Education

Friday, June 10, 2022

Local Native Teens Win Big at Youth Business Competition

Posted By on Fri, Jun 10, 2022 at 6:59 AM

Left to Right: Lisa Ames (mentor), Pam Ames (Yurok, mentor), Ryan Ames (Yurok, Hoopa High), Claire Paterson (Karuk, El Dorado High), Jordan Brown (Karuk, McKinleyville High), Emma Sundberg (Wiyot, McKinleyville High), Wakara Scott (Yurok, Two Feathers) - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Left to Right: Lisa Ames (mentor), Pam Ames (Yurok, mentor), Ryan Ames (Yurok, Hoopa High), Claire Paterson (Karuk, El Dorado High), Jordan Brown (Karuk, McKinleyville High), Emma Sundberg (Wiyot, McKinleyville High), Wakara Scott (Yurok, Two Feathers)
Local high school students won big at a youth business competition at the Reservation Economic Summit (RES) produced by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) last month in Las Vegas.

As part of a program through Two Feathers Native American Family Services, Emma Sundberg, a Wiyot junior from McKinleyville High School, Jordan Brown, a Karuk junior from McKinleyville High, Ryan Ames, a Yurok senior from Hoopa High and Claire Patterson, a Karuk sophomore from El Dorado High in Placerville, submitted a business proposal to the RES youth business competition. Their proposal was among the top 5 in the country selected to be presented to the RES’s Native Youth Business Plan Competition during the summit.

Their proposal sought to create “Home Away From Home,” a safe and welcoming cultural community center that will promote healthy physical and emotional lifestyles for Native American children and teens locally.

The team presented their proposal and won $5,000 for Two Feather’s Native American Services.

The group of teens is part of the Transition Age Youth (TAY) Action Team at Two Feathers in collaboration with the California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN) which looks to empower transition-age youth to be “leaders in community and behavioral health system transformations and to create positive change through the promotion of culturally appropriate supports, services and approaches that improve and maintain the behavioral health of California’s TAY.”

“The TAY team developed their business proposal idea all on their own,” says Two Feather project coordinator Keoki Burbank. “Two Feathers is proud of these students for their hard work to put together a comprehensive business plan and having a passion to improve our community for everyone.”

Yurok tribal member and CEO of Per-geesh Construction Pamela Ames and Vice President and Group Account Director at Science and Purpose Lisa Ames volunteered to mentor the teens through the entire process of developing their business proposal before the competition. Burbank says Ames would like to continue mentoring local Native youth for this business competition in the years to come. Two Feathers is currently considering how to expand the program to bring more Native business leaders as mentors.

“It was a really cool experience,” Burbank says. “The kids did really well. I was really excited and proud to see them presenting in front of people in high levels of business — to see CEOs of Native businesses come talk to them after their presentation, trying to find ways to support them was really cool. They’ve come a long way.”

See the teen's full Reservation Economic Summit presentation here
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Thursday, June 9, 2022

SECOND UPDATE: Sheriff's Office Issues 'All Clear' in Bomb Threat Investigation at Loleta Elementary School

Posted By on Thu, Jun 9, 2022 at 1:04 PM

SECOND UPDATE:

Humboldt County Sheriff's Office report an "all-clear" was issued in the Loleta Elementary School bomb threat investigation, saying no explosive device located.

As a precaution, all students and staff were evacuated off campus.

UPDATE:

The sheriff's office reports it is investigating a bomb threat.

"All students and staff have been safely evacuated from the school out of an abundance of caution," the HCSO reports. "Access to Loleta Drive is restricted while deputies complete their investigation."

PREVIOUS:
The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office is conducting an investigation at Loleta Elementary School, according to a brief Facebook post.

"There is no sustained threat to student safety at this time, however, all students and staff have been safely evacuated from the school out of an abundance of caution," the HCSO post states. "More information will be released when appropriate."

No other details were immediately available.
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Thursday, June 2, 2022

Back to the Beach: Kids Ocean Day 2022

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2022 at 5:10 PM

Local school children participated in this year's Kids Ocean Day. - PHOTO BY J PATRICK CUDAHY
  • Photo by J Patrick Cudahy
  • Local school children participated in this year's Kids Ocean Day.
Hundreds of Humboldt County school children participated in this year's 17th annual Kids Ocean Day event by helping to restore dune habitat at the Mike Thompson Wildlife Area on the South Spit of Humboldt Bay.

To mark the day, the kids joined together with their classmates, teachers and volunteers to form the shape of three ochre sea stars and the message, "Restore Joy," which was captured from the air by photographer J Patrick Cudahy with the help of pilot Mark Harris.

The choice highlights not only the plight of the sea creatures devastated by sea star wasting disease in recent years but also the encouraging signs that the brightly colored echinoderms are once again becoming a familiar sight up and down the West Coast.

“This is our 17th Annual Kids Ocean Day event in Humboldt County, and our first time back since 2019. This is our comeback story, much like the ochre sea stars, and I am so proud to be a part of it,” Friends of the Dunes education coordinator Emily Baxter said in a release. “During this event students from all over Humboldt County come together to not only be coastal stewards but also to have fun! For many of these kids, this is one of their first field trips since coming back to school full time, so we are excited to bring back a joyous occasion that they look forward to every year.”

The event is part of a statewide educational program funded by the California Coastal Commission.

“It’s so wonderful that we are able to hold this event once again,’’ said Coastal Commission Chair Donne Brownsey said in a release. “The students who take part in Kid’s Ocean Day are demonstrating how to be good stewards of our precious coast and ocean, and reminding us of the joy of connecting with nature. They are truly role models.”

Read more in the Friends of the Dunes release below:

About 700 local students spent their school day caring for the coast during the 17th Annual Kids Ocean Day event at the Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, South Spit of the Humboldt Bay.

After spending the day restoring dune habitat and picking up trash, students, teachers, and volunteers formed three ochre sea stars with the message "Restore Joy.”

Local pilot Mark Harris flew over while photographer Patrick Cudahy captured the image.

Friends of the Dunes and the Bureau of Land Management Arcata Field Office organized the Kids Ocean Day event locally, with help from the California Conservation Corps, California State Parks Lifeguards, and US Fish & Wildlife Service.

The Humboldt County event was part of the statewide Kids Ocean Day program funded by the California Coastal Commission, a series of student cleanups and aerial art displays at five sites along the California Coast.

Across the state, students received classroom presentations highlighting the biodiversity of California’s coastal environments, how we are connected to these habitats through watersheds, and the importance of protecting our coast and ocean.

Kids all along the coast of California participated in beach cleanup events throughout late May and early June, leading up to World Ocean Day on June 8, a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future.

In Humboldt County, students participated in a day of ecosystem restoration, removing non-native invasive plant species to create space for native biodiversity, along with trash removal.

This year each site focused on a message of Joy. Our image of three ochre stars (Pisaster ochraceus) was chosen because these ocean animals were hit hard by a sea star wasting syndrome almost 10 years ago with huge die-offs along the west coast.

In recent years, populations of sea stars have been recovering and they are once again becoming a common sighting on northern California beaches.

“This is our 17th Annual Kids Ocean Day event in Humboldt County, and our first time back since 2019. This is our comeback story, much like the ochre sea stars, and I am so proud to be a part of it.” said Emily Baxter, Friends of the Dunes Education Coordinator. “During this event students from all over Humboldt County come together to not only be coastal stewards but also to have fun! For many of these kids, this is one of their first field trips since coming back to school full time, so we are excited to bring back a joyous occasion that they look forward to every year.”

“It’s so wonderful that we are able to hold this event once again,’’ said Coastal Commission Chair Donne Brownsey. “The students who take part in Kid’s Ocean Day are demonstrating how to be good stewards of our precious coast and ocean, and reminding us of the joy of connecting with nature. They are truly role models.”

The Coastal Commission provides financial support to Kids Ocean Day efforts statewide with proceeds from the Whale Tail License Plate and voluntary donations on the state tax return to the Protect Our Coast and Oceans Fund.

Participating Schools included: Blue Lake Elementary, Bridgeville Elementary, Fuente Nueva Charter School, Jacoby Creek, Loleta, McKinleyville Middle, Pacific Union School, Redway Elementary, Sunny Brae Middle School, Walker (South Fortuna) Elementary, and Washington Elementary.

Friends of the Dunes is dedicated to conserving the natural diversity of coastal environments through community supported education and stewardship programs. Projects include the Bay to Dunes school education program, Dune Ecosystem Restoration Team, and the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center. For more information visit friendsofthedunes.org.

The Bureau of Land Management’s Arcata Field Office is responsible for the administration of natural resources, lands, and mineral programs on approximately 200,000 acres of public land in Northwestern California. The Area includes the 60,000-acre King Range National Conservation Area and the 7,472-acre Headwaters Forest Reserve.

This annual event was started by the Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education and the California Coastal Commission in Los Angeles in 1994.

With funding from the Whale Tail License Plate, this program expanded to the North Coast in 2005. The program focuses on reaching children in underserved and inland schools.

The California Coastal Commission is committed to protecting and enhancing California’s coast and ocean for present and future generations. It does so through careful planning and regulation of environmentally-sustainable development, strong public participation, education, and effective intergovernmental coordination.

The Kids’ Ocean Day program is part of the Commission’s effort to raise public awareness of marine and coastal resources and promote coastal stewardship. Funding for this program comes from sales of the WHALE TAIL® License Plate and donations to the Protect Our Coast and Oceans Fund on the California state tax return. For more information about the California Coastal Commission’s programs and how to buy a Whale Tail Plate, call (800) COAST-4U or visit www.coastforyou.org.
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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Reparations Could Include Tuition, Housing Grants, California Task Force Says

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2022 at 12:35 PM

The state Capitol building. - CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY
  • California State Assembly
  • The state Capitol building.
California’s reparations task force will release today its first of two reports detailing the state’s history of slavery and racism and recommending ways the Legislature might begin a process of redress for Black Californians, including proposals to offer housing grants, free tuition and to raise the minimum wage.

The 500-page study describes decades of state and federal government actions that harmed Black Americans — from American slavery to the more recent redlining, mass incarceration, police actions and the widening wealth gap between Blacks and whites.

After police killed George Floyd and the subsequent nationwide protests, Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020 signed legislation establishing the task force to study and develop a plan for reparations in the state. The law gave “special consideration” to Black Americans who are direct descendants to enslaved people.

The task force report proposes dozens of recommendations, including that the Legislature “implement a comprehensive reparations scheme.” The final details — including the exact monetary amount of compensation and the number of Black Californians eligible — will be in a second report due to the Legislature by July 2023.

The task force recommends establishing 10 new offices within state government to oversee administration of reparations, including an Office of African American/Freedmen Affairs to help people file claims for compensation and an Office of Freedmen Genealogy to help people prove their eligibility with genealogical research.

From slavery to the KKK

It’s unclear how many people would qualify for reparations. The task force estimates that, despite California’s anti-slavery constitution, about 1,500 enslaved Black people were living in the state in 1852.

After slavery was formally abolished, California became a breeding ground for the Ku Klux Klan. The report says in the 1920s the KKK hosted more events in California than it did in Louisiana or Mississippi. In Los Angeles, the police department teemed with KKK members. In Kern County, klansmen routinely beat and kidnapped Black and Latino residents.

“Black economic growth and prosperity have been critically hindered by racist policies aimed at suppressing African Americans even after end of slavery.”

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer

The report also referenced numerous instances of segregation and restrictive housing covenants across the state. And it described the wholesale destruction of several Black neighborhoods and cities.

In the 1950s, for instance, the city of San Francisco razed Fillmore, a Black business district, destroying 883 businesses and displacing about 20,000 people from nearly 5,000 homes.

The task force proposes that people who lost homes to government seizures, urban renewal projects, freeway construction, or racist attacks be eligible for housing grants and zero-interest loans.

Their recommendations aim to not only address specific instances of violence or prior harm, but also to support future generations of Black Californians.

The proposed Office of Freedmen Education and Social Services would offer free tuition for Black students in private K-12 education and those pursuing higher education in the state. It would also ensure that school curricula reflect a more “expansive discussion of the experiences of Black Americans in a way that is accurate and honest,” the report said.

The task force also proposed raising the minimum wage, requiring health benefits and paid time off, and other workplace protections for workers in agriculture, hospitality, food and domestic industries where there were large numbers of Black workers but fewer worker protections, the report said.

Black Californians seeking reparations would be able to file a claim through the Reparations Tribunal/ Redress Administration, the proposed arm of the reparations process that would accept or deny a request.

A national example

“Without a remedy specifically targeted to heal the injuries that colonial and American governments have inflicted on 16 generations of Black Americans and dismantle the foundations of these systems,” the report reads, “the ‘badges and incidents of slavery’ will continue to harm Black Americans in almost all aspects of American life.”

Kamilah Moore, chairperson of the task force, said its report is the first government publication providing remedies to institutional racism against Black people since the 1968 Kerner Commission, a federal study requested by President Lyndon Johnson.

“This report is extremely timely and urgent. I hope that people use this not only as an educational tool, but as an organizing tool,” Moore said.

“It is not only useful for people living in California, but for community members, constituents and organizers throughout the United States … to champion the causes of the African American community wherever they are.”

In March the task force voted that African Americans who are direct descendants of enslaved or freed Black people living in the US before the end of the 19th century would be eligible for reparations.

The task force is the only statewide initiative examining reparations. Cities such as Asheville, North Carolina and Evanston, Illinois have initiated reparations initiatives at the local level, but at the federal level, HR 40, a bill that would commission a study on reparations, remains stalled in Congress.

Steps toward healing

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat representing Compton, is pushing to extend the life of the task force by another year. Under Assembly Bill 2296, which passed the Assembly, the task force would continue its study through July 2024.

“Black economic growth and prosperity have been critically hindered by racist policies aimed at suppressing African Americans even after end of slavery,” he said in a statement

“I believe that … State Legislators will be receptive of the report’s analysis, but remain true to their obligation of questioning approach, costs, and implementation. The Reparations Task Force should remain empaneled for another year to help guide, advise, and review any issues or questions that may arise … The need to have the Task Force available to furnish its experts to help with matters once the Legislature determines what, if anything, comes from these studies will be crucial to the success of this monumental step towards healing.”

Over the summer, partner organizations such as the California Black Power Network and the Black Equity Collective will host public listening sessions about the report findings. The task force will reconvene its hearings in Los Angeles in September.

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Friday, May 27, 2022

Cal State Raises Issue with Cal Grant Expansion

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2022 at 11:16 AM

An aerial view of the Cal Poly Humboldt campus. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL POLY HUMBOLDT
  • Photo courtesy of Cal Poly Humboldt
  • An aerial view of the Cal Poly Humboldt campus.
The campaign to expand free tuition to more low-income California students has been riding a wave of unanimous goodwill, despite its large costs. But the state’s — and nation’s — largest public university system has made public its concern that key trade-offs required for that expansion will be a financial burden for some middle-class students. 

Backers of the effort say those concerns are misplaced. How and whether lawmakers choose to respond will affect the fate of tens of thousands of prospective college students in California for years to come. 

Officials from the California State University Chancellor’s Office warned the Board of Trustees on Tuesday that while it projects a net increase of nearly 29,000 students overall who’ll receive the free-tuition grant, it would also see a decrease of roughly 39,000 future middle-class students — even as some 68,000 low-income students would be newly eligible for the grant. To be clear, if the Cal Grant expansion occurs as proposed, middle-class students currently receiving the award will continue to do so.

The information wasn’t necessarily new. Supporters of expanding the Cal Grant, the state’s chief financial aid tool that waives tuition or gives cash aid to roughly 500,000 Californians, have been transparent that some students would lose eligibility even as more would gain. But, while it has no formal position on expanding Cal Grant, Cal State’s packaging of the information was an inversion of the dominant narrative so far that Cal Grant expansion is a net win for students. 

At issue is Assembly Bill 1746, a bill championed by key lawmakers and a constellation of student advocacy groups. The bill passed the Assembly on Thursday unanimously and is endorsed by the California community college system, whose students would be the major beneficiaries of the bill. If passed and funded, another 150,000 students would get the Cal Grant, a ​result of the bill doing away with age and time-out-of-high school restrictions for university students and grade requirements for community college students. 

But that 150,000 figure is a net gain. Because the bill would lower the income eligibility ceiling, tens of thousands of middle-class students would suddenly be left without the Cal Grant – including the 39,000 Cal State undergraduates. For a family of four, the income ceiling would drop from around $116,000 a year to $73,000, university officials said.

Prominent drivers of the Cal Grant expansion effort argue university systems will have more than enough money from their own financial aid dollars to cover any funding gaps for middle-class students. That’s because by adding more students to the state financial aid program, that frees internal financial aid money for a system like Cal State to cover students who would have previously been eligible for Cal Grants.

Sensitivities are high.

Some backers of the Cal Grant expansion viewed this week’s presentation to the Board of Trustees — the governance body of the Cal State system — as unbalanced. The presentation focused too much on who’d lose out under Cal Grant without acknowledging the benefit to lower-income students currently ineligible for the Cal Grant, said Audrey Dow, senior vice president of Campaign for College Opportunity, an advocacy nonprofit in California.

Cal Grant expansion within the bill requires more than $300 million annually in state support. It’s a large sum that needs to be negotiated as part of the state budget by June 15 between lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Adding to the intrigue, Newsom vetoed a similar expansion of the Cal Grant last year despite unanimous support from the Legislature. 

Will Cal State’s concerns with the bill have a negative impact on those budget negotiations? “No,” wrote Assemblymember Jose Medina, a Democrat from Riverside and co-author of the bill. “Our hope is that the (public higher education system) segments will recognize the immense benefit that debt-free college will provide their students and their institutions,” Medina added in a written statement.

Architects of the bill say another financial aid expansion — Middle Class Scholarship 2.0 — will eventually cover that eligibility gap. But that wouldn’t be true until the state commits enough money to fully fund that program, which won’t happen this year. The state this year plans to put a $632 million down payment of the scholarship. Fully funding it — and thereby covering the eligibility gap left by the proposed changes to the Cal Grant — would cost the state an additional $2 billion annually. 

“The CSU believes that any modernization of the Cal Grant program should do no harm,” said Eric Bakke, interim assistant vice chancellor for advocacy and state relations at Cal State, during the Trustees meeting Tuesday.

Another author of the Cal Grant expansion bill, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, a Democrat from Sacramento, said in a statement that “Cal Grant reform and expanding the Middle Class Scholarship is the correct pathway to debt-free college in California.” He added that lawmakers will “make both work in tandem, and the very few students who’ll end up not being eligible for the Cal Grant will be supplemented through the Middle Class Scholarship.”

Backers of the Cal Grant expansion say the Cal State system isn’t telling the whole story. The Cal State also operates a $700 million financial aid grant — called the State University Grant — that Cal Grant expansion advocates say could be used to cover the expenses for the middle-class students left out of the bill.

“I don’t think that it was a full representation of what the bill can do,” said Isaac Alferos, the outgoing head of the Cal State Student Association, which represents university students and is a key supporter of the Cal Grant expansion bill.

Under the Cal Grant expansion plan, Cal State students would receive $83 million more annually than they collectively do now at full implementation, according to data provided by the California Student Aid Commission. That’s even after accounting for the fact that the plan would get rid of a roughly $1,650 non-tuition award to cover portions of living expenses that goes to almost 114,000 Cal Grant recipients at Cal State today.

CalMatters asked the Cal State Chancellor’s Office for a breakdown of how the university’s $700 million grant would fare if the Cal Grant expansion passes, but the system didn’t provide one. Instead it offered a statement from Noelia Gonzalez, the system’s interim director of financial aid. Cal State “does not oppose Assembly Bill 1746,” she wrote, and that “we will certainly revisit our policies” if Cal Grant expansion has an impact on the university grant.

At least one Cal State Trustee homed in on the missing state university grant data. “I would have loved to see more numbers from the presentation that proposes a (State University Grant) plan along with the Cal Grant plan if passed,” said outgoing student Trustee Krystal Raynes in an interview. If there is more pressure on the university grant, the Cal State system could ask the state for more funding, she added.

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Friday, May 20, 2022

The Great Culling: Which California Bills did Legislators Kill?

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2022 at 1:28 PM

The state Capitol building. - CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY
  • California State Assembly
  • The state Capitol building.
California lawmakers won’t be creating a state Election Day holiday this year. Nor will they be providing grants to local governments to convert public golf courses into affordable housing, or forcing health insurers to cover fertility treatments.

All of these proposals were victims of the seasonal culling of bills known as the suspense file. This stately and secretive process, led by the Senate and Assembly appropriations committees, serves as a final fiscal review before any legislation expected to have a significant cost to the state is sent to the full chamber for a vote.

In fast and furious hearings on Thursday that stretched for two hours, the committees ran through the fates of nearly 1,000 bills, offering no explanations for their decisions and, in many cases, no formal announcement at all that a measure was held.

The results had already been determined in private deliberations. The suspense file, among the most opaque practices at the Capitol, allows legislative leaders to not only shelve proposals that are too expensive, but to also more quietly dispatch those that are controversial or politically inconvenient, particularly in an election year.

About 220 bills were shelved. The bills that made it through — more than 700 of them — now face another looming deadline next week to pass out of their house of origin. If successful, they will move to the other chamber for further consideration.

Here are some of the notable measures that are not advancing this session:

Election Day holiday

Five times Assemblymember Evan Low, a Campbell Democrat, has tried to create a state holiday for the November election, closing schools and giving public employees paid time off to vote. And five times the bill has been held on the Assembly suspense file, including again this year.

Assembly Bill 1872 was slightly different from several of its predecessors in that it would have swapped out Presidents’ Day with an Election Day holiday in even-numbered years, rather than simply adding another day off, thereby lowering its cost. But with every California voter now being mailed a ballot in every election, the urgency for such a plan has diminished considerably.

A separate measure to create a state holiday for Juneteenth, Assembly Bill 1655 by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Los Angeles Democrat, advanced to the floor, however.

Affordable housing

If a powerful interest group swings hard enough at a bill, they just might kill it. That’s what happened when nearly 80 local, regional and national golf groups, as well as several organizations that favor local control over housing development, coalesced against Assemblymember Cristina Garcia’s Assembly Bill 1910

The measure targeted the state’s hundreds of municipal golf courses, many of which are operating at significant financial losses, as prime locations to help the state build its way out of its housing shortage. It would have offered grants to local governments to convert their golf courses into housing, at least a quarter of which would have to be affordable to low-income families. The result wasn’t too surprising: everyone wants affordable housing, until it threatens to come to their backyard — or local golf course.

— Manuela Tobias

Fertility treatment

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks’ push to require health insurers to cover fertility treatment, including costly in-vitro fertilization, fell short for the third time in four years.

Unlike 17 other states, California does not require health insurers to pay for fertility treatments. A round of in vitro and the accompanying medication can cost upwards of $20,000, deterring some people from having children and leaving others in exorbitant debt.

Photo via iStock
Photo via iStock

Assembly Bill 2029 by Wicks, an Oakland Democrat, was opposed by health insurance plans and other business groups, which noted the high price tag: an estimated $715 million that would be fronted by employers and health plan enrollees largely in the form of increased premiums. 

— Ana B. Ibarra

Salary transparency

Assembly Bill 2095 by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, a San Jose Democrat, was a first-in-the-nation bill that would have required large companies to report a broad swath of data on their workforce, including how much they are paid and what benefits they receive. The state could have used that information to provide the public with easy-to-understand measurements of how companies treat their employees and to give top performers certain perks, like tax credits. 

But the bill faced ardent opposition from business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, which put the bill on its “job killer” list — the collection of measures it lobbies against most aggressively each year. The Chamber argued that the data would create unfair comparisons between companies or be taken out of context. 

Legislators did advance another workplace transparency proposal on the “job killer” list: Senate Bill 1162 by Sen. Monique Limón, a Santa Barbara Democrat, which would require companies to make some pay data public, including salary ranges in job posting, passed with a few amendments, including one that exempted companies with 15 or fewer workers.

— Grace Gedye

Community college professor pay

Part-time community college faculty are having a mixed moment in Sacramento. A pending $200 million health care fund they’ve championed has the support of the governor. But a bill to match the wages of part-time community faculty with full-time faculty for similar levels of work died on the suspense file.

Assembly Bill 1752 by Miguel Santiago, a Los Angeles Democrat, would have increased community college costs by an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars annually. That the cost is so high speaks to the enormous wage gap between part-time faculty — who are typically paid only for the hours they teach, but not for other related work like lesson planning and grading — and their full-time salaried peers. 

A majority of community college faculty are part-time, earning on average $20,000 per year. Labor unions backed this bill while the organization representing community college executives opposed it, arguing that they were already struggling to meet staffing obligations in an era of declining student enrollment.

— Mikhail Zinshteyn

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Cal Poly Humboldt Honors Betty Kwan Chinn During Commencement

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2022 at 5:46 PM

Dr. Betty Kwan Chinn after receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Cal Poly Humboldt. - PHOTO BY DAVE WOODY
  • Photo by Dave Woody
  • Dr. Betty Kwan Chinn after receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Cal Poly Humboldt.
Betty Kwan Chinn became the first person in Cal Poly Humboldt's fresh history — and just the 13th in the campus' 109-year history — to receive an honorary doctorate degree Saturday.

During the ceremony, Cal Poly Humboldt President Tom Jackson Jr. and Provost Jenn Capps spoke of Chinn's decades of services in Humboldt County working to lift up those in need, detailing how a simple mission to feed homeless residents has blossomed into an organization that runs a day center, a shelter and a transitional housing project. Chinn, who was forced out of her home as a child during China's Cultural Revolution, left homeless and ostracized and never attended school, recalled at the ceremony how she used to bring homeless children to attend then Humboldt State University commencement ceremonies in an effort to show them what was possible and the value of education.

"Ms. Chinn is exemplary of service before self and upholds the university's vision of a more just and equitable society," Jackson said in an announcement of Chinn's honor. "Turning her personal hardships into a passion, she has spent the past four decades working to restore hope and dignity to those experiencing homelessness."

Chinn received the degree during the ceremony for the 2022 College of Professional Studies graduates. Local photographer — and Cal Poly Humboldt lecturer — Dave Woody was at the ceremony for the Journal and shares the below slideshow.
 
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Friday, April 29, 2022

Who’s Missing from California’s Community Colleges?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2022 at 3:49 PM

California community colleges have seen their enrollment drop by about a fifth during the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 300,000 fewer students enrolled in fall 2021 compared with fall 2019. 

“This raises critical concerns about equitable access to higher education as well as the ability to meet workforce needs,” said Paul Feist, vice chancellor of communications for the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. “It is why the entire community college system has mobilized to stabilize and turn back these declines.” 

California lawmakers last year gave the system $120 million to help bring students back. So far, as CalMatters has previously reported, progress has been uneven. At 42 of California’s 116 community colleges, more students left in the fall of 2021 than in fall of 2020.

So who exactly is still missing from the state’s community colleges?

Students who need — or decide — to work full time, for one, the chancellor’s office said. That includes parents, who are not only supporting themselves but their families. And it includes people who decided to take advantage of a labor market in which companies, struggling to find enough workers, are paying well above minimum wage for jobs that don’t require a degree.

One out of four prospective students surveyed in December by the Chancellor’s Office said they didn’t enroll because of full-time work. A big factor holding students back was affordability, with 43 percent of the 400 prospective students surveyed saying that even though the state’s community college tuition is among the lowest in the country, at $46 per unit, it is still too expensive to pursue a degree. 

“People think that community college is affordable, and in some ways it is. That total cost of attending college is more than just fees and tuition,” Feist said. “It involves books, housing, child care, and everything that goes into the total cost of success.” 

College enrollments are down across the country, although community colleges in California saw steeper declines than in many states.

Some of the enrollment declines can be attributed to demographic trends such as birth rates falling, says Jessica Thompson, vice president of The Institute for College Access and Success, a national organization. But the pandemic, she says, also has exacerbated a lot of pre-existing gaps in who is able to access college and who cannot.

“I’m going to college to fill out paperwork? Are you kidding me?”

Jesse Driskill, former City College of San Francisco student

People from lower-income families and people of color are at a higher risk of not being able to attend college, or having to drop out, for a number of reasons including caregiving responsibilities, obligations to work, and trouble accessing the technology they need, Thompson says. 

Here are the stories of some of the Californians who dropped out from community college over the past two years. They were challenged by online learning, financial needs, and mental health. Many intended, or still intend, to re-enroll, although the decision to leave community college sent all of them down new paths:

Turned off by online learning

Jesse Driskill is photographed outside his home in San Francisco on Apr. 7, 2022. - PHOTO BY MARTIN DO NASCIMENTO, CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters
  • Jesse Driskill is photographed outside his home in San Francisco on Apr. 7, 2022.
Jesse Driskill dropped out of community college before his first course even started. The pandemic stymied the educational plans of many students. For Driskill, it deepened his disillusionment about the entire enterprise.

Attending college was not a certainty for Driskill, 19, who barely made it through high school with passing grades. “I didn’t try at school, and I just didn’t really like school,” he said. “It’s not like I was going to get into a good college. So, my only option was community.”

Driskill waited more than a year after graduating from high school in 2020 to register for classes at City College of San Francisco, at his mother’s encouragement. “You know, she didn’t want a deadbeat son because that kind of sucks,” he joked.

But then he learned that all of his classes would be held online in an asynchronous format. He would only interact with professors and students through Google classroom. “I felt like that was some serious bullshit,” he said. “Like I’m going to college to fill out paperwork? Are you kidding me? I want to talk to people, say hi to people. I want to see faces.”

The lack of in-person interactions made the decision not to attend City College an easy one. He already was unsure about what he wanted to study in college, as most academic subjects seemed obscure and unrelated to his real-life concerns, like making money.

But then, unexpectedly, Driskill found himself back in school late last year when he enrolled in App Academy, a for-profit institution that trains students in software engineering. His mother, a massage therapist, learned about the program from a client and helped her son pay the $17,000 tuition.

Driskill was optimistic that the 16-week, online course would land him a high-paying job in the tech sector of San Francisco. “I’m pretty interested in not staying poor,” he said. “Getting a software engineering job would definitely help with that. I mean coding is fun, which is part of the reason why I want to pursue this. But the main reason is money.”

— Emily Margaretten

Recovering from long COVID

The pandemic made an indelible mark on the life of Becky Langley, a returning student in her 30s.

She was working full-time as an emergency room technician, assessing patients’ needs and monitoring their vital signs, while studying at Lassen Community College to become a surgical technician – a job with a higher salary. 

This year started off strong for Langley, but soon she was regularly working 12-hour shifts as emergency rooms were overwhelmed by the pandemic.

She did much of her studying inside the emergency room. Langley would start her shifts at 7 p.m. and stayed busy until about 11:30 p.m. From 12:30 to 3 or 4 a.m. she had enough down time to study. By 5 a.m. the patients would begin to roll back in, and finally at 7 a.m. she could go home.  

The long days soon took their toll. In February, she contracted COVID-19 and was forced to drop out of school to focus on her health. She was diagnosed with COVID pneumonia, or “long COVID,” and is still recovering. 

“I think we’re all just spent.”

Becky Langley, health care worker and former Lassen Community College student

Langley cited the hospital’s crisis staffing as the biggest catalyst for her dropping out of school. If it weren’t for all the overtime, she said, “I still could have been in school and I probably wouldn’t have gotten sick,” Langley said. 

She said she thinks all health care workers are feeling the same burnout that she is. “Everything that’s happened over the past two years has made it so overwhelming and exhausting,” Langley said. “I think we’re just all spent.”

After taking a break from work, Langley returned to a different department in the hospital and is also apprenticing in the surgical department until she can go back to school and get her certification. 

“Healthwise, I’m better,” Langley said. “I’ve just got to find a way to get motivated to get back into school. It’s hard when you quit.”

— Oden Taylor 

Anevay Martinez is photographed outside her home in Indio on April 16, 2022. Photo by Lauren Justice for CalMatters
Anevay Martinez is photographed outside her home in Indio on April 16, 2022. Anxious to start her career, Martinez said she felt like community college was taking too long. Photo by Lauren Justice for CalMatters

Opting for a fast path to work

Anevay Martinez started at College of the Desert in Palm Desert right after graduating from high school in 2020, hoping higher education would kick start a career in medicine. Her plan was to take courses there for two years and then transfer to a four-year university. 

But Martinez struggled to learn without the structure of in-person classes. She started dreading going to school. She didn’t want to sit through general education classes that had nothing to do with her major. Instead, she wanted to jump right into her career. 

 After just a couple of weeks, she dropped out. 

Martinez, 20, said that as the oldest of seven children in a low-income family, she wanted to start working so she could support herself. For her, two years of community college was too long to wait.

“I know if I want to do things by myself,” she said, “it’s gonna cost money.”

Martinez was out of school for a year, and then her mother brought her information about Mayfield College, a private, for-profit college. 

Martinez was drawn to Mayfield’s promises that its program would lead to a career. Being able to get a job right after a nine-month program, she said, was worth the extra cost of Mayfield over a community college.

Through Mayfield, she got an externship at an internal medicine office in Palm Desert, taking patients’ blood pressure and temperature, going over their medications with them, and prepping for X-rays and MRIs. That eventually turned into a full-time job once she got her medical assisting certificate. On the weekends, she works at a retirement home.

Eventually, she said, she wants to return to community college and become an ultrasound technician. But she’s unsure when that might happen.

“I wanted to just start doing something so I can start living on my own and get my life started faster,” she said. “I don’t want to rely on my parents more than I have to.” 

— Emma Hall

Ally Haynes is photographed at their home in Eureka on Apr. 9, 2022. Photo by Patrick Garcia for CalMatters
Ally Haynes is photographed at their home in Eureka on April 9, 2022. The pandemic affected Haynes’ mental health — so much, they said, that they left school. Photo by Patrick Garcia for CalMatters

Taking a break for mental health

Ally Haynes had gotten used to 12-hour days. Before the pandemic, they were studying agriculture at the College of the Redwoods from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., then working from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at an after-school program for kids. Then COVID hit.

“Everything kind of stopped. I went from working every morning … (to) doing nothing, and I was like, what am I doing? I don’t know who I am, I don’t know what my hobbies are, what I’m interested in,” Haynes said.

Haynes is only one semester’s worth of credits away from being able to transfer to a four-year university. But they felt so off-kilter once the pandemic started that they decided they needed to take a break.

Online school had proved challenging. “I have ADHD, so focusing at home is a lot harder for me than focusing in school,” Haynes said.

“For my mental health,” they decided, “I just needed to step back and take care of that rather than worrying about my education.”

During their semester off, they’ve been continuing to pursue their dream career as an agricultural educator by shadowing a bee farmer. College isn’t off the table for them forever, though.

“I have ADHD, so focusing at home is a lot harder for me than focusing in school.”

Ally Haynes, former student at College of the Redwoods

They came into college, they said, without really having much preparation. Neither of their parents attended college. 

“All my life it’s been something that they’re really pushed hard toward: me going to a college and getting a higher education,” they said, “because of how much they struggled not having higher education.”

Haynes is encouraged by the fact that they’re so close to transferring. They now plan to return next semester.

— Emily Forschen

Struggling as a student parent

At just 19 years old, nursing student Brianna Hatfield felt like she was taking on the world alone. 2020 came like a storm to her life: A day after her father passed away, her husband was arrested.  The day after that, she learned about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hatfield was left raising three children on her own—her youngest, Abigail, was just three weeks old— and commuting 67 miles each way to classes at Lassen Community College. 

Often, she said, she wouldn’t get home until 10 p.m. after finishing her assignments and staying late to study, leaving her children with her mother. The hardest part, she said, was “having time for everything, to do my (school) work, take care of my kids, and do my job.” 

As a breastfeeding mother, Hatfield regularly had to leave her classes to pump. She would often leave a recorder on the desk to capture the lectures, she said, but by the time she got home she was too tired to play them back. 

Taking her children to doctor’s appointments also cut into class time. She failed a test, then was dropped from the program because she fell below a ‘C’ average.

She is now taking one English course just to maintain her on-campus job, which is open only to students.

She plans to go back to the nursing program in fall of 2023, once her husband is released from prison.

“I know if my husband was home during the time I went to nursing school, I most likely would have passed because I would have had that extra help to care for my kids,” Hatfield said. “It would have given me the extra time that I needed to practice and study.”

— Oden Taylor 

Hall, Forschen and Taylor are fellows with the CalMatters College Journalism Network, a collaboration between CalMatters and student journalists from across California. Margaretten is a contributor to the network. This story and other higher education coverage are supported by the College Futures Foundation.

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Friday, April 22, 2022

COVID Outbreak Strands NoHum Students in Rome, Milan

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2022 at 6:43 PM

A rapid antigen COVID-19 test is used on patients at Canal Alliance’s test site in San Rafael. - PHOTO BY PENNI GLADSTONE FOR CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Penni Gladstone for CalMatters
  • A rapid antigen COVID-19 test is used on patients at Canal Alliance’s test site in San Rafael.
A Northern Humboldt Unified High School District trip to Europe has been derailed by COVID-19 outbreaks, leaving some students in locked quarantine facilities overseas and parents scrambling for information amid rising frustrations.

“It’s a fucking nightmare,” said Rae Robison, whose son, an Arcata High School student, is on the trip and is currently being held in a hotel that’s been converted into an Italian government-run quarantine center in Rome.

According to Robison and other parents, the trip, planned by the educational travel company EF Tours, included 68 students from multiple schools’ AP Europe classes and about 10 chaperones, and set out during the schools' springs breaks. The group landed around 11 a.m. on April 12 in London, where it spent three days, before moving on to three days in France and then Italy.

According to parents’ Facebook posts and interviews with the Journal, some students quickly began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

“Immediately upon arrival in London, kids were sick — runny noses, sore throats — and a chaperone was coughing,” said Angelina Torres, whose 17-year-old daughter, a student of Arcata High School, is on the trip. She added that as students increasingly became symptomatic in the ensuing days, some expressed concerns but were told they were likely just struggling with jet lag and adjusting to a new climate.

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Monday, April 18, 2022

USA TODAY Highlights Case of HSU Dean Fired for Harassing Colleagues but Allowed to 'Retreat' into Tenured Post

Posted By on Mon, Apr 18, 2022 at 3:31 PM

USA TODAY published a two-month investigation into the case of a former dean at now Cal Poly Humboldt who was given a tenured professorship under what's known as "retreat rights," even though he was fired from his administrative role in 2016 after campus investigations found he had groped two female colleagues.

According to the article, John Lee currently teaches in the School of Education, earning $154,000 a year, under the "retreat" provision of his contract that guaranteed him a safe landing even if he engaged in serious misconduct. His reinstatement after a three-month leave placed him back among the same faculty as the women he was found to have harassed.

"Retreat rights is not designed to be a Get Out of Jail Free card," one of the women told USA TODAY, "but that's exactly how it's being used."

Lee, the USA TODAY story states, declined to comment.

The investigation into the story, which is currently subscriber-only content,  included interviews with dozens of Lee's current and former colleagues at the Arcata campus, as well as contract and labor experts and those with expertise on Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination in education, and the review of dozens of documents, among them correspondences to then Humboldt State University administrators about Lee's behavior, USA TODAY states.

Complaints about Lee's management style and his creation of a hostile work environment that included screaming insults began soon after he arrived at Humboldt in 2010 and continued, with those raising concerns hitting brick walls in seeking assistance from both Human Resources and other high ranking administrators, according to the USA TODAY report. That included Robert Snyder, who in one of his last acts as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs in 2014 reportedly altered Lee's contract to ensure he would receive the maximum allowable salary if he retreated to a tenured position.

Things took a turn in 2015 when Synder's replacement urged one of Lee's associate deans not to resign due to his conduct but to file an HR case, which eventually set into motion the two investigations that culminated with Lee's firing from the dean post, according to USA TODAY.

The report on California State University's far-flung Humboldt campus comes on the heels of a related investigation that USA TODAY published in February (also subscriber only), which revealed how former Fresno State University President Joseph Castro gave one his top administrations a payout deal to retire rather than take a faculty position after he was found in 2020 to have committed abusive conduct in the workplace as well as sexual harassment.

Castro, who had just been named CSU chancellor, resigned from his newly acquired position two weeks after USA TODAY published the story on that settlement with Frank Lamas and what the paper describes as Castro's "mishandling of at least a dozen sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation complaints against Lamas over a six-year span."

In the end, Castro received a $400,000 settlement and ended up using his retreat rights to be a tenured professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the paper states.

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