Published Online: December 11, 2009

Calif. Assembly Passes Race to the Top Package

The California Assembly on Thursday approved a controversial package of legislation that would allow the state to compete for a piece of the $4.3 billion being offered by the Obama administration to reform the nation's worst-performing schools.

By a 47-25 vote, the Assembly approved legislation by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, that would lift the cap on the number of charter schools in California, revamp the state's academic standards and target federal funding to the worst-of-the-worst failing schools.

The legislation is intended to clear the way for California to compete in the Race to the Top program. The state is eligible for up to $700 million.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told reporters outside his Capitol office in Sacramento, Calif., that he would veto an Assembly version of legislation designed to improve California’s chances of securing funding from the federal Race to the Top program. Mr. Schwarzenegger said the Assembly measure fails to meet federal guidelines and will not bring the reform California schools need.
—Rich Pedroncelli/AP

But education reformers say Brownley's legislation is a weak effort that would allow schools to keep failing poor and minority children.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday he would veto the legislation if it hits his desk, calling it a watered-down package rather than real school reform.

He supports a bill by state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, that would give parents more authority to intervene in failing schools or to move out their kids. The California Teachers Association opposes that measure, which narrowly passed the state Senate last month.

Legislative leaders are trying to work out a compromise. Without one, schools that have already lost billions of dollars in state funding in the last few years won't be eligible for the extra federal funds.

"We anticipate further discussion and amendment as the bill continues moving through the Senate, which is its next step in the process, not the governor's desk," Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement following the Assembly vote. "The governor says he wants compromise. The reality is compromise is already driving the process."

The first applications for the Race to the Top program are due Jan. 19.

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