Gov. Jerry Brown talks realignment, school funding in Stanislaus County

jnsbranti@modbee.comFebruary 24, 2014 

Brown In Modesto

Gov. Jerry Brown attends a meeting on public safety in Modesto on Monday (02-24-14).

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

— Gov. Jerry Brown met privately with about 20 Stanislaus County law enforcement and public education officials Monday, as he promoted his administration’s efforts to change where criminals are incarcerated and how schools are funded.

The governor also toured the county’s Public Safety Center in Modesto and its Recovery Center for substance abusers in Ceres.

Brown traveled to Fresno on Monday, where he attended the funeral for two CHP officers killed last week in a Highway 99 car crash. The visit to Stanislaus was arranged late last week to coincide with that trip through the county.

As he has done on numerous recent visits to various California counties, the governor met with local officials to discuss progress on his public safety realignment for handling convicted criminals and his local control funding formula for financing schools.

“In both areas (public safety and education), local control is substituting to an important degree from what has been state control,” the governor told The Modesto Bee by phone as he was heading back to Sacramento on Monday evening.

The public safety realignment, signed into law in mid-2011, shifted some responsibilities for lower-level offenders, adult parolees and juvenile offenders from the state to local jurisdictions. The governor said the intention was to help stop the expensive, ineffective and unsafe “revolving door” of lower-level offenders and parole violators through state prisons.

The new school funding formula, signed into law last year, revamps California’s complex and inequitable finance system for public education. It is expected to boost funding for the state’s neediest students and increase local control over how that money is spent.

Among the law enforcement officials Brown met with were: Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll, Sheriff Adam Christianson, District Attorney Birgit Fladager, Chief Probation Officer Jill Silva and County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Director Madelyn Schlaepfer. Presiding Judge Loretta Murphy Begen, Supervising Judge of the Criminal Department Scott Steffen, Stanislaus’ Chief Executive Officer Stan Risen, county Chief Operations Officer Patty Hill Thomas and county Supervisor Vito Chiesa also attended the gathering.

What did the governor hear from those local leaders?

Concerns about inadequate funding and inmate capacity, he said. “The Valley is not getting its share of funding, and that’s a problem. There’s not enough jail space,” and the inmates aren’t serving enough of their time, he said.

Brown said he pointed out that incarceration alternatives, including drug treatment and job-readiness programs, “have to be part of the mix” and that local authorities will “have to be creative.” It will take three or four years before realignment is really working as it should, he said. “But look, the jail’s been under a cap for 20 years or so. ... The old system wasn’t working well at all. The new system has potential but needs time.”

The governor’s education-focused meeting included public schools superintendents: the county office of education’s Tom Changnon, Chatom’s Cherise Olvera, Modesto’s Pam Able, Paradise’s Heath Thomason, Patterson’s Phil Alfano, Riverbank’s Daryl Camp, Turlock’s Sonny Da Marto and Waterford’s Don Davis.

Turlock High’s math department chair, Marjorie Bettencourt, and the county’s director of educational options, Scott Kuykendall, also attended that education meeting.

What Brown heard at that meeting, which was later in the day: “First of all, that we’re very grateful we have Prop. 30 and are paying down deferrals,” he said. There are concerns over how the regional occupation program and career training programs will fare under local control formula. “I definitely will look at that,” Brown said. “Also the gap between boys and girls is growing, and that’s something that doesn’t get enough attention.”

The governor said he met with the educators “to hear and learn firsthand from teachers and administrators. This is where the rubber meets the road. The local control formula goal is to reduce state mandates and proscriptions.”

Bee local news editor Deke Farrow contributed to this report. Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or (209) 578-2196.

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