Good morning, California.

Don’t miss the inspiring true-life political thriller, “Dark Money,” when it airs on PBS later this summer, or in theaters. I saw it Monday night in San Jose and talked about political money in the Citizens United era on a panel with Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, and two of the film’s stars, former Federal Election Commission Chair Ann Ravel and Montana Free Press’ John S. Adams.

Our conclusion: Campaign donations of unlimited size will continue to flow, which makes disclosure all the more vital, though hardly a given.

Community college: Part of Brown’s past and future

Gov. Jerry Brown arrives Monday at the Community College Board of Trustees meeting.

Gov. Jerry Brown Monday enthusiastically promoted the new online community college he created in this year’s budget, saying it’s part of the “powerful new reality” that “learning is at our fingertips.”

Some context: Brown got his start in politics by winning a community college seat in Los Angeles almost 50 years ago. Now, as his term winds down, Brown went to the California Community College Board of Trustees to underscore his support for the new undertaking.

“This is big. It’s important. … It is obvious. It is inevitable. It is a juggernaut. It cannot be stopped.”

Brown included $120 million in his final budget for the new online community college, which is scheduled to start in the fall of 2019 after he has left office. Like the other 114 other community college districts, the online college will have its own board and president.

Students who cannot take time from jobs and family to attend regular classes will enroll in courses that will help them advance in their jobs, no matter their age. CALmatters’ Felicia Mello described the concept in this piece.

Teachers and others were skeptical at the start, viewing it as a threat to a more traditional college education. Many have become supportive, if not fully enthusiastic.

Tom Epstein, the board’s vice-president: “The governor gave the rationale for why it is important to the state. That will help constituencies who have to implement it be more supportive.”

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Progress on vaccination, but fight goes on

Several California schools continue to admit kids who are not vaccinated against childhood diseases, two years after the state adopted legislation intended to increase vaccinations.

Remind me: Previously, parents could cite personal beliefs for avoiding the requirement that they have their kids vaccinated before enrolling them in school. Now, as a result of hard-fought 2015 legislation, a physician must exempt any child from vaccination.

The reaction: The vaccination rate among kindergartners is up to 95 percent statewide, from 93 percent before it took effect in 2016, the Los Angeles Times’ Soumya Karlamangla reports, citing state health data.

But medical exemptions have increased fourfold since the new law took effect, and 90 percent or fewer kindergartners had all required shots at 785 of the state’s 6,500 elementary schools.

At 20 schools, most of them in Northern California, more than a quarter of students received medical exemptions.

Some parents remain convinced that vaccinations are harmful, despite medical evidence to the contrary.

The Medical Board of California recently sanctioned an Orange County physician by placing him on 35 months probation for improperly exempting a 2-year-old boy.

An option: Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and Sacramento Democrat who carried the 2015 legislation, intends to tighten the law, perhaps by authorizing the state to intervene if physicians are too loose with medical exemptions.

Pan: “When this authority is abused, the state public health department should be able to withdraw this authority from specific physicians and revoke the medical exemptions previously granted.”

Giving parents more school choice

Keshara Shaw and her son, Mikahi.

Parents having a hard time moving their kids to different schools would get a hand under legislation aimed at helping foster youth, homeless or recently homeless students, students of migrant families, and bullied victims.

CALmatters’ Elizabeth Castillo reports that Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a Rocklin Republican, is getting Democratic support, much to the relief of parents such as Keshara Shaw, a single mother who has been homeless. Shaw tried for two years to transfer her son out of a Los Angeles school where he is being bullied:

“Just because we live in these low-income areas we still have dreams and aspirations and we still, I feel, want to be able to provide my child with quality education. Education is key to everything.”

Kiley’s bill is awaiting a final Senate vote in August.

Walters: School accountability fight unending

CALmatters commentator Dan Walters focuses on the fight over public school accountability, writing that California’s education establishment “stoutly resist” efforts to closely monitor whether billions in school funding is having a “positive effect.”Walters: The issue will fall to either Marshall Tuck, a charter public school advocate, or Assemblyman Tony Thurmond of Richmond, the two Democrats running for school superintendent:

“Their duel is the next front in the never-ending war over the education of 6 million California students, most of them poor and/or English-learners.”

Morning coffee: Tony Thurmond, schools chief candidate

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, Richmond Democrat.

“There are many school districts that are struggling”—Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, a Richmond Democrat running for state superintendent of public instruction, told me over coffee recently.

His prescription: authorize districts with declining student enrollment to generate cash by more easily selling surplus property; provide housing assistance for teachers, and push for an initiative that would raise corporate property taxes.

“I would like to help lead a statewide measure that generates more revenue for our schools. … Pension costs … are higher than districts had anticipated. When you factor in other costs of education, districts need help. They’re looking to the state for help.”

Thurmond praised the Make It Fair initiative, a proposal aimed at the 2020 ballot that is intended to raise $3.6 billion or more for public schools.

The initiative would alter Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that slashed property taxes. A generation later, many businesses still pay property taxes based on 30-year-old land values. The campaign would be a donnybrook.

I’ll catch up with Thurmond’s opponent, fellow Democrat Marshall Tuck, soon.


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See you tomorrow.