Roman Catholic Church Lobbies for a New Regional Public Power Agency in California

Roman Catholic theological positions on climate change and social justice have motivated the Diocese of Monterey to campaign for a new government-controlled regional electricity utility for three Central California coastal counties. This public agency, called Monterey Bay Community Power, will soon provide electricity for customers in Santa Cruz County, San Benito County, and Monterey County. It will compete for customers against an existing investor-owned utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

Bishop of Diocese of Monterey to Monterey City Council on Monterey Bay Community Power - February 27, 2017The lobbying effort for this “community choice aggregation” regional agency begins at the top. The Bishop of the Diocese of Monterey has sent letters to elected officials to urge support for the agency. And the Deacon of Social Justice Ministries for the Diocese has spoken in favor of the agency during public comment at various local government meetings. But the activism is not limited to church leaders.

As part of the lobbying campaign to establish this proposed agency, the Diocese of Monterey has coordinated speakers to promote the agency at church services, collected signatures on petitions to support it, encouraged notices about supporting the agency in church bulletins, and organized people to attend local government meetings to speak in support of it.

The Diocese collaborates in this grassroots activism with the Romero Institute, a Santa Cruz-based Catholic social justice policy center, to lobby for Monterey Bay Community Power as a program to fight global climate change and regional poverty. The Romero Institute in turn has created another program called Greenpower to lobby for the agency.

Is it legal for a church to lobby so vigorously for a government program? Apparently it is. Among these three organizations, the Roman Catholic Church has attained full freedom of speech to argue for the establishment of this new government agency.

In contrast, the private corporation that will face new competition funded by ratepayers has its speech strictly limited, so much so that it cannot speak at all about the proposed agency in these three counties. A state law enacted in 2011 (Senate Bill 790) greatly restricts the ability of PG&E to market itself against community choice aggregation agencies such as Monterey Bay Community Power.

Because electric customers in these three counties will need to actively notify Monterey Bay Community Power if they want to “opt-out” and keep PG&E as their electricity supplier, supporters of the new agency anticipate that 85%-90% of PG&E customers will by default become customers of Monterey Bay Community Power.

From a certain perspective, breaking the monopoly of a public utility could benefit ratepayers by driving down prices for electricity and improving service. But dependable electricity at competitive prices is not a primary goal of the Diocese of Monterey.

Leaders of the regional church movement for government-controlled electricity generation are inspired by a authoritative call from Pope Francis – articulated in a 2015 Papal encyclical entitled Laudito Si for governments to adopt policies that stop climate change while also helping the poor. Combined with other encyclicals, Laudito Si is moral authority for the Catholic Church to support state and local initiatives in California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reorganize economic and social institutions so that wealth and power are distributed more equally.

This religious call to save the earth and heal the poor is taken seriously by California government leaders. For example, Governor Jerry Brown and mayors of some of the state’s major cities attended a workshop and symposium at the Vatican in 2015 about global climate change. Governor Brown brought to this conference a resolution from the California State Legislature: Senate Resolution 37 called on President Obama, the U.S. Congress, and California’s executive and legislative branches to consider the policy implications of the June 18, 2015 encyclical from Pope Francis on climate change.

(See my Flash Report article “Hobnobbing with the Pope to Stop Climate Change: The Inside Scoop” for more details on how California elected officials participated in this conference.)

The Vatican obviously sees California as a place with potential to adopt public policies that advance its teachings on global climate change and social justice. Its Vatican-sponsored U.S. Regional “World Meeting of Popular Movements,” held in Modesto, California on February 16-19, was intended to “create an ‘encounter’ between Church leadership and grassroots organizations working to address the ‘economy of exclusion and inequality’ by working for structural changes that promote social, economic and racial justice.”

There appears to be no evidence of public criticism or objections to how the Catholic Church and allied Catholic policy organizations are influencing public policies at the state and local level in California related to climate change and social justice. Perhaps this an indication of strength, as shown in a 2015 article in the Sacramento Bee entitled “The Modern Rise of the Catholic Church in California (in Eight Charts).” It’s becoming politically hazardous in California to challenge the Roman Catholic Church on economic and social justice issues.

News Coverage of Vatican Influence on California Public Policy

Monterey Bay Community Power

For environmental activist, fighting for the planet and the poor are the same thing – Monterey Herald – March 7, 2017

Powered by faith: Catholics are fueling support for a regional independent power agency – Monterey Herald – March 4, 2017

Monterey bishop: Green power protects the environment and the poorMonterey Herald – January 20, 2017

Diocese keen on alternative energySalinas Californian – January 20, 2017

Monterey, Calif., diocese enters ‘new era’ with sustainable energy programNational Catholic Reporter – October 3, 2016

Letter to Parishes Re: Green Teams – June 7, 2016

World Meeting of Popular Movements

‘Unbreakable’: World Meeting for justice opens in CaliforniaNational Catholic Reporter – February 17, 2017

Vatican inequality talks start in California farm heartlandSan Jose Mercury-News (via Associated Press) – February 16, 2017

Vatican-Led Meeting in Modesto Tackles Walls and Social JusticeModesto Bee – February 16, 2017

Modesto’s Central Catholic Readies for Large Vatican-Led MeetingModesto Bee – February 11,  2017


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Tax-Free Teachers?

California school districts lay off teachers…then two legislators move to fix the “teacher shortage problem.” 

In a surreal political moment, California State Senators Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) and Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) have introduced the “Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2017” which offers a novel incentive for teachers to remain in the profession. Senate Bill 807 would exempt California educators from paying the state income tax after five years on the job, in addition to allowing a tax deduction for the cost of attaining their teaching credential. If passed, the bill is estimated to cost the already burdened California taxpayers an additional $600 million a year. All this is transpiring because of an alleged teacher shortage.

So, let’s see – if we indeed have a shortage, why exactly are districts laying off teachers? In Santa Ana, 287 teachers were just pink-slipped, essentially because the school district couldn’t afford to keep them. Seems that the Santa Ana Educators Association had pushed for and received an across-the-board 10 percent pay raise in 2015. The money had to come from somewhere, and it’s going to come from what would have been used to pay 287 of the newest hired, now soon to be laid off teachers. San Diego, facing a major deficit – much of it due to spiraling pension costs – is about to lay off about 900 recently hired teachers.

In fact, these types of fiscal issues are burdening more and more school districts across the state. So I suppose one could argue that we have a teacher shortage because we are laying them off. But however you identify the problem, the way to solve it is to rejigger teacher union orchestrated state laws and teacher work rules that are mandated in a typical union contract, thereby attracting and maintaining the most talented teachers, rather than giving older, more senior ones – competent or not – more money.

On the state level, defined benefit pensions for teachers, a union must, are causing school districts to go deep into the red and now the Golden (State) Goose is beginning to dry up. A great way to keep young teachers in the field – and ultimately save school districts and the state billions of dollars – would be to offer them a higher salary rather than way-down-the-road retirement benefits that many will never see.

Also, a state issue, the union’s hideous seniority or  “last in, first out” law, one of the statutes that Vergara judge Rolf Treu said “shocks the conscience,” is clearly a deterrent to promising young teachers. Why should a bright, enthusiastic, skilled 20-something enter a field where her worth isn’t appreciated? She knows that no matter how good she is, come tough fiscal times, her job may very well disappear. So she would rather go into a field where her abilities are truly appreciated, and the quality of her work matters more than the number of years she has been employed.

Locally, the unions keep talented teachers from entering and staying in the profession by insisting on a quality-blind way of paying them. In just about every district in the state, public school teachers are part of an industrial style “step and column” salary regimen, which treats them as interchangeable widgets. They get salary increases for the number of years they work, and for taking (usually meaningless) professional development classes. Great teachers are worth more – a lot more – and should receive higher pay than their less capable colleagues. But they don’t. Also, if a district is short on science teachers, it’s only logical to pay them more than other teachers whose fields are over-populated. But, of course, stifling union contracts don’t allow for this kind of flexibility.

Another local way to promote and pay great teachers is to get beyond the smaller-classes-are-always-better myth. To be sure small class-size does help some kids, but for most it matters not a whit. In fact, some kids – like me – did better in bigger classes. But, thanks to union lobbying for more dues-paying members, class sizes are kept small. In fact, as Mike Antonucci writes, “Since 1921 (nationally) we have almost quintupled the number of teachers, more than quintupled the average teacher salary in inflation-adjusted dollars, and also cut the student-teacher ratio in half.” In California, the student-teacher ratio is currently under 20:1. Yet on the 2015 NAEP test, California’s 4th graders ranked 49th in the country in reading and 48th in math. So school districts should be able to give great teachers a stipend and add a few kids to their classes. That would net more quality teachers and higher achieving students at a lower cost to the taxpayers, but the unions won’t allow it.

To achieve badly needed education reforms in California, state legislators and local school board members must stand up to the powerful teachers unions. Until then, all we are doing – SB 807 being the latest example – is putting a heavy coat of lipstick on a bloated tax-sucking pig.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

The Biggest Dupes in the History of the World

Last week the California Policy Center released a new study that compared the average full-career government pension to the average annual earnings of a full-time private sector worker. Not surprisingly, at least for anyone paying attention, ex-government workers make 26% more than people make in the private sector who are still working. The average government pension after 30 years work? $68,673. The average private sector pay? $54,326.

How is it possible to pay government workers more when they’re retired than the rest of us make while we work? How can we afford this? When you try to answer this question, you begin to see just how misguided the left in California has gotten – at least the “left” as it is conventionally understood.

Because the left wants everything. And the government unions who control the “left” in California, along with the state legislature and nearly every major city and county, promise everything. If any politician or public speaker stands up to them, they help organize demonstrations by left-wing activists, where, when they aren’t breaking windows and spraying innocent people with mace, they chant silly little phrases.

For example, they want to turn California into a “sanctuary” and invite millions of destitute immigrants to join the millions who are already here. But at the same time, they want to block development of land, energy, water, and transportation assets, because that might harm the earth.

please come on in, we welcome millions more
but building homes is sinful, so go sleep on the floor

The reason leftists are dupes is because despite all their resentment of “privilege,” they ignore the agenda of the most privileged special interest that has ever existed, which are the government unions in the State of California. They’re so busy insisting that California’s government invite the entire world’s destitute population – while simultaneously doing nothing to make room for them – that they’ve failed to realize that it is the government unions who are the only winners in this miserable equation.

neglect the roads, let dams give way
but increase public servant pay

Every era has had its dupes, but the reason California’s leftists are the biggest dupes in the history of the world is because they haven’t figured out that their supposed friends are actually sleeping with the enemy. The left demonizes the wealthy, they demonize the banks, they demonize “Wall Street,” but fail to realize that their own state government – leftist to the core – is partnering with these corrupt financial special interests.

Who do they think invests nearly $800 billion of pension fund assets, collecting billions in fees? Who do they think lends billions to cash-strapped state and local governments that have gone broke paying government workers twice what ordinary citizens make? Who do you think benefits when restrictions on land and energy development cause asset bubbles at the same time as they drive the cost of living through the roof?

we hate wealth, we hate greed
but we are Wall Street’s friend in need

or

invest your savings in the market, and lose it in the crash
but we’ll increase your taxes, so pension funds have cash

No expose of California’s left is complete without mentioning how they have corrupted environmentalism. In a practical world, we would strike a reasonable balance between development and preservation, so prosperity might lift billions out of poverty, empower women who actually need empowerment, and stabilize those burgeoning populations who eye the developed nations with understandable envy. Instead, California’s leftist oligarchs, supported by millions of leftist dupes, have decided to encourage immigration while actually curtailing our supplies of energy, water and land.

If this were all based on pure and naive idealism, one might forgive it. But these Malthusian, misanthropic masochists have embraced rationing as a substitute for development, abetted by surveillance systems that would make George Orwell blush, to make sure nobody uses a single kilowatt-hour or gallon of water more than they’re allotted. Want to plant a hedge, a lawn, or a “water guzzling” tree? Do you love to nurture living things on a lot bigger than a postage stamp? Not in California. Meanwhile, wealthy Silicon Valley “entrepreneurs” develop the mandatory sensors that will let your appliances monitor your behavior, at the same time as wealthy corporate interests plant vast new orchards of thirsty nut trees on the arid western acreage of the Central Valley.

take short showers, pay excessive fees
so corporations can plant Walnut trees

California’s leftists aren’t helping themselves, the rest of humanity or the earth. They are dupes of the oligarchy. They have been duped into ignoring a profound, counter-intuitive, and very nonpartisan political reality: Government unions and wealthy elites are working together to undermine our liberty and our prosperity. At best, California’s leftists are blinded by their ideals and biases. At worst, they are seditious traitors to the people and the culture that gave them the time and the freedom to crowd our public spaces with their vandalism and their vacuous rhymes.

Ed Ring is the vice president of policy research for the California Policy Center.

Union to blame for teacher layoffs in Santa Ana

Confronting a financial disaster they helped create, Santa Ana teachers union leaders did Tuesday what they’ve done for years: They blamed someone else.

In a newsletter they sent to all Santa Ana teachers, union leaders blamed me for the declining enrollment in the district’s schools.

In short, they say my work to provide parents with alternatives to underperforming schools led to an exodus of children from district schools.

It’s true that more and more Santa Ana parents are choosing public charter schools over poor-performing union-run schools. But student enrollment in Santa Ana has been falling for years. I first heard about it in a March 2015 school board meeting when the district’s assistant superintendent gave us the Facilities Master Plan, a document showing that the number of students in our district had been falling since 2002, and would continue to decline about 2 percent per year through at least 2018.

Despite that long-term decline, teachers union leaders continued to lobby for higher teacher pay every year. In any other business, a decline in customers would lead to cost-savings measures. But not in Santa Ana Unified. Since 2013, union leaders worked overtime to sell their members, and my colleagues, on a myth: that teacher pay can rise even as the student population — and the associated state and federal funding — declines.

Three times in three years, union leaders Susan Mercer and Barbara Pearson peddled that myth. Every year, my fellow trustees took the path of least resistance and caved in. In the end, teacher pay jumped a total of 16 percent over three years.

The most recent increase, a 10 percent pay raise approved 4-1 in 2015, now costs the district $32 million annually. I voted against that increase because it failed to grasp the reality of declining enrollment.

On Tuesday night, we reached the dead end of the union’s logic. That night, my colleagues on the school board — the same board members who voted for the pay raises — acknowledged that we are confronting a financial crisis. They voted to save $28 million by pink-slipping 287 teachers. Mine was the lone dissenting vote.

Those 287 teachers won’t be terminated because they’re bad teachers. They’ll be terminated only because they’re new — because the union leaders who led our teachers into a financial dead end also insisted that their contract include what’s called the LIFO (last in, first out) clause, so that in a budget crisis the most recently hired are the first to go.

Releasing those 287 teachers means that Santa Ana students will be moved into larger classes. It means that our remaining teachers will shoulder the additional work of those larger classes.

I want to speak directly to those 287 teachers who may be laid off: I’m sorry. You no doubt started your work here with great enthusiasm for the mission of educating Santa Ana’s young people. You likely knew the challenges and rewards of working here, and celebrated your new job with calls to friends and family, telling them that you were ready to embark on your teaching career with energy, courage and creativity.

You had no reason to expect that the leaders of your own union would betray you. But they did. And you had every reason to expect that our school board would protect you from the union leadership’s destructive, single-minded push for higher wages. But they didn’t.

The union leadership’s choke hold on the district — the destructive influence of union money poured into the political campaigns of my fellow trustees — confused my colleagues. They came to believe that they owed their positions to union leaders, rather than to the education of our children, the promotion of great teachers and service to our parents.

You young teachers deserved better. Our students and their families deserved better.

Cecilia “Ceci” Iglesias is a Santa Ana Unified School District board member, and community relations director for the California Policy Center’s education initiative. This commentary originally appeared in the Orange County Register  on March 12.

Women’s March Madness

International Women’s Day showed us what radical women are really about. 

March 8th saw many International Women’s Day (IWD) events that showcased elitist women’s anger and victimology. Typical was American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten who spoke at the “Women Workers Rising” rally outside the Department of Labor headquarters in Washington D.C. Among other things, the fired-up union boss told the throng that “The wage gap is real. Wage theft is real.”

Could Weingarten be totally unaware that the “wage gap” – which claims that women make only 79 cents on the dollar compared to men – is nonexistent? The fact is that while men do tend to earn more money than women, when identical jobs are compared, there is virtually no difference in salaries. The disparity comes about because men work more hours than women, take more dangerous jobs than women and typically go into higher paying fields than women. As a matter of fact, according to James Chung of Reach Advisors, a strategy, research and predictive analytics firm, in 147 out of 150 of the biggest cities in the U.S., the median full-time salaries of young women are 8 percent higher than those of men in their peer group.

Weingarten’s “pay theft” crack is especially absurd since that’s exactly what unions do in non-right-to-work states. They force workers to pay them as a condition of employment; the worker gets no choice whatsoever. If that isn’t wage theft, I don’t know what is.

Then there was “A Day Without Women,” which brought out many angry teachers, among others, across the country. In Chapel Hill, NC, Alexandria, VA and other cities, schools were forced to close due to teacher participation in local rallies. The women who took part showed where their priorities lie – not with their students and certainly not with parents, many of whom are single women who had to scramble to find last-minute childcare for the day.

In Philadelphia, hundreds of teachers played hooky, using the day to bring attention to the fact that they have had no salary increase for five years. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan played the woman angle by saying that the “The overwhelming majority of our members are female.” Okay, but women teachers make the exact same salary as men in Philadelphia…and everywhere else, so the mini-strike has nothing to do with “A Day Without Women” but rather it’s an attempt to get a wage hike for all teachers.

International Women’s Day has some interesting facets that the pink-hat brigade may not be aware of. First, the origins are pure socialist. The original National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States in February, 1909. in accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. The date was changed to March 8th by Russian women just prior to the Communist revolution in 1917.

In fact, the radical nature of IWD hasn’t changed in a 100 years. The latest incarnation still involves leadership far from of mainstream America. One of this years’ organizers is none other than Rasmea Yousef Odeh, a Palestinian who was convicted in Israel in 1970 for her part in two terrorist bombings, one of which killed two students while they were grocery shopping. Having spent 10 years in prison for her crimes, she lied about her past and ultimately managed to move to the U.S., becoming a citizen in 2004. Additionally, avowed Communist Angela Davis, who managed to beat a murder rap in 1970 and then ran off to Cuba, is on the team. Another IWD honcho is Tithi Bhattacharya, an ardent supporter of the late Mao Zedong who, when he wasn’t bedding young women, was busy murdering them. Additionally, according to the Media Research Center, left-wing Sugar Daddy George Soros has donated $246 million to groups behind the protest.

Another point worth noting is that The Action Network, a D.C.-based progressive online organizing platform, is managing the website and email lists of women’s marches all over the country.  The organization, which has partnered with major progressive groups including the AFL-CIO and National Education Association, has no women on their “team.”

Based on lies, funded by George Soros, run by far leftists, facilitated by a men’s organization, co-opted by teachers unions for their own purposes, International Women’s Day is at the juncture of elitism and radical politics, the combination of which has sent the country reeling for years now. If anyone is still wondering how in the world we wound up with Donald Trump as president, an examination of IWD’s politics, tactics and elitism is a great place to start. Sixty-two percent of white women without college degrees voted for Trump. Now that’s the kind of radical behavior the American people can relate to.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

A Progressive Take on Public Pensions

While the public pension crisis has been an issue on the right for many years, left-wing thinkers show relatively little interest in the issue. When progressives do opine on pensions, they often reject the alarm expressed by conservatives, seeing it as a smokescreen for unneeded austerity or a way to attack the public sector. In a deep blue state like California, pension reform advocates will have to reframe our arguments to better engage the left. Any such reframing should focus on two themes: sustainability and fairness.

Progressives are deeply concerned about climate change largely because scientists predict that greenhouse gas emissions will cause long-term environmental consequences. These effects, such as rising sea levels and severe heatwaves, will cause deteriorating living conditions for future generations. In short, they believe that greenhouse gas emissions must be capped because they are unsustainable.

Pension reformers have plenty of evidence that public employee retirement benefits are also unsustainable. For example, over the last ten years CalPERS contributions have been growing at a slower rate than benefits and the system is less than 80% funded. Unless something changes, there will be a day of reckoning as we have seen in places like Detroit and Puerto Rico. Even in the City of Dallas, a run on the pension system forced the mayor to change promised benefits without notice.

So, if we don’t want to leave a mess for future citizens and government employees, it is essential that we place public pensions on a sustainable footing: one in which conditions do not continuously deteriorate and there is a high likelihood that all promised benefits can be paid without crowding out other spending priorities.

Progressives also have a strong belief in fairness, which is why concerns over income inequality have gained so much traction. To many on the left, it seems unfair that some should be able to live in great comfort while many others struggle to make ends meet. This is why we have a progressive income tax system –  a legacy of the first Progressive era a century ago.

While the largest fortunes are made in the private sector, many public sector managers and public safety workers are becoming rich from government work. At our $100k Pension club website, California Policy Center lists over 50,000 public sector employees who receive more than $100,000 in annual pension benefits. Many members of the $100k club receive cash benefits in excess of $200,000 and even $300,000 annually, plus retiree health insurance.

A public employee retiring in his fifties with a $300,000 annual pension, could easily live another thirty years. That translates into lifetime pension benefits of $9 million before factoring in cost of living increases. Public employees retiring at a young age with a comfortable income can further enrich themselves with consulting gigs or new jobs in either the public or private sector. Their pension benefits are not reduced when they receive employment income. This contrasts to social security beneficiaries who lose $1 of benefits for each $2 they earn above $16,920 between the ages of 62 and 66.

In fact, retirement income prospects are much better for career public servants in California than for those of us who must rely on social security. In a new study for California Policy Center, Ed Ring finds that California public employees who worked 30 years receive pension benefits averaging $68,673.  This is more than double the maximum social security benefit for workers who begin collecting benefits at the full retirement age of 66.

So, we see a great inequity between private and public workers generally, and especially the highest paid government employees who qualify for gold plated pensions. To level the playing field, perhaps some Progressives would agree that benefits for the richest pension beneficiaries should be capped or taxed. Savings realized by the state and by local governments could go to restoring public services lost due to increasing pension costs, or to bolstering the assets of public pension plans – making them more sustainable over the long term.

Marc Joffe is the director of policy research for the California Policy Center. This article originally appeared in Fox & Hounds Daily.

Course Correction Time for Teachers Unions?

Unlikely elsewhere, but in California, just fuggedaboutit.

As I wrote recently, the teachers unions had a bad week in early February. Anti-forced unionism lawsuits, the emergence of yet another right-to-work state and the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary all combined to make for a miserable few days in Unionland. But unlike waking from a bad dream, the next morning did not bring sunshine and chirping birds.

Looking at the teachers unions’ big picture, things are not going well. As Mike Antonucci has reported, the National Education Association’s total membership loss between 2008 and 2015 was 322,000, over an 11 percent drop. In fact, due to right-to-work legislation and the proliferation of charter schools and voucher programs, just 48.7 percent of the teaching force in the U.S. is now unionized.

So how to stop the bleeding?

One thing the teachers unions could do, as Antonucci suggests, is put an end to political endorsements and stick to involvement with basic education issues, like school funding. By endorsing only left-of-center candidates, the unions alienate about half their membership. The two national teachers unions went all-in for Hillary Clinton and other Democrats in many state races in 2016, spending over $46 million in the process. (Their outlay did little good; we now have a Republican president, Republican majorities in the Senate and House, 32 Republican dominated state legislatures and 33 Republican governors.)

While neither national union made an official endorsement, both union presidents personally endorsed Keith Ellison as head of the DNC who many, including Democrats, consider a Jew-hater. Ellison, a far-lefty who regularly calls for climate justice, racial justice and wage justice, wound up losing to not-quite-as-far-left Tom Perez.

Also, with no knowledge of how its membership felt about the nomination of conservative school-choicer Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, NEA rallied its activists to send over a million emails and make over 40,000 calls in an attempt to lobby Republican Senators to vote against her confirmation. That, too, failed.

So is it time for the teachers unions to depoliticize just a bit, and take into account that a large group of their members are just not buying what they are selling? If California is any indication, the answer is an emphatic “No.” In fact, unions in the Golden State are doubling down.

The California Teachers Association’s brand new “Call to Action” website is chock full of leftwing agitprop that will appeal to anyone who has an affinity for the chaotic and destructive 1960s. A poster which screams “Stand with me! Stand for…SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR ALL” is adorned with a clenched fist and “WeAreCTA,” just as a reminder who’s sponsoring the message. The social justice toolkit is full of documents, posters and “shareables” that would make V.I. Lenin and George Soros proud. But what about the 35 percent of the union’s members who former CTA president Dean Vogel claims are to the right of center?  They are invisible; their views are nowhere to be found.

The California Federation of Teachers website is also a leftist’s dream. “After the most divisive election in living memory, healing begins with resistance” is just the beginning of an anti-conservative tirade that is indistinguishable from the most vitriolic soap-box socialist harangue at Berkeley circa 1968. Present on the same page is a link to the always endearing Zinn Education Project, which “stands in solidarity with those who have denounced Donald Trump’s racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and Islamophobia—as well as his ignorant and deadly proposals about the environment and climate change. We have been encouraged by the young people—in our classrooms and in the streets—who are living the maxim that ‘people make history.’”

Yes, people do indeed make history, and the people elected Donald Trump. But I guess The CFT/Zinn crowd considers some people more equal than others.

In Los Angeles, teachers had a chance to vote out the current union president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, who threatens a “state crisis” if his leftist demands aren’t embraced. His opponent, Lisa Karahalios, running as a reformer, claimed that Caputo-Pearl was neglecting the needs of individual teachers as he pursued his political agenda. But with a small turn out – only 26 percent of members voted – Caputo-Pearl garnered 82 percent of the votes cast. So the incumbent won by getting the vote of just 21 percent of all teachers – hardly a mandate. What of the 79 percent who didn’t vote for Caputo-Pearl? Many of them have views that clash with United Teachers of Los Angeles’ radical agenda and they will remain invisible.

Clearly, there is no place for conservative teachers at the union table. And considering the fact that it is unlikely that teacher union politics will undergo a sea change – certainly not in California – look for membership numbers to dwindle further. Additionally, should right-to-work legislation and litigation continue to advance, the teachers unions may well see a rush of members heading for the exit.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

California is world-leader in traffic; Caltrans engineers get raises

Gov. Jerry Brown has often expressed his vision of California as America’s – maybe the world’s – leader in technology, climate change, anti-smoking campaigns, environmental protection, health care for the poor. But California is inarguably the leader in one category: Two California cities are among the world’s worst for traffic congestion.

Los Angeles ranked No. 1 and San Francisco No. 4 on the list of worst traffic, just published by Intrix, a transportation analytics firm. Moscow (No. 2), New York (3), and Bogota (5) round out the Top 5.

On average, Intrix found, L.A. residents spend 104 additional hours annually in peak-time traffic – about $2,408 per driver per year in lost productivity and fuel costs. An annual study conducted by TRIP, a transportation research non-profit, found the most potholed roads in the U.S. in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego – in that order. TRIP’s most recent study, in August 2016, calculated that lousy roads cost drivers in these cities over $1,000 a year in car repairs and maintenance.

Those roads are unlikely to improve anytime soon. That’s because while tax revenue has increased, infrastructure spending hasn’t. State auditors found 3,500 unnecessary staff at Caltrans, where projects run over budget 62 percent of the time. The state transportation agency spends three times the national average to build and maintain roads, making California one of the nation’s least-efficient users of tax dollars.

Despite all that, Caltrans union leaders in December won their members a 14 percent salary increase.

State officials have reacted to the crisis in transportation with a $68 billion high-speed railway (HSR) – despite evidence that it’ll be underutilized and costs will exceed budget.

Republican legislators in California have made appeals to the Trump Administration to cut federal spending for this project, citing it as a waste of tax dollars.

Fix Our Roads, a coalition of business, labor and local government organizations, estimates that it will cost “more than $130 billion in needed upgrades to our state highway system ($59 billion) and our local streets, roads and bridges ($73 billion).” Every 10 years, the cost roughly doubles. TRIP reports that  None of the 20 most critical projects in the Los Angeles area are sufficiently funded. Contemplate that the next time you’re stuck in traffic..

California’s Public Sector Union “Deep State”

Deep State: A body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy.
–  Oxford English Dictionary

The term “Deep State” has been around for at least a decade, but it has emerged into common parlance in reference to the alleged opposition by elements of the U.S. intelligence community to the presidency of Donald Trump. An insightful analyst who has written extensively about the deep state on his blog “Of Two Minds,” is Charles Hugh Smith. In one recent commentary, Smith created a diagram of the deep state, showing how it encompasses far more than just the intelligence agencies, but constitutes the entire so-called “establishment,” where virtually every powerful elite special interest in the United States is inter-linked.

One may debate endlessly regarding to what extent there is a “deep state,” and whether or not the conflicts we are witnessing at the national level are internal conflicts within deep state special interests or a conflict between a united deep state and a populist insurgency. But the diagram that Smith invented is useful, and has been co-opted here with new labels. Because we have a “deep state” here in California. And at the center is not the intelligence community, but public sector unions.

CALIFORNIA’S PUBLIC UNION “DEEP STATE”

In the above diagram, at the center of it all are Public Unions. Immediately adjacent to them are the entities where they exercise the most influence, if not outright control – public education, state and local politicians and bureaucrats, and political consultants. Almost, but not entirely co-equal to these public unions are the corporate special interests, businesses that either depend directly on government contracts and subsidies for their prosperity, or businesses that depend heavily on a favorable legislative environment to survive.

Public sector unions in California collect and spend over $1.0 billion per year in dues. To the extent this money doesn’t flow directly into the pockets of politicians, political consultants and lobbyists, it goes to public relations firms, law firms, and academic institutions to engage in non-political public education. This soft money is heavily supplemented by funds coming from public entities and liberal oligarchs who support the same political agenda as the public unions.

The primary goal of the public sector union deep state is bigger government. Public sector unions thrive and grow by increasing their membership and increasing their dues revenue. This means more government programs is their first priority, while the value and benefit of government programs is a secondary priority. As a result, those elites that benefit from bigger government become junior partners to the public unions.

For example, public unions demand excessive pay, benefits and work rules that increase headcount. The impact this has on the financial sector is obvious. The increased cost of government creates budget deficits, which spells opportunities for bond underwriters. Pension formula enhancements create more business for pension funds and the powerful financial special interests who are clients of the pension systems.

How the public union deep state impacts the rest of the business sector is not quite as obvious, but equally detrimental to the interests of ordinary Californians. At the core of this is the synergy between the “green” lobby and the government unions. The green lobby opposes development of infrastructure on principle, the government unions want those funds for their pay and benefits. The business sector adapts to this reality, especially those businesses that benefit from politically contrived, artificial scarcity.

This would include public utilities, who operate on fixed profit percentages and therefore only make more money if they charge more expensive prices per unit – hence their alliance with the renewable energy industry. Developers who seek government grants for subsidized “low income” housing justify their appeals based on the unaffordable prices for homes and rentals. Proponents of high-speed rail and light rail benefit from the neglect of roads and freeways. Silicon Valley “green” entrepreneurs sell expensive internet enabled appliances that purportedly save the planet by consuming marginally less electricity and water.

Meanwhile, the teachers union and their cohorts on the faculties of public universities promote identity politics as the most compelling moral preoccupation a conscientious young idealist can possibly embrace. In their orbit, the grievance industry, the multi-lingual industry, the campus and community organizers and green activists all find a welcome home, and all of this provides a useful distraction from the reality: California’s public sector union deep state has elevated the cost-of-living to punitive levels in order to consolidate their own power and wealth.

The next time you hear the phrase “deep state,” know that it is alive and well. Right here in sunny California.

Ed Ring is the vice president of policy research for the California Policy Center.

Contracting With OC Sheriff Means Buying Into Expensive Union Benefits

Thirteen of Orange County’s 34 cities contract their policing services to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Contracting out services can save cities the hassles and costs of dealing with their own unionized workforces. But when Orange County cities contract with the County Sheriff, they are absorbing the high cost of OC’s unionized law enforcement.

The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS) analyzed the numbers and concluded that contract cities pay much less for police protection than those that maintain their own forces. AOCDS arrived at this conclusion by obtaining budgeted police expenditures for each city and then dividing by that city’s population.  The AOCDS found that contract cities paid an average of $195 per resident for policing versus $362 per resident for cities that had their own forces.

The contracted costs appear quite reasonable by national standards. Based on a survey of 12,000 local police departments across the country, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported an average policing cost of $279 per resident in 2013. BJS found policing costs to be higher in larger cities:  the per resident average varied from $228 in cities of 10,000-25,000 people to $391 in cities of more than one million residents.

Per resident law enforcement costs do not consider differences in crime rates and police department effectiveness. To incorporate these factors, it may be more appropriate to look at cost per clearance. A clearance occurs when a reported crime is resolved, usually by an arrest. Clearance data is collected by the FBI and included in California’s Open Justice database. On a cost per clearance basis, Orange County contract cities still pay less on average, but the difference is no longer statistically significant. This calculation also highlights just how expensive policing is in Orange County: resolving a single crime costs, on average, over $95,000.

AOCDS’s calculations with our additions are shown below:

So, regardless of whether cities contract or operate their own police departments, they pay a high bill for law enforcement.

We reviewed contracts signed by several Orange County communities with the County Sheriff and found that they included steep personnel costs. Rates varied slightly across the cities we reviewed, but these 2016 personnel rates charged to the cities of Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo are representative:


When benefits are included, the cost of employing a sergeant becomes much higher. Because many employees are eligible to retire in their fifties at 90% of salary, the county must make large pension fund contributions on their behalf. According to the most recent Orange County Employees Retirement System (OCERS) Actuarial Valuation, pension contributions for law enforcement employees range up to 63% of salary, with most of the contributions being borne by the County as opposed to employees.These high personnel rates appear to be driven by the attractive salaries and benefits offered by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Right now, a Sergeant’s base salary can reach $126,090 per year, and this maximum will rise to $134,000 per year in 2019 under the current contract.Relative to 2008, the rate for a Lieutenant was 20% higher in 2016; for a Sergeant, the increase was 18%. On an annual basis, personnel cost increases were a not unreasonable 2%.

Under the AOCDS contract, the County contributes $1174 per month to each employee’s health coverage rising to $1395 per month in 2019. The County also funds retiree health benefits of up to $250 per month for officers hired before 2007.

A 2015 Orange County Civil Grand Jury report found irregularities in the sheriff’s Medical Benefits Trust Fund, which is operated by the union rather than the county. The Grand Jury concluded that the benefit trust was being used to provide medical benefits to union officials not employed by the County, and to improperly subsidize retiree health benefits. The County Executive did not fully concur with the Grand Jury’s findings, but agreed to negotiate changes to the Trust arrangement in future bargaining.

Despite the costly benefits offered by the Sheriff’s department, it may be preferable to operating a standalone police department or creating regional law enforcement authorities. As long as public safety unions control employment conditions, police officers are likely to see generous health and retirement benefits wherever they work in southern California. A quick review of MOU’s for lower cost Orange County cities as well as peer cities in neighboring counties show that all offered a 3% per year pension formula.

In summary, contracting with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is not cheap in absolute terms, but may be a better alternative than operating a local police force. Unless smaller cities can find ways to provide police services without funding expensive defined benefit pension plans, contracting may still be their best option. Until state and local officials implement reforms that reduce the taxpayer cost of retirement benefits (such as the use of defined contribution, 401k-style plans), the cost of policing in Orange County and throughout California will remain very, very high.

Marc Joffe is the Director of Policy Research for the California Policy Center.

Trump Undoes Obama’s Transgender Bathroom Guidelines

…and teacher union command central is furious.

Last week, the Trump administration rightfully withdrew former President Obama’s guidelines regarding bathroom usage, which had called on schools nationwide to let transgender students choose “Boys” or “Girls,” depending on how they perceived themselves and not the old-fashioned way: by body parts. Additionally, Obama had threatened to remove funding from noncompliant schools. Now with a new sheriff in Washington, the matter will simply be left to the states.

Clearly this is an improvement, and I hope the states will take it further and let individual schools or districts determine how to handle the situation. Transgenderism is estimated to afflict about .3.6 percent of the population. So an elementary school with 500 kids will have between one and three students who consider themselves to be born in the wrong skin. Given that likelihood, why does Washington see the need to get involved? Why is the federal government telling Idaho and Utah what to do about toilet usage? Why did Obama find it necessary to threaten schools with a withdrawal of funds?

The obvious answer is that it fits the Social Justice Warrior (SJW) agenda which, all too often, is dictatorial in nature. And teacher union leaders are members in good standing in the SJW community.

So it was hardly surprising that the teacher union presidents were apoplectic over Trump’s guidelines, and resorted to their standard M.O. – hyperbole, distortions and lies. National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García insisted, “Every student matters, and every student has the right to feel safe, welcomed, and valued in our public schools. This is our legal, ethical and moral obligation. The Trump administration’s plans to reverse protections for transgender students… is dangerous, ill-advised, and unnecessary.” California Teachers Association president Eric Heins was also disturbed. “…the Trump administration’s first education action, to reverse protections for transgender students …is disheartening. To take back basic rights of transgender students at public schools nationwide sends a clear message.” And not to be outdone, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten ridiculously claimed that reversing the guidelines “tells trans kids that it’s OK with the Trump administration and the Department of Education for them to be abused and harassed at school for being trans.”

The distortions coming from teachers union leaders are truly disingenuous. There is nothing in the new guidelines that “reverses protections” or allows for abuse or harassment. The decisions on bathroom matters will simply be left to states and local education agencies, which is where they belong.

It is bizarre that, at the same time the teacher union SJWs are trying to push us into a one-size-fits-all pot, the same bunch has decided that because national politics are increasing student fear and anxiety, the best solutions are local. At a tele-town hall last week with union faithful, NEA boss Lily Eskelsen García remarked, “We do not need to wait for a governor, state legislature, or president to make the change we need. At our buildings and our school districts, we have the most agency to make change. We are the powerful voices. Together, through our dialogue with colleagues and students, and our communities, we can make a wave of change.”

“The best solutions are local.” Hmmm. That sounds downright sensible! It seems as if the union activists and García are making a subsidiarity argument, that issues should be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. But the unionistas mean that only when local control moves the ball in a direction they consider desirable. In fact, the brand new “best solutions are local” diktat is ultimately about immigration, which of course should not be a local issue. Chicago or California cannot have its own immigration policy. A school in Dallas cannot truly legally declare itself a sanctuary campus. Immigration, like foreign policy, must be set in D.C. Period. But with something that should be locally determined, like bathroom usage, Eskelsen García and her SJW allies want big D.C. daddy to make a one-size-fits-all rule.

After the Trump administration guidelines were released, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said, “We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment. I consider protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the department, but for every school in America.” She clarified her statement by criticizing the idea of “a one-size-fits-all, federal government knows best, top-down approach to issues that are best dealt with at a … local level.”

DeVos is right; students should be safe from sexual harassment. While she trusts that the states will handle the matter effectively, union honchos prefer dictatorial control from SJW command central where they have much greater influence.

With Trump and DeVos in charge, power will hopefully become more diffuse, which could make it a troubling time for dictatorial unionistas across the country.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Beyond DeVos

Editor’s Note: The confirmation of Betsy DeVos was not supported by everyone committed to improving public education, and in particular, not even to everyone committed to breaking the grip of the teachers union on public education. Rishawn Biddle is someone who vehemently opposed DeVos, but is equally vehement in his condemnation of the corruption and mismanagement that powerful unions have wrought on public education. In this article, Biddle states “There will be divides between various camps in the reform movement. In some cases, reformers will have to agree to disagree. Other times, there will be open conflict… What needs to be done is to make those conflicts productive so that it crystallizes, clarifies, reveals, humbles, and creates so that we can build better worlds for our children.” Biddle is right. In that spirit, his perspective is vital.

There should be no surprise that Betsy DeVos was confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Education this afternoon by the Senate. Nor should anyone be surprised that her confirmation required a vote by Vice President Mike Pence in his role as ceremonial leader of the federal upper house. DeVos has managed the astounding feat of gaining more votes against her confirmation than any previous appointee to the post.

Also not shocking, of course, is the visceral reaction to DeVos’ confirmation from those who supported and opposed her, especially conservative, centrist Democrat and civil rights-oriented reformers in an increasingly divided movement.

On one side, American Federation for Children, the school choice advocate DeVos previously chaired before her nomination, declared that her confirmation is “a time of opportunity and transformation”, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education sent out tweets thanking Senate Republicans (other than Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski) for voting for her. Meanwhile Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute celebrated DeVos’ nomination, accusing opponents of her nomination of “being unfair to her”.

On the other side, DeVos’ immediate predecessor as education secretary, current Education Trust President John King, hoped that DeVos would “prove us wrong”, while House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Democrat Bobby Scott declared that she “failed to make a credible case” for getting her job. Catherine Brown, the education czar for the Center for American Progress (which has emerged as the leading school reform outfit opposed to DeVos’ confirmation — and garnered the criticism of conservative reformers for its stridency), proclaimed that DeVos’ confirmation was an example of how the Amway heiress’ fortune bought her support despite being “Unprepared, unaware, and unqualified.”

Your editor has already spent months explaining why DeVos shouldn’t be Secretary of Education. Certainly her strong support for expanding school choice is much appreciated here on these pages. But transforming American public education requires more than championing choice. A Secretary of Education, who runs the agency charged with ensuring that all children, especially those black and brown, gain high-quality education must be strident and vocal against those who want to subject the most-vulnerable to the rarely-soft bigotry of low expectations, oppose bigotry even from her counterparts within an administration, and have curiosity and grasp of the policy and practice issues within American public education. DeVos has exhibited none of this so far, and unlike King, your editor has no expectation that this state of affairs will change.

This, by the way, extends to other appointees whom DeVos is bringing to the Department of Education. Certainly some of the people coming to work for the agency — including former Thomas B. Fordham Institute staffer Michael Brickman, and Matt Frendewey (who was running American Federation for Children’s communications department) are people who have proven their commitment to helping all children succeed. But past performance isn’t enough — especially when choosing to work for an administration that has denigrated the families of immigrant children, Latino children, and those of the Muslim faith. Your editor prays for them to do right by all children — and so should you. They will need every prayer for discernment we can give.

But in any case, DeVos now holds the office. Which means that reformers must continue to do the hard work transforming American public education regardless of what she and her appointees do — and, given the Trump Administration’s professed and public bigotry against those who aren’t white, in spite of them.

This starts by remembering our mission: Building brighter futures for every child, no matter who they are or where they live. As civil rights activists of the last century understood, there will always be administrations, elected officials and interest groups who will be hostile against helping all children succeed. What matters more is that we work smartly, strategically, and stridently for children as well as the families who love and care for them.

It starts by playing the Capitol Hill political game. Over the next four years, there will be regulations that will be drafted and finessed through administrative rulemaking and red-lining; legislation that will be deliberated and debated; and meetings that will be held quietly and privately. Reformers must get into every step of these processes, and master every arcane rule that can either stop legislation from passing, or lead to its passage.

This means remembering that the most-important battles over overhauling American public education lies not in Washington, but in the statehouses and local communities throughout the nation. Now, more than ever, reformers must build stronger ties to families and communities (including immigrant households, single-parent families, grandparents, and minority households).

It also means working more-closely with Black Lives Matter activists and others working to reform the criminal justice systems that also harm so many of our children. And it even means working with immigrant rights groups and branches of the American Civil Liberties Union that are fighting stridently against efforts by the Trump Administration to deport undocumented immigrants as well as working to protect children covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Finally, it means advancing the solutions needed to help every child succeed. From overhauling how we recruit, train, manage and compensate teachers, to expanding choice and Parent Power, to advancing stronger accountability (and ensuring that every institution and adult is providing high quality education to our children), there is much to be done, much we can do, and not one minute to waste.

Along the way, there will be divides between various camps in the reform movement. In some cases, reformers will have to agree to disagree. Other times, there will be open conflict. Some within the movement will leave it because they feel that colleagues with different ideologies are on the wrong side. This is to be expected. What must be accepted among all reformers is that there will be conflict. What needs to be done is to make those conflicts productive so that it crystallizes, clarifies, reveals, humbles, and creates so that we can build better worlds for our children.

Now that the battle over DeVos’ confirmation is over, let’s continue working for brighter futures for every child. Especially in this age, they need us to do all we can for them.

About the author:  RiShawn Biddle is Editor and Publisher of Dropout Nation — the leading commentary Web site on education reform — a columnist for Rare and The American Spectator, award-winning editorialist, speechwriter, communications consultant and education policy advisor. More importantly, he is a tireless advocate for improving the quality of K-12 education for every child. Biddle combines journalism, research and advocacy to bring insight on the nation’s education crisis and rally families and others to reform American public education.

The Wrong March

Despite America’s veer to the right in the recent election, Gramsci’s “long march through the institutions” goes on unimpeded.

Antonio Gramsci, an early 20th Century Marxist, believed that it was most effective to spread revolutionary ideology slowly and incrementally. By doing it gradually, he thought that enough people would eventually be won over to Marxist thought. Gramsci described his approach as the “long march through the institutions.”

Clearly the long march is well under way in our schools. Kyle Olson’s Indoctrination: How ‘Useful Idiots’ Are Using Our Schools to Subvert American Exceptionalism, which I reviewed when the book came out over five years ago, is a good place to start if the subject is new to you. Very simply, many school districts and their unions have an agenda for your kids that goes way beyond teaching them math formulas or how to write a declarative sentence.

In California, the state’s school board spends much of its time involved in social engineering. Typical is the new Social Studies Framework, which includes the following: “Through studying the stories of a very diverse collection of families, such as immigrant families, families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender parents and their children, families of color, step- and blended families, families headed by single parents, extended families, multi-generational families, families with disabled members, families from different religious traditions, and adoptive families, students can both locate themselves and their own families in history and learn about the lives and historical struggles of their peers.” The Framework seems to embrace everyone except conservatives and Ronald Reagan, who’s the target of periodic pot shots.

The latest NAEP results in California reveal that the state’s 4th graders rank 49th in the country in reading and 48th in math. Maybe one day the State Board of Education will get around to addressing these dismal results and figure out our kids need  real education rather than intense political indoctrination. But then again, maybe not.

In Los Angeles, the teachers union is pushing for a curriculum that sanitizes the Black Panther Party, the revolutionary socialist group from the 1960s. At the same time, The United Teachers of Los Angeles also encouraged its teachers to spread the word that February 20th was to be celebrated as “Not My President’s Day,” as a way to delegitimize President Trump.

Ivy Bailey, the local teacher union leader in Detroit, is not overly concerned that the illiteracy rate in the Motor City is 47 percent. Instead, her main focus these days is on sanctuary schools, which she hopes Detroit will implement.

In Illinois, an upscale Chicago-area high school is planning presentations and seminars centered on race and progressive messaging. Invoking the late Howard Zinn, the seminar comes with a one-way message: white people must admit their unjust privilege and make amends for the oppression from which they continue to profit. Zinn is the perfect avatar for this project. A professional America-hater and author of the vile pseudo-textbook  A People’s History of the United States, his philosophy often dominates our classrooms: “Objectivity is impossible and it is also undesirable.” Zinn felt that the teaching of history “should serve society in some way.” Maybe a seminar on why almost 40 percent of Chicago school teachers send their kids to private schools would be enlightening.

In Washington State, kindergartners are now being taught about the joys of gender expression and the many ways to express it. By 4th grade, students will be expected to “define sexual orientation.”

In Austin, Texas, teacher union members are instructing their students how to deal with immigration officials. Apparently the unionistas are in a snit because immigration enforcement has been carrying out “Operation Cross Check,” which has resulted in 51 arrests of illegal immigrants in the Austin area, including 23 who have criminal convictions.

A flyer, produced by the Schenectady (NY) Federation of Teachers, was sent home with every child in the school. It asked parents to help to “shield” students from President Trump and Betsy DeVos, his Secretary of Education, by besieging their legislators, whose phone numbers were included in the call-to-arms.

(H/T Daily Gazette)

The National Education Association is now fully on board the global warming train. At its last convention, the union voted to encourage state and local affiliates “to create and promote climate literacy resolutions in their own communities.” And no one is more excited than Bill Bigelow, who taught high school social studies in Oregon for almost 30 years. He is now – God help us – the co-director of the Zinn Education Project. A true believer, Bigelow is incensed that textbooks actually use conditional language of “may” and “might” when discussing climate change. Bigelow is also ticked that a popular textbook begins its second of three paragraphs on climate change: “Not all scientists agree with the theory of the greenhouse effect.” In any event, thanks to NEA’s and Zinn’s fake science, look for changes when new editions of textbooks are issued.

Gramsci’s long march is well under way and will be very hard to stop, no matter who controls the White House, governorships and state houses. The first thing that parents must do is check in with their kids daily and deprogram them if necessary. If there is evidence of indoctrination, they should try to find a school (most likely charter or private) that more closely reflects their values. The hour is late; there is no time to waste. The future of the country depends on it.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

While Retired City Manager Golfs, New Americans in El Monte Struggle to Make Ends Meet

This is one in a series of CPC profiles of members of California’s $100k Pension Club.  Learn about the elite members of this club in our new video.

Vigilant as always, Lady Liberty keeps a keen watch over the republic, representing the opportunity and freedom that is America. She stands tall, with her eternal torch beckoning the poor, the tired, and the huddled masses … of El Monte, California.

Donated by a local physician in 1986, there is a 23-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty outside El Monte’s Civic Center. She may lack the commanding presence of the original, but the location of statue is surprisingly fitting, as over half of El Monte’s population is foreign born, and over a fourth of El Monte’s residents live in poverty. The poor, huddled masses are numerous here.

Among public-sector workers, however, poverty is unlikely.

Retired City Manager James Mundessen told the LA Times that he personally receives $216,000 a year in retirement – an amount that finances a lavish lifestyle that includes golfing trips in Scotland.

Mundessen is one of eight city officials collecting over $200,000 per year. He is even granted two pensions; the traditional CalPERS and a private supplemental pension known as PARS. This adds an additional 50% to retirement checks, equalizing their benefits with the unusually high pensions enjoyed by El Monte police.

One of the most amazing aspects of this is that these employees do not pay the typical employee contribution – the city of El Monte’s taxpayers pay everything. That means that not only do the taxpayers foot the entire bill for the pension itself, they pay the legally required share that employees are supposed to pay into their own pensions. This is unheard of in the private sector, where employees are partially responsible for their 401k contributions.

Predictably, El Monte is strapped with one of the highest pension burdens in any California city – $16.5 million in 2016, which is over 28 percent of the city’s general fund expenditures.

That unusual feature is reflected in the taxes El Monte citizens pay. The sales tax in El Monte is 9.5 percent, above the LA County minimum of 9 percent, and way above the statewide  minimum of 7.5 percent. Mayor Andre Quintero believes that without his city’s unusually high property taxes, El Monte would have already gone bankrupt. Homeowners in El Monte pay an extra 0.15 percent tax based on the assessed value of their property for the purpose of paying the pensions.

Even that won’t be enough. While the property tax surcharge generated over $9.4 million last year, the total sum of El Monte’s pension obligations for the year was a staggering $16.5 million. The portion left unpaid by the property tax had to come from the general fund. According to El Monte’s 2016 budget, the city’s longterm debts total $244 million.

Pension debt is crowding out spending on other line items in the city budget, including public safety, infrastructure and social services.

The city has taken steps to curb its inflated pensions. In 2008, it closed off the plan to new employees, and the city council later eliminated the possibility of reinstating such plans.

But the benefit is written into collective bargaining agreements with unions, and California courts have concluded that employees are entitled to the benefits that they were offered when hired. Negotiations with unions are potentially dangerous, as any changes to the policy would almost certainly lead to costly lawsuits.

Throughout California, legislators are beginning to address the issue with series of minor fixes, but these tweaks don’t seem to be enough. In 2015, despite minor reforms, California was still overwhelmed with $78.9 billion in unfunded benefits for public employees.

El Monte is just a single example of a failing system that incentivizes government workers to use public funds to get rich. There is no penalty, only a shrug – and a golfing trip to Scotland.

While Retired City Manager Golfs, New Americans in El Monte Struggle to Make Ends Meet

This is one in a series of CPC profiles of members of California’s $100k Pension Club.  Learn about the elite members of this club in our new video. Vigilant as always, Lady Liberty keeps a keen watch over the republic, representing the opportunity and freedom that is America. She stands tall, with her eternal […]

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Does Berkeley’s Teachers Union Support Free Speech to Suppress Free Speech?

“There is no free speech for fascists. They do not have the right to organize for genocide.”
–  Yvette Felarca, as reported by Frances Dinkelspiel writing for Berkeleyside, Nov. 2, 2016

Most anyone who follows current events is familiar with the riots at UC Berkeley that stopped a planned February 1st appearance by Breitbart editor and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Fewer people may be familiar with Yvette Felarca, an activist and organizer with the group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), a “coalition to defend affirmative action, integration and immigration rights and fight for equality by any means necessary.” Mother Jones, who probably would not opine to this effect without strong evidence, in 2005 called BAMN “a Communist front-group.”

If you watch this recent television interview with Felarca on KTVU Oakland, or her recent interview on Fox News, you will see she is carefully making a case for violence against “fascists.” In her Fox interview, Felarca defines fascism this way: “A fascist is someone who is organizing a mass movement that’s attacking women, immigrants, black people, other minority groups, and a movement of genocide.” She goes on to say – regarding Yiannopolous – “he should not be allowed to speak in public, to spread his racist, misogynistic, and homophobic lies. No, he does not have the right to do that.”

UC Berkeley, 2/02/2017. Free speech tactics aimed at suppressing free speech.

The UC Berkeley riots are not Felarca’s first experience with street activism. As reported by the Daily Californian, “The Berkeley Unified School District placed Felarca on administrative leave Sept. 21 [2016] after she was filmed physically attacking a self-proclaimed white nationalist during a protest in June.”

You got that right. Felarca is a humanities teacher at a public middle school. And six weeks after being placed on leave, Felarca returned to the classroom.

So here’s the question. A representative from the Berkeley Federation of Teachers was present at the Felarca’s reinstatement meeting, and presumably was involved in the negotiations between Felarca and the district. And as Felarca’s attorney puts it, “We continue to … fight for her free speech right and academic freedom. We also seek damages for the violations on her rights … to make sure that everybody’s rights are protected.”

To fight for her “free speech.” Free speech that attacks any alleged “movement of genocide.”

Would a spokesperson from the Berkeley Federation of Teachers care to comment on the free speech rights of teachers who oppose the position their union takes on abortion? Because apparently, in the world of California’s public education system, people who engage in provocative speech that challenges left-wing truisms can be accused of building a “movement of genocide,” whereas people who consider millions of terminated pregnancies to be actual genocide are silenced by their unions.

One may believe abortion is murder or one may believe it is an inalienable woman’s right. One may believe that Milo Yiannopolous is a dangerous agitator, or one may believe he raises important counter-arguments to the conventional wisdom of the left. But regardless of personal sentiments and principles, can anyone deny that the teachers union takes political stands that not all their members will agree with?

Consider this quote from former CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett: “In California, and with the support of CTA, we have fought back three attempts to curtail a woman’s right to choose, including measures that would have endangered the lives of teenage girls. Currently, California is one of only ten states that have no additional restrictions on reproductive health.”

Polarization is nurtured when people feel victimized by institutionalized hypocrisy and double standards. Felarca and her movement engaged in violent suppression of free speech because they claim – with no evidence – that Yiannopoulos is a genocidal fascist. Does the teachers union condone her activities? And if not, are they willing to make a statement?

Meanwhile, with their political support for a woman’s right to choose well documented, every year in California the teachers union forces collects millions, if not hundreds of millions, in agency fees from members who – with ample evidence – consider mass abortions to be genocide. And they condemn the activities of teachers who oppose their position.

If this is not a double standard, then the term has no meaning.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the vice president of policy research for the California Policy Center.

BART’s Wasteful Union Contracts

Last week we learned that a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system janitor managed to boost his annual compensation to $271,000 by clocking an enormous number of overtime hours – hours that apparently were often devoted to sleeping in a subway station closet. The revelation reminds Bay Area commuters that BART’s unreliable service comes with a high price tag. While generous salaries and outrageous overtime charges receive all the attention, restrictive work rules also play their part in boosting costs.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, BART assigned five station agents, two janitors and a dispatch supervisor to a yet-to-open station north of San Jose. By staffing the new Warm Springs station even though it doesn’t serve any riders, the transit system is wasting about $50,000 per month. That may be dismissed “chump change” for an entity that just received voter approval to borrow $3.5 billion, but it is indicative of a larger problem:  BART cannot be efficiently managed because of complex union work rules. As Mattier and Ross report:

Last year, BART thought it was in the home stretch and penciled in the line to open in November 2016. BART’s union contract allows employees to sign up for station postings only twice a year — in January and August — and officials felt it was better to be safe than sorry. So they put the Warm Springs Station on the August list. … As luck would have it, however, there was a software glitch between the extension’s train-tracking system and BART’s 40-plus-year-old main line. The November opening was scratched, and there’s still no firm new date. The computer problem has been fixed, but the system still needs weeks of testing before trains can start running. Nonetheless, the BART employees had signed up to work at Warm Springs — so off to Warm Springs they went.

The relevant language can be found at page 74 of the 473 page contract between BART and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1555:

System Sign-ups shall be held with each expansion in service either by adding lines, extending lines, or extending hours. System Signup for Station Agents shall be held each January and August, to be effective the second Monday of the next succeeding month.

It is just one provision of a highly complex shift assignment system that involves seniority-based employee bidding. The twice-yearly allocation of shifts and vacation time must be overseen by union designated representatives – paid by the district (i.e., riders and taxpayers).

The motivation for putting a shift assignment system into writing is understandable on some level:  it provides for a fair and transparent method of connecting employees with assignments. On the other hand, the complex process hamstrings management and leads to the type of waste we are now witnessing at Warm Springs.

Efficiency and fairness sometimes involve trade-offs.  In the case of BART and its unions, efficiency appears to have been completely sacrificed on the altar of fairness.  And that is unfair to those of us who have to pay for BART’s inefficiencies.

The Unions’ Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

Which meant it was a very good week for the rest of us. 

Last week, labor unions took a series of body blows. First, it was announced Monday that Missouri had become the 28th right-to-work state. The Show-Me State showed the unions that worker freedom now takes precedence over their forced dues racket. Not only that, but according to F. Vincent Vernuccio, Director of Labor Policy at the Mackinac Center, a pending bill, SB 210, would end release time – a scam that allows teachers and other public employees to conduct union business during working hours paid for by the taxpayer. Also, SB 210 would allow workers in Missouri to periodically recertify their union (or not), subject government unions to the same transparency requirements as private sector unions and establish the right to a private ballot in government union organizing elections.

Also on Monday, the Center for Individual Rights announced it was filing a lawsuit against the state of California and the California Teachers Association on behalf of eight teachers and the Association of American Educators. Yohn v. CTA is focused on forced “agency fees,” which unions use to finance their collective bargaining agenda. The plaintiffs argue that they have moral objections to the way the unions spend their money. As things stand now in non-right-to work states, all teachers are forced to financially support union policy concerning issues like school choice, tenure, seniority, etc. The lawsuit is similar to Friedrichs v CTA et al, filed by CIR in 2013, which was on its way to victory in SCOTUS. But Antonin Scalia’s sudden death just a year ago led to a 4-4 split, leaving the original law in place. CIR hopes to get the case back before the Supreme Court during the 2017-2018 session. If the plaintiffs are successful, joining a teachers – or any public employee – union or paying them any dues whatsoever would be voluntary.

CTA president Eric Heins responded to the new lawsuit by trotting out standard-issue pieties from the union playbook. He claimed the goal of the new case was to “weaken all unions and the voice of working people.” Heins is of course wrong. The case, if successful, will strengthen the voices of dissenting teachers while leaving the voices of other workers intact.

Then on Tuesday, the teachers unions and their fellow travelers descended into loopy-land. The spectacle after Betsy DeVos was narrowly confirmed as the new Secretary of Education was something to behold. What follows is a very small sample of comments emanating from the frothing naysayers:

  • American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten (apparently with a straight face) said it was “a sad day for children.”
  • CTA president Eric Heins referred to the nomination as “a blow to our nation.”
  • National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia was defiant, insisting that “There will be no relationship with Betsy DeVos.”
  • Factually challenged film maker Michael Moore tweeted, “The Senate Republicans have just sent a big FU to the school children of America. Even the worst countries don’t sh*t on their own kids.”
  • Vanity Fair film critic Richard Lawson, who apparently has been guzzling the Kool-Aid a bit too long, tweeted, “Betsy DeVos’s policies will kill children. That is not an exaggeration in any sense.”
  • Speaking a day before her confirmation, Minnesota Senator Al Franken, pointed out DeVos’ lack of experience in the field, insisting that Education Secretary is “not a job for amateurs.” (Note to Franken: Since your main qualification for running for the Senate was being a comedian on “Saturday Night Live” – and not a very funny one – maybe you should lighten up on the sanctimony.)

The viciousness toward DeVos is animated by several things: She is rich, a school choice supporter, a Christian, a school choice supporter, a Republican, and most of all, a school choice supporter. As such her goal is to provide the best education for every child in the country, whether it is via a private school, home school, charter school or traditional public school. This drives the public school monopolists nuts. The turf they have occupied – the one-size-fits-all 19th Century children-as-widgets education model – is endangered. Typical is Maine Senator Susan Collins, one of two Republicans who voted against DeVos’ confirmation, “Her concentration on charter schools and vouchers, however, raises the question of whether or not she fully appreciates that the Secretary of Education’s primary focus must be on helping states and communities, parents, teachers, school board members, and administrators strengthen our public schools.” (Emphasis added.)

But Collins is wrong. The mission of the Dept. of Education is “to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation.” Note that there is no mention at all of “public schools.” Its focus is on improving education outcomes. Period.

What the unhinged mob doesn’t understand – or at least won’t acknowledge – is that DeVos is not a dictator who will rule over a vast national education empire. In fact, the great majority of education policy and financing is handled at the state and local level. Fordham Institute president Mike Petrilli understands this and is correct when he makes the case that, “Actually, Betsy DeVos is perfectly qualified to be Education Secretary.” He points out that that DeVos’ job concerns itself with education politics and policy and to “work with members of Congress and governors, to understand how a bill becomes a law, to provide moral support to reformers as they fight it out in the states and at the local level. With her decades of involvement in politics, with policymakers, and in the trenches of the parental choice movement, DeVos is an inspired choice for the job….”

National Association of Scholars’ president Peter Wood suggests that being an outsider makes DeVos an especially good pick. “The strength of Secretary DeVos’s appointment is that she brings strong independent leadership to American education. She will not be steered by organized labor or by the higher education establishment. This means that we have the opportunity for real reform.”

While the teachers unions had a bad week, it was just the latest in a series of recent upsets for them. The NEA and AFT collectively gave over $36 million in the last election cycle to Super PACs – 100 percent of which went to Democrats. Yet after the voters weighed in, the U.S. wound up with a Republican president, Republican majorities in the Senate and House, 32 Republican dominated state legislatures and 33 Republican governors.

Dictatorial union ways are in decline. Right-to-work laws, teacher-freedom litigation and a Secretary of Education not beholden to the unions or any other special interest group will reap benefits for children, parents, teachers and taxpayers.

May the good times continue.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Rude and Loud Minority Seeks to Stifle Open Democratic Discourse

Whether one is speaking of First Amendment-protected speech on university and college campuses or efforts of elected congressional representatives to conduct dialogues with their constituents, America has become messy indeed.

While we weren’t looking, groups were organizing to take away our most fundamental civil liberties.

Organized and paid political activists mingle among honest citizens seeking to participate in democracy and have their grievances and voices heard. They drown them out before they even have an opportunity to speak.

These are not spontaneous grassroots occurrences. They are carefully planned, funded, organized and executed campaigns with the specific purpose of disrupting our democracy.

Take two recent examples, one from the University of California at Berkeley and the other from a California congressman’s town hall meeting in the Sacramento area.

Efforts of an officially recognized U.C. Republican’s club to host a panel discussion that included a former Breitbart editorial writer ended in flames, personal injury, property damage and cancellation of the event when paid activists hired by an out-of-state organization instigated a riot that spilled over into the streets of nearby Berkeley.

These were not the university’s students. The masked operatives that incited the riot were paid by Refuse Fascism to disrupt the event, using funds from its organizer and fiscal sponsor, The Alliance for Global Justice, of Tucson Arizona. Among its biggest contributors: The Tide Foundation of San Francisco, the City of Tucson, Patagonia.org, the Ben & Jerry Foundation and United Steel Workers, a labor union.

Less than a week later, Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) faced a hostile overflow crowd at a Roseville California theater. The Roseville Police Department determined that he needed to be escorted for personal safety, when he sought to dialog with those who elected or opposed him.

Like the UC event, the activists who shouted him down were there because of a nationwide campaign designed by Democratic congressional staffers, Indivisible. They were present in the name and face of one of their surrogate local groups, Indivisible Sierra Nevada. Wendy Wood, a spokesperson and chair of the group, said, “This is really all about resisting the Trump agenda. …We’re here to vote them (Trump and McClintock) out.”

Their agenda left little room for honest citizens seeking face time with their elected congressional representative.

The staffers that created the game plan that Wood was following included Angel Padilla, Billy Fleming, Caroline Kavit, Ezra Levin, Gonzalo Martínez de Vedia, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Jennay Ghowrwal, Jeremy Haile, Leah Greenberg, Mary Humphreys, Matt Traldi, Sara Clough, and Sarah Dohl. Those individuals say their plan is intended as a “step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents.”

Small but loud will carry the next election, that’s their prescription. The rest of us will be excluded, presumably, as losers.

Under their playbook, crossing state lines to incite riots; paying hostile agitators hourly wages to harass, injure and eventually silence other views; shouting down answers to reasonable questions; playing the media for fools and profiting from the profligate contributions of the deceived and naïve are tactics that are reasonable and just for a winner-take-all cage fight.

To those not in the game, those same tactics look more like broad-scale violations of law, intimidation, assault, battery, personal-property damage and arson. Whatever their view, they are weaponizing the political debate and no good can possibly come of it.

Hector Barajas is a partner at Merino, Barajas & Allen, a California strategic communications and public affairs firm. As a nationally recognized expert on Latino politics and public policy issues, he serves as an on-air political analyst for Univision and Telemundo.

Pension Pilfery

“The teachers unions don’t just screw over kids, they also screw over new teachers. Millennials beware.”

The above tweet from Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, pretty much tells the dismal story. To followers of Pension Tsunami, UnionWatch and Transparent California, the looming pension disaster for taxpayers is not news. But what has gone under-reported is that young teachers entering the field are carrying a disproportionate amount of the load. And if those teachers don’t make teaching a career for life, they become victims of a reverse Robin Hood scenario – where the “haves” are stealing from the “have-nots” and the “haven’t yets.”

All this is spelled out in a Fordham Institute report authored by Martin Lueken, Director of Fiscal Policy and Analysis at EdChoice. As the introduction to the detailed 378 page analysis states, “A new teacher’s pension is supposed to be a perk. The truth is that for the majority of the nation’s new teachers, what they can anticipate in retirement benefits will be worth less than what they contributed to the system while they were in the classroom, even if they stay for decades.” The even sadder news is that, cowed by Big Union, no one in a position of power seems to be willing to do anything about it. (Emphasis added.)

Lueken found that the median “crossover point” of the fifty-one districts across the country he examined is 25 years, which means that teachers in more than half of these districts have to teach a quarter of a century before they reach the point where their retirement benefits are worth more than their contributions. This is outrageous. 

Most teachers’ pensions come in the form of a defined benefit plan, whereby a teacher is guaranteed a monthly pension payment for the rest of her life after retirement. Much fairer to taxpayers and non-lifer teachers alike is a 401(k) defined contribution plan in which a teacher’s benefit is equal to his own contributions, those of his employer, and whatever earnings the investments accrue.

Just three months earlier, the University of Arkansas issued a working paper that focused solely on teachers’ pensions in California, and those results are not pretty either. Here in our Golden, or more accurately, Beholden State, two-thirds of teachers are “pension losers.” As described in the Orange County Register, “A teacher who starts her career at age 25…will have to work until age 53 before merely breaking even with her employer’s pension contributions….”

In California, the retirement fund is woefully underfunded to begin with. To soften the effects of the looming tsunami, CalSTRS, the state teachers’ retirement system, plans to reduce its “rate assumption” from 7.5 percent to a slightly less utopian 7 percent over three years. This means that teachers and school districts (the taxpayer) are going to have to make up the difference. And it’s the newer and lower paid teachers who, proportionally, will take the biggest immediate hit.  As EdSource’s John Fensterwald reports, the hike will come in two steps. “Next year, they will pay an additional half-percent of their pay – an average of $200 annually to CalSTRS. Starting July 1, 2018 that could double to 1 percent, about $400 per year. About 80,000 teachers – those hired since 2013, who constitute about 1 in 5 teachers in the state – would be affected.”

And just how do the teachers unions, which demand defined benefit pension plans for its members, treat their own employees? As Mike Antonucci writes, when teachers unions become “the man,” they are no different than any other employer. The California Teachers Association pension plan for its employees is less than 80 percent funded, “which means the union will either have to reduce future benefits or increase contributions.” In fact, last August, employees of CTA held a rally outside the union’s headquarters, calling on the union to “secure” their pension benefits.

In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan has long railed against using 401(k) retirement plans for his union’s members as a way to curb skyrocketing pension costs. Yet while insisting on a defined benefit plan for its teachers, the union’s 34 office workers are forced to enroll in a more realistic 401(k) plan.

The system we now have, where new teachers are being forced to pay for a service that many will never benefit from, must change. Teachers, new to the profession, need to stand up and push back against the powerful unions that so many are forced to pay dues to. If they can make enough noise, the unions’ bought-and-paid-for legislators may take notice. Taxpayers everywhere should join the bamboozled teachers and insist on a pension system that is equitable and fair to all parties.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

California Politicians Keep Raising the Cost-of-Living

Ever since the surprise victory of Donald Trump on November 8th, California’s Democratic leadership have asserted their determination to thwart the Trump agenda. Expect unity and resolve from California’s legislature, where democrats now hold a super-majority in both chambers. Even before Nov. 8th, California’s legislature was a trend-setting force, enacting laws intended to set an […]

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Fat Pensions and Dubious Results at California Community Colleges

Among progressive politicians, community colleges have recently taken on an iconic status. These are the scrappy institutions battling income inequality one mind at a time – helping lift underprivileged young strivers into the middle class. The result has been a drive to subsidize these schools, often without regard to their cost-effectiveness. Among the beneficiaries are retired community […]

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Obama Ignores Destructive Influence of Prison Unions in HBO Appearance

Comedian Bill Maher landed an interview with President Barack Obama last week, and the interaction felt like something out of a movie about hobbits – two grown men basking in the warm glow of a be-flagged White House office with a Frederick Remington buffalo sculpture in the background. But if we were mesmerized […]

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Testing Pension Club with TablePress

NameTitlePension SystemLast EmployerTotal Amount ReceivedPension AmountBenefits AmountDisability AmountYears of ServiceYear of RetirementReporting Yearnotes
Charles MehringerLos Angeles County PensionCOASTAL CLUSTER-HARBOR/UCLA MC419665.92395466.624199.32041.6220152015
Michael D JohnsonCalPERSCOUNTY OF SOLANO388407.56388407.5642.920112015
William HabermehlCalSTRSORANGE COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION354643.38354643.3847.1520122015
Fawzy I FawzyTeaching FacultyUniversity of CaliforniaLos Angeles354469.44354469.4440.4420142014
Robert MorinLos Angeles County PensionCOASTAL CLUSTER-HARBOR/UCLA MC344079.72319880.424199.32052.6720152015
Leroy BacaLos Angeles County PensionSHERIFF342849.36328410.2414439.12048.0820142015
Dennis L MatthewsNon-Teaching FacultyUniversity of CaliforniaDavis342635.88342635.8839.0820122014
Stephen R MaguinCalPERSLOS ANGELES COUNTY SANITATION DISTRICT NO. 2340810.7340810.74120122015
Joaquin M FusterCalPERSUNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT LOS ANGELES33841233841245.220022015
Marvin MarcusTeaching FacultyUniversity of CaliforniaLos Angeles337346.16337346.1640.5720112014
Thomas TidemansonLos Angeles County PensionPUBLIC WORKS336988.56312789.2424199.32038.7519942015
Larry WaldieLos Angeles County PensionSHERIFF336838.08319170.1217667.96044.0820112015
Thomas OrloffDistrict AttorneyAlameda County Pension335865.84335865.842015
Carol MeyerLos Angeles County PensionHEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION329218.8300886.5628332.24041.3720112015
Ruth E StringerCounty CounselSan Bernardino County Employees Retirement Association (SBCERA)County of San Bernardino328945.95328945.9533.4420112015
Michael JudgeLos Angeles County PensionPUBLIC DEFENDER328867.2311199.2417667.9604120102015
John S GreenspanTeaching FacultyUniversity of CaliforniaSan Francisco326070.12326070.1238.1720142014
Harry StoneLos Angeles County PensionPUBLIC WORKS324113.04312666.2411446.8040.5820012015
Rinaldo CanalisLos Angeles County PensionCOASTAL CLUSTER-HARBOR/UCLA MC320766.6296567.2824199.32036.6720102015
Stephen CooleyLos Angeles County PensionDISTRICT ATTORNEY318530.88304091.7614439.12040.0420122015
Donald R GerthPRESIDENTCalPERSCALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY AT SACRAMENTO317324.12317324.1247.320032015
Hye Kyung KimEXEMPT MED STF PHYSIContra Costa County PensionCONTRA COSTA COUNTY316886.42316886.42032.6920112015
George W BreslauerNon-Teaching FacultyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley315720.48315720.4843.2320142014
David GoldsteinLos Angeles County PensionNORTHEAST CLUSTER (LAC+USC)314553.48292811.1621742.3203520122015
Albert NidenLos Angeles County PensionNORTHEAST CLUSTER (LAC+USC)314364.36302917.5611446.8039.9220132015
Heinrich R SchelbertTeaching FacultyUniversity of CaliforniaLos Angeles314026.56314026.5640.5420132014
Raymond Fortner JrLos Angeles County PensionCOUNTY COUNSEL313884.6289685.2824199.32039.3320092015
Richard BrayCalSTRSTUSTIN UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT312921.24312921.2443.8320112015
Michael PetersonCaptainAlameda County Pension311967.96311967.962015
William GarrettCalPERSCITY OF EL CAJON311364.84311364.8438.520042015
Edward Hernandez JrCalSTRSRANCHO SANTIAGO COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT310269.3310269.340.3120102015
Allan D SiefkinNon-Teaching FacultyUniversity of CaliforniaDavis309593.04309593.0436.1720142014
Ramesh VermaLos Angeles County PensionSFV CLUSTER-OLIVE VIEW/UCLA MC308935.08291267.1217667.96036.6220112015
Nosratola D VaziriTeaching FacultyUniversity of CaliforniaIrvine308320.08308320.0836.7520112014
Virginia ShattuckCalSTRSNORWALK-LA MIRADA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT306346.86306346.8647.9420092015
Daniel IkemotoLos Angeles County PensionAUDITOR - CONTROLLER306270294823.211446.8038.5819932015
Albert YellinLos Angeles County PensionNORTHEAST CLUSTER (LAC+USC)305836.3228163724199.32039.6720022015
Vena RickettsLos Angeles County PensionSFV CLUSTER-OLIVE VIEW/UCLA MC304440.24298736.525703.72035.6720132015
Sharon HarperLos Angeles County PensionSHERIFF303913.44290600.6413312.8040.520102015
Joe W GrayNon-Teaching FacultyUniversity of CaliforniaLawrence Berkeley303855.96303855.9638.5620112014
Alfred ZuckerCalSTRSLOS ANGELES COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT303624.99303624.9935.8220152015
Richard W RollNon-Teaching FacultyUniversity of CaliforniaLos Angeles303170.28303170.2834.820142014
Richard A BeemerUndersheriffSan Bernardino County Employees Retirement Association (SBCERA)County of San Bernardino302917.17302917.1738.8220102015
Dewitt ClintonLos Angeles County PensionCOUNTY COUNSEL301882.8280815.8421066.96036.9219982015
James F StahlCalPERSLOS ANGELES COUNTY SANITATION DISTRICT NO. 2301801.96301801.9637.720072015
Robert MannLos Angeles County PensionSHERIFF301174.3227697524199.32033.4219992015

Election Integrity and the Power of Unions

During the 2004 Presidential election there were allegations of voter fraud; the 2000 Presidential election was alleged to have been “stolen” by the Republicans. If you go further back in history, you can point to evidence the Democratic machine in Chicago manipulated election results to throw the 1960 Presidential election victory to Kennedy. A close […]

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