California Republicans have gotten a reputation as the party of no. In an expanding state, with an expansive culture, that’s not always a good thing, as reflected by their poor statewide prospects prior to the advent of Arnold Schwarzenegger. So their initial response to the Rob Reiner controversy — calling for the firing of the controversial First Five Commission chairman (now departed on “leave”), demanding investigations — was nothing new. If in this case, not exactly unpopular.
Now Assembly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Bakersfield Republican, has come up with something new. Take the money used on media advertising and pricey public relations (paid to political allies and Hollywood friends of Reiner) to promote the idea of early childhood development and instead use it to actually help early childhood development. McCarthy is slated to introduce a bill Tuesday to do just that, reallocate $42 million a year to something called a “Ready To Start” program, five weeks of half-day classes for kids without prior preschool experience — roughly two-thirds of California children of that age are already in preschool — before they enter kindergarten. The program, which would also draw some from First 5 bureaucracy, would use existing personnel, i.e., credentialed teachers, and existing facilities, regular classrooms, and would cover 120,000 of the approximately 180,000 children who presently are not involved in preschool.
It’s based on what McCarthy touts as the success of a similar such program in two Kern County school districts. There many of the kids are ESL (English as a Second Language) students. The results on various test scores sound impressive.
So here are the Republicans coming up with what sounds like a Democratic idea, investing public dollars in a form of preschool. Yet it is also a Republican idea, leveraging already existing resources, personnel, and facilities. Actually, it sounds like the kind of socially progressive and common sense conservative ideas Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about in his early and wildly popular days as a politician.
How about it, Governor?
It certainly sounds more useful than spending a fortune on TV advertising featuring an actor playing a dad doing “creatively” goofy things with laundry to amuse a one year-old girl. I’d love to see the research on the efficacy of those ads.
Reiner, incidentally, while not discussing his status with me or anyone else in the media, has been meeting privately with Democratic legislative leaders to try to shore up his support and assuage their concerns about what one source calls a “flap.”