Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Approaching | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends March 1. Register today.
Special Report
School & District Management

U.S. Education Chief Urges Calif. to Enact Reforms

By The Associated Press — September 04, 2009 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Thursday urged California lawmakers to make education reforms or risk falling further behind the rest of the nation and losing out on a slice of $4.3 billion in federal stimulus money.

Duncan met with lawmakers from both parties at the state Capitol as they prepare to debate potential changes to California law. If enacted, some of the reforms would allow the state to compete for federal money under the Obama administration’s $787 billion economic recovery plan.

The Race to the Top competition will reward states that are focused on education reforms. States that agree to expand public charter schools will be first in line for the money, along with those that allow performance pay for teachers based on student achievement, which is currently prohibited in California.

Democratic lawmakers and the state’s two teachers unions, which are major donors to Democratic campaigns, have typically opposed such changes.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called a special session of the Legislature to take up the reforms so California can apply for the money. That session will start sometime after lawmakers finish their regular session next week.

School officials say they need the money after $18 billion in funding cuts to K-12 schools and community colleges over the past two fiscal years.

Speaking before an audience of school children, Duncan said California can choose to dramatically improve its school system or “stay on the sidelines.”

“It’s going to take real courage. It’s going to take real leadership. But at the end of the day, we have to do the right thing by the children here,” he said during a back-to-school rally hosted by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who started a Sacramento charter high school after retiring from the NBA.

Gov. Highlights Push for Race to the Top Education Reforms at Back-to-School Rally

From www.youtube.com/GovSchwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger is seeking legislation that will help improve school accountability, recruit high-quality teachers and principals, turn around low-performing schools and provide better data on teacher performance. He supports linking teacher evaluations and pay raises to student test scores.

The politically powerful California Teachers Association has fought many of those proposals in the past, but some of the changes are necessary to compete for the stimulus money unless the Obama administration revises the guidelines, which are not final.

After meeting with Duncan on Thursday, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said she was optimistic that Democrats could agree to some reforms.

“I walked away feeling that it’s not necessarily going to be a problem. What was most important to hear is that the secretary and the Obama administration is not trying to force a rigid formula down our throats,” Bass said. “And so given that, I think there’s room (to negotiate).”

The administration has said it will not award money to states that bar student performance data from being linked to teacher evaluations, such as in California, but some lawmakers are optimistic they can change that law while being sensitive to union concerns.

Outside the back-to-school rally Thursday, Duncan told The Associated Press that he is not worried about opposition from the teachers unions or other labor groups.

“I don’t think it’s about bucking anyone. This is about folks working together, and I have a lot of confidence California’s going to do the right thing by children. That’s what this is about,” Duncan said.

He said California is expected to receive at least $9 billion in stimulus funding dedicated to schools, even without the Race to the Top money.

Schwarzenegger urged lawmakers Thursday to put ideology aside and work quickly, despite a host of other pressing issues they are facing, including a possible reduction in the state inmate population, sweeping tax reforms and water policy.

The Republican governor said he needs the education measures on his desk by early October “so we can be totally in sync with the Obama administration and with the vision of our secretary of education.”

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


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

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 What the Research Says Most Schools Have Early-Warning Systems. Some Kids Are Still Getting Lost
A study finds that one such system prevented absenteeism among some students but not others.
4 min read
Illustration of a warning symbol.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion Restorative Practices Don’t Just Belong in the Classroom. Leaders Should Use Them, Too
Respectful conflict resolution, starting meetings with a talking circle, and other ways this administrator is walking the walk.
Sonja Gedde
5 min read
A team of colleagues comes to a resolution in a conceptual illustration about building bridges
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management Electric Buses Hit Some Road Bumps, But They're Still Catching On
The number of electric school buses is rising—and there’s no shortage of growing pains involving funding, legal mandates, and operations.
8 min read
Yellow electric school bus plugged in at a charging station.
Thomas W Farlow/iStock/Getty
School & District Management This State Created a Retention System for Principals. Here’s Why It Worked
Missouri has deepened the support it offers to new principals through a partly federally funded, two-year mentoring program.
6 min read
Photos of principals walking in school hallway.
E+ / Getty