California Losing Population to Texas

We all know that Texas is growing jobs while California is growing taxes, regulations and special interests. So when California businesses move to Texas, and when people really need jobs but do not want to be on welfare they move to Texas. The standard of living is higher, the taxes are much lower and the government promotes jobs instead of killing them.

While California Democrats are stopping the development of energy sources, Texas is assuring their residents of low cost (compared to California gas is about one dollar a gallon cheaper) energy. California is for the very rich and the very poor. Texas is for all people and provides opportunities for everyone to succeed.

“Texas leapfrogged over Florida, which drew the most movers a decade ago (from 2000 to 2003), as well as Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina, states that once were more popular with movers.

At the other end of the spectrum, New York, Illinois, California, New Jersey and Michigan together have lost nearly a million people to interstate moves. (See Stateline data visualization)”

Flag_of_Texas

South and West Draw Highest Share of Newcomers

By Tim Henderson, Stateline (PEW), 6/3/14

Austin’s streets come alive with music and young people. Texas is one of several states in the South and Southwest drawing a high share of people moving from other states.

Brian McGannon moved last year to Austin from Kansas City, Missouri, for a job, joining a new wave of migration to the South and West.

Austin is “a melting pot of culture and modern progressiveness that I’ve never seen before,” said McGannon, who works as a writer and content manager for Grandex, a media and apparel company.

“The culture shock was definitely at how active the city was, how much buzz there was … and how obsessed everybody is with music down here,” McGannon said.

Between 2010 and 2013, Texas, Florida, the Carolinas and Colorado were the strongest people magnets, drawing nearly a million movers, according to a Stateline analysis of recently released Census Bureau population estimates. Because of a sharp drop in immigration from other countries, movers are now the main force for population change, bucking a decades-long trend of Americans staying put.

Texas leapfrogged over Florida, which drew the most movers a decade ago (from 2000 to 2003), as well as Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina, states that once were more popular with movers.

At the other end of the spectrum, New York, Illinois, California, New Jersey and Michigan together have lost nearly a million people to interstate moves. (See Stateline data visualization)

By region, almost a net 1.2 million people left the Northeast and Midwest for the South and West between 2010 and 2013, according to Stateline’s analysis.

“North Carolina and Texas are very similar in that they’re both what we call ‘sticky states’ – the percentage of adults born here who are still living here is very high, plus we are both really large migrant destinations,” said Rebecca Tippett, director of Carolina Demography, a population research group at the University of North Carolina.

North Carolina draws people of all ages, because of academic institutions in the Raleigh-Durham area, financial centers in Charlotte, mountain retirement colonies and military bases like Fort Bragg, she said, as well as chicken and pork processing centers around the state.

Drawn to Texas

Texas dominates as a people magnet: Over the last decade the number of people moving to the state has nearly quadrupled, from 100,000 to more than 400,000. Austin has become the nation’s “capital for population growth” according to the Census Bureau. But four other Texas cities were also among the top gainers: San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth and Dallas.

Austin’s popularity has even spawned a T-shirt from long-time residents pleading, “Welcome to Austin – Please Don’t Move Here.”

Katherine Nesbitt lived in California, North Carolina and Europe before finding Austin, which she proclaims, “This is the first place that feels like home.” Nesbitt writes a blog to help movers.

While some, like McGannon who moved from the Midwest, can find Austin pricey, by coastal standards it is still affordable, with many downtown condos and large suburban houses still in the $300,000 range.

“We have a large percentage of Californians and New Yorkers moving here, who can’t afford to live in those areas anymore, and Austin still seems like a bargain to them,” Nesbitt said. “In Austin they can have access to nearly-comparable jobs as in San Francisco and New York —I’m thinking at least of the creative and tech jobs—and their money can go a lot further.”

Employment is the most common reason cited for moves, especially long distance.  A Pew Charitable Trusts study on economic mobility found that individuals tend to benefit economically when they move, though it is unclear how much movers benefit the economies of their destination cities. (Stateline is funded by Pew). Movement out of the Northeast and into newer areas of the country is nothing new as people seek greener pastures and lower costs.

The job market and the housing market in Texas largely avoided the housing bubble and resulting meltdown in real estate and construction jobs seen elsewhere during the recession, said state demographer Lloyd Potter.

“Relative to the rest of the country we lost fewer jobs. Our economy declined more slowly and then came back more quickly,” Potter said. “We didn’t have the housing bubble in the same way other states did. Fewer homeowners have been underwater.”

Other Boomlets

Other states seeing boosts from moving include Colorado and Montana, both of which doubled their movers, and North Dakota, which turned a net loss into a gain over the last decade. Montana and North Dakota have become popular destinations since an oil boom boosted the economy along the border between the two states, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Generally, however, interstate moves have dropped in recent decades, and the net moves described here have not yet shown a sustained recovery from the recession, according to demographer William Frey, who tracks migration at the Brookings Institution.

Moves have been dropping for decades, Frey said, “but the rates we have seen since 2007 have dipped exceptionally, and must plausibly be attributed to the mortgage meltdown, the recession and its aftermath,” Frey said even the booming states showed muted growth during hard times for the rest of the nation.

Greg Kaplan, an assistant economics professor at Princeton University who studies all moves between states, a number much higher because it includes moves that cancel each other out in the net gains and losses, notes a long-term trend toward fewer moves that is unrelated to the economy. He argues that because of cheaper travel and telecommunications, people know more about the rest of the country without making experimental moves. The rate of interstate moves has fallen by half since the early 1990s.

“People can visit and gauge how much they might enjoy living in a place and this cuts down on unneeded or regrettable moves,” Kaplan said. Also, there’s less need to move to practice specific skills, he said, as the labor market has become less place-specific.

“There’s less need to move to a certain place to exercise your specific talents,” he said. “You can find a place you like to live and then set about finding a job there.”

Some jobs are still place-specific, like those in oil and gas, which seem to be driving some of the moves to places like Texas, Colorado, North Dakota and Montana.

“It’s almost like every single person who lives there (Houston) works in oil and gas,” said Wade Lombard of Square Cow Movers, an Austin-based company with branches around the state.

“Nobody comes to Houston because they want to live in Houston,” Lombard added. “It’s because there’s so much economic stability and so much economic promise.”

Losers

States whose residents are moving away, like California, Illinois and New York, are generally large immigrant-rich states that normally host newcomers to the country for a short time and then see them leave for other parts of the country, said Bill Schooling, California’s chief of demographic research.

“Ten years ago we were still in the housing explosion so a lot of immigrants were involved in the construction industry, and then with the slowdown the bubble has burst and there’s a lot less immigration, at least from Latin America,” Schooling said.

He said he can understand why people might opt for lower-cost states if they can find the quality tech jobs California has been known for.

“California doesn’t have cheap housing, and you don’t have to pay a million dollars for a house (elsewhere),” he said.  “At one time a computer programmer in San Francisco would have made much more than in Austin and now that differential has been reduced.”

 

SF moves closer to adopting Laura’s Law to compel some mentally ill into treatment

If you go to San Fran be VERY careful. If your wife or husband does not like you, thanks to a proposed law, you can be put into a mental institution. All it will take is a statement from a “loved one”. We currently have a law commonly called “5150” that allows a three day holding period is you are a danger to yourself or society. This goes much further. San Fran is the town where the POLICE are monitoring your cell phone, now it could be easier to put you away.

Expect the first person sent to a mental institution under this new law will have the ACLU sue on their behalf. Why? This is NOT about protecting society from mentally ill people. It is really a transparent way to control the homeless. It is a message to them that they need to stay away from this “tolerant” city.

“Jon Ballesteros, vice president of public policy for the San Francisco Travel Association, said that “we hear from our visitors that encountering individuals who are suffering from untreated mental health issues is often the most disturbing aspects of their visit here. Many of these visitors ask why isn’t The City doing more to help these individuals?”

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SF moves closer to adopting Laura’s Law to compel some mentally ill into treatment 

By Joshua Sabatini, SF Examiner, 6/24/14

After years of debate, San Francisco is on the verge of adopting Laura’s Law to compel certain people with mental illnesses to receive treatment.

The state law, also known as the assisted outpatient treatment law, allows court-ordered mental health treatment for individuals with mental illness who have a history of unsuccessful treatment. Those authorized to request a court order include family members and probation officers.

The controversial law has long been opposed by San Francisco’s progressive legislators amid concerns over forced treatment and civil rights.

But on Monday, the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee voted to send the proposal to implement Laura’s Law locally, which was introduced by Supervisor Mark Farrell, to the full board for a vote. Notably, progressive Supervisor David Campos, despite raising concerns about the law, supported it after a series of amendments.

“If I had the choice, we wouldn’t be talking about this,” said Campos, who is in a heated District 17 Assembly race against board colleague David Chiu. “But if we are going to implement Laura’s Law, as I think is going to happen here, I would rather do it with the amendments.”

Farrell has also proposed placing a Laura’s Law measure on the November ballot in the event that the board does not approve it, adding political pressure.

Among the amendments is the creation of a Care Team, a group that would engage with people prior to court-ordered treatment. It would include a family liaison, a peer specialist with a history of mental illness and a forensic psychiatrist, with the aim of steering people toward voluntary treatment.

But the amendments did little to quell long-standing criticism of the proposal.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of San Francisco’s Coalition on Homelessness, said that instead of creating a new bureaucratic process, The City should “rebuild our system so it actually has the capacity to respond to diverse needs of San Franciscans with mental illnesses.”

“We have a mental health system that is severely in crisis,” she said. “We have reduced services dramatically.”

The full board is expected to vote on the legislation July 8.

Support for Laura’s Law locally includes The City’s top law enforcement officials — District Attorney George Gascón, Police Chief Greg Suhr and Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White — and labor unions representing police and firefighters. Mayor Ed Lee is also in support.

Business interests have also spoken in favor of the initiative.

Jon Ballesteros, vice president of public policy for the San Francisco Travel Association, said that “we hear from our visitors that encountering individuals who are suffering from untreated mental health issues is often the most disturbing aspects of their visit here. Many of these visitors ask why isn’t The City doing more to help these individuals?”

Another Lawsuit Against the Choo Choo Train Boondoggle Abuse of Tax $$

The High Speed Rail folks needed $26 million from the State to keep going in 2013-14 fiscal year. The new budget which starts on July 1 gives them another $29 million. Most of it is to go to pay for the attorneys to defend numerous lawsuits where they are being charged with breaking the law, misleading the public, violating environmental regulations and more.   They have even signed billions in contracts without a financial plan to show how they will pay for them. If a private firm did this it would be closed down and the offices go to jail? Since this is a public agency, when will criminal’s charges be brought against them just as charges were brought against the Wall Street bankers that abused the public?

“TRANSDEF attorney Stuart Flashman said, “It is highly ironic what the Air Resources Board has done. It was entrusted with making use of these funds [from cap-and-trade] to reduce CO2 [carbon dioxide] production. Instead, it approved using the funds to help construct the first segment of high-speed rail tracks. This not only won’t operate as high-speed rail, it will actually result in an undisclosed increase in greenhouse gas production.”

Instead of helping the climate, the train people are not only fiscally irresponsible but will create problems with the air in the Central Valley.

high speed rail train

New suit filed against high-speed rail
By Kathy Hamilton, Calwatchdog, 6/24/14 

On June 23, the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund filed a new lawsuit against California’s high-speed rail project. TRANSDEF supports the project, but not the current planning.

In a statement explaining the suit, TRANSDEF challenged “the Governor’s fallback funding scheme for high-speed rail.” In that system, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature last week agreed to include $250 million in funding for the project to come from the cap-and-trade emissions trading system set up two years ago by the California Air Resources Board under the auspices of Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

The funding will be for fiscal year 2014-15, which begins on July 1. The governor originally asked for 33 percent of the cap-and-trade revenues. Then his request was reduced to 25 percent in the final version of Senate Bill 862, the cap-and-trade funding bill.

But as CalWatchdog.com earlier reported, the cap-and-trade mechanism is highly irregular and faces court challenges from the Pacific Legal Foundation and the Chamber Commerce.

Lawsuit

TRANSDEF charged that cap-and-trade revenues, according to AB32, only can go to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. TRANSDEF President David Schonbrunn said in the statement, “The claimed GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions reductions are a very expensive fantasy,” because the California High-Speed Rail Authority depends “on $30 billion of project funding that the Authority doesn’t have and can’t get.” (See a copy of the full statement at the end of this article.)

TRANSDEF attorney Stuart Flashman said, “It is highly ironic what the Air Resources Board has done. It was entrusted with making use of these funds [from cap-and-trade] to reduce CO2 [carbon dioxide] production. Instead, it approved using the funds to help construct the first segment of high-speed rail tracks. This not only won’t operate as high-speed rail, it will actually result in an undisclosed increase in greenhouse gas production.”

Defending the cap-and-trade funding

CHSRA CEO Jeff Morales defended using the cap-and-trade funds in a letter to state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Los Angeles, before the Legislature voted on the funding:

“The ongoing commitment of cap and trade proceeds creates significant new opportunities for rail and transit improvements, including high-speed rail. Most significantly, it will allow the Authority to advance the program on multiple segments concurrently. This has a number of key benefits, which will result in GHG reductions sooner, including: overall acceleration of the program, which can also yield cost savings; and improvements in Southern California’s existing rail system, which will benefit commuters in the region in the near-term and ultimately tie into the broader system.”

He said the cap-and-trade funding also would allow the CHSRA to:

“… continue the development and construction of the spine of the system in the Central Valley, utilizing previously appropriated federal and state funds. We would also continue the work with our partners in the Bay Area to electrify the Caltrain corridor, targeted for completion in 2019. Cooperative efforts with the Capitol Corridor and Altamont Commuter Express rail services would continue, aimed at creating a cohesive passenger rail network in Central and Northern California.”

In summary, defenders of using the cap-and-trade funding believe that, because the project will be funded yearly at a 25 percent or more share of the future cap-and-trade revenues, it will provide a continuous stream of dedicated income. That money will show the federal government that California is serious about building the rail project.

SB862 Senate hearing and vote

At the Senate hearings on the budget that was passed, Pavley expressed concern about giving 25 percent of the cap-and-trade revenues to the current high-speed rail project because it produced only 1 percent of the needed greenhouse gas reduction reductions under AB32.  The state is required to bring greenhouse gas readings down to 1990 emissions levels by 2020. Pavley authored AB32.

She said she hoped that, if the bill passed, the CHSRA and the Senate would concentrate on the “bookend” train stations, meaning Los Angeles and San Francisco, where there is more population and greater greenhouse gas reduction would be possible. Pavley ended her comment, then sat down without calling for a vote for or against SB862.  She later abstained from voting.

New Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, mentioned that Morales had circulated letters to some of the senators. The letter sent to Pavley suggested that, if SB862 passed, the cap-and-trade money could allow work beyond the first section in the Central Valley, possibly the Burbank-to-Palmdale section.

But that would be difficult with not enough money to complete the first section. Burbank-to-Palmdale is about 51 miles and would cost at least $6.73 billion.

Hookup with Xpress West in Nevada

Morales continued:

“The Burbank-Palmdale segment, which potentially could become an operating segment on its own, would accelerate benefits to the Los Angeles region. It would also allow for the earlier connection of our system with the proposed XpressWest.

“As you can imagine, a high-speed, electric rail connection from Los Angeles to Las Vegas would provide tremendous benefits for the region, both in terms of travel and GHG [greenhouse gas] reductions.”

But the train project to Las Vegas itself has run out of steam. See the letter written to the Comptroller General of the United States by U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who wrote:

“We have been informed that the letter [from the Department of Transportation] explains that ‘serious issues persist’ with the XpressWest loan application; that there are ‘significant uncertainties still surrounding the project’; and that, as a result, [the DOT] has ‘decided to suspend further consideration’ of the XpressWest loan request.” 

Rolling dead?

Assembly Member Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, said at the hearing that high-speed rail is “mortally wounded.” Although some would argue it’s more like the walking dead — or perhaps rolling dead — since it doesn’t have the time or the money to complete even the first Initial Operating Segment.

Yet it appears the project is nearly bullet-proof and very much among the living. Brown remains strongly behind the project and has the backing of President Obama. A June 9 Statement of Administration Policy from the Office of Management and Budget declared:

“The Administration strongly objects to prohibiting the Surface Transportation Board from taking any action to approve subsequent phases of the California High Speed Rail project between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Administration believes passenger rail can play an important role in addressing transportation needs and opposes any attempts to limit state and local choices to enhance passenger rail.”

Kathy Hamilton is the Ralph Nader of high-speed rail, continually uncovering hidden aspects of the project and revealing them to the public.  She started writing in order to tell local communities how the project affects them and her reach grew statewide.  She has written more than 225 articles on high-speed rail and attended hundreds of state and local meetings. She is a board member of the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail; has testified at government hearings; has provided public testimony and court declarations on public records act requests; has given public testimony; and has provided transcripts for the validation of court cases.

 

NY/LA Governments Use Tax $$ to Make Hollywood Elite Billionaires Richer

The Hollywood elite billionaires have figured out how to get richer. They go to Guv Brown and say, if you give us a tax incentive, we will film our shows in California. Then they go to Guv Cuomo of New York and tell him, give us tax breaks and we will film in your States. Then they go to the Guvs or Tennessee, the Canadian Province. All of this is to get States to bid against one another—using taxpayer money to make the billionaires richer. This is a corrupt system—the rich versus the families—and the rich of Hollywood own governors!

“California’s current incentive program makes it hard to attract and retain new pilots and TV series.  The data makes plain why an expanded film incentive is needed to bring this part of the industry back.”

Los Angeles’ share of overall comedy production in the 2013-14 pilot cycle was 76 percent, down slightly from the 83 percent share it enjoyed last year, but off considerably from the 100 percent share the region captured seven years ago.”

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Los Angeles’ share of pilot production falls, while New York’s continues to rise

Brian Watt, KPCC, 6/24/14

Los Angeles continued to lose its share of television pilot productions in the most recent season, while New York established itself as the leader for productions of one-hour pilots, according to a new report out Tuesday from FilmL.A.

Of the 203 pilots filmed in the 2013-14 development season, 90 shot in the Los Angeles area, giving the region a 44 percent share.  Last year, L.A.’s pilot production share was 52 percent, and six years earlier, 82 percent, according to the report.

Of the 90 pilots shot in Los Angeles, 19 were for hour-long dramas, but New York grabbed 24 drama projects and dethroned Los Angeles as the leader in the drama pilot category.

“Losing television pilots – and then series – to other North American competitors leads to the destruction of steady, well-paying California jobs,” said Paul Audley, President of FilmL.A., the not-for-profit that issues permits to productions shooting on location in the Los Angeles area.  “California’s current incentive program makes it hard to attract and retain new pilots and TV series.  The data makes plain why an expanded film incentive is needed to bring this part of the industry back.”

Los Angeles’ share of overall comedy production in the 2013-14 pilot cycle was 76 percent, down slightly from the 83 percent share it enjoyed last year, but off considerably from the 100 percent share the region captured seven years ago.

The report says pilots continue to create significant economic benefits for whichever city or region can host them.  Citing industry sources, the report says the average one‐hour drama pilot can directly employ 150‐230 people for the duration of the project. Typical pilot production costs now average about $2 million (for comedy pilots) and $6 million to $8 million (for drama pilots).

Of course, not all pilots go on to be produced as series, and the ones that are “picked up” for more episodes don’t necessarily stay in the location where the pilot was shot.  Adrian McDonald, research analyst with FilmL.A., says a show’s setting can be an important factor in the long-term location decision, but the real driver is the availability of a tax credit.

“You look at a show like ‘The Whisperers’: that [pilot] shot here in Los Angeles, now it’s headed to Vancouver for a tax credit,” McDonald said.  The opposite happened to TNT’s “Franklin and Bash,” which shot its pilot in Atlanta, Georgia but moved to Los Angeles for the series production. Why?: “They got the tax credit in California – I think that helped,” McDonald said.

One of the report’s glaring examples of tax credits driving the action is USA Network’s hour-long drama series “Graceland.” Its set on the beaches of Southern California, and its pilot was shot in L.A.  Its producers applied for the California Film and TV tax credit, but didn’t get it:

As a result, the remaining 11 episodes for Graceland’s first season filmed in Florida. On average, Graceland spent more than $151,000 for each day of production in Miami. This represents a loss to California of more than $19 million, including $10.2 million spent on wages, for just this one show.

One of L.A.’s major obstacles is the size and scope of the California’s tax incentive program.  It offers up to $100 million dollars per year in credits – less than a quarter of New York’s offering – and television pilots and new network dramas can’t apply.   A bill to expand the program has passed the State Assembly and is now before the Senate.  Its sponsors have said they want to the new program to cover TV pilots, but haven’t yet determined how much extra money they want to add to the tax credit fund.

Congressional Dems’ bill provides lawyers for illegal immigrant children

Democrats in the Senate voted for $1.9 billion to “help” the illegal aliens imported by President Obama in his invasion of his own country. He is putting them in processing centers—then in a few years they will have deportation hearings, if they are stupid enough to stick around. They will disappear into the shadows, like 11 million other illegal aliens. But, some will stick around and will need to “defend” themselves against United States law.

Congressional Democrats have a bill, which if passed (it will not) will give your tax dollars meant to enforce our laws to attorneys to defend illegal aliens against our laws. In other words our tax dollars will be on both sides of the table and the illegal aliens must be laughing at the idiots in Congress that allowed this.

“Federal law prohibits using taxpayer money to grant legal representation to those going through the immigration system — though they are able to hire attorneys themselves, and the Obama administration has announced a program to try to recruit dozens of volunteer lawyers to help out where they can.

One estimate from before the recent surge said up to 40 percent of unaccompanied minors — those traveling without a parent — could qualify for asylum or some other legal status that would entitle them to stay.

The Democrats’ bill underscores the mixed messages coming out of the U.S. concerning the children’s ability to gain a foothold in the U.S.”

Washington DC - Federal Triangle: Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

Congressional Dems’ bill provides lawyers for illegal immigrant children

As children from Central America keep pouring across the nation’s southwest border, the Obama administration announced Friday that it will respond with a “surge” of immigration judges and U.S. attorneys

By Stephen Dinan and S.A. Miller, The Washington Times, 6/24/14

Congressional Democrats on Monday introduced a bill to grant taxpayer-funded lawyers to the illegal immigrant children surging across the border, with backers saying the children shouldn’t be forced to face the complex U.S. immigration system alone.

Even though the administration has said the children aren’t eligible for legal status under President Obama’s nondeportation policies, the House lawmakers said there are several other laws, including claims of asylum or other special visas available to crime victims or youngsters without families here.

“It is a fantasy to believe that unrepresented children have a fair shot in an immigration proceeding,” said Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries, New York Democrat and chief sponsor of the legislation.

Federal law prohibits using taxpayer money to grant legal representation to those going through the immigration system — though they are able to hire attorneys themselves, and the Obama administration has announced a program to try to recruit dozens of volunteer lawyers to help out where they can.

One estimate from before the recent surge said up to 40 percent of unaccompanied minors — those traveling without a parent — could qualify for asylum or some other legal status that would entitle them to stay.

The Democrats’ bill underscores the mixed messages coming out of the U.S. concerning the children’s ability to gain a foothold in the U.S.

Over the weekend, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson penned an op-ed that ran in a number of Spanish-language outlets in the U.S. and Latin America that said the children shouldn’t expect legal status.

“The long journey is not only dangerous; there are no ‘permisos,’ ‘permits’” or free passes at the end, Mr. Johnson wrote in his department’s official English translation of the op-ed.

An internal Customs and Border Protection memo that summarized interviews with children and families who have recently crossed the border said most were coming for what they called a “permiso,” which appears to be a summons to appear in immigration court for a deportation hearing. That document is called a Notice to Appear, or NTA.

Part of the difficulty is the way both sides see the NTA.

American officials consider it a part of their enforcement, since it’s the official designation that someone could be deported.

“If your child is caught crossing the border illegally, he or she will be charged with violating United States immigration laws and placed in deportation proceedings — a situation no one wants. The document issued to your child is not a ‘permiso’ but a Notice to Appear in a deportation proceeding before an immigration judge,” Mr. Johnson wrote.

Those in Central America, however, don’t see it that way. According to the internal memo, they see the NTA as a foothold in the U.S., giving them a chance to apply for asylum and fight deportation — and possibly to disappear into the shadows along with the 11 million other illegal immigrants.

Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill have called for Mr. Obama himself to make a forceful statement, arguing that only he can command the type of attention that would ensure the message would break through to Latin American parents considering sending their children north.

Mr. Johnson is scheduled to testify Tuesday to the House Committee on Homeland Security, where Republicans are poised to say the Obama administration’s own policies have been responsible for the surge.

“Since October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed our southern border, and the problem is growing from bad to worse. They are being drawn here as a result of our failed border policies,” said committee Chairman Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican.

The issue continues to roil Washington politics.

On Monday, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele chided fellow Republicans, telling them to “stop playing political football” with the issue.

In an interview on MSNBC, he singled out for criticism two Texans, Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz, both Republicans who are eyeing a 2016 presidential run.

“It would be very helpful if Ted Cruz and Gov. Perry in particular came out in support of the solution here,” Mr. Steele said. “It is a humanitarian crisis, as the president, I think, rightly noted, and it is one the United States has to deal with.”

Part of that humanitarian crisis involves the way the children are treated when they arrive.

Immigrant-rights advocates have filed a complaint with CBP alleging verbal and physical abuse of children. But in a statement late last week, Honduran officials said the U.S. government has done a good job of taking care of them.

The Honduran embassy in Washington said in a statement that it has sent teams to visit the two processing facilities U.S. Customs and Border Protection is running in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, Arizona, and said the children are getting medical care, counseling and emotional support.

Children are also able to contact their families, the embassy said in its release, issued in Spanish.

LAUSD to Good Students: Your Education Funding is Lowest Priority—Illegal Aliens At Top

The top priority for the Los Angeles Unified School District funding is for those students at the bottom of the education ladder. In LA that means more money, lots more money, is being spent on illegal aliens. Honest students, good students get the least amount of tax dollars to maximize their education—any wonder charter schools are in demand and rich and middle class parents leave the government schools.

It is a wonder that any bonds get passed—why tax yourself if the money is NOT going to your children, only to those who have violated our laws?

“Under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), districts receive supplemental grant funding based on their numbers of “high-needs” students – low-income students, English learners and foster youth. Districts in which these students make up at least 55 percent of enrollment receive concentration grant funding in addition to the supplemental funding.”

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LA Unified allocates funds to schools with highest student need

By Susan Frey, EdSource, 6/24/14 

The Los Angeles Unified School District will begin using a new student need index to direct additional funding to the neediest schools under a plan expected to be adopted by the school board today.

Under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), districts receive supplemental grant funding based on their numbers of “high-needs” students – low-income students, English learners and foster youth. Districts in which these students make up at least 55 percent of enrollment receive concentration grant funding in addition to the supplemental funding.

During the 2013-14 school year, L.A. Unified received about $700 million in supplemental and concentration grant funding, which it distributed to schools throughout the district, according to the LCFF.

But going forward, the bulk of those additional funds – expected to be about $138 million in 2014-15 – will be allocated to schools according to a new student need index. Currently, if a student is in more than one high-needs category – such as a low-income English learner – that student would only be counted once. This is referred to as an “unduplicated count.”

In the new index, the district will rank schools based on a “duplicated count” – counting students twice or more if they fall into more than one category. The district is also adding a fourth category: homeless students. Schools are ranked on the index based on the duplicated count divided by the total number of students. Those with the highest number of high-needs students will be on the priority list for funding.

Supporters of this approach say that schools that serve the most students with multiple needs are typically located in impoverished communities. Those students need more resources than low-income students residing in higher-income neighborhoods. Less than a third of L.A. Unified schools are expected to receive the extra funding next year.

“We acknowledge that this year is a down payment” on efforts to improve all schools, school board member Steve Zimmer said. “We will revisit the index on an annual basis and determine need. As more funding comes in, we hope to reach a larger set of schools over the years.”

Community-based organizations in East and South Los Angeles rallied supporters to testify in favor of the student need index at the last board meeting on June 9. With a 5-1 vote, with board member Tamar Galatzan opposed, the board approved a resolution supporting the index. The final adoption of the index is set for today, when the board votes on the Local Control and Accountability Plan, which establishes district spending under the new funding formula for the next three years.

Nancy Meza, an organizer with InnerCity Struggle, called the vote “historic” because “it is one of the few times that those directly affected by the L.A. Unified budget have had influence in budget decisions.”

The organizations had proposed including attributes of the students’ communities in determining the school’s ranking on the index, such as the level of gun violence, access to healthy food and full-service health clinics, and the number of parks and play spaces in the neighborhood. But Edgar Zazueta, the district’s chief of staff for external affairs, said when district staff looked into the issue, there was essentially no difference in the ordering of schools if they relied on the duplicated student count alone or included the community factors.

Although some people, including Galatzan, oppose the index, saying that it shortchanges low-income, English learner, foster and homeless students who are attending less needy schools, the vast majority of advocates for low-income students have been supporting L.A. Unified’s approach.

“We know that this is not a lot of money,” said David Sapp, director of education for the ACLU of Southern California. “The district can’t do everything it needs to do to meet the needs for all needy students. Differentiating is a sensible approach and consistent with equity principles.”

Sapp said many other districts are using the funds for select schools, but he doesn’t know of any district other than L.A. Unified that has developed a need index and is basing the index on duplicated counts. “This weighted approach is only being done by L.A. as far as I know,” said Sapp, who is in the process of reviewing spending plans for a large number of districts.

Zimmer acknowledges that many schools in the district he represents will not qualify for funding during the next three-year cycle, but he believes the index is the best way to distribute limited funds.

Under the Local Control Funding Formula, “we are charged to eradicate the myth of fairness,” Zimmer said. “The promise of equality of opportunity is really betrayed by the vast inequities of resources that are available to children depending on where they live – in a resource-rich or resource-barren community. Although many, many factors contribute to the differences in educational outcomes, community resources just can’t be ignored any more.”

“We’re trying to do the right thing,” he said. “I’m not sure that doing the right thing will create a perfect policy. This is a work in progress.”

 

Left Considers Driving a Car as an “Addiction” to Be Ended With THERAPY

Autoroute_A10_Orléans_Ouest

A Therapy Created to Treat Addiction Is Being Used to Reduce Car Reliance

U.K. transport firm Steer Davies Gleave takes “motivational interviewing” door to door.

Eric Jaffe, City Lab, 6/23/14

Clinical psychologist William R. Miller stumbled upon “motivational interviewing” while working with heavy drinkers in the early 1980s. The therapy is based on the idea that telling people they need to change is a terrible way to get them to change; in contrast, motivational interviewing helps people identify their own reasons for change; it’s often described as “non-judgmental.” Over the years, motivational interviewing has proven effectivein treating a range of behavioral challenges, from alcohol abuse to dietary change to gambling.

And, most recently, car reliance in cities.

This latest application comes courtesy of the U.K.-based transportation consultancy Steer Davies Gleave. A few years ago, the firm incorporated motivational interviewing into its door-to-door personal travel planning program. Instead of bullying people into using the bus or train for ideological or social reasons, SDG travel advisors help metro area residents recognize situations in their own lives when it makes more sense to travel without a car.

It’s a chance for self-reflection for people normally too busy getting somewhere to realize they have a car habit in the first place.

“We’re not guilt-tripping people. It’s really easy to do that in behavior change,” says SDG’s Eleni Harlan. “Rather than us telling them the benefits or what the facts are or what other people think, it’s about guiding them through the process of what would motivate them.”

Often working with local governments, SDG identifies areas with the potential to reduce car use or increase use of more sustainable modes. While community-based travel programs in the United States often rely on direct mailing, SDG deploys at least a dozen advisors to knock on thousands of doors in the area. One recent two-year program in the city of Ely visited more than 8,000 households in a few months; another, along a corridor in the West Midlands, visited 17,500.

A typical doorstep motivational interview involves lots of open-ended questions (What kinds of journeys do you make?), plenty of reflective listening (It sounds like you thought about that…), and some well-timed summaries of what the resident has been saying. Most conversations run about 15 minutes, says Harlan, and the goal is to get a sense of the person’s daily life and travel routines. It’s a chance for self-reflection for people normally too busy getting somewhere to realize they have a car habit in the first place.

Critically, these Willy Lomans of transit don’t aggressively push their behavioral wares on unsuspecting consumers. They don’t jump in and say take the bus!; they intentionally don’t use words like sustainability. Instead their conversational probing will often reveal one or two key areas where a change in travel habits might actually make the person’s daily grind easier or more enjoyable.

“What it does do is show a genuine interest in who they are and where they’re coming from, instead of just jumping in with your agenda,” says Harlan. “Quite often I end up telling people we’re not anti-car. We’re not asking you to get rid of it. We’re just exploring what other options might be available to you.”

So far the program has been quite effective. Harlan says that last year SDG found an 11 percent reduction in car driving trips among nearly 25,000 households across 9 cities. (SDG measures results with either before-and-after trip diaries in a sample population, or self-report surveys.) In the West Midlands program, which began in May 2011, SDG found a 24 percent reported reduction in car trips more than a year later.

Fleischman: 8 Crazy Things in Jerry Brown’s New California Budget

My good friend Jon Fleischman write this article about the 8 crazy things in the confused Guv Brown budget. I would like to add a ninth. Jon notes the crazy spending, the special interest spending, the ideological spending. All the while a question is not being asked, where does the money come from? Yes, we have significantly higher taxes, which is why we have higher revenues. But even that is not enough.

While the Guv giggles he has a surplus budget, in fact the State Controller notes we have an $8.5 billion deficit. So, this budget is actually a deficit budget—so where are the cuts? Jon has provided just a few of the areas that need to be cut—I bet you, my readers have many more. What are they?

Record Level of State Spending – General Fund spending spikes year-over-year in Brown’s budget by over $12 billion, taking general fund spending up to a new record high of $108 billion.  If you actually compute total state spending from all fund sources, total state spending hits a new record high of $230 billion!”

But the LA Times, the Bee (of any variety), the Chron, even the Guv press release claims the budget is $156 billion. In fact it is $230 billion when you count ALL of the expenditures of Sacramento.

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

8 Crazy Things in Jerry Brown’s New California Budget

by Jon Fleischman, Breitbart CA,   6/20/14

This morning in San Diego, Governor Jerry Brown signed California’s new, bloated state budget. Negotiated between the Democrat Governor and Democrat leaders in the legislature, this spending plan represents the priorities of a single political party, here in our blue state.

Below, I detail some disturbing items in this new budget. As you read through these, remember that the state sits on what is an unprecedented and enormous unfunded–and unresolved–public employee pension problem.

Record Level of State Spending – General Fund spending spikes year-over-year in Brown’s budget by over $12 billion, taking general fund spending up to a new record high of $108 billion.  If you actually compute total state spending from all fund sources, total state spending hits a new record high of $230 billion!  Many of these spending increases are reflected in significant increases in entitlement programs, ensuring that California continues to be a leader in providing the most generous social welfare program funding in the country.

Swimming Pools – Courtesy of taxpayers all over California, the people of the relatively small border town of Calexico will receive millions of dollars for a very large swimming pool. But there’s more. The budget also contains millions to fix some cracks in the large, iconic “Neptune Pool” at the historic Hearst Castle on California’s central coast.

Local School Districts Required to Reduce Reserves – In a blatant flexing of political muscle by the California Teachers Association, a last-minute change in the budget will put severe restriction on local school districts to keep healthy reserves–their “rainy day funds”–to protect themselves against future economic downturns. The motive of the unions here is to force school districts to spend that money, knowing that some of those funds will be spent on the salaries and benefits of their members.

Drug Felons on Welfare – Until the enactment of this budget, state law prohibited convicted drug felons from receiving any benefits from two of the state’s largest welfare programs, CalWORKS and CalFresh (food stamps). But not anymore–now, instead of just vouchers, they will be eligible for cash (ka-ching!). The projected cost increase of this new policy: $50 million!

The Unoccupied Governor’s Mansion –  The State of California owns a 137 year old Governor’s mansion. It has been unoccupied since then-Governor Reagan and his first lady, Nancy, abandoned it for a house in the Sacramento suburbs. Even though Governor Brown has no plans to live in it afterwards, the state budget contains $2.5 million bucks to renovate the mansion.

Blank Check for High-Speed Rail – You would never know how unpopular the high-speed rail (HSR) boondoggle is in public opinion polls if you looked at Brown’s budget. The budget includes $250 million in spending on HSR from funds coming in from the state’s dubious cap-and-trade carbon emission program.  It also establishes that in future years, hundreds of millions will be spend on HSR with no future vote of the legislature required – it’s on perpetual auto-pilot! Even worse, the HSR Authority will undoubtedly issue revenue bonds against this future revenue, borrowing money now to be repaid later. Oy.

More Funding for Abortions – One of the most controversial aspects of California’s budget is the substantial amount of taxpayer funding for “pregnancy termination services.” This year’s budget provides for a staggering 40% increase in the reimbursement rate for abortions in the MediCal program. Well over $5 million in taxpayer funds is set aside to fund abortions. Sick.

THE UNOCCUPIED GOVERNOR’S MANSION – The State of California owns a 137 year old Governor’s mansion.  It has been unoccupied since then Governor Reagan and his first lady, Nancy, abandoned it for a house in the Sacramento suburbs.  Even though Governor Brown has no plans to live in it afterwards, the state budget contains $2.5 million bucks to

Coastal Commission Power Grab – It pays to be the Assembly Speaker. Just ask the current occupant of the job, Toni Atkins. The Assemblywoman had been trying for years to expand the power of the California Coastal Commission, a controversial government entity because of its wide-ranging control over private property along our state’s coastline. Atkins had not been having luck passing a bill to give the Commission the power to levy fines independently without going to a judge. Somehow this power grab ended up in the final language of the budget.

With the Governor’s signature on this big-spending budget, it should be abundantly clear that any notion that Brown somehow represents “adult supervision” in the State Capitol is a fiction.

What Drought? California Has Plenty of Water.

The author of this article correctly notes that we should be using waste water and ocean water as part of the lack of regular water to be used. But she uses the word drought as if that is the cause of a lack of water. Nowhere in the article does she note the use of water that goes to farming and families has instead, due to government policies, gone to fish. She does not show that the reason we have an overdraft of ground water is because government is using water for people for the fish instead—millions of acres feet of water from the New Melones Dam is no longer going to people, it is going to fish.

The drought is natural, the lack of water is government made. It is time for journalists to tell the whole story, otherwise the report is merely a propaganda piece instead.

“It’s new water for us,” said Dewane—it’s used water that would otherwise be dumped into the ocean. Orange County Water District’s goal is to reuse all of the water used by their urban population. “It’s important to understand that no one is drinking toilet water,” he said—but water that’s been cleaned to an “unimaginable level.”

Ghandi drank urine, so why can’t we drink treated waste water?

ManInWater

What Drought? California Has Plenty of Water.

Looking to a Future Where We Drink More Wastewater and Ocean Water—Treated, Of Course

by Sarah Rothbard, Zocalo Public Square, 6/18/14

The cliché about Californians is that when asked where their water comes from, they say “the tap” or “plastic bottles,” said Sierra Magazine editor-in-chief and Occidental College adjunct professor Bob Sipchen. “But if you really think about it, all Californians in particular have a really direct and emotional connection to water.” Sipchen, who was moderating an event co-presented by Occidental College at the Petersen Automotive Museum on the future of water reuse in California, began by asking the panel to share their most tangible memories of water. The panelists—who are involved in water recycling throughout the state in one way or another—mentioned sandbagging on the Mississippi River, the water meter on a grandfather’s farm, a swimming pool fed by a well that then irrigated the lawn, and golf course ponds in Arizona.

But even if people in California understand how important water issues are, they don’t necessarily understand their complexity. “We have so many demands on our water—“and they’re all valid, and they’re all necessary,” said Sarah Woolf, president of water management company Water Wise, who also works in her family’s San Joaquin Valley farm business. We have to look at meeting these demands as one big issue rather than placing them in siloes, with each area of the state deserving different things, she said.

West Basin Municipal Water District public information and conservation manager Ron Wildermuth explained how his district purifies both sewer water and ocean water. First, the water passes through a filter with holes 300 times smaller than a human hair; then they use reverse osmosis technology to put the molecular structure of water through a sheet of plastic.

But as advanced as this technology is, people remain hesitant about the prospect of drinking salty water and wastewater. How, asked Sipchen, do you move beyond this?

It’s as simple as tasting the water, said Wildermuth. “Your mind’s going to say, ‘This tastes like water.’ We can take every contaminated source and make it as good as bottled water.” In the future, he said, the goal is to make recycled water 25 percent of our future supply.

It’s easy to see desalination as the future; the ocean is an unlimited resource. But the process has problems, said Sipchen. It’s extremely energy-intensive and generates a great deal of heat. And there are questions about its impact on marine environments and what to do with the salt that’s left over.

Orange County Water District president Shawn Dewane said that the problems of desalination have to be dealt with site-by-site; Huntington Beach, for example, is dramatically different from Monterey Bay. “We wouldn’t advocate for a one-size-fits-all permitting structure,” he said. The science and technology of desalination “has been proven worldwide and is used worldwide,” he added.

In discussing the work of his water district, Dewane used the phrase “the water we create.” Sipchen asked if this is inaccurate—new water can’t be created since it already exists in the universe.

“It’s new water for us,” said Dewane—it’s used water that would otherwise be dumped into the ocean. Orange County Water District’s goal is to reuse all of the water used by their urban population. “It’s important to understand that no one is drinking toilet water,” he said—but water that’s been cleaned to an “unimaginable level.”

Scott Slater is president and CEO of Cadiz Inc., a company that plans to capture groundwater in eastern San Bernardino County and sell it to Southern California cities. Santa Margarita, an Orange County city, has a contract with Cadiz, said Sipchen. Does producing water from a new source, Sipchen asked Slater and Dewane, send the wrong message to a part of the country that should be limiting its water use?

Dewane said that while new water supplies might encourage growth, we know that regardless, population growth is going to outstrip our ability to conserve water.

“We all want to provide a reliable source of water,” said Slater—and Cadiz’s water is 100 percent reliable. “The question is: new growth or backfill?” he said—and that’s up to local agencies, not his company. Plus, water use is changing here. This year, L.A. took less water from the Owens Valley than any time in history. “It’s not 1950 anymore,” he said.

In the San Joaquin Valley, you used to see huge sprinklers dumping water over the land, said Sipchen—now you see much more efficient drip irrigation. Is there more that can be done there to recycle water?

Farmers are using wastewater to irrigate crops, said Woolf. Her husband’s family farm takes the waste that’s a byproduct of producing tomato paste and uses it to water their tomato crops. There are a number of pilot projects working on cleaning the region’s groundwater, which contains boron and high levels of salinity. Desalination and distilling plants have also come to the San Joaquin Valley. We’re not as far along as Southern California, but we’re working on it, she said.

In the audience question-and-answer session, guests asked the panelists to look to California’s water future.

Will we be able to recycle water in our own homes?

No, said the panelists. These projects work best at a very large scale, said Dewane—who couldn’t imagine it being economically efficient for individuals. (Orange County’s system serves 2.5 million people.) Safety is also a concern, said Slater.

Could desalination or treated sewage supply areas of L.A. that are further inland—from the Wilshire corridor to downtown? Desalination plants are all at sea level, and the best recycled water comes from higher elevations.

Wildermuth said that another alternative for these types of areas is to clean and use contaminated groundwater—which is the major thrust of L.A.’s new water supply.

We have to start thinking about portfolios that are complimentary, said Slater.

There’s not one solution to our water problems—but “several silver bullets,” said Wildermuth.

Will Government Schools Continue to Protect Bullies on Campus?

There is a growing movement that bullies belong in the classroom in government schools. Both Los Angeles and San Fran schools refuse to expel a bully that bashes students, steals from them or harasses them. Instead the bullies are told they are not bad people, but do bad things and please promise not to do it again. This is called “Restorative Justice”—in real life it is telling the bullies you own the place.

Now parents are fighting back. While not supporting fights or violence, since the schools allow the bullies to stay, it is time for the children to literally fight back—anyway, no one gets expelled because fighting is wrong, but not illegal on a government school campus.

“The proposal by Duval County Public Schools trustee Jason Fischer is intended to protect a student who fights back when attacked from facing any disciplinary action if it’s determined that the student was defending him- or herself.

“If somebody attacks you, you should be able to use physical force to stop your attacker,” Fischer told Cabinet Report. “What I’m saying with this proposal is let’s not further victimize someone who’s already been harmed.”

Maybe it is time the bullies get bullied?

School Reform

‘Stand your ground’ meets bullies at school

by Kimberly Beltran, Cabinet Report, 6/22/14

(Calif.) Anna Mendez, whose 16-year-old son committed suicide after fighting with student bullies, doesn’t condone violence.

In fact, the non-profit group she founded to fight bullying in the wake of her son’s death encourages harmony, she said, but paradoxically is also in favor of a Florida school trustee’s effort to ban disciplinary action against a student defending him- or herself in a physical attack.

“As a national association that promotes peace, we certainly don’t want to encourage violence of any kind,” said Mendez, executive director of the National Association of People Against Bullying. “At the same time, we have a real problem with the so-called zero-tolerance policies and the fact that both children are punished when one is only trying to defend himself.”

Public schools nationwide have begun pulling back from the “zero-tolerance” policies widely enacted in the mid-1990s and using alternative disciplinary strategies to avoid unnecessary suspensions or expulsions and keep kids in school. Updated, modern discipline policies focus on giving school administrators more discretion in dealing with rule breakers, and they promote positive conflict resolution in which all involved parties needs are addressed.

The proposal by Duval County Public Schools trustee Jason Fischer is intended to protect a student who fights back when attacked from facing any disciplinary action if it’s determined that the student was defending him- or herself.

“If somebody attacks you, you should be able to use physical force to stop your attacker,” Fischer told Cabinet Report. “What I’m saying with this proposal is let’s not further victimize someone who’s already been harmed.”

His proposal has been called the school version of the state’s Stand Your Ground law, under which a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations without an obligation to retreat.

But Fischer calls the comparison “sensationalism” and says his plan “is really just a self-defense” and fairness issue.

“You can evade, block or use physical force to stop an attacker from harming you,” Fischer said. “I’m not talking here about using fire arms; I’m not talking about using deadly force. I’m just saying that a student has a right to defend himself and that we shouldn’t punish the victim at all.”

Under current district policy, students who fight are labeled “mutual combatants” and punished equally, said Fischer, whose initiative led to the creation of a subcommittee to vet the district’s Code of Conduct and return to the board with recommended changes to some of the regulations.

The new policy – due to be voted on by the board July 1 – calls for differentiating between the role of each student involved in a fight (i.e., aggressor or victim) and meting out a lesser punishment to a kid found to be defending himself. It does not, however, include Fischer’s ‘no-punishment-for-fighting-back’ clause because of concerns among some on the committee that it sends the wrong message to students.

Fischer, who said he’s hoping at that meeting to convince his colleagues to insert the provision in the policy, has his work cut out for him.

“I feel uncomfortable, and certain board members felt uncomfortable, with the idea of no consequence at all,” Duval superintendent Nikolai Vitti told Tampa Bay’s First Coast News. “Because if there is no consequence, you signal that violence is acceptable.”

On the night before he died, Daniel Mendez – after years of physical and verbal harassment in which he turned the other cheek – was apparently thinking of fighting back and worried about the consequences he might face, according to his mother.

A polite student on his school’s football team, with good grades, good friends, a black belt in tae kwon do and college in his future, Daniel came into his parents’ room to ask them if they’d be mad if he got suspended, Anna Mendez said. Then he asked if he could skip part of the school day the next day.  When his mother realized he was asking because he was considering self-defense against those bullying him, she finally told him: “If someone is bothering you, you choose the biggest one and punch him right in the nose.”

The next day, May 1, 2009, the San Clemente High School sophomore finally struck a blow but, outnumbered 2-1, he was beaten up by his persecutors and, feeling humiliated and hopeless, left school and shot himself less than an hour later.

A policy such as the one proposed by Fischer, said Anna Mendez, is needed for victims of bullying who have tried every other avoidance technique available to them and are simply defending themselves from physical abuse. Not necessarily because this is the answer to bullying, she said, but because it’s just not right to punish each student equally when one trouble maker is obviously the instigator and the other is only trying to survive.

Washington State’s Kennewick School Board in April made changes to its discipline policy that give school principals the option of doling out more severe punishments to those who instigate fights – if they can accurately determine who is responsible.

Fischer said he doesn’t see sorting out who shoulders the blame in an altercation as being a problem because most times school administrators are able to make that determination, either because of eyewitness accounts or, as is the case in many Duval schools, security camera footage.

Elizabeth Chapin Pinotti, assistant superintendent of California’s Amador County Unified School district, said, however, that all too often, there are a lot of gray areas when it comes to sorting out conflicts and imposing consequences.

“It’s so hard to put a sweeping policy like that into place because, just like it was difficult for us to implement zero-tolerance, it’s also difficult for us when it’s so absolute or to the other extreme,” she said.

The best policies, Chapin-Pinotti said, are those that give discretion to the school site administrators to make the best decision given the facts of the situation, with an appeals process available.

In the meantime, Anna Mendez and the NAPAB foundation will continue their campaign against bullying and their staunch advocacy on behalf of its victims.

“What we are really fighting for are children’s rights, which should be similar to the rights an adult has if someone is using force against them,” she said. “It’s bad enough that the student perpetrators are getting away with it.  The victims should absolutely have the right to attack back with the same force and not be punished for doing so.”