Earlier this week, the Assembly approved legislation by Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica). This legislation would lift the cap on the number of charter schools in California, at the same time revamping the state’s academic standards and target federal funding to those schools most in trouble.
The Senate narrowly passed that legislation last month despite strong opposition from the California Teachers Association.
The Assembly however voted that legislation down and instead voted by a healthy margin to support Assemblymember Brownley’s legislation.
Said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) on Thursday:
“Education is the cornerstone of every successful society. Our very survival as a state depends on the quality of education for our citizens. The Federal Government has given us an opportunity to compete for up to $700 million that will serve the immediate needs of our student population. I supported this bill because it is a comprehensive and collaborative approach to maximize the potential of Race to the Top funds. While I remain concerned about lifting the cap on charter schools, I believe that these reforms will help us address the achievement gap. I supported this bill today, but I plan to closely monitor these reforms to ensure that they work for our students in order to achieve educational equity.”
Senator Romero issued forth a strong rebuke of her legislation by the Assembly, sending out a release entitled, “Assembly Chokes on Race to the Top School Reform Bill.”
“I am profoundly disappointed that my colleagues in the Assembly chose to kill one of the most comprehensive and important pieces of education reform legislation in the nation. Even more disturbing is that they killed the bill by silence—six members chose to abstain.”
“This is a civil rights issue. President Obama has asked us to take on the status quo and do the right thing. That can be frightening; nonetheless I call upon the Assembly Education Committee to reconvene on Thursday and do the right thing by this legislation.”
According to her release, the Romero bill does the following to make California eligible and competitive for a Race to the Top grant.
Establishes a plan for turning around the bottom 5 percent of California’s persistently lowest-achieving schools, including charter schools, and allows parents to petition for a school to be turned around.
- Removes the cap on the number of charter schools authorized to operate in California and establishes two working groups to ensure that California has high-quality charter schools.
- Provides open enrollment options for students stuck in schools that are identified as low-achieving, defined to be those in program improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, and also ranked in deciles 1 to 3, consistent with existing federal law.
- Requires the Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the State Board of Education to jointly develop a plan with Local Educational Agencies that choose to participate for submission in Phase 1 of the Race to the Top grant competition and authorizes the State Board of Education to provide each participating LEA relief from compliance with Education Code provisions in order to implement activities in the state plan.
- Requires the state’s Race to the Top plan to address the need for improvement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education.
- Establishes the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Career Technical Education Educator Credentialing Program to provide alternative routes to credentialing and get more STEM teachers into the classroom.
- Requires the State Board of Education to adopt reading, writing, and mathematics academic content standards that include new standards from the Common Core State Standards Initiative but also maintain or exceed the rigor of California’s existing standards.
- Authorizes greater use of data to improve instruction and student learning and as one of multiple measures of teacher and administrator performance and employment decisions (not standardized test results alone) – as decided at the local level subject to collective bargaining.
- Positions California to maximize its chances for a Race to the Top grant AND ensures that California begins to make real progress on the reforms that will be the cornerstone of reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and that will impact allocation of potentially billions in future federal funds for public education.
Assemblymember Brownley pushed her bill on the Democratic Weekly Radio Address last week.
I introduced legislation that will strengthen California’s application for federal education grants under President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative.
Consistent with research and extensive public testimony from a series of Education Committee hearings, AB 8 follows recently released Race to the Top guidelines and aims to improve education for all California students. Persistently low achieving schools will be required to implement one of four turn-around strategies to help students achieve at higher levels. This mission will be supported by using Race to the Top funds for high-quality professional development and technical assistance from state and local experts.
We’ll continue to expand California’s data system, using that data to improve classroom instruction and keep parents and the public better informed about student progress. The State superintendent of Public Instruction will develop a new set of state standards in language arts and mathematics that are internationally benchmarked. These standards will reflect national common core standards and help students as they build toward college and career readiness.
The cap on the number of charter schools California will be removed, and we will require new fiscal and academic standards for charter schools that are consistent with those for traditional public schools. Local education agencies and California’s lowest achieving schools will be a priority for new federal funding in our application.
Applications for the Race to the Top program are not due until January 19 and outgoing Assembly Speaker Karen Bass sees room for compromise:
“We anticipate further discussion and amendment as the bill continues moving through the Senate, which is its next step in the process, not the governor’s desk. The governor says he wants compromise. The reality is compromise is already driving the process.”
In other words, the budget cutting process has already taken far more from education than this program will add. If President Obama is serious about changing the landscape of education in this country, it’s going to take far more than a $4.3 billion grant to do so.
First we are going to have to put back the money that has been taken out of education and not just at the K-12 level, but as we know the California higher education system is on the brink.
Then we have to figure out a way to solve our differences. We saw in Davis that the teachers can work with and for a Charter School. We have to make that a statewide priority.
But we also have to recognize that innovative programs are not a panacea and they are certainly not a replacement for billions in education dollars that do basic things like hire teachers.
Last week we reported that efforts to lower class size have been pressed to the bone by the budget crisis. That is just the beginning of the problem and we must move quickly.
In short, compromise will occur here, they will find a way to put aside their differences to get the $700 million, but unless the Governor changes his budget priorities, far more than that will leave the system this year on top of what has already left the system. He can tout this all he wants, but there is no escaping that fact.
In an increased effort to address critical questions on the budget information, the DJUSD has placed an FAQ on their website addressing questions about the current budget where the district is facing another shortfall of around $3.5 million.