Tag Archives: College

Finally, A Real Chance for Public Higher Education Reform in California

As a recent graduate of San Francisco State University, I am thrilled that there is finally momentum gaining in the movement to achieve real public higher education reform in California. In particular, the Middle Class Scholarship Act is an economically feasible way to make public higher education more affordable for all Californians.

While I was a student at SFSU my tuition increased every semester. To make matters worse, I never qualified for financial assistance to help fund my education because the State determined that my parents could afford to pay not only my tuition but also those of both of my sisters.

California’s public college students are continuing to struggle. The CSU Board of Trustees’ recent decision to close Spring 2013 enrollment is just one of the devastating blows that our public higher education students have been forced to endure, with no end in sight.

Luckily, help for California’s public university students and their families could be on the way. The Middle Class Scholarship Act recently proposed by California State Assembly Speaker John A. Perez is exactly the kind of public higher education reform that California’s students and their families need in these difficult financial times.

If it is approved by two-thirds of the California State Legislature, the Middle Class Scholarship Act will provide scholarships to approximately 150,000 CSU students and roughly 42,000 UC students who have family incomes less than $150,000 and whom do not already have their fees covered. These Middle Class Scholarships will slash student fees by two-thirds. Additionally, our California Community Colleges will receive $150 million to address their unique needs. The Middle Class Scholarships will be paid for in full by closing a wasteful corporate loophole that only benefits out-of-state businesses.  

The Middle Class Scholarship is an innovative solution to California’s public higher education crisis that will help students achieve their dreams, while at the same time, ensure that our Golden State has a strong workforce that is prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century economy.

I know that as a student, it is difficult just to make time to study and to work but I strongly urge all of California’s UC, CSU and Community College Students to do whatever they can to help pass the Middle Class Scholarship Act and to fight for the higher education reform they deserve. From signing and sharing this petition and tweeting and posting Facbook messages to your State legislators and Governor Brown (if you don’t know who your State legislators are, you can look them up here) to organizing on campus and gathering signatures, no action is too small or insignificant. Keep the faith and, most importantly, keep making your voices heard.

Please embrace the help of the politicians who want to help The Middle Class Scholarship Act become law. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Speaker Perez, Senators Darrell Steinberg, and Leland Yee and many other State leaders have consistently stood in solidarity with California’s college students and have fought tirelessly against every single higher education budget cut and fee increase. To pass the Middle Class Scholarship Act, the support and expertise of these politicians will be invaluable.    

If California’s public college students continue to come together and rally the support of our State legislators to pass the Middle Class Scholarship Act, I think we will finally see the dawn of real public higher education reform in California.

California has one option left to stop the bleeding

This piece was cross-posted in the Huffington Post. It was also co-authored by Joshua Pechthalt and Anthony Thigpenn.

When we think of California, we imagine the state that allowed the three of us to be who we are, a state that gave us the California Dream. For years now, that dream has been quickly slipping away and now it’s in danger of being lost forever.

California is not in crisis; crises are sudden and acute. California is in a chronic, grinding decline and it’s providing a window into America’s tomorrow.  Here we have the richest and poorest, the most diverse population, high technology centers which lead the globe. And yet, here with 38 million people – 20% of the United States – we cannot find a path to leave the bounty that invigorated us for the next generation.

The answer will not come from Sacramento, just as on the national level it cannot come from Washington. It needs to come from all of us. It’s simple: government has a central role in providing the basics of civilization and that costs money.

The first step is admitting that we need more money to pay for our present, much less our future. That’s why it’s time for the 1%, those who benefited the most from our state’s past investments, to invest in our state’s future. Our state needs perhaps $20 billion a year in new revenue to assure that kids grow up to lead. That will take time, but for now, we see a clear path to $6 billion or so a year that would at the very least restore a large portion of the most recent cuts to education, healthcare, safety and transportation. All it takes is the 1% chipping in and paying more income tax.

Warren Buffett said it best: “If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further. But I think that people at the high end – people like myself – should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we’ve ever had it.”

It’s been a brutal decade for most Californians. Our schools, universities, hospitals, roads, and bridges – which used to be the envy of the nation – are in tatters. The unemployment rate hovers around 12%, and Sacramento continues to talk only about what to cut next, perpetuating the downward spiral.  

Students are rightfully disgusted as they take to the streets and create their own Occupy encampments to protest the relentless inflation of tuition at California’s legendary colleges and universities. Working families who dream of providing their children with a higher education watch in horror as costs continue to skyrocket.

A couple of weeks from now, we face a massive $2 billion in additional cuts that will be “triggered” based on a summer budget deal passed on a wishful premise that the economy will get better before it gets worse. On the front lines once again will be children, the elderly, and disabled. The axe will fall on everything from public schools (where California already ranks 47th in per pupil spending) to in-home health care.

A Washington Post-Bloomberg News Poll from last month shows that 68% of all Americans support raising taxes on households with incomes of $250,000 per year and higher. Gov. Brown could also take his cue from the patron saint of fiscally conservative Republicans, former California governor Ronald Reagan, who raised taxes as governor and president numerous times, knowing it was for the good of our state and country.

Should every child in California have access to an excellent, rigorous, free education through college and beyond?  Should they have healthcare to assure that their minds are sharp and their bodies fit? Should they know that at any point after high school, whether they choose college or another path, they can find a good job?  Should they be the sail that lifts our economy to new heights in energy and technology solutions of tomorrow?


We believe in our state. We believe in our country. We are patriots of the first order who know that true love of state or country manifests not in slogans, but in deeds that offer a brighter future to the next generation than to ours.

The time has come to say yes to our dreams. The time has come for the 1% to join the fray and help rebuild our state and our country. Let them come forth and pledge with us to invest in tomorrow, starting today.

Joshua Pechthalt is the president of the California Federation of Teachers, representing over 100,000 teachers and education workers. Anthony Thigpenn is president and founder of California Calls, a statewide alliance of 26 community-based organizations who have built a base of 328,000 supporters of a progressive, economic agenda. Rick Jacobs is the founder and chair of the Courage Campaign, a California-based online progressive organizing network of more than 750,000 members around the country.

Higher Education Reform: The Key to Victory in November

As a student who is currently enrolled in a California State University, I have witnessed the devastating effects that the higher education crisis is having on this state. My student fees have increased with the coming of each new semester. My professors have had to completely redesign their courses so that they can teach as many students as the fire code will allow in a classroom at a time. My fellow students and I are “crashing” any open classes left and right, trying to get enough units to reach full-time status so that we can qualify for financial aid and health insurance.  

My fellow students and I are idealistic and optimistic. We believe in hope and change. And we want a candidate for governor who will make higher education reform the top priority in their campaign. As the situation stands Meg Whitman has not made higher education a priority in her plan to govern California and it is doubtful that she will ever see the direct correlation between the health of the state’s higher educational system and the condition of our state’s economy.

Jerry Brown, however, still has the time to make higher education reform the pinnacle of his gubernatorial platform. Brown should learn from San Francisco Mayor and Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s campaigns for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. As a candidate for both offices, Mayor Newsom made higher education reform one of his top concerns. And as a result, Students for Gavin Newsom established chapters at 36 colleges and 35 high schools up and down the state, making it the arguably the largest grassroots student movement ever organized in the state of California.

While it is true that the majority of people who are most likely to vote in the upcoming gubernatorial election are senior citizens, it is far more beneficial for Brown to court the youth vote by running on higher education reform. We are living in an era where a bachelor’s degree is no longer preferred-but required-in order to land most jobs. So not only is this higher education crisis threatening the economic well being of California’s students now but it will threaten the economy of this entire state and this whole country in the future, if something is not done to solve it.

There are several solutions to help combat the state’s higher education crisis. One of the most obvious is adopting an oil severance tax-which would tax the oil as it is pumped from the ground. California is the only state in the country that does not have this tax and it is costing us dearly. Another solution is to repeal the requirement that the state legislature must have a two-thirds majority in order to raise taxes or pass a budget. We are all familiar with the culture of partisanship and greed that plagues the politicians in Sacramento. It is high time that we make these politicians work for us, their constituents, rather than working against their colleagues in the halls of the State Capitol Building.

There are no small or easy ways to solve California’s higher education problems. The time has come for audacious, sweeping higher education reform. The time has come for candidates who embrace the big and the bold and are unafraid of taking risks.

Students are too often accused of being politically apathetic and blissfully ignorant of what is going on in the world around us. But as anyone who has recently stepped foot on a college campus knows, times have changed. We want a candidate for governor who recognizes that higher education reform is the answer to the problems that California has been dealing with for far too long.

California’s young voters, myself included, need to know that Jerry Brown has a plan to truly reform higher education in California. Jerry Brown needs to know that if he wants young people to turn out and vote for him in November, higher education reform is the way to get us into the voting booth.

A UC Student’s Perspective on the Fee Increase Fight.


   On November 19th, 52 UC Davis students were arrested after peacefully protesting the new 32% fee increases established by the UC Regents. As a second year undergraduate, I was hopeful that students were beginning to see the bigger picture: California is broken.

   Students, so far, have been forcing most of the blame on the UC Regents. While it is true that the 20 Regents who voted for the increase certainly deserve a heaving portion of the blame for borrowing tens of millions (from a non-CA bank, NY Merrill Trust) while forcing students into a cycle of debt in order to protect UC’s eerily superb bond rating, the only way for students to move towards enacting change is to recognize that UC’s woes are symptomatic of the larger disease that has infected the entire state.

   The UC student, to widen the umbrella for a movement that might have the capability of rallying support for reform, should understand that he or she risks turning people off by angling attacks towards the Regents and the Regents only. It is important to recognize that while it is a travesty that UC is becoming an unaffordable option for many California families, it is nearsighted to think that UC fees are anything more than a slice of the pie that is California’s broken political system. The state workers that have been furloughed, the elderly Californians that are losing their access to Medicare, the thousands of previously middle-class Californians that have had their homes foreclosed, and the over 12% of California that is unemployed might tell students that UC is not the only government program that is underfunded, mismanaged, and increasingly unavailable to the people who need it.


 To the single mother making $30,000 a year or the undocumented immigrant working in poor labor conditions for a less-than-legal salary, the plight of the students might seem distant and unimportant. The reality of the situation is that students are making valid points, but they are doing so in a way that turns off the millions of Californians that should be turned on by the students’ overarching message of reforming California.

   When the student recognizes that the immediate and long term problems caused by UC’s fee increases are tied together with the struggles of working families, immigrants, the elderly, homeowners, borrowers, the unemployed, water drinkers, and dozens of other California communities and interest groups, then, perhaps, we will see forward progress.

   The first point that needs to be made by students (that might catch on) is that the programs that made our state great in the 50s and 60s cannot continue to exist without proper funding.

   The message should be loud and clear: raising revenue does not mean higher taxes for everybody, it means looking at who and what gets taxed in this state, and what kind of people are hurt when programs lose funding. Here are three problems that have been generally accepted among the progressive community to be at the heart of the problem:

   Lack of an oil-severance tax in California. Who wins? Big Oil. Who loses? The People. AB 656 (Torrico) would use a 9.9% tax on Gross Product to generate up to $1 billion annually for programs like UC, CSU and CCC.

   2/3rds majority required to pass anything that raises revenue. Who wins? The CaGOP and Big Business. Who loses? Again, The People. Republicans who are indebted to special interest groups that represent Big Business are able to crush the programs that help make the California Dream a reality for many working Californians. AB 656 is expected to be an easy kill for the Republican minority, even though California is the only state in the union that does not have an oil severance tax (including Sarah’s AK and GWB’s TX).

   Proposition 13. Who wins? Big Business. Who Loses? The People. The remains of the Jarvis Taxpayer Revolution act as the most regressive and harmful tax policy in the state. With the veil of providing economic safety for elderly residents without a fixed income, the anti-tax era cursed California’s future with budget shortfalls and program cuts. It is apparent, now, that Californians can’t have our cake and eat it, too.

   So, students should be asking the question: Why is it that Chevron, Monsanto, and Walmart are allowed to raise revenue while the State of California isn’t? Why is it that CEOs are getting pay raises while the People are getting both pay cuts and program cuts?

   The students are right: the State of California has left them for dead, but they are not alone. Almost every Californian uses some sort of state-sponsored program, whether that be a UC, a public elementary school, a library, or the DMV. If you’re one of those people, and if you haven’t gotten a pay raise, then you should be ticked off, too.

Let’s get our priorities straight

With the upcoming University of California walkout, we asked our Facebook community recently how the impending UC and CSU cuts were affecting them. The response was overwhelming:

Stephanie from SF State needed only two classes to graduate with her bachelor’s degree. But one of the courses was eliminated – graduation will have to wait until next year.

A mother from the East Bay worried that her daughter couldn’t enroll in a single class she needs and is about to lose her student status, her financial aid, and health insurance.

Sarah from UC Davis saw her tuition increase almost ten percent, while her mother, a state employee, just took a 15 percent pay cut.

UC Berkeley will be eliminating approximately one out of every ten courses this coming year. UC San Francisco will potentially have to reduce their faculty by fourteen percent because of the recent cuts. UCLA has reduced support to research centers by fifty percent. UC Irvine has completely stopped admitting students into their education program.

All across the state, we are choking off opportunity for hundreds of thousands of young Californians to build a better life for themselves and a better future for California.

And it’s our fault. We’ve allowed our system of governance to de-fund and de-prioritize higher education, putting our state’s economic future in jeopardy.

Let me be clear: I favor fully funding the UC system. Cannibalizing our state’s future through cuts to education is the exact opposite of the kind of reform and long-term thinking we need from our leaders in Sacramento.

But the current resource-constrained situation forces us to make difficult choices about our shared priorities. We must protect our environment, provide universal health care and invest in infrastructure development. And therein lies our statewide dilemma.  

We have a system in California that discourages thoughtful budget and financial planning, requiring a two-thirds majority every year to pass a budget that paralyzes our state. We have a complex web of ballot initiatives that further complicates the process.

Walkouts like the one currently planned will become more frequent unless we undertake systemic reforms and truly take California in a new direction.

We need to convene a constitutional convention and get serious about changes to the system. Until we do, we’re jeopardizing our ability to be competitive in the global economy. Preparing our children for success in the 21st century necessitates investment in higher education not cuts to it.

In San Francisco, we have a robust rainy day fund. We drew down on our reserves to make sure not a single teacher in San Francisco was laid off when the recession hit. We created a partnership between SFSU, the school district, and the city to guarantee a college education to every public school 6th grader who wants one. And if their families can’t afford tuition, we help with that too.

We operate with a limited budget in San Francisco, just like the state. But we managed to keep teachers in the classroom and promise every student a chance to go to college.  We didn’t raise taxes – we reformed the budget process and used resources in a smarter way.

It’s time to shake up the system that’s put our state in this mess. We need come together to fundamentally rethink how we govern California.

Arnold’s Attack on Higher Education

California higher education has not been having a good decade. When Arnold first took office a series of major cuts were made to the UC, CSU, and community college budgets. In 2004 a compact was agreed to between the UC and CSU leaders and Arnold, guaranteeing a stable, if low, level of funding. That agreement has been heavily criticized for having accepted a lower standard of state support – and that criticism looks to be merited, as Arnold now proposes to violate that agreement with his 10% cut of higher ed funding.

As a new study by the Campaign for College Opportunity shows, the proposed cuts would have the effect of severely curtailing enrollment by as much as 27,000 over the next two years, which is the size of an average UC or CSU undergraduate campus enrollment. And a study by the UC Academic Senate  found that “to maintain educational quality” student fees would have to rise from $7,500 to $10,500 – a staggering increase from an already high level.

“The Schwarzenegger revision accelerates the redefinition of the University of California away from a public university and toward a ‘public-private partnership,’ ” the UC study said. “The university becomes dependent on high student fees for delivering its core educational mission. . . . The university becomes quasi-private or poor — or perhaps both at once.”

UC has been suffering for years from what the Academic Senate study called a “hollowing out” because of lack of money. “From a distance, all appears normal; once one goes inside, the damage is clear,” it said. Leaky roofs go unrepaired; valuable faculty leave for better-paying universities…

The problem of “faculty brain drain” from public to private institutions is a serious one across the country but is hitting UC and CSU the hardest, as their funding has been the most dramatically impacted.

The study and the cuts were the subject of an article in today’s LA Times which contained some quotes from higher ed leaders about the impact of these cuts:

Diane Woodruff, chancellor of the California Community Colleges, said the governor’s proposed cut would mean those campuses would not be able to provide classes for more than 50,000 students. An additional 18,500 would not receive financial aid.

The cutbacks would most affect low-income, first-generation and nonwhite students, who generally depend more on university services, she said…

“By 2025. if we continue on this same course of cumulative budget cuts on a cyclical basis, the California workforce will be 3 million short and California will not be competitive,” Cal State Chancellor [Charles] Reed said.

In other words, Arnold’s proposed 10% cut of higher education would have a crippling effect on California’s economy. The student fees increases would squeeze middle-class families even more dramatically, and would be difficult for young students to pay – especially as student loan availability is shrinking due to the credit cruch – even the notorious Sallie Mae claimed “we’re at the cusp of peak lending.”

But this is sadly part of a larger pattern for Arnold and his Republican allies. Don’t let their occasional bickering and infighting fool you – they stand shoulder to shoulder when it comes to this state’s future. They all agree that our economy and the middle- and working-classes should be sacrificed for the sake of a few wealthy Californians who don’t want to pay more taxes. They agree that to save voters $150 a year in vehicle license fees, public education – from kindergarten to undergraduate – should be destroyed.

The article notes that “Despite the dire situation the universities and community colleges find themselves in, education leaders have been reluctant to challenge the governor.” It looks like that task is going to fall to the students who, abandoned by their schools’ administrators, are launching a statewide protest on Monday, April 21 to oppose these cuts.

The Secret Plan To End The Deficit

Yesterday I noted how the Governor is trying to lower the Medi-Cal rolls by increasing the paperwork for enrollees and hoping that they’ll get tripped up by the process.  This is officially a trend.

Midnight on March 1 — Saturday — recently became the deadline for students to apply to seven Cal State campuses that traditionally accepted applications months later. An even earlier deadline, Feb. 1, has already passed for 16 other Cal State campuses

The root cause of the time crunch is a multibillion-dollar state deficit. In his provisional budget for next year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set Cal State’s share of reductions at $386.1 million. If that figure holds, schools have much difficult budget-cutting ahead. As a precaution, Chancellor Charles B. Reed limited the number of students by shortening the application period.

“An effort was made to try to slow down what was otherwise going to be a record year in enrollment,” said Jim Blackburn, director of enrollment management services in the chancellor’s office. Blackburn did not know of another time when Cal State sought to curtail students in this fashion. He noted, however, that campuses frequently stop reviewing new applications when they reach enrollment thresholds. The priority application period ended Nov. 30, which was the deadline for Cal State Long Beach and four other especially popular schools. Three other campuses would have closed by Feb. 1 regardless.

What we have here is a coward of a Governor, who instead of cutting programs wants to throw up sneaky barriers to entry in an effort to take the blame away from himself and toward those who need the services.  It’s about as scummy as you can get.  Frank Russo shares my disdain.

Is this what the great state of California is coming to? I thought, apparently naively, that we celebrated and cherished the desire of our young wanting to further their education and attend institutions of higher learning. Instead, because of the budget proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger for next year, and difficulties the California State University (CSU) system expects to have with cut backs, they are, with premeditation (but propbably without malice aforethought) advancing the deadline for applying and hoping that many students miss the deadline.

Now we see the “Year of Education” and the “Year of Healthcare” turned into the “Year of Changing Paperwork and Deadlines So We Can Kick People Off Education And Healthcare.”  The Legislative Analyst has already deemed the Governor’s budget unworkable.  I wonder what she’ll say about these latest efforts.

While California Dreams- Weekly Update Vol.1 No. 22

This article written by: Former Assemblymember Hannah Beth Jackson of Speak Out California

A weekly update on the goings-on in Sacramento

For the week ending November 3, 2007

Key bills and issues we’ve been following during the

Past week and beyond

This is usually a pretty quiet time in Sacramento. While this situation remains pretty much the case,  the slowly dying Special Session still remains. With the big battle over water ending in a stalemate, the debate over  health care reform showed a glimmer of activity this week as the Assembly Health Committee held a full-blown hearing on the Governor’s health care proposal. There wasn’t any progress to speak of, although the Speaker, Fabian Nunez pledged to keep working to reach a compromise. Unfortunately, few in Sacramento believe either side will make necessary concessions to make that happen.

When times are slow, polls become more interesting-at least to those political wonks who are otherwise suffering withdrawal from relative inactivity. This week was no different as the well-respected Public Policy Institute of California came out this week with the latest on several fronts. Among these are whether the people feel California is moving in the right direction or not (which is just another way of asking whether people are optimistic and hopeful about their future) and how the Governor would fare should he decide to take on Senator Barbara Boxer in 2010 for the U.S. Senate. As you can see, a lot of inside baseball here, especially since even the baseball season is finally over.

The ballot measures for 2008 are again coming to life, especially since right-wing Congressman Darrell Issa, who brought us the Davis Recall in 2003, has announced he will bankroll the return of the Electoral College measure. For those who thought this blatant right-wing power grab was dead, this measure will split California’s electoral votes from a winner-takes-all to a split of electoral votes by Congressional District. Translated, this would likely give the Republican candidate 20 electoral votes—or the size of Ohio or Florida. Since the Republicans haven’t won California in years, this is as good as giving them a 40 vote turnaround in the Electoral College, enough so the conventional wisdom holds, to steal the election for the Republicans. And since it is felt that Rudy Guliani is the one most likely to benefit from this ploy, and there are many dirty footprints leading to his door on this measure, the Dems are howling. All this makes for good copy, of course, and keeps the political junkies busy during an otherwise slow period before the election cycle kicks in. Of course, this year, the election cycle seems to have started months ago and seems to be in overdrive already.

With so much bad press recently for Speaker Fabian Nunez’s spending habits, the Term-Limits/Extension measure Prop. 93 appears to be sliding out of favor dramatically with California’s likely voters. Added to the woes of current members hoping to extend their terms in office is the announcement by billionaire State Insurance Commissioner, Steve Poizner, that he will help bankroll the opposition to the measure. Even though the supporters of the measure have a substantial war chest, this measure looks like it may go down with a big thud.

And now for the week’s goings-on:

Health Care in the  Governor’s Special Session

The Governor finally got his opportunity to publicly roll-out his insurance-based health care plan. With his normal theatrical flair, the measure had a full hearing before the assembly Health Committee this week. Ever gracious Health Secretary Kim Belshe, presented the Governor’s now more specifically formulated proposal to a skeptical committee. Because the measure assumes that the insurance industry remains in the play—and in fact, insists upon it, there was no discussion of one of the fundamental questions in the entire debate: what benefit (if any) does the insurance industry bring to the delivery of health care to Californians? The Governor’s proposal simply presumes a benefit, although it is seriously challenged.

In fact, the basic premise of real universal health care is that there is one entity that is responsible for paying out to the healthcare providers (like the very successful and cost-effective  U.S.  Medicare/Medical system). No insurance companies, no profits, just one agency that oversees payments. That allows everyone to choose their own docs and healthcare providers who will be able to practice without insurance company interference, get paid a fair fee and discard all the bureaucratic tape of having to deal with the thousands of different plans in California alone.

But, unfortunately, the Governor’s proposal would require that all Californians buy health insurance and on that basis all Californians would be covered. Even assuming for the moment that this is a good approach, the Governor’s proposal makes the purchase of insurance mandatory, but doesn’t say what that cost would entitled us to receive and doesn’t cap the cost that the insurance industry can charge for the various services, medications, etc. that we would be getting for our premium payments.

Without any controls, the measure was predictably poorly received. In addition, there is no agreement on how to fund the program. The Republicans won’t support any system to pay for the coverage and the Dems don’t like the mandatory requirement aspects of the proposal. The Governor wants to cap employer contributions at 4%, but this is even less than what companies who are already contributing for health premiums are paying now.

During the hearing, it was exposed that the Governor’s proposal is not clear as to who is covered under the mandatory provisions requirement. Nor is there a mechanism to contain costs of premiums that the insurance industry can charge.

Another cause for concern is that minimum insurance would mean minimum coverage, so that those unable to afford much would likely end up paying for something that doesn’t provide them with the care they would need anyway- meaning they would be paying for nothing…not a very good system.

About the only point of agreement in all this is that insurance companies would not be able to reject providing insurance (such as it would be) for pre-existing conditions. Although this might seem to be a good place to start negotiations, neither side appears to be willing to concede on any of the above mentioned points. This is often referred to as a stalemate.

Hopefully, at some point, we’ll be able to get back to a meaningful discussion of whether healthcare should be available to everyone and if so, how we can construct a profit-based, yet more cost effective and equitable system to delivering meaningful healthcare to all?

For an excellent piece on the problems with the Governor’s proposal, check out Consumer Federation of California’s Richard Holober’s piece here.

Polls: a snapshot of what the people are thinking today

When times are slow, polls take on a particular interest. This week’s offerings from the highly regarded Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) are no exception. One of the most consistent areas the PPIC investigates is how the public perceives the present and future- taking the pulse of the public’s optimism or pessimism regarding the days to come. While it tends to fluctuate significantly, trends are often discernable and serve to highlight the kinds of policies and leadership the public wants or believes it is getting.

Right track or wrong track?

The current pulse shows that Californians are evenly divided on whether they believe the state is on the “right track” with 42% believing we are and 42% believing we’re on the “wrong-track”. For those who think we’re headed in the wrong direction, 21% cite immigration and uncontrolled borders as the reason we’re going the wrong way. This represents a 6% increase from the 15% who felt immigration was the number one problem in California in 2005. Thirteen percent of those who think we’re headed down the wrong path cited education and school cuts as the second most serious problem in the state.

Those who believe the picture is rosy and headed down the right path attributed their optimism to the Governor (21%) while 19% attributed it to the state’s economy. For a further discussion of this data, check out the Sac Bee article here.

The importance of college and higher education

And while on the subject of higher education, a strong majority of Californians believe that one of the keys to success is obtaining a college education. Sadly, 56% of Californians believe is harder to get that education today than it was a decade ago. The PPIC poll shows that an impressive 76% see our state’s higher education system as a key- to our quality of life and economic well-being. There is little doubt that we need to do more in California to improve access to this vitally important path to economic opportunity and well-being. For more on this subject, check out Frank Russo’s excellent piece here.

Boxer vs. Arnold for U.S. Senate in 2010:

For real political wonks, polls showed that if there were a match-up today between Senator Barbara Boxer and Governor Schwarzenegger, it would be a statistical dead heat. While this has many progressives concerned, the governor insists he has no interest in the seat and doesn’t intend to challenge the Senator who, by virtue of her seniority, now chairs the very important Senate Subcommittee on the Environment. While one would like to take the Governor at his word, he has been known to change his mind at the very last minute—as he did when he announced his decision to run for Governor on the Jay Leno show. Not only did that announcement shock his staff, but his wife as well. So, we’ll have to stay-tuned on that one.

New or re-heated  initiatives on the horizon

Just when we thought the right-wing power-grabbers were sufficiently embarrassed and humiliated to put the Electoral College scam measure on the ballot, they’ve found a new champion to come to their rescue in the form of Darrell Issa redux. This is the measure that was originally fronted by a group with the ignominious distinction of being led by a Republican operative best known for biting the backsides of women. While this measure would certainly bite the back-side of democracy by breaking up California’s electoral votes, and possibly handing the Republican presidential candidate an undeserved victory in the 2008 Presidential election (not exactly something new), it needs a quick insurgence of cash to ensure it can qualify for the November 2008 ballot. With only a few weeks left to qualify, we’ll be seeing a lot of paid signature gatherers misleading unsuspecting voters to sign their petitions. It will be ugly and is already the subject of litigation as the Dems are not going to let this piece of undemocratic mischief see the light of day, if at all possible.

Proposition 93- The term limits/expansion initiative

The measure, sponsored by the leadership of both houses of the legislature, got some bad news this week as the polling shows that support for Prop 93 plummets dramatically when the public discovers that it will give sitting members additional time in the legislature. While the current term-limits rule has wreaked havoc on our legislative system, this proposal has far too many skeptics seeing it as an obvious attempt to keep the current leadership in power longer than it should be. Given the negative couple weeks Speaker Fabian Nunez has had over his disclosed uses of campaign funds, it is little wonder that the public is souring on this measure. For more on this story, click here.

From the Speak Out California In-box

While we often receive emails from our readers (who for some reason would rather email than post on our blog!), this week was particularly heavy on concerns and outrage over Senator Dianne Feinstein’s support of Judge Mukasey’s confirmation. Several of you were indignant that the Senator would support a candidate who will not condemn water-boarding as torture. While we generally try to focus on California issues and activity within the state, we, too, are very concerned about approving someone who hasn’t the courage or perhaps the moral compass to condemn torture sanctioned by the government of the United States. We urge those who share this concern, to let Senator Feinstein’s office know of your displeasure. Certainly, at the least, we as Californians are entitled to know why she has given her critical vote to confirm under these circumstances. To contact her office, click here.

The Rest of the Story

Our blogging offerings for the week:

Keeping big business happy at our children’s expense— A look at the conduct of the federal agency tasked with protecting our health and safety as consumers and as parents, while our children are exposed to dangerous and unsafe toys.

The Power of the Words, We the People— a look at how “we”, the people, are really “we”, the government.

To read and comment on these entries just go to:  www.speakoutca.org/weblog/

Until next week,

Hannah-Beth Jackson and the Speak Out California Team

First Time Delegate Asks You to Support College at the Democratic State Convention!

(Yes, let’s support the students! What’s the point of preparing for college if we can’t afford it? – promoted by atdleft)

Hi, I’m Charlie Carnow, a freshman in Urban Planning at USC, and a first time delegate from the 40th Assembly District introducing my first resolution, supported by the California Young Democrats, San Fernando Valley Young Democrats, and Valley Grassroots for Democracy as well a college Democratic chapters throughout the state. Together, we are urging the state party to take a firm stand on an issue crucial to our state, and especially to young voters: college affordability. 

Hi, I’m Charlie Carnow, a freshman in Urban Planning at USC, and a first time delegate from the 40th Assembly District introducing my first resolution, supported by the California Young Democrats, San Fernando Valley Young Democrats, and Valley Grassroots for Democracy as well a college Democratic chapters throughout the state. Together, we are urging the state party to take a firm stand on an issue crucial to our state, and especially to young voters: college affordability. 

I never want to hear a story like I heard from a friend of mine in the 40th District again. Raised by a single mother, my friend moved around a lot, but finally reached some stability and got into her dream school, UC Davis. But the aid package was too stingy, so she was forced to go to a community college for two years, and work to save for an eventual transfer to a UC. The state needs to invest in higher education to ensure that students of all backgrounds are able to attend the school that best fits their dreams and abilities, regardless of cost.  Supporting Democratic efforts in the Legislature and Congress and urging further action through this resolution is a good first step. 

In 1960, the California State Legislature made a firm commitment that all qualified students would have a high quality affordable college education. From Silicon Valley to the San Fernando Valley, our investments in higher education have helped make California an economic and educational powerhouse on an international scale. . 

Today, as millions of baby boomers begin to retire, California has compromised its commitment to college affordability, making it harder for our young people to take advantage of these opportunities. Rated an A in affordability by the National Report Card in Higher Education in 2000, California slipped to a C- in 2006. Since 2000, fees have risen over 72% at the University of California. This year, even the Legislative Analysts Office calls the Governor’s proposed 10% increase at California State University and 7% increase for UCs  excessive. The average Californian now leaves college with $16,356 dollars in debt, limiting their ability to choose lower paying public service careers that the state needs to fill as baby boomers retire. The Cal Grant B,  which provides low income students with money to pay for books, housing and other educational expenses has not kept up with inflation, and the Cal Grant award to students at private schools have not kept up with the increasing cost of tuition. In Congress, Californians like House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have fought to cut student loan rates in half and in the House. Senator Kennedy’s Student Debt Relief Act would cut student loan interest rates in half, make student loan debt manageable, and cut the massive subsidies to student loan companies, freeing up funds to pay for increased grant aid for students. 

The State Party must support these efforts and encourage our Senators to cosponsor legislation containing these concepts. Furthermore, as a UC Berkeley study on the Returns to the State of Higher Education found, for every additional $1 the state spends in higher education now, the state can expect to expect to reap $3 in additional tax revenue in the next decade. Buying out the fee increase, and increasing Cal Grant B awards to take into account increases in the cost of living can ensure we protect and preserve the California Dream, and stand together against a Governor often hostile to students. We can restore the California Dream by putting our party on record as opposing unnecessary fee increases, supporting more grant aid to students, and aiding the efforts of our Democratic Congress to increase the Pell Grant and cut student loan interest rates. 

I invite you to join me at the Resolutions Committee to support this resolution. If you have any insights on how I can get this through the resolutions committee and ensure this remains a priority for them, please let me know in the commentss or contact me at [email protected] would be the first time at least since before 2003, that they address college issues in a resolution. It’s crucial this year as we try to pass some good Assembly bills to expand the Cal Grant B program, and take the wind of this year’s fee increase.

Text of the resolution follows:

Funding California Education Resolution

WHEREAS, since the 1960 Master Plan for College Education, California has guaranteed college opportunity to all qualified students, making California a national center for emerging industries and the world’s sixth largest economy, and

WHEREAS, over the last ten years, college costs have increased 26% nationally and 72% at the University of California,  while the percentage of college-bound high school graduates has declined and college graduates now carry an average of $19,000 in debt, and

WHEREAS, on January 17th, 2007, under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, the House of Representatives passed the College Student Relief Act of 2007 to cut the student loan rate on subsidized loans in half, 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that Valley Grassroots for Democracy supports efforts in the United States Senate and the House by Senator Edward Kennedy, Representative George Miller and others to improve national competitiveness by drastically cutting federally subsidized student loan rates and increasing Pell Grants, making loan debt manageable by limiting loan payments to a reasonable percentage of income and allowing payment over a longer period of time, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Valley Grassroots for Democracy urge the California State legislature to provide the necessary funding to buy out the proposed fee increase at California State University and also at the University of California, and implement the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommendation to support students at private universities by increasing Cal Grants.

Submitted by: Charlie Carnow, 40th AD