Two CA-30 Congressional Candidates Answer Questions About Federal Education Policy
The top finishers from the last two elections did not respond, but CJ Bernina and Brian Carroll did provide information for the voters.
“I will introduce or support legislation that addresses the issue of underfunding IDEA through reforming allocation, funding and distribution mechanisms of resources to public schools”
– CJ Berina
The last time incumbent Brad Sherman had to run in a competitive race he physically assaulted his opponent on the debate stage. With that race won, Sherman has largely lost his passion. On foreign policy, he is a right-leaning Democrat who mirrors Republican talking points against Obama’s Iranian deal during his town halls. Overall, he is a moderate Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary.
Having won his recent elections by wide margins, Sherman does not even appear to be putting any effort towards campaigning to retain his seat. In fact, his website does not even appear to have been updated since 2018. The site says “Talk to me. I’m listening.” However, while he may be interested in hearing what constituents have to say, this does not mean that he wants to have a conversation. As in 2018, I asked my Congressman questions about federal education policy but did not receive a response.
As he has for the past two election cycles, Tea Party Republican Mark Reed is challenging Sherman. Reed was also sent these questions, but other than asking about the deadline for response, he did not answer the request.
Raji Rab is another perennial candidate who will be on the ballot. Like in the past election, he did not provide a response to the education questions.
The two remaining candidates, Brian Carroll and CJ Berina both describe themselves as progressives. Should either one of them win the second most votes, they will lock Mark Reed out of the general election. Respecting the constituents they hope to represent, they both provided answers to the questionnaire. Their responses are presented in the order that they were received:
Question 1: Federal legislation authorizes “Congress to contribute up to 40% of the average per-pupil expenditure” for mandated special education services. Unfortunately, this funding has never materialized. What will you do to ensure that programs and services for those with special education needs are appropriately funded?
CJ Berina: “I would support or if no one else has or will, introduce legislation to reform key aspects of our economy, energy sector, agriculture, and among much else education. I will introduce or support legislation that addresses the issue of underfunding IDEA through reforming allocation, funding and distribution mechanisms of resources to public schools similarly to as was done in Pennsylvania where the state legislature passed a bill ending the funding of public schools through property taxes and instead funding them through a statewide sales tax — taxing earners and consumers rather than owners and dwellers. This is one way we can not only increase funding to schools in low-income communities but begin to address the racial and economic segregation that exists predominantly in the public school system today. I will also introduce or support legislation to provide mandatory funding to ensure that the federal government provides at least 50 percent of the funding necessary for high-quality special education.”
Brian Carroll: “For one, we need to remove the words ‘up to’ because it’s often used as a trick to be technically under compliance while abdicating its responsibility to our students. Congress needs to contribute no less than 40% of the average per-pupil expenditure for special education services and in some areas more to make up for budget shortfalls that burden lower-income school districts, not the mere 16% that we’ve gotten used to seeing. But our laws are full of promises like this that just end up in an unfunded graveyard. Part of my platform, particularly as a civics nerd who likes to get into the nuts and bolts of these issues, is to find these kinds of useful, approved programs that have been ignored and put them back in the forefront. The overall problem is that we don’t blink an eye at increased defense spending or massive tax cuts to the wealthy while we nickel-and-dime public goods. We need to elect more representatives that won’t just vote the right way on these issues, but fight for them.”
Question 2: Currently, special education funding is based on the total student population instead of the actual population that needs services. What will you do to ensure that funding is actually based on the number of children requiring services?
CJ Berina: “I will introduce or support education reform legislation that would guarantee funding for and:
- Guarantee children with disabilities equal rights to high-quality education by enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Increase educational opportunities for persons with disabilities, including expanding career and technical education opportunities to prepare students for good-paying community employment.
- Incentivize special education teacher recruitment through comprehensive workload management, training opportunities and increased pay.
- Triple Title One funding to ensure students with disabilities are able to receive a quality education regardless of the zip code they live in.”
Brian Carroll: “With students moving from one grade to the next, how is it not possible to simply anticipate the needs for special education funding? It’s not as though these students randomly materialize and the student’s needs are not proportional to the population so the funding shouldn’t be either. A lot of this comes down to some of the arcane ways we fund education in the first place. Population size and property taxes are broad data points that gloss over the diversity and unique needs of our neighborhoods. But we can’t just simply throw money at it either, we need to make sure we’re being smart about the problem as well, and that’s where partnerships with local education advocates will be crucial in identifying where the resources should go and how. I’m very locally focused, so if policies aren’t working in our neighborhoods and communities, they shouldn’t be considered on the Federal level.”
Question 3: More than 35 percent of charter schools funded by the federal Charter School Program (CSP) between 2006 and 2014 either never opened or were shut down, costing taxpayers more than half a billion dollars. What will you do to ensure that federal education funds are not wasted on this program?
CJ Berina: “I would support the measures introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders. These include:
- Banning for-profit charter schools.
- Mandate that charter schools meet the same standards and requirements as public schools.
- Mandate that 50% of all charter boards comprise of parents and teachers.
- Disclose student attrition rates, non-public funding sources, financial interests among other relevant data.
- Match employment practices in charter schools with neighboring district schools, including standards set by collective bargaining agreements, and restrictions on CEO pay.
- Guarantee charter school teachers a right to unionize and negotiate with their charter schools.
I am a 30-year-old that was born and raised in the Valley. I went to CSUN for College. I opened a business on Reseda Boulevard after that and served thousands of Valley youth for three years. I also was on the Northridge South Neighborhood Council, Northridge Vision Committee, and am an Assembly Delegate for the California Democratic Party for District 45. My top 4 priorities are:
- Immediate action on Climate Change.
- Getting money out of politics.
- Medicare for All.
- Ending the Wars.
I would like to note that I am an ardent supporter of the Green New Deal and will do everything I can as a congressman to pass the legislation necessary to mitigate and avert a further climate crisis. I am also a co-sponsor of the Permaculture Sustainable Future Plan which expands on the Green New Deal in terms of policy proposals for the nation we need to create in the next century if we are to survive as a nation, as well as salvage and rehabilitate as much as we possibly can of our global ecosystems. The Permaculture Sustainable Future Plan is among the most comprehensive climate plans available, and few have even heard of it. It is available at:
Brian Carroll: “Charter schools were born out of our public schools not getting the attention, resources, and funding they need. But that doesn’t mean we should just accept private solutions to public problems. From K-12, I’ve only ever been enrolled in public schools and I know their value not just as a public good and access to education, but the diversity of the students I met and grew up with. It made me the person I am today and I want to ensure that everyone in the country is guaranteed to the best possible version of public education there can be. By strengthening and expanding one, you eliminate the perceived need for the other.
One additional point that I’ll make is that as President of the Studio City Neighborhood Council, we have been in a unique position to help our local schools. Because our offices are on the CBS Studio Center lot and don’t have to pay a neighborhood council’s usual rent and utility fees, we are able to allocate that money instead to local schools and education programs in the form of Neighborhood Purpose Grants. This type of model of local people being able to hear proposals directly from these schools has allowed us to help our community where the city sometimes falls short. It’s these kinds of ideas that I believe can be scaled up with the assistance of the Federal government and it’s this kind of Country-Local problem solving that I hope I’ll be able to help usher in for the future of education funding.”
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, an appointed alternate to the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.