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Bill Leonard - Contributor

Bill Leonard is a Member of the State Board of Equalization

A Week Under the Dome...
Tom Campbell, CPR and Education...

[Bill Leonard] 11/15/04

Campbell a Solid Choice for DOF

I was pleased to hear the news that the Governor has asked my friend, Tom Campbell, to be his new Director of Finance. The Governor envisions the job as the CFO of state government, and I am confident Tom Campbell will help the Governor by being a genuine in-house manager of fiscal matters.

While in the legislature, Tom Campbell authored and passed a bill to require the Department of Finance to analyze fiscal bills “dynamically” instead of “statically.” When liberals propose taxing “the rich” they usually just take the number of people they consider rich and multiply that number by the tax increase and say that is how much revenue will come in. That is a static analysis. A dynamic analysis asks how many rich people will move to Nevada as a result of higher taxes. In short, dynamic modeling assumes that changes in tax policy mean there will be changes in taxpayer behavior that are fiscally significant.

The difference between the two methods is perfectly illustrated by a study I asked the Legislative Analyst to do in 2002 of Governor Wilson‚s tax increases. That study showed that the actual revenue that came in as a result of those tax increases was about 20% lower than was forecast at the time the tax hikes were proposed. This resulted in a net shortfall to the state‚s treasury of more than $1.8 billion over three years. Clearly, Campbell‚s 1994 legislation to require dynamic modeling was desperately needed, even if Finance has not since always followed through with the law. Under Campbell, I am confident they will.

Tom Campbell proved to me he is highly intelligent, but perhaps more importantly, during the time I served with him in the Senate, he demonstrated the virtue of thriftiness to a remarkable degree. I am confident the state will be well served by this appointment.

CPR Continued

Today I continue the list of state government functions that the California Performance Review recommends maintaining, although the work will be done by new departments. The old entity is followed, in parentheses, by where the function will be done under the reorganization plan.

Coachella Mountain Conservancy (Natural Resources); California Coastal Commission (Natural Resources, except the Oil Spill Program, which will be overseen by the Environmental Protection); Continuing Care Advisory Committee (Health and Human Services); Correctional Standard Authority (Correctional Services); Cultural and Historical Endowment (Natural Resources); Committee on Dental Auxiliaries (Health and Human Services); Dental Board of California (Health and Human Services except for those functions transferred to the Dept. of Public Safety and Homeland Security); State Council on Developmental Disabilities (Health and Human Services); Developmental Disability Area Boards (Health and Human Services); Economic Strategy Panel (Labor and Economic Development); Film Commission (Labor and Economic Development); Financial Solvency Standards Advisory Board (Health and Human Services);

Education: Bad News/Good News

Over the past few months, the Department of Education has released data that show an education system in serious crisis. It is important to keep in mind that some will try to shoot the messenger. Every excuse will be given why it is bad to measure student achievement. It took years of hard political fighting to even get to this point where we are testing students against national norms and minimum standards. Measurement alone does not improve educational quality but properly used it will give educators and policy makers pointers on making needed improvements. We cannot afford to let up on these measures.

Starting with the Early Assessment program. The CSU system has teamed up with California's K-12 schools to provide 11th-graders a way to measure their ability to do college level work. This is a terrific idea. Last Spring nearly 40 percent of all 11th grade students statewide voluntarily took a test to see whether they are ready to handle college-level mathematics and English at CSU. The results are shocking: Only 22 percent were ready to take college English classes and 55 percent were ready for college mathematics.

In addition to this, the number of California schools facing penalties under the Federal No Child Left Behind Act because they failed to meet federal test-score standards rose 45 percent to 1,626 schools, which is about 20 percent of all California schools. This could rise substantially as the requirements under the Act become tougher. By 2014, 100 percent of students in each public school must score "proficient" in reading, writing, and math -- hence, the title “No Child Left Behind.”

Many reformers have been warning us about the decline in educational skills of our students. These tests are concrete proof that the warnings cannot be ignored. Those who would end this testing must be rebuffed so that we can use this information to guide our educational bureaucracy to the needed improvements. CRO




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