For Justice, California Democrats Must Walk Their Talk

I am typing this from Denver where I’m headed out this morning to campaign for the Clinton-Kaine ticket. As I do so, I am reminded that their election can do little for Californians in two important areas:

Criminal Justice. I agree with Mrs. Clinton when she says “no one should profit from incarceration” but states do most of the incarceration in our federalist system and in California no one profits more from incarceration than state employees. This year California’s 55,000 state prison employees will receive ~$7 billion in compensation and benefits, more than 3x the revenues of the country’s largest private prison company. Governor Brown and the state legislature awarded state prison employees three raises in the last six years at the expense of UC, CSU, welfare and more. Only state officials, not the president, can address California’s criminal justice system. Because Democrats control the governor’s office and the state legislature, they must lead the charge.

Educational Justice. I agree with Mrs. Clinton when she says “every child in this country deserves a good teacher in a good school” but states run public education in our federalist system and in California the state runs a K-12 public education system serving six million students with 300,000 public employees and $87 billion of annual spending, only 9% of which is provided by the federal government. The governor and state legislature write the Education Code governing teacher tenure, seniority, evaluation and dismissal rules that all too often prevent school districts from putting good teachers in every classroom. They also determine how much money gets diverted from school districts to pensions and other retirement costs that reduce the ability of school districts to field and pay a sufficient number of good teachers. Only the governor and legislature, not the president, can provide good teachers in good schools to every California child. Because Democrats control the governor’s office and legislature, they must lead that charge too.

Educational justice and criminal justice are predominantly state issues. At Govern For California we support candidates for state offices who will walk their talk about those issues and more. Citizens should support those who do and journalists should point out those who don’t.

Written by

Lecturer at Stanford University and president of Govern For California

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