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California Editorial Rdp

April 10, 2019

April 10

Los Angeles Times on California’s bad ideas on how to prevent the next college admissions scandal:

It’s seldom a good thing when California lawmakers go into headline-reactive mode, quickly proposing a new law — or several — in response to a major story that has grabbed the public’s attention. A recently proposed package of legislation inspired by the college admissions scandal is unfortunately another example of how that process can go wrong.

Two of the six bills respond to the fraud itself, in which dozens of parents allegedly rigged college entrance exams or paid bribes to secure spots for their children at exclusive colleges. But because the scandal also brought attention to troubling but legal aspects of college admissions that favor the wealthy and connected, much of the legislation is not aimed at criminal behavior but simply at making the admissions process more equitable.

Unfortunately, some of the bills are unnecessary, others are poorly thought out and one would require the state to interfere in the practices of private organizations in potentially harmful ways.

One would require three college administrators at the University of California and California State University to check each “admission by exception” before the student is accepted, apparently to root out fraud and dishonesty. These generally are students who might not be accepted for their academic achievements alone but who are considered highly desirable by, say, an athletic coach or a musical director.

But UC already is examining how to tighten its procedures to prevent fraud among these so-called side-door admissions, which add up to 2% of all students accepted. The Legislature would be wiser to let the state’s colleges take a careful look at the situation and come up with their own solutions — because the colleges know their own processes and needs better than legislators do. If their solutions are too weak, it will then be time to talk about state intervention.

Another bill calls on UC and Cal State to review whether and how heavily the SAT and ACT college entrance exams should be weighed in admissions decisions. Nothing wrong with that, but both state college systems already are doing so.

The most problematic of the bills in the package would prohibit all colleges and universities in the state, public or private, from giving preference to applications from the children of alumni — so-called legacy applicants — or the children of donors. Cal Grants, which provide financial aid for students from lower- to middle-income families, would not be given to students who attend schools that refuse to change those policies.

There are several things wrong with this bill. First, the state schools say they don’t give preference to legacy candidates as it is.

As for the private colleges, many have a long history of legacy admissions and, frankly, it’s hard to see a good reason for such policies other than to keep admissions within a privileged club. The colleges don’t appear to gain financially from the preference; the applicants have done nothing to deserve it and it keeps spots from going to more qualified candidates.

But even though the system is ripe for extinction, that’s a policy change that private colleges should be making on their own and in ways that work best both for their institutions and for students.

While it certainly strikes us as odious to see families buy their way into an institution of higher learning, if a donor is willing to spend millions of dollars so that the college can accept and enroll more scholarship students, there’s at least a reasonable argument to be made that the policy occasionally might do more good than harm.

Plus, this bill could have negative consequences for the very students that legislators are trying to help. If private colleges decide to keep their existing admissions policies, lower-income students might be unable to attend because they can’t get Cal Grants to help them financially. The Legislature shouldn’t use the financial welfare of needy students as a cudgel for social engineering.

One more bill would require private college consultants, who coach students through the admissions process for what are usually hefty fees, to register with the California secretary of state, who later would propose regulations for the industry. It’s unclear how this would prevent scandals like the current one in which a Newport Beach consultant pleaded guilty to funneling parents’ money into bribes for athletic coaches. It’s already illegal to commit fraud.

College admission is a complicated and nuanced procedure, as well as one that too often favors connected, well-heeled applicants. Legislators appear to be looking for a role to play in a big and shameful story, but if they haven’t thought through what kind of reforms are needed, they’re better off sitting this one out.

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April 9

San Francisco Chronicle on Trump trying to crack down, while Newsom learns about asylum seekers:

Gov. Gavin Newsom is spending his first international trip in El Salvador, exploring the reasons why Central American migrants are fleeing their home countries. California has the largest population of Salvadorans in the nation.

Newsom is getting a crash course in El Salvador’s recent history as well as learning the basics about why migrants are so determined to leave a country plagued by gang violence, climate change, and extortion. He’s also offering a clear counter to President Trump’s ever-hostile immigration actions.

“The one area that California should do more is on immigration policy,” Newsom said on the first day of his visit. “We have a unique responsibility and an opportunity to advance a different conversation.”

That other conversation, meanwhile, is getting more heated.

While Newsom has been in San Salvador, listening to the stories of students who fled because their families were in danger, Trump has been shaking up his Homeland Security department. Reportedly, he hopes to return to last year’s morally and legally discredited family separation policy.

“They’re coming because it’s like a picnic, because ‘Let’s go to Disneyland,’” Trump said in the Oval Office on Tuesday. He was speaking of the Central American families who have been seeking asylum at the U.S. border with Mexico.

There’s been a recent spike in the number of these arrivals. A reasonable policy maker might also explore the reasons why people might be coming, as Newsom is doing.

A reasonable policy maker might also conclude that the Central American countries from which these migrants are fleeing need more support with which to battle their ills. But on March 31, Trump cut off $500 million in aid to the Central American region.

Trump appears frustrated about the limits of his authority to prevent migration. But the limits are fortunate, real and etched in law.

On Monday, a federal judge in San Francisco said he would halt the practice of forcing migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases are under consideration in the U.S.

The “Back in Mexico” policy, instituted by Trump’s former Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, has resulted in hundreds of migrants sent back to Mexico since late January, and the judge said, accurately, that the policy failed to protect them from danger. (Migrants have reported being subjected to physical and verbal assaults since returning to Mexico while they await their asylum claims.)

Nearly every major change the Trump administration has attempted to make to immigration policy has been put on hold by the courts, and this latest setback comes at a time when the Department of Homeland Security is already in upheaval. Trump needs to get the message that neither migration, nor the laws which govern it, can be bent to his will.

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April 9

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s Major League Soccer proposal deserving strong support:

After years of missing its shot, Sacramento has a big chance to finally score a Major League Soccer team. For a modest investment of $33 million in “fee waivers, tax rebates, advertising rights and infrastructure financing,” the city can reap the benefits of massive investment and major league status.

It’s a great opportunity for Sacramento, one that will generate economic activity for decades and create thousands of jobs. We urge the City Council to move forward in approving the proposal, which would use incentives to attract $1 billion worth of investment in our city, said Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

The effort to bring MLS to Sacramento has its critics. They like to point to the city’s challenges, like homelessness, as issues deserving more attention than sports teams. But this isn’t a case of either/or. In a big city, we can and must address multiple issues simultaneously.

Among the details of the proposal, according to The Sacramento Bee’s Tony Bizjak:

— Create an infrastructure financing district to “capture tax revenue to pay for up to an estimated $27.2 million in infrastructure around the stadium.” This infrastructure would include “new streets, pedestrian walkways, a major sewer line and a light rail station.”

— Provide a combined $5.4 million worth of permit fee waivers and funding commitments for traffic control and policing on streets near the stadium during games.

— Rewrite the city’s signage ordinance to allow the team to put up five digital billboards around town, with the possible option for a sixth if the team builds a training facility and fields for youth soccer. The signs will “likely will come at no cost to the city, but could be worth tens of millions of dollars in promotions and advertising to the team.”

Placement of the new digital billboards will undoubtedly spur passionate debate and controversy, but — all in all — this is a great deal for Sacramento.

“Getting Major League Soccer will create new energy and excitement in our city, but that’s not all it will do,” said Steinberg. “Our agreement with Ron Burkle and his team is about far more than a stadium and a professional sports team. This is about the development of 17 acres around the stadium in The Railyards — a total of nearly $1 billion in private investment . The benefits of the agreement we’ll be voting on tonight astronomically outweigh the costs to the City.”

To his credit, Mayor Steinberg has worked hard to address Sacramento’s most pressing challenges. Thanks to his leadership, the voters of Sacramento approved Measure U, which increased the sales tax to fund city services. The mayor has a $36 million plan to reduce homelessness over the next two years, and City Council members are announcing plans to locate triage shelters in their districts as part of the mayor’s “8 x 100” plan.

On the city’s biggest problems, Mayor Steinberg has stepped up. He’s more than earned the right to push for the Sacramento Republic FC to become an MLS team, which will benefit to the city.

While a soccer team won’t solve all of Sacramento’s challenges, it will help spur continued development at the Sacramento Railyards. The city has ambitious plans for the former site of the Transcontinental Railroad’s terminus, including “dense urban residential neighborhoods,” a Kaiser Permanente medical center, a courthouse, shopping and a museum. A new, privately-financed soccer stadium would give the project a big boost.

Bringing another major league team to Sacramento will be a win for our city, our region and our economy. The proposal deserves strong support.