Schwarzenegger calls for education reform

November 12, 2009 6:07:31 PM PST
Governor Schwarzenegger is calling on state lawmakers to support his education reform plan. If they don't, the governor warns, California stands to lose tens of millions of dollars of federal funding.

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California hopes to get $700 million in federal funds, if we follow Washington's guidelines on education reform.

Phil Halperin's foundation, Silver Giving, works on public education reform.

"So the guidelines that came out are really about reform and about trying to close the achievement gap across the board and increase overall achievement," he said.

Here are the four main areas of the "Race to the Top" plan:

  • States must adopt standards to prepare students to succeed in college.
  • Build data systems that measure student growth.
  • Recruit and reward effective teachers and principals.
  • Turn around our lowest-achieving schools.
California now has only 60 days to apply and present its own reform plan proposed by the governor.

That includes:

  • Adopting a merit pay system to reward teachers.
  • Abolishing a cap on the number of charter schools that can open every year.
  • Allowing students at low-performing schools to transfer.
  • When evaluating a teacher, school districts must take into account student test data.
Halperin says California's reform plan is close enough to those federal guidelines, but cautions education leaders must work together.

"It is very clear from the feds that if you don't have every pocket of your education infrastructure within a state working together on this, you're not going to win," he said.

There has been some opposition from the teacher's union especially on the issue of evaluating educators.

"There is concern about what exactly is going to be met by some of the measures of teacher and principals' effectiveness. It's interesting the principals are now included to a much greater degree," said Dennis Kelly from United Educators of San Francisco.

In Sacramento, education committees are working behind the scenes to finalize the governor's plan. But the problem is the legislature won't be back in session until mid-January, and the governor wants lawmakers to be called back next month.

"I've seen things drag out longer than they have to. If we need to come back in December, we need to be there, it's important," said Assm. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.

A survey shows Californians appear to be losing trust in their state leaders' ability to deal with higher education. Just 16 percent approve of the way state lawmakers are handling our university systems.

The new Public Policy Institute of California poll shows that 59 percent of Californians believe that state spending on higher education is a "high" or "very high" priority. But 53 percent oppose raising taxes to make up for state cuts.

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