Editor’s note: On Oct. 15, Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone, a candidate for the state Senate’s 28th District, spoke to the Town Crier on a variety of issues from the campaign. This is the first of a two-part article that will continue in next week’s edition.
Education and the recent state court decision on tenure
In June, Judge Rolf Treu of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County ruled that several state laws relating to the administration of education policy were unconstitutional. The most prominent was his ruling against teacher tenure after only two years on the job, but Treu also found that the statutes on the dismissal process for ineffective teachers and the layoff process of last-hired, first-fired were unconstitutional.
In September, State Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed Treu’s decision, with the full support of Gov. Jerry Brown and Superintendent of Schools Thomas Torkalson.
When asked his opinion of the ruling and appeal, Stone immediately said, “I’m disappointed with the appeal. There’re a lot of wonderful teachers.”
“Tenure can be a good thing,” Stone continued. “There are good and bad teachers, no different than other professions.” Stone’s concern with the appeal is the difficulty that school officials have had when trying to dismiss teachers with serious and egregious issues, such as sex offenses.
While Stone supports the June court decision, he stressed that teachers’ appraisals after voiding the tenure opportunities must be done carefully. “The rules for review must be carefully crafted. We can’t permit any retaliating from administrators with a beef,” he added.
Realignment between state prisons and county jail space
In 2011, the state began implementing Assembly Bill 109 that transferred or kept many convicted felons in county jails in order to reduce the state prison population pursuant to a federal court order.
“This has become a terrible catastrophe for the counties instead of the state of California doing the right thing,” Stone said bluntly.
The state and county prison and jail system is intertwined, just as state and county roads are, he said. Stone characterizes both as government infrastructure. Consequently, the problem of space for incarcerated prisoners has been exacerbated because California’s population continues to grow.
Similar to officials in many other California counties, Stone is well aware of the ramifications of the realignment policy. Many of the least violent and dangerous convicted felons are released before serving a full sentence.
Even constructing a new county jail in Indio will not be a permanent solution, Stone despaired. “We’ll still be behind the eight ball,” he said.
Then he offered a plan toward improving the problem. Stone recommends selling the state’s San Quentin prison because it is valuable water property. He estimated the state could sell the prison property for $1 billion. These funds would be sufficient to build two new state prisons, he said. “But we have to take the money and build more efficient prisons because the big expense is staffing [the prisons],” Stone stated and explained, “We can’t build four-star prisons.”
“Prison should be a place of punishment,” he stressed. “Nobody should want to go back to prison.”
Stone believes the state Board of Corrections includes many frills, which ultimately makes the state vulnerable to more lawsuits. He is still a fan of Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff “Joe” Arpaio, who instituted tent cities adjacent to his county jail.
Stone also advocated more educational opportunities for inmates. “We need more instruction in jails, so that prisoners can earn a GED and vocational skills,” he said. “When they’re released from jail, they can use skills such as car repair and be productive members of society.”