A nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California’s policies and politics

Trump v California

In this corner: Education

For basic background, start with The weigh-in: Education

School Vouchers
All talk, no action—yet
It's on!
On the ropes
California wins!
Trump wins!

California AG asks Trump to spare 'DREAMers' brought to US as children

published Jul 21, 2017

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Photo by Steve Yeater for CALmatters

Asking President Trump to fulfill his commitment to so-called “DREAMers,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 19 other states’ chief law enforcement officers issued a letter today urging him to save a program that protects nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.

During the campaign, Trump vowed to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but he’s softened his position since taking office, calling the DACA program’s recipients “incredible kids” who should “rest easy” because they’re not priorities for deportation.

More than a quarter of the five-year-old program’s participants are from California.

“Donald Trump says we should treat DACA grantees ‘with heart’ – and I agree,” Becerra said in a statement. “Instead of frightening kids, we should empower them to fulfill their potential.”

According to the letter, the program has opened doors to college and boosted young immigrants’ purchasing power.

The letter also implores the President not to “capitulate” to a 10-state coalition of Republican officials who have threatened to sue if the program isn’t phased out by September and even asks him to defend it in court should a fresh legal challenge arise.

“We urge you to affirm America’s values and tradition as a nation of immigrants and make clear that you will not only continue DACA, but that you will defend it,” the letter states. “The cost of not doing so would be too high for America, the economy and for those young people.”

Other signatories include attorneys general from: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C.

Here's how Trump's budget could affect California schools

published Jun 1, 2017

Trump budget would mean major changes for California schools

published May 23, 2017

The Trump administration has unveiled its fully fleshed-out budget proposal, a fiscal vision characterized by significant cuts to discretionary spending programs and, among other things, a dramatic shift in education policy that could have a big impact on California schooling.

Some of the most dramatic changes would come in the form of spending cuts. The proposal argues for a $9.2 billion net reduction for the Department of Education.

As the Los Angeles Times has reported, that would likely mean the elimination of the Supporting Effective Instruction State grant, a program that provides roughly a quarter of a billion dollars to California schools. These dollars are used for teacher retention and the improvement of teacher quality. Though the Obama administration raised questions about the program’s efficacy, some advocates have warned that terminating the program could exacerbate the state’s shortage of qualified teachers.

But more than a series of cuts, the budget also represents a marked shift in philosophy about education. In the introduction, President Trump argues that federal education policy should focus on “advancing opportunities for parents and students to choose, from all available options, the school that best fits their needs to learn and succeed.”

The administration has called for more than $400 million to fund charter schools and to provide vouchers for private and religious schools. Though such proposals are likely to be opposed by the Democratic Party and teachers’ unions, tax-funded vouchers appear to be remarkably popular among California public-school parents.

For now, the administration’s budget proposal is just that—a proposal. All budget decisions are ultimately made by Congress, where even some Republicans are viewing the president’s proposal with skepticism.

Most Californians concerned about undocumented students; two-thirds want schools to be sanctuaries

published Apr 20, 2017

Poll: Californians favor tax-funded school vouchers

published Apr 20, 2017

Californians have overwhelmingly rejected private school voucher initiatives twice in the last 25 years, but a new poll shows this deep blue state has renewed interest in the idea championed by the Trump administration.

And the strongest support comes from African Americans and Latinos.

The poll finds 60 percent of adults and 66 percent of public school parents favor tax-funded vouchers that would help families cover the cost of private or parochial school tuition—even though most respondents also gave their neighborhood schools good grades.

“Many believe the state isn’t spending enough money on K12 education and should also spend what it has more wisely,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, which produced the poll. “In this context, many are willing to raise their local taxes and consider a voucher system.”

Republicans are more likely than independents and far more likely than Democrats to back vouchers, according to the poll, which surveyed 1,705 adults and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. While majorities across all racial and ethnic groups are in favor, almost three in four Latinos and African Americans surveyed back the idea.

President Trump first pledged his support for tax-funded vouchers during his presidential campaign, calling school choice “the civil rights issue of our time.” And before U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos joined his administration, she led an advocacy group that promoted private school choice.

Teachers unions in California and across the country vehemently oppose vouchers because they steer public money away from public school. California Teachers Association President Eric Heins dismissed the idea that Trump led Californians to rethink their long-standing opposition. “When people are asked on the street what they think about vouchers, they often say it’s a good idea,” Heins said. “But once you start sharing some of the details and tell people how much money they strip away from public schools, that support starts to erode.”

American Federation for Children spokesman Tommy Schultz, however, said he sees a mandate in the poll results. “Lawmakers in California should listen to parents who want to be empowered with educational choice and have access to a quality education for their children,” said Schultz, whose group had long been led by DeVos.

After encouragement, immigrant students create last-minute surge in state scholarships applications

published Mar 3, 2017

Fears about deportation had initially depressed interest in a state-funded scholarship program for undocumented California students, but a campaign to reassure applicants seems to have worked. Applications this year are up slightly compared to last year thanks to a late surge of submissions.

“We are thrilled, excited,” Lupita Cortez Alcalá, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, told EdSource.

Immigrants vying for a California Dream Act grant to help cover college costs in 2016 had only two months to apply, and the state received about 34,000 applications. This cycle, the application window was more than twice as long, but with one week to go before the March 2 deadline, only about 20,000 students had applied—a 40 percent drop.

That all changed over the last few days as lawmakers and top education officials practically begged qualified students to fill out an application.

“Please apply right away. The California Dream Act is the key to success in college and 21st century careers,” State Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said. “It would be a shame if fear or confusion keeps students from applying for financial aid that they have earned and they deserve.”

A group of Assembly Democrats last week also urged students to go for it after seeing the anemic submission stats. “I’m pleased that the federal actions haven’t stopped tens of thousands of California Dream Act students from pursuing their education,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount. “I’m grateful to all the advocates and organizations who reached out to these students to help make sure they applied.”

In the end, the state received 35,882 applications, almost 2,000 more than last year.

Students reportedly told their high school guidance counselors and college financial aid officers that they believe the personal information they report to the state will be shared with the federal government, placing them at greater risk of deportation.

Betsy DeVos squeaks through confirmation as Ed Secretary

published Feb 8, 2017

With a historic assist from the vice president, the U.S. Senate narrowly approved Betsy DeVos to lead the federal Department of Education after a series of tense hearings sparked protests and exposed bipartisan fear about her fitness to oversee the nation’s public schools.

Two Republican senators joined Democrats in refusing to back the DeVos appointment, so Vice President Mike Pence cast the final vote in her favor to break an exceedingly rare tie. Picks for education secretary are rarely controversial, but this time was different. Senate Democrats seized on her lack of direct experience with public schools and her inability during her confirmation hearing to answer basic questions about how they operate.

Picks for education secretary are rarely controversial, but this time was different. Senate Democrats seized on her lack of direct experience with public schools and her inability during her confirmation hearing to answer basic questions about how they operate.

DeVos, a Michigan native, is a leading advocate of publicly-funded private school vouchers who could move swiftly to implement the $20 billion school choice program Donald Trump pitched on the campaign trail if the concept wins support in Congress.

But even an act of Congress may not get her very far in California. Democrats at every level of government oppose the concept, and voters here have twice rejected private school voucher initiatives.

Trump says student DREAMers "shouldn't be very worried" about deportation

published Jan 25, 2017

President Trump appears to be dramatically softening his tone regarding a popular program for immigrant children, telling ABC News that the program’s participants “shouldn’t be very worried” about deportation.

“I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody,” Trump said in an ABC News interview. “Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job, they should be far less worried.”

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, currently protects roughly 750,000 immigrant children whose parents brought them to this country illegally, allowing them to work and go to college.

Former President Barack Obama created the program with an executive order in 2012 after Congress debated but failed to pass the so-called DREAM Act, which would have given immigrant children similar legal protections. He acted one year after California adopted its own legislation for DREAMers, allowing them to obtain scholarships to attend state universities.

DREAM stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.


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