Bill Leonard - Contributor
Bill Leonard is a Member of the State Board of Equalization
Week Under the Dome
Education failing, Workers comp, Oracle, Voting fiasco...
[Bill Leonard] 3/9/04
Public Education Failing a Generation
One big challenge that public schools in California have is
convincing the public that more money will result in better student
performance. I do not see what they can point to that is going
to make voters believe this. Forty-eight percent of freshman
enrolled at CSU last year got out of California high schools
without basic English skills and 40% lacked basic math skills
-- and these are supposedly the good students. It is true that
the high number of limited-English speaking students in California
is a great challenge. Still, it is obvious that California public
schools need bold change, and before they get more money, the
California Teachers Association, and other education advocates,
will need to offer evidence of a reform agenda that will dramatically
improve student performance. Lance Izumi and the staff at the
Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco released a study
last fall, The California Index of Leading Education Indicators,
which shows that the performance of our schools is at an intolerable
level. According to the report:
to 1995, verbal SAT scores for California public high school
students dropped from
421 to 412, while those for parochial school students increased
from 432 to 442.
to 1994, the percentage of students taking first- year
chemistry in California was the lowest of
all states, and only Delaware and Hawaii had a lower
percentage of students enrolled in second-level algebra.
ranks near the bottom in both math and reading based
on National Assessment
of Educational Progress test scores, with 59 percent
of California students reading below the basic level.
of California's high school students drop out.
dollars, per-pupil spending in California was 60
percent higher in 1994-95, than in 1969-70.
Jobs Held Hostage
failed to act on workers' compensation reform by the Governor's
March 1st deadline. Assembly Republicans had
been counting down the days to the deadline, but with it now
in the rearview mirror, they have launched a Jobs Held Hostage
campaign. One of the first featured companies is Partytime Ice
Company in San Pedro, which has cut its employees' workweeks
from 40 hours to 20-25 because of the rise in workers' comp premiums.
Such public education efforts will help the Governor's plan to
move forward a ballot measure on the matter and may put sufficient
pressure on legislators to move more quickly.
Taking the Oracle Fall
What if you wanted
to low-ball the news that your political ally was involved
in corruption? Well, if you are Attorney General
Bill Lockyer, you announce the indictment of a former Governor
Davis staffer on election day, thus guaranteeing that all reporters
are too busy with election news to cover the story. The Oracle
scandal occurred in 2001. The legislative investigation took
place in 2002. Now the fastest the "Justice" Department
can bring an indictment is Primary Election Day 2004. I was a
member of the investigating legislative committee. We interviewed
Kari Dohn, who is now facing charges of altering evidence. I
am convinced she was following orders. Somebody in the Davis
Administration told her to do this. Yet our Attorney General
finds no other evidence of crime! Why would anyone alter evidence
if there is nothing to hide? By the way, the evidence she is
accused of altering relates to the real question that has never
been answered: What did Gray Davis know and when did he know
Data for 2003 Looking Strong
The data have been crunched for the first quarter of 2003.
Taxable sales in California rose 3.5% during the first quarter
last year from the same period. Retail stores posted taxable
sales of $72.1 billion, a 5.5% increase. Last year most people
viewed the economy as anemic, at best. Given how things seem
better now, I am confident that the revenue side is going to
continue to improve. AROUND THE STATE
The Leader Board
Assemblymembers Loni Hancock and Tim Leslie for not only winning
their primaries with no opposition but for
leading the Democrats (Hancock - 82,881) and the Republicans
(Leslie - 56,368) with more votes than any other Assembly candidates
last Tuesday. The Senate "winners" were Democrat Don
Perata at 100,438 and Republican Dick Ackerman at 93,580.
In the January 20th edition of Leonard Letter I summarized
Johns Hopkins University research about electronic voting systems.
The professors criticized electronic voting systems for their
susceptibility to hackers and their inability to be verified
by auditors. Unfortunately, another problem with electronic voting
was demonstrated in my hometown of San Bernardino last Tuesday.
Voters seemed pleased with ease of the touch-screen voting system,
but candidates were less-than- pleased with the time it took
to calculate and report results. The Registrar of Voters staff
neglected to follow the advice of Sequoia Voting Systems, which
recommended synchronizing the 1,700 voting machines to the main
system much earlier than when the Registrar began the process.
This alone makes the process more open to ballot fraud. When
he finally tried to load everything in one large batch, the system
bogged down and could not process everything. Ballot counting
did not begin until 12:30am and results were not reported until
5:30am. Candidates were frustrated to not see results sooner
and the delays called into question the integrity of the system,
no matter what the county officials say. People are already skeptical
about the validity of the electronic systems, the Johns Hopkins
researchers documented those doubts by demonstrating the frailties
of the system, and a major error on its first use in San Bernardino
County only exacerbates the concerns.