On politics in the Golden State

Category: Education

Assembly speaker warns UC officials against fee hikes

JohnPerezAssembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) issued a stern warning to University of California officials this week, saying that if the UC system follows through with plans to hike student fees, it will face the renewed scrutiny of the California Legislature.

The Democratic leader said lawmakers would focus on executive compensation in particular, arguing at a UC regents meeting Thursday that the higher education system had rewarded administrators with generous salaries and bonuses while hiking tuition for middle-class students.

The result, he said, is a generation of Californians saddled with debt.

"It limits the choices that they make and the options that they have to make their full imprint on this state," Perez told regents. "We need to be very clear that we have an expectation in the Legislature that you do no additional harm to access to the university."

On Thursday, leaders of the 10-campus system said fees for more than 50 professional graduate school programs, such as law and nursing, may increase.

Regent Richard Blum said UC must recruit the best leaders and that underpaying them "is a good way to turn this place into a junior college in about 15 years."

Lawmakers for years have called on UC and Cal State administrators to rein in their compensation practices.

State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has reintroduced legislation that would ban pay hikes for top administrators at public universities in bad budget years or when student fees increase. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill in 2009 and it fell one vote short of passage in the Senate Education Committee in 2011.

Perez told UC officials that if they go through with their plans to raise some student fees, "you will find a speaker that is less receptive to your efforts to stop legislation that is aimed at limiting your ability to compensate your executive officials at the level that you have."

Legislative Republicans have also proposed a seven-year freeze on tuition and fee increases at California’s public universities and community colleges to correspond with the length of tax increases under voter-approved Proposition 30.


UC likely to hike tuition for some grad programs

California Legislature wants a say in public university budgets

7-year freeze on university fee hikes proposed by GOP lawmakers

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento


Photo: Assembly Speaker John A. Perez speaks on the Assembly floor during the legislative session in 2011. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

California lawmakers build pressure against university fee hikes

Pressure is building from both sides of the aisle in the Capitol for an end to tuition hikes at California universities.

Following the lead of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, a third Republican lawmaker has introduced legislation to hold the line on fee increases.

The measure by Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) would guarantee in-state freshman California State University students a fixed tuition rate for four years.

Olsen, a former CSU administrator, said some students have dropped out before getting their degrees because of fee hikes that were not accounted for in their personal budgets. Others have decided not to enter the university system at all because of the expenses.

 “Students and parents deserve a reliable and reasonable tuition rate so they can plan for the investment, and yet, the cost of tuition at CSU has risen 63% since 2008,” Olsen said in a statement. "This bill will help new college students acquire a quality education without the fear of being priced out of their degree program before they finish.”

Last week, two other Republican state lawmakers introduced legislation providing for a tuition freeze for up to seven years. Brown is scheduled to press his case for holding the line on fees when he appears next week at the CSU board meeting.


Report: Parks agency hid millions

Lawmakers vow to close loophole in rape law

7-year freeze on university fee hikes proposed by lawmakers

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Cal State University Fullerton students protesting fee hikes in 2011. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times.


Jerry Brown takes a new tack with UC Regents

Brown and Henning

The University of California’s Board of Regents has long been considered among the most plum of gubernatorial appointments. It has been compared by past members to the College of Cardinals at the Vatican. Former Gov. Pat Brown said it was akin to “the order of the garter in England.”

Before Jerry Brown was first elected governor in 1974, the board was seen as a club of the affluent and well-connected that Times education writer Don Speich described as “a homogeneous lot, they were mostly white, mostly male and mostly wealthy friends and supporters of the governor who appointed them” who could be found “only at the most expensive hotels and eating only at the poshest restaurants.”

It was, in short, exactly the kind of institution a younger Jerry Brown wanted to turn on its ear.

During his first two terms as governor, Brown used his board appointments to change the makeup, and the culture, of the Regents. His appointees included a local YMCA director and a Zen Buddhist who seemed to have more faith in the intelligence of dolphins than of the university students he taught at UC Santa Cruz.

On  Wednesday, Brown will attend the Regents meeting in San Francisco, returning to the same board before which 30 years ago he argued faculty should be paid less because of the “psychic income” they derive from their jobs. His goals now are a bit more modest than they were decades ago – asking the university to embrace more online courses, hold the line on student fees and tighten its fiscal belt.

Brown has been meeting privately with university leaders for months, seeking a greater understanding of the university’s culture and its problems – a far cry from the political bomb-throwing approach of his past. “He’s appointed some of the best people, in my judgment, and some of the worst,” said the late Wilson Riles, the former superintendent of public instruction, of Brown’s appointees to the board in 1979. “There’s no pattern. He’s moved by the spirits.” Riles criticized Brown for naming members who had “no understanding of the university.”

That was confirmed by Regent Gregory Bateson, the anthropologist best known for his work with porpoises and named to the board by Brown. He once said he was “unable to have an opinion on most of the matters that come before our board … To correct my incompetence and ignorance,” he wrote in a letter to the UC president, “it would be necessary to do a great deal of work. But I am not motivated to do that work.”

Bateson went on to say that students “will get little from the university if they come to it, and when they leave will give back to society rather little of what they got.” Brown seems eager to avoid such confrontational appointees this time around. Despite three vacancies on the Regents, and two more spots set to open up in March, the governor has yet to name anyone to the board since returning to the governor’s office in 2011.

“I also know these boards are not affected by one or two people, so there’s no rush,” he said in an interview last fall. “I am more strategic now since I understand this better and I’m patiently looking for openings. I know that I don’t just want change for the sake of change because that’s superficial.”


Gov. Jerry Brown cheers new CSU online pilot project

Jerry Brown predicts California budget surplus by end of next year

Jerry Brown tells PBS "the budget is fixed"

--Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown, right, with John "Jack" F. Henning , executive–treasurer of the California Labor Federation, AFL–CIO at a meeting of labor leaders in Sacramento. Brown appointed Henning to the UC Board of Regents in 1977.  Credit: Los Angeles Times

Gov. Jerry Brown names new education advisor

Gov. Jerry Brown has named his new chief education advisor.

Karen Stapf Walters, a former teacher, state Senate aide and advocate for school administrators, will advise the governor on education policy, in addition to serving as executive director of the California State Board of Education, Brown's office announced Tuesday. The latter post requires board approval. The compensation is $175,000 a year.

Stapf Walters will be a critical voice in the administration as Brown proposes a radical shift in the way elementary and secondary schools are funded, seeking to direct more money to districts that serve poor students and English learners, who cost more to educate than other students.

Brown wants to give local districts more control over the money they receive from the state, eliminating mandates for smaller classes, spending on new technology and dozens of other requirements set in Sacramento.

Stapf Walters succeeds Sue Burr, who retired at the end of 2012. Brown appointed Burr to the state Board of Education this week.

Stapf Walters was a longtime advocate for the Assn. of California School Administrators, most recently serving as the group's interim executive director.


Debt still clouds state's future

Analyst calls Brown's budget 'reasonable'

Brown shifts schedule for repaying budget loans

--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento


Gov. Jerry Brown cheers new CSU online pilot project

SAN JOSE -- Gov. Jerry Brown was on hand Tuesday as California State University officials announced a new partnership with the online education company Udacity to offer three basic-skills courses this semester at San Jose State.

Brown has been an advocate for state colleges and universities to expand online course offerings as a way to keep students' costs down and ensure they can get the classes they need to graduate in a timely manner.

"The longer you stay [in college], the more you spend," Brown said. "Online is part of that solution."

He set aside $37 million in his latest budget plan for more Internet classes. Enrollment in the new algebra and statistics classes, for which students will be able to earn university credit, will be capped at 100 students per course.

Half of the slots will be reserved for university students and the other half for high school and college students and military veterans.

The classes will be taught by San Jose State faculty. Each course will cost $150, about 12% of the cost of the same course if it were taken in a classroom.

University spokeswoman Pat Harris said the new offerings will help students meet basic skills requirements. She estimates more than half of the university's students lack the basic math and English skills needed to graduate. She says state budget cuts have forced the school to limit the number of times students can take such basic courses.

Brown will continue his push for more online education at a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents in San Francisco on Wednesday.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

Jerry Brown continues push for more online college classes

Gov. Jerry Brown is set to launch a two-day push for more online classes at California's public universities
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday is set to launch a two-day push for more online classes at California's public universities.

Brown is scheduled to speak at a San Jose State University on Tuesday morning as the school announces a new pilot program that will make online courses available to students. On Wednesday, Brown is to attend a meeting of the Board of Regents of the University of California to push for some of the items he is seeking in his budget plan, including more online courses and a call for the university to find ways to trim money from the budget.

Next week, Brown is to attend the meeting of the Cal State Board of Trustees in Long Beach.

In his budget, Brown set aside nearly $37 million to expand the number of online courses at the state's public universities and community colleges. Overall, he proposed boosting the UC and Cal State systems' budgets by more than $250 million above what they received from Sacramento in last year's budget, with increases of 4% to 5% over the next four years -- more than enough, Brown said, to prevent tuition hikes during that time.

University leaders say they welcome the additional money and that they are open to Brown's ideas on cost-cutting and online courses.

"We've always endorsed the potential for online education," said regents President Sherry Lansing. "This is not some kind of new topic for us. We just didn't have any money for it."

Although university officials say tuition hikes would be unnecessary this fall if Brown's proposals are adopted, they would not commit to a longer-term tuition freeze.


Jerry Brown wants changes at state university systems

Jerry Brown to attend UC Regents, CSU Trustees meetings

Analyst concerned about rising spending and pension costs

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown points to a chart as he details his proposed budget last week. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Skelton: Jerry Brown's school plan bad for California middle class

When Gov. Jerry Brown pitched his new school funding plan, he described it as a just way to make sure poor districts get adequate state funding. George Skelton says the plan is actually not just at all


When Gov. Jerry Brown pitched his new school funding plan, he described it as a just way to make sure poor districts get adequate state funding.

"Our future depends not on across-the-board funding, but in disproportionately funding those schools that have disproportionate challenges," he said.

In Monday's column, George Skelton says the plan is actually not just at all. 

"How much income redistribution are Californians in the mood for?" Skelton wrote. "In this new scheme of Gov. Jerry Brown's, it isn't only the rich getting robbed. It's the middle class." 

Brown's plan would send additional money to schools with more students that are poor, English learners or in foster homes. The problem is, Skelton said, the money comes out of the state's big pot of education funding, leaving less for other schools. 

"Californians need to be pulling together as they struggle out of the great recession," he wrote. "Government shouldn't be alienating the core middle class to benefit anyone."

All of Skelton's columns are here.


Gov. Jerry Brown commits to major Medi-Cal expansion

Gov. Jerry Brown wants changes at state university systems

Democratic legislative leaders relieved by Gov. Brown's budget

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters in a classroom in 2011. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Lawmaker revives bill to ease firing of teachers in sex abuse cases

AlexPadillaA California lawmaker has revived legislation to speed the dismissal process for teachers who sexually abuse students.

The proposal, prompted by the the sexual abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, died in committee last session after the state's powerful teachers unions declared it an assault on due process rights.

State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) reintroduced the bill last week, saying the need for his legislation was bolstered by a recent state audit that found the state's lengthy dismissal process contributes to districts "entering into settlement agreements rather than continuing with attempts to dismiss the employees."

Last year, the L.A. Unified School District chose to pay $40,000 to Mark Berndt, the former Miramonte teacher charged with 23 counts of lewd acts on children, to retire rather than take him through the dismissal process. (Berndt has pleaded not guilty to the charges.)

The bill, SB 10, would expedite the dismissal process for teachers who engage in "serious or egregious unprofessional conduct": offenses involving sex, drugs or violence.

In testifying before the Assembly Education Committee last session, Padilla said his proposal would have affected only "the very, very few who abuse the trust we've given them."

"This bill is not about dismissing a teacher if the lesson plan is not ready or they've shown up tardy too many times," Padilla testified.

The California Teachers Assn. objected that the bill would have given school boards, rather than an administrative judge and two educators, final authority over dismissals.

"If you take teacher dismissal and you make it a political process, you will be undermining the basic tenets of the system we've had for 40 years and that has worked for 40 years," said Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, CTA's largest affiliate.


Lawmakers want to change Proposition 13

Rural counties seek bigger share of prison money

New Assembly members already eyeing seats in Senate

--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento


Photo: State Sen. Alex Padilla

State schools chief wants lawmakers to approve new bond measure

Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said Tuesday he would like state lawmakers to place a new school bond on the ballot in 2014.

"The need is definitely there," he said in an interview. "The accounts are empty."

Torlakson said California's public schools need more than $100 billion to pay for new buildings as well as renovation and updating of existing buildings. Any bond would be a fraction of that amount.

The state's last school bond was approved in June 2006. Torlakson said nearly all of the $10.4 billion in that bond has been spent.

When asked about the idea, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), said his first priority would be to tweak, and probably shrink, a water bond scheduled for the 2014 ballot. The water plan was originally scheduled for the 2012 ballot, but was delayed by lawmakers at the request of Gov. Jerry Brown, who thought the measure could interfere with his call for higher taxes this year.

With their two-thirds majorities in both legislative houses, Democrats could place a bond measure on the ballot without any Republican support.


State lawmaker to propose changes to Proposition 13

California prison manuals change with the sexual times

State Legislature to tackle immigration, fracking in new session

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

Lawmakers make plans to spend $2.5 billion in new energy funds

Tom SteyerWith the passage of Proposition 39 this fall, California voters set aside $2.5 billion over the next five years for energy efficiency projects. Now, it’s up to the Legislature to spend the money.

On Tuesday, Sen. Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles) and Tom Steyer, who bankrolled the Yes on 39 campaign, will join with political and education leaders asking that a large portion of the new money be spent on schools.

DeLeon will introduce legislation calling for energy retrofits of thousands of public schools, and using money raised from Proposition 39 to pay for the projects. In a brief interview Monday, DeLeon said his bill would provide a boost to the economy by creating thousands of new jobs, update outdated school buildings and reduce districts’ future energy costs.

He said spending the money on schools would show voters that the new money will be spent responsibly.

Proposition 39 will raise an estimated $1 billion per year by changing the way corporate taxes are collected. As part of a budget deal in 2009, corporations were given a choice between two different tax formulas. Proposition 39 eliminated that choice, and created one mandatory formula for corporate taxes.


Skelton: Capitol lacks compromise and camaraderie

Bob Huff reelected as California Senate Republican leader

State's sprint to wind, solar power could trigger crisis, panel warns

— Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo: Tom Steyer, co-founder of Advance Energy Economy, makes his way to the podium to address the Democratic National Convention back in September. Steyer helped bankroll the Yes on 39 campaign. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press


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