretary was paid $16.4 million for heading the company that did as much as any to engineer this financial travesty—to now insist we must blindly trust him to solve the problem. Paulson is demanding the power to act with “absolute impunity,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who admonished the treasury chief: “After reading this proposal, it is not only our economy that is at risk, Mr. Secretary, but our Constitution as well.”

Clearly, it’s a vast improvement to have Dodd in the chairman’s seat of the Senate Banking Committee, asking the right questions, rather than his predecessor, Texas Republican Phil Gramm, who presided over the committee in the years when the American economy, long the envy of the world, was viciously sabotaged by radical deregulation legislation.

Gramm, whom Sen. John McCain backed for president in 1996, pushed through the financial market deregulation that has brought the American economy to its knees. Maybe this time Congress won’t give the financial moguls everything they want, including a bailout for foreign-owned banks like Swiss-based UBS, where Gramm now hangs out as a very well paid executive when he’s not advising the presidential campaign of McCain, his old buddy and partner in crime. Oops, sorry, no crimes were committed because the deregulation laws Gramm pursued and McCain faithfully supported decriminalized the financial scams that have proved so costly.

Just check out the language of Gramm’s pet projects, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. By preventing mergers between the various branches of Wall Street, the former act reversed basic Depression-era legislation passed to prevent the sort of collapse we are now experiencing. The latter legitimized the “swap agreements” and other “hybrid instruments” that are at the core of the crisis.

The legislation’s “Legal Certainty for Bank Products Act of 2000,” Title IV of the law—a law that Gramm snuck in without hearings hours before the Christmas recess—provided Wall Street with an unbridled license to steal. It made certain that financiers could legally get away with a whole new array of financial rip-off schemes.

One of those provisions, summarized by the heading of Title III, ensured the “Legal Certainty for Swap Agreements,” which successfully divorced the granters of subprime mortgage loans from any obligation to ever collect on them. That provision of Gramm’s law is at the very heart of the problem. But the law went even further, prohibiting regulation of any of the new financial instruments permitted after the financial industry mergers: “No provision of the Commodity Exchange Act shall apply to, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission shall not exercise regulatory authority with respect to, an identified banking product which had not been commonly offered, entered into, or provided in the United States by any bank on or before December 5, 2000. …”

Even some Republicans on the Senate committee expressed exasperation Monday with the swindles that they had voted for with such enthusiasm in the past, as well as with giving Wall Street yet another blank check. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., condemned Paulson’s proposal as an effort to “take Wall Street’s pain and spread it to the taxpayers.” He added, “It’s financial socialism and it’s un-American.”

He’s wrong on that last point, for what is proposed is not the nationalization of private corporations but rather a corporate takeover of government. The marriage of highly concentrated corporate power with an authoritarian state that services the politico-economic elite at the expense of the people is more accurately referred to as “financial fascism.” After all, even Hitler never nationalized the Mercedes-Benz company but rather entered into a very profitable partnership with the current car company’s corporate ancestor, which made out quite well until Hitler’s bubble burst.

Smell a rat if Congress approves the Paulson plan without severely curtailing CEO pay and putting a freeze on the mortgage foreclosures that are threatening to destroy the homes of millions of Americans.

Robert Scheer is author of a new book, “The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America.”

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson briefs reporters on the economy earlier this month at the White House.

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.
Copyright © 2008 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Web site development by Hop Studios | Hosted by NEXCESS.NET

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

David Cay Johnston: The economic crisis?

NYT Econ Journalist David Cay Johnston: It Doesn't Add Up
by: Paul Rosenberg
Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 18:15
NYT Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, author of Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill, has written a letter to fellow journalists that deserves wide attention, urging a fundamentally skeptical approach to reporting on this purported crisis, warning against repeating the mistakes of the recent past, reporting on other Bush Administration panics:
Journalists, start your skepticism.
In covering the proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street don't repeat the failed lapdog practices that so damaged our reputations in the rush to war in Iraq and the adoption of the Patriot Act. Don't assume that Congress must act instantly, as so many news stories state as if it was an immutable fact. Don't assume there is a case just because officials say there is.

The coverage of the Paulson plan focuses on the edges, on the details. The focus should be on the premise. And be skeptical of what gullible Congressional leaders, most of them up before the voters in a few weeks, say after being given a closed-door meeting on supposed horrors.

The Administration has scared the markets and some key legislative leaders, but it has not laid out a coherent, specific and compelling need for this enormous proposal, which is the equivalent of a one-time 55 percent income tax surcharge. (Instead the money will be borrowed, so ask from whom and how this much can be raised so quickly if the credit markets are nearly seized up with fear.)

He then goes on to talk about specific journalistic question-asking around the chief question of the day: is credit really about to vanish?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why Obama?: Linda Darling Hammond

Obama understands that teachers and schools cannot close the achievement gap by themselves, and there needs to be a broader effort by government and society to support children’s health, welfare, and learning.
With nearly a quarter of our children living in poverty — far more than any other industrialized nation in the world — Obama’s plans to address health care, housing, and employment needs are critically important.
In spite of Darling-Hammond's advocacy of PACT in California, she has some good things to say here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bailout Plan a Historic Swindle

Paulson Bailout Plan A Historic Swindle
By William Greider
The Nation
September 19, 2008

Financial-market wise guys, who had been seized with
fear, are suddenly drunk with hope. They are rallying
explosively because they think they have successfully
stampeded Washington into accepting the Wall Street
Journal solution to the crisis: dump it all on the
taxpayers. That is the meaning of the massive bailout
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has shopped around
Congress. It would relieve the major banks and
investment firms of their mountainous rotten assets and
make the public swallow their losses--many hundreds of
billions, maybe much more. What's not to like if you are
a financial titan threatened with extinction?

If Wall Street gets away with this, it will represent an
historic swindle of the American public--all sugar for
the villains, lasting pain and damage for the victims.
My advice to Washington politicians: Stop, take a deep
breath and examine what you are being told to do by so-
called "responsible opinion." If this deal succeeds, I
predict it will become a transforming event in American
politics--exposing the deep deformities in our democracy
and launching a tidal wave of righteous anger and
popular rebellion. As I have been saying for several
months, this crisis has the potential to bring down one
or both political parties, take your choice.

Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics, a
brave conservative critic, put it plainly: "The joyous
reception from Congressional Democrats to Paulson's
latest massive bailout proposal smells an awful lot like
yet another corporatist lovefest between Washington's
one-party government and the Sell Side investment

A kindred critic, Josh Rosner of Graham Fisher in New
York, defined the sponsors of this stampede to action:
"Let us be clear, it is not citizen groups, private
investors, equity investors or institutional investors
broadly who are calling for this government purchase
fund. It is almost exclusively being lobbied for by
precisely those institutions that believed they were
'smarter than the rest of us,' institutions who need to
get those assets off their balance sheet at an inflated
value lest they be at risk of large losses or worse."

Let me be clear. The scandal is not that government is
acting. The scandal is that government is not acting
forcefully enough--using its ultimate emergency powers
to take full control of the financial system and impose
order on banks, firms and markets. Stop the music, so to
speak, instead of allowing individual financiers and
traders to take opportunistic moves to save themselves
at the expense of the system. The step-by-step rescues
that the Federal Reserve and Treasury have executed to
date have failed utterly to reverse the flight of
investors and banks worldwide from lending or buying in
doubtful times. There is no obvious reason to assume
this bailout proposal will change their minds, though it
will certainly feel good to the financial houses that
get to dump their bad paper on the government.

A serious intervention in which Washington takes charge
would, first, require a new central authority to
supervise the financial institutions and compel them to
support the government's actions to stabilize the
system. Government can apply killer leverage to the
financial players: accept our objectives and follow our
instructions or you are left on your own--cut off from
government lending spigots and ineligible for any direct
assistance. If they decline to cooperate, the money guys
are stuck with their own mess. If they resist the
government's orders to keep lending to the real economy
of producers and consumers, banks and brokers will be
effectively isolated, therefore doomed.

Only with these conditions, and some others, should the
federal government be willing to take ownership--
temporarily--of the rotten financial assets that are
dragging down funds, banks and brokerages. Paulson and
the Federal Reserve are trying to replay the bailout
approach used in the 1980s for the savings and loan
crisis, but this situation is utterly different. The
failed S&Ls held real assets--property, houses, shopping
centers--that could be readily resold by the Resolution
Trust Corporation at bargain prices. This crisis
involves ethereal financial instruments of unknowable
value--not just the notorious mortgage securities but
various derivative contracts and other esoteric deals
that may be virtually worthless.

Despite what the pols in Washington think, the RTC
bailout was also a Wall Street scandal. Many of the
financial firms that had financed the S&L industry's
reckless lending got to buy back the same properties for
pennies from the RTC--profiting on the upside, then
again on the downside. Guess who picked up the tab? I
suspect Wall Street is envisioning a similar bonanza--
the chance to harvest new profit from their own fraud
and criminal irresponsibility.

If government acts responsibly, it will impose some
other conditions on any broad rescue for the bankers.
First, take due bills from any financial firms that get
to hand off their spoiled assets, that is, a hard
contract that repays government from any future profits
once the crisis is over. Second, when the politicians
get around to reforming financial regulations and
dismantling the gimmicks and "too big to fail"
institutions, Wall Street firms must be prohibited from
exercising their usual manipulations of the political
system. Call off their lobbyists, bar them from the
bribery disguised as campaign contributions. Any contact
or conversations between the assisted bankers and
financial houses with government agencies or elected
politicians must be promptly reported to the public,
just as regulated industries are required to do when
they call on government regulars.

More important, if the taxpayers are compelled to
refinance the villains in this drama, then Americans at
large are entitled to equivalent treatment in their
crisis. That means the suspension of home foreclosures
and personal bankruptcies for debt-soaked families
during the duration of this crisis. The debtors will not
escape injury and loss--their situation is too dire--but
they deserve equal protection from government, the
chance to work out things gradually over some years on
reasonable terms.

The government, meanwhile, may have to create another
emergency agency, something like the New Deal, that
lends directly to the real economy--businesses, solvent
banks, buyers and sellers in consumer markets. We don't
know how much damage has been done to economic growth or
how long the cold spell will last, but I don't trust the
bankers in the meantime to provide investment capital
and credit. If necessary, Washington has to fill that
role, too.

Finally, the crisis is global, obviously, and requires
concerted global action. Robert A. Johnson, a veteran of
global finance now working with the Campaign for
America's Future, suggests that our global trading
partners may recognize the need for self-interested
cooperation and can negotiate temporary--maybe
permanent--reforms to balance the trading system and
keep it functioning, while leading nations work to put
the global financial system back in business.

The agenda is staggering. The United States is ill
equipped to deal with it smartly, not to mention wisely.
We have a brain-dead lame duck in the White House. The
two presidential candidates are trapped by events,
trying to say something relevant without getting blamed
for the disaster. The people should make themselves
heard in Washington, even if only to share their


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Economic Hypocrisy: Stiglitz

Dishonesty in the finance sector dragged us here, and
Washington looks ill-equipped to guide us out

By Joseph Stiglitz

The Guardian (UK)
September 16 2008

Houses of cards, chickens coming home to roost - pick
your cliche. The new low in the financial crisis, which
has prompted comparisons with the 1929 Wall Street
crash, is the fruit of a pattern of dishonesty on the
part of financial institutions, and incompetence on the
part of policymakers.

We had become accustomed to the hypocrisy. The banks
reject any suggestion they should face regulation,
rebuff any move towards anti-trust measures - yet when
trouble strikes, all of a sudden they demand state
intervention: they must be bailed out; they are too
big, too important to be allowed to fail.

Eventually, however, we were always going to learn how
big the safety net was. And a sign of the limits of the
US Federal Reserve and treasury's willingness to rescue
comes with the collapse of the investment bank Lehman
Brothers, one of the most famous Wall Street names.

The big question always centres on systemic risk: to
what extent does the collapse of an institution imperil
the financial system as a whole? Wall Street has always
been quick to overstate systemic risk - take, for
example, the 1994 Mexican financial crisis - but loth
to allow examination of their own dealings. Last week
the US treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, judged there
was sufficient systemic risk to warrant a government
rescue of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac;
but there was not sufficient systemic risk seen in

The present financial crisis springs from a
catastrophic collapse in confidence. The banks were
laying huge bets with each other over loans and assets.
Complex transactions were designed to move risk and
disguise the sliding value of assets. In this game
there are winners and losers. And it's not a zero-sum
game, it's a negative-sum game: as people wake up to
the smoke and mirrors in the financial system, as
people grow averse to risk, losses occur; the market as
a whole plummets and everyone loses.

Financial markets hinge on trust, and that trust has
eroded. Lehman's collapse marks at the very least a
powerful symbol of a new low in confidence, and the
reverberations will continue.

The crisis in trust extends beyond banks. In the global
context, there is dwindling confidence in US
policymakers. At July's G8 meeting in Hokkaido the US
delivered assurances that things were turning around at
last. The weeks since have done nothing but confirm any
global mistrust of government experts.

How seriously, then, should we take comparisons with
the crash of 1929? Most economists believe we have the
monetary and fiscal instruments and understanding to
avoid collapse on that scale. And yet the IMF and the
US treasury, together with central banks and finance
ministers from many other countries, are capable of
supporting the sort of "rescue" policies that led
Indonesia to economic disaster in 1998. Moreover, it is
difficult to have faith in the policy wherewithal of a
government that oversaw the utter mismanagement of the
war in Iraq and the response to Hurricane Katrina. If
any administration can turn this crisis into another
depression, it is the Bush administration.

America's financial system failed in its two crucial
responsibilities: managing risk and allocating capital.
The industry as a whole has not been doing what it
should be doing - for instance creating products that
help Americans manage critical risks, such as staying
in their homes when interest rates rise or house prices
fall - and it must now face change in its regulatory
structures. Regrettably, many of the worst elements of
the US financial system - toxic mortgages and the
practices that led to them - were exported to the rest
of the world.

It was all done in the name of innovation, and any
regulatory initiative was fought away with claims that
it would suppress that innovation. They were
innovating, all right, but not in ways that made the
economy stronger. Some of America's best and brightest
were devoting their talents to getting around standards
and regulations designed to ensure the efficiency of
the economy and the safety of the banking system.
Unfortunately, they were far too successful, and we are
all - homeowners, workers, investors, taxpayers -
paying the price.

Joseph E Stiglitz is university professor at Columbia
University and recipient of the 2001 Nobel prize in
economics josephstiglitz.com


Friday, September 19, 2008

The California budget + Schools

This State Budget is a Massive Corporate Boondoggle That Kicks California's Fiscal Future into a Ditch On The Side Of the Road

By Bill Lockyer
State of California

This budget doesn’t even kick the can down the road. Instead, it kicks California’s fiscal future into a ditch on the side of the road. It’s compromise in the worst sense: It compromises our ability to give our kids better schools, provide our families better health care and make our communities more livable. It’s the most irresponsible budget of the past half-century.

The plan contains several elements that constitute fiscal folly. But the most offensive provide multi-billion dollar handouts to big business in the form of permanent tax breaks. This giveaway makes the budget a massive corporate boondoggle that does nothing to fix our structural deficit and, in fact, will make it substantially worse.

The attempt to strengthen the rainy-day fund is commendable. But the reserve will be a mirage until the structural gap between revenues and expenditures is closed. This budget, by playing year-round Santa Claus to wealthy corporations, pushes that goal further into a dim future. There were alternative, more responsible ways to deal with taxes, ways that wouldn’t bust tomorrow’s budgets. The failure to pursue those options is disheartening and a disservice to the public.

The first tax break lets corporations, when they lose money in any given year, obtain refunds on taxes they paid in prior years. Businesses often suffer losses when the economy turns sour, just as California’s families do. When the economy’s bad, the resulting revenue decline also puts the State in a fiscal hole.

So under this budget, the State will be cutting refund checks for corporate behemoths while it’s cutting services for people. When fully implemented, this so-called “carry-back” provision – rejected many times by the Legislature – will cost the State more than $500 million, every year, forever.
From California Progress Report:

From: CTA
Today lawmakers are scheduled to vote on a "new deal" budget package that is just as disastrous for students, public schools, colleges, health care and other vital services as the “get out of town” budget they passed in the wee morning hours Tuesday.

Today's "new deal" budget package, like the earlier version, still does absolutely nothing to solve the state’s structural deficit, includes no ongoing revenues and puts everyone in California at risk. What's even worse is it still cuts $3 billion from public education and never restores those funds.

This "new deal" budget is still full of gimmicks that rely on borrowing from the lottery and future state revenues in order to close the $15 billion budget deficit, which sets our schools up for more funding shortfalls next year and undermines Prop. 98, the voter supported minimum school funding guarantee.

This "new deal" budget guarantees that the amount California spends on our students remains at the bottom nationwide.

Our students and schools deserve better.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

McCain and Crony Capitalism

Crony Capitalism
The U.S. purchase of AIG is crony capitalism at its worst. We, the tax payers are left holding the bag for bad investments. AIG has 85 billion world wide of insurance and other products. The front page story in the BEE says the U.S. gets a stake in the insurance giant. No. We get a liability. So, we now sell insurance in Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Peru and Russia and Europe – all supported by our taxes and our bank accounts. But, John McCain says we can not afford health insurance for our own people.
AS described in a Salon.com article, this system was created and promoted by Phil Gramm, formerly John McCain’s principal economic advisor.
It is accurate that Gramm had assistance from Democrats, lead by Joe Lieberman, now Mc Cain’s primary advisor.
These politicians demonstrate the examples given in the book, The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.
Public money should be used for public purposes, for schools, roads, water systems. Not for crony capitalism and to reward millionaires.
Its time to throw the bums out- the Republicans -to protect your home ,your job and your pension funds.

Duane E. Campbell

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Legislators and teachers

The governor and legislative leaders often bash teachers and demand more accountability. Well lets see.
The Legislature has a 28% approval rating by the voters. The governor has a 46% approval rating.
Teachers on the other hand have an approval rating that varies between 64% and 80 % approval. We are now 76 days without a state budget. Now, where is the accountability?

Friday, September 12, 2008

McCain and change

Vote for Change

You'd be surprised by how many people you know who aren't registered to vote.

Registration deadlines are coming up soon, and we need every single vote we can get to win this election.

Tell your friends, family, and neighbors to check out our new one-stop voter registration website.

Just forward this message.

VoteforChange.com makes it easier than ever to register. Instead of tracking down the right forms, all you need to do is answer a few basic questions and you'll be ready to vote. You can also:
Confirm your existing registration
Apply to vote absentee
Find your polling place

If you don't know your own registration status or you'd like to learn more, take a minute to visit the site right now.

This race is too close and too important to stay home on Election Day.

If you take the time to register and vote -- and make sure everyone you know is registered as well -- we'll be able to turn the tide of the past eight years.

It's people just like you who will transform this nation.



Thursday, September 11, 2008

Only 48% of California Schools meet federal standards

Only 48% of California high schools meet federal standards, even with easier measure
New results show about 300 of the schools met the goals only because their marks were based on the exit exam, much less demanding than tests that help determine the state Academic Performance Index.
By Howard Blume and Ben Welsh
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

September 5, 2008

Hundreds of California high schools met this year's federal academic targets released Thursday only because the state uses easier standards for high schools than for elementary and middle schools, a Times analysis has found.

But even with this boost, just 48% of the state's high schools met the federal standard of "adequate yearly progress" in this year's results.

The Times analysis identified about 300 high schools that were reported as meeting all federal standards even though their combined proficiency scores in math or English language arts on the California standards tests fell below proficiency levels required for federal compliance this year. Their passing marks were based on much higher scores registered on the easier high school exit exam.

In practical terms, this means that high schools are not being consistently evaluated on what their students are supposed to be learning. The situation exemplifies California's complex, uneven and often competing state and federal accountability systems.

State education officials emphasized the positive Thursday: an incremental narrowing of the achievement gap that separates the much higher performance of white and Asian students from that of blacks and Latinos.

State officials also pointed to widespread gains on California's Academic Performance Index, which the state developed to evaluate schools and set improvement goals.

But there's also a second rating system that the state developed to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law. And within that framework, high schools get a break.

Unlike elementary and middle schools, high schools are not rated on whether students master course work intended for their grade level. Instead, the accountability measure is the high school exit exam. It's one of California's high school diploma requirements, designed as a minimum standard for confirming what students have learned. The exam's math section, for example, is based on seventh-grade standards with portions of first-year algebra.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

McCain wrong on education

A major component of the John McCain campaign this week is to argue that he is a maverick, he has disagreed with his own party- and Barack Obama has not. You can see this quote on his stump speeches.
The problem, the claim is just is not true. Not only has John McCain voted with President Bush over 90% of the time, particularly on critical issues such as the war in Iraq, but Barack Obama has taken on his own party.
In yesterday’s major speech on education reform Barack Obama took two positions directly in opposition to the teachers unions and majorities in his own party.
(See below)
He has called for more funding of public charters and for teacher pay for performance. These two are key ingredients which the teachers’ unions oppose. Indeed, it was these positions that led the AFT to back Hillary Clinton, they are not supporting Barack Obama.
And, he opposed the majority of his party on the highly controversial FISA legislation.
Duane Campbell

New York Times
September 10, 2008
Obama Looks to Lessons From Chicago in His National Education Plan
CHICAGO — Senator Barack Obama learned how hard it can be to solve America’s public education problems when he headed a philanthropic drive here a decade ago that spent $150 million on Chicago’s troubled schools and barely made a dent.
Drawing on that experience, Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, is campaigning on an ambitious plan that promises $18 billion a year in new federal spending on early childhood classes, teacher recruitment, performance pay and dozens of other initiatives.
In Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday, Mr. Obama used his education proposals to draw a contrast with Senator John McCain, his Republican opponent, and to insist to voters that he, more than his rival, would change the way Washington works.
Were he to become president, Mr. Obama would retain the emphasis on the high standards and accountability of President Bush’s education law, No Child Left Behind. But he would rewrite the federal law to offer more help to high-need schools, especially by training thousands of new teachers to serve in them, his campaign said. He would also expand early childhood education, which he believes gets more bang for the buck than remedial classes for older students.
Mr. Obama added a new flourish to his stump speech, promising for the first time on Tuesday to double federal spending on public charter schools while holding those with poor records accountable.
But more than most campaign blueprints, Mr. Obama’s education plan reflects his own work with Chicago’s public schools, campaign staff members and people who have worked with him said in interviews. His plan signals that he is looking to apply those lessons nationwide.
“Barack has been very engaged, very inquisitive about the dynamics of how do you improve public schools,” said Scott Smith, a former publisher of The Chicago Tribune who has collaborated with Mr. Obama on education projects here for a decade.
One of the biggest lessons Mr. Obama drew from his experiences in Chicago, associates said, is that student achievement is highly dependent on teacher quality.
In the two decades since Mr. Obama arrived in Chicago, its public schools have undergone a sweeping turnaround, from an education wasteland to a district that, while still facing major challenges, is among the most improved in the nation. The city has closed many failing schools and reopened them with new staffs, making it an important laboratory for one of the country’s most vexing problems.
The city closed the failing Dodge Elementary School, for example, in 2002 and reopened it as an academy where candidates for advanced degrees in education work in classrooms under master teachers while studying at a local university. Mr. Obama visited the school in 2005, liked what he saw and now proposes to create 200 such teacher residency programs nationwide. The goal, he says, would be to turn out 30,000 teachers a year to work in the toughest schools.
Mr. Obama’s views have drawn heavily from a cast of experts who helped mold the Chicago experience. Strategies for overhauling failing schools have come from Arne Duncan, who as chief executive of the Chicago public schools led the turnaround efforts. The senator derived his views on early childhood education in part from the work of a Nobel Prize-winning economist based in Chicago.
The scope of Mr. Obama’s plan has impressed many educators, but not everyone.
Michael J. Petrilli, a former Education Department official under Mr. Bush, said Mr. Obama’s plan was more comprehensive than Mr. McCain’s.
“That’s because Obama is proposing what somebody called a Christmas tree of new programs,” Mr. Petrilli said. “McCain is suggesting a couple of new things, but doesn’t think Washington should spend more on education than we already are.”

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Budget Stalemate: Day 71

A Senator Expresses Disappointment in Inability to Pass a California Budget With Balanced Solutions

By Tom Torlakson
California State Senate

With the state budget stalemate now over two months old, I am extremely disappointed in the State Legislature's inability to pass a budget that includes a balanced solution to the $15.5 billion projected deficit.


I know the failure to pass a state budget has a real and deep impacts on our community. The ramifications are all too real for people and organizations providing necessary services. My staff and I have talked to school leaders, small business owners supplying health care and food to state institutions, providers of homes for people with developmental disabilities, child care providers, students who will soon not receive their CalGrants, senior day care center operators, and others who are facing the consequences of the budget gridlock every day.

State Controller John Chiang reports that he has been unable to make $4.25 billion in payments so far because no new state budget is in place. There are $7.6 billion in payments that will go unpaid if the budget stalemate were to tragically continue through the end of September.

It may cost up to a half billion dollars to borrow money to pay the state's bills in the absence of a budget. That is money that instead should go fund services Californians require. We need to act!


My colleagues in the Democratic caucus have offered numerous concessions over the past few months, without success. A half year's work on the budget produced a balanced budget agreeable to the majority of both houses of our legislature. But this carefully crafted budget was unable to gain the required two-thirds support in the legislature.

Since June, Democrats have reluctantly agreed to billions in additional cuts to our schools, child care, children's health, medical providers, and other programs. Our budget to close corporate loopholes and to reinstate higher tax brackets on the wealthiest Californians was rejected by the Republicans, so we have accepted the Governor's temporary sales tax increase. We have, so far, rejected plans to borrow from Proposition 1A (2004) local government or Proposition 1A (2006) transportation funds.


We were finally able to debate a detailed budget plan from my Republican colleagues on the Senate floor yesterday. Unfortunately, it was a budget that would starve our schools at a time when they need more resources to meet rigorous federal and state accountability standards.

The Republican budget literally gambles with our school funding. It uses a risky and legally dubious securitization scheme to "fill the gap" between funding schools at the minimum level and achieving the $1.9 billion higher spending amount Democrats put forward in the spirit of compromise. The Governor's Department of Finance believes this lottery proposal is not legally viable because such securitization requires a vote of the people.

So the Republicans want to rely on gambling and "rolling the dice" to fund our schools. It is highly probable that when their lottery scheme does not work, schools would receive $600 million less this year than they did last year. Schools have already made series of cuts--and then cut more again.

I adamantly urged a NO vote on this irresponsible, destructive budget--which would compound harm by an on-going reduction of $2 billion per year in the Proposition 98 schools guaranteed funding. It is a gamble we must not accept!

This scheme is on top of spending reductions many school districts have put in place already--a situation which has led to increased class sizes, dismantling of career technical education courses, elimination of arts and music, reductions in technology, and other decisions that will harm our students and our state over the long-term.


As I told my Senate colleagues on the floor, given our students' needs, we should be debating increasing public education spending by billions of dollars--not starving our schools even further. Last year's Getting Down to Facts adequacy study estimates that California should spend at least $15 billion to $24 billion a year more to ensure every student can meet "academically rigorous content standards and performance standards in all major subject areas."

Should we really talk about further starving our schools of needed resources when we rank 45th in eighth grade math achievement and 43rd in eighth grade science achievement? When we rank 46th in per pupil spending when adjusted for regional cost-of-living differences?

We must not pass a budget that dishonors and ignores our students' positive aspirations and dreams. That rejects the promises of our state's education master plan. That leaves our students ill-prepared to compete in the 21st century global economy.

There is no doubt that spending cuts are required this year and we must always strive to spend every dollar efficiently. But, as I have previously argued, we must make certain that any resolution to this current budget deadlock does not leave California incapable of providing a public education system offering a rigorous and relevant curriculum, the infrastructure needed to support continued economic vitality, services for the most vulnerable members of our society, or a health care system able to care for and protect our residents.

Read the entire post at California Progress Report.

Senator Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch) represents the Seventh Senatorial District, including most of Contra Costa County. He is the chair of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Schools and Community. Senator Torlakson is also a member of the Senate Education and Transportation and Housing Committees. A teacher and coach, Senator Torlakson is the Chair and Founder of the California Task Force on Youth and Workplace Wellness, a group seeking to raise the profile of health and fitness in the public schools and in the workplace. He is currently on the faculty at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, California.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Legislature, the schools, and accountability

Budget stalemate: Day 70
The California legislature since 1994 has imposed accountability on the public schools. They have spent millions on tests. They have insisted that thousands of hours of professional work be dedicated to accountability. Their accountability work has a very weak record of reliability and validity ( See Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools. Nichols and Berliner.

Now, the legislature does not pass a budget for over 70 days.
California’s schools are open and the teachers are at work. Over 6 million children have returned to school. Some 477,000 will be entering first grade in over 5,000 schools. Each of these schools have a budget and each of these budgets are in confusion while the state decides what to do about their budget crisis. At least 25% of the schools will not be ready for the students because the school doesn’t know what its budget will be.
Will the school have an ELL teacher or two?
Will there be a reading coach?
Will class size be 24 or 32? Which really means we will have to re-organize each of the classes and the teachers.
What will happen to the new programs established last year under the Quality Education Act?
Shall the district hire a new teacher or only a 30 day substitute ?
Do we have the money for an ELL specialist or will the money be for an Algebra teacher? And when we finally hear if we have the money, will the well qualified Algebra teacher have moved to another state where this annual disruption of their lives does not occur? Really, would you wait 2-3 months each year to see if you had a job?
And, even in mainstreamed classes, will there be two English Learners or eight?
These are but the start of the many decisions that need to be made. Rather than beginning school in late August, far too many classrooms will have to wait until October while the budget gets decided and allocations are made.

This is a state that ranks 47th. in math and about 48th in reading. A state budget impasse each year creates 4-6 weeks of school disruption, confusion, and disorganization.
And then the legislature calls for school accountability? Where is their accountability?
Duane Campbell

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Teacher Pay Issues

A New Series of Papers on Teacher Compensation from the University of Wisconsin CPRE Group
There is strong consensus around the country that talented and capable teachers will be needed in all classrooms in order to accomplish the nation’s goals of teaching all students to high standards, and closing the achievement gap. Although there are many policy and practice issues that have to be addressed in order for the nation’s education systems to recruit and retain the quality of individuals that are required, including schools and classrooms in many of the country’s large urban and poverty impacted districts, the teacher compensation system itself must be changed. Teacher salary levels will have to be hiked in many places to enable school systems to compete for the quality of talent required to be successful, and the salary structures themselves need to be changed in order to pay teachers for the knowledge, skills and responsibilities to be successful and satisfied, including bonuses for improved student performance.
With support from the College Board, the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) Group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is producing a series of papers:
1. How New Teacher Pay Structures Can Support Education Reform by Allan Odden, 2. Do Teacher Pay Levels Matter? by Anthony Milanowski, 3. How to Design New Teacher Salary Structures by Herbert G. Heneman, III and Steve Kimball, 4. How to Pay Teachers for Student Performance Outcomes by Anthony Milanowski, 5. How to Pay for Teacher Compensation Changes by Allan Odden, and 6. Exploring a Federal Government Role in Funding Increased Teacher Compensation by Andrew

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Fake school reform

By Diane Ravitch. New York City.
This Strange New Era of "Reform"

Posted: 02 Sep 2008 11:00 AM CDT

Bridging Differences returns today with this entry from Diane Ravitch.

Dear Deborah,

Welcome back from vacation. School is open, and it’s time to start bridging differences. Let’s see what we can do to clarify the deep undercurrents in American politics that are changing what happens in the schoolhouse, and, in some cases, seem likely to change the very nature of the schoolhouse.

In my historical studies, I have usually found that the public debates about schooling may be heated, but teaching and learning change glacially. This has always been a source of frustration to reformers, whether they are progressives or essentialists, because they would like to prescribe big changes and see them happen fast. Ordinarily, that doesn’t happen.

Yet in these past six years, since the enactment of No Child Left Behind, we have seen bigger changes in daily classroom life than anyone could have imagined. The testing requirements of the law now define teaching and learning. As the old adage goes, what is tested is what is taught. So in district after district, all across the land, students are being prepared for the state tests in reading and math, often to the exclusion of other subjects, even recess.

This we all know. But something else is happening that is in some ways even more ominous than the Sword of Damocles that hangs over so many public schools.

We used to see a partisan divide about the big issues in education policy. The Democratic party advocated more funding for disadvantaged students and policies that promoted equity. The Republican party advocated choice, privatization, merit pay, and accountability, and criticized the teachers’ unions as the main obstacles to reform.

In this election cycle, that familiar divide has changed dramatically. The Republicans still advocate choice, privatization, merit pay, and accountability and are still critical of the teachers’ unions. But now there is a significant movement within the Democratic party that advocates the same positions as the Republicans.

The leading advocates of choice, privatization, merit pay, and accountability appeared in a panel discussion during the Democratic convention, led by Chancellor Joel Klein of New York City and Chancellor Michelle Rhee of Washington, D.C. Along with such colleagues as the Rev. Al Sharpton and Mayor Adrian Fenty of the District of Columbia, they present themselves as the true voices of “reform.” Listen to them and what one hears is the same views that the Republicans have been expressing since at least 1996, when Republican candidate Bob Dole launched an attack on the teachers’ unions. Now it is Rhee and Fenty trying to persuade D.C. teachers to abandon the tenure rights that their union won for them.

The “reforms” of the Klein-Sharpton-Rhee group are not at all new. They attack the teachers’ union, bash teachers, demand merit pay, promote charter schools and private management, and laud testing, lots more testing. They love NCLB, and they want it toughened. At bottom, they would like to see the public school system of the United States run like a business, with employees hired and fired at will. They are ready to privatize and outsource whatever they can, trusting private managers to succeed where the public sector (with themselves as leaders) has failed.

A number of articles recently have jumped on the idea that charters, testing, merit pay, etc. are the cutting edge of reform. (See here and here.)

It is curious, is it not, to see these two superintendents present themselves as successful reformers. Rhee has only recently begun her tenure, so it is indeed premature to anoint her a success, as so many in the media have already done, based solely on her bold rhetoric and her audacious effort to undercut the teachers’ union. Klein has been chancellor of the New York City public schools since the fall of 2002; he implemented his “reforms” in 2003. Since then, NYC has seen no significant gains on NAEP in 4th grade reading, 8th grade reading, or 8th grade math. The city’s gains in 4th grade math are suspicious, since the exclusion rate for that grade and subject was an eye-popping 25 percent, something not seen in any other district tested by NAEP. At the same time, the city’s education spending increased by a startling 79 percent.

Some formula for success. Some business model.

So this is the strange new era we are embarked upon, in which the mantle of “reformer” has passed to those who would dismantle public education, piece by piece.


Police attack journalists at RNC

Dear Friend,
Reports of journalists, bloggers and videomakers being arrested keep rolling in. The St. Paul police department's targeting of journalists, including Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and the I-Witness videomakers, is having a chilling effect on free speech as the city hosts the Republican National Convention.

Many in the mainstream media are ignoring these attacks on journalism -- and some independent media makers are still in jail. But in less than 24 hours, more than 35,000 people have signed our letter demanding that press intimidation cease immediately and that all charges against journalists be dropped.

This is an incredible response. Help deliver the message that a free press will not be intimidated!

Help Us Reach 50,000 Letters: Take Action Now



P.S. Below is yesterday's e-mail with detailed information about the arrests.

Dear Friend,

Police in St. Paul arrested several journalists yesterday, including Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman.

Stand Up for Independent Journalism

Yesterday, police in St. Paul arrested several journalists, including Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and an AP photographer as they were covering protests of the Republican National Convention.

Amy Goodman and others were released last night, but the story is not over.

We need you to cosign our public letter demanding that press intimidation cease immediately, and that all charges be dropped. It will be delivered immediately to St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, the RNC Host Committee and the local prosecuting attorneys. We need 10,000 signatures in the next 24 hours, so please take action now:

Sign the Letter: Drop All Charges Against Journalists

In addition to these arrests, police with firearms drawn raided a meeting of the video journalists' group I-Witness and arrested independent media, bloggers and videomakers. We’re also receiving late-breaking reports of other arrests.

By signing this letter, you’re sending a powerful message: Officials must rein in aggressive and violent tactics by local law enforcement, stop the targeting of journalists and immediately drop all charges against them.

Reporting by independent journalists is vital to a functioning democracy. Americans must have access to diverse sources of information to hold their leaders accountable. Journalists must be free to do their jobs without intimidation.

Please Take Action by Signing this Letter

Don’t wait. We need a free press now more than ever. Tell your friends and take action now!

Thank you,

Josh Silver
Executive Director
Free Press

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Budget Stalemate: Day 64

It is September and the legislature has still not passed a budget.

Once again Californians are treated to a budget standoff-as we have been so often in the last 10 years. This is not a failure to govern on the part of the legislature although it is portrayed as such in local sound bite news reports. The majority party could have passed a budget on June 15 but it is blocked from governing by the Republican minority including Assemblyman Roger Neillo, co-owner of the local Neillo auto dealerships.
It is clear that a budget resolution will require some cut back and some tax increases. It makes a great deal of difference which taxes will be increased. Republicans use the requirement of a 2/3 vote on taxes to block majority rule and to prevent tax increases. This is misgovernment by ideology.


The Republican proposal cuts more than $5 billion from education and replaces ongoing money with one-time dollars that would only create a deeper budget hole next year.
The Republican proposal gives the governor the power to cut local school budgets in the middle of school year, making it extremely difficult for schools to plan or function, meet the needs of students or attract and retain quality teachers and school employees.
The Republican plan to "securitize" the lottery irresponsibly takes a big gamble with our students future, cutting schools by $2 billion and putting at risk more than $1 billion in lottery funds that currently support our schools, with only a hope that this scheme to borrow against the lottery can make up the difference.

Schools across California are opening. Over 6 million children are returning to school. Some 477,000 will be entering first grade in over 5,000 schools. Each of these schools have a budget and each of these budgets are in confusion while the state decides what to do about their budget crisis. At least 25% of the schools will not be ready for the students because the school doesn’t know what its budget will be.
Will the school have an ELL teacher or two?
Will there be a reading coach?
Will class size be 24 or 32? Which really means we will have to re-organize each of the classes and the teachers.
What will happen to the new programs established last year under the Quality investment in Education Act?
Shall the district hire a new teacher or only a 30 day substitute ?
Do we have the money for an ELL specialist or will the money be for an algebra teacher? And when we finally hear if we have the money, will the well qualified algebra teacher have moved to another state where this annual disruption of their lives does not occur? Really, would you wait 2-3 months each year to see if you had a job?
And, even in mainstreamed classes, will there be two English Learners or eight?
These are but the start of the many decisions that need to be made. Rather than beginning school in late August, far too many classrooms will have to wait until October while the budget gets decided and allocations are made.

This is a state that ranks 47th. in math and about 48th in reading. A state budget impasse each year creates 4-6 weeks of school disruption, confusion, and disorganization.
And then the legislature calls for accountability?
The budget impasse is not only about whether legislators and their staff’s can attend their respective party conventions. The impasse is also about the annual disruption of education for thousands of California students, and the disruptions of health care payments, and the disruptions of state worker pay, etc.
It is past time for some political accountability.

Yesterday Sen. Stienberg called for a change:

[Editor’s note: At the end of a sometimes tense debate yesterday, Darrell Steinberg in deliberate and reserved tones, spoke on the Senate floor, and made it clear that he will not go through the same dysfunctional budget process again without taking matters to the people--through an initiative or ballot measure placed there by the legislature. He also asked Republicans who are pressing for a continuous funding bill if they would guarantee that the programs they say they want to cut will not be on the list of cuts they are proposing. If you want to watch and listen to Steinberg's speech, go to the archives of the California Channel and fast forward to about 39 minutes into the session.] From California Progress Report.

“First of all, though it doesn’t help much this year, I think this process and the frustration many of us are expressing reveals what must be done next year.

We need to not only think about but begin planning for taking significant questions about state and public finance back to the people of California. And next year as your leader I intend to do that. I’m not going through this anymore. I’m tired of it. It’s unproductive. It does nothing for the way people view us.

You’re right Senator Aanestad, under the current state of the Constitution; it is a two-thirds requirement to pass a state budget. And I know that question has been taken to the people in one form or another. But maybe it has not been take to the people in the right form, at the right time. And so, be prepared next year. Whether it is through the legislature or by the initiative process, we’re not going to go through this anymore."

Duane Campbell
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