School, Kavanaugh, Tesla and what’s ahead

Good morning, California. Back to school, back to business, back to the 2018 election.

Also, back to the future: It’s the 20th anniversary of Google’s incorporation as a privately held company by then-Stanford grad students Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Representatives of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, along with Facebook and Twitter testify this week before the Senate Intelligence Committee on social media’s response to foreign influence operations on their platforms.

“There is nothing inevitable about democracy.”—Historian Yuval Noah Harari, author of “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” on tech and society, which comes out today.

Stay safe out there

A student at Kendrick Elementary School outside Bakersfield.

Armed officers won’t patrol schools in California, as one bill proposed in the emotional aftermath of last year’s Parkland, Fla. shooting. And most districts likely will say thanks but no thanks to a Trump administration official’s remark that federal education funds can be used to arm teachers.

But classroom door locks, mandated plans for active shooters, and a “red flag law” right for school personnel to file gun violence restraining orders do await Brown’s signature or veto as classes resume.

Speaking of safety: Other bills before Brown require school safety policies on bullying and cyberbullying, a firm date for all school buses to have shoulder harnesses and seat belts and suicide prevention hotline numbers on student IDs.

Also a removal of sugary drinks from kids’ meal menus in restaurants. Also, the right for parents to give medical (non-smoke-able) cannabis to kids at school, with a prescription.

Oh, and later school start times to address sleep deprivation among well-protected, exhausted young Californians.

Don’t spend it all in one place, kids

Another bump in K-12 spending greets California kids this year. The state budget signed in by Gov. Jerry Brown in June lays out $11,640 per pupil, an overall increase of $4,633 since 2011, when the state began to emerge from recession and Brown came in.

Counting federal and local funds, California will invest $16,352 in each student this year.

No gold star, though: California’s spending is still middle of the pack, at best, nationally. And teachers are still moonlighting like crazy, Airbnb reports

A new round of tech subsidies

Tesla's 'gigafactory.'

Lawmakers extended a subsidy aimed at improving battery technology, at a cost of $166 million per year.

The download: San Francisco Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener’s bill extends the “Self-Generation Incentive Program” through 2024, at a five-year, $830 million cost to electricity ratepayers. The program began with a single line in one bill in the 2000 energy crisis.

Initially, the program encouraged the development of green electricity. Bloom Energy was an early beneficiary, receiving $375 million through 2016 for its fuel cells. Now, the focus is on energy storage.

New beneficiaries: Battery makers. One is Tesla. The California Public Utilities Commission reports that since 2011, the state has paid or will pay $199.3 million to offset consumers’ cost of installing Tesla’s batteries.

Critics say: All electricity customers pay for the program but a relatively small number of wealthier users benefit.

San Diego Gas & Electric’s opposition letter: “At some point, this long-running program should come to an end and subsidized technologies should be required to stand on their own.”

Meanwhile in Nevada: Tesla added 800 employees to its battery manufacturing facility outside Reno, qualifying for additional subsidies from the Silver State. The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that the Tesla factory now employs 3,250.

Remind me: In 2014, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval beat several states including California in competition to lure Elon Musk’s “gigafactory” by agreeing to a $1.3 billion package of tax breaks and other incentives. California is the largest market for those batteries, thanks in part to California ratepayer-funded subsidies.

Kevin McCarthy vs. Twitter

Kevin McCarthy-Paul Ryan fundraising invitation.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the Bakersfield Republican who aspires to become Speaker, is leading a campaign to end supposed bias by social media giants including Twitter, The Hill reports.

McCarthy regularly uses Twitter to tweet the #StopTheBias hashtag.

McCarthy, as quoted in The Hill: “I’ve spoken to (Twitter founder) Jack Dorsey throughout the month. … We believe in the First Amendment. But we also believe in transparency and accountability.”

Twitter’s donations to congressional candidates in the 2017-18 election cycle, by the Center for Responsive Politics’ count: $110,882 to Democrats; $1,250 to Republicans.

Perhaps that will change later this month. McCarthy is coming through California on a fundraising trip with outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan, stopping in Sacramento on Sept. 18.

TBD Tuesday

Commentary at CALmatters

Dan Walters: The most interesting statewide contest this year is for an office that’s little known to the public but affects arguably the most important state responsibility, K-12 education.

Constance Carroll: A crucial juncture is approaching for the community college baccalaureate movement in California. Two years after a limited number of community colleges began offering bachelor’s degrees in applied workforce preparation areas, a sunset provision is threatening to reverse the program’s success.

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights,, 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.