By Len Feldman
Over CTA objections, lawmakers have approved and the governor has signed the amended versions of two CTA-opposed bills that could harm every classroom in the state while ostensibly making California more competitive for up to $1 billion in one-time federal money that the state has applied for in its Race to the Top (RTTT) program application. During the process, CTA and its allies were able to mitigate the impact of several counterproductive proposals in the original version of a measure authored by Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles). Even so, the final version of her new bill, SBx5 4, contains two extremely bad provisions.
The two special session RTTT measures are SBx5 1 by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Education Chair Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), and SBx5 4 by Sen. Romero. The two measures were signed by the governor in an elaborate signing ceremony in a Los Angeles-area school in January with “fantastic” promises about their projected positive effect on schools.
Even though the measures have been enacted, if California actually wins any of the RTTT program funding, districts will be required to negotiate with local chapters over implementation issues. CTA is providing bargaining advice and support to chapters
to prepare them for such negotiations.
Regardless of whether California receives any of the RTTT funding, school districts will have to implement the two most onerous parts of SBx5 4: open enrollment between school districts and the “parent trigger.” The open enrollment provisions allow students in up to 1,000 specified “low-performing schools” to transfer to “higher-achieving” schools in districts around the state. The parent trigger requires a local school board to consider a parent petition to implement one of four federal sanctions and to address the continuing failure of a low-performing school. These provisions would affect up to 75 schools statewide.
What the final bills do
SBx5 1 makes comprehensive changes to the Education Code relating to standards and assessment, data systems to support instruction, great teachers and leaders, and lowest-achieving schools. CTA supported some of these concepts that were in the provisions of Assembly Member Brownley’s original bill. One good element of SBx5 1 is that it creates the Academic Standards Commission, which will include practicing public
educators in the review of California’s content standards. Ultimately, California will need to align those standards with the core common standards being drafted by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. The RTTT application requires California to be involved in the National Academic Content Standards
Project and to conform at least 85 percent of its standards to the national standards.
CTA warned that, taken together, the two RTTT bills allow open enrollment between school districts without any funding for transportation. The bills could force districts to use scarce classroom dollars to
cover the costs of transporting students. The bills also create another unfunded state mandate at a time when schools are already reeling from $17 billion in education cuts.
In addition, the parent trigger will punish lower-performing schools without providing needed funding or assistance.
The measures will — in exchange for the chance of capturing one-time federal funding — commit California’s districts to spend billions of dollars for the second, third, and additional years’ implementation of the “reforms.”
Taking a stand in Southern California
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