Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, April 29.

High marks on schools

Things are looking up for Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Majorities of Californians — 58% of likely voters and 64% of public school parents — approve of how the governor is handling the state’s public K-12 education system, and a solid 59% of likely voters give him high marks for his approach to school reopenings, according to a Public Policy Institute of California survey released late Wednesday night. The findings, which came two days after Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced that supporters of the Newsom recall had gathered enough signatures to force a special election later this year, bolster previous reports suggesting the governor is well positioned to keep his job.

Indeed, 80% of Democrats approve of Newsom’s handling of the school system — compared to just 21% of Republicans.

The numbers could pose a significant hurdle for Newsom’s GOP challengers, who frequently cite California’s minimal in-person learning opportunities as a major reason for recalling the governor. As of Wednesday, just 50% of public school students had the option to return to some level of in-person instruction, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of state data. It also remains unclear whether students will return to campus full-time next school year: Newsom has made clear he expects it, but hasn’t endorsed a mandate. It could be a key issue in the election: 64% of likely voters told the Public Policy Institute of California they’re concerned schools won’t reopen for full-time in-person instruction in the fall.

Despite Newsom’s high marks, voters’ anxieties about the quality of their children’s education were apparent in the survey. An overwhelming 89% said students are falling behind academically due to the pandemic, 48% said the quality of education has gotten worse in the past few years, and 42% of parents said they would send their kids to private school if cost and location weren’t an issue. That’s up from 31% in 2018 — and may have something to do with the fact that California’s public school enrollment just hit a 20-year low.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 3,634,778 confirmed cases (+0% from previous day) and 60,273 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 29,000,025 vaccine doses, and 37.6% of Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.


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1. Broadband expansion faces hurdles

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock

You read Wednesday about the scope of California’s digital divide: Millions of students still don’t have access to high-speed internet, primarily because of cost barriers. With the governor and lawmakers galvanized to address the issue and a historic amount of money flowing from the federal government, 2021 could be the year that California finally goes big on broadband. But nothing is ever that simple in the state Capitol: Large internet providers don’t welcome new regulations, and local governments are pushing back on proposals to speed up the approval of new infrastructure projects, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. Further complicating matters, lawmakers and internet providers’ ideas for solving the digital divide appear to cancel each other out: Lawmakers are proposing providers pay to gain access to public broadband infrastructure, while the cable industry is proposing the government buy broadband service from private providers on behalf of school districts and public housing.

2. An easier way to pass taxes?

Image via iStock

The California Supreme Court may have just made it a lot easier to pass certain kinds of taxes. The state’s highest court on Wednesday declined to review an appeals court’s ruling permitting San Francisco to fund child care and early education programs with a tax approved by 51% of voters. Under a ballot measure California voters approved in 1996, any tax increase proposed by local government to fund specific programs must be passed by two-thirds of voters. But the child care tax was placed on the San Francisco ballot by residents collecting signatures, and that initiative power is “one of the most precious rights of our democratic process” and must be interpreted broadly, the appeals court ruled.  

The state Supreme Court in September declined to review a similar case, clearing the way for San Francisco to pay for homeless services with a citizen-proposed tax passed by a simple majority of voters. But the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which appealed both cases, isn’t backing down: It’s considering sponsoring yet another ballot measure that would require two-thirds of voters to approve any local tax increase, the San Francisco Chronicle reports

  • Laura Dougherty, lawyer for the HJTA: “If politicians simply copy and paste a government tax proposal into a citizens’ initiative petition, they can dramatically reduce the voter approval needed to impose it.”

3. CA’s unrivaled business profile

People attend Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose on June 5, 2017. Photo by Gary Reyes, Bay Area News Group

Yes, California is about to lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in history, and yes, some high-profile corporations have moved to Texas — but the Golden State is also home to nearly half of the 64 U.S. companies on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential companies in the world. The list, compiled for the first time and released Tuesday, indicates that reports of the much-discussed “California Exodus” may be exaggerated. Of the 30 California companies on the list, 23 are based in the Bay Area, six in the Los Angeles area and one in San Diego, according to the Mercury News. They comprise big names like Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Netflix, but they also include lesser-known companies like Rothy’s. Check out the full list here.


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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: President Joe Biden’s proposals to increase taxes will have a big effect on California, which is already highly dependent on taxing the rich.

California needs a state public bank: It would help address the state’s widening wealth gap and address systemic racism in our financial institutions, argues Jyotswaroop Bawa of the California Reinvestment Coalition.

California voter suppression starts in high school: If we care about young people having a voice in elections, schools should start taking their students’ role in our democracy seriously, writes Laura Brill of The Civics Center.


Other things worth your time

A president flanked by two California women of power speaks before a nearly empty House. // Los Angeles Times

State Capitol mum on eviction moratorium extension as renters seek more time. // CalMatters

Capitol employees asked to submit vaccine status as Legislature moves to reopen. // Sacramento Bee

Some county jail inmates see vaccination as ticket to a better life — in state prison. // California Healthline

District attorney moves to lift all gang injunctions in San Diego County. // San Diego Union-Tribune

San Francisco schools seek reopening consultant a year after the board shot down the idea. // San Francisco Chronicle

Where’s Caitlyn? So far, Jenner’s gubernatorial campaign is virtual. // Associated Press

Why were the Bay Area’s biggest cities denied key housing funds? // Mercury News

California is awash in cash, thanks to a booming market. // New York Times

Orange County debates ethnic studies: Vital education or ‘anti-white’ divisiveness? // Los Angeles Times

Deadly California arrest carries echoes of George Floyd case. // Associated Press

Three more Bay Area water districts take drastic steps with drought looming. // SFGATE

Marin eyes Richmond Bridge water pipeline if drought worsens. // Mercury News

This beloved Marin winery is shutting down, citing California’s drought and climate change. // San Francisco Chronicle


See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...