Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

California audit dings school spending + Sen. Melendez? + Small biz priorities

Happy Wednesday, California! I’m back from a trip home to Chicago and ready to dive back in to the world of California politics.

Here’s what we’ve got for you today...


In 2013, California began using the Local Control Funding Formula to fund K-12 public schools. It’s a wonky title for a program designed to allow local jurisdictions more authority in doling out state cash to school districts. The formula provides money for general education purposes and also allocates additional financial support for English learners, foster youth and low-income students.

But in a Tuesday press release, California State Auditor Elaine M. Howle said a state audit determined money earmarked for these groups of students isn’t always being used to support them and is instead being used for general purposes.

According to the auditor’s analysis of the Clovis, Oakland and San Diego school districts, approximately $320.6 million in support money was instead spent on general operations.

Howle’s team recommended the Legislature step in to clarify the law to ensure money is being spent with intention and on certain student groups who need additional services. Any money that goes unspent on these students should “retain their designation” and should be included in local accountability plans. she said.

The nonprofit law firm Public Advocates said in a press release following the audit that Gov. Gavin Newsom, the State Board of Education and the Legislature needed to “close these loopholes.”

“The report released today by the state auditor confirms what students, parents and advocates have been saying for years,” the group wrote. “(The fund) can empower millions of students that have historically been left behind, but the state must play a more forceful role in ensuring districts use funding as the law intends.”


When state Sen. Jeff Stone announced on Oct. 30 that he was leaving the Capitol to accept a position with the U.S. Department of Labor, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez both congratulated the La Quinta Republican and hinted at an exciting announcement to follow his resignation.

“Guess we’re going to have to fill that open seat...more on that a bit later,” Melendez tweeted that day.

The details of the cryptic plan unfolded on Monday evening when the Lake Elsinore Republican confirmed on Twitter that she would be running to fill the seat.

“It is a great privilege to serve as the voice for so many Californians,” Melendez said on Twitter. “So I’m happy to officially announce my candidacy for Senate District 28. Let’s go win this thing together!”

Stone had formerly endorsed Temecula City Councilman Matt Rahn for the position, but Melendez later thanked both men on Monday night for supporting her candidacy for the post.

Newsom has not yet called for a special election for the vacancy.


The 2019 legislative session is over, but California’s National Federation of Independent Business is already prepping for next year.

The organization released its 2020 legislative priorities, which include battling a list of high-profile items the Democrats aggressively promoted this year.

Some of the group’s efforts will include: securing greater business-to-business exemptions a state labor law that forces employers to classify more workers as full-time employees rather than independent contractors; stopping a sales tax on services; and halting a ballot measure to roll back provisions of Proposition 13, to enable a so-called “split-roll” tax.

“Assembly members and senators may have departed for the year, but we haven’t throttled back on the educational, lobbying, and coalition-building activities we’re working on in preparation for their return January 6,” the group’s director John Kabateck said. “To rest is to get trampled.”


To tell us what to do, and what not to do.

Your responses last week to my survey were helpful, and I appreciate the feedback. We’re asking you to fill one more questionnaire out so that we can deliver coverage you value and need.

California is less than three months out from when eligible residents can start voting by mail in the Democratic presidential primary, which will officially take place on March 3.

What types of stories would you like to see The Sacramento Bee cover? What questions do you have for the candidates? What issues are most important to you? Now is your chance to weigh in.

Please click here to take a short survey.

Happening tonight — The Sacramento Bee launched yesterday another portion of our investigation into California jails. If you missed the story, it’s worth the read. And tonight The Bee and partner publication ProPublica will join the Stanford Criminal Justice Center for a discussion called “Overcorrection: The Unintended Consequences of California Prison Reform.

The event will focus on the so-called “realignment” reform initiative that attempted in 2011 to shift offenders from prisons to county jails. The center’s Debbie Mukamal will moderate a conversation with stakeholders, and investigative reporters Jason Pohl of The Bee and Ryan Gabrielson of ProPublica.


Whichever Democrat is up against President Donald Trump next year, he or she will “probably have $3 million in the bank running against somebody who’s going to have a billion in the bank.”

- Stuart Stevens, former chief strategist to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, in an interview with McClatchy


Nov. 05 — Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara

Nov. 05 — Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside

Best of The Bee:

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.