Prop. 57 Favored Violent Criminals Over Public Safety

Police carWe told the truth about Prop 57 prior to the November 2016 election; that it would free violent felons years early. We said it would free sex offenders. We said it would free criminals whose sentences were enhanced due to prior violent strike offenses. Well, the sex offenders already sued and won their claim that they are entitled to be considered for early release based upon the language of Prop 57. Now the third-strikers with violent criminal histories have done the same and won.  An Appellate Court decision this past week made that crystal clear, ruling that under Prop 57, inmates serving three strike sentences for what are clearly violent crimes are entitled to early release even if decades remained on their sentence.

Prop 57 was a poorly drafted, last minute initiative that hijacked another initiative regarding direct filing of juvenile charges. The California Supreme Court ruled that it could go on to the ballot despite failing to comply with a 2014 law prohibiting wholesale changes in pending initiatives and requiring 30 days of public comment. In his dissent, Justice Ming W. Chin cogently noted that Prop 57 was “exactly the sort of measure that would greatly benefit from public comment and the opportunity to make amendments” as they would “easily expose its drafting flaws.”

A key drafting flaw was the farcical claim that Prop 57 only applied to “non-violent” inmates. That is because the proponents failed to define what were “non-violent” crimes, with a legal presumption that any crime not explicitly defined as “violent” would qualify for early release. As we have highlighted time and time again, demonstrably “violent” inmates have been released early thanks to Prop 57, including criminals who have committed horrible beatings and stabbings of women in domestic violence situations and stabbings and assaults on fellow prison inmates and correctional officers.

However, there is a partial fix in 2020 that will help fulfill the promise of Prop 57 proponents to California voters that “violent” inmates would not be eligible for early release under its provisions. The “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act” will be on the ballot, and among other provisions will reclassify crimes currently considered “non-violent” under Prop 57 as “violent,” ensuring inmates serving time in prison for these crimes are ineligible for early release under Prop 57. Because Prop 57 was a constitutional amendment, it will be difficult for the citizens to fix all the bad drafting, but the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act is a start.

resident of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Battles Fought to Stop Tax Hikes in CA Legislature

CapitolWhile on the campaign trail prior to the 1988 election, Republican presidential candidate George H.W. Bush uttered the now infamous words, “read my lips, no new taxes.” Of course, this was a pledge he broke, which likely cost him reelection.

The mission of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is to protect Proposition 13 and to advance taxpayers’ rights, including the right to limited taxation, the right to vote on tax increases and the right of economical, equitable and efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

Unfortunately, this value set is shared by too few politicians in Sacramento.

Because of that, taxpayers rarely are able to obtain meaningful reform in the state Capitol. California’s reputation for high taxes and burdensome regulations is well deserved and taxpayers are usually able to obtain relief only through the powers of direct democracy including initiative, referendum and recall.

While many wish this wasn’t the case, the stark reality is that legislators have voted for eight taxes (six of which became law) since 2012.

In nearly all instances it was Republicans (usually opposed to higher taxes) who joined with tax-and-spend Democrats to provide the final vote for tax increases ranging from car registrations, to gas taxes, to lumber and battery assessments and mattresses.

Thankfully though, no taxes were approved in 2018.

Don’t misunderstand, the tax-and-spend lobby wasn’t taking the year off just because of the upcoming November election. If anything, they were eager to follow up on their three victories last year, which included the infamous gas tax and a tax on recorded documents. Governor Brown made it clear in 2016 that he desired a permanent source of revenue to fund transportation, affordable housing, and clean water programs. He got the first two last year so only the water tax remained.

The fight over the water tax was very contentious. First, no one doubted the importance of having access to clean water, particularly in the Central Valley where decades of neglect and mismanagement of water systems created the problem in the first place. But imposing a dollar-a-month tax on all residential water users in the state to address a local problem made no sense. The cost to fix the problem was estimated to be $120 million of one-time money, which reflects a tiny percentage of California’s General Fund budget. Thankfully, Senate Bill 623 failed before the Legislature’s summer recess in July and taxpayers and their allies, mostly California’s local water agencies, breathed a sigh of relief. …

Click here to read the full article from the Los Angeles Daily News

LA’s Liability Claims Are Out of Control

Pension moneyLA WATCHDOG – Liability claims against the City of Los Angeles have caused continuing nightmares for the City’s budget mavens.

Over the last five years, the total payouts and settlements for legal actions totaled $541 million, an average of $108 million a year, double the amount for the previous five years (2009-2013) of $264 million, an average of $53 million a year.

This problem has been compounded by the fact that the City has underestimated its Liability Claims as payouts and settlements over the past five years have exceeded the budgeted amounts by $234 million, an average of almost $50 million a year.

Granted there have been several large payouts and settlements, including significant sums to settle a housing-related lawsuit by a disability rights group, a $1.4 billion settlement to repair our sidewalks over the next thirty years, numerous police department related lawsuits, and the settlement of the class action lawsuit involving the City’s illegal Telephone Users’ Tax.

Just last week, the Leo Baeck Temple filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, claiming the City was negligent as it failed to clean up a homeless encampment nestled in hills of Bel-Air.  This was despite repeated complaints and warnings to Councilman Paul Koretz and his office as well as to the Police and Fire Departments.  Unfortunately, the December fire that started at this encampment burned almost 500 acres, damaged the Leo Baeck Temple, disrupted life in Bel-Air for several days, caused the cancellation of schools, closed and delayed traffic on the very busy 405 through the Sepulveda Pass, destroyed six homes, and damaged a dozen homes in one of the priciest areas of the City.

The lawsuit does not specify damages, but if all the homeowners join the temple, the loss to the self-insured City could very easily reach $20 to $30 million, not including any punitive damages because of the negligence of the Councilman and the City.

According to several insiders at City Hall, payouts and settlements will exceed the $89 million budgeted this year for Liability Claims.  This will increase the existing budget deficit that is estimated to be in the range of $250 million when considering raises for the civilian workers whose contract expired on June 30, the raid on the City’s rainy-day funds, questionable new revenues, and unidentified efficiencies.

Unfortunately, the City Attorney has developed a reputation for being an easy target, a soft touch, where the plaintiffs’ bar is able to extract large payouts and settlements because the City is afraid to go to court because of the fear of runaway juries, especially in cases involving perceived police misconduct.

One solution is to reform the judicial system by passing laws that will make California less of a “judicial hellhole,” where the defendants, including the City, have the opportunity for a fair trial. But this will difficult as the plaintiffs’ bar has considerable political clout in Sacramento as it is a generous contributor to our State’s politicians.

While the higher payouts and settlements may be the “new normal” and probably are going to get worse because of all the disability, discrimination, and workplace litigation, the City should at least develop a realistic Liability Claims budget so the City does not have to raid the Reserve Fund or issue Judgement Obligation Bonds to fund the cash outflow, dumping the burden on the next generation of Angelenos.

Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.

This article was originally published by CityWatchLA

We Still Need to Reform Deferred Retirement Plans

pension-2In these waning days of the 2018 legislative session, pension reform once again was shoved into the future. That can’t last forever.

One bill I hope to bring back in an upcoming legislative session is Senate Bill 1433, concerning a clever retirement postponement gimmick called a Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, for police and firefighters. But it’s a DROP kick for taxpayers, and an expensive one.

Let me explain this scheme. In an employee’s last five years with the municipality, they receive their salary and their pension. The pension benefits are deposited into a trust where it earns an attractive rate of interest. At the conclusion of the five years, the trust distributes the final balance along with the compounded interest income.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, new Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore was given a lump sum of $1.27 million from his DROP plan by first retiring, then being rehired in his new position. “Moore said in an interview that the plan to have him retire and then return almost immediately to work was proposed by former Chief Charlie Beck and approved by Mayor Eric Garcetti.”

I fully understand the motivation and the implementation of this plan. I can see why it is used and how politically difficult it is to discontinue allowing DROP plans as a management alternative.

And I am in no way inferring that Chief Moore and others who take advantage of DROPs are abusing the system. As someone who has earned a Certified Financial Planner designation earlier in my career, I certainly would advise anyone who qualifies for a DROP to take it.

It is the system that is wrong. It needs to be fixed.

Unfortunately, SB 1433 would not affect charter cities such as Los Angeles, which have a great deal of autonomy on such matters. But it would affect what are called ’37 Act counties, short for the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937. SB 1433 would prohibit altogether such a county or district from starting a new Deferred Retirement Option Program, or a public employee in a DROP jurisdiction from now participating in one.

Let’s stop the perception of abuse. Let’s eliminate a temptation that should never have been there in the first place. The experience of DROP participants in Los Angeles between July 2008 and July 2017 is not pretty.

Five points on that from an earlier Los Angeles Times story from April 15:

  1. Police and firefighters in the DROP program were nearly twice as likely to miss work for injuries, illness or paid leave.
  2. Those taking disability leave while in DROP missed a combined 2.4 million hours of work for leaves and sick time, and were paid more than $220 million for the time off.
  3. More than a third of police officers who entered the program, 36 percent, went out on an injury leave. At the fire department, it was 70 percent.
  4. The average time off for those who took injury leaves was nearly 10 months. At least 370 missed more than a year. This comes at a very steep cost.
  5. In addition to the salary and pension payments, leaves taken by DROP participants create a third cost for taxpayers. The fire department pays overtime to fill their vacant shifts. The Police Department requires other officers to cover their work.

Los Angeles is realizing that DROP plans are a mistake after costing the city an estimated $1.6 billion since 2001. Our state legislature should too. It should take a leadership role and totally discontinue allowing this unique strategy.

Sacramento needs to help local governments help themselves in addressing the pension crisis. This year would have been good. Next year, with a new governor and many new legislators, it is critical.

California State Senate, 37th District.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Five Recommendations to Solve LAUSD’s Looming Fiscal Crisis

These recommendations are excerpted from the policy study “A 2018 Evaluation of LAUSD’s Fiscal Outlook.” 

LAUSD school busFrom the Independent Financial Review Panel’s report of Los Angeles Unified School District emerges a dire picture that should alarm parents, educators and community stakeholders alike. It found that maintaining the status quo would grow the budget deficit to about $600 million by 2019–2020, concluding that failure to act would have real ramifications for the district’s 550,000 students including financial insolvency and even state takeover. For years district officials have avoided substantive reforms, but the warnings of distant fiscal calamity have now become a reality that leaders must address head-on. While the path ahead involves many difficult decisions and political headwinds, the process of right-sizing LAUSD presents an opportunity to lay the foundation for a 21st-century education system that’s productive, agile, and responsive to the needs of students and communities. In other words, right-sizing isn’t about budget cuts and layoffs, but rather optimizing all facets of operations with the goal of providing high-quality options to all students at a cost that aligns with revenues. To do this, LAUSD leaders should focus on five key reforms.

#1 OVERHAUL LONG-TERM DEBT OBLIGATIONS

LAUSD has little control over rising pension contributions because reducing these obligations requires state-level reforms. However, general staffing surges that are not supported by enrollment can increase pension costs, since the district must make pension contributions for each new hire.

Further, LAUSD does have discretion over OPEB costs as well as health and welfare benefits for active employees. The district has several significant cost-saving options available to it, ranging from ending retiree health care benefits altogether to engaging in a variety of cost-sharing and cost-reducing strategies.

At its August 2017 board retreat on reducing health care costs, LAUSD staff presented five cost-saving options, as shown in Table 20.

Ultimately the board upheld the status quo for health care benefits for another three years at an annual cost approaching $1 billion.

#2 GO AFTER LOW-HANGING FRUIT

It should come as no surprise that LAUSD can become more efficient, but what’s less obvious is how relatively minor changes in operations can result in substantial savings that can put a dent in the district’s budget deficit. In fact, the Independent Financial Review Panel’s report found over $143 million in potential savings outside of staffing and long-term obligations, including:

Improve student attendance ($45 million): Because the state of California provides revenue based on Average Daily Attendance, LAUSD loses money with every student absence from school. Increasing the district’s attendance to just the statewide average—a relatively low bar to achieve—would generate an additional $45 million per year. Of course, this would not only help boost LAUSD’s bottom-line but also improve academic outcomes such as graduation rates and college and career readiness. In 2009–2010, Long Beach Unified shifted 10 of its social workers and counselors to working with campuses on truancy issues to increase student attendance. The chronic absence rate in Long Beach Unified dropped from 19.8 percent in 2011 to 10 percent by 2014. By 2015, the school district’s overall attendance rate was 96.17 percent up from 96.01 percent in 2014 and above the state average.

Improve staff attendance ($15 million): Currently, only 75 percent of LAUSD staff members have strong attendance as defined by the district. Bolstering this number to 90 percent would save about $15 million on substitute teachers while also providing students with more stable classroom environments. To save even more money, LAUSD could require select administrators to substitute teach five days per year, a policy that saved Scottsdale, Arizona about 7 percent of their substitute budget and also allowed district staff to stay connected to the classroom.

#3 INITIATE STAFF REDUCTIONS AND STRATEGIC SCHOOL CLOSURES

The reality is that LAUSD’s financial quagmire requires district leaders to make substantive cutbacks in both staffing and schools. Even though its declining enrollment has necessitated a reduction of about 10,000 staff, LAUSD has actually increased staffing levels in recent years while seeing costs associated with salaries and benefits also rise. This problem will only magnify if projected enrollment declines continue to hold true.

To start, LAUSD must recognize that the lion’s share of new hires have been administrative staff, even during declining enrollment. Therefore, district officials should first evaluate every central office staff position as part of its school finance overhaul.

Next, teacher layoffs are unavoidable but LAUSD can approach them in a manner that will help increase student outcomes even as overall staffing levels decrease. Importantly, district and union officials should work together to review and renegotiate factors that hamstring flexibility and do nothing to further student achievement, such as automatic pay increases, rigid staffing requirements, and termination provisions that favor costly teachers with seniority. For example, Boston Public Schools replaced a seniority-driven system by renegotiating its collective bargaining contract to give more autonomy over staffing to school leaders, and Hartford Public Schools’ contract now provides principals with more flexibility over things such as scheduling. Increasing district and school-level flexibility will not only minimize staff reductions and protect against future layoffs, but also help ensure that the district retains its highest-performing talent in the process. LAUSD should also follow the Independent Financial Review Panel’s guidance by offering early retirement incentives to senior staff and help reduce the percentage of teachers who have reached the maximum salary level, which is currently 10 percent higher than the state-wide average.

Lastly, underutilized schools are costly for districts to maintain as fixed costs such as facilities, school administration, and custodial services increase per-pupil expenses as enrollment declines. This means that schools that are at or near capacity—which are often higher-performing—essentially subsidize schools with declining enrollment and have less funding to expand programs, services and enrollment as a result. Undoubtedly, closing schools is a difficult yet necessary process for LAUSD to undertake, but district officials should prioritize closing underperforming schools and proactively engage communities throughout the process in order to maximize transparency and build understanding. Kansas City Public Schools closed 26 schools and laid off about 1,000 staff members in 2010, which ultimately helped the district close its budget deficit, improve academically, and reverse enrollment declines, as students transferred to higher performing schools. According to Superintendent R. Stephen Green, “When you close a number of facilities, it creates a bit of disruption, but it was a much-needed process to go through, given the financial stability that was needed for the district.”

Los Angeles also has declining enrollment without ensuring that all school sites are self-sustaining. While many other large urban districts with significant enrollment declines have worked to close and realign some schools to save money, LAUSD continues to keep under-enrolled schools open, even as it has opened many new schools over the last decade. In some areas of the district where school sites are very close to one another, the older schools have lost enrollment to newer schools. The district has not released a transparent recent report about the current capacity from one school to another or identified which schools may be under-enrolled and subsidized by the district.

The key question is to examine whether a school has enough enrollment to sustain the cost of running the school. In 2008, the district estimated that its schools would have a 16 percent vacancy rate by 2012. It predicted it would have the capacity to seat 670,000 students, but only 560,000 were expected to enroll. A Los Angeles Times analysis in 2008 noted that “the district plans to build campuses that will take hundreds of students from those schools, further reducing their enrollment. By the time the building program is completed in 2012, there will be tens of thousands of empty seats at dozens of once-crowded schools.”

If we assume that LAUSD still has the capacity for 670,000 seats, then the current enrollment level of 500,000 students means that it is past time for the district to do a transparent audit of school capacity and how it might save money by closing the most under-enrolled schools. Independent charter schools have used some of this excess capacity for their students, but a transparent examination would ensure that the district can accurately assess all its financial options. In addition, evidence shows that closing the lowest performing and most under-enrolled schools can improve the quality of education for the most disadvantaged students.

A growing body of research indicates that school closure increases educational opportunity so long as students have access to better schools. Closure students who attended better schools tended to make greater academic gains than did their peers from low-performing schools in the same sector that remained open.

A new report on LAUSD’s real estate assets by the LAUSD Advisory Task Force calls for the district to “analyze the current occupancy of core District assets to determine whether consolidation of and/or relocation of certain tenants to more optimal locations could create savings, maximize revenue, and/or reduce functional obsolescence.” With a more thoughtful approach to managing individual school sites and vacant property, the district could actually raise money with long-term leases to charter operators or with other commercial or community uses of their underutilized real estate assets. In addition, school consolidation could help ensure every school has more qualified staff, rather than distributing LAUSD’s scarce resources over too many school sites.

When LAUSD keeps open schools that are under-capacity, district-wide personnel may continue to grow while individual school communities feel staff shortages at the school level. This is because each school, independent of enrollment, requires a certain fixed number of staff positions, some of which may be vacant as enrollment shrinks. As the Los Angeles School Report noted in a May 2016 feature, former Superintendent Michelle King cited feedback from a principals’ survey she received that “showed principals expressing frustration with a lack of clerical staff, a lack of time to complete tasks and limited opportunities for instructional training. ‘Principals say there are not enough hours in the day to get everything they need done and improve teaching and learning due to a lack of sufficient personnel,’ King said.” In this way, the district can have too many employees that are unsustainable given the current level of enrollment and district revenue, while individual schools can also be under-staffed and stretched thin.

But when schools consolidate, fewer fixed staff positions are needed and are more likely to be filled. The district is staffing too many schools at an inadequate level and could increase staff and school support at individual schools by consolidating and closing some schools. LAUSD needs to make a transparent accounting of site-based enrollment, spending, and revenue based on the students who are enrolled at each site, examine how each school uses resources, and determine how that impacts the district as a whole. Until that is accomplished, the district will continue to have too many staff members that are not effectively deployed to best serve the needs of students.

#4 MITIGATE ENROLLMENT DECLINES BY FOCUSING ON QUALITY OPTIONS

Over a six-year period, LAUSD’s enrollment fell by nearly 100,000 students, about half of which is due to families choosing charter schools, with many others opting to enroll in traditional public schools outside of the district. With forecasted student attrition of 2.8 percent per year and lackluster outcomes in many of LAUSD’s schools, fundamental changes within classrooms are clearly in order. The Independent Financial Review Panel found that “there may be lessons to be learned from the migration of students to charter schools” and “it is very important that the District carefully analyze charter programs and focus on which students are leaving and why” so that LAUSD can ultimately improve its programmatic offerings for families. More bluntly, the days of district monopoly and residential assignment are coming to an end, and if LAUSD is going to attract and retain students then officials must be more responsive to parent needs. Fortunately, numerous districts across the U.S. have already undertaken substantive reforms to adapt to this new operating environment, and LAUSD has much to learn from them. One prominent example is Denver Public Schools (DPS).

DPS has adopted “portfolio management,” a model in which a district’s primary role is to approve operators, provide support, and evaluate school outcomes. Portfolio management is based on the belief that school-level autonomy drives performance by allowing school leaders and teachers to more effectively meet student needs. While traditional districts tend to prescribe a one-size-fits-all model by mandating inputs (e.g. staffing ratios, curriculum, etc.) portfolio management recognizes that each school has unique challenges and is thus more concerned with holding educators accountable for outcomes rather than how they operate. Ultimately, this helps to promote a diverse supply of schools that, when combined with a strong intra-district choice policy, can give parents more meaningful options that in turn help improve overall satisfaction and retention. As part of its strategic roadmap, The Denver Plan 2020, DPS is striving to have 80 percent of its students attending a high-performing school by 2020.

New data by the advocacy group Parent Revolution show that 234 LA Unified schools scored in the bottom two levels — orange or red — for both English and math on the California accountability dashboard. In the 2016–2017 school year, 155,779 students were enrolled in those 234 schools. LAUSD has 34 schools that are red in both English and math. Last year those schools enrolled 26,400 students. At a minimum, 30 percent of LAUSD students could use a higher-performing school.

#5 MODERNIZE THE DISTRICT’S SCHOOL FINANCE SYSTEM

Currently, LAUSD employs an antiquated school finance system. Instead of providing principals with actual dollars based on students, it allocates staffing positions that are determined using rigid ratios and district-wide average salaries. As Marguerite Roza of Georgetown University’s Edunomics Lab explains, “The district sends out teachers, principals, administrative assistants, lunchroom staff, librarians, and the like, and pays the bills out of the district coffers. Schools do not have their own bank accounts, nor do they receive reports that show the true costs of the resources that land in their buildings.” As well, according to Harvard researcher and former LAUSD budget director Jon Fullerton, the district’s budgeting systems “do not connect automatically with accounting systems, and both may be isolated from the human-resources systems that track who is hired, when, and for how much.” As a result, funding is delivered to schools in a manner that is non-transparent, inequitable, and less responsive to enrollment changes. This makes it difficult to provide leaders with valuable data that could help the district become more productive with its education dollars.

STUDENT-BASED BUDGETING

To modernize its school finance system, LAUSD should allocate dollars on a per-pupil basis by adopting student-based budgeting, a funding portability framework that sends dollars to schools rather than staffing positions. This not only promotes equity and portability across schools within the district, but it also empowers principals to have more decision-making authority over how dollars are ultimately spent. Allocating funding to schools in per-pupil terms would promote greater efficiency by allowing dollars to grow and contract in direct proportion to student needs. In this way, student-based budgeting would allow principals to make their schools more responsive to parents’ needs, increasing the likelihood of higher enrollment and potentially generating new revenue at the school level.

Moreover, when money goes directly to schools on a per-pupil basis, it becomes clear which schools are unable to financially sustain themselves and which schools may be candidates for consolidation to avoid insolvency. As part of this shift, LAUSD can also empower principals to purchase certain services from either the district or external vendors to optimize pricing and quality, which are often constrained by district contracts. This allows school leaders to make better use of their budgeted dollars while also helping to address central office bloat. Given LAUSD’s financial position and need to reduce personnel, student-based budgeting would allow school-level staffing based on the funding resources generated by the students in the school.

Student-based budgeting is based on five key principles:

  1. Funding systems should be as simple and transparent as possible.
  2. Per-pupil funding should be based on the needs of each student.
  3. Per-pupil funding should follow the student to the public school of their choice.
  4. Principals should receive actual dollars—not staffing positions or other allotments—to spend flexibly based on school needs.
  5. Funding allocation principles should apply to all sources of education revenue.

It requires a shift in mindset from top-down compliance to supporting autonomous school leaders, and some roles will fundamentally change or become obsolete in this new environment as a result. As one educator who participated in an Education Resource Strategies summit on school-level budgeting explained:

There has been a philosophical change: the principal is the CEO of the school. The central office is there to support them. We inverted the pyramid so that the principal is on top, telling the central office what they need, rather than on the bottom. That’s required a cultural change and huge structural changes in the district.

LAUSD has already laid the foundation for this reform by piloting autonomous schools through its Belmont Pilot Schools Network, which started in the 2007–2008 school year. In the 2017–2018 academic year LAUSD allocates $46 million to 83 schools that receive their resources based on a per-pupil formula that is allocated directly to schools. In these schools, principals have more autonomy to purchase school-based staffing and differentiated district support. LAUSD should take the next step by adopting a district-wide program as numerous districts such as Boston Public Schools, Houston Independent School District, and New York City Department of Education have already done.

THE CHANGING ROLE OF THE DISTRICT

Under a student-based budgeting system, the district itself still monitors school performance and makes big-picture decisions about which schools may need to be closed or consolidated based on enrollment and academic performance. The district’s new role would be to hold individual schools accountable for district-wide student goals, such as improving graduation rates or increasing proficiency in 3rd-grade reading. The district would not mandate how a principal and school community use their resources to meet district-wide instructional
goals, but would instead set the benchmarks and goals for the district.

In order to measure progress and monitor performance, LAUSD should revamp its knowledge infrastructure to better integrate key information systems. This means going beyond merging budgeting, accounting and human resource data by ensuring that student enrollment and achievement data are also readily available for cross-referencing analysis. This would ensure that individual school leaders and district leaders have the tools necessary to make sound financial decisions that are driven by academic strategy and outcomes.

For example, district leaders should know not only exactly how much is spent on each school but also how dollars are allocated across classrooms and courses. Disaggregating data to per-pupil terms at the classroom-level would help school leaders and district administrators assess the alignment of funding with strategic instructional intent and student outcomes, and more effectively consider trade-offs in how money is spent. This is especially important since research has shown that districts allocate funding in a manner that doesn’t align with stated priorities such as focusing on low-achieving students, a fact that leaders are often unaware of given antiquated accounting and budgeting practices. For example, a district may say its goal is to improve 3rd-grade reading and then spend all of its resources on high school AP classes. Without attaching school- and classroom-level expenditures to instructional priorities, school leaders, and districts have little information about how they are targeting resources to instructional priorities.

Such transparency would help LAUSD’s current measurement of progress, as the district doesn’t track or publicly report its allocations at the school level based on student characteristics. As a result, education stakeholders and policymakers cannot easily determine if the new LCFF revenue, which the California Legislature intended to help high-needs students, is boosting spending in the schools these students attend. As Marguerite Roza noted in a recent report evaluating California’s LCFF revenue, “this lack of financial transparency makes it difficult to assess the degree to which LCFF is delivering—or not delivering—on the state’s pledge to drive resources to the highest-need students.” A more transparent student-based system would allow district leaders to track these dollars and make more informed decisions about how best to use the district’s scarce resources to improve student outcomes.

Student-based budgeting has helped other districts determine which schools should be closed or consolidated and which schools should be expanded or replicated. For example, after adopting student-based budgeting, the Denver school board approved the closing of eight schools that were under-enrolled and low-performing. The board projected that the realignment of students from these schools to higher performing schools would achieve projected yearly operating savings of $3.5 million. Those resources were used to improve the education of students who were affected by the school closures, delivering additional resources to under-performing schools, and creating funding opportunities for new schools and new programs. In addition to the standard per-pupil revenue that followed students to their new schools, the district reinvested $2 million, or 60 percent of the savings from school closures, into the schools of reassignment. In this way, a student-based budgeting funding system is an important modern financial tool that can help right-size LAUSD’s financial ship.

Full Study: A 2018 Evaluation of LAUSD’s Fiscal Outlook: Revisiting the Findings of the 2015 Independent Financial Review Panel

This article was originally published by the Reason Foundation

School Choice Matters: Teachers unions still trying to deny parental choice

shocked-kid-apIn March, six months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the island’s lawmakers approved a bill that offered parents school choice options, including vouchers and charter schools. Hardly radical, the voucher program was capped at 3 percent of total student enrollment and charters could not exceed 10 percent of all public schools.

As day follows night, the teachers union in Puerto Rico filed a lawsuit arguing that it is unconstitutional to use public funds for private schools. And then in April, another bit of devastation hit the tiny island: Hurricane Randi blew in. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, still aglow after teacher strikes had crippled the educational process in West Virginia and Oklahoma, decided to direct Puerto Rican educators follow suit.

Weingarten was overheard on a train plotting a shutdown strategy, but the union boss wanted to make sure that it was not called a strike, claiming they never use the “S” word. Instead, she said the public should be told “We are a human shield for the kids … teachers are doing this in the stead of parents and kids.”

On August 10, Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit, allowing the two small choice programs to go on as planned. And as night follows day, the union called a strike to protest the choice law and a few other policy changes. The good news is that it was a one-day walkout which began and ended on August 15.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, it’s no secret that the teachers union is in conflict with the school district, and a strike in October could follow. One bone of contention is the staffing of magnet schools, which are public schools of choice with specialized themes – performing arts, science and math, those aimed at gifted students, et al. These schools can draw students from outside the normal zip-code mandated boundaries, are very successful, popular with parents in Los Angeles, and are rapidly expanding.

Since magnet schools offer a specialized curriculum, they need teachers who are well-versed in certain subject areas. So what’s the big deal? The United Teachers of Los Angeles is demanding that if a school or part of a school is to be converted from a traditional program to a magnet program, “certificated bargaining unit employees at the school shall have a right to assignment at the converted school and shall not be required to reapply for assignment to the school after conversion.” This is like saying that if you had heart palpitations, you would have to be treated by a dermatologist because the hospital couldn’t hire a cardiologist.

But of course the union is doing this for the kids!

And what would a month be without a new bogus study on school choice? The latest entry comes from the Network for Public Education, a union-friendly outfit that believes in zip code-mandated government schools über alles. The group solemnly reports that “fewer and fewer states are escaping school privatization’s reach.” I’ll save the details for another day, but for now, let’s just say the National Education Association’s reporton the study makes it sound as if privatization is the equivalent of a bubonic plague that is rapidly ravaging our educational landscape.

But a poll from earlier this year paints a very different picture. According to EdChoice, only 33 percent of parents prefer that their child go to a public school, yet nationwide 83 percent of kids actually do. While 42 percent of parents would prefer to send their child to a private school, only 10 percent do. Also, a recent American Federation for Children poll, conducted by a Democratic polling firm, showed that 63 percent of likely voters support school choice, and among those most in need, the numbers are higher, with 72 percent of Latinos and 66 percent of African Americans favoring it.

In addition to the above, the survey found that 54 percent of Democrats support school choice. In our ultra-politically polarized time, this is very important. School choice has become a truly bipartisan issue, with more and more liberals sticking up for kids and taking on the teachers unions. In an eloquent and powerful piece, Catherine Durkin Robinson, who self-identifies as a “militant advocate, organizer and member of the Democratic Party for 30 years,” has quit her party. She deplores the fact that the Dems toe the teachers union party line because the union provides hefty campaign contributions to them. “This movement has helped me look closer at my side of the aisle. I’m so very disappointed in a party that refuses to fight for the people who need it most – children struggling to break free from generational poverty. Education is the most reliable way to do that. Democrats are blocking the schoolhouse door.”

If Ms. Robinson is any indication, the unions’ loss in the Janus case may just be the beginning of a descent that not even Hurricane Randi will be able to manipulate.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center

California DMV Registers 23,000 Voters Incorrectly

Voting BoothsCalifornia’s Department of Motor Vehicles, already under fire for excessively long lines, told Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Wednesday that it made key errors in 23,000 voter registrations filed under the state’s 2017 “motor voter” law.

In 2015, AB 60 went into effect, granting over one million illegal aliens in the Golden State the ability to apply for driver’s licenses without having their immigration status reported to federal authorities. In 2017, AB 1461, the “motor voter” law, automatically registered Californians to vote when they applied for driver’s licenses unless they were ineligible. State officials reassured the public that non-citizens would not be allowed to register to vote because database safeguards would prevent it.

The 23,000 errant applications did not include any illegal aliens, the DMV says. However, there were other crucial errors, including registering people who had opted out of registration, and registering some people with the wrong party preference.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The errors, which were discovered more than a month ago, happened when DMV employees did not clear their computer screens between customer appointments. That caused some voter information from the previous appointment, such as language preference or a request to vote by mail, to be “inadvertently merged” into the file of the next customer, Shiomoto and Tong wrote. The incorrect registration form was then sent to state elections officials, who used it to update California’s voter registration database.

A small number of the mistakes — officials estimated around 1,600 — involved people who did not intend to register to vote. State officials said no people in the country illegally — who are eligible to get a special driver’s license in California — were mistakenly registered to vote. An unknown number of errors included voters whose political party preferences were changed without their consent. Officials did not provide additional details about the errors they uncovered during a monthlong investigation.

The Associated Press reports that the state will inform voters whose details were entered incorrectly so that they can make corrections. The 23,000 flawed registrations represent a tiny fraction of the 1.4 million who have registered or updated their registrations from the beginning of 2017 through August 5, 2018.

Republican businessman John Cox, who is running against Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for governor, has made reforming the DMV a key pledge of his campaign.

California is a key battleground in the 2018 elections, where Democrats are targeting seven Republican-held congressional seats. A few votes in each could sway the overall national result and bring back House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Speaker of the House.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Why It’s So Hard to Get Mentally Ill Californians Into Treatment

Tent of homeless person on 6th Street Bridge with Los Angeles skyline in the background. California, USA. (Photo By: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

(CALMATTERS.org) — For years, Diane Shinstock watched her adult son deteriorate on the streets.  Suffering from severe schizophrenia, he slept under stairwells and bushes, screamed at passersby and was arrested for throwing rocks at cars.

Sometimes he refused the housing options he was offered. Sometimes he got kicked out of places for bad behavior.  Shinstock, who lives in Roseville and works on disability issues for the state of California, begged mental health officials to place him under conservatorship—essentially, depriving him of his personal liberty because he was so sick that he couldn’t provide for his most basic personal needs of food, clothing and shelter.

But county officials told her, she said, that under state law, her son could not be conserved; because he chose to live on the streets, he did not fit the criteria for “gravely disabled.”

“I was devastated,” she said. “I cried for days.”

So Shinstock—along with her husband Joe, a policy consultant who works for Republican leadership in the Assembly—set out to change state law. Their uphill battle illustrates the complex philosophical, legal and ethical questions that surround conservatorship in California.

What responsibility does government have to protect people with serious mental illnesses who refuse treatment?  How should it balance the right to liberty with the need for care?

At the heart of the long effort to answer these questions is a law signed in 1967 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. Aimed at safeguarding the civil rights of one of society’s most vulnerable populations, the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act put an end to the inappropriate and often indefinite institutionalization of people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities.

It also provided them with legal protections, such as the now-familiar rules in California limiting involuntary holds on people deemed a danger to themselves or others to 72 hours, better known as a 5150 hold.

Those who want to change the law, like Shinstock, believe Lanterman-Petris-Short’s protections too often prevent very sick people from accessing the help they need. Others say people who suffer from mental illness need better care and support from society, not intrusions on their civil liberties. If the state wants to help those with serious mental health issues, they say, it should address the housing crisis and the under-resourced community mental health systems.

It’s an argument that has repeatedly stymied bills to force seriously mentally ill people to get care. This year, several were proposed. At the moment, only one—Senate Bill 1045—is left.

SB 1045 would create a 5-year, opt-in pilot program for San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego Counties, making it easier to conserve individuals with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders who refuse treatment and have been detained frequently by police. Counties would have to prove that they could provide housing and wraparound services before they could participate.

Diane Shinstock and her husband worked on a second bill with Assemblyman Phillip Chen, a Republican from Brea. That bill, Assembly Bill 2156, would have expanded the definition of “gravely disabled” to include a person’s capacity to make informed decisions about food, clothing, shelter and medical care. (Current laws don’t speak to decision-making capacity, and their criteria don’t include medical care.)

Meanwhile, The Steinberg Institute, a nonprofit focusing on mental health policy, co-sponsored a third bill. Assembly Bill 1971 didn’t address decision-making, but also would have made it easier to conserve people with mental illnesses who refused medical treatment.

The volume of proposals demonstrated the hunger for solutions, said Adriana Ruelas, the institute’s government affairs director. “We have to do something,” she said.

But opponents of the various bills say it does no good, and perhaps does harm, to force people into care that is insufficient.

Without enough long-term services and housing in place, people who are conserved could easily just end up back on the streets with even worse mental health and substance abuse disorders, said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco.

“Instead of correcting the system, it’s expanding the part of the system that works the least,” she said. “If we want increased resources, let’s just fund them. Why are we wasting a bunch of money on a court process when we can just give them the care they need?”

Jen Flory, a policy advocate with the Western Center on Law & Poverty, agrees.

“We understand it’s a crisis,” she said. But without better services and housing that is accessible to people with criminal backgrounds, making it easier to conserve mentally ill people is just another false promise.

“Until we solve that problem about where someone will actually live, we are concerned about taking their rights away,” she said.

Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat and author of SB 1045, argues that rights already are being taken away from people with serious mental illnesses—by the criminal justice system.

“We do have a very large conservatorship program in California—it’s called jail,” he said.

Wiener said the idea for his bill originated with San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, which would see chronically homeless, severely mentally ill and drug addicted people come in again and again on 72-hour involuntary holds. By the time these holds were up, many individuals would be coherent enough that a judge would let them go. Before long, the same people would be picked up again.

Under Wiener’s bill, judges could consider individuals’ histories of involuntary holds when deciding whether to conserve them. To participate, a county would need to prove that it has enough housing and resources to fully support the conserved individuals.

Wiener estimates the bill will impact between 50 and 100 people in San Francisco who are already well-known to the department. “This is not about broadly conserving large numbers of homeless people,” he said.

Besides the philosophical debate about civil liberties and housing, the various bills were pushed and pulled by the practicalities of lawmaking. Shinstock’s bill redefining “gravely disabled,” for instance, was folded into AB 1971, the similar bill being pushed by The Steinberg Institute.

But then AB 1971, which initially would have made conservatorship easier statewide, was scaled back to be just a pilot project in Los Angeles. That created a new legal concern: How could “gravely disabled” be defined differently in Los Angeles County than everywhere else?

That and other amendments prompted Shinstock to formally withdraw as a supporter. Then AB 1971 also ran into opposition from the California Hospital Association.

Sheree Lowe, the association’s vice president of behavioral health, said she worried the measure would increase the number of individuals being brought in on involuntary holds, without changing legal requirements that hospitals obtain consent before providing treatment to individuals. Last week, the bill was pulled back by its authors.

That left SB 1045, the Wiener proposal to change the process by which mentally ill people can be conserved. It passed the Senate and Assembly and was sent to the governor for a signature or veto this week.

The Hospital Association’s Lowe said her association supports SB 1045, since it focuses on individuals who are already frequent users of the system, and because the county Boards of Supervisors would be involved in conservatorships.

Concerns have been raised, though, about funding for public guardians’ offices. Scarlet Hughes, executive director of the California Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians and Public Conservators says her group isn’t opposing SB 1045, since it’s a pilot impacting only a few counties. But she doesn’t want “another unfunded mandate” either.

She also said she worries that there are not enough community placements for conserved individuals, meaning that increasing numbers of people would be stuck in locked facilities waiting for a spot. In recent years, many board and care homes have closed, she said.

“This is a 50-year-old problem that has just gotten worse every year,” she said. “Now we’re at a crisis point.”

When her son was a child, Diane Shinstock said, he was a sweet and kind little boy who loved his younger sisters and was good with the family pets. He played Little League baseball, joined the Boy Scouts and loved to make pancakes. If Diane was sick, he was the one who came to check on her.

But, early on, he would go into out-of-control rages. He was diagnosed with depression at 8, bipolar disorder at 9. At 10, he was enrolled in a day treatment program. At 21, he was hospitalized with his first psychotic break.

In the 12 years since, Shinstock said, she has watched her son, now 33, cycle among hospitals, the streets and jails. For several years he was conserved. The locked facilities and board and care homes where he stayed were often depressing, and sometimes disgusting. She understands why people wouldn’t want to live there.

“I had a hard time being there for an hour,” she said.

After the county determined that he didn’t need to be conserved anymore, her son ended up homeless in 2013. In 2016, after a series of charges for disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct, he cut off an ankle monitor and landed in jail.

He spent the better part of 15 months in solitary confinement, ostensibly for his own protection, and because he was unmedicated, his mental health “deteriorated to an extreme degree,” said Shinstock. By this past January, he was so emaciated that he was unrecognizable, she said.

Only then did the county agree to conserve him again. She doesn’t know how long it will last this time.

“Regardless of what we call it,” she said, “he needs help.”

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

Sen. Joel Anderson Victimized by Concerted Statewide Media Attack

Joel AndersonCalifornia State Sen. Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon, was accused two weeks ago by Stephanie Roberson, a female lobbyist for the California Nurses Association, a labor union, of threatening to “bitch slap” her and harassing her at a Capitol-area bar last week, several news outlets reported this week. The Senate Rules Committee is investigating the incident.

However, nearly every media outlet in California has published only the account of Roberson, despite my interview with Anderson and subsequent article, and evidence of Roberson’s history and legal record of inciting violence.

Even leftist Facebook trolls are posting demands for Anderson to resign on his official Senate Facebook page.

This is a concerted, statewide media attack on Republican State Sen. Joel Anderson because he has been one of the most effective advocates for the principles of the Republic that California has seen in recent years. He is ending his service as a Senator. Their greatest fear is what he could do to them in the future, as a public figure or as an office holder at any level.

Republican opponents are bullies and play dirty.

I spoke with Sen. Anderson who tells the story quite differently. Anderson noted that the Los Angeles Times, which published a vile article about this incident, did not speak with him.

Anderson’s timeline and account of the incident does not conform with the news accounts, nor with the “anonymous sources” in the Los Angeles Times reporting. I reported:

Anderson said he and former Sen. Rod Wright were at a fundraiser at the Diplomat restaurant across from the Capitol, and Roberson said hello to him first. He said they had some small talk. “I said to her, ‘I spent all this time working across the street, and thought you’d lobby me one time in 12 years.’

“I told her ‘I’m disappointed we never worked together.’” Anderson said he does not do health care bills.

Anderson said he may have insulted Roberson with that comment. A few minutes later however, Anderson said he told her that his wife and daughter are both nurses, and he’s very supportive of nurses and nursing.

Anderson said the bar was busy and loud, and he and Wright were also talking with other people, when Wright suggested they move on to another restaurant.

“Stephanie said ‘Oh no, stay here,’” to Anderson and Wright, he reported.

Shortly after, as they were again making small talk, Anderson said he told her, “Here’s something that’s a real bitch slap – I unionized my own shop,” referring to his direct mail business, and knowing she’s with a labor union.

Anderson said it was loud, and she said, “What did you say to me?” So he said he repeated his statement verbatim, “Here’s something that’s a real bitch slap – I unionized my own shop.”

That’s when Anderson said Stephanie Roberson started screaming, “He’s threatening me! He’s threatening me!”

Anderson said bar employees quickly walked up to him and asked him to leave. As this was happening, Anderson said Roberson looked at him and said, “I’m going to get you.”

The Sacramento Bee also published a story about the incident, and followed it up with another ridiculous article, repeating the lie that he threatened to “bitch slap” Roberson. The second article is about examples of “bad behavior” around the Capitol because of alcohol, prominently featuring Sen. Joel Anderson:

Two altercations at Sacramento fundraisers this month put the spotlight back on the scene: Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, was kicked out of a restaurant in mid-August for allegedly threatening to “bitch slap” a lobbyist; he says his comments were misunderstood. Days earlier, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, reported to the Legislature that he was shoved by a health care union president, who denies any physical contact.

“The vast majority of people know how to behave themselves. Unfortunately, there are some people who don’t,” said Sen. Ben Allen, a Santa Monica Democrat who was present at the fundraiser where Bloom said he was pushed. “There’s always a couple of people who push the envelope.”

Adama Iwu, a leader of We Said Enough, said alcohol is often a convenient excuse. She pointed out that many people have complained about sexual harassment occurring during sober encounters inside the Capitol.

“These things can happen with or without alcohol,” Iwu said. “It’s about treating people with respect and having enough of a process in place so people know and understand exactly what the boundaries are and that they will be held accountable for aberrations of that behavior.”

Iwu is certainly correct that plenty of Capitol harassment cases took place in sober situations, but she’s wrong to assume that Anderson is guilty.

“But Iwu was encouraged by the response to the Anderson incident. Witnesses said individuals intervened quickly, and it was reported to the Senate within days. “It’s something new that I don’t know if we would have seen this time in 2017,” she said. “What we typically see is people close ranks, they don’t say anything.”

Investigations, Cover Ups, False Accusations

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins prematurely wrapped up the investigation into Sen. Bob Hertzberg, known as “Huggy Bear” throughout political circles. Hertzberg’s inappropriate “hugs” apparently became a thing of legends. Creepy legends. Several of his victims described his advances as being locked in a crotch-grinding hug.

Yet Hertzberg only received a “formal reprimand” from the Senate Rules Committee and was told to stop his unwanted hugging.

Conversely, Sen. Anderson has been tried and convicted by the media in California, despite the flood of sexual groping, assault and harassment complaints in California’s State Capitol, most of which were glossed over. And it’s important to note that the freshman Assembly members in 2010 were required to attend training conducted by former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg.

I haven’t found one newspaper in the state which acknowledged what I reported about Anderson’s accuser: “Superior Court records show that in late 2016, Roberson attacked a woman in the Blackbird Bar and was arrested for assault and battery, and for causing significant damage to the bar. According to the court documents, Roberson was ordered to have no contact with the female victim, and never return to the bar in which the incident took place. And, as part of a plea agreement with the court and the Sacramento District Attorney, Stephanie Roberson was ordered to take anger Management classes.”

The real crime being perpetrated on Sen. Joel Anderson and other men can be blamed on all of the virtue-signaling faux feminists in the country, and especially those currently holding political office.

Today’s liberal women are destructive, antagonistic women, devoted to their own misery in undermining traditional institutions crucial for a healthy, dynamic society: marriage, motherhood, and fatherhood. Joel Anderson has stood for family, the unborn, and justice … which makes him an enemy of the left.

Real harassment is a violent criminal act. But what these horrible women do with their false accusations and cover-ups only convolutes real sexual harassment and real sexual abuse cases, and further victimizes real rape victims … and they only do it to either cover their own political butts, or make a good guy pay for his actual virtue.

New Measure Would Limit Impact of Federal Tax Overhaul on Californians

TaxesGov. Jerry Brown will have to decide soon on whether to once again put California in direct conflict with the Trump administration – this time with a newly passed bill which has the near-unanimous support of Republican as well as Democratic state lawmakers.

It’s Senate Bill 539, by U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de León, a state senator from Los Angeles. The measure would limit the impact on affluent residents of the new $10,000 federal limit on deducting state and local taxes from federal tax returns by sharply increasing an existing tax credit for contributions to a college scholarship program already run by the state.

If SB539 is signed by Brown, families making more than $100,000 – especially homeowners – could potentially save billions of dollars with the new, much higher 75 percent credit. In 2015 – the most recent year for which statistics are available – 6.1 million California tax filers used the state and local tax deduction, with an average of $18,438, according to the Tax Policy Center.

This explains the bipartisan appeal of the measure, which passed the Assembly and Senate with a total of two negative votes – one Republican (state Sen. Jim Nielsen of Fresno) and one Democrat (Assemblyman Jim Frazier of Contra Costa County).

It’s not clear whether Brown will sign the measure. While he called the Republican tax overhaul approved last December “evil in the extreme” at the time it was being considered by Congress, he’s been reported to be skeptical that any state tax avoidance effort would be accepted by the Internal Revenue Service.

That’s the impression the IRS has sought to create since the state and local tax deduction was limited. And last month, the IRS proposed a 15 percent cap on deductibility of certain gifts, including to state programs like the one that would benefit from SB539.

IRS rule could reduce deductions for private tuition

The proposed IRS rule is so broad, however, that Gannett News Service reported on Aug. 24 that it could affect laws allowing for state and local tax credits for charitable contributions in 34 states. In several Republican-dominated states, these credits are available for private school tuition.

This generated a sharp reaction from EdChoice, an Indianapolis-based national nonprofit organization that’s devoted to encouraging alternatives to traditional public schools.

“The IRS chose to adopt a new rule after New York and a few other states who overtax their citizens at the state and local level had the audacity to create federal tax-dodging schemes,” EdChoice told Gannett. “These tax-dodging schemes do not compare in intent or purpose to the charitable programs created years ago to help children access K-12 education where they fit in and can learn.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, disputed the idea that the proposed IRS rule would have a heavy impact on donations to private schools and to school choice advocates.

In July, four states – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland – sued the federal government over the deduction limit, saying it amounts to unconstitutional “double taxation.” The Tax Foundation says those states and California are the five where taxpayers will face the biggest hit.

But most tax experts think the lawsuit is unlikely to win, given the long-established primacy of Congress in setting tax laws and of the IRS in interpreting them.

California has already sued the Trump administration more than 50 times – but not, so far at least, over the tax deduction change.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com