By Dan Morain
Published: Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 – 12:00 am
Attorney General Kamala Harris will not lose re-election in November, and shouldn’t.
She is an engaging speaker and an agile thinker. An ascending star and a Friend of Barack, she has ready access to all the big Democratic money people in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and nationally.
David Geffen, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand and Bill Maher are among her donors. Donald and Ivanka Trump have chipped in, too. So have venture capitalist John Doerr, Laureen Powell Jobs and Sean Parker, billionaires all. Harris was a guest at Parker’s $4.5 million Tolkien-themed Big Sur wedding last year.
She has $3.5 million in the bank for her re-election. Her opponent, a lawyer named Ron Gold, was $870 in arrears at the most recent accounting. Gold received 504,000 votes in the primary to Harris’ 2.17 million.
Harris talks about recidivism, an issue of statewide concern, and meth smuggling across the border in San Diego, something she is fighting.
She emphasizes the $20 billion she helped California get from the 2012 settlement of the suits against five big banks involved in the housing crash. She discusses her high-profile suit against for-profit Corinthian College in which she alleged it preyed on low-income Californians. It’s all good stuff.
Harris also can bob and weave with the very best.
She produced a 123-page book decrying the epidemic of truancy. But if truancy is a scourge, certainly teacher tenure laws that harm poor children are worthy of discussion. Not last week when she stopped by The Sacramento Bee editorial board to talk about her first term and re-election.
A Los Angeles County judge ruled in June that California’s last-hired, first-fired tenure laws violate poor students’ civil rights because younger teachers are assigned to tougher schools and are the first to receive layoff notices.
“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Judge Rolf M. Treu wrote. The evidence, Treu wrote, “shocks the conscience.”
It evidently shocked President Barack Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, and Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy, both of whom praised the ruling in Vergara v. California.
“Every day that these laws remain in effect represents another opportunity denied,” Deasy said after the ruling.
Will there be an appeal? She won’t say. What does she think of tenure rules? Sorry.
Harris said she cannot discuss any aspect of the case because she represents Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the defendant.
“I cannot talk about the case,” she said, adding that she’d “lose her Bar card” if she discussed the matter. No one would want a disbarred attorney general. But hiring and firing of teachers is a fundamental issue. Voters might want to know where she stands. Then again, the California Teachers Association supports the status quo, and almost certainly will press for an appeal. Democratic politicians cross the union at their peril.
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