Los Angeles and Oakland Teachers Rally Amid Deadlocked Contract Talks
A Los Angeles school board meeting turned raucous days ahead of two solidarity rallies to be held Saturday in L.A. and Oakland.
“Learning Curves” is a weekly roundup of news items, profiles and dish about the intersection of education and inequality. Send tips, feedback and announcements of upcoming events to firstname.lastname@example.org, @BillRaden.
Two California teachers unions, which are currently deadlocked in separate contract talks with their respective school districts, are on the verge of launching the West Coast’s biggest teacher walkout since 1989. What happens next will decide far more than fair wages for career educators. At stake are broader principles of equity, expressed as contract demands for smaller class sizes and less testing, the addition of sufficient health and social services staff, and an investment in community schooling and fair funding — aimed at restoring public education as a public good for all Californians, rather than as a private interest granted to the lucky few.
While they await the results of a state-mediated fact-finding process, United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and the Oakland Education Association (OEA) have declared Saturday, December 15, a day of solidarity, and have invited all to join teachers in a rally to defend public education. The Oakland action kicks off at Omni Commons at 11 a.m., while L.A.’s march and rally begins at Grand Park at 10 a.m.
Chanting @UTLAnow teachers and Los Angeles Unified families drive L.A. supe @AustinLASchools Buetner from the December 11 school board meeting, protesting his portfolio privatization plan. pic.twitter.com/lbshCPUdaZ
— Bill Raden (@BillRaden) December 12, 2018
Meanwhile, an estimated 90 Oakland Unified teachers skipped classes December 10 in a one-day wildcat sickout to protest some of the state’s lowest teacher pay — against a backdrop of California’s fast-rising living costs. But a more fundamental grievance is with the $60 million that Oakland Unified must cut over the next two years. It has led superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell to adopt a draconian district downsizing plan that could close up to 24 mostly low-income neighborhood public schools and coordinate the remainder of the 87-campus district with the city’s 34 charters on things like enrollment and transportation. The strategy has been likened to a “portfolio model,” the controversial template for privatized district governance that favors charter expansion at the expense of traditional public schools.
It also bears an uncanny resemblance to “Re-Imagine LAUSD,” the prematurely leaked but still mostly secret pet portfolio plan of L.A. Unified supe Austin Beutner — just one of the issues behind the takeover by 50 placard-carrying protesters at the L.A. school board meeting last Tuesday. Students, parents and teachers seized the floor and unfurled a banner of union-aligned demands: an end to random student searches; reductions in class sizes and testing; and the hiring of more health workers, community schools and per-pupil funding. For good measure, they also chanted down attempts by board president Mónica Garcia to restore order, a caterwaul that eventually drove Beutner and his board allies from the room.
Interrupted was a budget hearing marked by a kind of testy déjà vu: CFO Scott Price again played down the significance of a nearly $2 billion cash surplus; and board members George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson again wearily pushed back against Board District 4’s Nick Melvoin’s insistence that the district’s so-called structural budget deficit was a recipe for mass layoffs and state receivership (in spite of how, in 10 years, none of the district’s projections of red ink has ever been manifested).
“It’s called spin,” shrugged UTLA Central Area board member Tomás Flores at a post-occupy sidewalk rally. “What they have been spinning is that the district is at the edge of bankruptcy. … I believe that the fact-finding did not need to continue any longer than the three days. There wasn’t anything else to be said. The district hasn’t been honest.” (Beutner declined to comment for this story.)
If November’s blue wave means the tide has indeed turned against California’s market-driven ed reformers, grassroots activists aren’t resting on any laurels. That’s why they are circulating a petition launched by the Oakland Public Education Network (OPEN), asking Governor-elect Gavin Newsom to abide by four seemingly common sense hiring principles:
- No conflicts of business interests
- Education-related appointments must strictly mirror California’s 90/10 proportion of public-to-charter-school enrollments
- No more Betsy DeVoses guarding the regulatory henhouse (i.e., appoint only seasoned, public school-committed educators to the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools)
- Genuinely partner with the public schools community to uproot what OPEN considers the predatory incentives and equity barriers that it says are the legacy of California’s 25-year-long ed reform wrong turn.
One reason Newsom might want to expedite the restoration of California’s ed code to a less laissez faire era of grace is the deregulated marketplace’s tendency to incentivize a school’s drift into inequality. That’s the conclusion of “Are California’s Charter Schools the New Separate-But-Equal “Schools of Excellence,” or Are They Worse Than Plessy?”
The February study, by University of Connecticut law professor Preston Green and Montclair State University professor of counseling and educational leadership Joseph Oluwole, looks at California’s low-income public schools landscape, including the history of racially segregated, pre-civil rights “separate-but-equal” schools, to investigate claims that it can be advantageous to concentrate low-income black and Latino kids.
Their conclusion? Bad idea. Despite some worthy, individual examples, when taken out of the community or scaled up and put under an Education Management Organization (EMO), corporate priorities and financial gain invariably drain off resources. Green and Oluwole recommend that states ban EMO franchises altogether and allow authorizing districts to consider economic impact.
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Report: IRS Enforcement Could Reap Billions in Unpaid Revenue
Audits of the wealthy and corporations have steeply declined at the same time the agency has begun withholding tax refunds for low-income recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Congressional analysts say that for every $2 spent on tax enforcement, the government could expect to reclaim more than $5 in unpaid taxes.
The federal government could raise more than $1 trillion in new revenue by beefing up tax enforcement and by cracking down on carbon emissions, according to congressional budget analysts. Those two moves alone could help finance progressive lawmakers’ Green New Deal, or they could cover the lion’s share of the cost of the massive infrastructure investment package proposed by President Donald Trump.
The data was included in a new report by the Congressional Budget Office released Thursday.
The study found that if lawmakers reversed recent budget cuts to the Internal Revenue Service, the agency could recover tens of billions of dollars in revenue that is owed to the government — but that is not being paid. If the agency’s budget were increased by $20 billion over the next 10 years, the CBO says auditors would be able to reclaim more than $55 billion that could be used to shore up federal programs or reduce the deficit. Put another way, the analysts said that for every $2 spent on tax enforcement, the government could expect to reclaim more than $5 in unpaid taxes.
“Many taxpayers who are not compliant under the current tax system would pay the taxes they owe” if the enforcement budget is increased, the CBO said.
A recent ProPublica investigation found that as lawmakers have slashed the IRS enforcement budget in recent years, the agency has had far fewer resources with which to scrutinize the tax returns of corporations and high-income individuals. In all, the news organization estimated the IRS has not collected $95 billion in taxes that it may have otherwise collected, had Congress given it its previous level of enforcement resources.
Audits of the wealthy and corporations have steeply declined at the same time the agency has begun withholding tax refunds for recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit. The decreased scrutiny of the wealthy and tougher posture toward the poor has occurred even though CBO notes that “the amounts collected from audits of higher-income taxpayers are, on average, much larger than collections from audits of taxpayers with lower income.”
A 2015 Inspector General report urged the IRS to focus more of its limited enforcement resources on high-income filers.
“It appears that the IRS is spending most of its audit resources on auditing tax returns with potentially lower productivity,” the report concluded.
The CBO noted that stronger enforcement would not necessarily halt tax cheating over the long haul.
“Taxpayers would gradually become aware of some of the changes in the IRS’s enforcement techniques associated with the initiatives,” the analysts wrote. “In response, they would shift to other, less detectible forms of tax evasion.”
In a separate part of the report, the CBO says a $25 per metric ton tax on carbon emissions would raise roughly $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years. That calculation factors in both the possible costs of the tax from potentially reduced economic activity and higher fossil fuel prices, as well as positive economic effects of the tax. In the first year alone, such a tax would raise $66 billion — or more than the budget of the entire U.S. Department of Education over the same time period.
“To simplify implementation, as well as to provide incentives to deploy technologies that capture emissions generated in the production of electricity, the tax could be levied on oil producers, natural gas refiners (for sales outside the electricity sector), and electricity generators,” CBO analysts wrote. “A well-designed tax that covered most energy-related emissions would be expected to reduce emissions.”
In October, ExxonMobil announced that it will spend $1 million to support an advocacy group that is pushing for a carbon tax.
Copyright Capital & Main
Resistance in the Heartland: Fighting ICE in Small-Town Iowa and Nebraska
Co-published by Law at the Margins.
Mass arrests and mistreatment of immigrants split local communities.
Editor’s note: This article is co-published by Capital & Main and Law at the Margins. It is part of “We the Immigrants,” a Community Based News Room (CBNR) series that examines how immigrant communities across the United States are responding to immigration policies. The five-part series is supported by a Solutions Journalism Network Renewing Democracy grant.
“You have to leave the country now that Trump is president.” That’s what Latinx children heard from some white schoolmates in the small southeastern Iowa town of Mount Pleasant in the days after Donald Trump was elected.
Eighteen months later, the threat of deportation seemed much more real than a schoolyard taunt. On May 9, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained 32 men—22 from Guatemala and the rest from Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras—at Mount Pleasant’s Midwest Precast Concrete (MPC) plant. A concrete mixing plant that started up more than a decade ago, MPC owes its building and success largely to migrant Latino labor, including that of some highly valued supervisors who were swept up.
The raid came out of nowhere, without warning. “They had a canine unit and a helicopter,” arrested MPC worker Nelson Lopez Sanchez told a reporter through a translator. “Some people got beat up. As they were trying to get away, officers used force. Agents were very impolite, making racist comments.” Sanchez came to the United States 14 year ago, fleeing corruption and violence in his native Guatemala.
When college student Juana Barrios learned about the detention of her father, an MPC worker who had worked in the United States for 17 years, it was like living a nightmare. “Scary … the worst feeling I’d ever experienced in my life,” Barrios told an Iowa Public Radio (IPR) interviewer nine days after the raid. “[My father] was our rock, our everything. We need him.”
Other families hit by the raid also were traumatized. Many became afraid to leave their homes. For two days after the raid, 90 children stayed out of school. Three of the detained men were married to U.S. citizens and in the process of becoming citizens themselves. Each of them nonetheless had to put up a $10,000 bond and pay hundreds of dollars for a work permit if they wanted to resume legal employment.
Others among the detained group were asylum seekers fleeing rampant drug violence and government corruption in Guatemala. It’s not illegal to seek asylum in the U.S, and you have to be on U.S. soil in order to apply for asylum here.
Grassroots Emergency Responses Activated
Latinx immigrants together with local and regional allies, responded immediately to defend and support detained workers and their families—to raise bond money and help them “find a way out of this.” Local churches and schools have provided critical caring, sanctuary and sustenance while regional activists have arrived to provide critical legal, counseling and organizing assistance.
Before the raid, Mount Pleasant was home to a local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), an immigrant-led organization. LULAC leader David Suarez, a respected community outreach officer for a local bank and journalist, first alerted Mount Pleasant activists of the raid after a fellow Latino community member called him and informed him of a helicopter above and state police on the industrial perimeter.
On the day of the raid, LULAC hosted a meeting for families who were impacted, but because they were a brand-new organization, Suarez immediately reached out to First Presbyterian Church (FPC) and IowaWINS (Iowa Welcomes Its Immigrant Neighbors) for support and space. By nightfall after the morning raid, the church was packed with people ready to help.
The Rev. Trey Hegar, the pastor at FPC and a Marine veteran, opposes what he calls “nationalistic politics and theology.” He counters the nativism of local Republicans by quoting Leviticus: “The stranger who resides with you shall … love … as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” After Trump was elected, Hegar agreed to make the church an immigrant sanctuary when and if “la migra” (as Latinx immigrants call ICE) arrived. The church would soon become the place where the coalition work coalesced.
ICE actions have a history in Iowa. In 2008, a raid devastated the community of Postville—which is just 176 miles from Mount Pleasant—sweeping up 20 percent of the town’s population (389 people) and costing the local economy $5 million, according to The Intercept. Grassroots allies already were in place before ICE came to Mount Pleasant. They were prepared.
‘Fighting Back with Solidarity’
FPC is also home to IowaWINS, formed three years ago to support Syrian refugees. After the 2016 elections, the organization shifted its focus to defending local immigrants from Mexico and Central America.
IowaWINS raised $120,000 to pay for rent, groceries, utilities and legal expenses for impacted families. It distributes food and household goods from a pantry at the back of the church. One IowaWINS leader has become the legal guardian of a teenager who lost his sole parent during the raid. Another is a teacher who sees all her students, including the children of immigrants, as “like my own children.” She reports that many of the detained workers’ children are “DACA recipients,” or “Dreamers,” brought to the U.S. “illegally” and residing here on renewable two-year certificates of deferred action.
While support from white allies has been critical, immigrant and Latinx self-defense has been essential. Another early partner was Iowa City’s immigrant-led Center for Worker Justice (CWJ), whose former president, Mazahir Saleh, became the first Sudanese-American to hold an elective office when she won an Iowa City Council race in 2016. CWJ president Rafael Morataya and volunteers came to Mount Pleasant immediately after the raid, contributing translation, organizing experience and ally networks.
“Our success and survival,” the CWJ says, “depends on each other, regardless of where we are born, or what language we grew up speaking. In the face of attacks on immigrant communities, we are fighting back with solidarity. We’ve seen firsthand the destruction that comes from criminalizing immigrant workers. It terrorizes families, gives unscrupulous employers enormous power to intimidate workers, and weakens our entire community. It doesn’t have to be this way.”
Since Trump’s election, the CWJ has trained hundreds of “rapid response,” “family support” and “legal team” volunteers. It will be on hand when ICE conducts another raid in the region. (Hegar reports that ICE agents recently visited the personnel office of a local meatpacking plant in search of undocumented workers.)
In reflecting on the coalition work in an interview with us, Suarez stressed the importance of “working in partnerships. That was key, he said, in Mount Pleasant. “Individual effort is important, but a unified effort is better.”
Bonding Out As a First Line of Defense
In time, other allies also have stepped up. Volunteers arrived from the University of Iowa (UI) Labor Center, a labor education program that has long advised and advocated for the state’s highly exploited Latinx farm workers. UI law professor Bram Elias brought law students to visit the detainees in jail and to advise the men and their families. Joining the resistance were the American Friends Service Committee, Iowa’s progressive teamsters local, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the Catholic Diocese of Davenport (Iowa), and the Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project (EICBP), which raises funds to get detainees out of jail and into the federal immigration court system before they can be deported.
“What we need to do [first and foremost],” LULAC director Maria Bribesco told Our Quad Cities one day after the raid, “is … pay the bond … so they’re not deported immediately.”
Under the leadership of its co-founder, Natalia Espina, a Chilean-American Iowa City activist and LULAC member, the bond group has played a pivotal role. Paying bonds for the detained workers before they can be removed from the country puts them into a federal immigration court system that is backed up for as long as five years in many cases. This turns folks who were undocumented and living in the shadows into people who are legally safe for as much as half a decade.
The bonds—ranging from $3,500 to $10,000, depending on the immigration violations detainees are charged with—must be paid in person at the regional ICE administrative office in Omaha, Neb., a five-hour drive.
Early legal intervention is imperative, CWJ member Joe Marron reports. In the great majority of cases where detained workers receive rapid legal assistance and bond support, release is achieved.
At this moment, 26 of the 32 MPC workers seized last May have been released on bond. Four have been deported. Two remain behind bars.
Top-Down Raids vs. Bottom-Up Organizing
In Mount Pleasant as in other small towns across the American heartland in 2018, the story has started the same way—literally from the top down—as the Trump administration has re-initiated the high-profile, military-style workplace immigration raids that last occurred under George W. Bush.
The existence of immigrant leaders like Suarez and allies like FPC, Iowa Wins and CWJ were instrumental to the release of the detainees. In other towns, like in O’Neill, Neb., the Aug. 8 raids were a new experience for the community. The topic of immigration had not been discussed among neighbors, which caused the town to be split on the issue.
High school teacher and wrestling coach Bryan Corkle, father of four and a longtime resident of O’Neil, grew up on Rush Limbaugh conservative media. He experienced his own shift on immigration after seeing his immigrant students work hard, get a high school diploma, and unable to find work or continue to college.
“It started with my kids,” Corkle explains. “I fell back on my faith. I was a voice of one, but moving forward, it is changing. Do unto them, as we would want for our ancestors.”
Pastor Brian Loy, who leads the First United Methodist Church in O’Neill and helps run a food bank every week, reported to us that he had lost old high school friends of 30-40 years over his support of laborers.
“Fifty percent of what I knew about immigration was wrong. I was learning as the raid was unfolding.” That’s why, he says, “we need to educate, educate, educate our communities on immigration.”
The grassroots infrastructure that existed in Mount Pleasant was not yet developed in O’Neil. “We did not have experience responding to raids at the moment, but we relied on statewide groups like Nebraska Appleseed and Center for Rural Affairs,” said Corkle.
Corkle views the faith community as playing a leadership role in protecting immigrants in O’Neill and building support and financial systems for immigrants and their families. This was also true in Mount Pleasant.
In O’Neill, Pastor Loy is working with his church leadership to create an emergency response plan, which he hopes will be distributed to the 1,000-plus Methodist churches in the Kansas and Nebraska areas. This, he hopes, will better prepare other small towns where their churches are located to respond to raids and protect their immigrant congregants. He also is creating an immigration council comprised of impacted families to ensure they are part of the process of coordinating any assistance.
Both Loy and Corkle acknowledge the importance of involving the immigrant communities in humanitarian work and developing their leadership. This approach seems to be key in Mount Pleasant where Suarez and other immigrant leaders have helped bridge the divides between the town. Even there, Suarez shares, they did not have support of 50 percent of the town, but they were successful because they were unified among the remaining 50 percent.
Corkle finds future hope for such leadership in his immigrant students like Stephanie Gonzalez. Stephanie’s mom was among the immigrants detained in the raids in O’Neill and, to this day, remains in detention, leaving Stephanie, 17, a high school senior, and her two younger brothers (elementary school aged and 1 year old, respectively) in the care of her high school friend’s parents.
“I’m scared about my future,” says Stephanie, but “I’m determined to go to college because my mom came here to give me a better life. I want her to be proud of me. When I get my dreams, she will also get hers.”
For now, she is worrying about how to pay for nursing school, in which she has already gained admission and hopes to create an organization after completing her studies that would help families like hers.
Catch-22: Freedom Isn’t Free
There are real limits to what local and regional immigrant rights first responders have been able to achieve for those targeted by ICE. Getting bonded out of detention is one thing. Being able to work legally is another. The 26 “liberated” Mount Pleasant detainees are “stuck in a catch-22,” Hegar admits. Without the right to be gainfully employed in the U.S., many are tempted to “voluntarily self-deport” back to their original home countries. But “if they leave the country prior to receiving an immigration hearing,” Hegar says, “the men forfeit their right to return and risk never being able to see their families again.”
It’s a dark twist on the bumper sticker maxim one commonly sees on the back of pickup trucks in the rural heartland: “Freedom Isn’t Free.”
Hegar sees some of the released detainees’ “heads hanging” as they come into the church’s food pantry. “These guys aren’t takers. They’re workers,” Hegar observes. “The men don’t like relying on charity, their spouses and their older children,” some of whom have had to defer education and careers to take low-paid jobs.
O’Neill has the same urgent need for resources, Pastor Loy says, to help families with rent, food, so that they can stay in the community.
Volunteer psychology students from the university are counseling some of the men in Mount Pleasant on how to process the great blow to their pride and their traditional role as breadwinners.
Some of those detained and released are thinking seriously about returning to the terrible conditions they fled in Central America and Mexico.
“That’s the point of the raids,” Hegar concedes. “To deter immigration.”
People gather at 13th St. and Norfolk Ave. in Norfolk to protest immigration enforcement in north central Nebraska…
Posted by News Channel Nebraska on Thursday, August 9, 2018
Morataya from CWJ wonders “who benefits” from a federal immigration policy that spends millions of taxpayer dollars on terrorizing and devastating families and stripping employers of a highly valued labor supplies. Suarez echoes this point.
“Mount Pleasant is a growing rural economy and needs immigrants,” explains Suarez. “The evidence is in the open jobs that are not being filled.” Suarez reports that Latinx workers perform difficult, dangerous and dirty work tasks (such as animal slaughtering and meatpacking) that white and a growing number of documented African (chiefly Sudanese and Congolese) immigrant workers tend to reject in Iowa—a state that is home, the EICBP reports, to 40,000 undocumented immigrants.
This is not uncommon in other parts of rural America. Corkle, for instance, says that unemployment in O’Neill is 2 percent due to the booming agro-business. “Places like Mount Pleasant and O’Neill are part of a Midwestern regional hub of rural economies, where if you want a job, you can get a job, and so there are no economic reasons to prevent immigration.”
The support detained workers and their families have received in Mount Pleasant and other heartland communities subjected to ICE raids has granted them needed space and time to make deliberate and informed decisions on how best to move forward.
Still, Hegar, Suarez and Morataya say that the nation’s immigration system is “fundamentally broken.” It is in dire need of a “comprehensive reform” that provides a clear and reasonable path to citizenship and removes the constant fear, stigma and insecurity experienced by millions of immigrant workers on whom the nation depends for its economic vitality.
“We need immigration reform as soon as possible” says Suarez. In the meantime, LULAC will continue to help detainees because the immigration process can take a long time. Suarez knows this firsthand: “I am a first-generation immigrant. It took me 10 years and $20,000 to become a U.S. citizen. I know what the families who have no resources are going through.”
Corkle knows what is needed for O’Neill. “I want to see proactive immigration reform to stop this endless cycle of raids.” He believes that a majority of rural Americans agree that the immigration system needs to be fixed, but disagree on how to fix it.
Stephanie see immigration reform as the only solution to unite her family separated by the raids.
Still, Corkle says, “Rural America gets a bad rap as not being welcoming. “What I find lost in the national conversation is that on the far right, they are trying to build the wall, and to the far left, they want to abolish ICE. The oxygen is being taken out for a reasonable position on immigration reform.”
Hegar also worries about the nation’s political silence on the United States’ role in creating the miserable conditions that so many workers and farmer are trying to escape in Mexico and Central America.
Direct service and solidarity are important, but there’s no “way out of this” without effective advocacy for sweeping systemic and policy change.
Paul Street is an independent journalist based in Iowa City, Iowa. Chaumtoli Huq is the editor of Law at the Margins.
Behind Kaiser’s Mental Health Breakdown
“The best practices of psychotherapy state that patients should be seen weekly or every other week,” says one clinical psychologist. But at Kaiser, his average patient must wait five weeks between appointments.
A strike by mental health professionals is impacting more than 100 Kaiser clinics and medical facilities. The union has proposed that Kaiser increase staffing and cut patient wait times.
When clinical psychologist Mickey Fitzpatrick thinks about his job, the image that comes to mind is not of a hospital or a doctor’s office, but that of a conveyor belt. Since 2015, the 45-year-old has worked at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in the Northern California city of Pleasanton, where he sees an endless stream of patients dealing with serious mental illnesses: post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety. Each week he sees four to five new patients, and estimates that last year he counseled between 800 and 900 people, who represented a blur of needs that weren’t always easy to keep straight.
“The best practices of psychotherapy state that patients should be seen weekly or every other week,” Fitzpatrick told me. But at Kaiser, he’s never been able to get anywhere near that goal. With his heavy caseload, the average patient must wait five weeks between appointments, a figure that is consistent with other Kaiser therapists I spoke to. “We’re giving them the care that we can with the resources that we can, but we’re not able to do what we’re trained to do.”
This isn’t a new problem for Kaiser. In 2013, the California Department of Managed Healthcare (DMHC) fined the nonprofit medical-care giant $4 million after completing a routine medical survey and discovering what it called “serious deficiencies in providing access to mental health services” and the company’s failure to promptly correct the problems. The survey found that patients often did not have timely access to appointments and that their educational materials “included inaccurate information that could dissuade an enrollee from pursuing medically necessary care.”
In 2015, a follow-up report by DMHC revealed that Kaiser still regularly failed to provide mental health services as required by state law, which mandates that patients with urgent problems receive an appointment within 48 hours; those with non-urgent issues should be seen within 10 business days (or 15 business days if the appointment is with a specialist physician, such as a psychiatrist).
In a review of nearly 300 patient records, the agency found that 22 percent of cases in Kaiser’s northern region failed to meet the state’s requirements, along with nine percent in the southern region. Among the randomly selected files was a patient with suicidal ideation who waited 16 days for an appointment, and a therapist for another individual who wrote in their notes, “patient wants regular ongoing treatment so may look outside Kaiser.”
The goal of providing “regular ongoing treatment” for Kaiser patients by hiring new therapists is one of the principal demands of mental health care professionals like Fitzpatrick, who has joined 4,000 of his colleagues this week in a five-day strike. The strike, organized by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, is impacting more than 100 Kaiser clinics and medical facilities, and comes amidst contract negotiations that began in June but have stalled. During those negotiations, the union has proposed that Kaiser increase staffing with the goal of eventually seeing returning patients within two weeks, as opposed to over stretches of time that now routinely exceed one month.
Kaiser Permanente disputes the claims that it hasn’t made significant strides in providing timely access to mental health care. “We have been hiring therapists, increasing our staff by 30 percent since 2015 – that’s more than 500 new therapists in California – even though there’s a national shortage,” said John Nelson, the vice president of communications for Kaiser Permanente, in a prepared remark. Nelson also challenged the union’s assertion that the strike had anything to do with patient care, stating that one of the union’s demands was to reduce the amount of time therapists spend seeing patients, which now averages 75 percent of their days.
For Clement Papazian, a licensed social worker at Kaiser for 30 years who works in Oakland, reducing the time spent seeing patients would dramatically improve the quality of care given to patients, by allowing therapists to check in on family members by phone, write up more thorough notes and create a work environment that didn’t feel like a “patient mill.” Papazian said that he has seen many dedicated therapists drop out due to the “relentless pressure to see more patients” — what he describes as “rapid access to no care.”
Papazian acknowledges that Kaiser has hired new therapists, but argues that those new hires haven’t impacted the workload, due to Kaiser’s rapid growth — its number of enrolled patients in California has increased by nearly 11 percent since 2015. He also argues that Kaiser is well positioned to staff-up its mental health department, as the company made $3.8 billion in profit last year. “Kaiser is a big player that can really shape the industry,” he said. “What we want is to deliver on the care that Kaiser members deserve.”
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Diane Ravitch on Gavin Newsom’s Three Education Challenges
California is one of the richest states in the nation but spends about the same on its students as states like Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana and South Carolina, where the cost of living is far less than in California.
As Gavin Newsom prepares to take office, education looms large on the list of California’s top priorities. The nation’s most populous state faces major questions on everything from the cost of higher education to growing demands for increased oversight of charter schools. Capital & Main asked education scholar Diane Ravitch what advice she would give Newsom. Here is her response.
The incoming administration of Governor-elect Gavin Newsom will not be cleaning up a mess. Governor Jerry Brown has been a good steward of the state during his time in office.
But Newsom faces three distinct challenges in the field of education. Although Governor Brown significantly increased spending for education, California has large unmet needs and much catching-up to do to maintain its edge as an incubator of talent and innovation, and of equal opportunity for all.
First, the state must substantially increase funding for K-12 education, which would enable districts to pay teachers better salaries, reduce class sizes and assure that all children, regardless of where they live, have access to a well-equipped, well-staffed school. The latest federal data (2016) show that California spends somewhat less than the national average per pupil. California’s per-pupil spending is $11,420, compared to a national average of $11,841. California is one of the richest states in the nation but spends far less than states such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Wyoming and North Dakota. California spends about the same on its students as states like Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana and South Carolina, where the cost of living is far less than in California.
Second, California must recommit to the long established tradition that tuition for higher education must be free to all residents of the state. This principle was reiterated in the state’s Master Plan in 1960, but ended by Governor Ronald Reagan. The low-cost availability of higher education and the large pool of educated talent it created were the principle drivers of the state’s economic development and success. The primary reason that students drop out of college is cost, not ability. The state should recommit to provide higher education to all who wish to pursue it, by removing cost as a barrier to their opportunity and ambition.
Third, California must regulate the charter school industry, whose lobbyists have defeated all efforts to hold charter schools accountable and transparent. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.
Charter schools now enroll 10 percent of the children in the state, and their representatives should have no more than 10 percent of the seats on the state board. Charters should be made subject to open-meetings laws and laws prohibiting conflicts of interest and nepotism. The law governing charters should be revised so that they are authorized solely by the district in which they are physically located, with no appeals to the county or state board. If there is no need for them, they should not exist.
Before any charter is authorized, there must be a determination of its fiscal impact on the host district. The host district should supervise the charter to assure that it is operating in accordance with state laws and serving the needs of students in the district. Every charter should enroll at least the same proportion of students with disabilities and English language learners as the district in which it is located.
Charters should be as accountable for their enrollment, discipline policies, finances and academic performance as district public schools. Charters should complement, not compete with, district public schools. They are all working towards the same goals, which is the development of every child’s abilities, equal opportunity and preparation for citizenship.
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Why Does CoreCivic Want a Detainee’s Death Report Kept Sealed?
Co-published by Fast Company
How a private prison company silenced the Georgia Bureau of Investigation from releasing details about an immigrant detainee’s death.
CoreCivic, which operates immigrant detention centers, warned a law-enforcement agency not to make its investigation into a detainee’s death public.
Co-published by Fast Company
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has refused to release the full results of its investigation into the apparent suicide of Efrain de la Rosa, an immigrant detainee at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. The 40-year-old de la Rosa died July 10, 2018. In the past 19 months, three people have died at the prison, which an employee told federal inspectors was a ticking bomb because of safety issues.
The refusal marks an abrupt change by the GBI, whose director, Vernon Keenan, has been lauded for his agency’s transparency.
The 40-year-old De la Rosa, a Mexican citizen and longtime U.S. resident, is believed to have killed himself while in solitary confinement — and under circumstances similar to those of Jean Carlo Jimenez Joseph, a 27-year-old Panamanian who, like de la Rosa, suffered from mental illness, and hanged himself in an isolation cell. The GBI investigated both the Jimenez and de la Rosa cases, and released its full investigation of Jimenez’s case, but not of de la Rosa’s.
The GBI’s 2017 investigation into another detainee suicide revealed mismanagement at the Stewart Detention Center.
Ginny Davis, the GBI’s deputy director of the office of privacy and compliance, told Capital & Main that Stephen Curry, an attorney for CoreCivic, the private prison company that operates Stewart under contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, recently alerted her to a federal regulation which, he said, prohibits states and local governments from disclosing information about federal detainees.
“He said you can’t disclose any of this under open records,” Davis said. “It was a warning letter.”
The GBI consulted with the Georgia attorney general’s office and decided against disclosure, Davis said. Curry, who represents CoreCivic, did not return a call for comment.
Azadeh Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director of the civil rights group Project South, which is seeking the records said, “We find this attempt to shield the prison corporation from accountability extremely troubling and will be exploring our various legal options.”
Is a federal rule meant to protect an individual’s privacy rights being used to hide information about detainee fatalities?
The GBI’s 2017 investigation into Jimenez Joseph’s case revealed mismanagement at the Stewart facility. The guard assigned to check Jimenez’s cell at 30-minute intervals on the night of the detainee’s death was fired for falsifying logs to cover for his failure to do so. Records released in the investigation also revealed that Jimenez Joseph was being given insufficient doses of the psychotropic medication he’d been prescribed before his detention and that his many pleas for help with his mental health condition were ignored.
At Detention Watch Network, an advocacy group that opposes the widespread detention of immigrants, policy director Mary Small said the abuses go far beyond the Stewart Detention Center.
“At every turn,” Small said, “whether it’s [through] the Office of Inspector General or the Department of Health and Human Services looking into the facility at Tornillo, or ICE’s own death investigations, we’re seeing abusive conditions, inadequate medical care and harm caused to people who are detained. It’s in that context that their refusal to provide information is so concerning.”
The Mexican consulate in Atlanta also wants the full investigative report on de la Rosa’s death, said the Consul General, Javier Diaz de Leon. The GBI’s Davis reported Diaz de Leon’s request for records was granted under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. But Diaz de Leon said the medical report he was given consists only of about nine pages and appears incomplete.
By contrast, the GBI’s summary of its investigation into the 2017 death of Jean Carlo Jimenez Joseph at Stewart was 236 pages long. The GBI also produced audiotaped reports of numerous interviews its agents conducted with staff and detainees, along with videotaped evidence, guard logs, incident reports, solitary confinement logs and audio recordings of Jimenez Joseph’s conversations with his family members.
Diaz de Leon said that in mid-November he requested additional documents but has received no answer as of December 5.
Mark Fleming, an attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center, an immigrant rights group, said that during the current presidential administration, states and localities have increasingly invoked the federal regulation that seems to prohibit disclosure of records of federal detainees, 8 CFR 236.6.
He noted that courts in at least three states have upheld a local government’s refusal to release information about federal detainees under the rule, but said its use to prevent disclosure of information on those who are deceased is questionable.
Fleming added that the underlying reason for the rule is to protect an individual’s privacy rights, which no longer exist after death.
“It would seem odd that the government has rights that are broader than the individual’s,” Fleming said.
Update: After this story was published, Rodney E. King, a spokesman for CoreCivic, emailed the following statement.
“This matter was investigated by a state agency, GBI, but it occurred in a facility we operate on behalf of a federal government partner, ICE. In these situations, it’s our standard practice to reach out to the state government body to ensure the necessary coordination with the federal government, which has the leadership role in determining how information about an individual in its care is shared. CoreCivic is committed to transparency. We comply with all applicable open records laws and share information freely with our government partners.”
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10 Inequality Takeaways
1. Move forward with early childhood education. A recent analysis reports that California’s children are behind before they even enter Kindergarten.
2. Make more moves toward universal health care. In the recent election cycle health care was a central issue — and candidate Gavin Newsom promised to make single-payer coverage a reality for Californians.
3. Lay the groundwork for a broader conceptualization of portable employment benefits that can go between jobs in an economy in which job-churning has become the norm.
4. Begin changing the rules by which we can raise taxes. California doesn’t have an inheritance tax or an oil extraction tax; it does have Proposition 13, passed in 1978, which requires a two-thirds majority vote to raise state or local revenues through taxes.
5. With an aging population we need a more caring economy — more family-leaning benefits for people who want to provide care for their elders.
6. Keep racial equity and economic equity in view at all times. We need to ensure that labor opportunities not only propel people into middle-class jobs, but also that they’re reducing racial disparities.
7. Plan ahead for an economy in which there may be fewer jobs due to technology and artificial intelligence.
8. Put some real resources into a major expansion of the state earned income tax credit. It’s a proven program that helps low-income working families.
9. Stabilize funding for the state’s community colleges. There’s good evidence that these institutions can be very effective if workers and students can get to them and get through their programs — but they’ve really suffered from underfunding.
10. Set the standard for what it means to live in a well-off country. California’s actions don’t only affect people who live here, but also how the rest of the country understands what should be done, and what kind of society we want to live in.
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The Early Education of Gavin Newsom
Gavin Newsom’s most dramatic break from the Jerry Brown era is the governor-elect’s fierce commitment to high-quality child care and universal preschool.
A Stanford-PACE analysis found that “California’s children are behind before they enter Kindergarten.”
When Gavin Newsom moves into the governor’s office next month, he will immediately have to confront the continuing legacy of Proposition 13, the 1978 referendum whose property tax cuts have slashed spending on California’s public education. In the 40 years since its passage, class sizes have ballooned while arts, driver ed and afterschool programs have vanished. Newsom will come armed with a cradle-to-career program he calls “California Promise,” which expands and integrates existing programs while making strategic investments in new infrastructure.
Newsom’s most dramatic break from the Jerry Brown era is the governor-elect’s fierce commitment to high quality child care and universal preschool, a product of overcoming his own boyhood dyslexia and a deep appreciation for the pivotal role played by early infancy and the first five years in student achievement and, ultimately, adult success.
A credible and comprehensive plan to recover public education’s promise of putting opportunity within reach of all Californians can’t come too soon for the state’s 6.2 million K-12 students. Getting Down to Facts II, a sweeping collection of prescriptive policy briefs recently published by Stanford University and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), found that “California’s children are behind before they enter Kindergarten” and that while California’s students learned at rates equal to or better than the national average, the gap in achievement between low-income and middle-income kids didn’t close.
The election of Newsom may be the most unambiguous sign that Californians have had enough with the damage wrought by Proposition 13.
“I think there are a host of answers [for that], but one of them is that we have not invested substantially in early-childhood programs,” said Stanford education professor Deborah Stipek, a lead researcher on the Stanford-PACE study. “Early childhood has not been Governor Brown’s priority. If we could do it for free, I’m sure it would have been done, but early childhood is competing with K-12, and with the prison system, and with many other demands on state finances.”
The required investment called for turns out to be considerable, at least in terms of California’s rigidly constrained budget. Though Newsom hasn’t released any estimates for the early education package, which includes relatively low-cost prenatal screening, home nurse visits and expanded family leave programs, the nonprofit education site EdSource priced affordable, high-quality child care and universal preschool at roughly $1 billion and $1.97 billion to $2.35 billion per year, respectively.
The election of Newsom as governor and Tony Thurmond as state schools superintendent, who both campaigned on pledges to pause further privatization and double down on public education, may be the most unambiguous sign that Californians have had enough with the damage wrought by Proposition 13 and years of education budget cuts. In the wake of the measure’s passage, California’s seventh place national ranking in per-student spending quickly fell to the bottom third, where it has since languished (one measure put it at 43rd last year).
To surf the Rainbow Wave, Newsom will need to navigate Sacramento’s hazardous budgetary riptides and policy-shredding political reefs.
Meanwhile, child poverty in the state, which rose from 13 to 23 percent during the same four-decade period, became the highest in the nation as a corresponding drop in student performance and rise in English language learners produced the era’s most distinctive feature — the reform-immune achievement gap between Asian and white students on the one hand, and their black and Latino peers on the other.
“I think the public just rejected that neoliberal narrative, that sort of privatization of public resources in education, and of other social problems that we have in California,” said Julian Heilig, professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University Sacramento, and director of CSUS’s Doctorate in Educational Leadership. “Gavin and Thurmond both clearly laid out an agenda that’s community-driven, focusing on solving issues within communities. I think that’s part of the Rainbow Wave that we saw here in California.”
To surf that wave in Sacramento, however, Newsom will need to navigate the capital’s hazardous budgetary riptides and policy-shredding political reefs. The big-ticket components of his broader agenda, which includes tackling what Stanford-PACE says is California’s $25.6 billion public schools funding insufficiency, are especially vulnerable. His campaign pledges to pay for them through overdue tax revenue reforms has already riled neoliberal anti-tax organizations and conservative business groups, who vow an epic fight. Stipek worries that a compromise could leave Californians with preschool-on-the-cheap.
Early clues to how much local autonomy Newsom is prepared to support will be found in his major state board appointments.
“All of the studies that have found long-term benefits were conducted in places where they have very, very high-quality preschool programs,” she noted. “And we could invest a lot in increasing the number of children who can go to preschool, but it may not give us the benefits we want, because we haven’t made a substantial investment. We really need to do both.”
Part of the challenge will be answering the question of how one even defines “quality preschool.” According to Getting Down to Facts, California’s current, dizzyingly complex and uncoordinated system of federal, state and locally funded early-childhood services is riddled with holes and chronic shortages. Child care tends to be prohibitively expensive, and program standards and training requirements are all over the map, with low-income children disproportionately in programs exempted from any standards at all. Wages are so low that nearly 60 percent of child-care workers rely on some form of public assistance, and teacher turnover is consequently high.
So merely creating a cohesive regulatory framework will be a long and politically fraught process. To also make it equitable, insists education professor John Rogers, director of the Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) at the University of California, Los Angeles, requires nuanced conversations about the role and strengths of the community-based educators who are already in place.
“Some of them don’t have advanced degrees but oftentimes know and understand the young people and parents that they’re working with,” he explained. “As the agenda for high-quality preschool moves forward, it’s going to be really important to [include] people that have worked in this field for a long time and have deep roots of care, and affection and love in those communities. Many of them are women of color [who] sustain their communities both through their work and through the fact that they’re getting employed.”
Seeing public schools as “anchors” of healthy communities is at the heart of Newsom’s plan to expand the creation of full-service community schools. The approach has been an unsung game-changer in closing opportunity gaps for California’s highest needs neighborhoods. What isn’t so clear is how far the governor-elect is willing to go in dismantling an increasingly dated barrier to implementing that model.
“It’s time for the state to work on having charter rules and regulations that are explicitly aimed to promote the state’s interest in creating a system that works for all students,” Rogers argued. “Schools should be sites that strengthen the communities in which they reside and then also draw upon [their] strength.”
That could be a tall order for a governor girding for political battle with the state’s most powerful corporate interests on issues like climate change, affordable housing and health care. Though California voters soundly rejected statewide charter school candidates, the charter lobby’s big-dollar patronage of the Assembly’s “Mod Dem” caucus still gives it plenty of bill-blocking leverage. Heilig, however, points to last year’s explosive AP report on charter school racial segregation and the California Charter School Association’s recent backing of the state’s for-profit charter ban law as a sign that the organization “may be finally turning a corner” on accepting more transparency and accountability.
Under Jerry Brown, education policy often got tangled up in mixed messages of local autonomy (i.e., the Local Control Funding Formula) and centralized authority (as when Sacramento would override local school district decisions on matters like charter authorizations). Newsom has pledged that local control should extend to the establishment of new schools. Early clues to how much local autonomy he is prepared to support will be found in his major state board appointments.
The first hint may be Ann O’Leary, who as his new chief of staff will have a big say in hires. A former top adviser to Hillary Clinton, O’Leary was also deeply implicated in disastrous, reformy wrong turns like No Child Left Behind. How much she has matured will be reflected in who gets the nod to replace outgoing State Board of Education president Michael Kirst, who was widely seen as pro-charter.
“I suspect now he’s going to have something like an early childhood specialist or maybe a cradle-to-career point person,” Rogers offered. “I think that personnel question of who gets appointed in the governor’s orbit and what role that person is designated with will be very interesting.”
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The Golden State’s Fight Against Economic Inequality
How can the new administration best help California’s neediest residents?
In his first 100 days as California’s new governor, what programs should Newsom prioritize to create a kind of New Deal against economic inequality? We asked three experts in the fields of inequality and poverty for their ideas. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, where he directs the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII). He is the co-author of From Resistance to Renewal: A 12-Step Program For Innovation and Inclusion in the California Economy, and sits on Capital & Main’s board of directors.
What should Gavin Newsom do the first day he wakes up as governor?
Manuel Pastor: It’ll be very important for Newsom to move forward with the early childhood education work that he’s talking about. This will have a lot of support from [State Assembly Speaker] Anthony Rendon, a lot of support from teachers, parents, etc. Probably some support from elements of the business community as well, particularly when they think of future workers.
Another thing that probably needs to be done early on is to start making more moves toward universal health care. One of the firsts would be to make forward progress on insuring access to Medicaid of undocumented Californians – that’s crucial.
I do think that Newsom should begin to lay the groundwork for a broader conceptualization of portable benefits that can go between jobs in an economy in which job-churning has become the norm. Portable savings accounts — there’s a good start on that with the CalSavers program that [State Senator] Kevin de León [introduced]. I [am also for] revamping our unemployment and insurance to be more like wage insurance. Right now unemployment’s low, but it’s because people are taking on multiple jobs in order to get by.
And moving beyond those first 100 days?
There are two big things that Newsom should be thinking about. The first is how do we lay the groundwork to change the rules by which we can raise taxes? We’re locked in by Prop. 13. It’s completely anti-democratic to require a two-thirds vote at a state level to be able to raise taxes. Surely there’s some sort of movement that could happen there.
Newsom is also going to, in the medium term, need to think about how we actually grow jobs in the middle of the economy. If we’re giving everybody early childhood education but we still have an economy that’s generating high-tech jobs on the one side, and low-wage service jobs on the other, what are we educating people for? There needs to be more of an industrial policy strategy to bring advanced manufacturing and good middle-skill jobs to California. Some of that is what Jobs to Move America is doing, by ensuring that the layout of the transit system and purchase of rail cars and new electric buses finds those goods to be manufactured in California.
All of this plays out against a White House that regards both California and immigrants as threats.
In the 1990s, when the California economy was being fundamentally restructured by the de-industrialization prompted by the collapse of defense spending, and then aerospace, we should have been paying attention to what we needed to do. Instead, people were blaming immigrants and affirmative action and people learning Spanish in school. And the same thing is happening at the national level. Which is that racism is being used to distract people from the fundamental challenges.
One of the things that is really crucial to keep in mind is to keep up racial equity and economic equity in the same breath at all times, or we’ll be led astray again. We need to be looking at these policies not only to whether or not they’re propelling people into jobs in the middle class, but whether or not they’re reducing racial disparities.
Newsom will have his hands full from the start with these challenges – but what lies just beyond the horizon of his first year?
In the year 2010, 11 percent of our population was 65 years old or older. By the year 2060, 26 percent of our population will be 65 years old or older. We have an aging population. We’re going to need a more caring economy, meaning more family leaning benefits for people who want to provide care to their elders. And also better working conditions and training for those who will be taking care of those elders. And we’re going to be facing a big challenge here because immigration into California is actually very slow – and that’s been a large part of that workforce. That’s a big issue.
Another big issue is technology, artificial intelligence, and the changing nature and ubiquity of work: Planning ahead for an economy in which there may be fewer jobs — and certainly an economy where there will be more frequent job changes. Planning ahead for an economy that increasingly relies on innovation and not just replication, not just stamping out the same product but inventing new cutting-edge products. What does that mean in terms of where the state’s research and development dollars go? What does that mean in terms of the public benefits from those research and development dollars to support innovation? How does that get threaded with our efforts to address climate change and promote a green economy? There is an immediate need to think long term.
Do you have any personal advice for Newsom?
We like things neatly tied into, “What’s the one thing Gavin can do?” Here is my answer: He better not just do one thing.
What kind of programs should Newsom be looking at?
Ann Stevens: I would pick three areas. First, it would be extremely easy and extremely smart to put some real resources into a major expansion of the state earned income tax credit. It really is a program that works. California is a very high-cost state but we still have a lot of fairly low-wage workers. Taking the federal EITC and adding onto it – making California’s [share] 50 percent of the federal [EITC], or matching the federal, would be kind of revolutionary but also really easy. It’s not complicated to do and everyone understands it.
The second is the state also has an incredible structure with its system of community colleges. There’s good evidence that these institutions can be very effective if workers and students can get to them and get through [their] programs — but they’ve really suffered in terms of funding. Increasing funding and really stabilizing funding to the state’s community colleges, especially if we end up in another recession, is another critical investment.
The third is more traditional, but over the course of the Great Recession the state allowed or chose to let its very basic safety net fall — in particular CalWORKs — and so restoring those grant levels to something that gets a family in short-term need closer to the poverty line is, again, kind of a no-brainer. We’ve reformed welfare so [that] we have work requirements, we have time limits. At the same time we let it dwindle so that it barely provides subsistence income.
Can a new governor tackle the poverty afflicting many undocumented immigrants?
Until there is some change in federal immigration policy, the best the state can do is try to protect [these] populations as best we can — but I don’t think the state can be that effective at moving the dial on the undocumented population as long as we have a really aggressive federal policy.
What happens if income inequality, which affects undocumented immigrants and others on the lowest rungs, isn’t addressed? Are we just stuck with a permanent underclass?
I think the national political moment we’re seeing is a bit of a warning that inequality has unexpected consequences and it can be incredibly polarizing. My own view is that if you’re stuck with it, those problems are going to show up in other places. So for example, single-payer health care and health care in general. As long as you have undocumented people — people who, even despite the expansions, don’t have access to health care — the state and our hospitals and health system will end up paying for that, whether we do something or don’t do something.
How do we motivate our elected leaders to act — through appeals to common sense or moral outrage?
I am not sure moral outrage is effective these days. I would argue there has been a growing consensus at the federal and state levels that the way we should — and can — address poverty is by getting people into work, getting people higher wages. And all of these things I’ve suggested can be tied to people who are taking personal responsibility, people who are in the workforce, or who are trying to get in the workforce. And here is how we can be a partner to those people. Maybe it’s a new New Deal where it’s not just programs that write checks but it’s programs that recognize that even in a healthy economy there are people at the bottom, and we are a state where it’s very hard to live if you’re at the bottom of the earnings distribution.
David Grusky, Professor of Sociology, Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, and coeditor of Pathways Magazine. He is the founder of the Cornell University Center for the Study of Inequality and served on California’s State Poverty Task Force.
Can the new governor rely on continuing with the same programs that existed under his predecessor, Jerry Brown?
David Grusky: He should consider some new initiatives. I would think this is something that he ought to want to take on, and we have the tools to take it on. In fact, there’s been a State Poverty Task Force that’s been working for nearly a year trying to cull the best evidence of what works and what doesn’t.
The task force, set up under Assembly Bill 1520, recommends immediately spending $1.6 billion to help poor children in California. Would these new initiatives also entail major investments?
There’s an increasing line of evidence that shows that, although it sounds obvious, money really matters — not just in taking the parents out of poverty but it matters — even more importantly — for their children. [Spending has] long-term downstream consequences for children, when parents have enough money to ensure high-quality health care, to ensure that children are not growing up under stress.
What kind of state is Gavin Newsom taking charge of?
The backdrop here is that we think of California as the land of plenty, and it is, but what is not as well known for those who are from Wisconsin, is that there are highly segregated neighborhoods here with lots of well-off folks — and lots of poverty.
Since most poor families in California are working families — and most poor children come from working families — should Newsom push to raise the minimum wage again?
That wasn’t one of AB 1520’s recommendations, but I think mainly because the task force thought it was outside our charge and effectively covered by other constituencies. My own view is that the evidence on behalf of a higher minimum wage, although not entirely uncomplicated, is on balance very strong. It’s not going to solve all problems but will do a lot of good.
What would we be looking at if Newsom loses this chance to attack inequality — say, because of a new recession or political expediency?
That is a question that I hope he’s asking and that all of us should ask. One of the important roles that California has historically played is being involved in the world. It’s an opportunity to set the standard for what it means to be in a well-off country. But he’s a smart guy, he’s going to resist that pressure.
Can what California does in dealing with inequality be useful elsewhere, or won’t our state’s solutions travel well?
I think that we have a very special role in California. People look to us. Our actions don’t only affect people who live in California, but affect how the rest of the country understands what should be done, and what kind of society do we want to live in. And if California is not leading the way on this issue, who will? We’re gonna lead — I’m confident that we will embrace that role.
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Will California’s New Governor Drop the Hammer on the Fossil-Fuel Industry?
Co-published by Newsweek
So far, Gavin Newsom has only affirmed his support for a ban on hydrofracturing, although activists are hopeful he will be more aggressive on environmental issues than Jerry Brown.
If Newsom intends to brand himself a climate hero, he’ll face fierce political opposition from the state’s redder counties.
Co-published by Newsweek
“The fossil-fuel era is ending, and California is not interested in the boom-or-bust oil economy.” So wrote California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom in a February 7 letter to Kelly Hammerle, national program manager at the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. At issue was the Trump administration’s proposal to resume drilling in federal waters off the California coast, which Newsom, in his role overseeing the State Lands Commission, was determined to quash. Advocates for a clean California economy, however, are hoping that it means even more.
“He’s going to be the pioneer of a thoughtful oil-and-gas phaseout in California,” says Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “He’s going to stop approving new oil and gas wells and fossil-fuel projects in California, implementing the safety buffer [around oil and gas wells] that we need to keep communities safe.”
Those goals had long been what climate and environmental justice activists wanted from Gov. Jerry Brown. As Brown began to wrap up his fourth term early this year, pressure from a coalition of environmental groups coalesced around a single campaign, #BrownsLastChance, to urge the governor to begin a “just transition” away from fossil fuels as a final salvo before he leaves office. This transition would involve job training for workers who depend on oil, as well as a blanket denial of future drilling permits, combined with a gradual step-down of fossil-fuel extraction operations in the state.
Decisions about oil-well permitting are mostly made at the local level in Kern County — whence comes roughly three-quarters of the oil California produces.
Despite Siegel’s optimism, Newsom hasn’t explicitly signed on to that campaign’s agenda. So far, he has only affirmed his support for a ban on hydrofracturing, the most controversial method of stimulating stubborn wells to draw out California’s singularly carbon-heavy oil, which is sometimes trapped within rocks that require an injection of sand-and-chemical slurry to access the crude. He also refused donations from the oil industry during his gubernatorial campaign — but so did every other Democratic candidate.
Whether he’ll do what Brown would not, dashing the hopes of the spendy industry lobbyists at the Western States Petroleum Association, and fulfilling the dreams of environmental activists, is still anyone’s guess. And Newsom’s people, both those in his current office of the Lieutenant Governor and among his campaign staff, aren’t talking. (At least not to us.)
If Newsom does intend to brand himself a climate hero, he’ll face fierce political opposition from the state’s redder counties. California oil doesn’t matter much to the state’s overall economy — it accounts for less than three percent of its gross domestic product. But it means a great deal in Kern County, whence comes roughly three-quarters of the oil California produces. The day after the midterm elections, on November 7, the Kern Economic Development Corporation held its annual energy summit in the Bakersfield DoubleTree Hilton.
Newsom could slow down the well-permitting process, denying new applications and requiring that existing ones be subject to environmental reviews.
Though representatives from solar and wind were present — including from one company that builds solar plants for the steam necessary to coax out stubborn oil deposits — most of the room had come from the county’s $14 billion petroleum extraction business, which accounts for fully one-fifth of Kern’s total gross domestic product. A panel of state regulators was asked whether any of them had an inkling about Governor-elect Newsom’s plans. “Newsom has made some interesting comments about the oil and gas industries in his campaign,” said one questioner. “What are your thoughts about which policies he wants to institute or continue?”
Cameron Campbell, the inland district deputy for the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), took care to calm the nerves in the room, and dismissed some of Newsom’s statements on the industry as campaign rhetoric. “Once he’s in office and up to speed, he might think, ‘Oh, jeez, this does have an effect,’” said the former Chevron geologist, who was appointed to the agency by Brown last May. Even if Newsom has no such moment, “One person doesn’t make the change,” Campbell assured his listeners. “Government doesn’t have all the power.”
“Brown fired oil regulators for trying to do the right thing. The first thing Newsom needs to do is to actually start regulating.”
Which is true enough — decisions about well permitting are mostly made at the local level in Kern County, which has independent authority to conduct environmental and land-use reviews. “Although the Division frequently corrects operators’ planned operations to ensure adherence to regulation and best practice, it would be very unusual for the Division to completely deny proposed drilling operations for a physical location already approved by the local land use authority,” wrote James Pierce, senior staff counsel at DOGGR’s parent agency, the Department of Conservation, in a letter to Capital & Main.
Very unusual, but perhaps not impossible. Back in 2011, when Brown infamously fired two state regulators — Derek Chernow, the head of the Department of Conservation, and Elena Miller at DOGGR — he did so because they were exercising oversight over the oil and gas industry according to already existing laws, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Those laws require transparency, and for petroleum companies to submit detailed information about their plans. Rather than divulge that information, drillers simply withdrew their permit applications — and complained to the governor, who intervened by installing more sympathetic personnel.
“Newsom could go in and reverse all of that,” says Liza Tucker, consumer advocate at Consumer Watchdog, a California nonprofit that advocates in the public interest. He could start by instituting transparency, granting the public access to information about spills and chemicals. “The public needs to know where there are oil wells and where they’re leaking,” Tucker says. “Don’t just pretend it’s not happening.”
He could also slow down the permit process, denying new applications and requiring that existing ones “actually follow the law” and conduct environmental reviews.
“Brown fired oil regulators for trying to do the right thing,” Tucker says. “The first thing Newsom needs to do is to actually start regulating.”
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Los Angeles and Oakland Teachers Rally Amid Deadlocked Contract Talks
Report: IRS Enforcement Could Reap Billions in Unpaid Revenue
Resistance in the Heartland: Fighting ICE in Small-Town Iowa and Nebraska
Behind Kaiser’s Mental Health Breakdown
Diane Ravitch on Gavin Newsom’s Three Education Challenges
Great Expectations: California’s First Steps Toward Universal Health Care
10 Inequality Takeaways
Is a New Toxic Danger Threatening California?
The Golden State’s Fight Against Economic Inequality
Lights Out, Clean Green: How Janitors Are Boosting High-Rises’ Sustainability
Central American Caravan: Militia Members Head for the Border
Video: Rising Rents Force a Choice Between Eating or Shelter
A Law Ending Cash Bail Gives Judges Enormous Power Over Defendants
Video: Los Angeles Rejects Spy Program
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The Most Successful Union Organizer in America Thinks Traditional Organizing Is a Lost Cause
- Labor & EconomyJuly 10, 2018
The ‘Amazon Tax’ Ruling: Disrupting the Disruptors?
- Deadly DetentionMarch 14, 2018
DEADLY DETENTIONS: MAPPING DEATH
- SocietyMarch 6, 2018
Two Years of Official Silence Since a Controversial Inglewood Police Shooting
- Battery BloodMarch 21, 2018
Battery Blood: How California Health Agencies Failed Exide Workers