Tag Archives: ballot initiative

$100 Billion Win

Prop 103 100 Billion SavedI’m truly humbled.

It was a big deal when, 25 years ago this month, you and other California voters joined with me to pass Proposition 103, the toughest auto insurance regulation in the nation. But I had no idea exactly how big.

Today, in downtown Los Angeles, the Consumer Federation of America released the findings of a new report: Prop 103 has saved California drivers over $100 billion dollars since 1988. That’s about $8,125 per California household. In fact, California is the only state in the country where auto insurance rates actually went down over the last 25 years.

Back in 1984, the California Legislature passed a law requiring drivers to have auto insurance…but didn’t limit how much insurers could charge. Predictably, insurers hiked prices by double digits. Voters revolted against the price gouging by passing Prop 103, and the result was billions in savings.

Harvey RosenfieldNow, the federal health reform law is requiring everyone to buy health insurance. But Obamacare doesn’t limit what insurers can charge. It’s déjà vu all over again. Not surprisingly, insurance companies are hiking prices by double digits.

We Californians have been through this before, and with your help we’ll revolt again next year. Consumer Watchdog has put an initiative on the November 2014 ballot that will apply Prop 103’s money saving reforms to health insurance companies. Health insurers will have to open their books and justify any rate increase before it takes effect.

This will be another David v Goliath battle like the one we won together twenty-five years ago.

Auto insurance in California is a $20 billion a year industry. Health insurance is more than a trillion. Imagine the savings we’ll be celebrating 26 years from now once voters regulate the health insurance industry at the ballot next year.

Thanks for all of your support.

Posted by Harvey Rosenfield – Founder of Consumer Watchdog and author of Proposition 103. For more on Consumer Watchdog and Prop 103 visit our website

Shouldn’t Doctors Have To Pee In The Cup Too?

Pee in a Cup The Musical: Part IPilots, college athletes, bus drivers and Disneyland cast members all are subjected to mandatory drug testing, but not the doctor performing open heart surgery, or a vasectomy. Not yet.

Substance abuse among doctor runs twice as high among doctors as the general population — 18% of physicians according to the California Medical Board. It’s no wonder, they can deal their own drugs.

It’s time for the change medical experts have been calling for a while. To make the case, this short, funny musical video “Pee In The Cup Part I” will be circulating around Disneyland on a mobile billboard this weekend, where the California Medical Association is convening.

The medical association’s confab in the magic kingdom is a perfect metaphor for the fantasyland the state’s medical establishment has been living in when it come to threats to patient today.

Drug overdose deaths, for example, are the leading cause of accidental death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nonetheless the golden state’s medical lobby worked hard in the legislature this year with the drug companies to keep the narcotics flowing without accountability.

Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed a simple bill sending coroners’ reports about prescription drug overdose deaths to the state medical board because the doctors undermined it.  Legislation mandating that doctors check the electronic prescription drug database, known as CURES, about a patients’ history before prescribing narcotics didn’t make it out of the California Senate because the medical association stopped it.  A much-anticipated medical board overhaul, moving investigation of dangerous prescribers to the attorney general, never materialized because of the medical lobby’s opposition.

The only prognosis is that while today’s doctors are dealing with modern problems the medical association is still stuck in Walt Disney’s 1950s mentality that physicians should never be told what to do or have anyone looking over their shoulder, even if it’s a coroner.

Consider substance abuse among doctors. Nearly two in ten doctors abuse drugs and alcohol.

Yet the medical association has long sought to coddle physicians who abuse alcohol and drugs with a now discredited “diversion” program that withheld discipline and accountability for doctors if they went to rehab. After decades of abuse, and revolving doors, the California legislature finally pulled the plug.

Still, drunk and high doctors face little real discipline thanks to the slap-on-the-wrist physician discipline system the medical association has lobbied hard to maintain. Recently, a meth-using doctor convicted of drug dealing got his license back after one year.  A schoolteacher, police officer or lawyer would lose their credential, badge or license.

As a dramatic Los Angeles Times investigation recently showed, prescription drug overdoses are becoming all too common, particularly among teenagers and young adults, as a cadre of “pain management” doctors gets rich over the corpses.  What’s shocking is how the medical association fights in the face of such a scandal to protect the small minority of dangerous and dirty doctors that cause the vast majority of harm.  Stunned families who lost loved ones need only look to Disneyland for some answers.

Drug makers ply top physicians with lavish gifts, exotic seminars and fancy lunches, buying not only prescriptions of their products but political clout.  Is that why the white coats were the drug industry’s cover in the capitol to keep the drugs flowing without requiring physicians to check whether they are prescribing to addicts?  

Kaiser Permanente, which reportedly pays a huge check to the California Medical Association each year for the dues of its thousands of doctors, wields great power over the association too, including employing its current president. Is that why CMA’s doctors are the main opponents of reforms Kaiser and health insurers don’t like, such as a 2014 ballot measure to regulate health insurance rates through the same successful regulation that now applies to auto insurance and home insurance rates?  (A ballot measure I authored and my consumer group qualified for the ballot.)

One father, who lost two young children to an addict’s driving and reckless prescribing, has had enough. Bob Pack created the CURES electronic database only to have to fight the medical association for its funding and use.  He is now circulating a ballot measureto require mandatory drug and alcohol testing for doctors, force doctors to check the CURES database before prescribing narcotics, and to index for inflation a 38 year old cap on malpractice victims’ recovery.

Nothing is likely to shake the House at Disney so much as having to pee in a cup. After this year’s legislative debacle, it’s high time someone like Pack bring the medical association back to earth.

Jamie Court is the president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Consumer Watchdog and a backer of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act. Originally posted on the Huffington Post on October 10, 2013

Is Your Doctor Opposed To Peeing In A Cup? Check The List

Does Your Doctor Oppose Patient Safety ReformA drunk Orange County plastic surgeon reportedly disfigured at least a half dozen patients before losing his license. A Rocklin anesthesiologist was arrested for taking anesthesia through an extra IV line while administering it to a patient.  A meth-using doctor who was convicted of drug dealing will get his doctor’s license back after a year.

Does your doctor oppose mandatory drug testing for physicians? Check the list.

Substance abuse among California physicians is higher than the general population, yet unlike bus drivers and pilots, physicians don’t have to take drug tests.  A proposed patient safety ballot measure requires mandatory drug testing of physicians, but a group of doctors is raising big bucks to stop these and other common sense patient safety measures.

Consumer Watchdog has published the list of doctors across the state who have given money to the opponents of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act. We think patients should know if their doctors are standing in the way of their safety and will be sharing the list with millions of Californians.

Troy, 10 years old, and Alana, 7, were hit and killed by a drug abusing driver prescribed thousands of pills by negligent physicians. Their dad, Bob Pack, is the author of the ballot measure to create mandatory drug testing among physicians, require doctors to use an electronic prescription drug database and modernize patient safety laws.

Check the list and ask your doctor if he or she opposes modest patient safety reforms.

It’s time for the medical establishment to explain why it is resisting common sense solutions to weed out the small number of dangerous and dirty doctors that commit the vast majority of medical malpractice.

Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Mercury Insurance Gave $25K to Greenlining Institute for Flip-Flop Prop 33 Endorsement


Consumer Advocates Call On Group To Withdraw Support For Measure That Would Raise Car Insurance Rates on Good Drivers

The nonprofit Greenlining Institute acknowledged in a San Francisco Bay Guardian story published today that it received a $25,000 donation from Mercury insurance company, and expects more for its work in support of Mercury-backed Proposition 33. Prop 33 is funded by Mercury insurance’s billionaire chairman George Joseph and would raise car insurance rates on good drivers who have a break in insurance coverage, even if they’re not driving.

In a letter, Consumer Watchdog urged Greenlining to reverse its decision to support Proposition 33. Greenlining opposed a nearly identical ballot measure proposed by Mercury insurance company in 2010, Prop 17.

Download the letter here

Read the San Francisco Bay Guardian story

“We are writing to urge you to reconsider your shocking support for Proposition 33 and the auto insurance redlining it seeks to legalize,” wrote Consumer Watchdog founder Harvey Rosenfield and Washington DC director Carmen Balber. “Greenlining purports to represent the very low-income drivers who will be hurt the most if Proposition 33 is approved next November, allowing insurance companies to surcharge Californians who stop driving for legitimate reasons and then choose to get back on the road.”

Prop 33 would overturn a 24-year-old law banning discriminatory practices by auto insurance companies that were brought to light in the 1987 California civil rights case, King v. Meese.

“The rampant practice of surcharging, or refusing to sell insurance to, people who were not previously insured was one of the most pernicious of the discriminatory techniques employed by the insurance industry,” said the letter. “In signing the ballot argument for Proposition 33, you have aligned yourself with George Joseph and Mercury Insurance, the most persistent partisans for the legalization of the old redlining tricks that made auto insurance inaccessible to low-income families and communities of color for decades.”

The letter notes that Proposition 33 targets Californians who stop driving for legitimate reasons:

  • When low-wage workers who commute by bus need to get a car in order to maintain their job, they will be surcharged by about 40% for auto insurance;
  • When immigrant drivers are finally able to obtain a California driver’s license and try to buy insurance, they will be forced to pay hundreds and possibly thousand of dollars more than the drivers who purchased insurance in the past, even though they are equally good drivers;
  • When drivers who have found it financially impossible to maintain uninterrupted insurance coverage turn to the auto insurance market in hopes of complying with the mandatory insurance law, they will face a financial penalty for being poor;
  • Those who cannot afford these massive surcharges will be exposed to penalties and seizure of their vehicles for failure to comply with the Financial Responsibility Law.

You Really Can’t Trust Mercury

The Mercury Insurance initiative’s lawsuit to stop the Attorney General and us opponents from telling the truth about Proposition 33 – how it will raise auto insurance rates – got tossed out of Sacramento Superior Court last Thursday. The Mercury campaign asked the court to rewrite the Official Ballot Pamphlet, which is sent to every voter’s home, so it would contain only Mercury’s false claim that everyone will get “discounts” if Proposition 33 passes.  After an hour-long argument, the judge said no.

But the ink was hardly dry on Thursday’s court order when Mercury told yet another lie – this time about what we said in court.

In a press release issued Friday morning, Mercury said: “CONSUMER WATCHDOG ARGUES IN COURT THAT THE TRUTH IS ELASTIC.”

We never said that, of course. (The release also called us “corporate lawyers,” which the corporations we take on would no doubt find bewildering.)

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that George Joseph, the multi-billionaire Chairman of Mercury Insurance who has contributed 99.1% of the $8.29 million received by Proposition 33, can’t stop lying about his proposition and the consumer, citizen, senior and patient’s organizations who vehemently oppose it.  After all, according to the California Department of Insurance:

“Mercury [has a] lengthy history of serious misconduct, and its attitude – contempt towards and/or abuse of its customers, the Commissioner, its competition, and the Superior Court….Among Department staff, consumer attorneys, and consumer victims of its bad faith, Mercury has a deserved reputation for abusing its customers and intentionally violating the law with arrogance and indifference….”

Mercury’s dirty propaganda campaign didn’t work back in 2010, when the company mounted a nearly identical proposition to deregulate auto insurance, also sued the Attorney General and us, spent $16 million, and still lost. Joseph and the pigs at the Mercury trough (an assortment of PR hacks, phony non-profit groups, insurance agents and bought-and-paid-for politicians) think the voters are stupid. But they are wrong. California voters can smell a dirty, self-serving initiative a mile away.

The Mercury Insurance campaign might have gotten away with its Friday fabrication, except we were able to catch them red-handed.

Hours before Thursday’s hearing, I found out that Joseph’s lawyers had not requested a court reporter be there to take down everything that was said in court. (Thanks to severe budget cuts, state courts can no longer afford to pay for court reporters – the parties in a lawsuit have to pay.) It seemed odd that this mega-billionaire would not spring for someone to record the truth… and then I realized that the Mercury campaign might not want a transcript of what happened in court, so they could lie about it later.

So I pulled out my checkbook, went to a special window at the Sacramento Superior Court, and paid the $30 for the court reporter myself.

Good thing, as it turns out.

The court reporter’s transcript confirms that our lawyer, the highly respected James Harrison of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, never uttered what Mercury quoted him as saying. Rather, citing the First Amendment and many legal decisions, he urged the court to reject Mercury’s attack on our conclusion that Proposition 33 will “deregulate” auto insurance premiums. Here are his words:

“Your Honor, as the Court noted, deregulation is an elastic and ideological concept. In the Huntington Beach case, for example, the Court refused to make a change to the argument that the measure requires AES, the electricity company, to pay its fair share. And the reason that the Court refused to intervene was that the term ‘fair share’ is a very elastic and ideological concept. What you understand to be a fair share might not be what I understand. The same is true of deregulation, your Honor. What I understand to be deregulation may have a very different meaning to someone else. It’s a very elastic concept.”

Mercury’s legal shenanigans wasted a lot of taxpayer money at a time when California courts are struggling to deliver justice fairly and efficiently despite a gaping hole that the Legislature has inflicted on the judicial branch budget. (Late Friday, Joseph’s lawyers filed an appeal, hoping to overturn the Superior Court’s decision.  It was summarily denied.)

Forcing the Attorney General to defend in court her summary of Proposition 33, which she is required by law to prepare for the ballot, was also an unnecessary drain on that law enforcement agency’s scarce resources. (Joseph was also furthering a strategy recently adopted by Wall Street and other corporate interests: Attacking Attorney General Kamala Harris in an attempt to intimidate and undermine her.)

The Mercury campaign’s public relations minions don’t care about the cost to taxpayers. To them, filing a lawsuit in court is just another gambit in their greed-driven, deceptive campaign to get the voters to pass a law allowing companies like Mercury Insurance to raise your auto insurance rates and make more money.


Posted by Harvey Rosenfield, Founder of Consumer Watchdog and Author of California Proposition 103, the landmark Auto Insurance Regulation law in California.

Tax-Dodger CEOS Race to Cheat Californians–Watch It Now!

Consumer Watchdog has been growling for a while about global corporations that use a tax loophole to pay less in California corporate taxes than in-state companies. Four major companies–Kimberly Clark (Kleenex, Scott toilet paper), General Motors, Chrysler and International Paper–have even launched a major lobbying campaign in the state to save their selfish loophole. They are happy, obviously, cheating the state of a billion or more dollars a year that could keep teachers in jobs, the disabled out of nursing homes and parks open.

Now there’s a ballot initiative, Prop 39, that’s aimed at closing the tax loophole, and one of its first public blasts is this funny video, “The Tax Dodger Olympic Dash”–track and field for billionaires.

Along with the video is a text tidbit, revealing that the same companies fighting to keep their loophole in California fought just as hard to keep such tax loopholes out of their home states. There’s nothing like a heaping helping of corporate hypocrisy to start the day!


Posted by Judy Dugan, research director for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Insurance Billionaire-Sponsored Prop 33 Will Raise Premiums On Millions of Responsible Drivers

Mercury Insurance Warning

Consumer Advocates Say Prop 33 Means Auto Insurance Rate Hikes of 33% or More

The newly numbered Proposition 33, funded by Mercury Insurance’s billionaire Chairman George Joseph, is a replay of Mercury’s unsuccessful 2010 initiative aimed at raising auto insurance premiums on millions of Californians.

According to the Attorney General’s official title of the initiative, Prop 33: “Changes Law to Allow Auto Insurance Companies to Set Prices Based on a Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage.” The Attorney General’s summary explains that Prop 33 “Will allow insurance companies to increase cost of insurance to drivers who have not maintained continuous coverage.”

Prop 33 aims to change over 20 years of insurance law by repealing a key anti-discrimination provision from the 1988 voter initiative Proposition 103. In addition to broadly reforming insurance rates in California, Proposition 103 specifically prohibited an insurance industry redlining scheme first brought to public attention by the 1985 California civil rights case King v. Meese. While Prop 103 made that scheme illegal 24 years ago, Prop 33 would rollback that protection and revive this discriminatory practice by insurance companies that particularly targets low-income and other Californians struggling financially.

Consumer advocates opposing Prop 33, including Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of California and Consumer Watchdog, say that Prop 33 is another deceptive insurance company trick to raise auto insurance rates for millions of responsible drivers in California. While the insurance industry backers of Prop 33 promise that it will give people discounts, the measure is actually designed to get around an existing law that prevents unfair surcharges on good drivers.

Prop 33 allows insurance companies to charge dramatically higher rates to customers with perfect driving records, just because they had not purchased auto insurance at some point during the past five years. Drivers must pay this unfair penalty even if they did not own a car or need insurance at the time.

“The insurance companies are at it again with another deceptive initiative that says one thing but does another,” said consumer advocate Douglas Heller with Consumer Watchdog Campaign. “When an insurance billionaire spends millions of dollars on a ballot measure, hold onto your wallet. Prop 33 is the newest edition of Mercury’s long-running effort to give insurance companies a new way to unfairly raise auto insurance premiums.”

Mercury Insurance Chairman George Joseph has already spent eight million dollars on Prop 33 and will likely spend more than the $16 million spent by Mercury for its 2010 initiative, according to consumer advocates. Prior to his serial attacks on consumer rights at the ballot box, Joseph and his company pushed for legislative repeal of the consumer protection laws, but that change was ruled illegal by the California Court of Appeal.

About ten years ago, Mercury was caught illegally surcharging many of its customers using the same so-called “continuous coverage” scheme proposed in Prop 33. At the time, Mercury added a 40% surcharge on drivers with perfect records who did not have prior insurance coverage at some point in the past, even if they did not need coverage. In other states where Mercury is allowed to add the Prop 33 surcharge, rates jump by 50% to 100% and sometimes more.

“Wherever Mercury has imposed the financial penalty that would be allowed under Prop 33, premiums for many drivers skyrocket,” said Heller. “When California voters go to the polls in the November, they should ignore the insurance industry’s slick ad campaigns and simply remember that Prop 33 will raise auto insurance rates by 33% or more.”

Prop 33 would increase premiums for Californians who stopped driving for legitimate reasons, including:

  • graduating students entering the workforce;
  • people who dropped their coverage while recuperating from a serious illness or injury that kept them off the road
  • Californians who previously used mass-transit; and
  • the long-term unemployed.

Californians who had chosen not to drive for a time and did not need insurance would be surcharged when a new job, move or some other circumstance requires them to buy insurance again. Prop 33’s unfair penalty would punish drivers with premium surcharges that could reach $1,000 a year or more just because they took a hiatus from driving their automobile.

For more information about Prop 33, Consumer Watchdog Campaign has created: www.StopTheSurcharge.org

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The Insurance Industry Loves Its Secrets

Just when consumers are finally getting a look at how health insurance companies conduct their business, the industry is racing to shut and lock the door. Buried deep in a “model law” for states to update health insurance regulation is a clause that would keep secret the companies’ justification for  exorbitant rate increases.

Why’s this so bad? Because one of the few ways patients and consumer groups can tell whether a rate increase is justified is to closely examine the data-heavy actuarial reports that insurers use as their defense. In states with consumer-friendly insurance commissioners, some have found gross math errors in favor of the companies. (Simple mistakes? Maybe.) Without access to actuarial and other related data, consumers can’t even hold an unfriendly insurance regulator to account, much less force the company to back down.

The “model law” is being drafted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a private body of state insurance commissioners. It has long been criticized for being too cozy with the industry. The NAIC, however, has also drafted a lot of the regulations governing health insurance reform nationally, with the explicit approval of the Department of Health and Human Services. So what the NAIC says and does matters to every insurance policyholder.

Here’s the industry-friendly secrecy clause tucked into the NAIC’s model law, which most states would closely follow in drafting their own laws:

Each health carrier shall file with the commissioner annually on or before March 15, an actuarial certification certifying that the carrier is in compliance with this Act and that the rating methods of the carrier are actuarially sound. The certification shall be in a form and manner, and shall contain such information, as specified by the commissioner. A copy of the certification shall be retained by the carrier at its principal place of business.

(3) (a) A health carrier shall make the information and documentation described in paragraph (1) available to the commissioner upon request.

b) Except in cases of violations of this Act, the information shall be considered proprietary and trade secret information and shall not be subject to disclosure by the commissioner to persons outside of the Department of Insurance except as agreed to by the health carrier or as ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction.

There is a lot of room for mischief in an actuarial certification, especially when the actuarial company depends on the insurance company for its pay. The insurance industry primarily uses the certifications as a shield against state oversight, especially any attempt to lower rates.

Under this clause, a state insurance commissioner could have trouble even telling the public why an insurance rate is unjustified,  turning protective oversight  into a he said-she said catfight. Given tens of millions in lobbying money employed on the insurance industry side, it wouldn’t be an even battle Consumers couldn’t fight back against rates without data to back their argument.

If the secrecy clause stays in, states that already make such data public. like California, will find their legislatures swarming with insurance lobbyists pushing to put the data back in a closet, because the NAIC model law says to do it. The insurance lobby has repeatedly blocked state authority to deny or modify rate increases, so for a $35-million annual lobby, a little secrecy looks easy.

There is almost no such thing as a “trade secret” in a service industry like insurance. The companies don’t need to keep their actuarial reports secret from other insurers–they just need to keep the data away from outraged consumers.

The NAIC’s own consumer representatives oppose the industry secrecy clause. We hope the Department of Health and Human Services, which has strongly favored disclosure and transparency, will also weigh in. Otherwise, it will be up to the states to understand that this clause is a model of nothing except the lobbying might of the health insurance industry.

Consumers who’d like to fight back, at least in California, can start by learning more about the Consumer Watchdog Campaign’s November ballot initiative. It would make insurance companies justify their rates before they go into effect, and reduce or retract rates if they’re unjustified.


Posted by Judy Dugan, research director for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sign Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace…Regulate Health Insurance Rates

Next week we will be turning in the signatures for our ballot petition to force health insurance companies to justify their rates and get permission before instituting their rate hikes.

Download, sign and return in the mail by the end of the weekend to be part of the signature turn-in or forever hold your peace.

This short video preview of the initiative by our friends in Hollywood explains why this is the most important autograph you will give this year.

No More Cuts To Public Education The Case for San Diego’s Parcel Tax

The San Diego Unified District Board of Education will be voting Tuesday (5 pm) evening to place a temporary parcel tax up for voter approval on the November ballot.  While this move on the surface is a response to the “funding cliff” that public education systems state-wide are facing as Federal stimulus dollars expire next year, the reality is that much larger stakes are in play here.

The school district is facing the prospect of $127 million in projected cuts for the school year beginning in September 2011 after cutting more than $370 million from its budget over the last four years. They have tentatively proposed a long list of budget reductions, from eliminating librarians and counselors to halving the school day for kindergartners. More than 1,400 employees – ten per cent of school district employees – will be facing layoffs if those cuts become reality.

Beyond the job cuts, which would entail eliminating school athletics, arts & music programs, vice-principals, libraries, school nurses, gifted programs and magnet schools, is a struggle for the very soul of public education.  Hidden behind the “no-tax” and “blame the unions” rhetoric of the measure’s opponents is an agenda that would shrink public education to a bare bones institution that would functions as holding tank for the children of the lowers and middle classes whose parents cannot afford private education.

As with private schools in the higher education business, this agenda won’t actually reduce education costs; these monies will simply be re-directed to profit-making institutions with no public oversight or real interest in student achievement. (For more on the cruel, cold world of private college education, I suggest that you read this investigative report: http://www.propublica.org/arti…

The reality of proposed parcel tax is that it will cost individual home-owners a whopping $8 a month, apartment owners are looking at paying $6 per month per unit.  Low-income seniors would be exempt from the parcel tax. In other words, for the cost of a martini or a couple of lattes, the local school district will be able to deal with a looming fiscal crisis. That money goes directly to the school district and not Sacramento. In San Diego Unified, the money would be used to hire more teachers, which would help to lower class sizes.

The tax expires at the end of five years, and the monies raised are strictly targeted: Under the proposal, none of the money would be spent on administrators or the central office. Expenses would be monitored by an oversight committee.  Each school would get $150 per student to pay for academic programs. The money could be used to hire teachers, pay for supplies, vocational education or technology. After per-pupil funding is distributed, half of the remaining funds – about $20 million annually – would be spent to keep class sizes low in kindergarten through third-grade.

The counter-attack on the proposed parcel tax has already begun.  Sunday’s Union-Tribune editorialized on flaws they perceived in the District’s web site explaining the details of the parcel tax.  You can be assured that a follow-up attack will happen over the next couple of weeks over the choice of consultant Larry Remer to run the campaign in favor of the proposal, despite the fact that he has a good track record on such issues. (Full disclosure: Remer and I were, four decades ago, co-editors of an alternative newspaper that used much of its editorial footprint towards denigrating the local dailies.)

Since it now appears that the two initiatives that appeared likely to gain the most interest amongst reactionaries will not be on the ballot in November-Carl Demaio’s “Clean Up Government Act” and the proposal to raise the local sales tax by ½ percent*-the proposed parcel tax will become the lightning rod for pro-privatization forces.

(*Insiders have told me that the decision has been made not to expend political capital in the face of proposals to build a new city hall and other new shiny toys.)  

Advance polling by education advocates shows that the battle is likely to be hard fought.  Poll respondents demonstrated a significant depth of support for the tax.  The problem is that State law mandates that such measures must be approved by 2/3 of the electorate.   Over the past year more than 20 California districts have attempted to pass parcel taxes, with 16 passing in mostly small and affluent districts.

The voting districts with the most swing, depending on the questions posed by pollsters, were district six (inland north city, i.e., Claremont & Kearny Mesa)  and district two (which includes Ocean Beach and Point Loma).  This means voter turn out in OB could be a real determining factor.

As one business leader reportedly told School Board President Richard Barrera, he’s opposed to this initiative and will work for its defeat so he can make the schools “come to us on their knees” to beg for survival. That pretty much sums it up.  The survival of schools is now on the line. Here’s where we stand now:  

California has more students per school staff than the rest of the US.

California’s schools:

• Ranked 50th in the nation with respect to the number of students per teacher.

California averaged 21.3 students for each teacher in 2009-10, more than 50

percent larger than the rest of the US, which averaged 13.8 students per teacher.2

• Ranked 46th in the nation with respect to the number of students per

administrator.3 California’s schools averaged 358 students for each administrator

in 2007-08, compared to 216 students for each administrator in the rest of the US.

• Ranked 49th in the nation with respect to the number of students per guidance

counselor. California’s schools averaged 809 students for each guidance counselor

More than $17 billion has been cut from California public schools and colleges in the last two years, equaling a cut of nearly $3,000 per student. This is the single largest cut to public education since the Great Depression. Because of this, more than 26,000 pink slips were issued to California educators this year.

Do we really want to make things worse? The school board hearing on the parcel tax is scheduled for 5 pm Tuesday, July 13th at the Board of Education Building in University Heights.  The anti-education people will be out in full force to try & discredit this idea.

Please attend if you can.