All posts by Jenifer Fernandez Ancona

Progressive Answer to Gov’s ‘Year of Education’

(Great diary by Jen.  She is dead on. – promoted by Julia Rosen)

Gov. Schwarzenegger has declared that 2008 will be the Year of Education. As Peter Schrag noted recently, this is a little more than terrifying. The Republicans’ answer to the public education crisis has thus far been to undermine public education by pushing private school vouchers, further segregating our students through “school choice” and pushing an economic agenda that is focused on de-funding government.

Most certainly, Schwarzenegger and the Right have shown they are unwilling to back up any claims they have about “reform” with actual funding for public education. The clear result of the “tax cut” mantra is under-funded schools – California is now 38th in per-pupil spending in the country. But it’s not just a lack of funding that our schools face. Fundamentally, Republicans and conservative Democrats like Gov. Gray Davis who preceded Schwarzenegger, have been unable or unwilling to get at the real heart of the issue in today’s public schools: the majority of California public school students are students of color, and the learning experience they get is simply not sufficient to prepare them for success.

Thankfully, the progressive movement has an incredible ally and asset in Justice Matters, a non-profit group that has been methodically studying the root causes of educational inequity, and proposing real and proven solutions. Justice Matters just released a groundbreaking new study, High Schools for Equity(PDF), and an accompanying Report Card tool(PDF) that will help all of us who want a progressive public education agenda navigate the upcoming policy battles. Susan Sandler, director of Justice Matters, wrote about these tools recently on California Progress Report. Throughout the Governor’s “Year of Education,” Justice Matters will be following and watching closely, using the report cards – based on findings from the study – to grade the Governor’s performance when it comes to dealing with racial justice in public education.

What I find most significant about the study is the fact that it looked at California public high schools where by a variety of measures – most notably graduation rates and numbers of students who went on to college – were doing right by low-income students of color. What I know from my time as an education reporter at the Los Angeles Times is that public education policy discussions are almost always focused on the problem, with few concrete solutions offered – in part because the problem is so large and daunting. In High Schools for Equity, you can see clearly how specific ways of structuring a school or presenting curriculum can make a world of difference for low-income students of color, and you can see how those solutions could easily be translated into statewide policy so that these exemplary schools are the rule, not the exception. Their approach is well summarized in this passage from the forward of the study:

Rather than assume that all schools can do what outliers do, the study assumes that there are reasons why they cannot. In the schools that are in the case studies, we want to understand what conditions they face that make it very difficult to do what they do. What must they overcome or get around? If they face conditions that are better than what most schools face, what are these better conditions and the set of supports that help them do what they do? And the ultimate question of our study is: What policies are needed to address the conditions that make it hard for the majority of schools to do what these exemplary schools are doing? What policies would make it easy to do what they do? In other words, what are the policies that would systematically bring about racially just education?

Transforming public education policy so that it is serving all California students is a long-term struggle. Justice Matters makes a compelling argument that the path toward a truly progressive education agenda lies in the on-the-ground experiences of those who are the most under-served by the current system, and I couldn’t agree more.

Vote Hope Fills Void in Latino Political Media

(Good stuff from Vote Hope here. – promoted by Julia Rosen)

(Cross-posted at Vote Hope.)

Last Spring, America saw the potential power of the Latino community as a political force. Millions of people, in cities across the country, poured into the streets, marching in solidarity for equality and justice for immigrants. In November of 2006, Latino voters proved again that they could help deliver victories, as their turnout increased by 33% in Congressional races, and was much more heavily Democratic than in years past, according to a recent report by NDN’s Hispanic Strategy Center. The GOP’s constant drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric has opened up an incredible opportunity for Democrats and progressives to solidify Latino voters as a reliable – and fast-growing – part of our coalition.

But in California, where the largest majority of Latinos in the country live, that potential has barely been tapped. In our state, there are still more than 5 million Latino voters who are eligible but not registered to vote, or who are registered but don’t regularly come out to the polls. When you consider that only about 3.2 million people voted in the 2004 Democratic primary in California, you can see the potential that the sheer numbers of this population could have on the outcome of our state’s upcoming primary election on Feb. 5, 2008.

And yet few campaigns on the Democratic side have invested any resources into Spanish-language or Latino-focused media in this state, and the 2008 Presidential Primary is no exception. Vote Hope, a new statewide political network, has stepped in to fill that void. Working with the Los Angeles-based Amigos de Obama, another independent group trying to increase Latino participation, we have produced a series of 4-minute, Web-based films called Tu Voz, Tu Voto, which are inspired by the wildly popular Latin American telenovela genre, and promote Barack Obama as the candidate for hope, unity and change in America.

The films were written, produced and acted by California Latinos, and they reflect issues and experiences that are rarely, if ever, portrayed in mainstream political media. Like telenovelas, these films use humor and drama to convey serious messages. They follow the journey of a typical Latino family in Southern California, the Ortiz family, and how they come to support Barack Obama for President. They are significant not only because they represent the first Spanish-language media effort in the 2008 primary elections, but because they are a unique attempt to connect mainstream politics with Latino culture.

The first episode, “La Marcha,” invokes the excitement of the immigrant rights marches of 2006, and puts forward the desire that many Latinos felt to take that energy and transform it into voting power.

In the second episode, “Amigos,” the immigration issue hits home for the Ortiz family, and 19-year-old Gaby Ortiz grapples with her own political involvement. This episode features the hit “Obama Reggaeton” song produced by Amigos de Obama and heard by thousands of people around the country.

In the third episode of the series, “About Us,” Latino and African American characters grapple with the difficult issues of multi-racial unity, and come to see how Obama’s candidacy can help bridge old divides and galvanize a new multi-racial movement for change.

Each of the stories touches on a different, but very real, part of the modern Latino experience, in California and America. Vote Hope’s goal is to reach Latino voters and potential voters who may not have thought much about the upcoming primary yet, but who will respond to this unique kind of outreach.

At Vote Hope, which employs Latinos and Latinas at all levels, we support Obama because we see him as the only vehicle for real change – change we can believe in – in this country. We see him as an opportunity to build multi-racial unity and solidarity – one that has not come around in a very long time. And we believe that his life experience, from growing up as a person of color in America and overseas, to working as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago to teaching constitutional law and going on to serve his state and his nation in public office, is exactly the kind of experience we need to lead this country right now.

We also believe in the overwhelming need to create more long-term, lasting infrastructure that can engage Latinos in politics more regularly throughout the year, avoiding the cyclical abandonment that happens with campaigns that actually do outreach to Latinos. That is why Vote Hope will continue to work on registering voters, and building political networks, in the Latino community even after the 2008 election.

It’s an incredible political moment we are in. Vote Hope is here to seize it, and build on it for the long term.

Wildfires: Welcome to Eco-apartheid

The images are strikingly similar. People of color, including children, standing in the middle of a disaster, crying out for help.

First it was Katrina. Today it’s the aftermath of the San Diego County wildfires, where Latino families at refugee centers are reporting family members being taken away by U.S. Border Patrol agents, according to reports on Spanish-language radio and TV. More on the flip…

The LA Times reported yesterday that six undocumented immigrants were arrested for “stealing food and supplies” from the refugee center at Qualcomm.

Six undocumented Mexican immigrants were arrested today by U.S. Border Patrol agents at Qualcomm Stadium, after a report that they were stealing food and water meant for evacuees, according to spokesman Damon Foreman.

It’s happening again. During the Katrina aftermath, African Americans were “looting” shops and stores, while whites were “finding food.” Border Patrol denies, of course, that they are trying to find undocumented immigrants:

“We are not in any means at Qualcomm for enforcement capacity,” he said. “We are not there to take advantage of a situation.”

My question is, why are they there? Why do Border Patrol agents have to be at the evacuation centers at all? Is it not enough that people who are working hard every day to provide a better life for their children have been displaced from their homes? Is it not enough that they will have to figure out how to survive when they are not eligible for any government aid? Or do they have to live in fear of being rounded up by ICE agents, or have to watch as friends or family members are dragged off, at a center that is supposed to be a place for help and support?

Al Gore says in “An Inconvenient Truth,” quoting Winston Churchill, that the global climate crisis is entering an era of consequences. The California wildfires are a consequence of global warming, as many scientists have said — the land is drier because of rising temperatures and more susceptible to fires because of low rainfall.

What is happening now at these refugee centers, and what will be happening in the aftermath of the fires and the recovery effort, is the consequence of what Van Jones calls Eco-apartheid. There are the eco-haves, and the eco-have nots. Those who are able to survive and get through a natural disaster — like the people who took their SUVs and high-tailed it out of New Orleans — and those who cannot — like the folks who waited on their drowning roof for days with no sign of rescue.

Bridging this divide is the greatest challenge of our generation, and it is something progressives must lead on. If we don’t, who will?

Final Push: Help California Students Dream Big

(The Dream Act picked up another endorsement today, the LA Times. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

There is a very important bill sitting on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk — one that is exemplary of the society we want to create. Do we want a society where it’s every man for himself, or do we want one that recognizes our shared humanity, and helps open up opportunity for everyone? The DREAM Act can be made law in California if the Governor signs it by Oct. 14. A student leader coalition is being supported by a broad cross-section of community, faith and labor groups, urging the Gov. to do the right thing. A low-tech letter-writing campaign has been going on for a month, but thanks to our friends at the Courage Campaign there is now an online petition. Please add your name, but don’t stop there — help us spread the word:

Students will deliver the petition, with signatures, to the Governor. Please sign now! More on the flip…

What is the California DREAM Act? From the Courage email:

What is the California DREAM Act?

If the Governor signs it, the DREAM Act (SB 1, authored by State Sen. Gil Cedillo) will strengthen the state’s workforce and energize California’s economy by allowing qualified undocumented immigrant students — who grew up in California and graduated from our high schools — to apply for and receive financial aid at our colleges and universities.

Immigration and education are at the heart of the American dream. And yet there is a disconnect in California. California law already requires these kids to attend public school through age 18. Many of these students excel, as is typical of immigrants to this country. But when they graduate, many at the top of their class, they realize that the dream of attaining a college degree is almost impossible without financial aid. 

An additional boost came when Sen. Barack Obama came out in favor of this bill and urged the Governor to sign it into law. This move took leadership and courage, and I do think Obama deserves credit from progressives for it. Here is what he said:

“You know our immigration system is truly broken when we punish children who have learned English and worked hard to succeed in school so that they can become American citizens. Enforcement alone will not solve the immigration crisis we face. If Governor Schwarzenegger vetoes the DREAM Act a second time, he will compound the immigration crisis by driving thousands of children who were on the right path into the shadows.

We teach our children that in America, you will thrive if you work hard and dream big. Governor Schwarzenegger now has the chance to demonstrate that instead of blaming one group for the challenges America faces, he can unite Californians and give children who play by the rules the opportunity to succeed.”

The DREAM Act — both in California and the federal law that Obama also supports — is one of those issues that should not be subject to political games. It’s about a basic sense of humanity, decency, and opportunity, and I hope we can show Gov. Schwarzenegger that Californians stand for those basic values.

Progressivism and the DREAM Act

The San Francisco-based Fog City Journal, which is usually a source of decent progressive news, ran a shockingly right-wing column today about the federal DREAM Act and Barack Obama’s support of it.

When I first saw the headline, “Senator Obama, Say it isn’t so,” I thought it was going to be a criticism of Obama from the Left — as there has been some of that lately on progressive websites. But it soon becomes clear that this writer has a warped view of what Democrats should and shouldn’t support:

I was asked by a friend to call Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to voice my displeasure over his support for this DREAM Act, which is indeed a bad dream for many Americans. It aims  to eliminate the federal provision that discourages states from providing in-state tuition without regard to immigration status.  However, it offers no such discount to those American kids who are even poorer, or more disadvantaged than the illegal immigrants  this bill wants to help.

After three attempts to get through to Senator Durbin’s office, the Capitol operator offered to connect me with the “other Illinois senator.” That’s how I came to have a shouting  match with one of Senator Obama’s senior aides when he told me that his boss also supports this bill.

Senator Obama, how could you? Are you reaching out to a constituency who is not even part of our citizenry? Are you caving in to special  interests? Are you trying to be all things to all people?

More on the flip…

It’s possible that this person is not actually progressive, and so the right-wing frames shouldn’t come as a surprise. But the line of reasoning reflects a pattern of thinking that unfortunately is quite prevalent among certain progressive circles of late when it comes to the issue of immigration.

Progressives do not need to choose between supporting disadvantaged Americans who are poor and lack educational opportunities and supporting immigrants who lack even the most basic of human rights, despite their clear contribution to the American economy. It is in fact the job of progressive leaders, like Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, to stand up for all people, and to pass laws that open up paths of opportunity for everyone.

That is what the DREAM Act does. Immigrants are not a “special interest.” That term is reserved for corporate powers that try to influence government with money. How we address the human rights crisis of 12 million immigrants who are in this country now, being treated as second class citizens, is in the public interest. Their lives and how we relate to them affect everyone, and Obama is absolutely right to support a law that is one smart way of addressing it.

One of the key ways to solve problems in our society is by investing in people through education, and so higher education is a very smart and effective path out of poverty. Obama supports not only the DREAM Act, but other efforts to increase access and affordability of higher education for all students.

Human dignity is not a scarce resource. It’s not something that can be sectioned off and reserved for only some parts of the population. Obama’s support of the DREAM Act means he gets that.

If only more progressives would.

If It’s Not One Barry, It’s Another

(Note to media, not all 527 groups are the same. And not telling her about the real concept for the story is so not cool. – promoted by Julia Rosen)

Man, Lance Williams of the SF Chronicle just can’t catch a break. He tries to take down Barry Bonds, but almost goes to jail himself for obtaining documents illegally. Then on the day he tries to go after another Barry (Barry Obama) and another African American community leader (Steve Phillips) in a hit piece on Vote Hope, Bonds hits 756 and completely overshadows all other news.

But seriously, this story today is a real gem, complete with comparisons to Swift Boat Veterans and shadowy unnamed sources. What’s worse, I didn’t get the chance to refute much of what Lance alleges in the story because he didn’t tell me he was writing a front-page, above-the-fold hit piece. I still have the message on my machine in which he says he noticed Vote Hope had started fundraising and wanted to “note that in a story.” Join me on the flip for more…

California supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama are using a controversial political committee to rake in donations in excess of what is allowed under tough federal campaign finance laws.

Exploiting a legal loophole, the Obama supporters have set up a so-called 527 group – an unregulated committee of the type deployed by Republican Swift Boat Veterans in the 2004 presidential campaign – as a centerpiece of political fundraising for the California Democratic primary in February.

So far, wealthy donors have written checks in the amounts of $90,000 and $50,000 to “Vote Hope 2008,” the Obama supporters’ 527 group, federal records show. The group is led by San Francisco lawyer Steve Phillips, son-in-law of wealthy financier and Democratic political donor Herbert Sandler.

Media Matters already debunked a similar New York Times story from the day before — as well as an MSNBC story from a month ago — but that did not stop the Chron from irresponsibly repeating the mischaracterizations on the front page of the paper (perhaps laying off all those editors is taking its toll.)

But hey, Barry Bonds is the Swing King. At least we’re in good company.

We will be putting forward a piece for the Chronicle today that gives people the actual full story about what we’re doing and why. The bottom line: no amount of baseless attacks from our friends in the mainstream media is going to steer us off of our long-term goal of expanding the electorate in California by bringing more young people and people of color into the political process through a positive, grass-roots campaign.

Let’s see if they run a front-page story on that.

YearlyKos 2007: California’s Raucus Caucus

(I added the picture. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

DSC_0053.JPGIt’s a great turnout at the California/Hawaii netroots caucus at YearlyKos Chicago, with about 200 bloggers gathering to get to know each other beyond our blogging screen names. We have some higher profile people here too, including Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign and George Lakoff from the Rockridge Institute.

Julia Rosen, Matt Ortega and David Dayen are doing a great job leading the discussion, which began with an applause-filled round of introductions around the room.

A stand-out moment came when Jose, a student from Southern California who is organizing around the DREAM Act, talked about his own story of being undocumented and trying to get an education. The crowd cheered him in support as he broke down telling his story. The DREAM Act came up today in the Latino caucus, as well, and I hope it will become an issue that the blogosphere will champion more. In California, the DREAM Act was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger last year, and died this cycle in committee. There is an effort underway to bring it back, however, and I will be blogging more about that soon.

Now we are talking about how difficult California is to organize, and David and Julia and Brian are updating folks about their various efforts in California politics and expanding Calitics.

Charlie Brown, one of our favorite California candidates, in CA-04, is speaking now. He’s talking about how security has to include energy policy. “Even the military is worried about global warming, why can’t Bush and Cheney do anything?”

Steve Young speaking now, about his race in Orange County. He’s running in the reddest district in California, but still fighting the good fight with a grass-roots campaign.

I’ve got to run to another meeting, but I want to give major props to the Calitics crew for putting together such an awesome meeting!

Vote Hope supports Charlie Brown

(Woohoo. More support for Charlie! I love it that VH is expanding to support other candidates. – promoted by Julia Rosen)

Vote Hope is pleased to announce our support for Charlie Brown, the Democrat running for Congress in the 4th Congressional District of California. With his fighting spirit and optimistic vision for the future, Charlie Brown has given hope and inspiration to Democrats in the 4th District who have endured for 16 years the corrupt leadership of Republican Rep. John Doolittle.

Brown ran a tough and brave race against Doolittle in 2006, losing to the Republican by less than 4% points in one of the most conservative districts in Northern California. Brown announced earlier this year that he is running again, and Vote Hope is proud to stand with him.

People in this country are hungry for change, and Vote Hope is supporting federal, state and local candidates through 2008 and beyond who are committed to fighting for our values of fairness, equality and justice in public office. We see Brown’s race as strategic nationally, and early support for him critical. Vote Hope will continue to identify and evaluate candidates in California — including 2006 incumbents and new challengers — who we can rally around to increase voter engagement and participation in this critical election cycle.  At the top of our ticket is Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who is inspiring hundreds of thousands of people across California and the country to be involved in politics, many for the first time.

As a Political Action Committee (PAC) operating independently from any campaign or campaign committee, Vote Hope will be able to take our message about these candidates directly to voters, and using the momentum and energy around them to register new voters, get infrequent voters to the polls and increase both the size and the diversity of California’s exclusive electorate.

Is Positive Campaigning Really This Unusual?

(What a flippen surprise. They focus on the money and past 527 rather than what the group is actually doing. – promoted by juls)

Cross-posted at

The mainstream media has discovered Vote Hope, and it seems like they can’t quite get their heads around it.

While we are thankful for the publicity (any press is good press as long as they get the url right!), it’s clear that it’s going to be a little difficult for some people to grasp an independent campaign that isn’t designed to ruthlessly smear someone. News stories published in two places today, both the L.A. Times and MSNBC’s “First Read”, are focusing on the past history of negative independent campaigns, rather than on the reality of what Vote Hope is trying to do in California.

Part of that is the cynicism around politics that Vote Hope is explicitly fighting, with a grass-roots campaign that is designed to empower Californians to be involved in this presidential race, and to increase voter turnout in communities that are woefully underrepresented in our state’s electorate.

We do recognize, however, that in the landscape of national politics, what we’re trying to do is different and unique. So while we did explain when we launched in the blogosphere last week where we were coming from, it’s worth saying again.

The people who are leading Vote Hope are activists who have worked in California politics for the last two decades, around issues of economic justice, education and voter engagement. Our PAC is working to win the Feb. 5 California primary for Obama, but we will also use the 2008 election to support local and state candidates who share our values, and to educate California voters about the early primary election.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, it is possible to spend political money on something that is good for democracy, and that is precisely what Vote Hope is doing. Once the mainstream press realizes that, I hope the story will remain interesting to them, because it truly is a transformative moment that is worth their attention.

Overheard in the Obama mob

(Funny, I think people will be talking about today’s “Turn the Page” speech for a long time to come. – promoted by blogswarm)

Middle-aged man: “This is like a rock show.”

Young woman: “Oh my God! I shook his hand! I’m never washing this hand again!”

Woman to little girl: “See, you’ll be able to say you saw him before he was President!”

Guy in suit: “Hillary who?”

Woman in suit: “Can we all just promise to vote for whoever wins?!”