Is Congress in your corner? Ami Bera kibitzes at Florin High School - Part 1

By Michael Monasky | September 7, 2013 | According to a recent NBC poll , 80 percent of Americans think that President Obama should ...

By Michael Monasky | September 7, 2013 |
According to a recent NBC poll, 80 percent of Americans think that President Obama should confer with Congress before taking action in response to Syria's recent use of chemical weapons. That's about the same number of Americans, 90-percent, who are skeptical that Congress will ever get anything done.

In comments made Thursday night, Congressman Dr. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) said that he was “glad the president kicked it [the decision to attack Syria] over to Congress.” 

As a member of the House Affairs Committee, Bera told the Florin High School audience that he asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel  about the Obama administration’s goal and end game should there be a military engagement in Syria. He said there was response from Hagel or the White House.
“I want your thoughts and opinions,” Bera told the crowd. 

Bera looked exhausted and complained of jet lag. Just last week he visited Bangalore, India at the Dayananda Sagar Institute of Engineering. He said the meeting had three objectives. 

First, encourage Indian corporations to invest in California, especially in the Central Valley's agricultural industry. Second, he represented California universities on an academic link with the Sagar Institute. Third, Bera hopes the effort will work towards a geopolitical stabilization of relations between India and its neighbors, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Another entrepreneurial effort, the Emergent Institute, is a collaboration of the University of Southern California and the Sagar Institute. Although this is a so-called Bottom of Pyramid (BoP) schema (think “trickle-up” economics), the congressman gave an assurance that the corporate sponsorships are filtered through a non-profit mechanism of the Emergent Institute.  Bangalore is a US call center Mecca for India. Furthermore, the Indian press has expressed concern about H1B visa costs and congressional negotiations that affect the flow of Indian students to and from the US.

Despite the threat of war in yet another Mid-East theater, the theme of this town hall meeting was education. Florin High School math teacher Tim Smith was recognized for having been selected Teacher of the Year by Sacramento County. The first 25 minutes of the meeting were taken up by introductions to various local school board members and upper level staff.

Bera lamented that Congress is suffering under across-the-board sequestration cuts, and yet that requires efforts to make “strategic investments” in early childhood education;

“Give control back to the school districts,” he urged.

Bera also urged funding pre-school programs for all children saying they are “an investment that pays a dividend for the rest of their lives...a pretty wise investment.”

Bera said he is not a fan of No Child Left Behind, a Bush-era policy superceded by new standards called Common Core.

“Not everyone desires to be a scientist or engineer,” he said

The freshman Congressman also waxed romantically about his childhood in a Downey, Calif. elementary school, where the community held meetings, festivals, and fairs besides classroom instruction. As to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Bera repeated that it is “not a good districts should be empowered,” while criticizing significant drop out rates in  California high schools.

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