Bay Area Council Blog


BAC Convenes Leading Superintendents to Strategize Improving Student Achievement

By Linda Galliher

The magnitude and complexity of the challenges facing California public schools is no secret. California’s public education system is not only one of the nations largest and most diverse, but is also one of the lowest funded per pupil. Despite recent “silver bullet” attempts at reform, drop-out rates and poor performance on standardized tests continue to plague the system.

Recognizing the status quo as morally and economically unacceptable, education stakeholders across the state have been mobilizing to find a comprehensive, sustainable solution. As part of the Race to the Top second round application, experienced superintendents have been meeting to discuss and plan innovative strategies to improve college-readiness in their districts. Despite shrinking budgets, these leaders plan to meet the challenge of preparing every student for a career or college head-on.

On Tuesday June 22, The Bay Area Council hosted a meeting between these superintendents, other education reform leaders, and Dr. Jerry Weast of the Montgomery County School District in Maryland. Dr. Weast has been leading a dramatic transformation in student achievement in Montgomery County for the past 11 years, boasting an unprecedented reduction in the achievement gap while simultaneously improving student performance at all student levels. Since Montgomery County has similar characteristics to many Californian districts, Dr. Weast shared his experience and strategy with the group.

It was clear from the meeting that while challenges persist and grow for public education, California has the leadership, talent, and drive to drastically improve student outcomes. However, turning California’s public education system around will take leadership on several levels and partnership across sectors. The Bay Area Council has been a leading voice for education reform in California and views the business community as an invaluable player in the future of California public education.

Watch the video clip below to see a portion of Dr. Weast’s presentation.


Governor Schwarzenegger Congratulates Bay Area Council on Shanghai Office Opening

This week, Governor Schwarzenegger was generous enough to send a video message to the Bay Area Council delegation in Shanghai for the opening of our China office. The Governor touches on many themes of great importance to California and the Bay Area, including investment, innovation and job creation. Thank you to Governor Schwarzenegger and his staff for their continued support of the Bay Area Council. Check out the video below.


BAC Leads Delegation to Promote Early Childhood Education

By Matt Regan

California’s education system is broken to the point that many observers don’t believe it can actually be fixed.  We plunged from first in the nation to worst in a generation; a precipitous decline by anyone’s standards.  Statistics vary depending on who is producing them, but across the board California consistently ranks at or close to the bottom in student funding, student performance, and teacher/student ratios.  We also rank at or close to the top in students qualifying for free or subsidized meals, students who speak English as a second language, and total student population size.  In short, our needs are great and our resources not so much.

Faced with such sobering statistics, it is not hard to side with the pessimists, raise the white flag, and declare the problem unsolvable.  That, however, is not an acceptable option.  California is a knowledge based economy and it is the public education system that previous generations built that made this State the economic powerhouse that it is today.  Consigning a whole generation of California children to failure will produce a pig in our education python that will eventually materialize in an inability for California employers to compete for talent in the global marketplace, higher dependence on state welfare programs, and higher rates of incarceration.  In short, a recipe for disaster.

The Bay Area Council has been a leading voice for education reform in California, and in particular the need for early education, birth to third grade, to be a component part of any effort to repair California’s ailing public education system.  There are many other stakeholders in this reform effort and while we all agree what the problems are, we have rarely reached consensus on what the solutions might look like.  All that may have changed thanks to a trip co-hosted by the Bay Area Council to Montgomery County Maryland, and Washington DC this week.  Joining us on the trip were six School Superintendents, Department of Education representatives, representatives from the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, members of the State Legislature, early education advocates, and business leaders from around California.

Our first port of call was Viers Mill Elementary School in Montgomery Country, Maryland.  Viers Mill is one of the top performing public schools in the country, yet faces exactly the same challenges that exist in California, with 65% of students qualifying for free meals, 30% speaking English as a second language, (32 different languages spoken by students) and a student mobility rate of 22%.  Montgomery County schools outperform California’s in orders of magnitude, yet its per pupil spending, while more, $11,724 compared to $9,152, is not so much so as to be the primary driver of its success.

We saw that driver later in the afternoon in the person of County School Superintendent Jerry Weast.  A no nonsense, pragmatic, larger than life individual with an obvious passion for public education and an intensity and focus that was contagious.  Superintendent Weast turned around his struggling district with a simple formula: set an objective, map a path to get you there, empower your teachers, and don’t let anyone get in your way.  It is clearly working.

We saw first hand what the light at the end of California’s education tunnel looks like.  A school district with similar demographic and fiscal challenges to California performing what can only be described as miracles. Using a data driven model, they are leading the nation in preparing kids for college.  The whole delegation, business, labor and educator alike agreed that while Jerry Weast cannot be cloned, his plan can, and it could work in California schools.

The next day in Washington D.C. we took our unified message and newfound optimism to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative George Miller, and Roberto Rodriguez Special Education Advisor to President Obama. We impressed upon them the need for an integrated seamless and data driven birth to college education model.

Special thanks to Randy Ward, Superintendent of San Diego Schools for co-chairing the delegation with Jim Wunderman, Ken McNeely, Chair of the Bay Area Council Early Childhood Education Committee, and the Packard Foundation for making it all possible.


U.S. Bank Awards $10,000 for Council’s Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders Scholarship Program

By Chandra Alexandre

The Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders Program is at the core of the Bay Area Council’s commitment to education and to investing in underserved communities in the nine-county Bay Area. The program currently helps 60 low-to-moderate income (LMI) scholars realize their goal of achieving a post-high school education—often as the first one in their families to graduate from high school, let alone college.  These students possess an intimate awareness of the challenges faced by residents of LMI communities and are passionate about making a positive impact on their communities.  Through supporting their college education with scholarships, mentoring and leadership workshops, the Council and its partners are helping them become the most capable leaders that they can be—for today and for tomorrow.

The program is in alignment with US Bank’s mission and goals in education. As Lisa M. Joyner, Vice President in U.S. Bank’s West Region Community Affairs department shared in announcing the grant award, “U.S. Bank is excited to support The Bay Area Council’s Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders program.  This program is aligned with one of U.S. Bank’s funding priorities: education. We support innovative programs that help low-and moderate income students succeed in school and prepare for post secondary education.  We appreciate The Bay Area Council’s dedication and commitment to underserved youth.” The U.S. Bank contribution will help the Council further develop and improve upon tracking metrics and aid work with scholars to enhance their exposure to and leadership potentials within the business community.

Thank you, U.S. Bank, for your support!

For additional information about the program or to lend your support, contact us.


BAC Economic Institute’s Report Calls for Economic Reset

This week the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, with the help of McKinsey & Co., released the seventh biannual Bay Area Economic Profile Report, Recession and Recovery: An Economic Reset. The report found that in the face of the worst economic downturn in decades, many of the perennial challenges that pose a threat to the economic success of the Bay Area have come into stark relief.  “The dramatic losses in jobs, trade and home values of the last two years are now matched by visible quality drops in education, infrastructure and the ability of our public institutions to make critical decisions.  This seriously impacts the region’s economy, requiring renewed and decisive action.”

The report benchmarks our region’s economy against other cities and regions around the world.  It also identifies our shortcomings and calls for a wide range of actions to address them.  Click here to download the full report (1.2 MB). Read coverage on it here: San Francisco Chronicle; San Jose Mercury News; San Francisco Examiner; Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal; San Francisco Business Times; KCBS; KGO TV.


Council’s New Cyber Security Initiative Profiled by Business Week

By Jim Wunderman

Here is a recent interview I did for Business Week on the Council’s new Cyber Security initiative, which is already grabbing attention and being taken seriously by both policy leaders and the media. The Committee has begun to the address Cyber Security challenges facing business communities around the world and will be delivering its recommendations to the highest levels of policy makers in Washington D.C. and Sacramento.


Bay Area Council Solidifies Support of AB 32

By Jim Wunderman

Today, the Bay Area Council announced that its Executive Committee voted to continue the business organization’s support of Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), the Global Warming Solutions Act. AB 32 was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2006. The Executive Committee of the Bay Area Council took action to solidify their support in response to a possible initiative on the November 2010 ballot postponing implementation of AB 32.

The Bay Area Council’s Executive Committee also agreed with the positions laid out by Governor Schwarzenegger in a March 24, 2010 letter to the California Air Resources Board, which clarified how AB 32 can be implemented in a way that would allow California businesses to remain competitive.

“The notion of repealing AB 32 presents a false choice to the people of California,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We don’t have to choose between a strong economy and combating climate change. These two critically important goals can mutually reinforce each other. In fact, postponing AB 32 would send a signal to the world that California is hot and cold on climate change – a view that will crimp investment in our future economy.”

In 2006, the Bay Area Council was the first business group in California to support AB 32 and successfully negotiated language that made the bill business friendly. The Bay Area Council recognized then the threat of climate change to the economy and quality of life, and also saw an opportunity for California to become a global leader in clean technology and related fields.

“The threats that existed in 2006, when AB 32 was first adopted, still exist today,” said Wunderman. “But so do the opportunities.”

According to Governor Schwarzenegger’s letter to the Air Resources Board, California has already seen a positive economic impact due to AB 32. Indeed, between 2006 and 2008, 10,000 new green businesses were created, producing more than 125,000 jobs – more than any other state in the country.


Bay Area Council Takes Positions on June Ballot Measures

By Matt Regan

With campaign spending records falling every day it seems, June 2010 will be a primary unlike any other in recent times. Alongside the high profile primaries for Senate and Governor there will be a number of initiatives that are equally important to the future of California. The Bay Area Council Executive Committee recently took positions on the following key June ballot measures as well as one November measure:

Prop 14: Open Primary Initiative – Support
This measure would provide for a “voter-nominated primary election” for each state elective office and congressional office in California, in which a voter may vote at the primary election for any candidate without regard to the political party preference disclosed by the candidate or the voter. The 2 candidates receiving the 2 highest vote totals would then compete for the office at the ensuing general election.

Prop 15: California Fair Elections Initiative – Oppose

This initiative would authorize eligible candidates for Secretary of State to obtain public campaign funds. This would be financed by a fee administered to registered lobbyists and those who employ registered lobbyists.

Prop 16: Vote Requirement for Local Electricity Providers – Support
Requires local governments to obtain the approval of two-thirds of the voters before providing electricity to new customers or expanding such service to new territories if any public funds or bonds are involved. Requires same two-thirds vote to provide electricity through a community choice program if any public funds or bonds are involved.

Prop 17: Auto Insurance Reform Initiative – Support
Changes current law to permit insurance companies to offer a discount to drivers who have continuously maintained their auto insurance coverage. Establishes that lapses in coverage due to nonpayment of premiums may prevent a driver from qualifying for the discount.

November Ballot Measure: Safe Clean Reliable Drinking Water Supply Bond – Support
$11.14 Billion general obligation bond to fund a range of statewide water infrastructure projects. Funds will be divided among Sacramento River Delta and various watershed preservation projects, water quality monitoring, water storage and conveyance, and water conservation/recycling projects.


Bay Area Agencies Must Work Together to Improve Transit System

By Jim Wunderman

As published in Bay Area News Group papers

For a region whose residents lead the nation in their support for public transit, you’d be forgiven for expecting the Bay Area to have an outstanding transit system. But anyone who rides transit here knows the reality: fares are high and rising, buses and trains are old and dirty, and services are often slow and infrequent.

If you’re dependent on transit, you’re going to spend a huge part of each day waiting for and riding the bus, especially if you live in an outlying area or work late or very early hours.

If you’re an occasional transit user? Good luck figuring how to get from point A to point B via some combination of the more than two dozen proudly independent transit operators in the Bay Area.

Life isn’t much easier for those who work at transit agencies either. With huge budget shortfalls today and as far as the eye can see, demoralizing service cuts and layoffs are the order of the day.

What is at the bottom of this mess? If you’ve followed the latest news, you might think that the state is to blame for taking money away from transit.

It’s true that the state has taken some transit funds, but the problems originated long ago and go much deeper. Sadly, most of the problems are self-inflicted. It has become clear that we are spending so much time and energy arguing among ourselves and pointing fingers that we are failing to work on the progress that we all want.

The latest example pitted two worthy goals — building a new BART rail link to Oakland International Airport, and backfilling cuts to local bus service — against each other. Any objective analysis would conclude that the Bay Area needs both, but what we’re likely to get is neither.

We’ve managed to convince ourselves that we can only get our own particular transit concern addressed if we make sure that someone else doesn’t. This is not a recipe for success.

The Bay Area spends more than $2 billion each year on public transit, including hefty chunks of money from bridge tolls, sales taxes and parcel taxes. Bay Area residents, however, choose transit for only 6 percent of their trips. It’s not just about insufficient funding — Bay Area transit funding has increased by 91 percent over the past decade, but ridership only increased by 7 percent.

This isn’t just a minor problem. The Bay Area is entering a new phase of its growth in which we will become increasingly reliant upon an effective, affordable public transit system. That’s because we’ve essentially tapped out the growth pattern of the past several decades in which our region sprawled into the hinterland, while loading more cars onto already congested highways.

Over the next several decades, new homes and jobs will need to come back to city centers and other zones that can support effective and convenient public transit. This is no longer a terribly controversial idea in the Bay Area — the Bay Area Council believes it, environmental and social equity groups believe it, Bay Area public officials believe it, and state law encourages it — but it does require a public transit system that works. We don’t have such a system, and we’re not going to get one by continuing in the direction that we’re heading.

The Bay Area can have world-class public transit, however, and I think that we must. It’s going to require more money for transit, and significant reform toward how public transit agencies use that money. The bad news is that no one is going to do this for us. The good news is that the Bay Area can largely do it on its own. We can identify what’s not working with transit, what we really want our transit system to look like, and how to best deliver those transit services that residents want. If we do it right, I am confident that Bay Area residents would support a modest regional tax increase that would make the system a reality.

All of us who consider ourselves public transit leaders need to take a step back and remind ourselves of the values and vision that we all share. We can agree to work together to achieve that vision, and we can commit to individual compromise in place of collective combat.

There’s only one way to make this happen, and that is together. Let’s put aside our disagreements, focus on our fundamental agreements and see how far we can get. We just might achieve something great and necessary for the Bay Area.


San Francisco Foundation Awards $50K Grant for Climate Bay Area

By Chandra Alexandre

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute (BACEI) and the regional Joint Policy Committee (JPC) are pleased to announce their partnership with the San Francisco Foundation, which has awarded a $50,000 grant to support Climate Bay Area (CBA), the new regional climate organization run by BACEI and the JPC. The grant will enable Climate Bay Area to develop an innovative strategic initiative on climate protection, bringing together high-level Bay Area leaders from diverse interest groups. The grant will also help CBA recruit major businesses to partner with government and non-profit organizations on specific regional climate projects.

Why Climate Bay Area?

Hundreds of Bay Area businesses, government agencies and non-profits are now actively engaged in climate protection and adaptation work. These organizations are developing programs and advocating for action, but for the most part are not connected to each other and therefore lack both scale and impact. The next major step—the implementation of strategies that will significantly reduce emissions and prepare our cities for climate impacts—is yet to come and will require engagement from many directions, including business. To facilitate progress toward meeting AB 32 targets, in a manner that is consistent with both climate and economic goals, Climate Bay Area (CBA) will serve as a resource for the region, bringing together public, private and non-profit stakeholders to address relevant issues. By providing critical support and networking, CBA will help the Bay Area climate movement to move forward at the speed and scale required, and help make the Bay Area a state and national model for climate change management..


Climate Bay Area was formed in July, 2009, by the Joint Policy Committee—the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Association of Bay Area Governments, and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. The JPC consists of five elected officials from each of the four regional agencies. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute (BACEI) is the JPC’s partner in developing and managing Climate Bay Area. The Institute’s Board of Trustees is composed of business leaders appointed by the Bay Area Council, elected officials appointed by ABAG, the executive directors of the four JPC agencies, and leaders from universities and labor.

Climate Bay Area is led by a co-chair from each organization—the JPC’s Climate Consultant, Bruce Riordan and BACEI’s President, Sean Randolph. Both organizations will contribute resources to support CBA with the JPC Climate Consultant leading day-to-day operations. The Climate Bay Area Working Group, staff-level experts representing all sectors, will play a key role through in-person and web meetings.


For more information, please contact Sean Randolph, President of the Economic Institute, at 415-946-8722 or email