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Roundtable Analyzes Debates, Fracking, Testing Violations In Chula Vista Schools

Roundtable Analyzes Debates, Fracking, Testing Violations In Chula Vista Schools
Gubernatorial Debate, City Council Forum, Fracking Okay, Chula Vista TestingHOST: Mark SauerGUESTS: Chris Jennewein, Susan White, Matthew Bowler, KPBS News

MARK SAUER: I am Mark Sauer, and KPBS Roundtable starts now. Joining me today on the Roundtable are Chris Jennewein, Susan White, and Matthew Bowler. With a big lead and a big advantage in fundraising, and a solid record, Jerry Brown saw his debate against Neil Kashkari as an opportunity. Neil Kashkari took advantage by coming out swinging in the feisty one hour affair. Chris, how would you characterize what you saw going on there? CHRIS JENNEWEIN: It was certainly a spirited debate. What we saw was a very well spoken, quick on his feet newcomer, sparring with a political veteran who frankly came across as he has seen it before, he has been through this before. Governor Brown was blunt. He took the punches and punched back, but I think Kashkari got some zingers off like the crazy train, which came up again and again. MARK SAUER: What were the main topics of the debate? CHRIS JENNEWEIN: I think spending on the high-speed rail was one of the main themes. Kashkari is saying it is too expensive. We should put the money into water. Of course, it was a proposition, it was difficult to move away from that. The governor is speaking again and again of how he found what he said was a state like Greece, with difficult economic problems, he has turned it around, and if we stick with him, we will have more around. MARK SAUER: Right, he was proud of that stewardship, as you said. Here's a clip of what he had to say: [AUDIO FILE PLAYING] JERRY BROWN: You don't really have much expectation to win, because things have been accomplished in Sacramento. The budget deficit, this is a big thing, the California failed state, another Greece. It is now a serious surplus, that is impressive. We have $1.4 million since the recession, they were cutting arts and science and performance, and now we have injected $2000 per student because of proposition thirty. People know that California is not perfect, we have problems, but what moment and we now have? [ END AUDIO FILE ] MARK SAUER: Did he do a good job defending himself? CHRIS JENNEWEIN: He came across as the kind of governor you can trust, he has seen it before, and then it before. A newcomer like Kashkari, as well spoken as he is, has to have more experience before he will convince voters. It is one debate, the only debate, the governor said at the end she is not planning a follow-up. Governor Brown is well ahead, some polls show him twenty points ahead. I think that will be a very big lead for someone to overcome, based on good performance, better than expected performance in one debate. MARK SAUER: Kashkari came out swinging, let's see an example in this clip: [AUDIO FILE PLAYING] NEIL KASHKARI: I don't think Governor Brown did nearly enough for any number of businesses. Governor Brown for Kelly says businesses come and go. It is not businesses coming and going, it is Tesla, Toyota, Schwab, NestlÈ, on and on, they are all going. There is a problem. In the four years Governor Brown has been governor, we have been ranked fiftieth out of fifty states for years in a row for business climate. [ END AUDIO FILE ] MARK SAUER: It's clear the differences there. Brown says we have done great, Kashkari says not so fast. CHRIS JENNEWEIN: He had a good come back, Brown pointed out the cars that Tesla makes come off the assembly line in Fremont. If you look at the news on the plant decision, one of the primary considerations for Tesla was the fact that there are lithium mines in Nevada. That is the primary source, you have to have them to make these batteries. It was a clear-cut decision, California versus Nevada. You need to be close to resources. MARK SAUER: Exactly. It did get testy, we have one more clip to show how feisty it got: [AUDIO FILE PLAYING] NEIL KASHKARI: You had a choice between fighting for the civil rights of poor kids and fighting for the union bosses who funded your campaigns. You sided with the union bosses, you should be ashamed of yourself. I will fight for the kids. JERRY BROWN: That makes no sense at all. That is so false. NEIL KASHKARI: It is absolutely true. JERRY BROWN: It is false. [ END AUDIO FILE ] MARK SAUER: It is interesting, I happen to be listening to the radio at the time, it occurred to me it is wonderful political statement by the challenger, because why is that mutually exclusive? You can't be for teachers and kids, you have to be for one or the other. The teachers are the big supporters of Jerry Brown. CHRIS JENNEWEIN: I think Governor Brown as the head of the state of California, he had to defend that. You are in the position that you have to defend the law in that case. But, it's a wonderful thing to see from the challenger. I think Kashkari did that well throughout the debate, he seized on issues that are controversial, and he pressed home. This is his first run for political office. He does have significant public experience as the man behind the Troubled Asset Recovery Program. MARK SAUER: And at Goldman Sachs before that, as Governor Brown noted, because he had that wonderful line about the fact that you were the arsonist here at Goldman Sachs leading us off the cliff, and he went with TARP and the bailout, kind of the arsonist putting out the fire here. Thank you, that was a good line. SUSAN WHITE: Can I see something about the crazy train? This drives me crazy. What is crazy is that we do not have trains like this throughout our country. Couple of years ago, my organization sent a reporter to Germany to write about what they are doing. He traveled everywhere seamlessly, everything is interconnected. We are so far behind the rest of the world, including some countries that are less developed than ours. It is shocking. I do not know this particular project, we're making a start. The craziness is that we do not have it. We are so far behind. CHRIS JENNEWEIN: I think that's an important comment, because you can criticize something like that, but what are the alternatives? The alternatives are more highways. It is expensive to build highways. You can't just say the train is expensive, we can't do it, if you're not going to do what will you invest in? MARK SAUER: Other stuff is more expensive. Let's shift to another debate locally, in district 6, which you moderated. It is the only city council race in play in November, tell us about the candidates there and what they were saying. CHRIS JENNEWEIN: It was an interesting debate, with two very well spoken candidates. Not a lot of fireworks, with these two candidates it's a difference of degree. Chris Cate is Republican, Carol Kim is a Democrat. She has a lot of union support. Chris Cate has the support of the political establishment, Mayor Faulconer, and Jerry Sanders. What is at stake is very important, because it is the sixty-three Democratic majority on the council at stake here. If Cate wins, and he had 47% of the vote in the primary, it will likely be 5 to 4, and not a vetoproof Democratic majority. MARK SAUER: And if Kim wins, they keep the vetoproof majority. CHRIS JENNEWEIN: Same as it has been for a while. MARK SAUER: All right, we have a clip of both candidates, first the Republican Chris Cate and then the Democrat Carol Kim. [AUDIO FILE PLAYING] CHRIS CATE: I am the only business person in this race who has started and operated my own small business. I know what it takes every day to balance the budget, make payroll, and create jobs in our city. CAROL KIM: I will make sure there is a system that allows us to really see and track how money is being spent, whether or not we are receiving the services we are paying for, and if they are not going well, let's figure that out. [ END AUDIO FILE ] MARK SAUER: All right, we have about a minute left in the segment. They agreed on a lot of stuff, any key differences? CHRIS JENNEWEIN: It's the way they approached problems. Let's take the Police Department. Everyone agrees we should spend more money on the police department. Chris Cate's position was let's do with the council has done, which is vote for in the increase in the budget and let the professionals figure out how to divide it up. Carol Kim said let's spend the money on raises for officers, she would raise salaries 5% each year for the next five years. If you do the math and compounded, it's about 27% over five years. Same intent, different approaches. Pay more to the police officers, or increase the budget for the department. MARK SAUER: How do you handicap a race like this? There's no money for big pools, and only a small segment of the city is voting on it, you have to wait for election day. MATTHEW BOWLER: I was wondering too, it is an off year, do you think Republicans have an advantage? CHRIS JENNEWEIN: I think Kate has an advantage at least on the surface. He has the endorsement of Mitz Lee, who came in number three in the race. You already have 47%, he picked up the support of the number three person, and that may be enough to get over 50%. MARK SAUER: We should note, the district 6 was redrawn, it used to be Donna Fry and then Lorie Zapf, and now it is a heavy Asian population in that district. CHRIS JENNEWEIN: Both of Asian background. MARK SAUER: It's funny, they keep saying, it would be the first is an American councilmember on the council a long time, but Todd Gloria is part Filipino, I don't know. CHRIS JENNEWEIN: Interesting thing about the debate, it was a big audience of about 100 people, but in the audience were Scott Sherman and Lorie Zapf. MARK SAUER: Okay we will shift to another topic with a lot of moving parts. Telephone you seems like the last place to extract oil and gas with the process that requires a huge amount of water and triggers earthquakes. But backers of the controversial drilling method known as fracking appeared to have gotten a green light from a federal agency. Susan, let's start by explaining what fracking is. SUSAN WHITE: Fracking is a process that has enabled the oil and gas industry to extract oil and gas deposits that were once considered uneconomical to extract. They are deep, or in rock formations that are difficult to get to. But fracking was his large amounts of water with sand and chemicals into the earth. It explodes the earth around, and the gas molecules come out and go up to the surface. MARK SAUER: It divides boulders and rocks. SUSAN WHITE: Think of it as a spider web under the ground, you can go down once in many different places. The process is used a little differently depending on geology. Our geology is different, as I understand. My organization has not done a lot of reporting in California. MARK SAUER: Are we doing fracking here? Is it happening here? SUSAN WHITE: I'm sure we are, because everyone says it is an old process, it is. But it has been tweaked. Modern fracking is not what fracking was. MARK SAUER: There have been many environmental Robinson complaint elsewhere in the country, give us the high points of that. SUSAN WHITE: This study focused primarily on water. MARK SAUER: This was done by the California council on science and technology. CHRIS JENNEWEIN: Right, it was for the BLM. It seems, from what I have read, that people agreed this was a good study, they did it as well as they could. There is very little information out there. But what has happened in other places, there have been reports of our contamination in Pennsylvania and other places. But there are bigger problems that are not being addressed. There is also the problem of air pollution. My organization has been reporting on that throughout the country, and we are focusing on Texas now. Fracking is just one part of the production process. The production process is huge, it means extracting the gas. You have waste pits and compressor stations. It is like bringing in industrial process into the area. Hundreds and hundreds of truckloads of water in, and carrying contaminated water out. It is a big industrial process, and there are not many rules regulating it. So, you have in Texas families that we have written about, where many of them do not have a lot of money. They bought a little land in Texas, where there was nothing. They are living in nice life. Suddenly, they are surrounded by fifty wells and trucks, and production facilities. We have written about people who can no longer breathe. If you have a health problem already, the laws are not there to protect them, particularly in Texas. MARK SAUER: The idea in California was to find out, what harm could it do? Before we allow these leases on federal lands. The study was curious, because the conclusion was, we don't know what harm it will do, but we don't have any information to base that on. That was taken by the oil companies and energy companies and they rejoiced with this. The federal government says okay, let's go ahead with the leases. I wonder if there is an analogy here with the FDA and the pharmaceutical products or medical technique, where they say hey, we don't have any information, we don't know it will hurt anybody, but we don't have any information, go on ahead. SUSAN WHITE: Right, that is what we are doing. And then, you have to reverse the process. You have to prove harm. When there is no data, how do people prove harm? There is a court case in Texas involving air pollution, is the first case of its kind in the country. People won over a million dollars, because they said their health have been damaged. But there is very little scientific evidence proving these cases, it is almost impossible. So there you are. CHRIS JENNEWEIN: There has been a lot of development of fracking in three states, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Texas. I wonder if we have to take into account a trade-off between the potential environmental impact, the economic development impact, and Governor Brown said he sees this as a potentially fabulous economic boon for California. SUSAN WHITE: It is, and it can be, but so far, as a country we are looking at the economic benefits, and the stability of a domestic gas and oil supply, but we pay lip service. Oh, it can be regulated. I have been working on the subject since 2008. I've been editing stories about this. What I have learned in that time, it can be made safer. There are all kinds of things that can be done, but you have to have regulations and you have to allocate money to enforce relations. MARK SAUER: You talk about jobs and the economy, that's a very valid thing. The volatility in the Middle East, we have seen that with the oil supply there, and domestic supplies, search care and techniques like this. The question down the road, what are the costs of pollution and climate change that way into this factor of jobs and production now? SUSAN WHITE: I would like to see factored in the price of a gallon of gasoline or the unit of gas you use at your house, that you factor in the environmental costs, because that would give you a realistic picture. As I said, many of these things can be mitigated, especially water contamination, because they can cement the wells. But you have to have someone there to make sure they are cemented. MARK SAUER: What do environmentalists want to do in light of this report, apparently the green light is on in California. What would they like to see happen? SUSAN WHITE: I am not really well-versed on what the environmentalists want in California, that I think nationally among many groups it's stop fracking, which seems unrealistic. But there are other groups that say let us have it regulated, let us make it safer, but the push by industry and politicians who are supported by the industry, the pushback against regulations is tremendous. MARK SAUER: Undoubtedly we will hear more about this. Taking tests is not the most enjoyable thing for many students. But for those with dyslexia, it is especially difficult. California law requires school districts to make accommodations for students with disabilities. But some parents and teachers in Chula Vista are angry that two sets of tests were recently given without any disability accommodation. What tests are we talking about? MATTHEW BOWLER: We are talking about the common core testing. That is smarter balanced, the test we've been hearing about. Chula Vista has its own local measures test, a test they used to determine where students are academically, and how well teachers are doing teaching students. MARK SAUER: Why do dyslexic students have trouble with this type of test? MATTHEW BOWLER: Dyslexia is a difference in cognitive process. So, dyslexics interpret written information differently than other people. They also tend to have a harder time communicating that information, writing that information down once they are trying to express themselves, particularly through an exam of this time. MARK SAUER: So it's not an issue of intelligence or knowledge. MATTHEW BOWLER: Not at all, dyslexics are highly intelligent Einstein is most famously dyslexic, no one would call him stupid. They tend to also testify in certain areas, and slower in other areas. High in math and science, but not as well in areas of reading and writing. MARK SAUER: So they might be behind a grade level, in reading or writing for example, but above grade level in math and science. In your story, you also noted it is not a small percentage of the student population we are talking about. MATTHEW BOWLER: It's about 17% of the world population is possibly dyslexic. To some degree or another. It is definitely a scalable thing. There is a huge amount of kids. But when you have a classroom full of twenty students, 15% those students, that is 2 to 3 kids per class. That is significant enough to be relevant in the class, but not significant enough overall to determine the conceptual direction of the teaching. MARK SAUER: On a personal note, we have a clip from a parent, Justina Eaton and her daughter Abby. They talk specifically about their experiences with that test. Let's hear what they had to say: [AUDIO FILE PLAYING] JUSTINA EATON: When I told them it is illegal, they said you have to understand, your child still has to be held accountable, and we have to be able to test her, even though she is dyslexic. ABBY EATON: It is hard, and you might not think it is hard, but some people, it is hard for them. I am one of those people. JUSTINA EATON: She is crying at the table, saying mommy I am stupid, I am stupid. What do you do for that? At that point, learning is not happening anymore. [ END AUDIO FILE ] MARK SAUER: Susan, you were telling me before we went on the air that you have a personal aspects of this situation with your granddaughter, and they were saying in the clip, what do you do? Your family has taken some measures, explain that. SUSAN WHITE: I heard Matt's story on the radio and I was immediately in touch with my daughter in law, because my granddaughter is really smart and has had a terrible time in school. Last year they had to pull her out, and what alarms me about this kind of story, it's a problem for the schools and the teacher, but for each of those individual children like Abby or my granddaughter, it is personally devastating. With my granddaughter, they put her reading books that were not interesting to her at a very low level. As soon as they pulled her out of school, she was reading on her own at her own pace and was reading at a very high level but it broke my heart to hear what Abby said, because how many kids face these problems without help from the teacher? The parents do not know what to do. MARK SAUER: What are the accommodations the school is supposed to have? MATTHEW BOWLER: They're all kinds. You can give the kids more time. One accommodation is to modify the question. If the kid is reading at a third grade level in fifth grade, but they are doing math at a tenth grade level, which happens a lot with dyslexics. They are given a word problem with math. You have two word the problem so if it is that a third grade level, the math has to be grade. It is actually very collocated and requires a lot of smart teachers. It can be done. MARK SAUER: What about the school district, what did they say when they did not make these accommodations? MATTHEW BOWLER: They give a few different answers. The assistant superintendent said he would only speak to the smarter balanced test. He said they are working on that, that was the extent of the answer from him. But Justina told me they said to her that they only got the test within a week, and they were not able to make accommodations for the smarter balanced test, but that does not explain the local measures test, because they have been doing that for thirteen years. San Diego Unified told me they got a list from California and the smarter balanced people as to what the accommodations should be, and how to make them in January. They give this test in May, and made the accommodations. They also gave the teachers the right to make the accommodations as they see fit. CHRIS JENNEWEIN: It is fascinating to me that this is going on with so much that we know about these kinds of conditions. MATTHEW BOWLER: This is a very 1980s discussion to have. Everyone agrees dyslexia exists. The point is to teach kids, that debate is long since over. SUSAN WHITE: It infuriates me when I hear them say oh, we did not get the test in time or whatever. That is about process. We should be looking about individual children. You want me to read the poem? MARK SAUER: Yes, we have a few seconds left, this is a poem your granddaughter wrote. Give us a few of those. SUSAN WHITE: This is after she began homeschooling. If you are out of your shell, it is good sometimes. If you are inside your shell, it is good sometimes. If you are in your shell, you are protected. But you cannot see the world, only your shell. I am in my shell now, I will come out soon MARK SAUER: Wow, that is very moving. The intelligence is clear. That wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS roundtable. I would like to take my guests, Chris Jennewein, Susan White, and Matt Bowler. A reminder, all of the stories we discussed are available on our website Thank you for joining us today on the Roundtable.

Brown, Kashkari Square Off

Why would California Gov. Jerry Brown, who is some 16 points ahead of challenger Neel Kashkari, bother with debating Kashkari at all?

Both candidates met Thursday night, two months before the election, in what looks like their one-and-only debate.


The two clashed over how well, or even whether, the state was recovering from recession, the California business climate, high-speed rail, education and poverty.

In spite of stunts such as pretending to be homeless for a week, Kashkari, a former assistant U.S. Treasury secretary, is not very well known. He is, however, very short of cash — making it hard to become better known.

Kim, Cate Explain Positions

Whoever wins the District 6 seat on the San Diego City Council will begin a fledgling political career — both are relative newcomers — by having a big impact on the entire city.

A win by Chris Cate, a Republican and vice president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, would upend the City Council’s veto-proof majority. If Carol Kim, a former teacher, wins, the 6-3 majority would arguably stay intact. In any case, at the forum this week, both candidates seemed to agree on most issues.

BLM: Fracking in California Is OK

Fracking, or the extraction of oil and gas trapped in rock using high-pressure water, consumes acres of water and can spark earthquakes, a combination the Bureau of Land Management believes is OK in California.


The BLM said this week that, based on a study by the California Council on Science and technology, it will resume issuing oil- and gas-drilling leases for federal lands in the Golden State.

The study by the nonprofit, found no evidence of water contamination from fracking in California, but the authors noted they had little time and not much information on which to base conclusions.

In Pennsylvania it is believed that more than 200 water wells have been contaminated by fracking of the Marcellus shale bed. The Government Accountability Office reported that water contamination from fracking is a significant problem.

Chula Vista Elementary Ignores State Rules On Tests

Chula Vista Elementary School District gave a lot of tests last spring. For trial testing for Common Core and also a local assessment test, the district made no accommodations or modifications for dyslexic students, a violation of state law.

People with dyslexia do not process written information in the same way most of us do. Printed material can be very difficult to decipher.

Parents of students with these learning disabilities — perhaps as many as 17 percent of pupils — were told the district didn’t receive the Common Core material until a week before the test and told parents that children must be held accountable for their skill level. The district has given the local tests, however, for 15 years.

There are some political ramifications to testing data. Teachers’ unions say poor scores for students mean poor evaluations for teachers, who are currently in a labor dispute with the district.