Committee and Legislative Appointments: Chair Education Committee
Member Budget Committee
Natural Resources Committee
Budget Subcommittee #1 – Health and Human Services
Budget Subcommittee #2 – Education Finance
Legislative Liaison, Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission
Legislative Participant, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
California Commission on the Status of Women
From the AD 41 E- Newsletter - JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009
State Begins Recovery Under New Budget
The passage of a package of bills that closes a $41 billion deficit has now allowed California to weather a historic financial crisis. I voted for this legislation solely to avert a calamity that would have halted hundreds of state projects, obliterated thousands of jobs, jeopardized Californians’ safety and choked off California’s path toward economic recovery. We must move ahead, although I do so with a heavy heart. During the brutal process of finding agreement among two-thirds of lawmakers, Assembly Democrats sent a letter, signed by Speaker Karen Bass and 33 Assembly members, including me, to our Federal leadership – Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – relative to the stimulus package then being negotiated in Washington. The letter asked that $4.5 billion in bridge financing be included for projects that are in line right now to receive state bond funding that is unavailable until we do have a state budget. Getting these projects going ASAP will put people back to work and create new jobs for Californians. It is estimated that for every $1 billion spent, 18,000 jobs will be created and/or saved. Watch for future newsletters detailing the impact of the federal stimulus package and newly-passed state budget on California.
My 2009-10 Legislative Package Begins…
… with groundbreaking legislation to reform school finance. Also legislation to rid our streets, watersheds, and oceans from billions of tossed flimsy plastic bags, to finance new school construction, to help L.A. County raise funds for clean water projects, and to streamline teacher credentialing.
AB 8 – School Finance
Four decades of court-mandated and voter-influenced revisions have created an extremely complex, centralized system of school finance that no longer functions well and is in desperate need of an overhaul. AB 8 will begin that process. Last year, a massive Stanford University research project called “Getting Down To Facts” and the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence concluded that any significant progress in K-12 education hinges on major school finance reform. Currently, it is nearly impossible to determine how much revenue each school district receives or how those funds are spent. School districts that have similar student populations should receive similar funding, yet we know that’s not the case. AB 8 will convene a working group to recommend an alternative, more transparent and accountable system for school finance that is better aligned to the educational needs of our students. Once that money is invested more effectively through a simpler, cleaner system, we will have the voters’ confidence to approve greater investments in education.
AB 220 – School construction bond
State funds for new school construction run out at the end of this year, yet many children are taking long bus rides because there is no room for them at their neighborhood school. California already anticipates an increase in student enrollment of more than 100,000 just over the next five years. Now is the time to put unemployed construction workers back to work, to take advantage of cheaper building materials, and to ensure that our students have the clean, green, safe and sustainable schools they need and deserve to learn in a globally competitive world. In light of the just-passed Federal economic stimulus package, I introduced AB 220 to place a new school construction bond before the voters. The amount and election date are still to be determined. Facility needs, the Federal economic stimulus, and California’s ability to borrow additional funds without putting the state in jeopardy will all be factors in that determination. The bill immediately won praise from state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell, who, I am very pleased to report, said in his State of Education address that he will sponsor the measure.
AB 239 – Streamlining Teacher Credentialing
AB 239 will streamline the teacher credentialing process in California by allowing teachers and counselors who have attained National Board Certification outside of California to qualify for a California credential for their specific field. Teachers who have attained a National Board certificate to teach English learners would also qualify for the CLAD authorization in California. In addition, AB 239 would remove the sunset date and allow district intern programs across the state to offer the education specialist credential. These changes in law will streamline the credential process and expand access to teaching programs in California. In general, the bill will make the credentialing process much more straightforward for teachers coming from out of state to teach in California. It will also increase access to special education credential programs by authorizing districts to offer those credentials through their district intern programs.
Franklin Elementary Training Future Legislators?
On January 23, I had the opportunity to visit with 32 students in Mr. Cannell’s 4th grade class at Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica. They had spent several weeks studying the legislative process. They broke into groups by subject matter: environment, safety, animal rights and health. They researched bill ideas, wrote bills, and then spent time lobbying their classmates on which bills should be presented to me. On the morning of my visit, before an audience of parents, and with a great deal of poise, confidence and microphone in hand, they presented their bill package to me.
- Environmental ideas included increasing the use of solar energy in California, reducing vehicle pollution, and stopping the use of plastic bags (my bill AB 68).
- In the Safety category, they wanted seat belts on school buses, and no cell phone use while driving.
- For Health, they had ideas related to second-hand smoke, mandatory health insurance, and toxins in products.
- And in the Animal Rights category, they addressed the wearing of fur products, unwanted pets, the need for more animal shelters, and prohibiting the carrying of animals on motorcycles. All in all, very impressive for fourth graders.
- Following my school visit, Zoe Parcells, one of these students, came up to my Capitol office with her grandmother. It was a wonderful break in my day to have the chance to talk with Zoe, who, along with her classmates, clearly has a very bright future ahead.
Need Cash for College? Deadline is March 2!
2.0 GPA + 2 FORMS + 1 DEADLINE = FREE CASH FOR COLLEGE!
California’s economy depends on its ability to compete on a global level. That means investing in an educated workforce. Yet, some of our brightest young people don’t see a college education in their future only because they lack funds for tuition and expenses. That’s why I teamed up with the Los Angeles Unified School District last month to send out recorded phone messages to 48,214 high school seniors notifying them of this opportunity to get free cash for college. I also had my District Office contact all the other school districts in the 41st AD to offer assistance in getting the word out to their seniors on this important state grant program that is still funded. Cal Grants are one of the smartest ways to get cash for college. It’s money you don’t have to pay back. And it’s guaranteed. If you know a high school senior, recent graduate, or community college transfer student who meets the simple academic, financial and eligibility requirements, he or she just needs to submit two forms by March 2. All the information is available online at www.calgrants.org.