Special Report
School & District Management

Calif. Senate Passes New Compromise Education Bill

By The Associated Press — December 18, 2009 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The state Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would clear the way for California to compete in a $4.3 billion school funding competition from the Obama administration, but the state’s chances of securing a slice of the money remained in limbo.

After late-night negotiations lasting several days, state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, introduced new legislation Thursday that attempted to forge a compromise between the two houses on education reform. Divisions remained, however, and Romero said she would work through the holidays to complete a bill with broad support and which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would sign.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg, D-Sacramento, urged Senators to support the package, despite a process he called “herky-jerky” that has pitted Democrats against one another and left many legislators torn between interest groups.

The bill passed the Senate on a bipartisan 21-7 vote.

The Senate Education Committee approved the bill earlier Thursday after a contentious 3-hour hearing in which fellow Democrats badgered her over details they said were missing, and interest groups complained the legislation was drafted too hastily.

The bill is California’s latest attempt at making California eligible for the federal “Race to the Top” program, in which California could get up to $700 million for school reforms in a competition with other states.

An Assembly committee failed to pass Romero’s previous legislation, which Schwarzenegger supported, after the powerful California Teachers Association and other groups lobbied against it. It instead passed legislation by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, which she revoked Thursday morning.

The proposed changes released Thursday retain several controversial elements, including allowing parents to petition to close or drastically revamp a badly failing school and allowing them to transfer children out of a failing school to another district.

School districts have serious concerns about how that would work and whether they would end up bearing the cost of taking on new students. Education groups that advocate on behalf of minority children worry that without strong language preventing it, school districts could reject poor or special needs students who would cost more to educate.

The legislation also would spell out consequences for identifying and intervening in around 180 chronically failing California schools, Steinberg said.

California’s education system was once considered a national model that bred a generation of scientists and entrepreneurs, but the state has fallen to near the bottom among states in school funding and academics, earning a D in academic achievement in Quality Counts 2009, Education Week‘s annual report on state education policies. Students perform below the national average on nearly all measures, with black, Hispanic and poor children faring worst.

Romero removed another school reform element that proved too controversial: removing California’s cap on the number of charter schools that can operate.

Despite the bill’s passage Thursday, the state faces a tight timeline to enter the competition for federal funds. Applications are due Jan. 19 and the legislation still needs approval from the state Assembly, which is unlikely to meet again until the new year. In seeking votes, Romero also promised to bring the bill back to Senate committees after amendments are made, adding to the anticipated time crunch.

Romero acknowledged there were gaps in the legislation, but she told lawmakers she is confident compromise can still be reached; she reminded them that President Barack Obama has called for a fundamental change in how states deal with the worst-of-the-worst schools.

Obama announced Race to the Top in August, and Schwarzenegger called a special session of the state Legislature shortly afterward.

“We have delayed. We have waited. The clock has ticked,” Romero said. “The nation’s not waiting.”

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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.
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
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.
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

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 Opinion I Invited My Students to Be the Principal for a Day. Here’s What I Learned
When I felt myself slipping into a springtime slump, this simple activity reminded me of my “why” as an educator.
S. Kambar Khoshaba
4 min read
052024 OPINION Khoshaba PRINCIPAL end the year with positivity
E+/Getty + Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management The Complicated Fight Over Four-Day School Weeks
Missouri lawmakers want to encourage large districts to maintain five-day weeks—even as four-day weeks grow more popular.
7 min read
Calendar 4 day week
School & District Management From Our Research Center Principal Salaries: The Gap Between Expectation and Reality
Exclusive survey data indicate a gap between the expectations and the realities of principal pay.
4 min read
A Black woman is standing on a ladder and looking into the distance with binoculars, in the background is an ascending arrow.
School & District Management Schools Successfully Fighting Chronic Absenteeism Have This in Common
A White House summit homed in on chronic absenteeism and strategies to reduce it.
6 min read
An empty elementary school classroom is seen on Aug. 17, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York. Nationwide, students have been absent at record rates since schools reopened after COVID-forced closures. More than a quarter of students missed at least 10% of the 2021-22 school year.
An empty elementary school classroom is seen on Aug. 17, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York. A White House summit on May 15, 2024, brought attention to elevated chronic absenteeism and strategies districts have used to fight it.
Brittainy Newman/AP