CA Education Policy News Update

Feb 28th, 2011

CA Education Policy News Update

By: Mona Vakilifathi | 04:02 PM

Updates on the State Budget
 
As of last week, Governor Brown intends to pass his budget proposal and add the tax extensions to the June special election ballot by March 10th, as reported by The Sacramento Bee. Last Friday, the L.A. Times, the Contra Costa Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Sacramento Bee report that both the Assembly and Senate legislative budget committees produced budget proposals very similar to Brown’s, except with minor changes attempting to spare healthcare services, services for the disabled, and redevelopment agencies from severe cuts. In addition, another article in the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Republicans had little to do with the passage of these legislative proposals since the vast majority of Republicans, most who remain opposed to raising or extending taxes, did not vote for these proposals. In fact, Republicans have voiced their greatest level of opposition yet in this budget cycle. According to the L.A. Times' PolitiCal blog, The Sacramento Bee, the L.A. Times, more than two-thirds of state Republican policymakers formed a “Taxpayers Caucus” to collectively oppose any tax increases, including any ballot measure in June’s special election to extend taxes. Capitol Weekly explains that this is a prime opportunity for Republicans to negotiate with Brown and other Democrats. Yesterday, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, The Sacramento Bee, the Contra Costa Times, the KQED Capital Notes blog, and The Press-Enterprise, Brown spoke at the state legislature’s budget conference to support his budget proposal. The Sacramento Bee offers an opinion article that sums up the various challenges Brown faces from both state Democrats and Republicans in order to pass the budget by the March 10th deadline. (As for the federal level of government, The New York Times has several articles and links related to the progress of the federal budget.)
 
Updates on State Pension Reform
 
Wisconsin’s budget debate has attracted recent national attention, as reported by The New York Times.  Wisconsin’s effort in cutting pension services is similar to a recent conversation among California’s policymakers.
 
Last week, according to The Sacramento Bee, the Thoughts on Public Education blog, and the CalPensions blog, the LAO released a 15-minute video, with an accompanying PowerPoint, last Thursday discussing the rising costs of state pension services and the need to reduce these costs by reducing pensions for future employees. This conversation would include educators teaching at all levels of education. As discussed in the previously-mentioned Sacramento Bee article, this report is issued at a time where pension reform is growing in popularity as a means to reduce the state’s deficit, or at least as a negotiating tool for state Republicans in preventing further tax hikes. The San Francisco Chronicle and the Thoughts on Public Education blog in two separate posts, here and here, note timing as leading to the interest in pension reform, and also the difficulties in making changes, especially in pensions for education employees. (The Thoughts on Public Education blog provides an opinion article related to this issue, which can be found here.) This week, California's Little Hoover Commission released a report encouraging the reduction of public pension benefits for current and future public employees, as reported by The Sacramento Bee, The Bee’s The State Worker blog, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
 
The debate surrounding pensions continues as Republicans and others opposed to public-sector pension benefits continue to voice their opposition to the same, as mentioned by The Wall Street Journal. Recent efforts by Republicans and other opponents in support of pension reform include drafts of legislative bills that force public employees to receive 401(k)-type accounts, and possibly an initiative to pass a constitutional amendment to cut pension benefits, as reported by The Sacramento Bee. Yesterday, Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh and the non-partisan California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility hosted a “boot camp” that focused on the need for pension reform in California, as reported by the OC Register and the Fox & Hounds Daily blog. There also seems to be a similar movement to change the public pension system to  401(k)-type accounts at the national level of government, as reported by CalPensions.com. The San Jose Mercury News specifically discusses the problems surrounding California teachers’ pension system, CalSTRS (California State Teachers’ Retirement System), and that the topic of pension reform will continue to gain coverage and urgency due to the flaws of the current system and its effects on the state’s current and future finances, especially as state employee retirements continue to rise as reported by The Sacramento Bee.