Gray Davis

37th Governor, Democrat

State of the State Address

Delivered: January 7, 1999


  • State of the State Address delivered on January 5, 2000
  • State of the State Address delivered on January 8, 2001
  • State of the State Address delivered on January 8, 2002
  • State of the State Address delivered on January 8, 2003
  • The Era of Higher Expectations

    Lieutenant Governor Bustamante, Mr. Speaker ... Mr. President pro Tem ... distinguished members of the Legislature, constitutional officers, distinguished members of the Supreme Court, my fellow Californians. Thank you and Happy New Year. Please join me in welcoming Sharon Davis.

    Not since the year I immigrated to California, 1954, when Goodwin Knight took over for Earl Warren, has a former lieutenant governor had the honor of addressing the assembled Legislature as governor. Now I haven't been preparing for this moment for quite that long. Well, come to think of it ...

    Tonight I am calling on the Legislature to sit in extraordinary session beginning January 19 to address the overwhelming need to improve our system of public education. Nothing we do together in the coming months is more important to the people of California and to me.

    Our collective challenge is to use lasting values, like decency and fairness, merit and accountability, as a guide to a new direction that achieves excellence in our schools and civility in our common life.

    As I said Monday at my inauguration, I am a moderate and a pragmatist. I will govern neither from the left nor from the right, but from the center. I don't care which side of the aisle a good idea comes from, if it will work.

    I'm pleased to report that California's economy is fundamentally healthy. More than 15 million people are employed and self-employed in California—more than the entire populations of all but two other states. We are the leading manufacturing state in the union and we are home to one-fourth of all those employed in computer and related equipment manufacturing. We are the undisputed entertainment capital of the world, the nation's leading agricultural state and number one in exports.

    We have emerged from recession. We are growing again. We are leading America into the 21st century.

    We are, however, not immune from national and international economic conditions. Our Department of Finance estimates that growth of the nation's Gross Domestic Product will slow from a rate of 3.6 percent last year to 1.9 percent this year. And while California's economy continued to expand last year, the recession throughout Asia caused us to lose some 15,000 jobs in the aerospace and electronics industries, and the growth rate in non-farm employment has slowed.

    We are, however, not immune from national and international economic conditions. Our Department of Finance estimates that growth of the nation's Gross Domestic Product will slow from a rate of 3.6 percent last year to 1.9 percent this year. And while California's economy continued to expand last year, the recession throughout Asia caused us to lose some 15,000 jobs in the aerospace and electronics industries, and the growth rate in non-farm employment has slowed.

    My first priority—in fact, my first, second and third priority—is education. And my goal is to set higher expectations for everyone involved in education: students and parents, teachers and administrators. This, I believe, is our duty to the future.

    My first priority—in fact, my first, second and third priority—is education. And my goal is to set higher expectations for everyone involved in education: students and parents, teachers and administrators. This, I believe, is our duty to the future.

    We must do better. And we will do better.

    I am proposing $444 million in new spending for measures to improve the reading skills of our children, to enhance the quality of our teachers and to institute tough standards of performance and accountability for each of our 8,000 schools.

    I call this program READ: Raising Expectations, Achievement and Development. It represents a significant down payment on the future of our children.

    Reading is the gateway skill for all California students. Unfortunately, our schools rank at or near the bottom of all states as measured by results on the National Assessment for Education Progress.

    To attack this intolerable problem, I will call on you to allocate $186 million for reading improvement programs, including $75 million specifically for Intensive Reading Instruction Academies for pupils. I also will create a Reading Call to Action Campaign and special programs for English language learners to help accelerate the teaching and mastery of English. We will publish and distribute pre-school reading development guidelines and we'll provide funding for elementary schools to expand classroom libraries.

    My budget also will include funds for a Governor's Reading Awards Program which will provide competitive cash awards to the top 400 schools whose students read the most books designated in the California Reading Lists.

    This will help us assure that every child in California public schools is a competent reader by the end of the third grade.

    Up there in the balcony are six pre-schoolers from Elk Grove. We're delighted to have them with us tonight. By the time I finish this term in office, I promise you this: these youngsters and tens of thousands like them throughout California will be reading with confidence and pride.

    Now, in addition to improving students' reading skills, we're going to enhance the professional quality of principals and classroom teachers. For while there are tens of thousands of wonderful, motivated and committed teachers and administrators at work in our schools, some are simply not making the grade.

    As a step toward reversing this situation, I will propose spending more than $50 million to re-train our teachers and improve principals' performance. I propose to establish reading development institutes for teaching professionals, Governor's Teacher Scholarships and a Principal Leadership Academy.

    For the first time, I will ask community colleges to create teaching and reading development partnerships with elementary and secondary schools. And I intend to train more paraprofessionals to become teachers and to waive credential fees for all new teachers.

    We also will continue to provide $10,000 merit awards to teachers who demonstrate extraordinary skills by successfully completing the rigorous process of obtaining certification from the national Board of Professional Teacher Standards.

    Obtaining national board certification is a profoundly difficult task. To date, only about 130 or about one-half of one percent of California teachers have met the challenge. We are honored tonight to have half a dozen of them here with us. Please join me in applauding them for their dedication and great accomplishment.

    To further improve teacher performance, I will be seeking $100 million to make California the first state in the nation to establish a genuine peer-review process for teachers. Now I know this is controversial. Some people don't think front-line teachers should be involved in the process of reviewing their peers. I disagree.

    Nobody wants to elevate the profession of teaching more than teachers do. The people best situated to assist in identifying under-performing teachers are skilled, veteran teachers. So I'm challenging my good friends in the teaching community to help us elevate their profession. Together we will reshape the Mentor Teacher Program to reflect the kind of self-examination common among doctors and other professionals.

    Under my program, principals will be required to consider the results of peer reviews in their staffing decisions. If a teacher receives an unfavorable review, he or she will be given an opportunity to improve. But if there's no improvement after an appropriate period of time, the results of that review will be conveyed to the local school board.

    The purpose of this effort is simple: to ensure that our 264,000 K–12 teachers constitute the best-trained, most competent teacher corps in the nation.

    Now, I want especially to speak to the notion of accountability.

    While a number of other states require students to pass a statewide minimal skills exam to graduate from high school, California does not. I believe we need to do even better.

    I am proposing a rigorous high school graduation exam, second to none in America. It will require the mastery of math and communication skills. The goal is to assure students, parents, colleges and employers that a high school diploma signifies that graduates are truly prepared for the demands of the New Economy. I will request that you pass legislation directing the State Board of Education to adopt such an exam, to be required as a condition of graduation beginning in 2003.

    When it comes to setting high expectations in public education, California will lead the nation.

    I also intend to work with the U.S. Department of Education to seek authority to use federal class-size reduction funds to help lower student-teacher ratios in high school math and English classes to help students meet graduation requirements.

    At the same time, I also will call on you to set aside $150 million for Governor's Performance Awards for schools in every community that show significant academic improvement from the previous year. I want to reward all students, teachers and principals who hold higher expectations for themselves and who embrace achievement and excellence.

    It's no secret that I have enormous respect and regard for the men and women who teach our children and administer our public schools. But the single most powerful complaint from the people of California is that deficient public schools must be held to task. And they're dead right.

    So I am targeting $42 million for school accountability to promote reforms in underachieving schools, including those in the middle that are failing to achieve their potential. This will be part of a comprehensive school accountability proposal that ultimately will hold all schools accountable for educating the students they serve.

    We will give evaluation and planning grants to improve students ‘performance to 200 schools per year selected from the bottom 50 percent on standardized tests. They will receive outside help and guidance and matching funds to implement reforms.

    If they fail to meet their goals after one year, we'll alert parents and the public that these are under-performing schools, allow students to attend other schools if they choose and, where appropriate, place the principal on probation. Schools that fall short of their goals but show significant improvement will continue in the program for another year.

    After two years, schools that meet or exceed performance goals will be eligible for a one-time cash bonus. We will reward the pursuit of excellence.

    But those that have shown no significant improvement will face serious consequences. These will include dismissal of the principal or reassignment of teachers or creation of a charter school by the parents or reorganization of the school, or even closure of the school or district.

    When an NFL coach has one losing season after another, he gets replaced. Period. End of subject. I say we should be just as decisive when our children's future is at stake.

    Accountability must not be just another buzz word. It must have real meaning in the real world. Our children deserve no less.

    Just as we challenge students, teachers and principals to hold higher expectations, so too we must ask more of parents. No one is more important than parents in sending the signal that reading and education matter and that school work is not a form of drudgery but a ticket to a better life.

    So I will use my office to urge school districts throughout the state to require parents to sign a contract with their schools. This is not something new. It's being done by many public, private and parochial schools. By giving their word to read to their children, to assist on homework, to engage the process of learning, parents can set an example for their children that is invaluable.

    So, no one gets a free ride. Students will be tested. Teachers will be reviewed. Principals will be held to account. And parents will be urged to take greater responsibility.

    Education, of course, does not end with high school. And we have to do what we can to keep down the costs of a higher education. In 1997 I urged you to pass the Ducheny Bill that reduced student fees at California's public universities and colleges. I am pleased to say my budget includes $30 million to maintain that reduction. And I will propose spending $5 million to increase the number of Cal Grants so that more financially needy students can attend college.

    I will continue to support plans for a new University of California campus in Merced to provide a new center of higher learning in the heart of the most important agricultural valley in the world. As we negotiate a new Compact for UC and CSU, I will seek clear, quantifiable performance standards and productivity results along with competitive salaries. And I will urge the faculties to take a greater role in the mentoring and training of elementary school teachers and principals.

    I will not seek to reverse the peoples' will as expressed in Proposition 209. I will, however, urge the UC Regents to admit truly superior students who graduate in the top 4 percent of every high school in California. This is a policy that rewards excellence across the board. It is blind to ethnicity, gender and race.

    It should not matter which schools our children attend; what should matter is how hard they work and what they achieve.

    As we seek to secure our future with a higher expectations approach to learning, we also must continue to secure the present.

    Toward that end I propose extending the $100 million Citizens' Option for Public Safety program which would otherwise sunset June 30, 2000. In making this an ongoing program, I also will ask you to redesign the program to encourage local governments to use these funds to hire up to 700 new police officers.

    And while we're on the subject of public safety, let me assure you I will make good on my pledge to sign a tougher ban on assault weapons. As I've said many times before, I was trained in the use of these powerful weapons in the Army and they have a place on the battlefield. But we must do everything we can to rid them from the streets of California once and for all.

    As someone who was standing in the jungle in Southeast Asia 30 years ago tonight, I feel special empathy with the men and women who risked their lives on the battlefield. Just as they honored their commitment to America by placing themselves in harm's way, we must honor our commitment by doing right by our veterans.

    So I am proud tonight to announce that my budget includes $14.6 million to open a new veterans home in Chula Vista in the spring of 2000, bringing to Southern California a second home for our brave former fighting men and women.

    After education and public safety, the most vocal complaint from our citizens is traffic. It's just a symptom, really, of inadequate planning and overburdened systems. There are no quick, easy, inexpensive solutions. Estimates of our unfunded needs for traffic, schools and other public facilities are at least $40 billion. But we can plan for the future and take charge of the present.

    I will instruct Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing Maria Contreras-Sweet and Transportation Director Jose Medina to ensure that CalTrans will more efficiently spend the hundreds of millions of dollars it has in the pipeline for new transportation projects. We will get the money for needed projects moving.

    In addition, I will appoint and convene a Commission on Building for the 21st Century including business, labor, local government, environmental and transportation leaders to develop a plan to meet our capital needs. I will ask Lt. Gov. Bustamante to coordinate the work of the commission and report back to me by May 1 with proposals.

    As we build for the future we must also protect our natural resources, our open spaces and our precious coastline.

    I will propose $10 million in challenge grants to fund coastal access and wetlands restoration projects and I will restore a previously vetoed $981,000 in support to the Coastal Commission to assist local governments in completing their coastal plans and to strengthen enforcement of the Coastal Act.

    My budget also will include more than $20 million to pursue and enhance the environmental quality of Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin. And my Secretary of the Resource Agency, Mary Nichols, and I will press Congress and the White House to extend the moratorium on offshore oil drilling to all undeveloped tracts off the California coastline.

    I will keep the CalFed effort moving forward to address our critical water needs in a balanced and responsible way. I will ensure that all the parties have a stake in the process and I will require compromise by them all. No one will get everything they want but no one will come away empty handed.

    Consensus will also be critical to finding a solution to one of the most difficult problems facing local governments: the conflict between the need to build more affordable housing and land use policies that seek to maximize local revenues by discouraging housing in favor of commercial and industrial development.

    To begin addressing these concerns and others, I will establish a State Housing Task Force that will include Lt. Gov. Bustamante, Treasurer Phil Angelides and Secretary Contreras-Sweet. The task force will look at permanent sources of income for affordable housing, growth management incentives, tax distribution and it will consider whether state government should oversee the use of redevelopment funds.

    I also have directed Secretary Contreras-Sweet and Health and Human Services Secretary Grantland Johnson to consult with medical, business and patient representatives, and to provide me options for more effective regulation of the health care industry.

    Our goal is to make sure that the overwhelming number of Californians who rely on HMOs are receiving the quality of care they're paying for. No one should be exempt from accountability—including HMOs.

    To provide more health coverage for the children of the working poor, I will propose a modest increase in the Healthy Families Program. And in our efforts to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies we will continue funding for the community challenge grant program which would otherwise sunset at the end of this year.

    I will, of course, provide full funding for family planning programs. And I respectfully suggest to those who would deny a woman her right to choose, please don't waste our time.

    No less important to Californians than their freedom is their sense of justice and fairness. They've had enough of noisy name-calling and divisive politics. I believe that voters responded to my candidacy in part because I wanted to lower the decibel level in this state. We are one people, and we will rise or fall together.

    Whatever our job—whether we design computers or sweep the streets, manage businesses or flip hamburgers, whether we construct homes or clean them—we all depend on one another's success. I believe each individual success is predicated on the success of others. Even the most affluent CEO in Silicon Valley depends on working people to build the cars and planes safely, to educate our children, heal the sick and comfort the elderly.

    I intend to honor and reward all Californians who get up every day, go to work, meet their challenges, nurture their families and give back to their communities. And that includes state workers who provide essential services to the public.

    Californians are a fair and compassionate people and they believe people should be fairly compensated for their hard work. I know they will support the fact that I have budgeted a well-deserved pay raise for workers who have gone four long years without an increase in compensation.

    Moreover, I know the people of California will support me when my Industrial Welfare Commission restores the 8-hour day to this state's working men and women.

    My friends, I came to this Capitol nearly 25 years ago as a young man. Later, I had the privilege of serving in this distinguished body. In fact I sat at that desk right there in the second row. I've seen Sacramento at its best and at its worst. I've seen us pass historic legislation to protect farmworkers and our majestic coastline. I've seen us pass tough penalties for violent crime and myriad laws to improve California's business climate.

    But in recent years we've had too much scapegoating and finger-pointing. I believe the time has come for all of us to pull together, not apart. So tonight I propose a four-year moratorium on wedge-issue politics. If we work together, there's no telling how far we can go or how high California can soar.

    In that spirit, I extend a hand to both sides of the aisle, in the sincere request that we find common ground on behalf of the people of California.

    So I say to you, the distinguished members of the Legislature, join me in ringing in the Era of Higher Expectations. We have much to do and far to go before we can rest. We will have differences, no doubt. But if we keep in mind our common purpose—to improve our schools and manage the state's resources with a sense of decency, honor and service—and with God's good grace, we will steer California in a new direction guided by our lasting values.

    Thank you. God bless you. God bless California and God bless America.