Even with $25.4 billion, CA’s higher ed subsidies fall short on return

This past June, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a $115.4 billion general fund budget that expanded Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented children and increased funding for state-funded preschool and universities, despite the state’s staggering debt.

While the general fund budget is $115.4 billion, the total state budget counts with an extra $45.7 billion in special fund spending and $6.5 billion in bond funds, bringing the fully enacted budget to $167.6 billion. When reporting on the total amount at hand, reporters seem to forget to factor the nearly $100 billion that flows through the state from the federal government. This extra chunk of cash is used to cover welfare services, K-12 education, and community colleges.

With a $265 billion budget, you would think that California would finally be able to provide a “free,” quality education and health services to a quarter of its 38 million residents living in poverty. But California has a history of living large, and funding for state-run higher education has been high for quite some time.

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School district votes to appeal court decision upholding parent trigger law on taxpayer dime

It appears the Anaheim City School District is done licking their wounds after receiving a humbling blow by a judge who ruled in favor of parents seeking to use the state’s parent trigger law. The ACSD school board has voted an unequivocal 5-0 to appeal the court’s decision. The press was not alerted.

It was on July 16 that Orange County Superior Court Judge Andrew Banks’ ruled in favor of a parent’s right to pull the parent trigger on the under-performing Palm Lane Elementary through the state’s Parent Empowerment Act in Ochoa vs. Anaheim City School District. Banks claimed the school district’s actions were “procedurally unfair, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.”

Anaheim resident Walt Rountree, who keeps up with the school board meetings, was the one who alerted Watchdog Arena about the board’s plan to appeal Banks’ ruling. Watchdog Arena promptly reached out to the school district for comment on July 24. ACSD Superintendent Linda Wagner wasn’t readily available due to international travel. It wasn’t until ten days after Watchdog Arena contacted her office that we finally received a reply. Questions regarding the board’s decision to allocate more taxpayer money to cover attorney fees during the appeal process were never addressed. Instead, a press release was sent our way.

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CA Dem introduces bill to renovate state’s DNA collection powers

With the introduction of a new bill by a seeming protector of citizens’ DNA, privacy advocates and civil libertarians in California have a unique opportunity to reignite the data collection debate.

Earlier this year, Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto introducedAssembly Bill 170, which would limit California’s ability to retain DNA samples taken from residents at birth. Since California is one of the seven states that retain DNA and blood samples from newborns–a procedure that is carried out without parental consent–the bill was welcomed by many defenders of personal privacy. While the bill has been amended and re-referred to the Health committee, Gatto is now working to legislatively overhaul a DNA collection law that previously ruled the intrusion to be unconstitutional.

Gatto’s new bill, AB 1492, aims to invalidate parts of a 2014 court decision, People v. Buza, which overturned Proposition 69, a 2004 law that required every person arrested on felony suspicions in California to provide DNA samples to the state and federal governments. The 2004 initiative was controversial because it granted the government authority to collect DNA samples from arrestees who hadn’t been charged or convicted of any crime.

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Judge honors parents’ right to ‘pull the trigger’ on failing school

Parents up and down the state of California should feel more empowered to ‘pull the trigger’ on their child’s educational future with a recent court decision striking down the Anaheim City School District’s attempt to ignore the state’s parent trigger law.

In early 2010, California’s Parent Empowerment Act was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, crowning California as the first state to implement a parent trigger law. Since then, parents have been legally capable of changing the administration of a local under-performing public school, with the option to convert the school into an independent charter school. When the parents of Anaheim’s Palm Lane Elementary tried to trigger this change, their petitions were rejected, based on what the school board called a lack of signatures and detailed information on how parents would conduct the transformation.

Undeterred, Palm Lane parents fought back and took the case to the Orange County Superior Court in hopes that the court would overturn ACSD’s rejection.

In response to the challenge, ACSD dispatched several lawyers to court—all paid by taxpayers. The board’s effort, however, was fruitless.

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CA’s knees tremble under the weight of a $443 billion debt

Federal unfunded pension liabilities are soaring. But as states deal with their own pension troubles, public services take a major hit.

Between 2008 and 2012, the state of California saw a 17 percent increase in local governments’ pension spending while tax revenue increased a meager four percent. As city officials scramble to handle the backlash from introducing pension reform ballot measures, few believe the effort will be met with enthusiasm. According to the Mercatus Center’s latest research on the fiscal condition of the states, California may not have all the time in the world before its downfall

The research points out factors like pension liabilities and other spending commitments linked to Medicaid and other health care benefits seem to present a heavy burden to taxpayers, and California is one of the 14 states without enough cash on hand to cover short-term liabilities.

In Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2014-15 budget, officials claimed the state’s ‘wall of debt’ amounted to $26.2 billion. Short-term debts account for most of the debt total, according to officials. Payments to community colleges, schools, and the state’s Medicaid program are named as those mainly responsible for said short-term debts.

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