Analysis: Recent California newspaper editorials

2/26/2015 12:15 PM
By Associated Press

Feb. 24

The Fresno Bee: Where is Fresno's state-of-the-art trade school?

Every trustee on the Fresno Unified School District board has said publicly that he or she supports Career Technical Education.

Our question is, why hasn't this support resulted in the construction of a CTE high school that aims to be the most innovative and the very best in the nation?

Everyone knows Fresno's story of high unemployment, violence, drug addiction and gang membership. One of the best ways to overcome these challenges is by keeping youngsters in school where they can learn and be inspired by dedicated, caring teachers.

And yet Fresno Unified appears bound and determined to invest as little as possible in CTE, or what old-timers called "vocational ed."

The district is partners with Clovis Unified School District in CART, a project-based public research and technology school that has been widely acclaimed. The district is building a $12 million school that eventually will be home to 400 budding entrepreneurs in grades 10 through 12.

Students at Roosevelt High School can choose pathways that lead to careers in business, health, teaching, fashion design and the arts. Edison High's Computech program offers challenging academic curriculum, as does the International Baccalaureate program at Fresno High. Sunnyside High has a Doctors Academy for students who aspire to be doctors, nurses, dentists and other health professionals.

But where is the school for teenagers who want to weld, build custom cabinets, install plumbing, repair heating and air conditioning units, or work on today's high-tech automobiles?

Where is the high school that offers an avenue to a trade and an honest alternative to the kid whose relatives primarily are multigeneration gang members?

Recent economic forecasts say that construction will be Fresno County's fastest-growing employment sector into the early 2020s. High-speed rail will bring thousands of construction and service jobs to Fresno — and could trigger an explosion of urban and suburban development. Local business leaders have long cited the lack of skilled labor as an impediment to greater success. The green-energy industry is growing and is strongly supported by state funding.

At some point, you would think that Fresno Unified's leaders, including Superintendent Michael Hanson, would understand that they are failing Fresno's youth and the city at large by failing to adequately invest in CTE. In doing so, they are also failing to help curtail the gang and drug cultures poisoning our city.

Funding shouldn't be an excuse. Gov. Jerry Brown's Local Control Funding Formula allows school districts to come up with their own programs to educate and train students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The trustees overwhelmingly have been content to ride the train piloted by Hanson for the past decade. It's time for them to take off their blinders, remove their ear plugs and start listening to community leaders, parents and students.

Fresno needs a CTE high school. One that is the best in the country.

No more excuses.

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Feb. 23

Marin Independent Journal: 'Learning center' a novel model

Bringing together school and county library services to open a "learning center" in Novato appears to be a smart use of taxpayer money and a good way to expand service to the public, young and old.

The Novato Unified School District and the Marin County Free Library have come up with a plan to combine forces and share resources. Both were looking at ways to improve library services a Hamilton Field.

The county was looking for an alternative to its South Novato Library, which is nearby in a leased building.

Its new lease will be less than a third of what the county has been paying.

The county's involvement helps the school district afford to follow through with its plans to establish a high-tech learning center to host virtual field trips for students or training programs for teachers, enabling them to interact via the Internet with experts and authors.

As both municipalities and school districts provide libraries, there has been talk in the past that they should figure out ways to work together. But few initiatives moved past the talking stages.

"It's really good to see agencies come together for mutual benefit," said Supervisor Katie Rice.

After all, many of the county libraries' users are local students. There is a synergy worth exploring.

Karen Maloney calls the plan "innovative and groundbreaking."

We agree. Its success could be an example worth following.

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Feb. 21

The Merced Sun-Star: Time to do more than be afraid of nightmare bacteria

Less than 100 years have passed since the discovery of antibiotics, and it's probably the understatement of the century to say that without them our lives wouldn't be the same.

Before penicillin was discovered in 1928, an American was lucky to draw breath after age 60. Women routinely died in childbirth; a man with a cut might perish within days of infection.

Today, most Americans expect to live beyond 80, largely because of medical advances such as cesarean sections and chemotherapy that would be useless without effective antibiotics.

That's why it's so important that we get serious about outbreaks like the one at Los Angeles' UCLA Medical Center, where exposure to drug-resistant "nightmare bacteria" might have endangered as many as 179 patients and is suspected to have caused at least two deaths.

The UCLA scare, linked to a specialized medical scope that is hard to clean and marketed aggressively to doctors, is hardly our first brush with superbug peril.

A British report in December found that, in the U.S. and Europe alone, more than 50,000 lives are claimed annually from infections such as MRSA and CRE, the bacteria associated with the UCLA crisis. (The acronym stands for "carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.") By 2050, the report warned, such infections will kill 10 million people worldwide each year unless we address antibiotic resistance. That involves actions as ambitious as underwriting research into new antibacterial treatments and as seemingly small as not pestering your doctor for antibiotics when you get the sniffles. A striking number of Americans don't realize that colds and the flu are caused by viruses, not bacteria.

President Barack Obama has called for major medical research, including nearly doubling the federal investment in antibiotic research. This is key because the number of new antibiotics in the drug pipeline has steadily dwindled in recent decades.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is trying again to legally limit the amount of antibiotics used on livestock. About four-fifths of the antibiotics consumed nationally are fed to cows, pigs and chickens to promote growth and combat the disease-prone environment of factory farming. Agribusinesses have said they will scale back the meds, but overuse of anti-bacterial drugs in animal husbandry remains a big reason that superbugs have come so far so fast.

Despite growing awareness of this problem, antibiotic use in animals actually went up in 2013, not down, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Public health officials say initiatives like these are only part of the solution. We also need better sanitation in hospitals and for doctors to not overprescribe the drugs.

Like all living creatures, bacteria are constantly evolving. Historically, the discovery of every antibiotic has been followed within years by the discovery of bacteria that can withstand it.

Scientists this month unveiled the results of a project that mapped the genetic profile of the New York subway system. The handrails, turnstiles and seats swarmed with 15,000 kinds of microbial life forms. At 220 stops, they found drug-resistant bacteria.

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Feb.25

Long Beach Press Telegram: Inglewood NFL stadium plan's fast OK leaves questions

By The Los Angeles News Group Editorial Board, Long Beach Press Telegram

In the span of 50 days, the plan to build a football stadium on the Hollywood Park land has gone from a secret to unanimous approval by the Inglewood City Council.

That's too fast for anyone, even the cheering residents and sports fans at Tuesday night's council meeting, to be sure this proposal by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke and San Francisco-based developers is the best possible deal for Inglewood or the ideal plan to bring a National Football League team back to the Los Angeles area for the first time since the Rams and Raiders left 20 years ago.

As with stadium proposals in Carson, downtown Los Angeles and the city of Industry, it is never too soon or too late for taxpayers to ask questions about the political, economic and quality-of-life issues associated with these ideas that look so nice in the artists' drawings. This is not to say there isn't a winner among them. Just that the promises of sports owners and elected officials should not be trusted automatically.

Inglewood, particularly, is running the equivalent of a no-huddle offense. At one point, it was assumed the City Council would use its meeting Tuesday to hear the stadium proposal, and decide next week whether to put it to voters in a June 2 ballot initiative. Instead, the council went ahead and voted 5-0 to approve the proposal.

According to one news report, Inglewood Mayor James Butts, referring to petition-signers and residents who spoke in favor of the stadium, said, "We need to do the will of the people and we need to do it tonight." In other words, do the will of the people by not letting them vote.

How much is Butts' — and council colleagues' — enthusiasm for the project informed by the more than $100,000 in campaign contributions delivered to Inglewood officials over the past eight years by the company planning to develop the Hollywood Park land? The influence of campaign cash should always be questioned.

The approval will allow the developers to skip the usual environmental-impact reviews and start construction in December, adding the $2 billion stadium project to the residential and commercial plan for the land where shuttered Hollywood Park racetrack stands.

This adds to Inglewood's apparent lead in its current competition with Carson to host a new L.A.-area team. Inglewood already had advantages: Kroenke owns both a team and the 60 acres in question, and is popular with fellow NFL owners who ultimately will be asked to approve a franchise relocation if the Rams' talks for a new stadium in Missouri fall through. The Carson plan calls for joint tenancy in a $1.7 billion stadium by the Raiders and Chargers if those teams can't get better stadiums in Oakland and San Diego.

Inglewood officials say the stadium would not involve public money, would add $17.7 million a year in city tax revenue, and would create 20,000 jobs during construction and 10,000 after that. But it would involve some public money: In the plan approved Tuesday, the developers' costs for infrastructure and public services connected with the stadium would be reimbursed by the city, using tax revenue above the first $25 million each year generated by the project.

Such details should make residents of any of Southern California's would-be NFL cities slow down and make sure their leaders are cutting the best deal.

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Feb. 21

Lompoc Record: Dusting off dunes discussion

Looking through our archives, it doesn't take a skilled detective to see a pattern for the Nipomo Mesa dust issues.

Dust advisories occur with regularity, warning Mesa residents with even a hint of lung problems to stay inside. Dust from the Oceano Dunes is carried on the wind into every neighborhood unfortunate enough to be downwind.

The situation is so severe that San Luis Obispo County's Air Pollution Control District set out in September 2013 to ding the California Parks Department $50,000 a year to help pay the APCD back for the expense of corralling so-called fugitive dust from the dunes.

Controlling that dust has grown into a major issue as the region's population increases. A 2010 APCD study claims dunes dust is a major health issue for Mesa residents and visitors, and a year later the district created new rules requiring State Parks to reduce the allowable size of dust particles. That applies especially those churned up by off-road and other vehicles on the beach — rules and restrictions not universally accepted as gospel, especially by off-roading enthusiasts, who as a group don't like to be told what they can and cannot do.

Nevertheless, all one needs to do to confirm the fact that fugitive dust can be a problem is to be on the Nipomo Mesa when the wind is howling down from the dunes area.

The problem was bad and obvious enough that the California Legislature approved the managing agency — the Ocean Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area — spending $1 million a year to address the blowing dust issue.

Public meetings on the issue tend to draw a crowd, which generally is a mixture of area residents complaining about the dust and other environmental issues, and folks who like to use the dunes for recreational purposes, including off-road driving/riding.

The problem is that vehicles on the several miles of beach where they are allowed sometimes looks like the Santa Maria River Highway 101 bridge at evening rush hour. Holidays bring the largest gatherings of beached vehicles, which from a distance appear to be hundreds of whales in need of rescue operations.

The state Coastal Commission met recently to discuss the dunes use issue, and the bottom line was that commissioners pretty much agree something needs to be done. Our history with Coastal Commission findings and decisions is that they tend to favor protecting the environment — which is that agency's franchise assignment from the early 1970s — to the detriment of those who aren't as concerned about nature's ability to recover from periodic defacing.

This issue — like so many others in our harried lives — is not all black or white. There are shades of gray, and we don't mean the literary/cinematic variety. The local, county and state authorities need to arrive at some mutually agreeable middle ground, one on which recreationists can recreate, and environmentalists can have some measure of assurance that their concerns are being addressed.

We are referring to the art of compromise, which seems to have been lost somewhere along the path of a developing society. We see it almost daily in the hostile standoffs between the Obama administration and Congress.

The lack of compromise abilities or skills is very costly, because without a meeting of the minds and philosophies, everyone loses. It's not a matter of we win, you lose of vice-versa, but it's all a loss, across the board.

The Oceano Dunes aren't going away, nor are those who want to use the dunes or protect them. The sand in the middle is the best.

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Feb. 21

Los Angeles Times: LAUSD should try again on supplying computers

Education without access to technology is unthinkable today

The idea of equipping every Los Angeles Unified student and teacher with a computer suffered its final blow with the announcement last week that the school district simply couldn't afford to buy some 700,000 of them. If ever a proposal was half-baked, it was the iPad project, which was marked by a lamentable lack of planning, grave concerns over the enormous price tag, and an ongoing criminal grand jury investigation into possible ethics violations on the part of district officials.

But this shouldn't be the last word about the ill-conceived iPad proposal by former Supt. John Deasy. Though he mishandled the project on multiple fronts, he was right about this: Education without access to technology is unthinkable today. It's the modern-day equivalent of sticking kids in a one-room schoolhouse with a slate board and chalk.

L.A. Unified must buy more technology; its students would be left woefully behind the college-and-employment curve without it. The current lack of funding for a massive iPad purchase creates a much-needed time-out, though, so that L.A. Unified can do it right next time. Here are some things the district needs to do:

Identify an appropriate funding source.

For the $1.3-billion program, the district justifiably turned to construction bonds to pay for $800 million in Internet infrastructure at schools. But the proposal to spend $500 million of the bond revenue on the iPads, which have a life span of a few years, was inappropriate because it sought to use long-term funds for short-term purposes. L.A. Unified should set aside a yearly sum in its operating budget for purchasing technology as state funding improves, and should buy its devices over time. This would allow for better budget planning and make the process more affordable — and also would allow the district to bring in the most recent technology and try out new devices to find the best ones.

Curriculum before technology.

A federal review of the now-defunct iPad project found that L.A. Unified was focused on buying technology with too little idea of how it would be used in classrooms. It bought a packaged curriculum that was widely criticized as poorly written. But there is lots of good educational software in existence — some of it free or relatively inexpensive. The district should first look for the best software and then pick the hardware that's most compatible with the curriculum for each grade.

Consult teachers.

See above. Creative and tech-savvy teachers have been finding all kinds of helpful and free educational software on the Internet. District leaders should seek out and reward their ideas.

Don't worry too much about security filters.

The early rollout of the iPad program was quickly embarrassed by students who maneuvered around security safeguards to access social media. This isn't the horror people made of it. Students will be using technology all their lives; better to teach them about responsible use than to try to control every move they make online.

LAUSD leaders should seek out creative and tech-savvy teachers and reward their ideas

The idea of equipping every Los Angeles Unified student and teacher with a computer suffered its final blow with the announcement last week that the school district simply couldn't afford to buy some 700,000 of them. If ever a proposal was half-baked, it was the iPad project, which was marked by a lamentable lack of planning, grave concerns over the enormous price tag, and an ongoing criminal grand jury investigation into possible ethics violations on the part of district officials.

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