Headline: Low performing California schools get the boot
Layercake: Federal grants to pay for controversial educational reform
By SAMANTHA BOSIO
Aggie News Writer
Out with the bad, and in with the good. This is the California Legislature’s new motto to justify the termination of various K-12 schools in order to receive federal grants.
On Wednesday Jan. 6 the California Legislature passed two educational reform bills that would eliminate the state’s lowest performing schools and empower parents to be more involved. By enforcing this plan, California is eligible for a portion of the $4,350,000,000 offered by President Obama’s Race to the Top program.
Race to the Top is a federal initiative created in July 2009 to offer competitive grants for education reform and innovation.
“The governor has already massively changed public schools by cutting $17,000,000,000 out of the budget for education,” said Fred Glass, California Federation of Teachers communications director. “The money may or may not come in from Race to the Top. Supposedly, this bill is being presented as if it is going to help low income parents, yet its nothing of the sort.”
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bills Thursday Jan. 7 in Los Angeles without major amendments. Schwarzenegger said the new bills would go into effect 90 days after he signed them into law.
“For too many years, too many children were trapped in low-performing schools,” Schwarzenegger said in his State of the State address. “The exit doors may as well have been chained. Now, for the first time, parents – without the principal’s permission – have the right to free their children from these destructive schools. That is great freedom.”
The overhaul of failing schools would allow the state to transform them into charter schools, rehire a new principal and staff and enforce other significant changes. In the meantime, students who attend 1,000 of the worst-scoring schools will attend another campus. This excludes children attending charter, juvenile court and county community schools.
The second bill pushes parents to be more motivated to bring changes to their child’s school through signature-gathering drives or petitions. These new measures create a way for the government to compare teacher evaluations to students’ performances.
Upon enforcement, the new bills call for a 21-member Academic Content Standards Commission that mainly consists of public school teachers. This organization is responsible for improving students’ English and mathematics in order to prepare them for the global economy. The bills intend to track yearly individual student growth and focus teaching more on science, engineering and technology.
Districts suffering financially that contain 3,800,000 students have already issued their support of the measures.
“It’s bold, it’s visionary and it sets the template for reform,” said Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles). “This is about parental choice in public education.”
Not everyone is supportive of the new bills. Democratic lawmakers were split in their support. Some believed the bill lacked debate and was too extreme. The California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, California School Boards Association and Association of California School Administrators are all against the plan.
Opponents believe this method is too risky, troublesome and rushed into writing. In order to apply for and receive up to $700,000,000 in federal grants, the state had to coordinate with a Jan. 19 deadline. Main concerns revolve around the financial impacts the bill will have on both school districts, including the increase in bus expenses.
“The main thing that everyone’s missing in all this is the context of $17,000,000,000 being cut in the last two years, and all we will get out of Race to the Top is possibly $700,000,000,” Glass said. “It is a question of scale. Frankly, I think it is all a way for the government to divert attention from the damage that it’s done. Teachers are being laid off, class sizes are skyrocketing and cuts are being made to busing and after-school programs. These are the real reforms the government has already put into place.”
SAMANTHA BOSIO can be reached at email@example.com. XXX