Contra Costa Times: Should try pilot program on California community colleges
By 2025, the state will need 60,000 more college graduates every year to meet demand — a 40 percent increase over current levels, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Lawmakers and educators need to make serious strides, and soon, to avert a potentially disastrous workforce shortage.
There is no single solution, but a bill recently introduced in the Legislature would help. Authored by Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, and co-sponsored by San Mateo Sen. Jerry Hill, Senate Bill 850 authorizes a pilot program allowing community colleges to offer one bachelor's degree apiece in an in-demand field, such as health care or information technology.
Some 21 states already allow this, because it helps communities meet the unique needs of local businesses, trains students for jobs that actually exist, and helps them avoid the costly and confusing transfer process. A community college in Bismarck, N.D., for example, offers a degree in energy management.
Reasonable as this seems, the proposal is controversial. It would increase competition with for-profit colleges, such as the University of Phoenix, for one thing. But the more substantive debate is over California's 54-year-old Master Plan for Higher Education, which lays out specific roles for community colleges, the University of California and the California State University. Bachelor's degrees are supposed to be the province of four-year colleges.
But this isn't 1960; even the CSU system now offers dozens of doctoral degrees, contrary to the Master Plan.
Careers that once required only a high school diploma or a two-year degree now, or soon will, require a bachelor's.
One such example is automotive management. De Anza College offers a two-year automotive tech degree, but dealerships increasingly want applicants with a bachelor's, and Cerritos College is Norwalk is the only place in the state to offer it, through a partnership with a Michigan university.
Community colleges already work with local employers to train students with the right skills. They are ideally positioned to help California build its workforce in this way, while keeping costs low and allowing students to remain close to home — particularly in rural areas, which struggle to meet workforce demands.
The bill will need some changes, including more specifics about how the programs would be funded. We'd also like to see colleges be able to offer more than one degree.
The Master Plan for Higher Education has served the state extraordinarily well for five decades, and its central promises — an affordable, accessible education for all — should remain a guiding force. But in the 21st century, California has to think differently about how it can most effectively meet those goals.
Fresno Bee: SB 967 would improve rape response at California colleges
Rape is an enduring if ugly fact of life on college campuses. Just like binge drinking and illegal drug use, its persistence is unlikely to be significantly curbed by any new state policy.
What can — and should — change, however, are the inconsistent and sometimes obstructive responses that the state's university and colleges have taken to reports of rape among their students.
That is starting to happen, thanks to pressure from students and activists. Last summer the Legislature began reviewing how California's public universities report sexual assault, deal with victims and perpetrators and how they refer cases to law enforcement for prosecution. Results are expected this spring.
Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, introduced Senate Bill 967 last week to establish rules for how California's public and private colleges deal with sexual assaults on campus. Its main difference from current practice is that responses must be "victim-centered."
That's not merely placatory language. As Denice Labertew of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault points out, this bill would fundamentally change the way many colleges deal with sexual assault. It would make it harder for perpetrators to brush assaults off as alcohol-fueled encounters and make it easier for victims to report sexual assault because their confidentiality would be protected. It also requires colleges to partner with community organizations for rape prevention and crisis services. Significantly, it adopts in campus disciplinary cases the "affirmative consent standard," which means that "yes" only means "yes" if it is said out loud.
This bill was influenced by events at Occidental College, a private liberal arts college in de Leon's Los Angeles district. Last year, 37 students filed federal complaints accusing the school of underreporting and covering up the incidence of sexual assaults.
Similar stories have been recounted by students with regularity across the state and the nation. More than a decade ago, an investigation by The Sacramento Bee found that University of California campuses had skirted federal law by underreporting crimes, specifically sexual assaults.
Ideally, it wouldn't take legislation to accomplish consistent rape response at higher ed institutions. But even in the second decade of the 21st century, college campuses haven't always put rape victims first. This should change.
Santa Cruz Sentinel: Covered California must bring back online directory
We have supported the Affordable Care Act, insofar as the health care law seeks to provide insurance for the uninsured.
So far, it seems to be helping older folks who lost jobs during the recession — people in their 50s and 60s with rising medical costs who are too young for Medicare — and not helping younger uninsureds, who need to sign up at higher prices to pay the tab for their elders.
We also haven't liked how President Obama has kept changing the rules, mainly for businesses the White House correctly fears will drop employees if forced to take on new health costs.
It's also a fact that Covered California, the state's ACA health exchange, is working better in many aspects than most other state exchanges.
But there's a lot not to like, also. In a recent Sentinel report by Jondi Gumz, she found that Santa Cruz County residents are without critical information necessary to pick the right Covered California insurance plan.
Three insurers are available on the exchange: Health Net, Blue Shield and Anthem. But in a puzzling decision, Covered California earlier this month took down its online physician directory.
Not good, because the directory would allow local people to figure out the plan that would allow them to keep their doctors. And really not good because the March 15 deadline to purchase a 2014 plan is fast approaching.
Only last November, Covered California chief Peter Lee was touting the online doctor directory. No more.
Covered California says the doctor lists were inaccurate — and the lists come directly from the plans, which have contracts with specific doctors and medical groups. Local medical officials say the three plans are the very ones having the most problems statewide with both directories and validating their contractual relationships with providers.
No date has been given when the directory will return. In the interim, an exchange spokesman told the Sentinel that people enrolling with ACA and selecting a Covered California plan should contact the insurers directly to verify if a provider is in the network, or to request a different provider.
So what needs to happen? Here's three points we hope the exchange heeds:
1. Covered California needs to have an accurate and up-to-date physician directory online. ...
2. Though the physician directory is critical, it seems to be a lower priority for the health exchange. Why not hire some Silicon Valley techies to get the website up to speed? ...
3. ... Covered California needs to release information for enrollment by county. Covered California has declined to release Santa Cruz County enrollment information... giving out specific county data would reveal if there are sufficient numbers of physicians to serve Santa Cruz County people who enroll in Covered California plans.
Eureka Times-Standard: Get serious about drought
When it comes to the current drought, the North Coast is doing its part, and ready to do more.
You may have seen the front page of the Times-Standard on Tuesday, and the regional rankings for water usage per capita.
At 110 gallons per day, Humboldt County is on the good end of the list. We use less water than the North Coast — 160 — and less than the state average, 196.
We only wish the same could be said of our fellow Californians to the south.
And no, we're not talking about San Francisco, which edged us out for lowest in the state. Or any region further south along the coast, really, from San Jose to San Diego.
Even much-maligned Los Angeles, thanks to decades of conservation, uses only 152 gallons per capita per day.
Only lawn-loving Hillsborough and statistical freak industrial city Vernon — with its 112 residents, 1,800 businesses, and per capita usage rate of over 94,000 gallons a day — mar coastal California's otherwise admirable stats.
It's the inland regions of California that are sucking down water. Let's start with Sacramento. The Golden State's capital city is setting a poor example when the majority of its residents don't even have water meters.
And then there's Palm Springs. The desert resort town gulps down 736 gallons of water per capita per day, mostly on swimming pools and vast expanses of lawn that have no business being there in the first place. Wonderful idea, transplanting a game from the mists of Scotland into the scorching heat of the California desert.
Get it together, California. This is the worst drought in recorded history of the state. We here in the North Coast can and will do more to conserve, but everyone needs to be on board. Especially if, as some scientists fear, we're on the cusp of a megadrought — a dry spell that could last 100 or 200 years.
"We continue to run California as if the longest drought we are ever going to encounter is about seven years," Scott Stine, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Cal State East Bay, said recently. "We're living in a dream world."
Time to wake up.
Los Angeles Daily News: Make state Supreme Court look more like California
A vacancy on the California Supreme Court has brought predictable calls for a "diversity" appointment — predictable but, in this case, hard to ignore.
Retiring Justice Joyce Kennard leaves big shoes to fill. In terms of judicial intellect, Kennard has been energetic and pleasingly non-ideological in her 25 years on the court. When it comes to diversity, she's a one-person pie chart, an Indonesia-born, Dutch-accented woman who walks with the aid of a prosthesis and cane after losing part of her right leg to illness as a teenager.
But Gov. Jerry Brown can do a lot to promote inclusion by considering ethnicity as well as intellect as he looks at candidates to replace Kennard, who steps down April 5.
Brown will face pressure to appoint a Latino. This is more than an interest group seeking political advantage. This is a sizeable community seeking the bare minimum representation on the state's high court.
Many residents of liberal-leaning California may be surprised to learn that the Supreme Court has no Latinos or African-Americans among its seven members, of whom six were appointed by Republican governors George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The void has existed since Carlos Moreno retired three years ago. Brown named Goodwin Liu to Moreno's slot.
With issues involving Hispanic immigrants, both documented and undocumented, so prominent in California politics and law, the state Supreme Court should have a Latino face...
Orange County Register: Does state need to warn you about soda?
One of the pillars of California's Nanny State style of governance seems to be the assumption that the subjects of Sacramento's rule are incapable of making rational decisions.
That assumption appears to be the sole reasoning behind a new push coming out of the state Legislature to place warning labels on sugary drinks, in a fashion similar to the U.S. Surgeon General's warning on packs of cigarettes.
Senate Bill 1000, proposed by state Sen. William Monning, D-Carmel, would require warnings on the front of all beverages with added sweeteners amounting to at least 75 calories per 12 ounces. Soda machines at restaurants would similarly be required to carry the warning, which reads: "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay."
The bill is being backed by the California Medical Association and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which cited research showing a linkage between those health problems and sugary drinks in their support.
"As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians vital information they need to make healthier choices," Mr. Monning said a news conference at the Capitol.
The California arm of the American Beverage Association, CalBev, whose members include Pepsi-Cola Co., Coca-Cola Co. and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, were understandably less receptive to the proposal, which they described in a statement as "misleading." In particular, they noted that the industry has already self-regulated in regards to the nutrition information it provides, starting in 2010 with a "Clear on Calories" campaign. And CalBev is clearly right in that regard, as a trip to any grocery store can prove.
For example, just looking at the front of a 12-ounce can of Pepsi will tell you that each can contains 150 calories. On the reverse, that calorie count is broken down further, showing 41 grams of sugar in every can. That labeling already provides Californians much more vital decision-making information than the shock value of the signage in Mr. Monning's bill.
Further, according to CalBev, studies show only 6 percent of calories in the average American's diet come from soda. The great majority of calories come instead from foods containing fats, starches and oils, the beverage makers said.
Perhaps the foods containing those items should also come labeled. Or any product, for that matter, as almost anything consumed in excess can have deleterious effects on the human body, even something as vital to life as water.
Or even better yet, Californians could be allowed to make decisions for themselves without prodding, however gentle and well-meaning, from Sacramento. Because while many of us could, and probably should, make better choices about what we put into our bodies, it is still fundamentally our choice and the risks associated with ingesting too much sugar are well-known without political prodding.
While, perhaps in some instances, where the self-destructive behavior of an individual causes undue harm to another, there is a rationale for government intervention. In the current crusade against soda, however, government has trouble making such a case.
Los Angeles Times: Gun control made harder in California
Even if you accept the notion that the 2nd Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms — a proposition we wish the Supreme Court had rejected — states should be able to place reasonable restrictions on that right in the interests of public safety. One such restriction is California's requirement that permits to carry a concealed weapon be issued only for "good cause." Last week, a federal appeals court needlessly weakened that provision.
By a 2-1 vote, a panel of judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of five residents of San Diego County who had challenged the county's interpretation of the good cause requirement, which denies permits to applicants who can't cite some specific threat to their safety. (Los Angeles County has a similarly restrictive policy.)
Writing for the court, Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain said that the county's strict rules on concealed weapons, coupled with California's almost complete ban on the open carrying of firearms, violated the 2nd Amendment's protection of "some form of carry for self-defense outside the home."
There are two problems with this conclusion. In 2008, the Supreme Court did rule that the 2nd Amendment protected an individual right to "keep and bear arms" — a decision that upended a long-standing consensus that the amendment was intended only to provide for a "well-regulated militia." But Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion made clear that the case involved only prohibitions on handguns "in the home."
Equally important, Scalia acknowledged that the right to bear arms is "not unlimited." He specifically noted that "the majority of the 19th century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the 2nd Amendment or state analogues."
In his dissent last week, 9th Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas rightly argued that his colleagues should have confined their inquiry to the questions of whether the 2nd Amendment protected the concealed carrying of handguns in public and whether San Diego's rules infringed on that right. That approach would have yielded a different result.
In some circumstances, permitting a citizen to carry a concealed weapon is justified. But holders of such permits sometimes misuse their weapons, as a Florida jury concluded Michael Dunn did when he fired into an SUV after a dispute about loud music. (On Saturday, the jury convicted Dunn of attempted murder but failed to reach a verdict on the charge that Dunn murdered 17-year-old Jordan Davis.)
Given the dangers posed by a proliferation of guns in public, states and counties should be able to insist that applicants demonstrate good cause before receiving a permit. We hope that San Diego County seeks a review of this ruling by a larger group of 9th Circuit judges or by the Supreme Court.