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Proceeding as Planned

What's been a much-touted idea for restructuring the California education system is now officially a piece of legislation.

A bipartisan group of legislators in the Assembly and the Senate introduced bills last week to carry out a master plan for K-16 education. That plan was proposed last summer by a study group that had labored for two years on a blueprint for restructuring the state's education agencies to build better bridges connecting elementary, secondary, and higher education.

"With this legislation, we are sending a message that we have heard the thousands of Californians who in the past two years have demanded concrete, meaningful action to fix our troubled education system," Sen. Dede Alpert, a Democrat, said last week in announcing the introduction of two Senate bills and one Assembly bill based on the master plan.

Gov. Gray Davis

One of the Senate bills contains the core of the proposal, which would shift to the governor's office many duties now carried out by the superintendent of public instruction, an elected position, and the state school board. Another Senate bill and an identical Assembly measure declare that it is the legislature's intent for the state to provide voluntary public preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds within the next 10 years.

Sponsors stressed that the bills would help make better use of state education expenditures, which totaled about $65 billion this year. That spending will undergo scrutiny during a special legislative session, slated for this week, to address a $21 billion shortfall in the state budget. In calling the session last week, Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, said education programs should be included in needed cuts.

Under the main master-plan bill, the state superintendent would be primarily charged with overseeing academic accountability laws, while many of the other functions of the current department of education would fall under an appointee of the governor. That Cabinet-level chief education officer would replace the current secretary of education appointed by the governor.

The measure also would establish a California Education Commission to compile and analyze data.

Lawmakers are expected to begin debate on the bills early next year.

—Joetta L. Sack

Vol. 22, Issue 15, Page 13

Published in Print: December 11, 2002, as State Journal

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