Posted by Steven Levin on February 03, 2016 at 10:06 AM
California has a new Speaker of the Assembly – Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount). In January, members of the Assembly elected him to be the next leader of the chamber.
Assemblymember Rendon will take the reins from current Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) on March 7. He said that as speaker, his role will be to "maximize [the potential of extended terms] by helping members develop greater expertise, pursue longer-term policy strategies and perform more viable oversight."
Assembly Republican leader and CCSA Advocates-endorsed candidate Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) said about Rendon’s election: "Today isn't about partisan politics; it's about electing a speaker and demonstrating that we can govern as adults."
An admitted academic late-bloomer, Rendon aims to focus on education; specifically, early childhood education. Before he was a politician, Rendon led a nonprofit child services organization. He says he ran for the Assembly because legislators kept chopping childhood development funding. "We've restored less than 20% of what was cut from early childhood education," he estimates.
Rendon represents the 63rd Assembly District, which includes nine cities in Southeast Los Angeles and the northern part of Long Beach. There are 5 charter schools in his district, many of which are thriving. In an effort to educate him about the benefits of charter schools, CCSA has met with the Speaker-elect and his staff and arranged a visit to a charter school in his district. Last November, Rendon visited Aspire Firestone Academy in South Gate, where he met with students and staff and learned more about the school’s accomplishments.
Because a new term-limits law allows him to hold the post for 12 years, Rendon could potentially serve as the Speaker through 2024 – although only four speakers in history have lasted more than five years. Still, Rendon said, “In the extended term-limited era, we have the opportunity to accomplish a vast array of different things.”
When he assumes the role of Speaker in March, both houses of the California Legislature will be controlled by Los Angeles-area Latino lawmakers. His Senate counterpart, Kevin de León of Los Angeles, can remain in office through 2018.
We asked the incoming Speaker a few questions about his office and his views on public education in California.
What made you decide to run for the Assembly?
In my previous life as a nonprofit executive, I regularly interacted with elected officials to advocate for funding of the programs I managed. Though a valuable experience, it was often a frustrating one, particularly in the depths of the Great Recession when over a billion dollars were slashed from early childhood education programs. I felt that the legislature needed a voice who understood those issues and would fight for them.
What are some of the highlights or unique aspects of your district?
The district I represent in southeast L.A. County is a tremendous melting pot of cultures, languages and customs. Lynwood, for instance, is home to Plaza México, a shining example of the proud cultural heritage that many residents identify with.
How has working in the nonprofit sector better prepared you for serving in the state legislature?
So many of the policies we work on in Sacramento can seem abstract – we’re dealing with the funding and continuation of programs rather than the operation of them. Having seen the effects of those policies applied on the local level has been extremely beneficial.
What do you enjoy most/find most rewarding about the job?
It’s tremendously rewarding to see the effects of our policies and how they’re positively impacting constituents around the state. For instance, work that my office is doing to restore portions of the L.A. River will expand green and recreational space for youth in southeast L.A. All kids in California deserve the same types of opportunities.
What plans do you have to further public education in California as the newly elected Speaker?
Every area of public education – from preschool to higher education – deserves to be a top priority for the state of California. One area that I’m particularly interested in exploring is early education for our youngest learners from ages zero to four. These are critical years of development when we need to ensure no child falls behind.
What role do you see charter schools playing in your goal to close education gaps?
Like traditional public schools, charter schools play a role in filling the state’s education needs, but we must remain vigilant to ensure schools are serving the needs of all students. I’m particularly concerned about our neediest students, including foster youth, English language learners and special education students – we cannot let them be marginalized.
What is the legislature doing to ensure students are properly trained for the workplace in the 21st century?
Our public higher education systems – UC, CSU and community college – are critical to ensuring students are ready for the workforce right out of school. We must make sure the systems are affordable to all students pursuing a college degree. Career technical education for those not on the path to a four-year college has seen increased funding in recent years; students in these programs must also not be forgotten.
What are your views on technology in the classroom?
In 2013, California passed the Local Control Funding Formula, a major shift in the way our state funds K-12 education. Now it’s the Legislature’s responsibility to make sure funds are distributed in the proper manner, particularly ensuring they are being invested in the classroom. This will be an important avenue for investing in new textbooks and replacing outdated technology.
What are your immediate goals for your first 100 days as Speaker?
My most immediate task will be negotiating the budget with the Governor and my colleagues in the Senate. Budget negotiations are a lengthy process but the final product ultimately serves as the embodiment of our state’s values.