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Prop 82 - Preschool for All Coverage

Go here for Alameda Preschools.

A Harvard report indicates early childhood education is at a crossroads. In California, legislation proposes establishing learning standards for threee year olds. An Los Angeles Times editorial is skeptical while there is a information from Preschool.Org to counter the assertions. However, no one disputes the benefits of recognition and response to early childhood learning difficulities.

It all started at Rob Reiner's home in September, 2004 with an unusual collection of individuals. By August, 2005, Rob Reiner began circulating a petition for the June 2006 to tax the top 1% to pay for universal preschool. In September, a surprising group joined forces to back the initiative. By November, 2005, the backers meet to celebrate gathering enough signatures.

In January, 2006, a UC study was issued indicating preschool benefits last until third grade. This Los Angeles Times guest editorial questions policy implications of the preschool ballot measure along with this piece in Capitol Weekly.

In February, 2006, this Los Angeles Times article examined how First 5 monies from a previous Rob Reiner initiative are being used to support the case for universal preschool. The following week Reiner took a "leave" from the Commission until after the election. Then Democratic Senator Perata withdrew his endorsement of the initiative, followed the stepping down of the campaign manager for Prop 82.

In March, 2006, this Los Angeles Times article examined the concerns of early child educators. In mid-march, Rob Reiner attended a Sacramento Press Club where his analogy attempted to explain why expenditures promoting preschool were OK. Meanwhile, web blogs continued to churn out dissections of the First 5 Commissions expenditures. Surprsingly, LA Times Columnist George Skelton believes the initiative raises questions. At the end of March, 2006, Rob Reiner resigned from the First 5 Commission. In April, Govenrnor Schwarenegger indicated he would not endorse the initiative and the next day was joined former State Senate Democrat John Burton who announced his opposition to Prop 82 . An April Field Poll showed Prop 82 was declining. EdSource published a 4 page impartial analysis of Prop 82 in late April.

This May 7, 2006 Los Angeles article examines the positive results achieved in a univerisal preschool program from Georgia from in the late 90s.

In January, 2008 the Wall Street Journal published on article on preschool behavior problems.

Secretary of State Initiavtive Summary
Wesbites with Additional Information

Scary Preschool Utopia

More is fine, but just who is setting the agenda for what all 4-year-olds should learn?

By Karin Klein, Los Angeles Times Editorial Writer, June 7, 2005

Did you know, the earnest lady asked, that one-quarter of even the affluent children in this country start kindergarten without full knowledge of the alphabet?

She clearly found this information a shocker, evidence that this nation needs universal pre-kindergarten, right away. This was, after all, Libby Doggett, the executive director of Pre-K Now, speaking at a seminar for reporters this spring in Denver.

Many parents, myself included, aren't so worried if our children don't know all their letters before age 5. Somehow, mine went on to be fine students, and I still harbor hopes that they will become productive citizens despite their early ignorance.

From where I sit, it's much scarier to contemplate the Doggetts of this world setting the agenda for what all 4-year-olds should know.

The value of universal preschool is one of those unquestioned nostrums sweeping the country. The way the question is framed for the public isn't whether we should love universal preschool, it's solely whether we'll pay for it. Now Rob Reiner — actor, director, gadfly — is planning an initiative for the June 2006 ballot. He wants to raise $2.3 billion a year by taxing the well-off and establishing a free, voluntary half-day preschool system for all 4-year-olds in California.

More affordable preschool is a great idea. Preschool can help children learn to play nice, identify colors, get used to the taste of finger-paint and even listen to the teacher occasionally.

But universal preschool isn't simply "more preschool" or "more affordable preschool." It's a species unto itself. Reiner's initiative would create standardization where now there is parental choice. It would insist on bachelor's degrees and credentials for teachers — and require, insanely, that they be paid on par with high school science and math teachers, though there's little evidence that the education or expense is necessary. It would not raise test scores. And it would almost certainly push more and more academic work into the laps of younger and younger children.

Reiner's preschool utopia would force the state to set "content standards." and take oversight on such matters as whether to read "Pet the Bunny" or "Goodnight Moon" away from parents and preschools and hand it to education officials.

Parents now choose from a patchwork of public, private, church and family preschools. These reflect the wildly varying interests and needs of children and their families. There are academically oriented preschools and old-time nursery schools. Some focus on learning languages, some on art and some simply on a hearty game of "capture the flag." They're warm and cozy in a family living room, or big and exciting at a center with a huge jungle gym, for kids who might go twice a week, or three times, or five. And they're efficient: Many an excellent preschool costs far less than the $5,900 or so per child the Reiner initiative would spend.

Reiner's classes would have 20 children, each taught by a teacher and an aide, where now there might be three students, or 12, or in the current state-subsidized system 24 children taught by a teacher and two aides. Even some of the state's top preschool advocates say it would be hard for home-based family child-care providers to become part of the Reinerian dictate, unless they find a way to join forces to create classrooms of close to 20.

We don't need this. Preschool is already more "universal" in California than you might think. Somewhere within that patchwork are an estimated 70% of all the 4-year-olds in the state — about 63% in preschool centers, and a handful in family child care. The universal-preschool crowd hopes to raise that to 80%. So to get an additional 10% enrolled, taxes would pick up the bill for the other 70% as well. California's nonuniversal system already covers a bigger percentage of its 4-year-old population than Georgia's universal pre-kindergarten system, now in its 12th year.

The universal-preschool crowd's response is that they're also about raising quality. Certainly, some teachers need more training — though not a bachelor's degree. And although plunking a child in front of a TV all day is, as they say in preschool parlance, not OK, that's a matter of parents checking a place out carefully, not government regulation. Instead of providing standardized classes, better to give sliding-scale vouchers for low-income and working-class families, and educate them on how to tell a good preschool from a bad one. Let parents decide what fits their 4-year-olds, not people with presuppositions about early childhood.

Consider Doggett's description of what happens in a quality preschool class:

A little boy is happily building with blocks. The teacher (who has a bachelor's degree, of course) comes up to talk with him about the structure he's building. She suggests that he bring some model cars over to incorporate with the blocks. If the blocks make a roadway, how would the cars get to the road? In this way, Doggett says, the child is engaged in critical thinking on how to build a ramp. (In reality, he probably decides with the perfect wisdom of his age that cars can fly.)

Some parents might love this little "teachable moment" scenario. I feel like screaming, "For pity's sake, can't 4-year-olds play with blocks anymore without some teacher trying to turn them into future transportation planning administrators, GS-12, Level B?"

The Reiner initiative's "statewide preschool content standards" would be devised by the state schools' superintendent. These would be "aligned with statewide academic standards" and carried out and supervised by county education departments. It makes you want to weep for those tots.

The universal-preschool people come armed with studies showing that good preschool more than pays for itself, in reduced dropout and teen-pregnancy rates and lower need for special education. Some of this involves a lot of creative-numbers work.

The best studies of preschool looked at programs that involved far more than preschool. They also offered weekly home visitations and other services. Some child-development activists, such as Bob Kirkwood of the Bella Vista Foundation in Palo Alto, think the bigger factor was the visits, not preschool.

A cost-benefit study in Washington state found that each dollar invested in preschool saved taxpayers money down the road — but that a nurse-visitation program for families was twice as good an investment. Parents who are visited tend to seek more education themselves. They learn such child-rearing basics as the importance of cuddling, reading and singing, and are more likely to stay involved in their children's education. Instead of building bureaucracy, home visits build families. Please don't tell me that's "not OK."


Source:Harvard Early Child Education Online Journal

Early Childhood Education at a Crossroads

Access to preschool has come a long way, but critical choices lie ahead

by Deborah Stipek, Harvard July/August 2005

There is some good news to report about the education of young children in the United States. One of the most encouraging developments in recent years has been the growing number of children who have access to early educational experiences. Nearly all five-year-olds are now enrolled in school, and the proportion of U.S. three- and four-year-olds who attend preschool has increased dramatically over the past four decades. In 1965, the year Head Start was first implemented, only 5 percent of three-year-olds and 16 percent of four-year-olds attended preschool; in 2002 the proportions were 42 percent and 67 percent, respectively. While some of this increase is due to demographic changes (such as greater percentages of single-parent households or those in which both parents work), it is encouraging that many more children participate in structured learning experiences at younger ages than ever before.

Research has demonstrated that these early educational experiences do make a difference; empirical evidence of the value of high-quality educational programs for children before they enter kindergarten has become clear and persuasive. We now know that preschool education can promote a variety of positive outcomes over the long term, including higher academic achievement, lower rates of grade retention and special education placement, higher graduation rates, and lower delinquency rates.

There is also good news on the policy front, as an increasing number of policymakers are paying attention to the latest research findings. More than 40 states and the District of Columbia have implemented or are creating state-funded prekindergarten programs. The total of all state funding for these programs increased from $190 million in 1998 to $2 billion in 2002. And states like Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin have made strides toward universal preschool education.

We have made progress and young children are benefiting, but there also is much work yet to be done:

Children’s access to preschool in the United States continues to lag behind that in other countries. In France, nearly all children from three to five years old attend publicly funded preschool. Almost all four-year-olds in England, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands go to public school. Preschool attendance rates in Greece, Spain, Germany, Denmark, and Italy range from 70 to 90 percent.

Early childhood education teachers still earn poverty-level wages. In 2003, the median hourly wage of a preschool teacher was $9.53; for child-care workers it was $7.90. To put this in perspective, animal trainers made an average of $13.08 per hour. Not surprisingly, at least one in five teachers in center-based early childhood programs leaves each year. Preschool teachers are paid on average less than half of what kindergarten teachers are paid. This pay differential would presumably be reduced if preschool teachers were required to meet higher educational qualifications, but as a group, today’s prekindergarten teachers are both underqualified and underpaid.

Social-class disparities in preschool participation have not noticeably declined in the last decade. In 1991, 44 percent of children living in poverty were enrolled in center-based early childhood care and education programs, compared to 56 percent of children at or above the poverty line. A decade later, the gap was the same, with participation rates of 47 percent and 59 percent for children below and above the poverty line, respectively. There are also class-based differences in quality. High-quality preschool programs are out of reach of the working poor in particular—families whose incomes are too high to qualify for subsidized prekindergarten but too low to pay for quality programs.

The socioeconomic gap in preschool participation is particularly disturbing because there is evidence that children from low-income families begin school at a serious disadvantage. One of my own studies found more than a year’s gap between low-income and middle-class children on an array of cognitive and academic achievement tests. In fact, on many tests middle-class preschool children (mostly four-year-olds) scored significantly higher, on average, than the economically disadvantaged kindergarten children (mostly five-year-olds). Similar gaps between children from low-income and middle-income families were found on the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Kindergartners with one risk factor associated with poverty were twice as likely as children with no risk factors to have reading scores in the lowest 25 percent of the distribution. Socioeconomic differences were also found in children’s ability to identify letters of the alphabet, associate letters and sounds correctly, recognize two-digit numerals, identify ordinal positions of an object, and perform other academic tasks.

Children’s academic skills when they enter school can have dramatic and long-lasting effects. Correlations between cognitive skills at school entry and academic achievement through high school are very strong. One meta-analysis of eight national surveys, for example, estimated that about half of the total math and reading gaps between black and white students at the end of high school could be attributed to skill differences at the start of school.

Strategies for Effective Instruction

Preschool education programs offer us an important opportunity to narrow achievement gaps before children begin school. A question that is not yet settled, however, is what kinds of instruction will narrow these gaps without undermining young children’s enthusiasm and self-confidence. We have considerable knowledge about many of the characteristics of quality early childhood education programs. We know, for example, that language-rich classrooms and sensitive teachers who develop close, supportive relationships with children make a difference. But there is still much to learn about the best strategies for teaching academic skills to young children, and the knowledge base for meeting the needs of the ever-increasing number of young English-language learners (ELLs) in our schools is dismal. We need to invest in systematic studies of different strategies for promoting academic skills in young children, including ELL children, and particularly in math and science, areas that have been studied far less extensively than literacy.

The federal government is pushing for increased attention to young children’s academic skills, but there is cause for concern about the direction in which national efforts are leading early childhood education. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation signed in 2002 has put enormous pressure on elementary school teachers to improve students’ literacy and math skills. Testing under NCLB does not begin until third grade, but teachers in the earlier grades, including kindergarten, are being pressured to focus more on basic academic skill acquisition. Even preschool teachers are beginning to feel the heat, which is likely to be turned up when Head Start is reauthorized. Both the House and Senate versions of the reauthorization bill require that new educational performance standards be developed, based on recommendations of a National Academy of Sciences panel. Like K–12 schools under NCLB, Head Start programs would be held accountable for making progress toward these goals, and their funding would eventually be withdrawn if they failed to do so.

Increased attention to academic skills is not a problem as long as it does not come at the expense of attention to social skills, emotional well-being, and other resources (such as dental care) that Head Start centers traditionally have provided. There are serious questions, however, about how such an increased focus on academic achievement will actually play out.

Testing and Curriculum

The first reason to be wary of the new focus on academic skills is that the accountability “stick” in the legislation (make progress toward your goals or lose funding) is going to give the instrument used to assess these skills considerable influence over curriculum and instructional practices. If the National Reporting System, administered recently to more than 400,000 Head Start children, is any indication of what is to come, this influence will not be positive. The test assesses recognition and knowledge completely decontextualized from meaningful activities. (See “Testing Goes to Preschool” by Robert Rothman, Harvard Education Letter, March/April 2005.)

Second, teaching reading and math, even to four-year-olds, requires considerable skill. But since preschool teachers are typically neither well paid nor well trained, many will likely feel the need to resort to scripted instructional packages for teaching these subjects. These prepackaged curricula typically focus on only a few of the many important skills and understandings children need to become proficient learners in these subjects.

Third, if experience with the federal Reading First initiative is prognostic, the administration may promote rigidly paced, curriculum-driven, scripted instruction that is not developmentally appropriate. This kind of instruction also will not promote many of the academic skills that are listed in the bills before Congress and are likely to be endorsed and expanded on by the National Academy of Sciences panel. Moreover, many studies have shown that this kind of instruction can undermine young children’s motivation to learn. Effective teaching cannot be delivered through a one-size-fits-all or scripted instructional program. Good teachers know well what each child knows and understands, and they use that knowledge to plan appropriate and varied learning opportunities that are embedded in contexts and activities that make sense to young children.

Alignment—In Which Direction?

If we continue on the path along which current federal policies are leading us, the transition from preschool to elementary school may become more continuous—which is in keeping with what most early childhood experts recommend—but the alignment may be in the wrong direction. Instead of the early elementary grades becoming more child centered and family friendly (more like preschool), preschools are likely to become more like elementary school, with formal, scripted instruction and less emphasis on student-centered approaches and family involvement. Educators, researchers, and policymakers also need to make sure that efforts to improve academic skills in young children do not result in the neglect of other important dimensions of children’s development—or in educational practices that are well known to undermine children’s confidence and enthusiasm for learning.

We need to continue to develop and apply new knowledge about the most effective strategies for teaching subject matter to young children. We need to train teachers to use these strategies, support their professional development, and pay them a competitive wage so that the best and most experienced early childhood educators stay in the profession. We need to develop meaningful assessments of young children’s academic skills. And we need to encourage teachers in the early elementary grades to promote continuity with preschool by using approaches that research has shown maintain students’ enthusiasm and promote deep learning.

Deborah Stipek is the I. James Quillen Endowed Dean of the Stanford University School of Education. A researcher in early childhood development and education, she is the former director of the Corinne A. Seeds University Elementary School at the University of California, Los Angeles, which enrolls children in preschool through grade six.


Thinking young

Bill would set state standards for preschool curriculum

By Jim Sanders , Sacramento Bee, July 10, 2005

Pushing to improve instruction of its youngest students, California is considering setting learning standards and curriculum guidelines for children as young as 3.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell is leading the drive, hoping to narrow the state's achievement gap by reaching students at a younger age.

The goal is to ensure consistency and better prepare youngsters for kindergarten, but opponents fear that too much academic pressure would be placed on 3-, 4-and 5-year-olds.

"I think we need to step back and look deeply at what children really need - and that's more time with their parents," said Catherine Myers, executive director of the Family and Home Network, an advocacy group for child nurturing. Setting standards, though not formally tied to universal preschool, would complement a proposed ballot initiative by film director Rob Reiner to offer free instruction to every young child.

O'Connell said he is convinced that California needs to "provide high-quality preschool opportunities to all children."

"I'm convinced that if you wait until high school to address the achievement gap, it's too late," he said.

O'Connell is sponsoring Assembly Bill 1246, which would require the state to determine by January 2007 precisely what preschoolers should learn and how it should be taught.

Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, a Davis Democrat who proposed AB 1246 at O'Connell's behest, said she wants to ensure that youngsters receive a basic knowledge of things like numbers and letters - not push preschoolers to cram for exams.

"It's not going to be a one-size-fits-all. It can't be," she said. "Education isn't that way."

"What you want is for children to be able to follow directions, work with other kids, recognize colors and numbers, and to feel good about working in groups, so by the time they get to kindergarten, they're ready for the kinds of learning they need to achieve."

AB 1246 awaits action in the Senate after passing the Assembly on a 47-32 party-line vote, with Republicans opposed. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken no position.

The measure would require the state Department of Education to set learning standards in four areas: mathematics, science, reading-language arts, and history-social science.

The bill identifies several specific topics to be covered. For example, it says the history-social science standard should address citizenship and national symbols.

Mathematics would touch upon the classification and measurement of numbers; science would include earth, physical and life sciences; and reading-language arts would spotlight vocabulary development and recognition of the alphabet.

In the debate over AB 1246, the Department of Education submitted examples of the kinds of standards that might be set.

Three-year-old children, for example, might be taught to identify the first letter of their names, and 4-year-old children to recognize beginning letters in words.

AB 1246 would apply only to state-funded preschools, not private or federal programs, such as Head Start. The bill would affect nearly 1,000 preschools serving nearly 124,000 students.

Under Wolk's legislation, instruction must be age-appropriate and provided in a "purposeful and playful learning environment."

Kimberly Gordon, a professor of child development at California State University, Sacramento, said preschoolers are capable of learning plenty - provided they're having fun.

"With a 3-year-old, you're not going to use a work sheet," she said. "You're going to try something different. You're going to use a story, puppets, manipulatives, things like that."

AB 1246 does not call for formal testing of preschoolers and does not address teacher training to meet the new standards.

Regional public hearings would be required prior to adoption of learning standards.

Every seven years, a state-created panel of parents, preschool officials, early-childhood researchers and experts in linguistics and cultural diversity, among others, would review the appropriateness of the learning standards.

AB 1246 would cost about $400,000 to develop the learning standards and curriculum guides, plus $200,000 in years when the review panel convenes, according to an Assembly analysis.

If signed into law, AB 1246 would not depend on voter approval of Reiner's ballot initiative, "Preschool for All." But O'Connell said "we're getting ready" and "ramping up" for a universal system.

Reiner's measure would tax California's wealthiest families to offer every 4-year-old a year of free instruction in preschools that meet certain standards, including having curriculum based on statewide learning standards.

At Sacramento's Bowling Green Elementary School, students in Amy Ronsheimer's four-week "boot camp" for 4-and 5-year-olds preparing to enter kindergarten in the fall make it clear that existing programs are not devoid of academics.

Students sat on mats Thursday as the teacher held up flash cards, each containing a child's name. Students reacted gleefully when they spotted their own.

"Say, 'That's my name,' " Ronsheimer instructed one young boy, Serxa.

"What letter does your name start with?" she asked.

"S," he shouted.

"I believe a lot of people don't realize how much quality learning is taking place at preschools," said Lorraine Weatherspoon, coordinator of Sacramento City Unified School District's school readiness programs.

O'Connell said existing programs do, indeed, have performance goals. But AB 1246 is meant to expand and improve upon them.

"We're trying to more professionalize (preschool programs)," he said.

Assemblyman Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, fears that AB 1246 could lay the foundation for a preschool system that emphasizes academics over childhood play and exploration.

"Things tend to be incremental - you start off with good intentions and then they get ratcheted up," Huff said.

Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Northridge, said the state's track record is dismal.

"I think these curriculum standards are simply a step in making preschool an extension of K-12 education, which to a large degree has been failing students," he said.

Diane Flynn Keith, a Redwood City activist against universal preschools, said AB 1246 could harm the children it seeks to help.

Preschoolers don't learn best by "sitting down at a desk with a pencil and paper, and trying to write letters and numbers," she said. "A lot of kids aren't ready for that."

O'Connell said boring, rigid classes that pressure preschoolers to keep up are "far, far, far from our intent."

"We want students to appreciate and enjoy the love of learning," he said.

Catherine Teare, policy director for Children Now, said AB 1246 strikes a proper balance between academic readiness and traditional preschool activities, like finger painting or learning to share.

"I think we can do both," she said.



Assembly Bill 1246, proposed by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, awaits action in the Senate after passing the Assembly by a 47-32 vote. AB 1246 would require the state Department of Education to set preschool learning standards that shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

Mathematics: Number sense, classification and measurement.
Science: Physical, life and earth sciences.
Reading-language arts: Vocabulary development; alphabet, word and print recognition.
History-social science: Citizenship; national symbols; social and emotional development.


Pols Pass Up a Pot of Gold as Rob Reiner Takes the Initiative

By George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2005

There's a gleaming pot of gold within easy grasp of the governor and Legislature that would help them balance the state's deficit-ridden books. But it's looking like the governor's friend, filmmaker Rob Reiner, will beat the pols to the pot.

This is about using it or losing it.

It is an income tax increase on the wealthiest Californians — individuals earning more than $400,000; couples making above $800,000. That's the top 1%. Their tax rate would be hiked from the current 9.3% to 11%, where Govs. Pete Wilson and Ronald Reagan also raised it for a while to erase deficits. It would generate $2.3 billion annually.

Reiner doesn't want to use the new money to staunch budget-bleeding. He is targeting it for another worthy cause: voluntary preschool for all 4-year-olds.

"Our education system obviously has been limping along for quite a while," Reiner says. "This is the first big step to reform….

"The jury definitely is in on quality preschool. It gives young kids a chance to enter school ready to succeed. It levels the playing field. [Ultimately] it reduces remedial education costs, crime costs, welfare costs….

"We can't get the Legislature to move on these things."

Reiner began circulating petitions for a ballot initiative last week. He needs to collect about 600,000 voters' signatures by Jan. 12 to qualify the measure for the June 2006 ballot.

There's every reason to believe his proposal will land on the ballot and be approved by voters.

Unlike in the Legislature, where a two-thirds majority vote is required for a tax increase — and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vows to veto one anyway — the California electorate can hike taxes on a simple majority vote.

Last November, voters passed an initiative imposing a 1% surtax on incomes over $1 million to expand mental health programs.

If voters will tax the super-rich to treat the homeless, it's a good bet they'll also sock a broader base of the wealthy to pay for preschool.

There are a lot of working moms not only concerned about development of their children's learning skills but also struggling to pay for day care that costs hundreds of dollars a month.

Under Reiner's initiative, beginning in 2010, every 4-year-old would be eligible for free half-day preschool, in a public or private institution that met quality standards. Starting in fall 2006, kids in the lowest-performing school districts would be eligible.

But if everybody's going to benefit, why tax just the rich?

"It's a revenue stream that hasn't been tapped," Reiner says. "It's accessible….

"This is such a minor tax for people in my bracket that it's not even something you'd notice."

Reiner calculates that the average taxpayer hit by his initiative would pay $8,700 more after factoring in the state deduction off federal taxes. This same person, he says, got a $76,000 federal tax cut from President Bush.

Schwarzenegger and Republicans argue that higher taxes would drive people out of the state.

"I can't imagine that over this small amount of money people are going to say, 'OK, let's leave California,' " Reiner asserts, "because we're taking a very, very big step in improving education, which is essentially the most important way to entice people into the state."

Indeed, the latest poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that, among likely voters, education trumps the deficit and taxes by 2 to 1 as an important state issue. In April, a PPIC poll found that 60% favored raising income taxes on the wealthiest Californians to provide extra money for K-12 public schools.

Preschool isn't K-12, but it's close.

Schwarzenegger is promising to protect people against tax increases. "The choice is simple: Pass Prop. 76 or face higher taxes," the governor writes in a ballot pamphlet argument for his spending cap initiative that would reduce school funding guarantees.

But the people favor raising income taxes — at least on rich people — for schools.

The problem is, ballot-box budgeting is not good government. It reduces the flexibility of elected representatives to deal with state problems, to choose priorities.

Perhaps that pot of gold should be used for deficit reduction or for K-12 schools — if only the politicians had enough foresight and courage to reach for it.

Failing that, it's up for grabs by an activist citizen like Reiner and the electorate.

Reiner did that in 1998 with Proposition 10, raising tobacco taxes to pay for early childhood programs.

For his latest initiative, Democrat Reiner has pulled together a coalition that ranges from the big Service Employees International Union, which could organize nonteachers at the preschools, to the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, because it thinks business needs a better-educated workforce.

The state superintendent of public instruction would oversee the preschools, and they'd be run through the county education boards.

Seeking GOP support, Reiner chose county boards partly because they're not as influenced by teachers unions as school district boards.

Some pols and pundits suspect Reiner, 58, is jumping on the initiative as a springboard to run for governor. "It's so, like, tiresome to even talk about this," he says. "I'm not putting something on the ballot because I'm running for governor next year."

How about 2010?

"This is the honest to God truth. I love building things…. If I feel that by holding public office I can get a lot more done … and I [do] have some very big thoughts about things I want to do … then at some point it may be something I might do."

Reiner won't be running against Schwarzenegger next year. He'll probably be running off with a pot of gold that the Sacramento pols should have claimed long ago.


L.A. business group aligns with labor for statewide preschool

By Marjie Lundstrom , Sacramento Bee, September 8, 2005

Talk about drama.

If Californians approve the bold new "Preschool for All Act" - a proposed ballot measure that would offer free preschool to all the state's 4-year-olds - the overhaul of the state's education system would be epic.

There's star power behind this initiative, aimed at the June ballot and engineered by Hollywood filmmaker and children's advocate Rob Reiner. But there's also a prequel, an intriguing back-story you probably haven't heard about.

Remember Rusty Hammer?

Hammer is the former chief of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce who went on to become president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce in 2001. Despite such lofty positions, he still likes to think of himself as the guy who became the nation's youngest elected official by winning a City Council seat in Campbell, near San Jose, at age 18. He became the city's mayor at 21.

Now he's up to something else.

While battling a debilitating and rare form of leukemia, the 52-year-old former Sacramentan helped pull off a political coup few would have thought possible.

Recently, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce became the first business organization to publicly endorse Reiner's preschool initiative. Also endorsing the measure is the powerful Service Employees International Union.

Business and labor - not the usual marriage in California, especially when we're talking tax increase.

"It's really historic; it's amazing," said the initiative's campaign manager, Ben Austin. "What else in California do the L.A. Chamber of Commerce and the SEIU agree on?"

Under the proposal, California would generate $2.3 billion a year by taxing its richest people - an additional 1.7 percent on individuals earning more than $400,000 a year and couples exceeding $800,000.

In other words, a lot of the people on the L.A. Chamber's board.

"Our board overwhelmingly supported it, and most of the people who voted for it are the same people who are going to be paying the taxes," said Hammer, whose illness has often confined him to home, communicating by e-mail and phone.

"You'd be surprised to see the number of conservative Republicans, all of whom are making this kind of money, who stood up and said, 'I think this is the right thing to do, even though I'm going to have to be paying this money out of my pocket."

Obviously, the chamber sees what a lot of us see: that quality preschool is a good investment. That kids with preschool beginnings are less likely to be held back or placed in special education, more likely to graduate and go on to college, and less likely to be arrested and jailed, studies show.

The L.A. Chamber didn't come away empty-handed.

Hammer said he and other business leaders worked with Reiner in the early stages, rejecting any suggestion that public preschool in California be financed from existing education money, or by taxing business.

In fact, it was the business community that helped shoot down an earlier initiative by Reiner that would have funded preschool in California by raising commercial property taxes.

As for this tax increase, Hammer said Los Angeles business leaders concluded it was palatable because it would restore a tax rate that had existed under Govs. Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson.

Austin, who works closely with Reiner, considers the L.A. Chamber's endorsement - and Hammer's role - a "profile in courage."

If it is a political profile in courage, it is also a personal one.

Hammer, who was diagnosed with extramedullary acute myelogenous leukemia just after leaving Sacramento, has moved back to San Jose for now to be near family and friends. Later this month, he will undergo hip surgery. He cannot drive and has been hospitalized five times this year.

But he's very much in the game.

"The reason we came out way ahead is because we wanted to set that ball rolling," said Hammer, who urges other business leaders not to give the initiative "a knee-jerk no."

"Now any other chamber board that's going to look at this in the months ahead is going to have to answer the question, 'Why did the L.A. Chamber do what it did?' "

That's a prequel that promises to be as good as the main show.


Backers of preschool initiative seek to avoid a bruising battle

By Marjie Lundstrom , Sacramento Bee, November 17, 2005

For anyone still suffering a special-election hangover - and with all that acrimony, who isn't? - there is an antidote at hand. It comes in yet another initiative.

But this one's much different from the last batch. This has something for everyone. This is what can happen when Californians actually work together - business and labor, teachers and parents, legislators and clergy, wealthy and working class.

Today, on a playground in San Francisco, backers of the "Preschool for All Act" will announce they're virtually done collecting the necessary signatures to get the groundbreaking initiative on the June 6 ballot.

I know, I know, the special election is hardly over, and our heads still hurt. But the campaign season is never really over in California, with the preschool measure only one of 45 propositions already circulating, pending or qualified for ballots next year and beyond.

The preschool initiative, though, is sure to be the June headliner, promising to bring voluntary, free preschool to every 4-year-old in California who wants it. The programs would be paid for by the richest 1 percent of Californians by increasing their state income tax rate by 1.7 percent on annual income of over $800,000 for married couples or $400,000 for individuals.

There's nothing revolutionary here, since the tax hike would simply re-create the upper-income brackets that existed under Republican Govs. Pete Wilson and Ronald Reagan. And the money's going right to kids and families - and, by extension, to all of us, since study after study shows that kids with preschool do better in school, in work and in life.

Still, I couldn't help but wonder if voter disgust over the special election would sully the chances for this ambitious initiative, especially since voters rejected all eight ballot measures. It is a pattern. Historically, Californians have rejected about two-thirds of citizen measures, according to the Initiative & Referendum Institute at USC. But Institute President John Matsusaka said voter crankiness in the recent election will not necessarily spill over onto the preschool measure or any of the others, since Californians really do like the initiative process.

What they don't like, he said, are tax increases - even when voters themselves would not be affected.

"You would think that voters would be happy to pass tax increases that don't affect them. But they usually don't," said Matsusaka.

"Voters seem to think that if it's a benefit that everybody gets, everybody should pay for it. It seems to be kind of a basic fairness issue with a lot of voters." Of course, never say never. Last year, California voters narrowly approved a so-called millionaires' tax with Proposition 63, which imposed a 1 percent surcharge on all taxable income over $1 million to aid mentally ill children and adults.

Ironically, one of the obvious recipients of a preschool tax hike is the very man who helped engineer it: Rob Reiner, the film director and children's advocate who has been a passionate force behind the preschool initiative.

In his book, the tax is more than fair. It's a bargain.

"This is the single best investment we can make to begin the process of fixing our education system, that will strengthen our economy and cut crime," he said.

"... I can tell you, this won't affect me one iota. I'm not even going to notice that this tax happened." Reiner, whose name pops up as a possible Democratic challenger to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, told me he thinks the acrimony of this special election may actually play in preschool proponents' favor.

He has a point. Where the last election was characterized by warring special interests and witchy ads, preschool backers have carefully forged a coalition of unlikely allies - among them, the Los Angeles and San Francisco Chambers of Commerce and the Service Employees International Union.

Notably absent from the list of supporters are Republican legislators, though more conservative-leaning and fiscally prudent Chambers of Commerce statewide are expected to endorse the measure.

"Clearly, we're not going to have the kind of divisiveness that we had in this last election, where you had labor on one side and business on the other, duking it out and bashing each other," said Reiner.

And giving us all a collective headache. Surely our kids deserve better than this.


UC study examines preschool benefits

By third grade, no difference shown among students

By Ilene Lelchuk, San Francisco Chroincle, January 27, 2006

As proponents of universal preschool in California kicked off their campaign with news of an upbeat poll, a study on the lasting effects of preschool indicates many of its benefits may wear off by the time students reach third grade.

The University of California study, parts of which will be released today at a Sacramento conference, focuses on non-English-speaking children who went to preschool. Students who had gone to preschool gained a head start on literacy and language skills that gave them a leg up through third grade, according to the study by UC Santa Barbara professor Russell Rumberger, director of the UC Linguistic Minority Research Institute.

Rumberger's national study comes as the universal preschool camp, led by Hollywood movie director Rob Reiner, campaigns to convince voters that all 4-year-olds would benefit from a year of free preschool and that every public dollar spent on universal preschool would result in future savings on education, crime reduction and social services.

Other studies, among numerous attempts to assess the impact of preschool in general, have established that universal preschool gives children a boost in kindergarten and beyond.

The Reiner camp hopes to increase attendance to at least 70 percent of all 4-year-olds. The campaign is starting on a high note with results from a statewide survey by the Public Policy Institute of California showing that 63 percent of likely voters support the initiative.

By the end of third grade, according to Rumberger's research, former preschoolers and children who did not attend preschool ended up on nearly equal footing in cognitive and social development, regardless of their mother tongue.

Rumberger said, however, that other positive effects of preschool could reverberate for years to come. He found that children who attended preschool were less likely to be held back before they reached third grade or be identified as needing special education.

"That's an important outcome because we know that retention (being held back) is the single most common predictor for dropouts in high school," Rumberger said.

The Preschool for All Act would be funded by a 1.7 percent state tax on annual incomes of more than $800,000 for couples and more than $400,000 for individuals -- an estimated 100,000 filers. It would raise about $2.3 billion a year for a trust fund dedicated to preschool improvements that would be distributed to county offices of education.

About 47 percent of the state's 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in nursery school or preschool. But Preschool California, a nonprofit organization and big backer of the initiative, believes as few as 25 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in what the group considers quality preschools.

Opponents of the initiative include the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association; the California Business Roundtable, whose members include PG&E, Bank of America and Wells Fargo; the California Montessori Council; and Los Angeles Metro Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

Representatives of those groups said California should be spending any additional education money it can find on improving its faltering kindergarten-through-high-school system.

Preschool for All is the lone citizen-sponsored initiative on the shortest state ballot in years. And that lonely status means voters will be getting earfuls about academic studies, taxpayer debates and parent polls about whether preschool is worth the cost.

The latest report that indicates preschool loses some of its punch by third grade might hurt rather than help the pro-universal preschool campaign's claims, according to Bruce Fuller, an associate professor of education at UC Berkeley who co-authored a different preschool study with Stanford researchers that was released in the fall.

"The fading out isn't good news for the pro-universal preschool side," Fuller said.

Fuller and Rumberger reached many of the same conclusions, including that students who attended preschool, regardless of language, were more likely to exhibit problem social behaviors.

Rumberger also found that children who spoke English as a second language were less likely to attend preschool.

Fuller and Rumberger studied the same information on about 22,000 children nationally in the kindergarten class of 1988-89. The data was collected by the federal National Center for Education Statistics through face-to-face assessments with the children as well as interviews with their teachers and written surveys from parents.

The Preschool for All campaign warns against listening to Fuller.

"Bruce is in the minority of researchers in his field," said campaign spokesman Nathan James, who cast doubts about both Rumberger's and Fuller's findings because the researchers didn't have access to information about whether the children they studied went to quality preschools or mediocre child care centers.

Will the public become confused with so many studies done on the subject, and with the campaigns drawing from the research only what suits them? James says no.

"The bottom line is all these studies show that quality preschool has very clear benefits for children academically and socially," he said.

One of the studies the campaign leans on was done by William Gormley Jr. of Georgetown University, co-director of the Center for Research on Children in the U.S. He evaluated Oklahoma's universal preschool program, which started in 1998 and has a higher participation rate than any other preschool program in the country.

"Our research shows children from all income levels benefit from universal preschool, but disadvantaged children benefit more," Gormley said. He said that "targeted programs have their virtues, but a universal program has its advantages, too."

Universal preschool programs often attract better teachers partly by requiring -- as California's proposal does -- that they have a degree and by offering them the same pay kindergarten teachers get, Gormley said.

The number of states offering some publicly funded preschool has soared from 10 in 1980 to 38 in 2002, Gormley's study found. Most target disadvantaged children. But six states have "universal" preschool: Georgia, New York, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Massachusetts and Florida. The District of Columbia, Los Angeles County and San Francisco also are building universal preschool programs.


Preschool Initiative's Misguided Approach

By Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2006

Considering how hard it is to find prominent individuals with a selfless impulse toward public service, we shouldn't begrudge the film director Rob Reiner his efforts to expand preschool education in California.

But that's not to say that Reiner's Preschool for All initiative, which will appear on the June ballot as a constitutional amendment, is a good idea. On the contrary, it's another attempt at ballot-box budgeting featuring misleading PR and misguided pied-piper appeal.

Reiner's initiative would make three hours of daily preschool available to all California children in the year before they enter kindergarten. It would establish state standards for pre-K education, including a mandate that teachers have a bachelor's degree, and give jurisdiction to the state Department of Education.

The funding would come from a 1.7% tax on household incomes over $800,000. This would boost those taxpayers' top marginal rate to 11% and yield about $2.4 billion a year by 2010.

No one disputes that such a program would be a good thing in principle; overwhelming evidence shows that children benefit from preschool, and disadvantaged kids benefit the most. Business, concerned about lagging student performance, is getting behind the initiative (judging by support from some local chambers of commerce) as are public employee unions and civic leaders.

The issue for taxpayers and policymakers, however, is more complicated: How else might the state spend $2.4 billion in annual revenue? Might any of that spending be equally necessary — or more so?

How about arranging for every child in the state to be medically insured? Or providing every child access to textbooks, supplies, qualified K-12 teachers, a nutritious lunch and a safe learning environment?

That $2.4 billion would pay the annual interest on a $53-billion infrastructure bond (at 4.5%), allowing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to almost double his infrastructure plan. It could rebuild the Sacramento Delta levees, the condition of which threatens the lives, homes and livelihoods of millions of Californians.

Incidentally, the 1.7% levy would raise the top state income tax rate to a level not seen since 1995; after this, squeezing more money out of these wealthy stones will be almost impossible. (Earners of more than $1 million are already charged an extra 1% of the excess to fund a mental health program, so their top rate would be 12%.) If the Reiner initiative passes, not a dime of that money would be available for anything but preschool. Ever.

Not only would the principle of free preschool be enshrined in the state Constitution, but so would a particular approach to preschool. Suppose educational experts determined down the line that the most effective program combines preschool with smaller primary-school classes, or that the most appropriate teacher training might not require a BA? Tough. The rules will be written into the Constitution and, accordingly, hard to change. State educational practice will be embalmed, the clock stopped at 2006.

Yet, even today's educators disagree about the right approach. Some contend, like the initiative campaign, that the only sure way to reach the neediest children is to make preschool available to all children, not just the most disadvantaged.

"There's never been a targeted program that reaches 100% of the children who are eligible," says Karen Hill-Scott, an education consultant working with the campaign.

Others say that targeted programs yield the best results and that preschool gains rapidly fade if primary schools don't pick up the slack, perhaps via full-day kindergarten (not common in California) and follow-up services for four or five years (not part of the Reiner initiative).

The proper place to weigh these disagreements is in a legislative hearing room. The initiative's sponsors chose not to go the legislative route; they have their own vision of preschool and want us to believe it's the only option.

Promoters of initiatives love to portray their projects as silver-bullet cures. That's already happening in this case. The Reiner team claims that Rand Corp. researchers have "found" and "confirmed" that, for every $1 spent on preschool, the state will get $2.62 back.

We'll undoubtedly hear this figure repeated ad nauseam for the next four months. But it's a subtle misstatement of the Rand study.

The study's author, senior economist Lynn Karoly, based her calculations largely on a Chicago program aimed almost exclusively at black children in the city's poorest neighborhoods. She called that program "the most relevant to an analysis" of a universal program in California.

But the two programs are hardly identical. Chicago's serves a homogeneous disadvantaged population; California's goal is to reach all economic classes within the state's uniquely diverse population.

As Karoly observes in her study, the Chicago program also provides "health screening, speech therapy services and meals," along with home visits and training for parents and continued support for some students in primary school. None of these elements is specifically funded by the Reiner initiative.

Researchers have calculated the fiscal return from Chicago's program at $7.14 for every dollar spent. Not only are the subjects less likely to repeat grades, drop out or land in jail; they also earn more over their lives than others raised in similar circumstances but unexposed to the program.

But these are empirical data, derived by carefully tracking ex-preschoolers through age 20 or older; by contrast, Karoly's figure is an extrapolation applied to a program that doesn't yet exist. Accordingly, Karoly told me, she tried to be "as conservative as possible," and her study should be seen as a projection, not a measurement.

The initiative promoters may not be so circumspect. The debate over our children's educational future risks being turned over to electioneering press releases and TV spots featuring heart-tugging slogans. Are we about to be led down the wrong path?


Preschool Initiative's Summary- Voter Pamphlet

Preschool Education. Tax on Incomes Over $400,000 for Individuals; $800,000 for Couples. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

From Secretary of State Website, April 13, 2006

Establishes voluntary preschool education for all four-year olds. Funded by 1.7% tax on individual income over $400,000; couples’ income over $800,000. Fiscal Impact: Increased annual revenues of $2.1 billion in 2007–08, growing with the economy in future years. All revenues would be spent on the new preschool program.


PROP. 82 WILL PREPARE MORE CHILDREN TO READ AND LEARN, WHICH WILL STRENGTHEN K–12 EDUCATION. It encourages parental involvement, expands teacher training, has no cost for 99.4% of taxpayers, and provides for independent audits and criminal penalties for misuse of funds. Groups representing 450,000 classroom teachers say YES on 82.


Proposition 82 is the wrong approach. Let’s fi x K–12 fi rst before creating a new education bureaucracy and spending $2.4 billion per year for only a 4–5% increase in preschool enrollment. There are better, more cost-effective ways to expand preschool. Please vote NO on 82.


TV Ads Put Focus on Reiner

Some ask whether the tax-funded spots helped tout the producer's June preschool initiative

By Dan Morain, Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2006

SACRAMENTO — Police sirens wail as a scruffy teenager, clutching a bag, runs frantically through the streets. Entering a schoolyard, he reaches into the bag. Out comes … a graduation gown, which he dons to receive a diploma.

The scene is from a television ad, paid for with tax money and made by consultants close to Hollywood producer Rob Reiner. It aired across California this winter, touting the benefits of preschool. "When kids go," the narrator says, "we all benefit."

The release of the ad, and two others, by a state commission Reiner heads coincided with his launch of a ballot initiative that would tax the rich to fund preschool for all California 4-year-olds.

Although Reiner did not directly approve the spots, their timing and substance highlight ties between the public commission and his private political campaigns and raise questions about whether the state-funded commercials were used to boost the initiative's prospects.

State law generally prohibits the use of public funds for campaign activities. Reiner's campaign attorney said the ads were legal and not political.

Reiner heads the First 5 California Children and Families Commission, a panel of seven members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. It was created by an initiative Reiner sponsored in 1998 to promote early childhood development.

The measure, which raised cigarette taxes by 50 cents per pack, has generated $4 billion so far, much of it used for childhood healthcare, preschool and anti-tobacco efforts. Under Reiner's leadership, the commission has:

  • Spent $23 million for the "Preschool for All" ads, which ran from November to mid-January, making it one of the largest state-funded advertising campaigns ever in California. In January, Reiner's new initiative, also called "Preschool for All," qualified for the June ballot as Proposition 82.
  • Given $230 million in advertising and public relations contracts — including the preschool ad blitz — to firms that helped Reiner create the First 5 commission. As companies competed for the business, Reiner wrote a letter recommending one firm, which won.
  • Paid $206,000 of the tax money to three political consultants, though they had no contract. One of them — Benjamin Austin, a former Los Angeles deputy mayor — said they helped coordinate the government activities of Reiner, the First 5 commission and the media consultants. Austin and the others subsequently joined the Proposition 82 effort, with Austin as campaign manager.

The contracts for the ads and the public relations work were awarded legally. But given the winning companies' relationship with Reiner, "there is a question of … who really has a chance of getting a contract," said Bill Whalen, a Hoover Institution fellow and former Pete Wilson administration official. "Insider connections are rewarded."

The twinning of First 5's ads and Reiner's initiative campaign troubles state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles).

"Taxpayer dollars should not be used to sway election results," she said. "Do that with campaign money."

Reiner campaign attorney James Harrison said the ads were legal.

In particular, he cited a court ruling in late December, which stems from a Salinas ballot measure and is being appealed, saying government can use tax money for campaigns as long as it doesn't expressly urge people to vote for or against an issue or candidate.

"The ads were legal and entirely proper," Harrison said.

Reiner, who noted that government staffers — not First 5 commissioners — chose the recipients of the ad contract, said the commercials were not related to the Preschool for All ballot initiative. Rather, he said, he concluded that the timing for such a measure was right, there was voter support and universal preschool would help California's children.

"I want to do things right for kids," Reiner said in an interview at a location he chose: a preschool funded by First 5 in South Los Angeles. "I want help to fix the school system."

Reiner, 58, gained fame for his role in the 1970s TV series "All in the Family." He since has produced, directed or acted in dozens of movies, including "Rumor Has It," "A Few Good Men" and "This Is Spinal Tap." For more than a decade, his political cause has been childhood development, though he and others say he has no personal financial stake in it.

To finance his vision, Reiner sponsored Proposition 10, which created First 5. The proposition gives counties 80% of the tobacco tax proceeds. Reiner's panel gets the other 20% — $800 million since the commission's creation in 1999.

Written to his specifications, the law dictates that 6% of the tax revenue be allotted to communications efforts.

"This is a big state," Reiner said, noting that ads are costly. "We knew the programs weren't going to be successful unless people knew about them and how important they are."

The law does not specify that any ads focus on preschool. It says the money should be used to "encourage proper childhood development"; good parenting; information about child care, health and social services; the prevention of tobacco and drug use by pregnant women; and information about the "detrimental effects of secondhand smoke on early childhood development."

First 5's lead public relations consultant is the Rogers Group of Los Angeles. The firm billed the Proposition 10 campaign $230,000. Its First 5 contracts extend to 2008 and will total $62 million. The company must distribute about $30 million of that amount as grants to community organizations.

The commission awarded Rogers an initial contract in 1999 without soliciting bids and two later ones in a competitive process. In its written bid for a new contract last year, Rogers noted that its president, Lynne Doll, was "a lead strategist on the communications efforts" for the Yes on 10 campaign.

Asked whether Rogers' work on Proposition 10 helped it secure commission work, Doll said, "I'm sure it didn't hurt."

She added that the company won its competitive contracts because its bids were lowest, its work has been effective and it has "experience in the anti-smoking world … and in early childhood issues."

Rogers long has held the public relations contract for the state Department of Health Services' tobacco-control program.

The Reiner commission's ad firm is GMMB — formerly Greer, Margolis, Mitchell & Burns. It has a 12-person office in Santa Monica and is a subsidiary of Fleishman-Hillard Inc., headquartered in St. Louis.

One of GMMB's partners, Roy Behr, was a key consultant to the Yes on 10 effort and led a successful statewide fight in 2000 against a ballot measure that would have overturned Proposition 10. GMMB billed the two political campaigns $3.2 million in 1998 and 2000. It has won $169.5 million in state contracts through 2007 from the First 5 commission.

The bulk of the money has been used to buy air time and ads in newspapers, including The Times. Some went to subcontractors.

Like other bidders seeking to do First 5's advertising in 2004, GMMB submitted a thick binder detailing its finances, subcontractors and vision for the ad campaign. Unlike its competitors, GMMB came highly recommended by the First 5 chairman.

Reiner wrote the cover letter for the firm's bid package, praising its work on his public and private endeavors. The letter, dated March 10, 2004, said the commission tapped GMMB to write First 5's "long-range Preschool Advocacy Plan" in 2003.

"Preschool for All is our top priority and we knew that nobody else had a better understanding of our goals and how to accomplish them," Reiner wrote.

Behr said the company's "knowledge of the issues" was partly why it won the contract. He added: "We certainly talked about [the firm's political campaign work] as one of the things that gave us the credentials."

In the interview, Reiner said both firms "have shown expertise and tremendous effectiveness."

"If I know somebody can do a job and do it well, it wouldn't be very smart of me not to go and see if I could get those people to do the job," Reiner said, adding that he hopes "people think we are hiring the best."

The panel that selected GMMB included three employees of the First 5 commission and a fourth member who works for the California Department of Health Services. The four reported being unimpressed that GMMB's bid enjoyed Reiner's backing. "The cover letter from Rob Reiner was considered inappropriate and showed bad judgment on the part of Mr. Reiner and GMMB," the panel wrote in an otherwise glowing assessment of the firm's bid.

The panel "chose not to be influenced either way" by Reiner's letter, said Colleen Stevens, the Department of Health Services official who served on the panel.

First 5 met its legal obligation by publicly inviting companies to bid on its ad contract. Only three did. It was surprising, some advertising executives said, given the contract's prestige and size: $67.5 million over three years.

Some ad executives said privately that they assumed the incumbent would win, and that the laborious bidding process would waste their time.

As part of its latest First 5 work, GMMB produced three TV commercials, including the one with the running teenager. A second ad featured a mound of clay morphing into a child and a schoolhouse, then into a business tableau, as a narrator intoned that when children go to preschool, they stay in school, "and our businesses end up with a better-educated workforce."

In a third commercial, a school principal lamented that too many children who don't attend preschool enter kindergarten unprepared, "get discouraged and drop out." Part of the commission's money was spent to air a fourth ad, made earlier and not focused on preschool.

Reiner and Behr said they have taken pains to avoid conflicts. Behr said he would not work on the June initiative.

"While it is true that First 5 cannot and should not advocate on behalf of the potential initiative," GMMB wrote in a document submitted to the commission last year, "it is equally certain that the goals of the Preschool for All campaign can only be achieved through legislative or electoral action."

Others affiliated with GMMB and the First 5 commission are involved in the campaign for Proposition 82, which would raise income taxes by $2.4 billion a year on wealthy Californians.

Austin — the former deputy mayor — worked for GMMB on First 5-related matters in 2002 and 2003, then moved to Reiner's political team, then returned to consulting for GMMB and received bimonthly First 5 commission checks.

During an 11-month period ending in April 2005, GMMB billed First 5 California $206,000 to pay Austin and two other aides. Austin's share was $111,000, invoices show. All three returned to the Reiner campaign payroll in June.

Proposition 82's office is at the same Beverly Hills address Austin gave when he was consulting for GMMB and the state.

Austin and the other aides did not have contracts with First 5. Austin said his duties were outlined in multiple conversations with the commission's staff and Reiner. His work was part-time, and he said he had no involvement in the First 5 ads.

"Literally the only thing we have been motivated by," Austin said in his office last week, "is preschool for kids."

Meanwhile, William Deaver, a former member of the Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces campaign laws, has asked his former agency to investigate whether the juxtaposition of the preschool ads and the Proposition 82 initiative effort violated the law.

An FPPC spokesman declined to comment.

Deaver, a Republican who served on the FPPC from 1999 to 2003, said the promotion of preschool is "admirable" but added: "I don't think you can use public money to support a ballot measure. I don't care what it is."


Reiner takes leave from commission on children

Film director at center of flap over use of public funds

By Janine DeFao, San Francisco Chromicle, February 21, 2006

Director Rob Reiner has taken a leave as chairman of a state children's commission amid concerns that it may have improperly spent public funds to promote the universal preschool campaign he is heading.

In a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Friday, Reiner said he would step down from the First 5 California Children and Families Commission until after the June election on Proposition 82 "to avoid any political distractions."

At issue is $23 million that First 5 spent on television and other ads promoting the value of preschool and parent education between November and January, when the initiative qualified for the ballot. The proposition would tax the state's wealthiest wage earners to provide a free year of preschool to all California 4-year-olds.

Reiner and First 5 staff have said there was nothing improper about the media campaign, which included three television ads on preschool.

But after a story in the Los Angeles Times last week that also questioned the propriety of First 5 contracts awarded to people and firms with ties to Reiner, several politicians called for audits of the commission, which was created by the Proposition 10 tobacco tax initiative for early childhood programs that Reiner also spearheaded.

The proposition mandated that 6 percent of the tobacco money, which totals $550 million a year, be spent on public education on topics ranging from early childhood education to anti-smoking.

But recently, "the entire (media) budget has been spent on ads about preschool. It raises the question of whether people were manipulating the use of those ads to help push an initiative, a political agenda, and that is against the law," said Assembly Ma

jority Leader Dario Frommer, D-Glendale, a candidate for state controller.

Frommer, Republican controller candidate Tony Strickland and state Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman of Irvine all have called for independent audits of the commission.

Yusef Robb, a spokesman for gubernatorial candidate Controller Steve Westly, said the controller's staff is reviewing the matter, as is the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

"The controller is concerned about this. ... We have zero tolerance for any misuse of taxpayer dollars," Robb said. He said the review will determine whether an audit is warranted.

Reiner was traveling in Colorado on Saturday and could not be reached for comment.

In a letter to Westly on Friday, he called the charges "politically motivated and baseless," and said Ackerman has the support of tobacco companies that opposed Prop. 10 and of the California Chamber of Commerce, which opposes Prop. 82.

Kris Perry, executive director of First 5, said the commission has been spending money on preschool programs and promotion since 2002. It also funds health initiatives, child care and other programs for children 5 and under.

She said the commission was aware that there could be an appearance of a conflict of interest, so decided to run the preschool ads only until Prop. 82 qualified for the ballot.

Perry also said that the commission already is audited annually by an outside entity, and an "expanded audit" in 2003-04 showed compliance with all state contracting rules.

"For taxpayers to pay for yet another audit when one was done six months ago may not yield any new answers," she said.

Perry said First 5's vice chairwoman, Dr. Alice Walker Duff, will handle Reiner's duties until June.


Perata changes mind on Prop. 82

Preschool ballot measure has fatal flaws, Senate leader says

By Kevin Yamamura and Jim Sanders, Sacramento Bee, March 1, 2006

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, one of the state's leading Democrats, on Tuesday withdrew his support for a universal preschool ballot proposal in another blow to actor Rob Reiner's initiative.

Perata, at a breakfast meeting with The Bee Capitol Bureau, said his reversal on Proposition 82 was unrelated to mounting criticism of Reiner's dual leadership roles with the First 5 California Commission and the political campaign to pass the $2.4 billion initiative.

Instead, the Oakland Democrat said his own analysis determined the plan has fatal flaws.

Proposition 82 would increase income taxes on the state's highest 100,000 earners to pay for free preschool for all California children.

"Upon reflection, I believe Prop. 82 would become yet another obstacle impending prudent governance of the state," Perata wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Reiner.

Perata said he is concerned the plan will impair state government's ability to pay for K-12 education and other public services by locking up $2.4 billion annually for preschool. In the past, legislators have proposed using the same tax increase to help balance the state's budget.

He also said it will most benefit middle-and upper-middle class families while hurting private and nonprofit schools that target ethnic communities.

And he said he fears K-12 schools could suffer by losing teachers to preschools.

"I was sort of caught up in the need and the value of preschool," Perata said of his previous endorsement. "I should have thought about it or analyzed it."

Nathan James, a Yes on 82 spokesman, said all children are eligible for free preschool under the initiative and that it does not benefit students from any particular income level.

He also said county offices of education will administer the program at the local level and that they have a history of working with private and nonprofit schools.

"We welcome the debate over Proposition 82 and the debate over the fact that half of all fourth-graders can't read at grade level," James said. "Proposition 82 will help kids get ready to learn. Don Perata can either be part of the solution or part of the problem, and that choice is up to him."

Reiner has come under fire for serving as chairman of the First 5 commission at the same time he directed the effort to place Proposition 82 on the ballot.

As first revealed in The Bee, between November and January the commission spent $23 million on television ads promoting the benefits of preschool, using tax money received through a 50-cents-a-pack charge on cigarettes.

The ads did not mention the ballot initiative, and First 5 Executive Director Kris Perry said that Reiner had recused himself from advertising discussions.

Reiner last week took a leave of absence from the First 5 commission until after the June 6 election in an attempt to deflect criticism.

But Republican activists have called for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace Reiner altogether. And inside the Capitol, Republican lawmakers have criticized Reiner and the First 5 commission.

State Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, asked that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee authorize a formal inquiry into the use of First 5 funds.

Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman of Irvine and Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-Glendale, also asked state Controller Steve Westly to audit the First 5 commission last week.

Assembly Republican leaders proposed legislation Tuesday to redirect the commission's annual statewide advertising funds and a portion of administrative funds - $42 million in all - for use in extending a Kern County preschool program statewide.

Assembly Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield denied that the new proposal, Assembly Bill 2150, is motivated by opposition to Proposition 82 or by partisan politics. He said he had been looking for a funding source to extend the Kern County program before the Reiner controversy arose.

State Sen. Chuck Poochigian, R-Fresno, asked state Attorney General Bill Lockyer on Monday to investigate whether the commission's advertising funds were spent illegally to benefit signature-gathering efforts for Proposition 82.

Perata said concerns that First 5 misused state funds for political purposes are legitimate and that he finds the ads "troubling."

"You know, it wasn't even cleverly disguised," Perata said of the commercials. "It was just blatant.

"And I didn't know then and I still don't know how that happened."

Perry, the First 5 executive director, said the commission did not coordinate with the preschool initiative campaign.

"I wasn't tracking or aware of any work going on with any initiative," Perry said. "I knew what our goals were, and what message we wanted to convey to the public, and we felt that the (money) we're mandated to spend on public education would be best spent teaching and helping educate parents and caregivers in California about the benefits of preschool."

So far, Perata's about-face on Proposition 82 hasn't extended to other leading Democrats who have endorsed the initiative. Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, continues to support Proposition 82, said his spokesman, Steve Maviglio.

Perata's decision conceivably could slow the initiative's momentum, said Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who remains supportive.

"I understand the criticism. It's not perfect; it's not the way I would have written it," she said. "But the folks doing this got off their back ends, brought groups together and got a consensus."


Prop. 82 boosts powers to state superintendent

By Anthony York, Capitol Weekly, March 2, 2006

Proposition 82, the initiative backed by Rob Reiner that would provide universal access to preschool for California four-year-olds, would dramatically increase the power of the state superintendent of public instruction, while circumventing the state board of education in creating a new $2.7 billion preschool program.

Under the plan, the state superintendent would be responsible for setting the money counties will receive per eligible pupil. Individual counties can choose to divide their money how they see fit--directing more money to special needs children or English learners, for example. But those county plans must be okayed by the superintendent.

"Decisions about per-pupil spending are made by the governor and the Legislature in the budget process," says Dede Alpert, former Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee who was a champion of state-funded preschool in the Legislature. "That would be a new power for the superintendent."

But Alpert said that given the current convoluted system of California education governance-which is split between the state board of education, the administration's education secretary and the superintendent-putting responsibility for the new program in the superintendent's office "probably makes the most sense."

"There are definitely new responsibilities," said state superintendent Jack O'Connell. "It's an expansion of responsibility. But we are currently engaged in oversight for state preschool, and we get very high marks for our work. We're prepared."

The department currently oversees about $200 million in state preschool programs. The Department of Social Services also runs some state-sponsored programs for pre-kindergarten students.

Prop. 82 would be a dramatic boost in the superintendent's budget. If passed, the initiative is expected to raise about $2.7 billion annually for preschool.

In addition to determining the per-pupil spending level for every eligible preschool student, the superintendent would have unlimited power to use money for "outreach," to raise awareness about new preschool programs. But critics of the initiative and of Reiner say that is a recipe for misuse of public funds, allowing the state superintendent to promote themselves using state money.

The decision to give jurisdiction over Prop. 82 funds to the state superintendent had to do with accountability, says Yes on 82 spokesman Nathan James. "The goal was to make sure there was one person who was directly accountable for the success of the program," he said. "Since the SPI is a statewide elected official, it made the most sense to have that accountability rest right at the top."

O'Connell has been a vocal proponent of the Reiner initiative. He has joined Reiner on campaign stops around the state advocating for the initiative, which will appear on the June ballot. O'Connell was the only statewide candidate to receive financial support from Reiner last year. Reiner contributed $1,500 to O'Connell's reelection campaign last June.

O'Connell says his strong support for the measure is based on new data about early childhood development that shows preschool is vital to a child's future. "If we wait until high school to address the achievement gap, it's too late," he said.

But the measure lost support this week from Sen. Don Perata, who had endorsed the measure. "Upon reflection, I believe Prop. 82 would become yet another obstacle impending prudent governance of the state," Perata wrote in a letter to Reiner this week.

Perata's endorsement reversal caps what has been a bad week for Reiner. Reiner stepped aside as head of the First 5 Commission after coming under fire over from critics who say he inappropriately used state money set aside in a tobacco tax initiative to promote the new preschool initiative. Now, some of those same critics say the same potential for missue of state money exists within Prop. 82.

"Is there a risk that the superintendent would use these funds for self promotion? You better believe it," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and a member of the No on 82 campaign committee. "The question is, is that an appropriate use of taxpayer money?"

Prop. 82 would levy a new 1.7 percent income tax on individuals who make more than $400,000 per year, or couples who make more than $800,000 per year. The money would be used to provide free preschool for every four-year-old in the state.

James says there has been an attempt by initiative opponents to conflate criticisms of Reiner's Prop. 10, which created a new tobacco tax to fund early childhood development programs, with Proposition 82, but he says "the initiatives are very, very different."

James said unlike in Prop. 10 each individual county must come up with its own plan of getting the word out to parents that their children would be available for free preschool through the state. That plan must also be approved by the state superintendent.

County outreach programs would fall under the 6 percent cap on administrative costs set by the initiative. The Legislative Analyst estimated that by 2010-11, those costs would total about $175 million, growing over time as the program is phased in.

But the initiative also gives power to the superintendent to conduct additional outreach above and beyond what is authorized under the county plan. According to the LAO's analysis of the measure, any state-sponsored outreach program would be outside of the 6 percent cap on administrative costs.

The inititive gives the superintendent wide latitude to spend money on "targeted outreach … especially [to] parents in underserved communities about the importance and availability of preschool." There are few limitations on what that outreach could entail, or how much the state could spend on those outreach efforts.

Coupal says that section of the initiative is an invitation for the state superintendent to promote him or herself at taxpayer expense.

"There's a precedent for that," says Coupal. "I was part of a lawsuit against [former superintendent] Bill Honig for using state money to promote himself, sending out 8.5-by-11, glossy, expensive mailers."

The initiative would give all of the power over these new programs to county education officials and the superintendent, while limiting the role of the state Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor.

Empowering the state superintendent has generally been supported by teachers unions, who have found champions in the office, from Bill Honig to Delaine Eastin to current superintendent Jack O'Connell. Unions and their allies in the Legislature, led by Assembly Education Chairwoman Jackie Goldberg and Sen. Martha Escutia, have introduced legislation trying to shift power away from the state board to the superintendent's office or to local officials.

The tension between the administration and the independently elected superintendent gets to the heart of California's complex system of education governance. The board's power has been on the rise since the 1990s, when a series of court decisions weakened the superintendent's office and empowered the board.


Preschool initiative crafted like a Hollywood production

By Laura Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, March 6, 2006

The cast of characters at movie director Rob Reiner's home was like no other. Labor leaders sat across the table from the state's business elite. Republicans chatted with Democrats, and multimillionaires schemed with early childhood education experts in the screening room of Reiner's Brentwood home in September 2004.

Reiner gave his hand-picked cast his directions: They were to work out their differences and craft an initiative paying for preschool for all of the state's 4-year-olds.

Thus began an innovative, seven-month process that produced Proposition 82, the measure on the June 6 ballot seeking to raise taxes on wealthy Californians to pay for universal preschool.

"There were a lot of contentious moments and people struggling with the issues," Reiner said. "But at the end of the day, people's better angels came through."

He contends this "painstaking" process produced the "most scrubbed piece of legislation" ever for an initiative.

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata disagreed last week, saying he was withdrawing his support from Proposition 82 because of its "fatal" flaws.

The Oakland Democrat called the initiative a "boon" to middle-and upper-income families because it would provide free preschool to all 4-year-olds by 2010.

He also complained that it would lock up $2.4 billion a year in potential tax revenue that could be used for K-12 education and other public services.

Perata knew of Reiner's drafting team but said they shouldn't replace lawmakers, who are elected to "make representative decisions."

"A bunch of people who get together and can figure out how to agree with each other, that's wonderful," he said. "But play poker, play canasta. Don't do initiatives."

Joel Fox, co-chairman of the Stop the Reiner Initiative campaign, said Reiner reached out to different groups "for political reasons to try to limit the opposition" rather than to develop good public policy.

Reiner said enlisting business, labor and others produced "better public policy." But even those who helped write the measure say it isn't perfect.

"Is it exactly everything the (California Teachers Association) wanted? No," said CTA President Barbara Kerr. "Is it exactly what everyone else wanted? No. But it really will work."

The Proposition 82 campaign is putting teachers at the forefront because of their credibility on the education issue. But opponents want to keep the focus on Reiner, and that's where it's been the past two weeks.

Reiner came under so much criticism that he took a leave of absence Feb. 24 from his chairmanship of the First 5 commission.

The commission, which oversees programs funded by another Reiner-backed initiative, Proposition 10, spent $23 million from tobacco tax revenue on ads promoting preschool in the months leading up to Proposition 82 qualifying for the ballot.

First 5's executive director has said Reiner wasn't involved in the ad campaign decisions. But some conservative activists have called on the governor to replace him. Several lawmakers are seeking audits or investigations of the commission's finances, and one has called for redirecting the panel's ad dollars and part of its administrative costs into extending a Kern County preschool program statewide.

Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez, D-San Fernando, and other Democratic lawmakers held a press conference Thursday to denounce that proposal as an attempt to circumvent Proposition 10's education mandates.

Reiner required 6 percent of Proposition 10's revenue to go to education when he drafted the initiative. With that measure and a subsequent one in 2004, Reiner consulted a small group of allies. Proposition 10 passed by a scant 1 percent of the vote, and the second initiative generated so much opposition that Reiner abandoned it before it hit the ballot.

"The lesson learned from the last initiative was we have got to be inclusive," Reiner said. "We have got to bring all parties together to work together to find common ground."

He tried to do just that, starting with the 2004 meeting at his home. Representatives of the teachers association and the Service Employees International Union sat across the table from Michael Milken, the former junk bond king turned educational entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Republican multimillionaire Richard Riordan, a former Los Angeles mayor and state secretary of education, and his Democratic wife and education advocate, Nancy Daly Riordan, were there alongside early childhood education experts.

Each agreed to the governing principles Reiner outlined that day: The initiative had to provide high-quality preschool to all 4-year-olds; it had to give parents a choice between public and private preschools; and the program had to be fully funded, so a tax increase was essential.

Over the next seven months, over sandwiches and soft drinks in conference rooms around the state, business representatives butted heads with labor leaders over unionizing the preschool work force.

The teachers fought with Milken and others who wanted a voucher system to pay for preschool, and business leaders negotiated the tax increase terms.

At times, some threatened to walk away from the negotiations.

None did, but Milken lost the fight on vouchers and hasn't endorsed Proposition 82. He said through a spokesman that he doesn't take positions on initiatives.

"There were a lot of hard feelings around the table and a lot of people had sacred cows they had to give up on," said Phil Halperin, Silver Giving Foundation president and one of the Proposition 82 negotiators. "The more people talked, the more they understood the other side's point of view."

Labor preferred public preschools with a unionized work force to private ones. But business wanted to inject "competition" into education.

Kerr, the teachers association's president, said labor ultimately realized public schools didn't have the capacity to provide preschool to all, so they agreed to include private providers in the program. But labor retained the right to organize the private preschool work force.

For business, the biggest hurdle was the tax increase.

Rusty Hammer, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce executive director, worked over the phone and e-mail to shape the tax provisions to restore a tax rate former Republican Govs. Pete Wilson and Ronald Reagan had imposed to balance their budgets. It would be a 1.7 percent increase in the tax rate for the state's top earners.

"This is the least objectionable and onerous of tax increases because it's not a tax on business," Hammer said.

From the winter and into the spring of 2005, the negotiations continued among the cast of characters that gathered at Reiner's home, their representatives and others who joined later.

"There were points at which it felt like we were going in circles ... because certain groups weren't giving things up," said Edward Condon, California Head Start Association executive director.

Reiner stepped in to break up the logjams and urge compromise. By spring 2005, the negotiators had agreed on a final draft.

Reiner's staff then sent the draft to the legislative analyst's office and 100 groups for further comments. About 50 of the groups offered further refinements and some were adopted.

On April 19, along with some of those who had helped write the initiative, Reiner held a teleconference announcing his new "Preschool for All" initiative.

"In the end, people realized there was this bigger goal," said Catherine Atkin, Preschool California president. "The fact that everybody who was at the table at the beginning was there when the initiative was finalized is a testament to them and their commitment to kids."


New boss for Prop. 82 drive

Previous manager was casualty of uproar over preschool ad campaign

By Laura Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, March 6, 2006

The campaign manager for Proposition 82, the universal preschool initiative on the June 6 ballot, is stepping aside from his position amid a growing controversy about tax dollars spent on ads supporting preschool. Campaign manager Ben Austin became a source of controversy for collecting $110,000 as a consultant for First 5 California, a commission chaired by Proposition 82's leading backer, movie director Rob Reiner.

Austin plans to stay with the campaign, according to Nathan James, Proposition 82 spokesman. "Any campaign is going to see changes along the way," he said. "Each time you enter a new phase of the campaign, you want the best people possible."

Chad Griffin, another Los Angeles-based political consultant who has been working as a strategist for Proposition 82, is taking over as campaign manager.

Griffin has also worked as one of Reiner's advisers and was the First 5 commission's interim executive director shortly after its creation in 1999, a spokesman for the commission said.

The Proposition 82 campaign has been roiled by controversy over the past two weeks as lawmakers and opponents took aim at the commission's $23 million ad campaign promoting preschool.

The ad campaign aired statewide in the months leading up to the initiative qualifying for the June ballot.

Reiner recently took a leave of absence until after the election from First 5 California in hopes of defusing the criticism.

But lawmakers and the initiative's opponents have continued to fan the flames.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee is scheduled to vote today on a request for it to audit First 5 California's preschool ad campaign and its contracting practices.

The committee's chairwoman, Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, said she expected the panel to support the audit requested by Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, and Assembly Majority Leader Dario Frommer, D-Glendale.

"Obviously, what I have read in the press is not good," Parra said.

In their audit request, Cox and Frommer called the $23 million ad campaign one of the largest state-financed ad campaigns ever and questioned whether the expenditure was a use of state tax resources for a political campaign.

"There have been numerous reports in the media detailing the very questionable use of tax dollars by the First 5 commission, and we hope the members of the committee will recognize that these expenditures don't pass the smell test for most Californians," said Peter DeMarco, Cox's spokesman.

The ads never endorsed the initiative, which would raise taxes on upper-income Californians to pay for preschool for all the state's 4-year-olds. But the ads made the case for universal preschool.

Kris Perry, First 5 executive director, has insisted Reiner played no role in the decision to launch the ad campaign.

Reiner wrote Proposition 10, the 1998 initiative that created the First 5 commission and raised tobacco taxes to fund its programs for preschoolers and their families. He's been the commission's only chairman.

DeMarco said the lawmakers requesting the audit want the auditors to "pay particular attention to what appears to be more than a cozy relationship between Mr. Reiner and his consultants and Proposition 82."

First 5 hired Rogers Group of Los Angeles, which had worked on the Proposition 10 campaign, and an advertising firm where Roy Behr, one of the Proposition 10 consultants, was a partner.

Perry, First 5 executive director, said Tuesday that she would be at the audit committee hearing today and would offer the agency's "support and cooperation."

She said she'd already provided the committee with previous audits of the commission's operations.

Perry said First 5 decided to focus on preschool in 2003 and started funding preschool programs in 2005. In 2004, she said the commission financed a media campaign aimed at reaching out to those who weren't aware of the benefits of preschool.

"Our goal was to have all Californians be aware," she said.

In addition to auditors, Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully has been asked to investigate First 5's use of tax dollars for the preschool ads.

Sen. Charles Poochigian, a Fresno Republican who is running for attorney general, initially asked Attorney General Bill Lockyer to investigate the matter.

Lockyer referred the inquiry to Scully because First 5, as a state agency, is one of the attorney general's clients.

Insert: 3/9/06 Strange goings on at the legislative Audit Committee hearing today on the First 5 money. The committee did vote to proceed with the audit, which even Rob Reiner at this point says he supports. But the commission's director, Kris Perry, oddly said that the attorney general's office, which normally represents the agency, had bowed out due to a conflict of interest. Yet earlier this week, Atty. Gen. Lockyer declined a request to investigate First 5 and referred it to the local DA because, he said, he represents the agency and so investigating it would be a conflict. So now he has declined to investigate and declined to represent it, saying both times that doing so would be a conflict. The upshot was that Perry refused to answer questions from the committee because, she said, she will have to hire outside lawyers to represent her and, in the meantime, the attorney general had advised her (depsite its conflict) to say nothing.

Unfortunately, the audit is going to take four or five months from the time that it starts, and no one knows when it will begin. A vote to expedite the audit fell one vote short of passage in the committee.

"We will evaluate the complaint and make any appropriate initial inquiries," said Lana Wyant, Sacramento County special assistant deputy district attorney.

Amid the inquiries, a nonprofit advocacy group released a new report Tuesday that argues most of California's working families can't afford quality preschool.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California, a group of law enforcement officials, released the report showing preschool costs an average of $4,022 a year in California.

At that price, Brian Lee, the group's deputy director, said preschool costs more than a year's tuition at a California State University campus.

"The high cost, together with limited public funding, help explain why most low-and middle-income families don't enroll their kids in preschool," he said.

The group releasing the report doesn't plan to take a position on Proposition 82. But some of its leaders have endorsed the initiative.


Voters Widely Back Measure on Preschools

Some early childhood educators and others, however, aren't so sure that Hollywood activist Rob Reiner's ballot initiative is a good idea

By Carla Rivera, Los Angeles TImes, March 13, 2006

A ballot initiative that would guarantee a year of free preschool to all California children has attracted strong support from the state's voters. But the measure, the most ambitious attempt to expand the boundaries of public education for young children since the movement for universal kindergarten at the beginning of the last century, is drawing fire from some early childhood educators.

Hollywood activist Rob Reiner's Preschool for All initiative, Proposition 82 on the June ballot, would provide nearly $23 billion over the coming decade to enroll 70% of the state's 4-year-olds in free, voluntary, half-day preschool programs.

Proponents, including business, labor and education leaders, say the initiative would help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their middle-class peers as they enter kindergarten. They cite research findings that quality preschool decreases dropout rates, reduces crime and would save the state money on its investment.

That argument may be resonating with voters: A recent statewide survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 66% of Californians support Proposition 82.

As with the kindergarten movement that came before, however, not everyone is convinced. Initial opposition by anti-tax groups centered on the initiative's funding mechanism, which targets the wealthiest Californians and imposes a 1.7% tax increase on individuals earning more than $400,000 and couples earning more than $800,000.

But there also is a growing body of dissent among early childhood education advocates who question whether a new government-run program for preschoolers, operated by the same troubled school systems that control kindergarten through 12th grade, is a good idea.

Many private community-based providers, meanwhile, believe that the measure, while well-meaning, is flawed and could end up forcing them out of business if they choose not to participate or don't qualify. And they worry that it would lead to a standardized, one-size-fits-all academic curriculum that is inappropriate for young children.

Other opponents argue that the measure, expected to bring in $2.4 billion annually, would subsidize preschool entitlement for affluent families rather than specifically target poor children who gain the most from quality programs. The state would be taking on the burden of educating middle-class children whose families now shoulder those costs, the argument goes. And since an estimated 62% of the state's roughly half a million 4-year-olds already attend preschool, the funds generated by the initiative probably would likely boost the enrollment rate by only a few percentage points.

"I think Reiner's aim is virtuous, and he's highlighted a fundamental problem, especially in terms of the limited access to quality preschool for lower-income and blue-collar families, but is this the right blueprint and the most cost-effective way to help these families?" said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley who is critical of many aspects of the initiative. "I think initially this was cast as the good guy against the anti-tax people, but I think now many observers are coming to see that it's not so black and white."

Under Proposition 82, the state superintendent of public instruction would oversee programs and establish standards, with county superintendents distributing funds and implementing plans. The program would be available to any child one year before entering kindergarten, beginning in 2010.

In Los Angeles and San Francisco counties, which already have committed public funds for preschool programs and created independent boards to run them, those same boards would be permitted to administer the new funds rather than county superintendents.

The measure mandates that preschool teachers be paid "similarly" to K-12 teachers and provides the right to collective bargaining. The state legislative analyst's office has estimated that the program would generate enough funds to provide about $6,000 per pupil, compared with current state spending of about $6,650 per student in kindergarten through 12th grade.

But the measure is a "wolf in sheep's clothing" that would exclude many excellent programs from public funding, possibly causing their demise, said Pamela Zell Rigg, who operates a Montessori preschool and teacher education center in San Leandro. The initiative calls for classes of no more than 20 children taught by teachers with a bachelor's degree and early learning credential within a decade.

By contrast, Rigg notes, Montessori schools teach multiple age groups, under the philosophy that older children will share their knowledge with younger ones, and they adhere to larger class sizes. Montessori teachers receive specialized training and credentials that are not always recognized by state accrediting agencies, Rigg said, which might prove another barrier.

"We're serving 100,000 children in California, and parents see us as a strong, vibrant educational choice. But by the standards of the initiative, we will not be one of the choices," said Rigg, who also is president of the California Montessori Council. Many preschool teachers in the state, who generally are paid considerably less than public elementary schoolteachers, don't have college degrees or formal training.

Many faith-based providers said they are concerned that private, independent preschools would be absorbed into school districts, becoming accountable to county superintendents.

Elizabeth Sholes, director of public policy for the California Council of Churches, worried that even if some of the state's private preschools were to become part of the program, under its mandate they would not be able to use state money to renovate existing facilities or buy new ones without giving up ownership of them.

The measure, she said, also mandates a curriculum "aligned with statewide standards for elementary education," which might lead to inflexible curricula and testing.

"We are gravely disappointed at how ambiguous this initiative is, because we have such hopes for preschool," said Sholes, a former preschool teacher.

Some school officials also are uncomfortable with the measure, fearing that the equivalent addition of a new grade level would add burdens that would not be fully funded.

But such concerns are vastly overstated, said Amanda Stangis, executive director of the California Assn. for the Education of Young Children. The group says it represents more than 11,000 educators, providers and preschool teachers, and has endorsed Proposition 82.

The measure is designed to include private providers as well as school-based programs, and would provide financial aid for teacher training and money for colleges and universities to develop courses in early learning, Stangis said.

"This is an historic opportunity for a whole new movement focused on early childhood education and a chance to get the public and parents to understand how important it is," she said.

Dennis Vicars, chief executive of the Professional Assn. for Childhood Education, a group of private providers, said the measure's guarantee of parental choice and involvement would force all sides to work cooperatively. County educators and provider groups already are meeting to discuss how to make the initiative work, should it pass, he said. The initiative requires county superintendents to submit plans of action by July 2007.

"If the school districts don't play fair, everybody is going to court and we will see lawsuit after lawsuit," Vicars said. "It behooves everyone to do the right thing so that we help more kids."

For Barbara Beatty, an associate professor of education at Wellesley College and historian of early childhood education, the preschool debate bears striking parallels to that preceding the expansion of public kindergarten.

Many fractious issues of the time, such as whether to teach children math and letters or focus more on socialization, echo today, Beatty said.

In 1830, a petition to incorporate "infant schools" into the Boston public school system was rejected on the grounds that too much early stimulation was damaging to children.

Then along came Bessie Locke, a middle-class daughter of a printer who took up the kindergarten cause and solicited support from prominent people such as Phoebe Apperson Hearst. She got Thomas Alva Edison's studio in 1905 to film a short movie revolving around a kindergarten teacher named Miss Gray, who rejects a marriage proposal from her wealthy boyfriend unless he agrees to support the kindergarten cause.

Locke's success in California in 1913 propelled the movement forward. And Beatty sees in Proposition 82 a chance for California to regain its luster as a leader in education reform.

"California was the model for states in kindergarten," Beatty said, and "has a tradition of commitment to public education that is unique."


Reiner's bad analogy

Rob Reiner doesn’t get it

By Daniel Weintraub, Sacramento Bee California Insider Web Blog Entry, March 15, 2006

At a speech and Q and A with the Sacramento Press Club today, he insisted there was nothing wrong with the First 5 commission he chaired using tax money to persuade the public to embrace his belief in universal, state-funded preschool.

Reiner compared the two-year ad campaign, which totaled tens of millions of dollars, to other state efforts to promote health insurance for kids, paid family leave or a program that allows new mothers to abandon their babies at a safe harbor, such as a fire station or emergency room, with no questions asked.

“We wanted people to know about the program,” he said.

But there is a fundamental difference between those ad campaigns, whatever you might think of them, and the campaign the First 5 commission ran, which was approved when Reiner was chairman and designed in part by his own political consultant.

The other campaigns were all meant to inform people about policies or programs that were in place and which the people who saw the ads might be eligible to take advantage of.

The preschool campaign was something else entirely. It was designed from the beginning to change public opinion in order to “create demand” for a new program and bring pressure on policymakers to approve such a program, or lay the groundwork for the very kind of initiative that Reiner is pushing now as Proposition 82 on the June ballot.

That was spelled out in this strategy memo, which discussed polling and focus groups and described how an advertising campaign could change minds. And it was mentioned in the contract for one round of the ads, according to this Bill Bradley item.

Reiner seems completely sincere about preschool and even about the ads, which he suggests were intended merely to inform people about the options available to them. He notes that $1 billion of the commission’s funds were used to expand preschool, and he says the ads were supposed to direct people to those programs.

But the strategy memorandum and the contract make clear that the ads were about much more than parent education. They were even targeted to non-parents because polling had shown that those people might be even more supportive of public preschool than parents of young children.

It’s difficult to believe that Reiner was not aware of the strategy behind ads developed under his direction by his close associates to promote his vision. If he was ignorant of the intent, then he was an incompetent chairman. And the fact that even now, as the issue has exploded around him, he still does not see a problem with the campaign suggests that he is blinded by his belief in the goodness of his own policy preferences.

In a nutshell, here’s the problem: If the people who control the purse strings can use that money for a televised propaganda campaign designed to persuade voters to give them more power and more money, then there is no limit on the use of public funds for political purposes.

A governor might allot $100 million in public money to pay for television commercials to advocate for policy changes he believes in but which the Legislature is reluctant to adopt.

Lawmakers might spend public money to soften the ground for a ballot initiative they are thinking of proposing but which a governor opposes.

And other state officials unhappy with either the Legislature or the governor might approve the use of public money to fight the decisions of those policymakers.

Imagine if the University of California, a semi-autonomous public agency, was unhappy that the Legislature would not approve a fee increase the system’s leaders believed was necessary to preserve their programs. Suppose the university concluded that the reason the Legislature wouldn’t budge is that the public did not understand that higher fees would be paid mainly by the wealthy, that low-income students would get financial aid, and that the policy change would allow the system to admit more students than it otherwise could.

Under the Reiner Rule, the university would be free to use public money – as much as it liked - for an ad campaign explaining the value of higher education and the wisdom of the higher fees needed to preserve and expand access to the university.

We all know the university would not and could not do such a thing. But there is little or no difference between such a campaign and the campaign waged by Reiner and his allies to win support for universal pre-school.


REINER: Revealing The Reiner Commission Operation

Revealing The Reiner Commission Operation

By Bill Bradley, LA Weekly Web Blog Entry, March 7th, 2006

Revealing The Focus of the Reiner-led First Five Commission’s media campaign: Targeting “populations who clearly understand the benefits of Preschool for All, but for whatever reason, have not yet come to the conclusion that the state should do more.”

Documents can be very revealing. The June 28, 2004 contract for media services — which commits the state to $67.5 million of advertising and related services — between the Rob Reiner-led California Children and Families Commission and the GMMB ad agency, founded and headed by former Bill Clinton media consultant Frank Greer, reveals that the principal focus of the so-called First Five Commission’s activities had already evolved into creating public demand for more state spending on preschool programs. Which happened to coincide with the emergence of Reiner’s universal preschool initiative, Proposition 82, now on the June California ballot.

“Preschool has evolved into the Commission’s number one priority,” states the contract, signed by commission chief deputy director Joseph Munso and GMMB partner Roy Behr. GMMB is also Rob Reiner’s campaign media firm. “Unless the Commission changes this direction, we assume that preschool will remain as the core focus of activities in the next few years.”

The document refers to polling and focus group research by Peter Hart Research, famed for its work on Democratic political campaigns, which I do not have, then states: “We recommend launching Phase 2 of the plan (building support for Preschool for All by educating people about the societal benefits of preschool) in Year 1 of the contract. As we spelled out in the preschool narrative (Editor’s Note: A document I do not yet have.) our target audiences are those groups with relatively low levels of support for Preschool for All, such as middle and upper income populations, and people with no children in the house.”

Just as in a political campaign, the contract then lays out the allocation of advertising dollars: 70 percent to television, 20 percent to radio, 10 percent to print, with further breakdowns within each category for general market advertising and specialty advertising in the Spanish language, African American, and Asian language markets.

The contract then discusses the next phase of the Preschool for All campaign. “During this phase, our primary targets are those with high support and low demand for Preschool for All, such as Latinos — especially Spanish speaking Latinos, and low-income populations with young children.”

“As a reminder, these are populations who clearly understand the benefits of Preschool for All, but for whatever reason, have not yet come to the conclusion that the state should do more.”

In Phase 3 of the campaign, which we just saw during the signature gathering for the Reiner universal preschool initiative, the media mix is ratcheted up for electronic media and down for print media.

Interestingly enough, a lower level of anti-smoking advertising outlined in the contract seems to have disappeared in 2005, when approximately a year’s worth of advertising was jammed into one quarter of frantic activity. This quarter happened to coincide with the time period in which commission chairman Rob Reiner had his political campaign organization out gathering signatures from registered California voters to qualify his latest initiative, calling for increased taxes on high-income earners to fund “Preschool For All,” for California’s June primary election. The taxpayer-funded advertising jammed into this quarter was, as it happens, on the same theme as Reiner’s new political campaign, “Preschool For All.”

Welcome to the world of publicly-funded private political campaigning. In which taxpayer dollars are used to create the demand for more taxpayer-funded services.

Looking through the various contracts between the Rob Reiner-created and led commission — which is in reality a highly-funded state agency with little if any oversight — and the advertising and public relations firms with which it has contracted over the past several years, several things are apparent.

The commission regularly entered into highly lucrative contracts for advertising and public relations services with advertising and PR firms which have ties of political alliance and friendship to the movie director/initiative promoter. These contractual arrangements contained few if any measurable requirements regarding their effectiveness in promoting early childhood development. And they were virtually free from oversight scrutiny from other agencies or bodies of state government.

As I reported earlier, of the $230 million spent on advertising and public relations over the past several years by the Reiner-headed Children and Families Commission, also known as the First Five Commission, some $62 million went to public relations services. This is far more than most people supposed based on earlier news reports.

The public relations firm in question is Los Angeles-based Rogers & Associates, now the Rogers Group. The firm is a spin-off of the legendary Hollywood PR firm, Rogers & Cowan. Rogers head Ron Rogers is the son of Rogers & Cowan founder Henry Rogers. The elder Rogers was described by the New York Times as “the father of Hollywood PR.” His firm represented many of Hollywood’s classic stars. A legendary figure in show biz circles, he is credited by many with virtually inventing Hollywood publicity, and was a friend of Carl Reiner, who is the father of Rob Reiner.

Like Henry Rogers in the field of Hollywood public relations, Carl Reiner was a huge pioneer in television comedy. Their sons, Ron and Rob, are second generation Hollywood aristocracy, in publicity and talent, respectively.

The Rogers firm, which also contains at least one name Democratic political operative, has as its slogan “The Wisdom of Clarity.”

What is not clear in examining their lucrative contracts with the State of California through the Reiner commission is what their measurables are and what strategy it is that they have been pursuing. Nearly half the money funneled to the Rogers firm is in turn passed on to approximately 150 community-based organizations to pursue a “Community Action Network Program.”

The rest of the $230 million has gone for advertising, the great bulk of it by the Washington, D.C.-based GMMB agency, formerly known as the Greer Margolis political media consulting firm. This is also Rob Reiner’s political media consulting firm. Both as an agency and as individuals, they have a very deep history in Democratic politics. Firm founder and president Frank Greer, for example, was the media consultant for Bill Clinton.

Most of the money, of course, goes into the buying of media — television, radio, print, and outdoor display. The contracts with GMMB and the other firms which handled a much smaller portion of the business early on allow for a commission on media buys of 11 percent to 12.5 percent.

High-level sources in both the Democratic and Republican parties confirm that these commission rates are greater than those for media consultants in the winning campaigns of the two most recent governors of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, in the 2003 recall election and the 2002 general election, respectively.

Of course, those campaigns were conducted with private rather than public funds. They also took place in highly competitive environments under great time pressure, unlike the environment of creating and placing the feel-good/be-nice-to-kids advertising which — aside from the highly targeted political messages of the Preschool for All campaign, is what the commission’s advertising scripts reveal. Those scripts will be shared with you another time.


One Thing's Sure: Reiner's Preschool Initiative Raises Questions

By George Skelton, Los Angeles Times Columnist, March 16, 2006

Let's clear up one thing: Filmmaker Rob Reiner's preschool ballot initiative would not raise taxes on the wealthy by 1.7%. It would hike them a whole lot more than that.

The increase gets contorted — by sponsors, by journalists — to 1.7% because the top income tax rate would be bumped up from 9.3% to 11% for most individuals making more than $400,000 and couples over $800,000.

Do the math. That's an 18% rate hike.

But because only taxable income over $400,000 — or $800,000 — would be taxed at the highest rate, the actual dollar increase would be less than 18%. For a single person making $700,000, according to the legislative analyst's office, the extra bite would be $5,100 — roughly 8%.

That's still a hefty hike, but one very few of us ever would have to worry about. The legislative analyst says people in this stratospheric bracket represent less than 1% of personal income taxpayers, although they send Sacramento about one-third of its $45-billion annual income tax revenue.

Do the math again: Reiner estimates his Proposition 82 would raise $2.4 billion annually. That's an average 16% hit on these taxpayers.

One other thing not to forget: Voters two years ago imposed an additional 1% tax rate on incomes above $1 million to pay for mental health services. So these people's rates, under Prop. 82, would rise from 10.3% to 12% — the highest state income tax in the nation.

The super-rich don't get a lot of sympathy, of course. And that's why the latest Field Poll shows 55% of likely voters supporting Prop. 82, with only 34% opposed.

But the point is, some Californians would be socked hard. We'd be tapping a coveted tax source and generating billions. And is voluntary preschool for every 4-year-old how we'd prefer to use that money, especially with the state still spending billions more than it's taking in each year?

Let's stipulate that preschool is good. It would be a desirable new government program. No argument here.

As Reiner noted to the Sacramento Press Club on Tuesday, "it's hard to debate" the merits of preschool. He pointed out that half of fourth-graders fail basic reading, and "quality" preschool has "a profound effect on how children function."

And to Reiner's credit, he has proposed a way to pay for his proposal — unlike then-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger with his after-school initiative in 2002, which merely raided the treasury and robbed other programs. Gov. Schwarzenegger intends to inaugurate his program next fall.

"If you're going to do something, do it and fund it," Reiner told the Press Club. "I don't think it's a healthy way to do things to strap the Legislature with burdens at a time when they may be having difficulty with budgetary concerns."

But that again raises the question: Shouldn't these higher taxes be used for balancing the state books? Or for existing K-12 school programs?

The anti-82 campaign has been firing off daily missives detailing what the $2.4 billion could buy: 69,000 full-time teachers, $8,400 worth of textbooks and supplies for each classroom, 3,300 new classrooms….

But this Stop the Reiner Initiative outfit is being disingenuous. Funded by business and anti-tax interests, it wouldn't favor raising taxes on the rich regardless of the cause.

Indeed, it issued a report Wednesday by former Legislative Analyst William Hamm, now a private consultant, asserting that higher taxes on the rich actually would cost the state money because these flexible folks merely would shelter more of their income.

I'd like to test that thesis — but maybe not for preschool, and probably not through more runaway ballot-box budgeting.

Reiner's Proposition 10 in 1998 — a cigarette tax increase for early childhood development — was illustrative of how a well-meaning initiative can result in little public accountability and abuse of tax money.

The Reiner-headed commission that Prop. 10 created spent $23 million of public money for TV ads promoting Reiner's current cause: preschool. The ads ran while Reiner was launching Prop. 82.

"Serious questions were raised that go right to the heart of public trust," says Sen. Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno), an attorney general candidate who has prompted an investigation by the Sacramento district attorney.

Reiner could credibly argue that there are safeguards in Prop. 82 to prevent a repeat of Prop. 10's misuse. But first he'd have to admit there was misuse. And he refuses.

Asked if TV ads pushing preschool were a proper use of public money, Reiner replied: "Absolutely. Because it is mandated in [Prop. 10] that we use 6% of our money on public education."

He rationalized that the Prop. 10 commission had pumped $1 billion into preschool programs, and was merely educating parents about them.

"If I'm opening a business — in my business, it's a movie [and] you don't tell anybody there's a movie out there, you'd be an idiot," he said.

But that doesn't wash.

For one thing, the ads were targeted at swing voters without small kids, clearly with the goal of peddling the initiative.

Moreover, Prop. 10 contained only a one-word mention, in passing, about preschool. It wasn't included in any voter guide argument. There definitely was no voter mandate to promote a future preschool ballot measure.

So here comes a Reiner sequel, and it's a very expensive ticket. The producer needs to persuade us it's not just another "Groundhog Day."


Governor Will Not Endorse Universal Preschool Initiative

By Peter Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2006

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign said Wednesday he would not endorse a universal preschool initiative that filmmaker Rob Reiner has championed, citing the governor's long-standing opposition to tax increases.

"Put simply, the governor does not support tax increases and is opposed to Proposition 82 because it will raise taxes," Katie Levinson, communications director for the Schwarzenegger reelection campaign, said in a statement.

The initiative would make available to all California children free half-day preschool taught by credentialed teachers. To pay for the program, the state would raise $2.4 billion annually by increasing taxes on individuals earning at least $400,000 and couples making more than $800,000. Voters will decide the issue in the June 6 election.

State Treasurer Phil Angelides and state Controller Steve Westly, the two major Democratic candidates vying to challenge Schwarzenegger in the fall governor's race, have endorsed the initiative.

Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Assn., which also has endorsed the preschool measure, said in a statement that she was "disappointed, but not surprised that the governor is opposing Proposition 82…. Rather than supporting programs that would help kids, public education and California, the governor is again aligning himself with the same big-business supporters who wanted to cut public school funding in the special election last November."

Schwarzenegger finds his political supporters divided on the initiative, putting him in a delicate position. Business interests are against it, while some of his allies have contributed to the campaign to pass the measure.

Richard Riordan, formerly the Schwarzenegger administration's education secretary and a former mayor of Los Angeles, donated $50,000 to the Yes on 82 campaign. His wife, children's rights advocate Nancy Daly Riordan, gave another $50,000.

San Francisco financier Warren Hellman co-chairman of Schwarzenegger's Jobs and Economic Growth Commission, gave $49,000 to the cause, records show.

The governor had taken no public position on the initiative before Wednesday, though he did say at an appearance before the Sacramento Press Club in January that the universal preschool idea was "fantastic."

"I think it's a great idea; I think we need it," he said at the time. However, he also said he was against "any tax increase."

A poll released last month by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that 52% of likely voters supported Prop 82 and 41% opposed it.

Schwarzenegger's opposition could make a difference in a close election, some analysts said.

In the governor's first year in office, his popularity was broad enough that his endorsements were coveted.

That changed last year, when his approval rating sank and his association with four measures on the 2005 special election ballot may have damaged their prospects, according to pollsters.

Schwarzenegger's approval ratings have rebounded somewhat, and his position could sway some voters, analysts said.

Schwarzenegger's position "might have an influence on the fiscally conservative independent voters who might take a look at the tax and spending elements," said Mark Baldassare, research director for the institute. "It could have a significant impact within his party."

Westly and Angelides reiterated their support for the initiative Wednesday in a joint appearance at the nonprofit Children's Institute in Los Angeles.

"As California's fiscal watchdog, I know that providing preschool for every child is a smart investment in our future," Westly said.

"Every child in California deserves a world-class education and the opportunity to attend quality preschool," Angelides said.

Reiner did not respond to a request for comment. Last month, he stepped down as chairman of a state commission on child development amid charges that he had used taxpayer money to build support for the Proposition 82 campaign.


Burton Announces Opposition to Proposition 82

Universal Preschool Initiative Well-Meaning but Bad Policy

California Political Desk, California Chronicle, April 14, 2006

SACRAMENTO-Former Senate President pro Tem John Burton, a longtime proponent of programs to help vulnerable children, today announced that he is opposing Proposition 82, the Preschool for All Initiative.

"The people behind Proposition 82 have their hearts in the right place, but the initiative itself has serious flaws that voters should reject it in June," Burton said. "Proposition 82 won't accomplish what it wants to accomplish, and it will tie the state's hands in meeting other vital needs like aid for the elderly, blind and disabled."

Among the flaws Burton says led him to oppose Proposition 82:

  • "Without any income tests the plan would help wealthy and middle class families who already take advantage of preschool, but not reach those who need it most: poor, disadvantaged and English learning children
  • "K-12 faces a shortage of qualified teachers. Prop. 82 offers more competition that could keep teachers out of classrooms
  • "The initiative would pay more per pupil for a few hours of preschool than many K-12 schools get for a whole day
  • "Prop. 82 ties up a resource stream that should go to the general fund for a variety of important state programs

"Proposition 82 makes it easier for my grandkids to get preschool," Burton said. "That's great, but they're not the ones who need the help. Even those of us who have a high regard for preschool need to vote no on Prop. 82."


Preschool issue losing support, poll finds

Prop. 82's margin has fallen in past few months, even among Democrats

By Mark Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 2006

A ballot initiative that would raise income taxes on the wealthy to provide free preschool for every 4-year-old in California remains ahead in a new statewide poll, but the lead is shrinking.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters say they will support Proposition 82 on the June ballot, while 39 percent oppose the measure and 9 percent are undecided, according to a Field Poll released today. The new numbers show the proposition is losing support and the June result is likely to be very close, said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo.

A poll published in February showed Prop. 82 enjoying a bigger lead, 55 percent in favor to 34 percent opposed.

The new poll also provided a few other ominous signs for the proposition's supporters: Among likely voters who said they were aware of the issue before being polled, the lead was only 49-46 percent, and DiCamillo noted that support among registered Democrats, who still overwhelmingly support the measure, has fallen since February.

Seventy-three percent of Democrats favored Prop. 82 in February, while 16 percent opposed it, compared to 67 percent in favor to 24 percent opposed now. Because the June ballot is expected to draw a heavy Democratic turnout due to the gubernatorial primary, the slight decline could become important if that trend continues, DiCamillo said.

"Most of the decline is coming on the Democratic side, which is significant,'' he said.

The trend showing less support for Prop. 82 in the Field Poll has been echoed in surveys taken by the Public Policy Institute of California, which recently found a larger drop. That poll showed 52 percent of likely voters supported the initiative last month, compared to a January poll showing 66 percent in favor.

The initiative would fund standardized preschool programs around the state by upping income taxes by 1.7 percent on individuals earning more than $400,000 annually and couples earning more than $800,000.

Prop. 82 spokesman Nathan James noted that no poll has yet to show the measure failing, and said supporters were preparing to mount a vigorous campaign that would include television commercials. The campaign this month has received a $1 million contribution from the Service Employees International Union and another $700,000 from the California Teachers Association. The opposition's donations have come in far smaller increments and its campaigners expect to be dramatically outspent.


Georgia's Preschool System Gets High Marks

The public loves the program, similar to a California initiative. But there are critics

By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2006

MARIETTA, Ga. — In Mary Dougherty's classroom, students are studying birds. The children peer through magnifying glasses at nests, listen attentively as their teacher reads "Unbeatable Beaks" and create feeders out of pine cones, peanut butter and birdseed that they will string on the blooming dogwoods and century-old oaks that stud the school's five-acre campus.

"How are the birds going to eat?" Dougherty quizzes them.

"They use their beaks!" replies 5-year-old Robert Yashinski, pulling his hands to his mouth and demonstrating.

Robert and the rest of the children are preschoolers — part of a novel Georgia program that provides a free year of preschool for all, regardless of family income. The voluntary, full-day program, which began statewide in the 1995-96 academic year and is the nation's oldest universal preschool effort, bears many similarities to what would occur in California if voters passed Proposition 82 in June.

No exact replica of the California proposal exists anywhere in the nation. But Georgia's experience is notable because it has many similarities: Both offer free preschool to all 4-year-olds, regardless of family income, in classes limited to 20 children at public schools and private learning centers.

Still, there are differences. Georgia's program offers full-day preschool taught by teachers with at least an associate's degree and is funded by the state lottery. California would offer half-day sessions taught by teachers with at least a bachelor's degree and would be financed through taxing the state's wealthiest individuals an estimated $2.4 billion annually.

Georgia's example is one of several state programs studied by the drafters of California's initiative, who hope voters will back an effort that they argue would give all students a jump-start on traditional kindergarten. Doing so, supporters hope, would translate into achievement gains for students in the nation's most populous state.

"There are a lot of things about Georgia's system to be admired," said Karen Hill-Scott, a Culver City-based child-development consultant who helped write Proposition 82. "It's universal … and it includes all kinds of providers."

Georgia's wildly popular program started in the 1992-93 academic year, serving only at-risk children. Three years later, the voluntary classes were expanded to all children. This year, $290 million in state lottery revenue is paying for about 74,000 children enrolled in classes at both public schools and private learning centers, about 56% of the eligible population.

"We feel it is our responsibility to get children ready for school as best we can," said Marsha H. Moore, commissioner of Bright From the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. "Pre-kindergarten is doing its job. There is no doubt."

How long the job lasts, however, is in doubt. Georgia's experience raises questions about how durable any gains ultimately are — a key consideration in the spending of scarce education dollars.

Although research shows clear academic gains through kindergarten and first grade, the advantages fade in second and third grade, said Gary Henry, a policy studies professor at Georgia State University who has been studying the state's preschools since 1995.

Because of the short-lived benefit, some critics question whether the money spent on universal preschool would be better used solely for disadvantaged children.

"Georgia teaches us that preschool won't close the achievement gap, unless we target our quality dollars on poor kids who are attending preschool," said Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley professor and an opponent of Proposition 82. "If we rush toward a universal system and kids from better-off families benefit, we shouldn't expect any narrowing of the achievement gap."

Pat Willis, executive director of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Voices for Georgia's Children, has concerns about the program's effectiveness. Despite a threefold increase in 4-year-olds' participation in preschool in recent years, the state has reaped few benefits on national assessments of students' knowledge.

"Georgia really isn't reading very well compared to the nation's fourth-graders," she said. "Surely we should be seeing a difference" by now.

Universal-preschool backers counter that even though the gains fade, the studies show that preschool is working. The fact that program graduates don't continue to do better, they argue, says more about the need to overhaul early elementary instruction than about weaknesses in universal preschool.

"There is a learning loss. We've never shied away from that," Moore said. "The key is to find out why they're losing those gains…. What can we do to sustain our investment? We've got to build on the successes of pre-kindergarten."

So far, no one has studied the preschool graduates past the third grade. Children's advocates, including Willis, say the lack of follow-up through the higher grades is a wasted opportunity, because the first children to take part in Georgia's universal preschool program are now high school freshman.

More research is planned: Georgia State University professor Henry will begin tracking a group of 3-year-olds next fall. Santa Monica-based Rand Corp. hopes to gather enough historical data in Georgia and other states to study preschool's effect on test scores, special-education placements, high school graduation rates, juvenile crime and other outcomes.

Some analysis of the Georgia program that has already been done has implications for California.

Though it is not clear why, studies indicate that students who attended preschools in community-based learning centers showed more gains than those who attended public schools. In California, Proposition 82 would probably shift much preschool education in the state to the public school system.

In addition, Georgia researchers found no difference in achievement based on whether a teacher had a bachelor's degree or an associate's degree. In California, preschool teachers would be required to hold a bachelor's — a mandate that would increase the program's cost and eliminate some current preschool teachers who don't go back to school for more education. The ballot measure provides $200 million in financial aid for teachers seeking to upgrade their degrees.

There also is the issue of how "universal" the program has been, particularly for children in rural communities. Each spring, newspaper headlines across Georgia describe parents camping out overnight to secure a spot for their child at a preferred preschool the next fall.

State officials say they are able to accommodate most children whose parents want to enroll them in a state-funded preschool, even if they don't get their first choice. Some parents of those not enrolled choose to pay for private or religious programs, and others prefer to keep their children at home. But Moore concedes that an unknown number are shut out because there are not enough seats, a shortfall educators try to remedy each year by boosting the number of classrooms.

In California, the ballot measure promises to offer free preschool to every 4-year-old by 2010, with initial priority given to areas with low-performing schools. The initiative also includes up to $2 billion to build, purchase and renovate classrooms during the first four years.

So far in Georgia, lottery revenue has kept pace with the program's growth. But the same pool of resources is tapped for college scholarships for local students who maintain a B average at state schools. That program, like preschool, is considered politically sacred and unlikely to be scaled back. How long both efforts can be funded by lottery revenue is uncertain.

So far, Georgia has spent $2.7 billion on universal preschool. With so much money at stake, state officials require a consultant to visit each preschool at least twice a year to ensure that instructional and classroom requirements are met and that the state isn't just funding glorified day care, said Mary Rieck, the state's pre-K program manager.

It's a distinction the state makes to parents as well, stressing that children need to be on time and ready to learn, just as in elementary school.

"This is not drop-in day care," Rieck said. "This is an instructional program. It's just like regular school."

For many parents with children in the Georgia program, free quality preschool seems heaven-sent.

Gabrielle Johnson's 5-year-old daughter, Syelle Bedgood, attends West Cobb Preparatory Academy in Marietta, near Atlanta. It is a light-filled preschool with murals of lions, giraffes and other creatures dancing across its walls.

The experience has helped improve Syelle's attention span and allowed her to play with other children, which Johnson says is key because her daughter is an only child.

If the state didn't pay for preschool, Johnson, an executive assistant at a recording artists' management company, said she would find a way to pay for private classes.

"It helps, especially when they get ready to go to actual kindergarten. It gives them a step above and, of course, interacting with other children is always good for kids," she said.

David and Shyretta Brittian's 4-year-old son, Donovan, is in Dougherty's class nearby. David is studying graphic design, and Shyretta is an out-of-work administrative assistant. Without the program, they say, they wouldn't be able to afford to send their son to preschool.

Donovan's eagerness to learn is evident as he whizzes around the tidy classroom — first talking to his classmates and then rushing to the reading mat to get a front-row view of the pictures of colorful birds in "Unbeatable Beaks."

Since starting preschool, the Brittians say, Donovan has learned the alphabet and interacts better with other children.

"All states should do this," Shyretta said. "It shouldn't matter how much the parents make or whatever. It's for the children."


What's gotten into kids these days?

New research suggests bad behavior among preschoolers is a national problem

By Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2008

Glennette Scott was horrified when her daughter Brianna, 3 years old, started picking fights, throwing chairs and having emotional meltdowns in preschool. Anxious and upset, Ms. Scott searched the Internet and asked school officials for help with her daughter; she sometimes seemed like "a ticking time bomb," Ms. Scott says, because her outbursts were so sudden and unpredictable.

With more individual guidance and one-on-one time from teachers, Brianna is learning to control herself, and she's progressing well now in her Falls Church, Va., kindergarten. But Ms. Scott still worries about her.

Behavior problems among preschoolers are emerging as a national issue. In several studies released in the past month, researchers at Yale, Rutgers and Cornell universities, among others, are treating preschoolers' conduct as a challenge that calls for changes in school programs and classroom management. The problem has reached the point where researchers are recommending preschool teachers have access to mental-health consultants, like the psychologists who help out in higher grades.

All 3- through 5-year-olds are sometimes stubborn and irrational, of course. Some of what's regarded as bad behavior may actually be normal. But some experts say they are increasingly seeing behavior that is out of synch with expected development, such as kindergartners who engage in frequent fighting, aggression, tantrums or a persistent inability to cooperate with others.

The causes aren't clear. Some experts blame a government drive for accountability in schools that is intensifying emphasis on early skill-building in reading and math, frustrating kids who aren't ready. Others cite a variety of other factors, including parents' early use of child-care centers, family instability, poor prenatal care or an increased incidence of such learning difficulties as attention-deficit disorder.

Whatever the cause, the pattern suggests children entering preschool need social and emotional skills now more than ever, not only to keep their own act together, but to deal with other kids. Indeed, the academic achievement that parents covet, and that schools are so avidly seeking, can't be attained without good social and emotional skills as a foundation.

There are no long-term data to measure the problem. A 1998 study of 17,219 kindergarteners found 13% lacked the social and emotional skills needed to succeed in class. Separately, in a survey of 3,595 kindergarten teachers conducted around the same time, 20% to 30% said at least half their students lacked social skills or the ability to work in groups. Echoing a widely held view, Sara Rimm-Kaufman, an associate professor of education at the University of Virginia and lead author of the second study, says she believes behavior problems among children entering kindergarten have risen since then.

Lisa McCabe, associate director of Cornell University's early childhood program, says she increasingly sees kids refuse teachers' and classmates' requests, bully others and behave destructively.

Experts' recommendations contain wisdom for parents:

Avoid pushing your children to read, write and do math too soon, at the expense of social and emotional skills. Learning isn't a race; each child's developmental path is unique.

Research shows children who are in over their heads in class act out their frustrations. Emily Clark, New York, was dismayed when her normally amiable toddler started biting other kids in child care. "I was beside myself," Ms. Clark says. "She's not bad, she's not malicious, she's not from an aggressive household." She soon realized that because her daughter was younger than her classmates, she lacked verbal skills to express frustration, so she acted it out. Now that her language has caught up, she's doing fine.

In the classroom, preschoolers usually shouldn't be expected to sit for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time listening to teacher-directed, structured activities, says Ellen Frede, co-director of Rutgers University's National Institute for Early Education Research, which issued a policy brief last month on solving behavior problems. Scripted, rigidly paced curriculum and drills also may frustrate preschoolers.

Find classrooms well-equipped to handle behavior problems. Student-teacher ratios for 3- to 4-year-old children should be no more than 10 children per teacher, and teachers should have ample rest breaks, says a study released last week by Yale University's Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy. Such changes would reduce alarmingly high preschool expulsion rates, says Walter Gilliam, the center's director; previous research by the center found 6.7 preschoolers per 1,000 are expelled from school each year, three times the rate of expulsions in kindergarten through high school.

Teachers also benefit from access to mental-health or behavioral consultants, Dr. Gilliam says. In the case of Ms. Scott's daughter Brianna, teacher Anne Tapaszi says a behavioral consultant helped her teach Brianna to notice signs she was about to lose control, and either express herself in words or walk away. Brianna's improving social skills have freed her to make academic gains, including writing her name.

Consider delaying your child's entry to large-group care. Children who spend more time in child-care centers early in life show slightly more behavior problems in later years, compared with kids who have spent less time in centers. (They also show better pre-academic skills.) A 2007 study headed by Susanna Loeb, an associate professor of education at Stanford University, found the negative effects were greater among children who had entered child-care centers at earlier ages.

However, it's wrong to place all the blame on child care. Its behavioral effects are very small; family factors, such as parents' income and education, have a far bigger impact, says James Griffin, director of the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development's early learning program. Only about 24% of U.S. children are enrolled in child-care centers, down from a 20-year high of 30% in 1993, federal data show.

Also, while large-group care is linked to behavior problems, it also can be a cure. Preschool is an excellent place to socialize children and teach them to control their behavior, Ms. Frede says. San Francisco attorney Rebecca Eisenberg, whose daughter, 4, and son, 2, have attended high-quality child-care centers, believes the experience has taught them to be cooperative and compassionate. When her daughter noticed at a party that a two-year-old child was sniffling alone in a corner, feeling left out, she hugged and comforted her, saying, 'It's OK,' Ms. Eisenberg says.

Reduce children's stress. Researchers don't know exactly how group care shapes behavior, but one factor may be stress. Day-care children show increases in the stress hormone cortisol throughout the day, compared with children at home, says a 2006 study in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly. Long-term effects, if any, aren't known, but Ms. McCabe and others are exploring classroom stress-reduction techniques, including relaxation exercises.

Prepare your child to control his or her own behavior, even when other children don't. Cathy Proctor was shocked when her two preschoolers came home from their child-care center calling each other "butt-head" and wanting new toys she dislikes, such as Power Rangers. But the Denver mother liked other things they were learning, such as following directions. So she sat them down for a talk about "where the line is" on behavior: Regardless of other families' standards, she said, their family's rules would remain firm and unchanging. The name-calling stopped, she says, and no other problem "me-too" behaviors have cropped up.

Websites with More Information

Opposing Prop 82

California Chamber of Commerce
Universal Preschool
Stop Prop 82

Supporting Prop 82

Preschool for All
Preschool Org

Additional Resources

EdSource Review an impartial analysis of Prop 82
The Economics of Investing in Universal Preschool Education in California - RAND Study
The State of Preschool: 2005 State Preschool Yearbook
CA Legislative Analyst Office Review of Initiative


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Last modified: February 17,2006

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