California Schools Urged to Revisit Safety Plans

Dec 18, 2012
Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould /

California law requires each school to have a safety plan – and make it available to the public.  In the aftermath of Friday’s mass shooting in Connecticut, education and public safety officials want schools to take a new look at those plans to see if they should be revised.  

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson wants to reassure parents who wonder if what happened in Newtown could happen to them.

“I believe our California schools are safe," says Torlakson.

Proposition 38: Molly Munger's Tax Initative

Oct 18, 2012

Californians will soon decide whether they want to increase taxes to support public schools. Our election 2012 coverage continues with a report on Proposition 38.

If you watch TV in California, you’ve probably seen the commercials. They’ve aired in every major market.

Prop 38 would raise about 10 billion dollars a year for K-12 schools starting in 2013, by taxing all but the poorest Californians. Behind the TV ads and Proposition 38 is wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger.

For the first time, a majority of California public schools met or surpassed academic achievement goals this year.

53-percent of schools scored at or above state achievement goals on the Academic Performance Index. That’s an increase of four percentage points over last year.

The battle between two rival tax measures on California’s November ballot is heating up. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, Proposition 38 proponent Molly Munger has released a new TV ad blasting Governor Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, Proposition 30.

Despite Munger spending more than $30 million  on her tax measure, until now the campaign for Proposition 38 has avoided mentioning Proposition 30.

But Munger’s latest ad criticizes the Governor’s competing tax initiative, saying it allows politicians to take money away from schools.

Dueling Tax Measures Release New TV Ads

Oct 4, 2012

The campaigns for two rival tax measures on California’s November ballot each have new TV ads going on the air. That includes the first ones in support of Proposition 30, Governor Jerry Brown’s sales and income tax initiative.

“Join California teachers to restore school programs and reduce class sizes.”

Some of the Prop 30 ads feature teachers, while others, feature Governor Brown like this one:

“For the students and for California’s future, vote Yes on 30.”

Several make this claim:

California school lunch staff want to include more state-grown food into cafeteria meals. They met in Oakland yesterday to share ideas on how to make that happen.

The Center for Ecoliteracy helped bring together school lunch directors and chefs from Los Angeles to Sacramento. The advocacy group says that fresh, Californian food is good for kids’ health, and the state economy.

“Real kids need real food to learn and grow.”

Proposition 38 proponent Molly Munger says California Governor Jerry Brown’s tax initiative doesn’t do enough for schools. But she also says she understands if voters cast their ballots for both measures.

Munger’s Proposition 38 would generate about 10 billion dollars annually for schools by taxing all but the poorest Californians. The Governor’s tax initiative, Proposition 30, raises about $6 billion a year primarily by taxing the wealthy, and through a sales tax increase.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California State University trustees have set the stakes for the November election. If Governor Jerry Brown’s sales and income tax measure passes, the CSU will roll back a previously-approved nine percent tuition increase. If Proposition 30 fails, the university will leave it in place – and tack on an additional five percent increase.

Meanwhile, a draft letter to CSU applicants about Prop 30’s impact has Jon Coupal with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association threatening a lawsuit.

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Historical Ecology Study / San Francisco Estuary Institute-Aquatic Science Center / California Department of Fish and Game

Chocolate Milk Gets a Big Makeover
Chocolate milk is getting a big remix at schools in Fresno and beyond, as part of a effort to fight childhood obesity. A new formula developed by Producers Dairy for Fresno Unified is getting good reviews from both kids and nutrition experts, thanks to low fat and lower amounts of sugar than before. Nutritionist Sara Bosse also joins us to talk about efforts to improve school breakfast and lunch nutrition, and why 16 percent of kids in Fresno Unified says they've never even tasted traditional milk. 

Licensed using Creative Commons from Maria Pontikis /

The saying goes “milk does a body good.” But despite that, too few of us really drink the white stuff, and that includes adults and kids.

In an effort to get more kids to benefit from the nutrients milk offers many school districts including Fresno Unified served up flavored milk, both chocolate and strawberry.  So along with their daily intake of vitamin A, calcium and potassium, students were also getting sugar a lot of sugar, about four additional teaspoons in an 8 ounce serving of chocolate milk.

A new report calls for major improvements in the way California teachers are recruited, trained, and evaluated. It’s a result of the state’s 48-member Task Force on Educator Excellence.

Education officials say the 90-page report is the first comprehensive look in a generation at how to recruit the best teachers, develop their work and provide useful feedback.

Linda Darling-Hammond co-chaired the task force. She says despite both local and state budget cuts, there are changes that can be made now.

Blacks and Latinos continue to improve at a faster rate than other ethnic groups when it comes to California’s High School Exit Exam. The preliminary results from this year’s exam are out and continue several positive trends.

According to the California Department of Education, 95 percent of all twelfth graders passed the English and Math exams.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Dinuba Unified School District have settled a lawsuit over a controversial education program for English language learners.

The suit alleged that the district’s Second Language Acquisition Development Instruction program led to some first and second-grade students falling behind their peers.

The program emphasized grammar, spelling and sentence structure. Critics said the program didn’t expose students to literature and vocabulary.

California State University Fresno

Fresno State President Dr. John Welty announced his retirement today before an assembly of university faculty and staff. His retirement will take effect in summer of 2013, after the conclusion of the current academic year. He will turn 68 later this month.

Welty began his term as university president in 1991, and oversaw a period marked by both growth and controversy. Welty led the effort to build the Save Mart Center, the new addition to the Henry Madden Library and several other major campus buildings.

California now has a new school grade level called “transitional kindergarten”. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the goal is to make sure the youngest children are prepared to enter school.

More than 800 California school districts are offering transitional kindergarten for the first time. The program offers age appropriate curriculum for children who don’t meet the age requirements to attend traditional kindergarten. Senator Joe Simitian wrote the law creating the grade level. He says beginning school at an older age improves a child’s social and academic development.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A coalition of teachers and education activists gathered today to announce an effort to recall Fresno Unified school board member Tony Vang. 

Lance Johnson / Licensed under Creative Commons from Flickr user LanceJohnson

UC Merced may be less than a decade old, but the struggling economy and environmental concerns are already leading campus officials to explore the possibility of directing some of the university's future growth to off-campus locations. 

Out-of-work teachers in California would be able to collect unemployment benefits while training in high demand subject areas under a bill lawmakers are considering. The bill’s author says it’s designed to help the nearly 20-thousand unemployed teachers.

Democratic Senator Noreen Evans authored the bill that she says would help unemployed teachers who want to get credentialed in science, math or special education. Under current law, if out-of-work teachers want that training, they lose their benefits. Evans says that’s not fair.

Tentative Contract Reached Between CSU And Faculty

Jul 31, 2012

California State University and its faculty union have reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract.

Professors, counselors and other members of the California Faculty Association won’t be getting raises. But if the state-funded university system somehow gets an influx of cash, there’s an option to re-open salary talks. Claudia Keith is with C-S-U:

“Essentially, the tentative agreement calls for no salary increases for the first two years with the opportunities to re-open in the last two years of the contract.”

This week on Valley Edition we look at how new regulations, budget cuts and the economy are all changing the way local colleges operate. Dr. Tony Cantu from Fresno City College joins us to talk about new policies that are intended to keep community college students on track to graduate within two years. We also talk with higher education advocate Jessie Ryan of the Campaign for College Opportunity and Joe Haydock of Institute of Technology, Clovis Campus about new federal regulations that prevent students who don't have a high school diploma or GED from obtaining financial aid.