Saturday, June 03, 2006

CA: Governor's race and public education

The November election for the CA governorship is a ways off but the primaries are on Tuesday. And, if you didn't know, this is when Californians in the Democratic party decide between Phil Angelides and Steve Westly. Needless to say, I've been inundated with phone blasts and campaign literature, feeling underwhelmed and confused. Not a good combination.

What do they say on the education issues I'm concerned about? Here's my quick look at what I could find.

Angelides. Nada.
Westly. Nada.
Schwarzenegger. Nada.
Clearly NCLB is not a concern. I'm not impressed.

On Charter Schools
Angelides. Angelides does not highlight his support of charter schools on his website. Instead, this is what I found, buried in one of the last paragraphs.
Angelides also spearheaded the effort to dedicate $400 million for public charter school expansion and construction as part of the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Acts of 2002 and 2004.
I did find this on one of the articles posted on his site.
As proof of his independence, Angelides said he had broken ranks with the CTA by supporting charter schools. Democratic candidates commonly support charter schools, although the CTA dislikes them in part because it's harder for the unions to organize the teachers who work there.
Westly. Westly supports charter schools as well but, funny, it's not on his website at all.
Schwarzenegger. He openly supports charter schools.

I'm not sure what to say but it's interesting how the charter school issue is dealt on both Angelides' and Westly's website.

On having their kids attend public schools
Angelides. His children attend parochial school.

Westly. His children attend public school though I don't know what sort, charter or otherwise. I find this in a media article:
According to the campaign, Westly's 4 1/2-year-old son will go to kindergarten next fall and his 6-year-old daughter is currently in elementary school near the Westly's home in Atherton in the Bay Area, where, according to Census estimates, the median income is $236,517.

"You might as well be saying 'I have my child in public school in Beverly Hills,'" Waste said.

"Obviously in Atherton, where the Westlys live, you're going to find very fine public schools," Swatt said.
I'm a bit offended by this. He should know better. Public schools in California, due to the dismally low state funding levels, rely on local parent power to supplement public education funds, such as via the local PTA and local funding. I don't hear anything from him about this very dark secret of California public education funding.

Schwarzenegger. Not surprisingly, his children attend one of the most expensive private schools in the area.

Advantage: Extremely weak advantage to Westly. I'm concerned because he doesn't acknowledge the tenuous dynamics of education funding in California, despite having his children in public school.

On Public Education Funding
Angelides. From a media article on his site:
Rather than focusing on creating more educational opportunity for all Californians, Angelides said, state leaders are squandering precious time by fretting over issues such as whether grade school teachers should be given tenure.

As a result, California now ranks 48th in the nation in terms of educational achievement, he said.
More quotes:
Angelides was firmly on message Tuesday about improving schools, noting California schools rank 43rd of 50 states in per-pupil spending and 40th out of 50 in the number of students who go directly from high school to college. The rankings come from a 2006 Education Week report, which uses data from 2003.

The treasurer spoke first to students, asking them about their career goals and encouraging them to read.

He said he wanted to bring down college costs, roll tuition back to pre-Schwarzenegger levels and increase financial aid.

He also said he would tax large corporations and individuals making more than $500,000 a year in order to increase funding for schools. ...
Angelides said the funding formula is a problem, but his priority is restoring overall funding first.

“As long as there's not enough money for teachers and small class sizes, the problem's going to be acute for all schools,” he said. “So the first commitment I have is to fully fund schools. Once we do that, we can start to talk reasonably about how we cushion the blow.”

Westly. From the LA Weekly endorsement.
Westly also hopes to pour more money into K–12 classrooms and higher education. He has offered a somewhat more pragmatic strategy for achieving his goals, by getting $3.25 billion — half the amount going unpaid to California — from tax scofflaws and giving 42 percent of the total to education. Westly proposes $150 million in free tuition for community-college students, primarily those who are committed to higher education.
A couple red flags: Westly doesn't plan to increase taxes. He also pushes bipartisanship. These are soundbites straight from the infamous Third way DLC approach. Also, the amount of money won't address funding woes, 42% of 3. 25 billion.

Schwarzenegger. From his campaign website:
For the second year in a row, Governor Schwarzenegger's budget recommends spending more money per pupil than the state has ever granted. His plan calls for more than $54.3 billion for education, with total per student spending of $10,996 - $660 more per pupil than this past year
I'm offended by how he implies we're spending a ton of money on education. And there's no acknowledgement of how poor the schools are doing.

Advantage: Angelides. I think he demonstrates a better understanding of public education funding, both in terms of the big picture and with the little wonky details.

Overall advantage: Angelides.

I'm sorely disappointed with all of the candidates on their stance regarding NCLB, NCLB related issues such as standardized testing, and the push for charter schools, also a NCLB related process advocated by the DLC.

However, Angelides seems to understand the big picture problems as well as the details and dynamics of public education funding better than Westly. As a mom with a kid in public school, I was offended by Westly's complete lack of acknowledgement of how local school funding works in wealthy areas. I'm also concerned by his reliance on DLC talking points, red flags for me.

Come November, I will vote for the Democratic nominee, be it Angelides or Westly. On Tuesday, I will vote for Angelides.

Phil Angelides' website
Steve Westly's site