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Monday, December 26, 2011

2011-12-26 "Pot clubs turning to delivery; With feds threatening storefronts, couriers become alternatives" by David Downs from "San Francisco Chronicle"
Medithrive, a cannabis dispensary in San Francisco's Mission District that was forced to close last month, has re-emerged as a delivery-only service, part of a growing trend in California's billion-dollar medical marijuana industry that's recently come under attack by federal authorities.
Threats of property forfeiture, fines, lawsuits and raids this winter have made brick-and-mortar locations less enticing to pot entrepreneurs. Hundreds of storefronts have closed amid the new federal crackdown. Delivery services remain, offering a lower-profile, albeit more dangerous, alternative.
"It just makes sense. When you have a storefront, you're on the map. You don't have those issues with a delivery service. No one's going to know about it," said William Panzer, an Oakland defense attorney who represents Northstone Organics, a delivery service based in Ukiah (Mendocino County).
California has struggled with cannabis distribution since voters in 1996 gave qualified patients a medical defense for breaking state marijuana laws. Then in 2003, state Sen. Mark Leno's SB420 granted patients the right to collectively cultivate and distribute marijuana.
Under those laws, San Francisco created a dispensary licensing process in 2005 that led to an estimated 24 clubs and one delivery-only service. There are thought to be several hundred thousand Californians with a doctor's recommendation for marijuana.
Cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego chose the opposite path and tried to ban shops with limited success. But the storefront enforcement climate led to the proliferation of fly-by-night mobile services.
Indeed, the number of storefront dispensaries and mobile operators are inversely correlated, Los Angeles Assistant City Attorney Asha Greenberg said.

Federal action -
On Oct. 7, four U.S. attorneys declared a crackdown on the medical marijuana industry, alleging profiteering and exports to other states. Hundreds of warning letters went out to dispensary landlords across the state.
More than two-thirds of San Diego storefront dispensaries closed within weeks, watchers said. Dozens closed in Sacramento County. At least three San Francisco clubs have closed, and one in Oakland moved.
Jack Gillund, spokesman for the U.S. attorney for the Northern District, said his office would not comment on storefront pot clubs being replaced by delivery services.
Medithrive's return as a delivery service echoes the behavior of operators in Southern California. San Diego has about 100 delivery listings. Orange County has 50 and Los Angeles about 100, according to data from leading dispensary locator
"My sense is they're switching out of brick-and-mortars, or just going to the black market," said Justin Hartfield, WeedMaps founder.
"It's like water," Greenberg said. "You close off one pathway, and it morphs and goes in another direction."
Some patients prefer delivery. Medithrive declined to comment, but it is busy.
Calls to the service often go directly to voice mail because of high volume. The company also has an online menu as well as smart-phone apps that feature strains such as Dream Queen for $40 for an eighth of an ounce - about a week's supply for an average patient.

Warning of delivery dangers -
App photos also display Medithrive's shuttered Mission Street store - a high-end affair with flat-screen TV menus.
The Department of Justice's crackdown amounts to a dangerous form of theater, in that it does nothing to curtail supply or demand, said Lisa Gygax, a California dispensary attorney. People feel less safe buying cannabis from a random guy coming up to their house - but they will if options become limited, she said.
"Delivery is dangerous, it's extremely difficult to regulate, but they're extremely successful if there is no safe access," she said. "What else are patients going to do - go to the park?"
San Francisco has one delivery-only licensee, the Green Cross. It is delivery-only because it was pushed out of a storefront during the 2005 San Francisco licensing process, said General Manager Caren Woodson. The Green Cross is seeking a city permit for a storefront because it's the preferred business model, she said.

Risk of robbery -
Safety concerns for drivers are huge, Woodson said, and the service has been robbed once.
Unlicensed delivery services probably underreport robberies, Gygax said.
The conflict between California's medicinal marijuana supporters - including advocates and lawmakers - and federal authorities is expected to worsen. That is likely to bring an awkward social compromise: more delivered dope.
"We sort of predicted this," said Dale Gieringer, head of California's National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "I could see cars going around. I could see delivery trucks. It's sort of what one expected. ... I've seen a decline in delivery services in the last four or five years as dispensaries have proliferated. I suppose that will go in the other direction now."

Michael gathers receipts at the Green Cross, a licensed medical marijuana delivery company in San Francisco. Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle

Joe, Rigoberto and David package marijuana for delivery at the Green Cross offices, San Francisco's one delivery-only licensee. Several hundred thousand Californians are believed to have a doctor's recommendation to receive medical marijuana. Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle

Erick logs in orders coming in over the Internet at the Green Cross. Medical marijuana companies have online menus and smart-phone apps for deliveries. Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle

2011-12-26 "Business lobbyists succeed in Sacramento this year" by Laurel Rosenhall and Chase Davis from "San Francisco Chronicle"
Business interests were the top bill-killers inside California's Capitol during Gov. Jerry Brown's first year back in office, as concerns about the state's weak economy cut into labor's newfound clout.
Legislative data show that business interests wielded strong influence despite a Capitol dominated by Democrats in the Legislature and governor's office. Business lobbyists defeated bills that would have cut tax breaks, required employers to give workers unpaid bereavement leave and prolonged the foreclosure process.
In the current economy, "all legislators are more sensitive to the argument that something would be a job killer or harmful for investment or expansion," said Dorothy Rothrock, a lobbyist for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, which represents major businesses around the state. "That's made it easier for us to stop or amend bills to make them less hostile or burdensome."
Brown's current term has been good for labor unions, too. They successfully pushed bills that limit the state's ability to use private contractors, allow local governments to require union construction crews on public works projects and reduce the use of self-checkout lanes in grocery stores.

Business influence -
But in the tug-of-war between the Capitol's two power players, industry more than held its own. Business-related groups dominated the list of organizations with the most influence, according to a review of hundreds of bills.
The Sacramento Bee and California Watch examined the final analyses written by legislative staff for all 906 bills introduced this year that listed supporters and opponents. For each group whose stand was registered on at least 10 bills, the news organizations tallied the number of cases in which supporters' bills were signed by the governor and opponents' bills stalled or were vetoed. Either scenario counted as a "win" for that group.
While such a tally is imperfect - it does not assess all influence exerted under the dome - it captures the outcome of the legislative year for many who carry clout at the Capitol.
Interviews with dozens of key people confirmed a trend suggested by the numbers: The weak economy was a major factor as groups decided which bills to push and lawmakers made up their minds.
Angie Wei, a lobbyist for the California Labor Federation, said 2011 was better for workers "than under any year under Arnold Schwarzenegger." Even so, Wei said, the state's financial reality made her union less aggressive.
The labor group sponsored AB400, which would have required employers to provide paid sick days for their workers. But Wei said the union asked lawmakers to hold the bill in committee because "we didn't think it was the right time to do it."
The business lobby wielded much of its influence through JobsPAC, a political action committee that collects millions from insurance, oil, tobacco, pharmaceutical and other companies to make independent expenditures in key races.
Last year, the committee spent $9.2 million statewide, a portion of it supporting candidates thought to be business-friendly in four key state Senate districts: Republicans Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo and Anthony Cannella of Ceres (Stanislaus County) and Democrats Juan Vargas of San Diego and Lou Correa of Santa Ana (Orange County).
By session's end, Blakeslee and Cannella voted the California Chamber of Commerce's way on each of the 13 important business bills listed in the chamber's scorecard. Correa went the chamber's way 69 percent of the time, tops among Democrats.
Some groups that spend a lot on lobbying and political contributions show up on few bill analyses, making it hard to measure how much they win.

Private lobbying -
Interest groups typically are listed as supporters or opponents because they sent lawmakers letters stating their position. But nothing compels a group to write such letters. Some entities prefer to lobby by meeting privately with legislators, and legislative committees have different approaches to determine whom to list in their bill analyses.
But the findings broadly illustrate that business did better than might have been expected at the Capitol, where Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and, after several years under Schwarzenegger, now occupy the governor's office as well.
The political domination of Democrats means many Republican bills based on ideas generated by business interests did not proceed very far in the lawmaking process. Bills sponsored by labor groups were more likely to pass through the Democratic-controlled houses and make it to the governor's desk.
Yet even with a Democratic governor who received much of his campaign backing from labor unions, business interests still held sway - albeit mostly by playing defense. Labor lobbyists, meanwhile, said they were more selective than usual in advancing bills that would cost money and put lawmakers in an unpleasant political situation.
"The arguments business has made, that companies and job creators have made for years, are resonating more with Democratic legislators" given the state's financial situation, said Robert Callahan, a lobbyist for TechAmerica, a trade group that represents more than 1,000 technology companies.
TechAmerica succeeded on 11 of the 12 bills that it backed.
Two key victories, Callahan said, were defeating legislation that would have rolled back some tax credits. One, SB508, proposed including sunset dates in all new tax breaks so they would be phased out after a period of time. Another, SB364, sought to allow the state to charge a fine and take back the money from a tax incentive if a company laid off at least 10 percent of its employees in a year.
Labor unions supported both bills, arguing that the state should be more careful about handing out tax breaks, given its budget woes. TechAmerica and other business groups opposed them, saying the first bill painted all tax breaks with the same brush, and the second created too much uncertainty for employers. Brown vetoed both bills with short messages saying they were too broad.
The vetoes also stack up as wins for the California Taxpayers Association and California Chamber of Commerce, which joined TechAmerica in opposing both bills. The chamber had a good year, despite supporting Brown's Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, in last year's gubernatorial race. In the Legislature this year, chamber lobbyists fended off 25 of the 30 bills the group labeled "job killers." They persuaded Brown to veto four of the five that made it to his desk.
"From a political standpoint, when the economy goes down and business is what can bring you back, then people listen to business," said Marc Burgat, vice president of government relations for the California Chamber of Commerce.
One of the "job-killer" bills Brown vetoed was AB325, which would have required employers to offer up to three days of unpaid bereavement leave to workers who lose a loved one. The chamber made the case that California already requires several types of leave and that adding another would be a burden on employers who may be juggling requests from several workers. It also argued that the bill would have established broad rights for workers to sue, a view that was repeated in Brown's veto message.
After Brown finished considering the bills on his desk in mid-October, the chamber produced a 2 1/2-minute video praising the governor and touting the success of its lobbying campaign.
"As business grows, we employ more people, we pay more taxes and the general fund grows," Burgat said. "I think that message has resonated."
This story was produced as a collaboration between Laurel Rosenhall of the Sacramento Bee and Chase Davis of California Watch.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

2011-12-25 "Teachers union sues Sacramento City schools over seniority rights in layoffs"
The Sacramento City Unified School District is fighting a civil lawsuit filed by its teachers union over teacher seniority rights in rehiring after layoffs.
The Sacramento City Teachers Association's lawsuit comes months after the union fought the district's decision to utilize a seldom used provision in Education Code in order to not layoff teachers at six persistently low-performing schools.
The result of the civil lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court could have implications on a growing movement by some of the largest California districts. More and more districts are deviating from purely seniority-based layoffs and in the ensuing rehiring process.
"We just want to see everyone treated equally instead of some getting special treatment," said SCTA President Scott Smith. "Basically, we are saying the way in which they skipped teachers was incorrect."
Lawyers for Sacramento City Unified School District say the case, which was filed in November, should be dismissed because it is "utterly lacking in key details such as naming any teacher or counselor who was laid off and refused reemployment in violation of the Education Code," according to court filings.
California law requires that, in a time of budget-based layoffs, teachers with the least experience in a school district are the first to go.
There are, however, two exceptions under the law: districts can skip teachers to maintain or achieve equal protection under the law or in hard-to-staff areas, like special education, science, math and bilingual education.
In March, Sacramento City Unified voted not to lay off teachers at six of the district's persistently failing schools, which Superintendent Jonathan Raymond labeled Priority Schools.
The district argued that priority school teachers received special training that, under the Education Code, allowed for skipping those instructors during the layoff process.
When SCTA fought the district on that decision, it was brought before the Office of Administrative Hearings and an administrative law judge, who ruled in Sacramento City Unified's favor at five of the six priority schools for this school year.
SCTA's most recent civil suit challenges how the district filled vacancies at the priority schools.
"The priority school thing has been a vague concept from the beginning," Smith said. "The amount of training they received was minimal at best. Other schools had received the exact same training."
Teachers unions have argued that seniority-based layoffs eliminate favoritism and keep expertise in the classroom. Unions also say seniority-based rules keep districts from laying off veteran instructors to keep cheaper, younger teachers.
Education Trust-West Executive Director Arun Ramanathan said the "last-in, first-out" method of teacher layoffs violates basic principals of fairness and equality for students.
Ramanathan said Education Trust-West has studied how seniority-based layoffs disproportionately affect low-performing schools in poor neighborhoods. Studies have shown those schools tend to have higher turnover because they are staffed with the least experienced teachers.
Ramanathan praised Sacramento City for its efforts to mitigate turnover at its priority schools.
In September, the district praised gains in test scores at the priority schools – Oak Ridge, Father Keith B. Kenny Elementary, Jedediah Smith Elementary, Fern Bacon Basic Middle, Will C. Wood Middle and Hiram W. Johnson High. A seventh school – Rosa Parks Middle School – was added earlier this year.
Oak Ridge in Oak Park saw an 82-point jump in its Academic Performance Index score.
2011-12-25 "CA State community colleges set to ration classes in drive to privatize system" by Nanette Asimov from "San Francisco Chronicle"
During World War II, there was food rationing. In 2012, California's community college leaders are poised to approve education rationing for thousands of students.
The proposal is controversial, with many students and educators critical of a shakeout that could end free courses offered for generations, including classes such as music appreciation and memoir writing. Also squeezed out would be students who linger at college for years, sampling one class after another.
The problem is as basic as a butter shortage. Essential classes are in critically short supply as the state's economic crisis lumbers on. Last year, 137,000 students couldn't get into at least one class they needed, including first-year English and math. And many who are entitled to financial aid never apply for it because there aren't enough counselors to help them navigate the complex process.
0% dropout rate
The result is a dropout rate of 60 percent among students who expect to transfer to a four-year university or earn a vocational certificate, according to a 2010 study by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy in Sacramento.
Fixing the problem will require overhauling the vast community college system, according to a task force of 20 academics and college advocates who have wrestled with the issue for a year. Established by the Legislature in 2010, the Student Success Task Force wants campuses to do a better job of helping students reach academic goals, and it wants students to move more quickly and efficiently through school.
But it won't be done with more money. Lawmakers cut $502 million this year from the system's $5.9 billion budget, on top of hundreds of millions withheld since 2009.
Instead, the task force wants to change how colleges spend the money they already have. Or, as Chancellor Jack Scott plainly put it, "It's not joyful to have to ration."
The backbone of the panel's 22 recommendations is to focus community college resources on students seeking degrees or vocational certificates. All students should have an education plan and make steady progress on it. Those who don't would lose registration priority. Those who qualify for a tuition waiver - 47 percent of students - would lose it if they are unfocused and take too many random classes.
"The more directed a student is, the more likely they are to complete their goals," Scott said. "This is pretty common sense."
Many agree, including Steve Ngo, a City College of San Francisco trustee who calls it a civil rights issue.
"If students are not even getting basic English and math, they'll be stuck in poverty," Ngo said. "These recommendations focus course offerings on student needs."

Some may be shut out
Yet many others - including students, instructors, administrators and Ngo's colleagues on the City College board - fear the proposals would harm students who fall outside the new priorities.
"The door will shut for everyone else except for the two-year transfer students," said Joe Fitzgerald, a City College student and editor of the campus paper, the Guardsman.
Fitzgerald has been at the college seven years, many of them spent learning to be a successful student, he said. Like many others, he sees community college as an academic refuge for students who can't or prefer not to barrel through school.
Rather than ration education, he and other critics say college leaders should join efforts to raise more revenue for education.
"California needs to raise taxes on the wealthy and close tax loopholes," said John Rizzo, president of the City College Board of Trustees. "Oil (extraction) needs to be taxed like it is in every other state."
California's college system is the nation's largest, with 112 campuses and a mandate to admit "any student capable of benefiting from instruction," according to the state's Master Plan for Higher Education, established in 1960. Its main mission is to provide academic and vocational instruction "through the first two years of undergraduate education."
The plan also points to colleges' role in providing remedial classes, community service courses, workforce training and free, noncredit classes, including English as a Second Language.
Last spring, 203,500 students statewide took noncredit classes, and 1.5 million took classes for credit.

Fee waiver overhaul
Nearly half of students taking classes for credit are poor enough to qualify for a waiver of fees: $540 a semester for a full load of 15 credits, at $36 a credit. The price rises to $46 next summer.
The task force wants to rescind fee waivers after students accumulate 110 credits, well beyond the 60 required for transfer. At City College, for example, 12 percent of students with fee waivers had at least 110 credits last spring, or 1,917 students.
"You shouldn't be a professional student," said Scott, the state chancellor. "You're taking up space needed by first-time students."
But complaints that such a policy would unfairly punish low-income students led the panel to leave the ultimate decision on fee waivers up to individual campuses.

End free classes -
Task force members also want colleges to stop spending money on free enrichment classes. They don't mean those that teach job skills, English acquisition, or help students get a degree. Colleges spent $134 million on those last year, and they will continue.
They're talking about the kind of class that Norma Miller, 86, credits with saving her life.
"I was ready to just give up," said Miller, a retired teacher. She'd had a health scare. Three close friends died. She entered a period of decline in which she lost her sense of time and felt, as she put it, "a sense of desperation."
A doctor recommended that she get out in the world. The senior center offered bingo, but it wasn't her style. She tried concerts, lectures, even a therapy group. None seemed to help.
Then Miller found the Life Review class in the Older Adults Department at City College, taught by Shelley Glazer, an expert on aging. With a dozen others in her age group, Miller spent this fall reflecting on her life, learning to write about it and considering the future.
"I actually sat down and did some writing," Miller said. "I actually did it! It was shocking to me. I'm learning to get up and allow myself to think about something other than myself.
"If I lost this class, I don't know what I'd do."
Community colleges spent $102 million on such classes last year - the same amount the state cut from colleges' budget this month.
"I was a college president for 21 years," said Peter MacDougall, chairman of the task force. "I'd have older adults come in and say, 'This astronomy course is wonderful!' I never had the feeling we were denying access to other students. I'm sorry to say that that's not the place we're in today."

Centralize testing -
At first the task force recommended changing state law to prevent colleges from spending public funds on such classes. But a public outcry led the panel to soften that stance. Now it directs colleges to verify that funds are spent only on classes that "advance student education plans" and says the law should only change "if necessary."
The panel also recommends strengthening the power of the state chancellor and implementing centralized testing. The community college system's Board of Governors will vote on the ideas at its meeting Jan. 9 and 10.

Get involved -
Read the Student Success Task Force recommendations at
The Community College system's Board of Governors will vote on the recommendations at its meeting Jan. 9 and 10 in Room 4203 of the state Capitol, 10th Street and Capitol Mall, Sacramento.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011-12-23 "Charter schools group urges closure of four Sacramento-area campuses" by Diana Lambertand Phillip Reese from "Sacramento Bee" newspaper
A list of 10 schools the California Charter Schools Association would like to see closed – including four in the Sacramento area – has caused an uproar within the charter school movement.
CCSA officials say closing low-performing schools demonstrates that charters are willing to be held accountable. The schools on the list do not meet the minimum criteria the organization has established for academic achievement, said Jed Wallace, president of CCSA.
"We thought it necessary for the well-being of the students attending the schools, as well as for the charter school movement," Wallace said of the recommendation.
 But other charter school proponents say the association's criteria are flawed and that it is overstepping its authority.
"We already have laws on how this is supposed to work in California," said Eric Premack, president of the Charter School Development Center. "For a third-party group like CCSA to try to rewrite the law and impose their own standards is illegal or extra legal."
The issue has caught the attention of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who applauded the list and the leadership of CCSA. "This is an important conversation for California to have, and one that we need to have across the country," he said in a prepared statement.
The association is asking the schools' authorizers – usually school districts or county offices of education – not to renew their charters.
The local schools on the list include the California Aerospace Academy in McClellan, Antelope View Charter in Antelope, West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter in West Sacramento and Yuba County Career Preparatory Charter in Marysville.
But do these schools deserve to be closed?
All four of the local schools rank near the bottom in performance on standardized tests compared to schools with similar demographics, according to a Bee review of state data.
At the California Aerospace Academy last year, fewer than 10 of the 137 students scored proficient or better on any STAR math test last year – from basic seventh-grade general math to 11th-grade geometry.
None of the 62 eighth- and ninth-graders who took algebra I at West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter scored at the proficient or advanced levels.
Only two of 31 10th-graders who took the STAR world history exam at Antelope View Charter scored at the proficient level. And no seventh-graders at Yuba County Career Prep passed any STAR test – English or math.
But there are some bright spots. Antelope View Charter's eighth graders posted respectable English and life science test scores, eclipsing or nearing the statewide average for proficiency. The 11th-graders at the California Aerospace school did well on their U.S. history test, also collectively beating the statewide average.
The West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter School's website boasts an 83-point API gain last year and says the school has met all the criteria in the California Education Code to be reauthorized.
"We can assure you that CCSA has no legal authority to close down a charter school, and their organization is overstepping its boundaries by showing non-support to its paying members who turn to them for support," said a letter to parents on the West Sacramento Early College Prep website.
Wallace said the CCSA is just doing its job. "We see ourselves as a professional members organization like the American Medical Association," he said. As such, the CCSA would set professional standards and sanction charters that don't meet them.
But the boards of the school districts and county offices of education that authorized the charters will make the final decision about whether to approve charters when they come up for renewal.
"Obviously, we are going to take a hard look at their application for renewal when it comes up in the early part of 2012," said Dave Westin, a school board member at Washington Unified – the authorizer for the West Sacramento charter.
The CCSA criteria say schools must have either an Academic Performance Index of at least 700 in the most recent year, have a three-year cumulative API growth of at least 50 points or have exceeded the performance expected of a California school with a similar student population. It looks at schools that have been in existence for four years or more.
"They want to get rid of charter schools that don't score well, so they look better compared to public schools," Premack said.
Wallace agrees that the CCSA wants to improve charter scores. "The central tenant of the charter school movement is that charters can generate higher levels of academic success," Wallace said. "In order to keep the momentum, we have to show that our schools are successful."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011-12-22 "California recognizes Americans Elect" by Lois Kazakoff
Californians will have another choice for president now that the state has recognized Americans Elect as a political party. While the organization will occupy a third-party slot on the 2012 ballots, it says it is not a party - it is a nonprofit online caucus that espouses no particular ideology and claims no particular mandate. Its organizers describe it as a process to elect a centrist leader to make government work for Americans again.
Maybe. It is certainly a symptom of our dysfunctional political system, but no solution.
Just like Occupy and the Tea Party, Americans Elect is trying to channel Americans' concerns about jobs into political action. But there the similarities end: Occupy is a credible, if not particularly effective, grassroots social movement. The Tea Party has rallied its followers around a clearly articulated list of demands, profoundly affecting local and national politics.
Americans Elect erects no tents. There are no tricornered hats. Americans Elect is trying to break the lock the Democratic and Republican parties have on the electoral system by focusing purely on voting. That's not a movement, but those trying to bring about change might say it is a good idea.
Darry Sragow, a longtime Democratic consultant who is serving as Americans Elect's political adviser, points out that Californians have made three attempts to break the lock - voting for term limits, redistricting and most recently, a top-two primary - yet are even more frustrated with Sacramento.
They are not alone. Fewer than half of Americans have favorable opinions of the major parties, according to a Washington Post-ABC poll released in November, and 61 percent favor the idea of an independent candidate. Among decline-to-state voters (who now make up 20 percent of California's electorate), 73 percent favor having a third-party choice.
Kellen Arno, Americans Elect's national field director, has won a spot on the ballot in 13 states and is confident he will have all 50 states by June. But he says the barriers to getting there are significant: 50 different sets of rules (California required gathering a million signatures, while Florida merely required paperwork). "Our process is a way to break down those barriers," he said.
Americans Elect is undeniably seductive: It responds to the status quo's failure to address Americans' fears about jobs, housing and a secure future. It offers a voice for Occupy and other movements on a website where candidates are ranked by "support clicks." Who could resist the egalitarian appeal of a political organization that invites any registered voter to be a delegate? For those reasons, I hope Americans Elect has influence.
But as long as Americans Elect declines to reveal its funders, (they fear retribution from the parties), it can't be a solution to our political woes.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011-12-15 "More student unrest likely, California college officials tell legislative panel" by Sam Stanton from "Sacramento Bee" newspaper
 One month after the pepper-spraying of student protesters at the University of California, Davis, officials are struggling with how to move forward, even as they prepare for the possibility of new protests and building takeovers when students return next month.
Anger over the rising cost of a college education in California is so great, university officials told a legislative panel Wednesday, that they are concerned about students building new encampments.
But so far the only consensus on how to deal with the protests going forward is to avoid using police force to quell the unrest.
 The use-of-force issue was the topic of a joint Assembly-Senate committee hearing Wednesday, called in the wake of the Nov. 18 pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis and an earlier confrontation at UC Berkeley during which students were jabbed with riot batons. For four hours, UC and California State University officials, as well as representatives from student groups and the ACLU, spoke before lawmakers about how campuses should respond to the ongoing protests.
UC President Mark Yudof has called video images of the UC Davis incident – showing campus officers pepper-spraying students seated on the ground – appalling. On Wednesday, he suggested that the 10 UC campuses may need a single policy on how officials respond to such disturbances.
"I, of course, don't ever want to see such pain inflicted upon our students," he told lawmakers.
The angry fallout from that incident continued Wednesday. As UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi left the hearing, she was confronted in a Capitol hallway by a 24-year-old student.
Jerika Heinze, a cultural anthropology senior who says she was among those who inhaled pepper spray at the protest, insisted Katehi had been ducking her requests for a meeting.
"I've been contacting you every single day, calling your office, sending you emails, and your assistants said they passed the messages along," Heinze told Katehi. "You've never responded to me."
"Well, I've asked them to set an appointment with you," Katehi said quietly as reporters pressed in to record the incident.
"No, you haven't," Heinze insisted. "You absolutely have not."
Moments later, Katehi's chief of staff pulled Heinze aside to promise her an appointment while another UC official accompanying the embattled chancellor extracted her from the awkward setting.
"It's so frustrating," Heinze said afterward. "I just feel that I'm owed for her to look me in the face, look me in the eye and explain that she understands the position of the students …
"I mean, we're not dangerous people, we're students. I'm not a terrorist, I'm not an anarchist. I'm not any of those things. I'm just a college student doing research at the university."
The confrontation followed weeks of effort by Katehi to repair relations with students, faculty and staff at UC Davis, including numerous meetings with students to hear their grievances.
During the hearing, Katehi reiterated her position that she had not authorized the use of force to remove two dozen tents that had been set up on the quad in protest of tuition hikes.
Saying that she realized it was a "very burning question" for many, Katehi told the panel: "Did I direct the police to use pepper spray? And the answer is no. Did I direct the police to use force? And the answer is no."
At least five investigations into the incident and overall campus policies toward protests are under way, and Yudof said he expected the most comprehensive answers from the probes to be available in March.
The Yolo County sheriff and district attorney had asked state Attorney General Kamala Harris to take over their probe, citing limited resources and the possibility of a conflict of interest. But Wednesday, Yolo County officials said they had been informed that Harris would not intervene.
"We appreciate the attorney general's vote of confidence in our ability to competently handle this job, but the fact remains that this issue has far-reaching ramifications and that there are limited resources in Yolo County," Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven said in a prepared statement. "Despite this, the sheriff and district attorney will do our very best to conduct the investigation."
Katehi and others acknowledged that anger over tuition hikes may lead to more confrontations statewide when classes resume.
"They are frustrated and angry about repeated tuition increases … ," Katehi said. "They are justifiably frustrated, and so am I."
Under questioning from one lawmaker about what she would do differently from what she did on Nov. 18, she replied, "I have to tell you, if I knew that the police could not remove the tents peacefully, we would not remove them."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011-12-13 "Nothing to be proud of..." by Daphne, Executive Director and Founder "Californians Against Slavery (CAS)"
A national study gives California an F on laws against child sex trafficking. This is nothing to be proud of.  The report (released on December 1st) confirms what CAS has been saying all along:  Trafficked victims have "little protection under the law as victims." (1)  We are failing our children, those who need the protection of our laws most.
The report highlights that California desperately needs the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act [].
Human trafficking is a brutal human rights issue, and we need urgent and drastic measures for change.  The CASE Act is the vehicle for us to turn our activism into a movement. Some of you may recall this slide [].  Please block out time on your calendar the next few months for the CASE Act campaign. It is worthwhile.Justice starts with you.
The Attorney General's Office said they will return our initiative on December 21st.  They are using the maximum legally allowed time, even if it means holding onto things. This is disappointing as it will push our start date to December 23rd, the Christmas weekend. 
However, I know that our most dedicated volunteers will be out there regardless, which makes our effort even more powerful - the TENACITY of our volunteers.
"Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better." - Martin Luther King, Jr.   
(1) See the Report Card here. Based on the Protected Innocence Legislative Framework by Shared Hope International and American Center for Law and Justice. [

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fascists are ready to privatize California

2011-12-10 "Billionaire 'playboy' has a $20 million vision to save California" by Josh Richman from "Oakland Tribune"
He's a little like Bruce Wayne without the cowl, Thomas Crown without the thievery, Howard Hughes without the planes (or the weirdness).
Now Nicolas Berggruen is trying to do what even a superhero governor couldn't: Save California.
At 50, never married, childless and bored with a billionaire's usual trappings, Berggruen owns no home, instead living in fine hotels as he roams the globe for business and pleasure, his extensive art collection ensconced in museums, his annual pre-Oscar party at the Chateau Marmont still a must for Hollywood's elite glitterati. He has been called a "playboy financier," living a life most Californians can't imagine.
But for the past year and a half he has been reimagining how to run the state, and he's promising to spend at least $20 million to make it so.
Berggruen is the brain and bankroll behind the Think Long Committee for California, a panel of political and business A-listers, which last month issued a report amid much buzz urging an overhaul of the state's tax structure and creation of a citizen "super committee" to shepherd future reforms. He said he'll spend millions of dollars to persuade Californians to vote for these changes in November.
"It may cost much more than $20 million, and if it does, then it does -- we'll just have to put in more money or raise more money," he said in a telephone interview. "I'm a facilitator. At the end of the day, this very much has been a group effort, very much a bipartisan effort. And if my name disappears from this, it's perfectly good. It's not about me at all."
Fat chance. Politics get personal, and Berggruen's biography is so intriguing that many are suspicious that his mission isn't what it seems.
The Paris-born son of a German actress and a prominent art dealer and collector -- his father was Pablo Picasso's friend and had a fling with Frida Kahlo -- Berggruen studied finance and international business at New York University before launching a company to make investments that multiplied the family fortune. Forbes says he "has holdings that range from a revitalization project in Newark, N.J., to Hydro Electric Power Plants in Turkey to a Spanish media conglomerate," and is worth about $2.3 billion.
Reforming California's political scene may seem like an odd sideline, but those who know Berggruen say it's in keeping with his newfound civic philanthropy.
San Francisco art dealer John Berggruen, 68, said the Think Long Committee's seeds might have been planted at his breakfast table a few years ago, when then-Attorney General Jerry Brown dropped by to meet his younger half-brother and talk "about California's electoral process and the referendum process, about whether this state was governable." By then, the elder Berggruen said, his brother had realized "there was more to his existence than creating wealth" and had begun studying political philosophy and practice with UCLA scholars.
"One thing led to another, by virtue of his innate curiosity and intelligence, and this is something that became intensely stimulating to him," John Berggruen said.
Nicolas Berggruen in 2010 founded a namesake Los Angeles-based think tank as a vehicle of that commitment, aimed at convening panels of experts to reach consensus ideas -- more appealing to the public than one billionaire's own musings -- to better the world. Among its projects is a "21st Century Council" of former heads of state, Nobel laureates and others pursuing global governance reform. It also has a "Future of Europe" project seeking a way toward integration and out of debt, and a "Vision for Africa" project aimed at enriching and democratizing that continent.
Fixing California might seem easy by comparison -- unless you know much about California.
Progressive Democratic activist Robert Cruickshank blogged that if Berggruen really wants to help California, "he would take the $20 million he is pledging to spend on this shockingly regressive proposal and instead invest it in an initiative to raise taxes on the rich, on corporations, and to fix the state's unfair property tax system. Instead he's using it to help himself and his friends get even richer."
California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro issued a statement saying he's "saddened to hear that some believe that a massive new category of taxation is the answer to California's economic or budget problems."
Berggruen hoped to overcome this schism by assembling a diverse panel of the state's top political and business minds, unburdened by concerns of re-election or even popularity.
Former Gov. Gray Davis said he had met Berggruen only once before, briefly, when the billionaire came to him in February 2010 seeking "a couple of ex-governors to lead this operation." That didn't work out, but a heavy-hitting bipartisan panel was convened nonetheless.
"It was spirited at times, but basically ... a relatively amicable and positive environment, because we all realized what we were there to do," Davis said -- to smooth California's boom-and-bust fiscal cycle, and reform its shortsighted, must-get-re-elected governance.
Of Berggruen, Davis said, "As far as I can tell, what you see is what you get -- he wants to do his part to leave this world better off and he's willing to devote a lot of his time and a good deal of his resources to make that happen, with no guarantee of success."
Berggruen said he knew the report would meet with push back.
"Entrenched interests will always defend the status quo," he said. "Californians know the system doesn't work. ... People have to be in a state of mind where they know change is needed."
There are some third rails even a billionaire won't touch. Altering Proposition 13's property-tax strictures -- perhaps a "split-roll" plan for commercial property reassessment, or modifying the two-thirds legislative majority requirement for tax votes -- "obviously was discussed" but "could've made the overall plan less feasible," Berggruen said.
Davis expects Berggruen will have final versions of the proposed ballot measures by Christmas and then get them cleared for petition circulation.
Berggruen believes in letting voters directly decide the state's fate.
"At the end of the day," he said, "that's the ultimate way of giving citizens the real power."

Think Long Committee for California -
Billionaire Nicolas Berggruen convened a group of political and economic powerhouses to discuss ways to reform the state's government. Other than Berggruen, the roster includes:
David Bonderman, billionaire investor
Eli Broad, billionaire homebuilder and philanthropist
Willie Brown, ex-Assembly speaker, ex-San Francisco mayor
Gray Davis, former governor
Maria Elena Durazo, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor executive secretary-treasurer*
Matt Fong, former state treasurer**
Ronald George, former California chief justice
Antonia Hernandez, California Community Foundation
Robert Hertzberg, former Assembly speaker
Gerald Parsky, appointee in five Republican presidential
Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state (George W. Bush administration)
Eric Schmidt, Google chairman
Terry Semel, former Warner Bros. and Yahoo CEO
George Shultz, former U.S. secretary of state (Reagan
Laura Tyson, former Council of Economic Advisers
chairwoman (Clinton administration)
*abstained from vote on final recommendations
**died in June

Proposed measures -
Berggruen intends to fund measures in November to push two Think Long Committee ideas:
TAX REFORM: Broaden the state's tax base while raising $10 billion per year in new revenue by extending the state sales tax to services such as auto repair, dry cleaning, legal work and accounting (but not health care or education), while lowering the sales tax on goods, reducing personal income tax rates and reducing the corporate tax rate.
CITIZEN COUNCIL: The "independent, impartial and nonpartisan" Citizens Council for Government Accountability would have 13 members -- including nine named by the governor -- to oversee government functions and conduct long-term planning. It would have power to place measures directly on the ballot without collecting signatures, and to have the secretary of state publish its comments and positions on measures in the state voters' guide. It also would have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents.

Nicolas berggruen
Age: 50
Born: Paris
Residence: He has no permanent residence; he lives in hotels as he travels the globe.
Voter registration: Registered Democrat in Florida
Education: Bachelor's degree in finance and international business, New York University
Occupation: Investor, financier, with holdings in various industries around the world
Net worth: $2.3 billion (ranked No. 171 on Forbes' list of richest people in America)
Seen at his 2011 pre-Oscar party: Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons

Friday, December 2, 2011

2011-12-02 "Tax-the-rich measures may cancel each other out" by Joe Garofoli, Wyatt Buchanan, Marisa Lagos from "San Francisco Chronicle"
The tax-the-rich sentiment behind the Occupy Wall Street movement - and the cash-starved state budget - are reshaping California politics.
Several measures to raise taxes are aimed at the November ballot and most would hit the wallets of the wealthiest Californians.
At least five tax-raising ballot initiatives backed by people with deep pockets are gaining momentum, including one expected to be filed today by Gov. Jerry Brown. However, some supporters worry that the initiatives could be too much of the same thing.
 Some of the competing measures are being funded by labor unions and left-leaning groups that typically are political allies. While analysts expect the logjam to thin out, the ballot box cacophony could squander a rare political moment in which Californians are open to raising taxes.
Voters have rejected the last seven tax-raising measures put before them, and history shows that when Californians see similar-sounding measures on the ballot, they vote no on all of them.
 "Especially when they involve taxes," said A.G. Block, associate director of the nonpartisan University of California Center at UC Davis.
That makes conservative antitax advocates like Jon Coupal happy.
"It's much easier to hammer home a message to voters (that says): Look at how they all want to raise your taxes," said Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which has great influence among conservative Republicans.
Noting that labor organizations are divided, Coupal said, "They can make our life more difficult if they're all reading off the same page, but I don't believe they have the capacity to do that."

Culling the offerings -
Realizing this, earlier this week, Diana Dooley, secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency, told a group gathered in San Francisco that the Brown administration is working "behind the scenes" to ensure that "we don't have competing proposals" on the ballot.
It's not clear if the governor can head off the litany of proposed measures or whether his proposal will have the most appeal to voters.
A recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed that Californians favor raising taxes on the wealthy, especially when the money goes to schools.
That's exactly what a group fronted by the liberal online Courage Campaign and the California Federation of Teachers wants to do. On Thursday, they proposed an initiative that would raise $6 billion for K-12 education solely by raising income taxes on Californians who earn more than $1 million a year.
Another proposal, backed by the state PTA, would raise $10 billion a year in new revenue by raising taxes on a sliding scale on nearly all wage earners, with the heaviest burden on the wealthiest.
The money would go directly to local K-12 schools and early childhood education. The measure forbids the governor and legislators from using the money or directing how it may be spent. The measure is sponsored by Los Angeles attorney Molly Munger, whose billionaire father, Charles Munger, is a longtime top associate to Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.

Occupy's impact -
Munger, who described herself as a "decline-to-state voter who usually votes Democratic," said that while many of these ballot initiatives have been discussed in some form for months, the Occupy Wall Street movement "shined a light on what was going on. They were right to make a fuss about the inequalities in our system and ask what could be done about it."
Brown's initiative, which would raise income taxes on wealthy Californians and increase the sales tax by half a cent for four years, has a broader scope but also an expiration date.
Sources involved in the talks with the governor said the plan, if approved by voters, would raise roughly $7 billion. Still, that wouldn't be enough to fully cover the projected budget shortfall next year, which the Legislative Analyst's Office has estimated will be $13 billion.
Brown's plan would include stair-stepped tax increases, starting with individuals who make more than $250,000 per year. Their tax rate would increase by one percentage point. People making between $300,000 and $500,000 would see a 1.5 percentage point increase and those making more than $500,000 per year would face a 2 percentage point increase.
The current maximum income tax rate is 9.3 percent.
The half-cent increase in the sales tax would be less than what the governor had proposed earlier this year. Brown wanted to extend a 1-cent increase in the sales tax - along with other taxes increased as part of the 2009 budget deal - but he could not persuade Republican lawmakers to allow a special election on that plan.

Prison realignment -
Another key portion of the governor's proposed plan is language that would protect county funding for Brown's criminal justice realignment program, which seeks to curb overcrowding in state prisons by having more offenders serve their time in local jails and report to county probation departments instead of state parole.
Another revenue-raising ballot measure is expected to emerge from the recent report by billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen's Think Long California committee of the state's leading business executives and politicians. It proposes lowering personal income rates across the board and phasing in a 5 percent sales tax on services over four years.

Tax proposals -
Backer's name / Who is behind plan? / Whose taxes go up? / Taxes on wealthy / How much is raised? / Where does money go? / Temporary or permanent?
* Gov. Jerry BrownDemocrats in Legislature; labor groups including SEIU, CTA, AFSCMEEverybody's, with most on the wealthy. State sales tax increases by a half cent Income tax rates increase 1 percent for individuals making more than $250,000 per year; 2 percent for individuals making over $500,000Roughly $7 billion per year. It's not yet clear if money would go into the general fund or be dedicated elsewhere in areas such as educationTax increases would expire in 2016
* Think Long CaliforniaBillionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen leads group including Google's Eric Schmidt; Condoleezza Rice, Eli Broad, Willie Brown 5 percent sales tax on certain services phased in over four years. Income tax code simplified to two rates: 2 percent for joint filers who make $45,000 to $95,000; 7.5 percent for those earning moreRetains 1 percent surcharge for those earning more than $1 million. Top 5 percent would pay 62 percent of all income taxes. Reduces corporate tax from 8.84 percent to 7 percent $10 billion earmarked largely for public education and to pay down the state's debtNo sunset
* Our Children, Our Future: Local Schools and Early Education Investment Act Los Angeles attorney Molly Munger; endorsed by state PTA Sliding scale affects all but very low-income. High earners pay more Couple earning $1.5 million would pay $27,266 more. Couple earning $75,000 would pay $428 more. $10 billion earmarked directly to local K-12 education. Neither Legislature nor governor can touch fundsExpires after 12 years
* The California Clean Energy Jobs ActBillionaire San Francisco hedge fund manager Tom Steyer leads this groupWould require that corporations determine the taxes they owe based on the portion of their national sales that take place in CaliforniaFocused on corporationsAbout $1 billion per year. Of that, $550 million would be dedicated to a Clean Energy Job Fund that would pay for projects involving energy efficiency and clean energy productionMoney would be placed in the fund through 2018
* California Funding Restoration ActCalifornia Federation of Teachers; Courage Campaign; a number of community groupsWould raise income taxes 3 percent on individuals and families earning more than $1 million a year. Would increase to 5 percent on those earning more than $2 million a yearOnly those earning more than $1 million $6 billion annually for K-12 and higher educationNo sunset

Thursday, December 1, 2011

2011-12-01 "Pulling the Trigger on Failing Schools; Parents aim for "revolution" — again" by Simone Wilson
This time last year, a storm was brewing in northwest Compton.
More than 60 percent of parents from McKinley Elementary, guided by a then-unknown nonprofit called Parent Revolution, had prepared a petition for the Compton Unified School District. They hoped to make history by using a controversial, untested California law — nicknamed the "parent trigger" — to wrangle their children's failing school from the district's clutches.
L.A. Weekly reporter Patrick Range McDonald observed as more than a dozen parent recruits went door to door, convincing low-income McKinley families of the superior education that charter operator Celerity Educational Group could offer their kids. All they had to do was sign the petition and Celerity could take over.
But as soon as those signatures hit the superintendent's desk Dec. 7 — effectively "pulling the trigger" — sparks flew. McKinley administrators, teachers and members of the Parent-Teacher Association fought back with a vengeance, alleging that Parent Revolution was handmaiden to the charter-school industry and had won over impressionable parents with sugar-coated lies. Forced to fend off the district in court, Parent Revolution urged Gov. Jerry Brown's State Board of Education to codify regulations for parent triggers, which would be critical to any implementation of the law.
By the time those rules were finally set in stone, however, it was too late for McKinley. Without regulations to guide the petitioning process, all district officials had to do was identify a missing date box and the historic effort turned to ash.
One year later, with that colossal bust under their belts, Parent Revolution organizers are taking a more careful approach.
Instead of pushing disenfranchised parents into battle under a shiny Parent Revolution flag, the organization has been fostering "parent unions" at schools across California. Of the 10 current chapters, most aren't interested in pulling the trigger. At those schools, Revolution is merely helping give parents bargaining power against the other unions on the block: the all-powerful California Teachers Association and, locally, United Teachers Los Angeles.
One of the parent-union chapters, however, has been itching for months to launch a full-scale "restart" of its struggling SoCal elementary school — one of the trigger's four options. Organizers asked the Weekly not to name the campus in question, as doing so could create extra obstacles for the fledgling effort. Members planned to begin a signature drive this week.
The second trigger test run comes just as the law's regulations go into effect. "We actually had to say, 'Slow down,' " says Linda Serrato, deputy communications director for Parent Revolution.
If they wish to turn their school around by the start of the 2012-13 academic year, this small group of petitioners has until February to get signatures from hundreds more parents. From there, the district has 45 days to find something legally unsound with the petition — or concede to the trigger.
Christina Sanchez, a Parent Revolution staffer, says the organization will be taking a back seat this time around.
"Our role has been fine-tuning their specific demands for change," Sanchez says.
Parent Revolution's roots in the charter-school industry — and its wealthy donors, such as Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton family — have so far haunted every step of its education-reform crusade. Plus, by demanding teacher accountability, the organization has become a target of California teachers unions, which have been known to lobby and pay away any legislation that puts pressure on teachers.
The "charter school" bugaboo certainly played a role in Revolution's first failure. Fighting the trigger became a source of hometown pride. Overheard in the crowd at one particularly heated board meeting: "Charter schools are viruses!" "You will not replace us! You will not call us refugees!" "The 'Revolution' did not start in Compton, but it will stop in Compton!"
But the parents driving the new trigger have no intention of turning their kids' campus into a charter. Instead, once petitioners collect enough signatures, they're looking to form a non-charter education management organization, run by the district, to fit their children's needs.
These parents "don't have positive feelings about charter schools," Sanchez says. "They don't want people to label this an outside organization."
Since its failure in Compton, Parent Revolution has fought to win back public favor. Most recently, organizers took a bus full of journalists — including one from the Weekly and two from the Los Angeles Times, a big media adversary at the outset — on a tour to meet the new chapters. Backyard scenes of grassroots organizing were complete with laughing children, hand-drawn signs and chicken coops.
The most lively stop on the tour was majority-Latino Lynwood, which Revolution organizers introduced as "ground zero for parent empowerment throughout the entire state." Alma Alvarado, a parent at Washington Elementary, stepped bravely to the podium, announcing that her fourth-grader still couldn't read. In the crowd, another mom concurred by way of neon posterboard: "Mi hijo no sabe leer."
More than 100 passionate parents, who had been pressuring school officials long before the parent-union concept was born, now gladly aligned themselves with the brand. "Parent Revolution! Parent Revolution!" they chanted.
The nonprofit isn't always so warmly received. According to parent-union organizers at Muir High School in Pasadena, the PTA has resisted working with Parent Revolution associates. And one PTA mom who joined the parent union at Desert Trails Elementary in rural Adelanto was promptly asked to resign from the PTA, Sanchez says.
"There's definitely the idea that we might be up to something else," says Yuri Anaya, a Parent Revolution organizer of two chapters in Pasadena. She claims she's overheard fearful whispers that a trigger effort might be underfoot, even though Muir High and Jefferson Elementary aren't among the 1,300-plus California schools performing poorly enough to be eligible for trigger reform.
On the tour bus in September, Parent Revolution founders Ben Austin and Pat DeTemple brushed off the Weekly's attempts at a "charters versus unions" debate.
Both forces, if left unchecked, will grow too powerful, they explained. That's why a third pillar — formed by parents, who answer to nobody but their kids — is necessary to keep education reform on track.
The weight of Compton clearly has been lifted from their shoulders. Celerity, the charter school that had been ready to take over McKinley, ended up moving into an empty schoolhouse next door. One-third of McKinley students soon transferred over. And according to Jennifer Welsh, a documentary filmmaker who followed the first trigger attempt, Compton Unified officials have said in recent interviews that they learned a lot from the experience. Once the national spotlight flooded the district's dark conference room, elected officials realized their 50 percent graduation rate wouldn't cut it forever.
As for Parents Revolution, Austin says, "We've been kind of becoming a lot more wonky lately." This month, directors even filled a brand-new post: policy director.
Christina Vargas, the woman chosen for the job, says she's been poring through a "myriad of different sources" — think tank Mass Insight, for example, and Harvard research — and condensing them into digestible, three-hour info sessions.
"That's the part that's exciting," Vargas says. "How do we create an informed and empowered body of parents?"
By reviewing studies on what makes teachers and classrooms most effective, Vargas says, parents can use that information however they please: to lobby politicians in Sacramento, to barter with school officials or — when all else fails — to pull the trigger.

Alma Alvarado and her daughter, Jessica Alvarez, at Lynwood's Washington Elementary