Beyond the devastation and personal tragedy of the fires that have ravaged California in recent months, another disaster looms: an alarming uptick in unhealthy air and the sudden release of the carbon dioxide that drives climate change. As millions of acres burn in a cycle of longer and more intense fire seasons, the extensive efforts of industry and regulators to protect the environment can be partly undone in one firestorm.
Julie Cart, the environmental writer for CALmatters who covered Brown’s European sojourn, delved into the report’s data and discovered that the major reason for last year’s drop in emissions wasn’t cap-and-trade, or any other state action. Rather, it occurred because unusually heavy winter rain and snow storms allowed utilities to depend less on generating electricity by burning fossil fuels and more on hydroelectric power from dams in California and other states.
Last year was a very good one for the state’s economy. The 3.3 percent gain in economic output in 2016 was more than double that of the nation as a whole and one of the highest of any state.
However, California stumbled during the first half of 2017. California’s increase was an anemic six tenths of one percent in the first quarter compared to the same period of 2016, and 2.1 percent in the second quarter, well below the national rate and ranking 35th in the nation.
According to analyses from the air board and independent experts, last year’s emissions drops came about not because of technological breakthroughs or drastic pollution reductions from oil refineries or other industries, nor did the lauded cap-and-trade program make a signifiant difference.
The more important data point is that with essentially no gains in 2017, fewer than half of California’s children are meeting English standards and fewer than 38 percent in math.
That should be seen as a major crisis, but when one looks at the numbers for black and Latino kids, and those classified as poor or “English learners,” they even more shameful.
While three-quarters of Asian students and two-thirds of whites hit the competency mark in English, fewer than a third of black students and just over a third of Latinos did. For poor kids, it was 35.5 percent and for English learners, a minuscule 12.1 percent.
The scores on mathematics were even worse, just 37.6 percent overall, 19 percent for blacks and 25.2 percent for Latinos. The best spin state schools Supt. Tom Torlakson could muster was
The best spin state schools Supt. Tom Torlakson could muster was a weak “I’m pleased we retained our gains,” followed by a rationalization that “these tests are far more rigorous and realistic than the previous paper and pencil tests.”
The low achievement of disadvantaged children is obviously important for their individual futures, but what makes it critical to the state as a whole is that they are about 60 percent of the state’s K-12 students.