A very painful day

We grieve today for the families directly touched by the school shooting in Connecticut. I can’t imagine what it was like for the families in Newtown when they woke up this morning — if they even slept at all. Their world has changed forever. In the coming days, the political debate over guns and violence in our society will rage anew. For now, though, let’s  offer our prayers, and take some time to grieve.

Our editorial on the tragedy suggests that course. Click here to read the editorial.


Tiny Lindsay school district leads the way in the San Joaquin Valley

The Lindsay Unified School District has just won a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in the 2012 Race to the Top  competition. The RTTT grants are designed to reward school districts that use innovative means to reach their students. In Lindsay, they are allowing students to work at their level and advance when they have demonstrated proficiency in required skills.

That seems like a simple concept, but it is a change from the traditional system, and schools generally cling to the status quo.

This is how we put it in today’s editorial:

“Sometimes our over-choreographed public schools make learning much too complicated, as they cater to the educational elite, the political insiders and textbook publishers. Lost in this shuffle are the students.

“In many ways, our public schools are more about serving the adults in the system than the students they are supposed to be educating. A good example is the school calendar. It is set up for the convenience of adults, even though the extended vacation periods create learning deficits as students are away from the classroom for large chunks of time.

“Lindsay Unified puts the emphasis on the classroom, with its performance-based system. “People learn in different ways and they learn in different time frames,” Superintendent Tom Rooney said last month after Lindsay was named a Race to the Top finalist.”

Here’s the complete news story that ran on the front page of today’s Bee.


Stockton offers glimpse into cities that don’t have the political will to control their budgets

Crime is out of control in Stockton, and the city’s unwise financial management over a decade plays a big role in the problem.

As a Fresno Bee editorial says about the north Valley city: “Squeezed by its own profligate spending and the housing crash, it was forced to lay off almost 25% of its police force and cut pay and benefits for those who remained.

“Veteran officers retired or took other jobs. A police force of 441, already too small for a city of close to 300,000, dwindled to just 329. As the police ranks thinned, Stockton’s homicides ticked upward, from 24 in 2008 to 33 in 2009 to 49 in 2010. If this year’s trend holds, the number of homicides would triple in just four years.”

Stockton has filed for bankruptcy protection, but that doesn’t make its streets any safer.

In Fresno, finances aren’t as bad, but Mayor Ashley Swearengin has had to make several moves to protect the public safety budget. That includes outsourcing garbage service to collect annual franchise fees from the private companies. She first privatized commercial garbage service, and the City Council on Thursday took its second of three votes to privatize residential garbage service.

Swearengin will also have to get concessions from the police union. Unfortunately, she and the council unwisely extended the Fresno Police Officers Association contract until 2015. That limits the city’s options in trying to control city finances.

Even with garbage privatization maneuver, the city still faces a $5 million budget gap. Fresno isn’t Stockton, but it still has major financial problems.

The new California Legislature is sworn in

Republicans were a bit scarce in the legislative chambers Monday as the newest California lawmakers were sworn in. Democrats hold super-majorities in both the 40-member state Senate and the 80-member Assembly.

But our local delegation has a Republican tilt, with newcomers Jim Patterson of Fresno and Frank Bigelow of Madera County representing area Assembly seats. They will join the Republican caucus, along with Assembly GOP Leader Connie Conway of Tulare, who is returning for another legislative term. Local Democrats are Assembly Member Henry T. Perea of Fresno and Assembly Member Rudy Salas of Bakersfield.

Patterson, Bigelow and Salas were among 40 freshmen legislators sworn in on Monday.

The AP reported that Republicans will have “just 11 seats in the 40-member Senate and at least 25 seats in the 80-member Assembly, although a handful of races remain undecided.”