Posts Tagged ‘Governor Jerry Brown’

Three CA Money Initiatives

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Three initiatives for the November ballot are now being argued in California. Guess what the argument is about? Of course, money. For schools. Has your state done such a thing?

Now that almost everyone is nodding their heads in agreement that California does need to raise taxes, the rate of tax increase is the bugaboo.

There is more complication and more intransigence toward each initiative as the days go by. Each has a title: the governor’s  no-name initiative; “Our Children, Our Future” which is supported so far by the rich Molly Munger; and “The Millionaire’s Tax of 2012″ organized by the California Federation of Teachers, the Courage Campaign, and the California Nurses Association to name the most important.

If you voted for the governor’s initiative you would allow a ½ cent sales tax increase for four years and an income tax increase that would last five years supposing you make more than $250,000. The increase would be used to balance the current budget so there is money to fund K-12 education, low-level offender housing, and the counties. The governor’s initiative committee has raised $1.7 million by January 2012 from the American Beverage Association, the California Hospital Association, Occidental Petroleum, and big contributors from all areas in the state.

Look at the “Our Children, Our Future” Initiative which has received a lot of attention in the news. This initiative is now supported by Molly Munger, affluent civil rights attorney with support from her wealthy family. Looking at the website, the initiative has been well-thought-out to expect about $10 billion. The tax collected will be placed in a trust fund and one will pay taxes on a sliding scale, according to income. The details are spelled out. In the first four years 30% of the money collected would pay the state debt to reduce the cost of servicing bonds which afflict the state’s budget. Sixty percent would go to local schools, whether public or charter, to improve instruction. Ten percent is set aside to raise standards and support Early Childhood Education programs. In the eight following years, more money goes directly to pupils without the interference of Sacramento (one way to offset Proposition 13). After 12 years the initiative must be re-approved, depending on student improvement and accountability which has not been discussed on the website.

Now for “The Millionaire’s Tax of 2012.” The initiative supports the idea that our tax code needs to reflect the interests of middle-class Californians, not the special interests of corporate CEOs and their lobbyists. The initiative focuses on the 99% who play by the rules, not just the 1% who lobby hard and re-write the rules. This initiative most like the Occupy lovers has also received a lot of media attention. Of course, wealthy business owners and other conservatives spend a good deal of blogging time with criticism of the initiative which is still collecting signatures to make it on the ballet. It is not as detailed as either the governor or “Our Children, Our Future.” However, the objectives are similar:

It asks those making more than $1 million a year in personal income to pay their fair share in taxes so “we” can raise an estimated $6 billion or more. The money will re-hire laid off teachers to reduce class sizes; roll back college tuition increases; restore cuts to essential services for children, seniors, and disabled persons; re-hire laid off emergency responders; and create jobs by repairing roads and bridges.

Jerry Brown is talking to each proposition’s biggest supporter in an effort to have only one tax initiative on the November ballot. He says that past studies have shown that multiple initiatives with few differences all go down as voters refuse to choose. Supporters of opposing measures say that this time will be different and that democracy allows voters to choose. So far, only the “Think Long” initiative backers have pulled theirs.

This blog likes anything that helps students.

When budgets are resolved, what do schools take up next?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Suppose the California legislature agrees to resolve the most current budget deficit of $25.4 billion as of January 11, 2011. California’s Governor Jerry Brown presented his administration’s budget this week. It includes big budget cuts (but not to K-12 budgets), as well as temporary tax extensions to be voted on in the Spring.

Suppose the California legislature agrees to revise the state and local tax system which had become so unfair that Proposition 13 passed easily in 1978. The fiscal trouble that existed then has increased many times over as the state and local governments vie for revenues.

Suppose  California citizens agree that all services cannot be paid for individually or by initiative.  Some, like fire protection, police protection, infrastructure, parks, recreation programs, and schools are better provided by communal funds.

If all that were agreed, some schools are still found in very poor areas-both urban and rural. Those schools need to be turned around. It’s not easy.

Mass Insight Education and Research Institute has laid out the steps to take. See www.massinsight.org.

Matteson School District (SD 162) in Illinois under Superintendent Dr. Blondean Y. Davis has given an overview of steps taken to improve student success. See www.edline.net/pages/Matteson_School_District_162

Success For All is used often, especially in eastern urban areas, as a specific reform for reading/language arts.  SFA lays out school-wide steps to make sure students learn to read and understand the meaning of text.  See www.sfa.org.

Edsource’s February 2010 report “Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better” explains steps that help adolescent students succeed.  See www.edsource.org.

Suppose schools began to turn around. What’s the next step?

Testing and the tests schools use is a huge complaint, whether the scores are used to assess student success or to evaluate teachers or to determine school quality.

The first problem is the kind of test: standardized, criterion referenced, short formative tests several times a year, one summative test a year; tests provided with software.  Who decides which kind of test to use: the state, the local school board, the federal Department of Education, the publishing companies of the United States?

Here’s another list of questions to resolve: which standards are tested; what do tests measure; how do results affect promotion, teacher evaluation, and accreditation for higher education?  See the Public Broadcasting Service’s Frontline program for an in-depth analysis of testing issues.

In education, the biggest concern is the quality of each school.  Does a single test determine all of the school qualities that establish success?

One statement can be made: once the budget crisis is resolved, state departments of education must analyze the tests they use. Successful schools depend on the steps taken.

Who’s going to take the tiger by the tail, the bull by the horns, or shoulder Sisyphus’ burden?