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May 30th
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Assemblymember Bill Monning

bill_MonningMany local educators are skeptical about Race to the Top, the federal program in which states are competing for education funding.  What potential problems are they worried about, and do you agree with them?

Like me, many of the local educators I have spoken with are supportive of the goals of the Race to the Top (RttT) program, which include improving the lowest-performing schools, developing systems that measure student growth, and providing more support and training to California’s teachers.  However, many local educators have also expressed legitimate concerns about how these goals will be met and whether sufficient funding will be provided to carry out the reforms that are being proposed.

While California could receive anywhere from $300 million to $700 million in RttT grant funding, there is no guarantee that the state will successfully access these funds given that they are competitively issued. We could be in the position of modifying current academic standards and not receive any RttT funds to implement these changes.  As RttT proposals have been debated locally and in the Capitol, the issues of contention are the cap on charter schools, linking student test scores to teacher evaluations, and a plan to allow open enrollment.

I believe the best plan will respect local control and flexibility as school districts face different challenges and must be free to craft the best path toward quality education achievement. Ultimately, each school district will have to evaluate its own unique situation before deciding whether to participate in the RttT program

What interests of the 27th Assembly District will you be representing as a newly appointed member of the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media?

The Committee’s primary jurisdiction is to oversee programs and policies affecting the entertainment industries; tourism and arts programs; museums; professional and amateur sports; and Internet media.

Because the travel and tourism industry is the second biggest employer in the 27th Assembly District, I want to make a contribution to the policy decisions and legislation that will be heard by the Committee. Given the current economic climate, the travel and tourism industry in the 27th Assembly District has been particularly hard hit. I will be well positioned to articulate the concerns and issues that have been expressed to me by all sectors of our local hospitality industry and advocate for appropriate legislative support.

Additionally, California has long been the incubator to filmmakers and artists who have captured the imaginations of millions through their portrayals of California imagery. The film industry is active not only in Hollywood, but also in our local communities that are frequently selected as filming locations.

I look forward to combining my interest in the arts with work on this committee to promote the California Dream in a manner that will benefit the 27th Assembly District and the state.

Current economic conditions appear to be affecting the environmental progress California has seen over the last decade. Can you explain?

I was one of only two assemblymembers this year to obtain a perfect voting record from the Sierra Club of California, and part of a small handful to get a perfect scorecard from the California League of Conservation Voters. I wish I were in bigger company. It is also significant that the governor, who prides himself on his own green credentials, vetoed 18 out of 20 environmental bills that reached his desk, including a bill to ban the toxic chemical PBA from baby bottles.  Republicans have successfully, but erroneously, pitted the environment against economic interests when in reality they are intertwined and interdependent.

Two issues that highlight this false dichotomy are the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemptions and offshore oil drilling. At minimum, three measures have successfully passed through both houses of the Legislature and been signed by the governor allowing for CEQA laws to be exempted to “expedite” projects. Equally concerning is the governor’s budget proposal to initiate offshore oil drilling as a method to alleviate fiscal pressures. Fortunately, we were able to block this effort on the Assembly Floor.

The task of environmental stewardship can be challenging. With vigilance and commitment as guiding principles, preserving California’s environment is a priority that cannot be sacrificed during tough economic times. In fact, I believe California’s economic recovery can and must be linked to strong environmental protection.

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