Good morning, California.

“California’s lag in academic achievement arises before children even enter the schoolhouse door.” — Stanford education professor Sean F. Reardon et al, explaining why California is behind most other states in closing its achievement gap.

 

Get ready to hear more about universal preschool

A major report finds California lags on closing its achievement gap.

Students appear to be benefiting from the state’s 2013 overhaul of public school funding, CALmatters’ Ricardo Cano reports. But California’s attempts to close the achievement gap still lag most of the nation because so many kids here are behind from the first day of school.

That takeaway is most likely to get lawmakers’ attention in a massive 10-year research effort into socioeconomic disparities in California’s school system.

  • Getting Down To Facts II—36 studies and 19 briefs by more than 100 authors—finds Gov. Jerry Brown was right to target extra state dollars to schools with the greatest concentration of needy students.
  • But Brown’s reforms aren’t enough because so many kids are in low-income homes where families don’t speak English.

The recommendation: Mega investment in early childhood education.

  • Nine out of 10 kids attend kindergarten. But only about half of the state’s 4-year-olds and about a fifth of 3-year-olds are in a public preschool or federally funded Head Start, the National Institute for Early Education Research reports.

The hitch: California would have to increase K-12 funding by about a third for all of the state’s 6.2 million students to meet current state standards—an estimated $22 billion, the report finds.

The next governor: Gavin Newsom is a big supporter of universal preschool. John Cox supports more charter schools, homeschooling and private school vouchers. Both Superintendent of Schools candidates want big increases in school spending.

CALmatters’ Dan Walters says the study arms all sides in the achievement gap wars.


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And get ready for fresh battles over the California coast

Hollister Ranch, near the Gaviota Coast and Point Conception

The fight to open Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County could be coming to a head, 36 years after it began when Jerry Brown was governor the first time.

  • The 8.5-mile stretch of beach north of Santa Barbara was subdivided a year before voters approved the 1972 initiative that sought to ensure access to California’s coastline.
  • Brown signed legislation to provide access to Hollister Ranch in 1979 and 1982, but property owners intervened. The beach is inaccessible except by boat.
  • Realtors today advertise strictly limited access. One property is listed for sale at $21 million.

In August, lawmakers approved legislation by Santa Barbara Democrat Monique Limón re-establishing a process to provide access.

  • Hollister Ranch hired four lobby firms to derail Limón’s bill.

On Tuesday, California Coastal Commission chairwoman Dayna Bochco met with Brown’s aides at the Capitol to urge that he sign the bill.

Bochco: “Public access is one of the most important things that the people of this state have. And it was guaranteed to us and we should be able to enforce it.”

Hollister Ranch Homeowners Association president Monte Ward urges a veto, saying Limón’s bill would upend a tentative court settlement.

  • Beach access advocates say that settlement would provide almost no access.

Also urging Brown to sign the bill: Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose office represents the Coastal Commission in that suit.

Becerra: “[The coast] is a state treasure that must be protected for the benefit of all 40 million Californians.”


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How the U.S. Supreme Court could upend the Coastal Act

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide as early as next month whether to hear an epic battle over access to Martins Beach in San Mateo County.

  • In the balance? Maybe the fate of the landmark California Coastal Act.

In 2008, tech billionaire Vinod Khosla bought 53 acres above Martins Beach near Half Moon Bay, including several houses and a road leading to the beach. Then he sought to restrict access.

  • Protests and lawsuits followed, as did an effort by the State Lands Commission to purchase the access road for $360,000. Khosla countered with a demand for $30 million for it.

Long story short: Khosla has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the California Coastal Act on constitutional grounds.

  • Realtors, the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation and other private property rights advocates have filed briefs siding with Khosla.
  • The high court opens its new session at the start of October with announcements of cases it will hear.

The New York Times summed up the case: If he wins, he could reshape the laws that govern 1,100 miles of shore. And if he loses, all he would be forced to do is apply for a permit to change the hours of operation on a single gate.”

Khosla: If I were to ever win in the Supreme Court, I’d be depressed about it. I support the Coastal Act; I don’t want to weaken it by winning. But property rights are even more important.”

And more fightin' words on water, this time from de León

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

The Hetch Hetchy Valley supplies San Francisco with some of the sweetest water in California, stored behind a dam that embitters many environmentalists because it’s in Yosemite National Park.

Now Sen. Kevin de León—a Los Angeles legislator trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, San Francisco’s former mayor—says he might support razing O’Shaughnessy Dam and restoring the valley, so long as there is a replacement for San Francisco’s water supply.

  •  San Francisco won congressional legislation authorizing the dam in 1911. Feinstein once told me Hetch Hetchy water is San Franciscans’ birthright and called draining the reservoir the worst idea “since selling arms to the Ayatollah.”

Speaking to CALmatters this week, de León likened Hetch Hetchy to the Owens Valley, which Los Angeles officials tapped to provide water for that city’s development, at great environmental cost to Eastern California.

De León: “You’d have to make sure the people of the city of San Francisco have a stream of water that they can rely on. So I think I would be open as long as we know where that water is coming from.”

He stressed that “it is not an unequivocal no because I want to make sure that we have a stream of water … and that it is cost effective for the people.”

  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said recently that emptying the reservoir is something he’s open to studying. Hetch Hetchy advocates contend the water could be replaced. San Franciscans, not so much.

Commentary at CALmatters

Joel John Roberts: California’s next governor must have the foresight to create a new game-changing approach to supportive housing and homeless solutions. Otherwise, in 15 years, we will be voting on a new billion-dollar bond.

Dan Walters: When politicians take the easy way out and ignore reality, it comes back to haunt them and their constituents, whether it’s delayed infrastructure maintenance or unaffordable salary increases.

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

See you tomorrow.