Gov. Newsom on $123B California schools plan, oil spill clean up and climate change

A key focus of President Joe Biden's spending plan centers around addressing climate change and expanding universal pre-K. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday signed a $123 billion bill that would, among other things, expand pre-K and provide an extra year of kindergarten for some children. Judy Woodruff speaks with Newsom about these issues and how the California law plans to address them.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A key focus of President Biden's larger spending plan centers on addressing climate change and expanding universal pre-kindergarten.

    I spoke with California Governor Gavin Newsom about these issues earlier today, just after he signed a $123 billion bill that would, among other things, expand pre-K and provide an extra year of kindergarten for some children.

    Governor Newsom, thank you very much for joining us on the "NewsHour."

    You're receiving congratulations right now for defeating this recall, but the challenges don't get any easier.

    And let's start with one of them, education. You're announcing today a major investment in what you're calling transitional kindergarten, similar to pre-kindergarten. Tell us why it is worth this major investment, billions of dollars. What are you trying to accomplish?

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA):

    I think we appropriately and understandably talk a lot about the achievement gap, but I think we don't talk enough about the readiness gap. People aren't left behind educationally, as much as they start behind.

    And I think that's one of the fundamental things we have to redress as a nation, that, if we're going to address the issue of wealth and income disparities, we have got to begin at the beginning, prenatal care, zero to 3 the power of zero to 3 in particular, but also prepare people as they move towards kindergarten, prepare them with high-quality intervention.

    And so we're providing for a brand-new grade this year, T.K. for all. It's long overdue in California, but I think it's foundational in terms of our educational capacity and leadership.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Governor, you know even those who like the idea say this is going to be a daunting challenge to find what they're saying is something like 12, 500 new teachers to teach these children, this at a time when, during the pandemic, I read California's lost something like 14,000, mostly women, teaching young children.

    How do you find these people, and how do you pay them what would be considered a decent salary?

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    No, it's the right question, and it's a challenge all across the United States.

    And this is a challenge, preexisting challenge, before this pandemic, of course, highlighted as a consequence of the pandemic. So, that's why we put in our budget this year quite literally $2.9 billion, almost $3 billion, to answer that question, to focus on retention and bonuses for hard-to-teach subjects and low-performing school districts, as well as recruitment strategies and professional development.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you do have, as I mentioned, thousands of women leaving the work force, including teachers.

    This has now become a national issue. As you know, President Biden has universal pre-K as part of his big social spending measure that is facing a rough waters at this moment in Congress, for some of the same reasons. Even — I mean, Republicans are against it, even some Democrats, who say it's going to cost too much right now.

    What's at stake here?

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    I mean, it's foundational.

    Look, I will say this, as someone that is a very strong supporter of what's going on in Washington, D.C., and the president's package. We're not waiting around for it. Every core principle that they're trying to advance in the $3.5 trillion package, California has already advanced, from free community college, to preschool for all. We're expanding by close to a quarter-million new child care slots.

    And we're focused with a $15 billion package on climate change. That said, even a state, the fifth largest economy in the world, as large as California, can't do it alone. And so all those investments are foundational and fundamental, again, to our competitiveness in the future.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You mentioned climate, Governor.

    Of course, California is dealing with this massive oil spill right now off the coast of Southern California. And I know there's an investigation into — under way into what happened, whether a ship dropped anchor in the wrong place.

    But while we're waiting for that, what do you know about the extent of the damage?

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    I just know that it's time — time to move beyond fossil fuels.

    I mean, the future is here. It's now. California has five times more green-collar, green energy jobs, five times. As one as one of the largest oil-producing states, we have five times more green energy jobs than we do fossil fuel jobs. If there's a foreign policy in California, it's clean energy, it's low-carbon green growth.

    And I'm proud of our leadership, but it's not good enough. And it's only been punctuated by this punctured pipeline that is spewing toxic oil, killing birds and fish, impacting our economy, our public health, all at the same time. And so all this does is resolve for all of us to do more and do better to extend our nation-leading efforts to transition once and for all away from fossil fuels.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I want to ask you more about the national climate picture, Governor, but, right now, as you know, there are environmental and consumer watchdogs in your state who are saying, you bear some of the responsibility for what's going on with this oil spill and others.

    They point out that you have approved over 100 permits for oil drilling off the coast. They say you haven't done enough to clean up — to get these companies to clean up the pipelines that are already out there.

    How do you answer them?

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    Well, look, we're very proud.

    I was the first governor, the first state in America to require all vehicles that are purchased in the state of California by 2035 to be alternative fuel vehicles. I was the first governor to call for the rejection and banning of fracking in the state of California. That hadn't been done before.

    We are a large oil-producing state. That said, we haven't approved an offshore oil license in half-a-century. And we're committed, absolutely resolved and committed to working with the Biden administration to do more and do better to accelerate our transition.

    But, look, at the end of the day, we all have to acknowledge our culpability, all of us, in terms of our behavior, the fact that I drove here to a school in the Central Valley. I will be flying to Southern California to see the oil spill. All of that, I think, has to be reconciled.

    The fact is, our behavior needs to change, we need to change, not just our leaders. And we are resolved and committed to continue our nation-leading efforts. But those critics are right. We don't have time to spare, and we have to do more and better.

    And I can assure you, having just faced down this recall where they wanted to increase offshore oil drilling, the folks on the other side of this recall, that you ain't seen nothing yet in terms of California's leadership and resolve to address this issue.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But just to wrap this up, and on back on the national picture, as you know, part of the president's, President Biden's plan, the so-called social spending measure, there's money in there for climate change, to address it.

    But there are Democrats — and there are certainly Republicans, but also some Democrats who say this money is better spent elsewhere, we don't want to rush to get rid of fossil fuels in this country.

    How concerned are you that the president's effort could end up being killed by those who oppose it?

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    Well, I'm very — look, I'm very concerned about it.

    I have four kids. My kids are likely to live in a world with eight-degree temperatures, on average, hotter than they are today. And so I don't know what more people need to see or experience. If that doesn't wake us up, I don't know what the hell does.

    And forgive me for using that language, but, at the end of the day, all of us are accountable. We are accountable to doing more and being better. We owe it not only to ourselves, but the future of our nation and the world we're trying to live in.

    And I will close on this. The economic costs of negligent are jaw-dropping. What is it about our country that we don't score tax cuts, and we don't score the cost of disasters? We happily pay for those, but how dare and damn we discuss the cost, the direct cost, of being smart enough to get a return on our investments by investing in prevention and resilience?

    We want to future-proof this country. The Biden administration wants to future-proof America. I'm proud of his leadership. I'm not proud of members of Congress right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Governor Gavin Newsom of California, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    Good to be with you.

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