Whitman, Brown promise to protect schools

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, left, and her opponent, Democrat Jerry Brown waves to the crowd after their third and final debate held at Dominican University in San Rafael, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool)
October 19, 2010 7:11:31 PM PDT
Gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown both say they will protect California's schools, but they differ quite a bit in their proposals.

Both Brown and Whitman want more money for schools, but neither is willing to raise taxes.

Brown's solution is to simplify the funding process.

"Alright here's what it does, we have lots of problems, 60 different programs they call categorical programs because they fit into different categories," Brown said.

Brown believes collapsing those 60 programs down to less than 20 will cut expenses.

"And then have a formula by which if there are a lot of poor children they get a little more if you have an area where you don't have a lot of college graduates among the family they get a little more," he said.

Like Brown, Whitman says she will simplify.

"You ask teachers, they know exactly what's going on, every teacher I've talked to has said the overhead the bureaucracy the paper work is killing the schools," Whitman said.

Whitman says it is not a lack of money for education.

"Of the $70 billion that we spend on education from federal, state and local sources, only 60 percent of it goes to the classroom, 40 percent goes to administration and overhead," she said.

Whitman's numbers are right. It is also true that California had that same 60-40 split in 1990

Overhead costs include heating, cooling, buses, cafeteria, secretaries, janitors and librarians.

The national average is 63-37 percent.

So how would Whitman change that for California?

"We need to dismantle the bureaucracy in Sacramento; we have two competing bureaucracies on education, the superintendent of education and the Department of Education," she said.

Like Brown, Whitman says trimming the bureaucracy in Sacramento will yield more money for students.

On immigration, both Whitman and Brown say California needs to get control of the border and enforce immigration laws. For those already in the country illegally, Brown would provide a path to citizenship.

"We can't round them up and deport them like they did in Eastern Europe," Brown said.

Whitman refuses to weigh in on that issue, saying she will not until the borders are secure.

"My view is, let's solve the problem and then later we can talk about what the right thing to do is," she said.

On pension reform, Whitman supports switching civil servants to 401K plans.

"We do need to go to a 401K-style program for the vast majority of civil servants that report to the governor," she said.

That means the vast majority would lose their defined benefits plan -- the guaranteed pensions -- and they would be replaced by a guaranteed contribution plan like most 401Ks.

Brown says pension reform is needed.

"You have to hold the reins; I vetoed salaries of employees, I vetoed bills of Democrats and Republicans," he said.

Brown says he will renegotiate with unions and increase the retirement age. Whitman says Brown will not buck the unions that have supported him.

"Putting Jerry Brown in charge of negotiating with the unions around pensions around how many people we have in state government is like putting Count Dracula in charge of the blood bank," Whitman said during one of the debates.

At that debate, Brown countered by saying Whitman has already caved on reforming pensions for police and firefighters and she has carved out an exception for them.

"They've got to get the very best and the brightest, they're recruiting needs are such it's that it's actually the right thing to do for them to be able to offer a defined benefit program to people who put their life on the line for us every single day," Whitman said.

On prison reform, Brown says it would be smarter to have a range of sanctions that would allow some prisoners to serve time in local jails. And he says he will fight court ordered spending.

"I've already saved the state billions of dollars by blocking the attempt to build 10,000 new hospital beds at a cost of $8 billion," he said.

Whitman points out it is cheaper to move them.

"My solution to that is we need to send prisoners to neighboring state who have capacity in their prison system of which Michigan is probably the best example," she said.


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