California has again rescinded its performance bonuses for schools because of the state’s budget woes, leaving the future of one of Gov. Gray Davis’ pet education programs in limbo.
The announcement by state officials that the awards would not be handed out for this year’s honorees came at the same time that they announced the latest results of the Academic Performance Index, the state’s gauge for improvement on state assessments.
Designed to reward schools and teachers whose classes made large leaps in academic achievement, the 3-year-old bonus program has floundered because of the budget crisis.
“The program is still on the books; it’s important to the governor,” said Ann Bancroft, a spokeswoman for California Secretary of Education Kerry Mazzoni. But the priority this year, Ms. Bancroft added, was to protect minimum levels of education funding.
The most recent awards, the schools’ performance awards for the 2000-01 test scores, were not expected to get funding when they were announced earlier this year. They were later salvaged when lawmakers borrowed $144.3 million from the fiscal 2003 budget. Ultimately, about 3,400 schools were given bonuses of about $75 per student. (“California Restores Money for School Bonuses Tied to Tests,” Sept. 4, 2002.)
Gov. Davis could propose funding for the 2001-02 awards in his budget proposal in January, provided he wins re-election next week, or the legislature on its own initiative could choose to pay for the program. But Ms. Bancroft offered little hope that the money could be restored in the next year.
“I don’t believe it’s likely,” she said. “It’s expected to be another tight year.”
Recognition, Not Money
The schools that would have been eligible for the most recent cash awards will still be recognized with certificates and letters of recognition, and can still use the “governor’s performance award” logo. Originally, cash awards were also supposed to be awarded to teachers, but they were not funded this year.
But both sets of awards had been somewhat controversial. “It was our preference to see those awards go unfunded, rather than to cut into other educational programs,” said Bob Wells, the executive director of the Association of California School Administrators.