Special Report
School & District Management

Calif. Education Reform Bills Before State Senate

By The Associated Press — January 06, 2010 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Facing a fast-approaching deadline, California senators are being asked to back education reforms that give parents and state officials authority to overhaul the state’s worst schools.

The state Senate is scheduled Wednesday to consider a pair of education-reform bills intended to help California qualify for $700 million in competitive federal grants.

“We are not in a position to turn our backs on the potential of $700 million to help kids in high-poverty schools,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

The money is being offered as part of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative and the first deadline is less than two weeks away.

The state Assembly adopted the bills Tuesday night with the slim majority it needed. Senate approval would send the legislative package to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been pushing lawmakers to act since calling a special session in August.

Schwarzenegger said the measures were needed to ensure California could submit a competitive application for a portion of the $4.3 billion being made available by the federal government.

Lawmakers who support the reforms said the legislation would provide a lifeline to parents and students in California’s poorest-performing school districts.

“It’s bold. It signifies a commitment to President Obama’s call to take drastic steps when our schools are failing,” said Assemblyman Juan Arambula, an independent from Fresno.

The legislation struck a compromise between different versions favored previously by the Assembly and Senate, although it includes controversial provisions on parental rights.

It requires persistently failing schools to make sweeping changes, including the possibility a school could be closed, converted to a charter school, or the principal and half the staff replaced.

Students enrolled in the state’s worst 1,000 schools would be allowed to transfer to a better school. While parents at some of the worst schools would be empowered to petition a school district to turn around a chronically failing school, although the program would be limited to 75 schools.

“I believe that this program abandons our neighborhood schools, the children that live there and the people nearby,” said Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch. “Even worse, it abandons those very schools that are most in need of our help.”

Other lawmakers sided with teachers unions and complained the Legislature was rushing into sweeping reforms that would have lasting consequences for what amounts to a relatively small pot of one-time money. K-12 education will get nearly $36 billion in this year’s general fund budget.

The vote split Assembly Democrats, many of whom supported the reforms and parted with the California Teachers Association, one of the most influential lobbying groups in Sacramento and one of the state Democratic Party’s major financial backers.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, voted in favor of the reforms but acknowledged the risk that the state might not get a dime in Race to the Top funding because the money will be awarded on a competitive basis.

“I’m very concerned about how California will fare because one of the requirements is a state demonstrates a commitment to funding education,” she said in an interview after the vote. “It’s difficult to demonstrate that commitment when in our last few years we’ve been cutting.”

Billions of dollars have been cut from K-12 and higher education as the state has faced a continuing fiscal crisis and a steep drop in tax revenue.

Bass said she hoped California, which has 6 million public school students, would be given special consideration for embracing reforms such as parental choice, which were beyond the requirements called for by the Obama administration.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management The Already Dire Substitute Shortage Could Get 'Worse Before It Gets Better'
School districts are trying all sorts of tactics, including increasing pay and relaxing requirements, to get more subs in classrooms.
10 min read
Image of an empty classroom.
urfinguss/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion National School Boards Association Chooses to Be Part of the Problem
The NSBA chose to blur the distinction between permissible and suspect speech in suggesting the FBI should target unruly protesters.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management Facing Disruption and Firings, L.A. Extends COVID Vaccine Deadline for School Staff
The extension comes as the nation's second-largest school system has struggled to fill more than 2,000 teaching and other vacancies.
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
5 min read
In this March 2, 2021, file photo, a sign is displayed at a COVID-19 vaccination site for employees of the Los Angeles School District, LAUSD, in the parking lot of SOFI Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. Public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, particularly in math, science, special education and languages. But the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. The stresses of teaching in the COVID-era caused a spike in teacher retirements and resignations. On top of that, schools now have to hire all kinds of additional staff, like tutors and special aides to help kids make up for learning losses, and more teachers to run online school for those not ready to return.
In this March 2, 2021, file photo, a sign is displayed at a COVID-19 vaccination site for employees of the Los Angeles School District, LAUSD, in the parking lot of SOFI Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo
School & District Management Opinion Graduation Must Depend on Learning, Not Time
We’re long overdue to redesign our education system around competency, argue six superintendents. Here’s what that could look like.
Morcease Beasley, Alberto Carvalho, William Hite, Jesus Jara, Monica Goldson & Jerry Almendarez
5 min read
A conceptual illustration of a mountain of paperwork before the goal is reached.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock