Yesterday, the Assembly passed an emergency bill that will have long term implications for public education in California. And today, Governor Schwarzenegger in his State of the State speech made a bold and welcome statement: no further cuts to K-12 education budgets in the 2010/2011 budget.

But I am drawing this line. Because our future economic well-being is so dependent upon education, I will protect education funding in this budget.

— Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, January 6th

The bills passed last night are part of the state’s effort to qualify for a $700 million slice of the $4.3 billion Race To The Top competitive federal fund for education reform.  To qualify, states must have a turn-around plan for their lowest performing schools, linkage between student achievement data and teacher evaluations and favorable policies for approving charter schools. These bills align California education policy with these values and add

  • New methods for credentialing teachers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM);
  • Open Enrollment policies that allow families in the lowest performing 1000 schools to transfer their students to a new school  (within the district or anywhere in the state);
  • New “parent trigger” allowing 51% of parents in a school or feeder school to petition their school board to initiate turn-around strategies including turning the school over to a charter operator, fire principal & staff or shut it down (limited to 75 schools/year of the lowest performing decile).

If California succeeds in its application for Race To The Top (RTTT) funds, the maximum beneifit expected is $700 million; approximately 50% will remain in Sacramento to pay for new administrative requirements outlined in the bill.  The potential windfall to California’s students would be approximately $50/student in a one-time grant award. The on-going costs of supporting these new programs has not been calculated but is expected to exceed the federal grant funds. The Senate passed the bills today; the Governor is expected to sign both.

The Governor is expected to present his budget on Friday, January 8; the impact on Santa Cruz City Schools budgeting will be outlined in the coming weeks.