Archive for the ‘Legislation’ Category

State Senate approves Glazer bill to revive newsrooms

Friday, June 28th, 2024

SB 1327 gets required two-thirds vote approving $500 million in annual tax credits

Funded by fee on large internet companies

SACRAMENTO – Senator Steve Glazer’s bill to help strengthen local newsrooms with $500 million in annual tax credits was approved Thursday on a required two-thirds vote. It now moves to the Assembly.

The bill, SB 1327, was approved on a bipartisan 27-7 vote. A two-thirds vote was required because the bill assesses a Data Extraction Mitigation Fee on large Internet companies. It would distribute the money through tax credits to California news organizations.

“The passage today of my bill, SB 1327, is a step toward helping to revive news organizations across California,” said Glazer, D-7-Contra Costa. “Independent journalism is the lifeblood of our democracy by keeping our citizens informed on the workings of their government.

“This measure will mitigate the damage caused by platforms who use our personal data and their subsequent advertising profits to gut our mainstream news channels. I will continue to work with all stakeholders in the weeks ahead to chart a path forward that restores and expands independent news organizations, so critical to our democracy.”

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-14-Oakland, who represents portions of West Contra Costa County and has her own legislation, AB 886, to help news organizations, applauded the bill’s passage.

“I am encouraged to see SB 1327 move forward, and grateful to my Senate colleagues for recognizing the importance of this issue,” said Wicks. “The advancement of Sen. Glazer’s bill will allow us to continue working collaboratively toward a solution that protects and grows newsrooms across California.”

Grayson votes to allow illegal aliens access to CA state home purchase program

Friday, June 14th, 2024
Source: CalFHA

Joins the other Assemblymembers representing Contra Costa: Wilson, Bauer-Kahan and Wicks, who support offering up to 20% for down payment or closing costs, not to exceed $150,000

By Allen D. Payton

A bill to make illegal immigrants eligible for the California Dream for All Shared Appreciation Loan Program, which provides up to 20 percent of downpayment assistance to prospective homebuyers, passed the State Assembly last month on a vote of 56-15. All four Assemblymembers representing Contra Costa County voted in favor of Assembly Bill 1840, including Tim Grayson (D-15), who represents Antioch, Lori Wilson (D-11), Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-16) and Buffy Wicks (D-14).

Wicks also voted for the bill, authored by Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-31), as a member of the Assembly Appropriates Committee.

AB1840 Assembly Floor vote on May 21, 2024. Source:

According to CalFHA, “The Dream For All Shared Appreciation Loan is a down payment assistance program for first-time homebuyers to be used in conjunction with the Dream For All Conventional first mortgage for down payment and/or closing costs. Upon sale or transfer of the home, the homebuyer repays the original down payment loan, plus a share of the appreciation in the value of the home.”

The program offers up to 20% for down payment or closing costs, not to exceed $150,000 and is not on a first come, first served basis. The homebuyer must register for a voucher and a randomized drawing will select registrants who will receive the voucher.  The program requires at least one borrower be a first-generation homebuyer and all borrowers must be first-time homebuyers.

According to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, “Existing law establishes the California Housing Finance Agency in the Department of Housing and Community Development, and authorizes the agency to, among other things, make loans to finance affordable housing, including residential structures, housing developments, multifamily rental housing, special needs housing, and other forms of housing, as specified. Existing law establishes the California Dream for All Program to provide shared appreciation loans to qualified first-time homebuyers, as specified.

Existing law establishes the California Dream for All Fund, which is continuously appropriated for expenditure pursuant to the program and defraying the administrative costs for the agency. Existing law authorizes moneys deposited into the fund to include, among other moneys, appropriations from the Legislature from the General Fund or other state fund.

This bill would specify that an applicant under the program who meets all other requirements for a loan under the program, including, but not limited to, any requirements imposed by the Federal National Mortgage Association or other loan servicer, shall not be disqualified solely based on the applicant’s immigration status.

By expanding the persons eligible to receive moneys from a continuously appropriated fund, this bill would make an appropriation. The bill would recast the fund so that appropriations from the Legislature from the General Fund or other state fund are deposited into the California Dream for All Subaccount, which the bill would create and make available upon appropriation by the Legislature for specified purposes.”

AB 1840 is now up for votes by the State Senate Housing and Judiciary Committees before a possible vote on the floor.

Senator Glazer’s bill would raise $500 million in tax credits to help revive local news    

Wednesday, May 1st, 2024

Doesn’t consult at least four local news publishers in his district before developing legislation

SACRAMENTO – A data extraction mitigation fee on major Internet corporations would raise $500 million to fund employment credits for news organizations across California under legislation Senator Steve Glazer, D-Contra Costa, outlined Wednesday at a press conference. Joining Senator Glazer were news publishers representing hundreds of community, and ethnic outlets.

Amid the backdrop of newsrooms continuing a downward spiral with staff layoffs, cutbacks in resources or outright closures, Senator Glazer said “we must create a new framework to ensure that newsrooms keep our citizens informed and democracy accountable to the people.”

The bill, SB 1327, is co-authored by Senate President Pro Tem Mike McGuire, D-Santa Rosa, and Senators Catherine Blakeslee, D-Encinatas, Steve Padilla, D-San Diego, and John Laird, D-Santa Cruz.

Senator Glazer’s proposal would create a data extraction mitigation fee on the largest online companies, or platforms, with a minimum of $2.5 billion in revenues. The Data Extraction Mitigation Fee will be based on the value that online platforms derive by extracting personal and economic data from those who visit the company’s web pages.

“News organizations and their advertising revenues have been hollowed out by these online platforms,” Senator Glazer said. “They should mitigate this damage and this new bill will do exactly that.”

The data extraction mitigation fee closes a loophole that allows online platforms to avoid taxation on the value of the barter in which they engage with customers who, in effect, trade access to their personal data for the opportunity to use a website. While this kind of economic relationship has helped fuel innovation and access to information, it has also created what economists call “negative externalities” – or harm to third parties who are not directly a part of that exchange.

In this case, the harm is being done to local news organizations and, more broadly, to all Californians who depend on independent local news coverage of events that affect their daily lives and the democratic form of government – the foundation of our society.

“You cannot have informed voters if there is no one to tell them what their government is doing,” said Senator Blakespear. “We’ve seen the journalism industry devastated in recent years, and we need to do something about that. SB 1327 is a smart, sensible way to fund local journalism.”

Unofficial estimates indicate that a fee level equivalent to the current statewide sales and use tax rate could generate almost $1 billion per year. Of that amount, 39.5% would go to K-14 education as required by Proposition 98 and 1.5% would go to state budget reserves as required by Proposition 2. 

In addition to the constitutional requirement to use a portion of the fee revenue for education and budget reserves, some of the revenue would also go to backfill the state’s general fund for revenue lost when the companies deduct the cost of the fee as an expense on their income tax returns. Some of the money would also go to the Franchise Tax Board for administration and collection costs. That would leave approximately $500 million annually to support local journalism.

While Congressman Mark DeSaulnier held a Zoom meeting with local news publishers in Contra Costa County to provide input on his proposed federal legislation in 2021, neither Glazer nor his staff reached out to at least four publishers in the county for input on his bill before developing it. They include Tamara Steiner, publisher of the Concord and Clayton Pioneer, Mike Burkholder, publisher of, Greg Robinson, publisher of The Press covering Brentwood, Oakley and Discovery Bay, and Allen Payton, publisher of the Antioch Herald and Contra Costa Herald.

As he did with DeSaulnier’s bill, Payton twice asked the state senator if he would include an exception in the tax code to allow non-profit owners of local media to continue endorsing or opposing candidates and ballot measures, and publishing editorials. But that was not included in the state legislation.

However, Glazer did gather support from other news organizations and sought their input prior to announcing his legislation.

Steve Waldman, president of Rebuild Local News, a nonpartisan, nonprofit coalition of more than 3,000 locally-owned and nonprofit, community-based newsrooms, said the legislation would be a major breakthrough for the news industry – and for communities that are starving for local news.

“We vigorously applaud Sen. Glazer’s proposed local news employment credit, which would truly revitalize community news in California,” Waldman said. “It is a transformative proposal. It would dramatically improve the capacity of newsrooms to cover their communities and is especially attentive to the role of medium and small-sized outlets. 

Waldman added: “An employment credit places the incentives in the right place: hiring of local reporters. It’s non bureaucratic. It helps for-profits and nonprofits, print, digital and broadcast, urban and rural. It’s future friendly so new innovators can plug in too. And it does all this while being compatible with the First Amendment and the need to protect the editorial independence of news outlets.” 

Much like mitigation fees imposed on companies that put chemicals into the environment to make their products or develop projects that burden our roads and schools, this fee assigns the cost of saving local journalism to those firms whose economic activity is causing the news industry’s demise.

The program would also distribute at least $25 million annually for non-profit local news organizations that don’t benefit from tax credits. Half of that amount would be reserved for those news organizations with fewer than 10 full-time employees. Additional funds would be provided to journalism training programs.

To qualify for the tax credit, news organizations would have to have their primary circulation or distribution in California and their online news primarily consumed within the state. They would publish in the current and previous year and carry media liability insurance. Broadcasters would have to be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to broadcast in the state to claim the credit.

All qualifying news organizations would be eligible for tax credits based on the number of working journalists they have, the credits increasing with every new hire. News organizations that aren’t profitable would be eligible for tax refunds, as would non-profit news organizations.

Matt Pearce, president of Media Guild of the West, said in a letter of support that the bill hits the right tone in its support of smaller publications and outlets.

“The journalism jobs tax credit is well structured, nondiscriminatory in a way that avoids government favoritism, and incentivizes local journalist employment,” Pearce wrote. “Smaller publishers with fewer than 10 employees – which includes many of California’s ethnic media publishers – would, appropriately, receive a slightly larger share of support than larger newsrooms. Freelance journalists are appropriately recognized and economically supported at a level that would not incentivize workforce fissuring. Employers that provide benefits to their employees would receive more support than those that didn’t.”

Laura Rearwin Ward, publisher of the Ojai Valley News in Ojai, CA near Santa Barbara and Ventura, praised Senator Glazer’s proposal to fund small news publications through tax credits and a data mitigation fee.

“Senator Glazer’s bill gives support to those most in need — California’s print and digital local, independent, and ethnic media,” Rearwin Ward said. “And the data mitigation fee appropriately focuses on large online platforms, such as Google, which profit from the use of content they do not create, and user data they have utilized in a one-sided barter arrangement. This fee will mitigate the harm done to the California news industry through loss of advertising revenue. This fee closes a loophole that has allowed online platforms to avoid taxation on the value of that barter. The visible damage to California is clear to see — huge losses in professional local news reporting, resulting in news deserts and ghost papers.” 

Lance Knobel, CEO and co-founder of Cityside Journalism Initiative, the nonprofit that publishes Oaklandside, Berkeleyside and Richmondside, said the legislation could be a game-changer.

“Senator Glazer’s local news employment credit tackles the core problem for local journalism in California: how can we sustain and even increase the number of reporters and editors working in our community? If passed it would be truly transformative for independent local news organizations like ours,” Knobel said.

Ken Doctor, Local Founder and CEO of Santa Cruz-based publication Lookout, said the proposed tax credits would be a critical lifeline for local news organizations.

“The best solution for California’s local news crisis is simple: more experienced journalists offering trusted and trustworthy reporting to and for communities up and down the state,” said Doctor, also an analyst with Newsonomics. “Sen. Glazer’s bill recognizes that payroll tax credits are the best way to fund such a revival, without having the state pick winners or losers. As the legislature debates how to fund such credits, the focus on them is the one essential going forward.”

“We have seen a dramatic devastation of the news eco system, and with it a coarsening of our politics that have led many to worry whether our democracy can survive,” Senator Glazer said. “In so many cases, stories are not being covered in communities, large and small. We often don’t know what politicians and other community leaders are doing – many of the checks and balances have vanished – because nobody is there to cover them. We want to restore accountability and strengthen our democracy by reviving newsrooms.”

Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.

Bill to mandate ‘science of reading’ in CA schools faces teachers’ union opposition

Saturday, April 6th, 2024
Teacher Jennifer Dare Sparks conducts a reading lesson in her 3rd/4th class at Ethel I. Baker Elementary School in Sacramento, Calif. Thursday, Jun. 2, 2022. Photo credit: Randall Benton / EdSource

Part of nationwide push to bring back phonics, sponsors seek compromise, CTA refuses to negotiate


California’s largest teachers’ union has moved to put the brakes on legislation that mandates instruction, known as the “science of reading,” that spotlights phonics to teach children to read.

The move by the politically powerful California Teachers Association (CTA) puts the fate of Assembly Bill 2222 in question as supporters insist that there is room to negotiate changes that will bring opponents together.

CTA’s complaints include some recently voiced by some advocacy organizations for English learners and bilingual education that oppose the bill and have refused to negotiate any changes to make the bill more acceptable.

The teachers union put its opposition to AB 2222 in writing in a lengthy letter to Assembly Education Committee Chairman Al Muratsuchi last week. The committee is expected to hear the bill, introduced in February, later this month. 

The letter includes a checklist of complaints including that the proposed legislation would duplicate and potentially undermine current literacy initiatives, would not meet the needs of English learner students and cuts teachers out of the decision-making process, especially when it comes to curriculum. 

“Educators are best equipped to make school and classroom decisions to ensure student success,” the letter said. “Limiting instructional approaches undermines teachers’ professional autonomy and may impede their effectiveness in the classroom.”

Marshall Tuck, CEO of EdVoice, an advocacy nonprofit co-sponsoring the bill, said he was surprised that CTA would oppose legislation that would ensure all teachers are trained to use the latest brain research to teach children how to read.

“Unfortunately, a lot of folks in the field haven’t actually been trained on that, and a lot of the instruction materials in classrooms today don’t align with that,” Tuck said.

Tuck said CTA appears to misunderstand the body of evidence-based research known as the science of reading. It “is not a curriculum and is not a program or a one-size-fits-all approach,” he said. “It will give teachers a foundational understanding of how children learn to read. Teachers will still have a lot of room locally to decide which instructional moves to make on any given day for any given children. So, you’ll still have significant differentiation.”

A nationwide push

California’s push to adopt the science of reading approach to early literacy is in sync with 37 states and some cities, such as New York City, that have passed similar legislation. 

States nationwide are rejecting balanced literacy as failing to effectively teach children how to read, since it trains children to use pictures to recognize words on sight, also known as three-cueing. The new method would teach children to decode words by sounding them out, a process known as phonics.

Although phonics, the ability to connect letters to sounds, has drawn the most attention, the science of reading focuses on four other pillars of literacy instruction: phonemic awareness, identifying distinct units of sounds; vocabulary; comprehension; and fluency. It is based on research on how the brain connects letters with sounds when learning to read.

Along with mandating the science of reading approach to instruction, AB 2222 would require that all TK to fifth-grade teachers, literacy coaches and specialists take a 30-hour-minimum course in reading instruction by 2028. School districts and charter schools would purchase textbooks from an approved list endorsed by the State Board of Education.  

The legislation goes against the state policy of local control that gives school districts authority to select curriculum and teaching methods as long as they meet state academic standards. Currently, the state encourages, but does not mandate, districts to incorporate instruction in the science of reading in the early grades.

“It’s a big bill,” said Yolie Flores, president of Families in Schools, a co-sponsor. “We’re very proud that it’s a big bill because that means it is truly consequential in the best way possible for children. It’s not a sort of tweak around the edges kind though, it’s the kind of bill that really brings transformation. So we are hoping that the Legislature sees beyond the sort of typical pushback and resistance, and in the end, I think, teachers will see that this was a huge benefit for them.”

Seeking compromise

The bill’s author, Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, said she took CTA’s seven-page letter not as an outright rejection but as an opportunity for negotiations.

 “I’m glad they sent this letter,” she said. “They outline their objections and the reasons why, and that’s something I can work with. It’s not a flat, ‘No, we don’t want you to do it.’ They gave me specific items that I can look at and have a conversation about.”

She said that Assemblymember Muratsuchi asked her to work with the CTA on a compromise. She is also meeting with consultants for Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, D-Salinas, “to look at the big picture,” she said.

But Flores says the state’s budget problems, with predictions of no money for new programs, may be a bigger hurdle to getting the bill passed than the CTA opposition. The cost of paying for the required professional development for teachers would total $200 million to $300 million, she said. Because it is a mandate, the state would be required to repay districts for the cost.

“That is a drop in the bucket for something so transformational, so consequential,” Flores said. “I hope that the Legislature really comes to that realization. We’re in a budget deficit, but our budget is a statement of priorities.”

Advocates say that it is imperative that California mandate instruction in the science of reading. In 2023, just 43% of California third graders met the academic standards on the state’s standardized test in 2023. Only 27.2% of Black students, 32% of Latino students and 35% of low-income children were reading at grade level, compared with 57.5% of white, 69% of Asian and 66% of non-low-income students. 

“It’s foundational,” Flores said. “It’s not the only thing teachers need to know. It’s not the only thing that teachers will need to do and to adhere to, but it’s sort of the basic foundational knowledge of how children’s brains work in order to learn to read.”

The bill would sunset in 2028 when all teachers are required to have completed training. Beginning in July, all teacher preparation programs would be required to teach future educators to base literacy instruction on the science of reading. 

Needs of English learners

The CTA and other critics of AB 2222 charge that it ignores the need of English learners for oral language skills, vocabulary and comparison between their home languages and English, which they need in order to learn how to read. Four out of 10 students in California start school as English learners.

Tuck disputes this. “We actually emphasize oral language development,” he said. “This would be the first statute that would say when instructional materials are adopted, and when teachers are trained in the science of reading, they must include a focus on English learners and oral language development.”

Representatives from Californians Together, an advocacy organization for English learners and bilingual education, applauded the CTA’s opposition to the bill. They oppose the bill, rather than suggest amendments, because they disagree with its overall approach.

“We just don’t think this is the right bill to address literacy needs,” said Executive Director Martha Hernandez. “It’s very restrictive. We know that mandates don’t work. It lacks a robust, comprehensive approach for multilingual learners.”

Instead, Californians Together and the California Association for Bilingual Education have both said they would prefer California fund the training of teachers and full implementation of the English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework

The framework was adopted in 2014 and encourages, but does not mandate, explicit instruction in foundational skills and oral language development for English learners.

The California Language Teachers Association has requested the bill be amended to include information about teaching literacy in languages not based on the English alphabet, such as Japanese, Chinese or Arabic, according to Executive Director Liz Matchett. However, the organization has not yet taken a position on the bill.

“I agree that we want to support all children to be able to read. If they can’t read, they can’t participate in education, which is the one way that is proven to change people’s circumstances,” said Matchett, who teaches Spanish at Gunn High School in Palo Alto. “There’s nothing to oppose about that. I’m still a classroom teacher, and all the time, you get kids in high school who can’t read.”

Education Trust-West urges changes in the bill to center the needs of “multilingual learners” — children who speak languages other than English at home — and to include more oversight and fewer mandates, such as those that may discourage new teachers from entering the profession.

“If our recommended amendments were to be accepted, EdTrust-West would support it as a much-needed solution to California’s acute literacy crisis.”

Claude Goldenberg, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, said “it was disappointing” to see CTA’s opposition, particularly because the union did not suggest amendments. He said he had met with representatives from CTA and urged them to identify what could be changed in the bill.

In a recent EdSource commentary, Goldenberg urged opponents to “do the right thing for all students. AB 2222’s introduction is an important step forward on the road to universal literacy in California. We must get it on the right track and take it across the finish line.”

Referring to the CTA’s opposition, Goldenberg said, “Obviously my urgings fell flat. They identified why they’re opposing, but there’s no indication of any possible re-evaluation.” 

Goldenberg, who served on the National Literacy Panel, which synthesized research on literacy development among children who speak languages other than English, has called on the bill’s authors to amend it to include a more comprehensive definition of the “science of reading” and include more information about teaching students to read in English as a second language and in their home languages.

The CTA has changed its position on bills related to literacy instruction in the last two years. It had originally supported Senate Bill 488, which passed in 2022. The legislation requires a literacy performance assessment for teachers and oversight of literacy instruction in teacher preparation. The union is now in support of a bill that would do away with both.

The change of course was attributed to a survey of 1,300 CTA members, who said the assessment caused stress, took away time that could have been used to collaborate with mentors and for teaching, and did not prepare them to meet the needs of students, according to Leslie Littman, vice president of the union, in a prior interview. 

Veteran political observer Dan Schnur said he’s not surprised CTA would oppose the bill since some of its political allies are against it; the question is how important CTA considers the bill. 

“If it becomes a pitched battle, CTA will have to decide whether it is one of its highest priorities in this session,” he said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t indicated his position yet, but Schnur, the press secretary for former Gov. Pete Wilson, who teaches political communications at UC Berkeley and USC, said, “This is not the type of fight Newsom needs or wants right now. If he has strong feelings, it’s hard to see him going to war for or against.”

CTA-sponsored legislation would remove one of state’s last required tests for teachers

Monday, February 26th, 2024
First grade teacher Sandra Morales discusses sentences with a student. Credit: Zaidee Stavely / EdSource

State could retain unpopular written literacy test

By Dana Lambert, – republished with permission

Newly proposed legislation sponsored by the California Teachers Association would eliminate all performance assessments teachers are required to pass, including one for literacy that it supported three years ago. The result could leave in place an unpopular written test that the literacy performance assessment was designed to replace.

Senate Bill 1263, authored by state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, would do away with the California Teaching Performance Assessment, known as the CalTPA, through which teachers demonstrate their competence via video clips of instruction and written reflections on their practice. 

Eliminating the assessment will increase the number of effective teachers in classrooms, as the state continues to contend with a teacher shortage, said Newman, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

“One key to improving the educator pipeline is removing barriers that may be dissuading otherwise talented and qualified prospective people from pursuing a career as an educator,” Newman said in a statement to EdSource.

The bill also would do away with a literacy performance assessment of teachers and oversight of literacy instruction in teacher preparation programs mandated by Senate Bill 488, authored by Sen. Susan Rubio, D-West Covina, in 2021.

The literacy performance assessment is scheduled to be piloted in the next few months. It is meant to replace the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) set to be scrapped in 2025. 

New law could leave RICA in place

The proposed legislation appears to leave in place a requirement that candidates for a preliminary multiple-subject or education specialist credential pass a reading instruction competence assessment, said David DeGuire, a director at the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

“At this time, it is unclear what that assessment would look like, but it could be that the state continues to use the current version of the RICA,” he said.

Newman will present the legislation to the Senate Education Committee in the next few months. Discussions about whether the RICA remains in use are likely to take place during the legislative process.

Rubio recently became aware of the new legislation and had not yet discussed it with Newman.

“For three years, I worked arduously and collaboratively with a broad range of education leaders, including parent groups, teacher associations and other stakeholders to modernize a key component of our educational system that in my 17 years as a classroom teacher and school administrator I saw as counterproductive to our students’ learning,” Rubio said of Senate Bill 488.

Teachers union changes course 

The California Teachers Association, which originally supported Senate Bill 488, now wants all performance assessments, including the literacy performance assessment, eliminated.

“We are all scratching our heads,” said Yolie Flores, of Families in Schools, a Los Angeles-based education advocacy organization. “We were really blindsided by this (legislation), given the momentum around strengthening our teacher prep programs.”

The results of a survey of almost 1,300 CTA members last year convinced the state teachers union to push for the elimination of the CalTPA, said Leslie Littman, vice president of the union. Teachers who took the survey said the test caused stress, took away time that could have been used to collaborate with mentors and for teaching, and did not prepare them to meet the needs of students, she said.

“I think what we were probably not cognizant of at that time, and it really has become very clear of late, is just how much of a burden these assessments have placed on these teacher candidates,” Littman said. 

Teacher candidates would be better served if they were observed over longer periods of time, during student teaching, apprenticeships, residencies and mentorship programs, to determine if they were ready to teach, Littman said. This would also allow a mentor to counsel and support the candidate to ensure they have the required skills.

California joins science of reading movement

California has joined a national effort to change how reading is being taught in schools. States nationwide are rethinking balanced literacy, which has its roots in whole language instruction or teaching children to recognize words by sight, and replacing it with a method that teaches them to decode words by sounding them out, a process known as phonics. 

Smarter Balanced test scores, released last fall, show that only 46.6% of the state’s students who were tested met academic standards in English.

Last week Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, introduced Assembly Bill 2222, which would mandate that schools use evidence-based reading instruction. California, a “local control” state, currently only encourages school districts to incorporate fundamental reading skills, including phonics, into instruction.

 “It (Newman’s SB 1263) goes against not only the movement, but everything we know from best practices, evidence, research, science, of how we need to equip new teachers and existing teachers, frankly, to teach literacy,” Flores said. “And that we would wipe it away at this very moment where we’re finally getting some traction is just very concerning.”

Lori DePole, co-director of DeCoding Dyslexia California, said the proposed legislation would cut any progress the state has made “off at the knees.” 

Among her concerns is the elimination of the requirement, also authorized by Senate Bill 488, that the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing certify that teacher preparation programs are teaching literacy aligned to state standards and a provision that requires the commission to report to the state Legislature annually on how stakeholders are meeting the requirements of the law.

“It would be going away,” DePole said. “Everyone agreed with SB 488, all the supporters agreed, this was the direction California needed to go to strengthen teacher prep with respect to literacy. And before it can even be fully implemented, we’re going to do a 180 with this legislation. It makes no sense.”

Flores said teachers want to be equipped to teach reading using evidence-based techniques, but many don’t know how.

“We know that reading is the gateway, and if kids can’t read, it’s practically game over, right?” said Flores. “And we are saying with this bill that it doesn’t matter, that we don’t really need to teach and show that teachers know how to teach reading.”

Teacher tests replaced by coursework, degrees

California has been moving away from standardized testing for teacher candidates for several years as the teacher shortage worsened. In July 2021, legislation gave teacher candidates the option to take approved coursework instead of the California Basic Education Skills Test, or CBEST, or the California Subject Examinations for Teachers, or CSET. In January’s tentative budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed eliminating the CBEST and allowing the completion of a bachelor’s degree to satisfy the state’s basic skills requirement.

Littman disagrees with the idea that there will be no accountability for teachers if the legislation passes. “There’s always been, and will continue to be, an evaluation component for all of our teachers in this state,” she said. “It just depends on what your district does and how they implement that. There’s always been a system of accountability for folks.”

Setting aside local control, legislation would mandate how to teach reading in California

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

Pointing to dismal test scores, veteran lawmaker and a coalition of advocacy groups introduce AB 2222

By John Fensterwald, – Republished with permission

A veteran legislator who taught elementary school for 16 years introduced comprehensive early-literacy legislation Wednesday that would impose requirements on reading instruction and add urgency to the state’s patchwork of reading reforms.

Evidence-based practices, collectively known as “the science of reading,” would become the mandated approach to reading instruction for TK-5, if Assembly Bill 2222, authored by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, becomes law.

The bill would shift the state’s decade-old policy of encouraging districts to incorporate fundamental reading skills in the early grades, including phonics, to demanding that they do so. This would depart from the state policy of giving school districts discretion to choose curriculums and teaching methods that meet state academic standards.

Between now and 2028, all TK to fifth-grade teachers, literacy coaches and specialists would be required to take a 30-hour-minium course in reading instruction from an approved list.

School districts and charter schools purchasing textbooks would select from approved materials endorsed by the State Board of Education in a new round of textbook adoption.  

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing would receive money to add several experts for accreditation of teacher preparation programs in the science of reading. The bill would strengthen accountability for those programs that have not taught effective reading strategies, as required under recent state law.

Rubio and the advocacy nonprofits EdVoice,  Decoding Dyslexia CA, and Families in Schools, the bill’s co-sponsors, argue that another generation of California children cannot wait for districts teaching ineffective techniques using inadequate materials to come around.

“California is facing a literacy crisis,” the first sentence of the bill states. “There are far too many children who are not reading on grade level by the end of third grade and who will not complete elementary school with the literacy skills and language development they need to be successful academically in middle school and high school.”

Only 43% of California third graders met the academic standards in the state’s standardized test in 2023. Only 27.2% of Black students, 32% of Hispanic students, and 35% of low-income children were proficient, compared with 57.5% of white, 69% of Asian and 66% of non-low-income students.

“There’s always this delicate balance between local control versus let’s move forward collectively,” said Marshall Tuck, CEO of EdVoice and former candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “But when we have an issue that the vast majority of lower-income kids, who are disproportionately Black and Latino, are not reading at grade level, it requires urgency to do what we know works as fast as possible.”

Rubio, who recalled being handed coloring books instead of reading lessons in first grade as a non-English-speaking Mexican immigrant, said that data on the effectiveness of the science of reading convinced her to author the bill. However, her own experience as a fourth-grade teacher who previously taught kindergarten and first grade reinforced it. 

“When I have fourth graders that are at first- or second-grade reading, something’s wrong. I can tell you right then and there, if a kid doesn’t know phonics in the fourth grade, we screwed them up somewhere. If they’re not reading in the third grade, they may never recover,” said Rubio, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2016.

A piecemeal approach to literacy changes

The science of reading refers to research from neurology, psychology, and the cognitive and developmental sciences about how children learn to read. In the last decade, 47 states and Washington, D.C., have enacted laws to incorporate elements of the science of reading strategies. Fewer — Mississippi, Connecticut, Tennessee, and Virginia among them — have adopted and funded policies that coordinate multiple key elements: preparing and training teachers, supplying them with aligned instructional materials, testing for learning difficulties like dyslexia and engaging parents.

California is among the 47 states. Within the past three years, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature enacted discrete pieces of a state policy.

They funded $25 million to the University of California San Francisco to create a screening test for the risk of dyslexia and other learning difficulties; universal screening of K-2 students will begin in 2026-27.

They passed legislation to create a teaching credential for TK-3 that includes new literacy standards grounded in the science of reading; teacher preparation programs must introduce them starting next fall, and teachers will take a performance assessment as part of their new credential.

Newsom included $500 million in the last two state budgets for hiring and training of literacy coaches in the 5% of schools with the most low-income students. The Sacramento and Napa county offices of education, strong advocates of the science of reading, are overseeing the effort.   

At the encouragement of State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor emerita at the Stanford University School of Education, Newsom included $1 million in the current budget for a “literacy road map,” which will serve as a guide, with online resources, for districts to implement evidence-based reading strategies. Leading that effort are two respected literacy experts, Bonnie Garcia and Nancy Brynelson, whom State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond named the state’s first state literacy co-directors.

Tuck credits the steps taken by the Legislature and Newsom, “who has been an anchor on early education.” But guidelines won’t ensure that students in all districts will receive effective reading instruction —especially high-poverty schools that may be “slower to make adjustments when they’re dealing with so many challenges and so much complexity.”

Megan Potente, co-state director of Decoding Dyslexia CA, points to her 20 years as a teacher, who, as a new teacher frustrated by the ineffectiveness of her reading training, took a course on phonics and fundamental reading skills. “You feel like you’re not good at your job, and you weren’t equipped. And that’s a terrible feeling for new teachers,” she said. “So I went back to school, and I learned what I needed.”

Years later, she became a coach, supporting teachers in districts using balanced literacy that de-emphasizes evidence-based practices. She found it difficult to apply what she knew, she said, “because the curriculum materials didn’t follow the science; the teaching methods didn’t follow the science.”

A piecemeal approach to reading reforms inevitably leads to a game of “whack-a-mole,” former Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, who is credited with implementing successful comprehensive policies in her state during the pandemic, told EdSource.

Newsom did not require nor explicitly encourage districts to use the $20-plus billion they received in federal and state Covid-relief funding on teaching training in the science of reading nor on updating reading texts and materials. Now that the state is heading into a lean budget year, a scarcity of funding, particularly for teacher training, could set back a timeline to implement the bill. Newsom’s proposed budget for 2024-25 includes no significant money for new TK-12 programs.

A spokesperson for the Newsom administration, which usually declines to discuss pending legislation, offered no further comment.

What’s in Assembly Bill 2222

AB 2222 would define evidence-based literacy instruction as “evidence-based explicit and systematic instruction in phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary and oral language development, fluency, comprehension, and writing …  that adheres to the science of reading.” (Phonics are rules that relate letters in words to the sounds of spoken language. A phoneme is the smallest element of a sound within spoken language. Phonemic awareness reflects the ability to understand that words combine multiple phonemes when pronounced.)

The bill sets requirements for three principal elements of literacy instruction:

Teacher training

Starting in March 2026 and no later than June 30, 2028, all teachers in grades TK to 5 must complete an approved professional development and training program satisfactorily. The California Department of Education would appoint one or more county offices of education with expertise in the science of reading and evidence-based literacy instruction to serve as the state literacy expert lead that would select the list of eligible training programs. Districts would have to notify parents if fewer than 90% of the required teachers failed to complete the course. 

Instructional materials

The last state textbook adoption for English language arts and English language development was 2015. The bill would require the State Board of Education to complete the next adoption cycle by Jan. 1, 2026, for TK through eighth grade. The materials would have to adhere to the science of reading. School districts would not be required to replace materials they’re currently using, but they would need a waiver to buy basic instructional materials that aren’t approved.

Textbooks like “Units of Study,” by noted literacy author Lucy Calkins, whose instruction relies on visual cues, including the three-cuing method of reading, would not be eligible for the approved list.

Teacher preparation

The bill would strengthen the accountability requirements of landmark Senate Bill 488, the 2023 law that requires instructing candidates for a TK-5 or elementary credential in evidence-based reading instruction. 

It would require the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to establish a probationary accreditation process for teacher prep programs that aren’t meeting the literacy instruction requirements. Faculty in those programs would have to complete professional development in the science of reading for the program to avoid a loss of accreditation.  

The bill would provide funding for the credentialing commission to hire experts in the science of reading to help with program accreditation. One of the dozen members of the Committee of Accreditation would have to be an expert in the science of reading.  

MTC to seek legislature’s approval to place Bay Area Transportation tax measure on 2026 ballot

Thursday, January 25th, 2024
Photo by MTC.

To generate at least $1 to $2 billion annually; priorities include transit, safer streets and roads, resilience

Commissioners considering a variety of tax options

By John Goodwin & Rebecca Long, Metropolitan Transportation Commission

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024 voted to pursue legislation in Sacramento this year that would enable Bay Area voters to consider a transportation revenue measure as early as November 2026.

The proposed measure aims to advance a climate-friendly Bay Area transportation system that is safe, accessible and convenient for all. This includes preserving and enhancing public transit service; making transit faster, safer and easier to use; repairing local streets and roads; and improving mobility and access for all people, including pedestrians, bicyclists and scooter and wheelchair users.

The vote was approved unanimously by all members present. There are 21 commissioners with three non-voting members. Oakland Mayor Sheng Tao and San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan who are voting members were both absent during the vote.

State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco earlier this month introduced what is known as a spot bill that will be used as the vehicle for authorizing placement of the proposed measure on a future ballot in each of the nine Bay Area counties. The first opportunity to amend Wiener’s Senate Bill 925 will be in mid-February.

While the Commission has not yet identified a revenue source for the proposed measure, MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza noted that he and his colleagues are considering a wide range of options.

“Voters traditionally have supported transportation through bridge tolls or sales taxes. Bridge tolls are not an option in this case and we think it’s smart to look at more than a regional sales tax. We’re proposing a few options so we have enough flexibility and enough time to get it right.”

Tax Options & Projected Revenue

Legislators, and MTC staff and commissioners, will consider several options for generating revenue. These may include a sales tax, an income tax, a payroll tax, a square footage based parcel tax, a Bay Area-specific vehicle registration surcharge with tiered rates based on the value of the vehicle or a regional vehicle-miles traveled charge (VMT) charge subject to prior adoption of a statewide road usage charge not sooner than 2030.  

MTC staff recommend raising at least $1 billion to $2 billion per year for robust investments in safe streets and other capital improvements, to improve and expand transit service, and to help Bay Area transit agencies operate their services. 

Goals of the Regional Transportation Measure

The revenue measure’s core goal is to advance a climate-friendly transportation system in the Bay Area that is safe, accessible and convenient for all. Focus areas include:

  1. Protect and enhance transit service. Ensure that current resources are maintained and used effectively; and enhance service frequency and areas served.
  2. Make transit faster, safer and easier to use. Create a seamless and convenient Bay Area transit system that attracts more riders by improving public safety on transit; implementing the Bay Area Transit Transformation Action Plan; and strengthening regional network management.
  3. Enhance mobility and access for all. Make it safer and more accessible for people of all ages and abilities to get to where they need to go. Preserve and improve mobility for all transportation system users, including people walking, biking and wheeling.

Proposed Expenditure Categories

  1. Transit transformation: sustain, expand and improve transit service for both current and future riders; accelerate customer-focused initiatives from the Bay Area Transit Transformation Action Plan and other service improvements that are high priorities for Bay Area voters and riders; and help fund the transition to zero-emission transit. 
  2. Safe streets: transform local streets and roads to support safety, equity and climate goals, including through pothole repair, investments in bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure, safe routes to transit and other safety enhancements.
  3. Connectivity: fund mobility improvements that close gaps and relieve bottlenecks in the existing transportation network in a climate-neutral way.
  4. Climate resilience: fund planning, design and/or construction work that protects transportation infrastructure and nearby communities from rising sea levels, flooding, wildfires and extreme heat.

Transportation Measure Highlights

This measure reflects feedback from Commissioners, key legislative leaders and other stakeholders, including:

  • Improving transit coordination by strengthening MTC’s role as regional transit network manager;
  • A focus on Bay Area Transit Transformation Action Plan (TAP) action items and other customer facing policies that would benefit from a regional approach, such as ambassadors to assist riders and support a safe atmosphere;
  • Flexibility in the amount of revenue requested, as well as the way that funding could be generated;
  • Flexibility in spending priorities as the region’s needs evolve with time; and
  • The “North Star” vision statement, which includes greenhouse gas emission-reduction tools, such as:
    • A Transportation Demand Management mandate that encourages Bay Area employees to commute to work in ways other than driving to work alone; and 
    • A limitation on how money could be spent on highway-widening projects.

Just as MTC commissioners have proposed a range of tax options, so too have they identified multiple expenditure categories.

“We recognize that we’ll be asking voters to take on a heavy lift,” acknowledged Pedroza. “The big lesson from COVID is the need to transform both our transit network and the way we pay to operate it. But we also need to transform our local streets and roads to fix potholes and make the roads safer for walking and biking. We need to improve connectivity and do it in a way that doesn’t encourage people to drive more. And we need to make our transportation infrastructure more resilient to rising sea levels, flooding, wildfires and extreme heat.”

Measure Vision Statement

The Commissioners also adopted the following Vision Statement for the measure: “The Bay Area needs a world-class, reliable, affordable, efficient and connected transportation network that meets the needs of Bay Area residents, businesses and visitors while also helping combat the climate crisis; a public transit network that offers safe, clean, frequent, accessible, easy-to-navigate and reliable service, getting transit riders where they want and need to go safely, affordably, quickly and seamlessly; local roads are well maintained; and transit, biking, walking and wheeling are safe, convenient and competitive alternatives to driving; enhancing access to opportunity, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the region’s economy and improving quality of life.”

To learn more about the proposed tax measure click, here. To read the supporting documents considered by the Commissioners click, here.

MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.

California is not East Berlin. A wealth tax in the Golden State would expedite the exodus

Wednesday, January 24th, 2024

By Jon Coupal

Note: This column first appeared in The Press-Enterprise. Republished with permission.

Daily news reports on the great “California Exodus” are not just from conservative outlets. Left-leaning publications such as the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle have recently reported on the outmigration of upper-income citizens who, even if not billionaires, still generate a lot of income tax revenue.

Earlier this month the California Legislature held a hearing on Assembly Bill 259 which would lay the foundation for the imposition of a wealth tax. The companion legislation to AB 259 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would, among other things, effectively sweep away Proposition 13’s limits on taxing property.

Fortunately, the idea that California would be the first in the nation to impose a highly unpopular wealth tax is so radical that the proposal was rejected by Democrats as well as Republicans on the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee. It didn’t take long for the Democrat chair of the committee to shuffle the bill to the “suspense” file where bad legislation goes to die.

Coincidentally, the wealth tax hearing occurred on the same day that Gov. Newsom released his proposed budget. Things got a little sparky during the presentation with Newsom pushing hard against the Legislative Analyst’s figure of a $68 billion deficit. Newsom contends that the deficit is “only” $38 billion. (But hey, what’s a $30 billion difference between friends).

Newsom saved his most animated criticism for those who highlight the state’s shortcomings, including the significant outmigration of California’s most productive citizens. He especially targeted the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, which has never been reticent about commenting on the state’s well-deserved reputation for anti-business bias.

But to his credit, Newsom rejected the notion of a wealth tax – at least for now. For taxpayers, it matters little whether the governor’s stance is motivated by politics or a sincere policy position. Either way, we’ll take it.

The problems with the wealth tax proposal – even as half-baked as it is – are legion. But one issue should be especially troubling to anyone who believes both in fiscal restraint and basic constitutional freedoms. That is, could a wealth tax be applied to people who voluntarily leave the state for the specific purpose of avoiding California’s highest-in-the-nation income taxes? AB 259 contains a provision that applies the wealth tax to every “wealth-tax resident,” defined as someone who “is no longer a resident, and does not have the reasonable expectation to return to the state.”

The question here is not whether a resident of another state can be taxed when they have a “nexus” to California, for example income earned in California or owning property in the state. Rather, what about someone who no longer has any connection to California? The proposal to tax wealth on such people would likely be deemed to violate the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

More fundamentally, an “exit tax” could be construed as an impairment to the right to travel. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in 1958 in Kent v. Dulles that citizens have a liberty interest in the right to travel: “[t]he right to travel is a part of the ‘liberty’ of which the citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law under the Fifth Amendment …”

Setting aside the practical and legal problems with this or any wealth tax proposal, a fundamental problem is the signal it sends to all productive California taxpayers as well as those in other states who might consider moving here.  California already has a horrible reputation for its treatment of taxpayers and businesses, why would we even consider another punishing tax?

The proponents of the wealth tax need to be reminded that, as much as they might want to prevent citizens from leaving, California is not East Berlin. The U.S. Constitution will not allow the state government to build a wall to keep citizens in, and then shoot tax bills at them when they try to escape.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.