Newsletter (4/2): Spring Broke
Most of California is experiencing weather people the world over dream of. It’s spring time and a lot of people are on some sort of break, including our illustrious presidente, Will Swaim. For good or ill, he turned the reins over to me until our new Communications Director gets access to the email distribution list. I promise, this newsletter will be better when she takes over the controls next week.
Speaking of our new Communications Director, Chantal Lovell – While “new” as an official staff member, Chantal’s no stranger to CPC or our work. The team first collaborated with her back in 2014 when she was leading communications at the Nevada Policy Research Institute and we co-launched TransparentCalifornia.com. Then, she went on to work at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy – our partner in educating California government workers about their right to leave a union. She comes to us most recently from the State Policy Network, where she’s spent the past several years working with CPC and free-market groups like us across the country to ensure every worker is aware of their union membership rights, and enjoys freedom at work. As a born-and-raised Californian, she’s eager to focus on her home state to ensure it is a place families and businesses can thrive for generations to come. Check out her most recent interview with Dick Morris of Newsmax about attempts to export some of California’s worst labor policies nationwide. She starts at the 14-minute mark.
A 2020 study revealed that San Diego Unified’s white students earned better grades than their minority peers. Myriad pedagogical responses might flow from such an observation – a voucher system, for instance, that liberates kids from lousy union-run schools, after-school interventions, or a district-wide curriculum freed of identity politics and whittled-down to English and math fluency. But San Diego officials voted simply to inflate grades so that everybody wins. No more “grading a student based on an average of quizzes, homework assignments and tests,” CBS News reported. Ditto for such “non-course factors” as “turning assignments in on time and classroom behavior.” This is just one example of San Diego Unified’s trouble with reality – others include schools closed for the last year; multiple federal investigations; official harassment of high-performing charter schools; and a collapsing education budget. But now there’s hope for San Diego: Joe Biden has nominated the district superintendent who presided over this catastrophe, Cindy Marten, for the No. 2 job at the U.S. Department of Ed. San Diegans might cheer Marten’s promotion upstairs – it would alleviate at least one real danger to their children, leaving them to worry about scary dogs, lice and sticker bushes. Her federal confirmation would also underscore the consistency of a system that accepts failure in the classroom as well as its public school administration. At her recent Senate confirmation hearing, Marten got a bit grilling she rarely faces at home. Asked by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to pick any federal regulation she’d like to see go away – you know, wave a wand and make a bad law disappear – Marten said nothing came to mind. Asked by Utah senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) why she has kept her district’s schools closed for over a year when the science shows they can be safely reopened, Marten pulled the string in her own back and uttered phrases that sound like English (“as you know,” “a complex topic,” “system leader,” “best decisions given the evidence and the circumstances and the resources,” “a safe path forward”) but baffled Romney and anybody with a lick of sense. Senate observers expect she’ll win confirmation, and the rest of the nation will have one more reason to understand why California is the nation’s leader in nut production.
The latest print edition of National Review is dedicated entirely to our own beloved (and benighted) California. In 20 amazing essays, writers including Ben Shapiro (“Why I left California”), Joel Kotkin (“Sacramento vs. the economy”), and (get this!) David Mamet (“The New Zealander Comes to California”) explore the decline of California. It includes CPC president Will Swaim describing the history of the California left’s hatred for suburbs and CPC board member David Bahnsen on what’s driving the California exodus. We’re tempted to ship 200 copies to the statehouse in Sacramento to offer a counterpoint to the toxic waste dump that is our statehouse. But would it really edify? To paraphrase one of the many memorable lines from Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, we’d wish our state lawmakers good luck but they wouldn’t know what to do with it if they got it.
Untotal Recall: In this week’s Radio Free California podcast, CPC President Will Swaim and board member David Bahnsen consider a recent poll that shows, if they voted today, Californians would keep Gavin Newsom where he is (feckless, but still governor), and a legislative proposal to hand out taxpayer-backed no-cost debit cards to “poor” Californians. What could go wrong? In related news, the state is no closer to tracking down the nearly $31 billion in unemployment benefits it mistakenly sent to criminals.
On ensuring California families can live and thrive in this state – Considering various state and federal issues (including reactions to the more-than-likely recall election to determine if the governor stays in his well-protected Sacramento mansion or heads back to his estate in Marin) the Public Policy Institute of California published their latest Californians and their Government poll this week. As a regular survey series to gauge peoples’ views of the state of California, figuratively and politically, one of the survey questions and its follow-up caught our attention. “Does the cost of your housing make you and your family seriously consider moving away from the part of California you live in now? If yes: does it make you consider moving elsewhere in California, or outside of the state?” A not-so-stunning 43% of Californians say that the cost of housing is making people seriously consider moving out of their part of California. But of those people who want to move, 77% would prefer to leave the state entirely. There was no follow-up question on whether those people will stay long enough to cast a vote in the recall. In a related story, the San Francisco Business Times reports that “For high-net-worth individuals, it is precisely 62% less expensive to live in Dallas than it is to live in San Francisco.” And for all those not-high-net-worth individuals, it’s still a good deal.
Shining sun on the sand & lifeguards – Who’s not moving out of the state? That’s right! Los Angeles beach lifeguards. It’s a sweet gig if you can get it, especially since it was difficult for most taxpayers to actually get anywhere close to the beach this last year during quarantine. I’m not sure if there were any lifeguard furloughs during the times the beaches were closed or capacity was severely limited, but I’m confident web-surfing is part of their rigorous duties. Thanks to Transparent California, government watchdogs can remind Californians that part of the reason their cost of living is so high isn’t only due to the horrendous tax and regulatory burdens, but stiff competition with lifeguards making $400k a year.
The screens are off and nobody is home – Larry Sand puts forward another solid column discussing the negative impacts the government-induced lockdown is having on our kids. Despite the rapid changes in reopening requirements for counties, children are experiencing learning loss beyond simply forgetting math facts or an incapability to diagram sentences or conjugate verbs. The problem is that many students have simply forgotten how to be students. At the very least, most, if not all students are having difficulties reconciling months of distance instruction with actual learning needs and teachers need to figure out quickly how to close the gap. These kids are not likely to return to normal even if the school bureaucracies can get with the “science” and allow for more kids in classrooms. This should be a serious concern for every compassionate Californian.
Does someone need to write sentences on the chalkboard? Those teacher union members who have grown accustomed to a lifestyle of asynchronous education are increasingly more uncomfortable with the legitimate complaints of parents frustrated at the lack of meaningful instruction. A few plucky teachers have taken to lashing out on social media and through personal communications in ways that are unbecoming of teachers. A recent California Globe story shares a few attacks that parents are enduring when their tax-subsidized, government teachers make outlandish claims and threats. If only there were an open principal’s office to be sent to…
Legislators are reading CPC’s research – Perhaps teacher-union apologists are resorting to name calling because they fear the word is getting out. In the words of Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, “The California Policy Center estimates the state spends $20,642 per student. Imagine if that money were in the hands of parents.” If your family had $20,000 plus to spend on your child’s education, perhaps they’d be sitting in a charter school, getting access to incredible homeschool pods, attending a private-school classroom today, or receiving some other form of education that would have kept them learning this past year. To learn more about just how much we are spending per pupil during the pandemic, check out Ed Ring’s report here. And if you want to help us do more of this kind of work, consider donating today.
Guided by political science – Our star researcher, Brandon Ristoff, doesn’t need to be in the yellow tier to open up on the absurd and contradictory guidance by the state’s public health pollsters, I mean, officials. He walks through the ironies (and sexism) surrounding the differing criteria for youth sports and the arbitrary nature of restrictions like allowing only one parent at a particular sporting event. Nevermind that most stadiums have plenty of room to spread out as people self-govern their exposure. After watching my son play a varsity soccer game for the first time in over a year, it felt good to be in the stands and see long-lost friends cheering on their kids competitively engaged.
A glimpse into how teachers unions are keeping classrooms closed – If at some point during the past 379 days of California school closures you’ve wondered to yourself, “How are the unions doing it?” look no further than this article in the LA School Report. It uses court documents to detail how the United Teachers Los Angeles cost students 10,800,000 hours of instructional time that could have been used teaching and supporting students. Yes, that’s almost 11 million hours! Imagine the damage UTLA could have done to closing the achievement gap in that amount of time.
Spring Break 2020, Day 379 – In many parts of the state, schools will be finishing their Spring Break this weekend in time for the Easter holiday. And for those districts that are about to reopen their classrooms to in-person learning, they will also have to make the case that a couple days and a few hours a week meets not only constitutional and statutory requirements, but parents’ expectations. With that, we’re hearing from parents across the state and political spectrum who desperately want the option for open classrooms, in-person learning 5 days a week, several hours a day with a credentialed teacher at the whiteboard. They are not interested in having absent teachers Zooming in while an underpaid assistant makes sure that kids aren’t napping at their desks. But in places like Elk Grove, San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego, managing reopenings has been anything but optimum, even under the circumstances.
That’s why we are collaborating with several other groups in San Diego for a rally on April 13th at the San Diego Education Association’s headquarters to make sure that they understand that the science is on the side of parents who want to implement the CDC’s 3-foot-distancing guidance and make sure that the students have an option to be in class with a real teacher 5 days a week. The Reopening has to be a Real-Opening. We invite parents from across the region to bring their kids and tell the SDEA that they need to quit standing in the way of open classrooms.
Speak up – We can’t let San Diego have all the fun protesting. If you are fed up with your school district’s foot-dragging, check out our Parent Union toolkit. During the week of April 12th, most school boards should be meeting and parents will have the chance to share how continued school closures are affecting their students. Plan on attending those meetings in-person or virtually. Share the board meeting times with fellow parents and neighbors and encourage them to call in for public comment to demand full reopening of our classrooms.
Get some rest this weekend and enjoy your family. We need you anxiously engaged in the cause of saving California.
Lance Christensen is the Chief Operations Officer at the California Policy Center and shows-up from time-to-time on National Review’s Radio Free California podcast.