By Len Feldman
The California Legislature is considering two bills designed to help California become eligible for up to $700 million in federal Race to the Top (RTTT) program funding. The CTA-supported bill — ABx5 8, by Assembly Education Chair Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) — offers the state the best chance for maximizing its score on the application and qualifying for the federal appropriations, which are part of an overall $4.35 billion in grant money awarded to states that conform to federally mandated regulations. The second bill, SBx5 1 by Sen. Gloria Romero, would undermine local control and drain money from classrooms.
CTA points out that the Brownley bill will also build on California’s rigorous standards and synchronize those already existing elements of state law with the federal requirements.
“The Assembly bill will put California in the best position to qualify for the federal funding program,” says CTA President David A. Sanchez. “We commend Assembly Speaker Karen Bass for working with parents and educators to draft legislation that will build upon California’s already rigorous education standards and accountability system and create a coherent system of school reform.”
The Brownley bill employs multiple measures of student achievement to improve the state’s assessment and testing system. It also works to shrink the achievement gap and improves school instruction and leadership. The bill also increases the fiscal and performance accountability of the state’s charter schools.
State RTTT applications will be judged based on a 500-point scale, with points awarded in various categories, including State Success Factors; Standards and Assessments; Great Teachers and Leaders; Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools; and a “General” category that includes accountability for charter schools.
In an effort to help inform legislators and legislative staff members about the financial and instructional elements of the federal plan, CTA Governmental Relations, along with fiscal expert John Mockler, held a briefing in early December. The briefing is part of the division’s aggressive legislative relations outreach on ABx5 8 and the federal program.
A key element of the CTA briefing was to remind legislators and staff of the devastating impact on schools due to the recent $17 billion in education budget cuts. At the same time, the briefing pointed to the importance of meeting and
exceeding the federal grant requirements by building on California’s already stringent school accountability provisions, among the strongest in the nation.
CTA has also been working to defeat SBx5 1, which was crafted before the federal government released its final rules for the programmatic funding competition. That competing measure lacks coherence and fails to provide adequate legislative guidance. It would take money from already struggling schools and give it to other schools without any accountability for improving student learning, and allow local school districts to be exempt from state collective bargaining laws and all fiscal reporting requirements.
CTA worked to get language into the state Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) — a commitment to participate — that protects collective bargaining and statutory rights.
The state is working against a Jan. 19 deadline for moving its RTTT application to federal officials.
At press time, the Senate approved a compromise bill that was opposed by CTA as it continued to include a few provisions that were not required by RTTT, would create chaos in local school districts, and would drain money from California classrooms. That bill was headed to the Assembly. Visit
for more information and links to your lawmakers.
Federal RTTT Regulations
The U.S. Department of Education’s final regulations spell out what states must do to get in the running for a share of the national total of $4.5 billion in Race to the Top (RTTT) grants. In order to compete for up to $700 million of that amount, California must submit an application by Jan. 19, 2010. States can earn up to 500 points in various categories. Among them, the major areas are:
- Standards and Assessments (70 points maximum).
- Data Systems to Support Instruction (47 points maximum).
- Great Teachers and Leaders (138 points maximum).
- Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools (50 points maximum).
- General, including ensuring charter school accountability (55 points).
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