The California Attorney General Kamala Harris has won a $1.2 billion judgment against the for-profit Corinthian Colleges for predatory practices that left tens of thousands of students with large debts and useless degrees. Students whom Corinthian had targeted for their *special characteristics* like "isolated", "impatient", "low self-esteem" folks "who have few people in their lives who care about them" according to documents Harris' office discovered.
Does the case reveal any special characteristics of Kamala Harris? That's especially important since she's running for US Senate.
She’s in the lead for the retiring Barbara Boxer's seat. In a race that not enough of us are watching, she handily beat out Orange County’s Loretta Sanchez for the State Democratic party’s endorsement last month.
Even if we were paying attention to this important election, education advocates know that an election for national office is not exactly the best venue to find out a candidate's stand on public education. With so little campaign emphasis on our cause, candidates’ actions and occasional words are open to interpretation. So what do the tea leaves say about Kamala Harris?
The bulk of the judgment in this case is loan forgiveness for former students. The rest is to punish the shyster Corinthian and try to deter other profiteers from creating business models that prey on hopeful students. That's a good sign.
The win shows Harris to be a fighter for pupils over profits, something that should help her distinguish herself to voters concerned about the privatization of public education.
One of Harris’ Republican opponents is cringeworthy to education voters. Ron Unz is a Palo Alto software executive whose interest in education stems from his effort to obliterate bilingual education in our state. He successfully championed the 1998 “English only” ballot initiative, which the state legislature has nearly finished repealing. This has so ticked off Unz that he decided to throw his hat in the ring for the Senate seat.
So Unz can make some anti-immigrant noise, which apparently is a selling point in this reality-TV-based election season, though he has little chance of winning against either Democrat.
The Democrats are having their own difficulty breaking through the cacophony of the presidential election. An LA Times article this week reported one third of California voters are still undecided in the Senate race that includes four Democrats. Harris polls first, ahead of Sanchez among registered voters and Harris’ take doubles Sanchez's among likely voters.
There’s no poll of education voters, but if there was, this shellacking of for-profit colleges by Kamala Harris surely would put her at the front of the class.