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California Editorial Rdp

Sept. 30

The San Diego Union-Tribune on new online education program:

Online education has been hyped for years, and for good reason: A student doesn’t need a traditional classroom to learn. In particular, online education has great potential to help adults acquire new job skills after technology upends their careers.

Unfortunately, this sort of online education has yet to live up to the hype. State leaders hope that will change with California’s new Calbright Community College _ a free online school that begins operations Tuesday. Anyone can go to to apply for admission to take courses that will help secure certificates attesting to competence in cybersecurity, information technology and medical coding. Only about 400 students will be admitted in the first classes, but the hope is the number will grow much higher. To get the certificates, students don’t need to pass a set number of credits. They just need to establish they’ve got a mastery of key job skills.

This “competency-based education” approach could be a game changer. Students demonstrating their competence would quickly get a certificate that can help start a new career instead of being required to spend years meeting bureaucratic goals that don’t necessarily correlate with acquiring skills.

In an interview with EdSource, California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley emphasized that Calbright will be fine-tuned as school officials better learn how to serve this different niche of students. It’s the right approach for a worthy educational experiment: Start small and dream big.


Sept. 30

The Sacramento Bee on traffic laws and driving safer in Sacramento:

Sacramento is number one.

Usually, that’s good news, but not in this case: Sacramento is number one among California’s largest cities for killing or injuring pedestrian children under age 15 with our cars.

Sacramento’s poor driving record unfortunately extends even further, according to a story by Sacramento Bee reporter Tony Bizjak. An examination of eight years of data revealed that Sacramento leads the state as a danger zone for car-related injuries and deaths resulting from a combination of drinking, speeding, driving at night and hit-and-runs.

And in 2016, the latest year of data available, we had the highest per capita rate of alcohol-involved injury crashes.

Why? For one thing, Sacramentans drive the highest average miles per day of California’s largest cities. This, in part, reflects a systemic lack of available public transportation options.

In addition, Sacramento lacks the resources to adequately enforce traffic laws. The Sacramento Police Department is still rebuilding its traffic safety “motor unit” after cuts during the recession.

But the personal choices we each make as drivers are the biggest contributor to Sacramento’s deadly driving culture.

“Other reasons may include growing pains among drivers not used to the area’s increased congestion, and aggressive or unsafe driving by frustrated motorists,” wrote Bizjak.

Every driver plays a role in deciding whether our streets are safe or deadly. Here are some basic steps every Sacramento driver can take to make our city safer:

_Respect stop signs. Stop fully and completely. Allow pedestrians already in the intersection, or poised to enter it, to pass. Before continuing on your way, allow any cars that arrived at the intersection before you to go through. If you and another car arrived at the same time, the car on the right gets to go first.

_Stop for pedestrians. There may be no stop sign, yield sign, white stripes painted on the road, or any signage telling you to give way, but you need to stop when you see pedestrians in the street or about to enter it.

_Slow down. Speed kills. That’s why we have speed limits. In parts of town where people walk, see if there are any people who appear interested in crossing the street. Don’t hit them with your car.

_Don’t block bike lanes. It’s not just rude. It’s dangerous. Sacramentans aren’t just hitting kids who walk _ they’re also hitting kids on bikes, Bizjak found. Help protect bicyclists by keeping your car out of designated bike lanes.

_Use the “Dutch reach.” Car doors that open suddenly pose a special threat to people on bicycles. To avoid “dooring” bicyclists, try opening your car door with a “Dutch reach.” Instead of opening your driver’s side door with your left hand, open it with your right. This forces you to look behind you as you open it to see if a cyclist is coming.

_Don’t drink and drive. Take a car, call a sober friend or keep it super local by drinking at establishments within walking distance of your home.

_Hide the phone. Texting while driving is tempting but deadly. Drivers distracted by their phones are every bit as deadly as drunk drivers.

In a nutshell: Follow traffic laws.

Of course, systemic changes are necessary to better prevent injuries and deaths on the road, and Sacramento is implementing some. The city launched its Vision Zero campaign in 2016 with a goal of improving traffic safety, and has already lowered speed limits near schools.

In the end, however, it comes down to us. Sacramento has a serious problem with dangerous driving. Can we find a way to slow down, be more considerate and finally grasp _ before it’s too late _ that getting to our destinations a few seconds early is not worth risking a life?

The online version of this story contains a survey seeking feedback from readers on traffic safety in Sacramento, and can be found at


Sept. 29

The Los Angeles Times on Los Angeles County juvenile justice system:

There are several reasons why Los Angeles County’s juvenile justice system is such a mess, with so many young people coming out of juvenile halls and probation camps even more broken than they were when they went in.

One reason is that when the U.S. Department of Justice swooped in more than a decade ago to examine the dysfunction _ excessive force in the halls and camps, emotional abuse, sexual assault, poor education, overuse of pepper spray, deficient mental health treatment _ the county made enough promises to stave off a federal consent decree. In retrospect, it would have been better had a decree been imposed and the feds stuck around, because the same problems persist today.

Another reason is that the county’s programs for rehabilitating and caring for young offenders is part of the same, massive Probation Department that supervises adults after they’ve left jail or prison. By state law as well as common sense, the rehabilitative and restorative mission of juvenile justice is different from the punitive mission of the adult system. The two approaches need different employees, different training, different supervision and different organizational cultures.

Yet another reason is a revolving door of leadership, with L.A. County’s chief probation officer leaving, on average, every other year. Current Chief Probation Officer Terri McDonald recently announced her retirement, to take effect in several months.

And still another reason is an oversight body that has lacked both independence and the attention and respect of the Board of Supervisors.

Nothing can be done now to get the Justice Department back. Under the Trump administration it has given up its role in getting local justice agencies on track.

But the Board of Supervisors, after a half-dozen or so reexaminations by various consultants, work groups and commissions, now has a rare opportunity to make sweeping improvements.

On Tuesday it will decide whether to move forward with a new oversight body that at last would be independent of the department, with its own staff and with power to examine documents, budgets and data.

That’s not just some bureaucratic tweak. No organization, and especially no government agency, can properly spend the public’s money and effectively fulfill its mission when it is accountable to no one but itself. The nine-member Probation Oversight Commission proposed by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis is the right way to go.

The board would be wise to ensure that the new body has sufficient staff and funding to be effective. Nothing is more wasteful than government boards that sport the trappings, but lack the substance, of oversight.

The design of the new commission emerged from the numerous hearings, studies and deliberations by a reform panel that filed its recommendations over the summer.

The panel also advised splitting the Probation Department by removing the juvenile justice function and redesigning it as a health-and-care-oriented program. That’s the right move too, and is in line with positions first articulated by this page four years ago and more emphatically in June. And to their credit, the supervisors have been receptive; last month they took steps to create a new health-oriented juvenile justice agency.

Once it’s up and running, that new agency will have its hands full. The Probation Department’s marquee project _ a costly but promising juvenile rehabilitation facility in the Malibu hills known as Campus Kilpatrick, and an accompanying set of rehabilitation programs _ is in deep trouble.

The county’s maddening contracting process delayed an essential study aimed at measuring the effectiveness of Kilpatrick’s small-group treatment approach rather than the traditional boot-camp model. Meanwhile, the county’s appropriate decision to close other camps (to account for a drastically reduced population of juveniles in custody) forced Kilpatrick to take on numerous youths who were too mentally ill to benefit from the program. The education program lagged. The camp had too few mental health and special education staff on hand. And then came last year’s destructive Woolsey fire, requiring Kilpatrick to be evacuated and, at least for now, closed.

In the short term, the Board of Supervisors has to consider whether it’s better to replace McDonald with a single new chief probation officer to preside over the breakup of the department, or to appoint one leader for a separate adult department and another for youth services. But above all, it has to keep its focus on probation sharp enough to ensure that it’s finally creating a system that effectively puts troubled juveniles and wayward adults on the right track _ and not just another sedimentary layer of bureaucracy.

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