Gov. Jerry Brown’s landmark school funding formula would not only win more money under the state budget blueprint he released Wednesday but also be subjected to the sort of transparency and accountability lawmakers and advocates for needy kids have been seeking since its adoption almost five years ago.
The formula directs significant sums of extra cash toward districts with foster youth, kids learning English and students from low-income families, acknowledging that it costs more to educate them. It also gives districts power to decide how to spend their extra money to shrink the academic achievement gap between those groups of students and their peers.
But as I reported in a June investigation for CALmatters, the funding is almost impossible to track and the results so far have been underwhelming.
In a summary outlining his spending priorities, Brown acknowledged a few of his well-intentioned policy’s shortcomings and proposed some fixes that he thinks will help boost the state’s sagging academic achievement. He conceded for the first time that valid “concerns have been raised” about the policy’s effectiveness. It’s a stunning departure. Previously, the governor had been resistant to changing the formula.
“While many districts have seized the opportunities offered under the formula to better serve their students, others have been slower to make changes,” Brown wrote. Read More
Both leaders of California’s Legislature have agreed to release records about certain investigations of sexual harassment in the state Capitol.
“The Senate and the Assembly will release documents related to sexual harassment claims that have been substantiated against a high-level legislative employee or legislator for which discipline has been imposed or allegations have been determined to be well-founded,” Senate leader Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a joint statement released Friday.
“The documents to be released will be the claim filed and the letter provided to the accuser or the accused wrapping up the investigation and providing information about the final outcome of the investigation. All documents will redact the personally-identifying information of the accuser and any witnesses for privacy reasons.”
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon chats with Senate President Kevin de León. Photo by Steve Yeater for CALmatters
De León has instructed his staff to release the records within the next two weeks, his chief of staff said. Rendon’s office gave a less precise timeline, saying they are working to compile the information and will release it in the coming weeks. Read More
Taking a different tone from his counterpart in the state Senate, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon on Wednesday would not yet commit to releasing information reporters requested about sexual harassment investigations held by his house.
“We are formulating a response to your letter,” Rendon said when I asked him during a meeting with reporters if he would release records I and other reporters had requested about harassment investigations.
“Our attorneys are trying to figure out how we make sure there is proper transparency. And also that we are abiding by our HR protections,” Rendon said, adding that the issue will be examined by a newly formed committee of senators and assembly members looking at the Capitol’s response to sexual harassment complaints.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon
On Nov. 27, I sent letters to Rendon and Senate leader Kevin de León, both Democrats from Los Angeles, requesting records on a narrow set of harassment complaints: those that had been investigated and determined to be substantiated. Read More
Asking the government to release public records is a standard part of being a journalist.
Typically we make these requests with a formal letter using boilerplate legal language to explain what we want and why it’s public information under California law. We send the letter off to a government administrator who decides whether to release the documents, and then replies with an equal dose of legalese. It’s a dry and impersonal exchange.
I’ve done it this way dozens of times in my 15 years as a reporter. But recently, I tried something different: Instead of making a legal argument to a bureaucrat, I made a moral appeal directly to the Legislature’s elected leaders.
The moment seemed right for a different approach after nearly 150 women signed an open letter this fall complaining of rampant sexual harassment in the state Capitol. Legislative leaders responded by pledging to address the problem, yet their staff quickly began rejecting reporters’ requests for documents that would help the public assess it. Will politicians’ promises to change an institutional culture that has allowed harassment to fester include exposing misconduct the Legislature is aware of in its own ranks? I am making the case that it should.
For decades, the Legislature has shielded evidence of its own misbehavior because it’s allowed to under the open records law it passed in 1975. In writing California’s Legislative Open Records Act, legislators actually protected themselves from the same scrutiny they impose on other government officials. Most other government agencies must release information about investigations of officials who are found culpable of wrongdoing. The law for California lawmakers, though, says they are not required to release “records of complaints to or investigations conducted by” the Legislature. Read More