TRAINED WORKERS NEEDED FOR NEW STEM CELL JOBS: California Senate Bill 471: (Romero/Steinberg) the Stem Cell and Biotechnology Education and Workforce Development Act of 2009.

by Don C. Reed

Dear Stem Cell Research Supporter:

Please support California Senate Bill 471, offered by Senators Gloria Romero and Darrel Steinberg. If approved, this wonderful bill will bring stem cell research information into the California classroom.

Why does this matter?

First, the field of life science, like the computer industry, needs people who know what is going on, who really understand the work because they have been exposed to it early. I will never be completely comfortable with a computer, although I use one every day—because I started too late, not even touching one till I was forty. My three grandsons and one grand-daughter, on the other hand, were practically born with computers in the crib. Their world will be larger than mine, because they have a natural familiarity with this incredible tool.

Second, there are still too many misconceptions about stem cell research; these can only be countered by the systematic presentation of fact.

How will it work?

Below is the one-page version of the proposed law. (For those who want a fuller explanation, I have included the official analysis, including supporters and opposition, at the bottom of the article.)

When you see the word CIRM, by the way, that is the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine: our California stem cell research program.


“Senate Bill 471, The California Stem Cell and Biotechnology Education and Workforce Development Act of 2009.

“… requires the California Department of Education—

in consultation with the CIRM and representatives of the biotechnology industry—

to promote stem cell and biotechnology education and workforce development in existing programs, such as the California Partnership Academies, the California Career Resource Network, multiple pathways, and other existing programs.

It also requires that stem cell biology be included in the Science Framework that specifies what is taught in the science classroom.

The bill requests the University of California, in consultation with CIRM, to include stem cell and biotechnology information in the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science, as specified.

The bill requests that the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee…give consideration to education and workforce development when allocating funds for stem cell research and facilities.”


That is SB 471.

Now. May I ask a favor?

It would be important if you would write a short letter, (I will help) and send it to the members of the Education committee.

It’s easy. First, here is my sample letter, (feel free to borrow language), next is the “clickable” email addresses of the people who need to hear from you. Just write your letter, select it, cut and paste. (The committee we want to influence right now is the Assembly Education committee.)

SAVE your letter, please. In about ten days we will want to send it again to the chair of a different committee.

A close fight is expected on this bill: your involvement might be crucial.

The cost to California taxpayers? $65 thousand. Hardly anything, in government funding terms. But vital.

Here is a sample letter.

Re: Senate Bill 471: support. (it is important to put this, so they can sort and stack the letters they receive.)

Dear __________(insert name of Representative)

I support the California stem cell research program. (State your reason for supporting the research; for example, my son Roman is paralyzed, and my sister Barbara has cancer.)

But no amount of research means anything, until it becomes useful therapies, products and treatments—and that means a trained workforce.

The biomedical industry needs educated young men and women to fill the jobs that will bring cure within the reach of California, America, and the world. They need the jobs, California needs the revenues, and the world needs cure.

SB 471 is a necessary and positive piece of legislation. It deserves the support of California educators and young people, of scientists and advocates, and most of all the families of those who suffer: we who seek relief from chronic disease and disability.

SB 471’s costs are miniscule; its benefits immeasurable.

Please vote yes on Senate Bill 471: the California Stem Cell and Biotechnology Education and Workforce Development Act of 2009.

Thank you,

Your Name

Here is the committee: all you have to do is type your letter, (alter and use mine, if you like, you could do it right now) cut and paste, click and send.

If you only have time to do one, make it to the chair. Do them all if you can.

If you live in California, wonderful. But even if you reside in a different state, still these committee members need to hear from you.

Education Committee:

Julia Brownley – Chair
Dem-41 (916) 319-2041

Brian Nestande – Vice Chair
Rep-64 (916) 319-2064

Tom Ammiano
Dem-13 (916) 319-2013

Juan Arambula
Dem-31 (916) 319-2031

Joan Buchanan
Dem-15 (916) 319-2015

Wilmer Amina Carter
Dem-62 (916) 319-2062

Mike Eng
Dem-49 (916) 319-2049

Martin Garrick
Rep-74 (916) 319-2074

Jeff Miller
Rep-71 (916) 319-2071

Jose Solorio
Dem-69 (916) 319-2069

Tom Torlakson
Dem-11 (916) 319-2011

JULY 8 is the official hearing for the bill before the Education Committee—want to attend? Drop a line to me at

Now, here is the official analysis, the support and opposition, and a couple paragraphs of my answer to the opposition’s argument.

Analysis: Prop 71 (established CIRM and ICOC governing board)…

Existing law provides for the establishment and maintenance of the California Subject Matter Projects (CSMP) for the purpose of developing and enhancing teachers’ subject matter knowledge and instructional strategies in order to improve student learning and academic performance in core content areas, including science.

Existing law provides for the operation of the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) through the UC. The 2009-2010 Budget Act provided $1.897 million for this program.

In March, 2009, the State Board of Education (SBE) unanimously adopted a proposal to include stem cell science in the science curriculum and include the content in the update of the 2010 Science Framework.

This bill:

1. Requires the Dept. of Ed. (DOE), in consultation with the CIRM and representatives of the biotechnology industry, to promote stem cell and biotechnology education and workforce development in its existing programs such as the California Partnership Academies, the California Resource Network, regional science resource centers, the K-12 High Speed Network, and other specific entities.

2. Requires the DOE to post on its internet web site, information and links about:
A. Biotechnology education programs as specified.
B. The CIRM education initiatives and related stem cell education and workforce development programs.

3. Requests the UC Regents to consult with CIRM and representatives of the biotechnology industry in developing curriculum for COSMOS.

4. Requires the SBE to incorporate stem cell science curriculum content into the next revision of the Science Curriculum Framework.

5. Requests the ICOC, when allocating funds for stem cell research and facilities, to consider education and workforce development in addition to other criteria with the goal of furthering this article.

6. States findings and declarations of the Legislature relating to stem cell research and science, and the need for all education, policymakers and institutions of public education, and all relevant public agencies and industry organizations to collaborate and make it a priority to increase stem cell and biotechnology education and workforce development.

…to the extent that industry, research institutions, and schools can work together to address the education and training necessary to fill positions in the stem cell field, this bill could enable California to maintain the momentum initiated through Proposition 71, and build a regenerative medicine infrastructure that will generate jobs, contribute to the economy, and help California maintain a competitive edge in this emerging field of medicine.

Fiscal effect: $65,000

Support: (verified 5/29/09) BioCom, California Healthcare Institute, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, California State University, Don Reed, Californians for Cures, Student Society for Stem Cell Research, University of California

Opposition: (verified 5/29/09) California Catholic Conference

Arguments in support: The author’s office states the bill will have a positive fiscal effect by (1) making good on the significant public investment made by the people of California with approval of Prop 71 of 2004, which authorized
$3 billion in state bond funds for stem cell research and facilities.

The followup step of aligning public education with this public funding of stem cell research is necessary to turn this important research into therapies and cures and for California to realize the economic benefits of stem cell research as promised in the ballot information on Prop. 71; and

(2) positioning California for additional federal funds for stem cell research made possible by President Obama’s March 9, 2009 , executive order lifting federal restrictions on stem cell research;

(3) enabling California to leverage and expand the significant investment that private industry has already made in implementing science education programs in partnership with public schools, such as those outlined in the California Biotechnology Foundation’s soon-to-be-released directory of education programs;

(4) enabling California to maximize the benefit realized from the public funding of existing programs of the department of education by promoting greater collaboration and resource-sharing among the department of education, CIRM and private industry; and

(5) enabling California to produce the educated and trained workers needed to meet industry demand in the growing stem cell and biotechnology sectors, thereby keeping those jobs and tax-paying workers in California.

BIOCOM states: “SB 471 helps to insure a highly trained and continuous workforce for the life science industry, including that portion which is involved in the stem cell arena. The life science industry is one of the leading industries in the state in terms of jobs and economic impact, yet is not currently recognized as a priority in education. Currently, education in or recognition of the life sciences is often determined by the proximity of the industry to individual school districts.

ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION: The Catholic Conference states, “To date after several decades of work, the only successful therapies derived from stem cells have been the result of the type of research the CIRM will not fund, i.e., research on non-embryonic stem cells. Until CIRM pragmatically directs its funding towards research that has proven effective and away from research that is ideological, i.e. embryonic stem research, California tax-payer will not see little return on their multi-billion investment.”

(NOTE FROM DON about the argument in opposition: How many errors can you spot in that one paragraph? Here are a few:

1. “after several decades of work” –human embryonic stem cells were only isolated in 1998—how do you get “several decades of work” out of eleven years? The research the opposition supports, adult stem cells, did have a fifty year head start, which somehow they always forget to mention.

2. “research the CIRM will not fund, i.e., non-embryonic stem cells”—this is false. The CIRM has provided substantive funding to non-embryonic stem cell research, especially induced Pluripontiary Stem cells (iPS).

3. “research that is ideological, i.e. embryonic stem research”—the Catholic Church’s entire position on science is based on ideology, that same system of ideas which caused it to oppose anatomy, surgery, x-rays, blood transfusions, and other advances in science.

4. “California taxpayer will not see little return on their multi-billion investment.” “Little return”? Leaving aside what is undoubtedly a typographical errors,(“not see little”) the argument is demonstrably false. California has already attracted more money than it has spent. The CIRM has spent a total $693 million. It has already attracted $880 million in new money from research institutions. How many programs bring in more money then they cost?

SB 471 is an outstanding bill, which deserves support. Please forward this letter to all our stem cell research friends.

And as always, thanks for taking on this extra chore.

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