Ex-governors push school standards
By Aurelio Rojas -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:01 am PDT Tuesday, July 11, 2006
A week after Democratic lawmakers stripped funding for the state Board of Education, former Govs. Pete Wilson and Gray Davis have asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reaffirm his support for curriculum standards, testing and how English learners are taught.
In rare show of bipartisanship, Wilson, a Republican, and Davis, a Democrat, said "term limits have left Sacramento with little institutional memory of the goals and rationale" for the reforms they ushered through while in office.
"Standards provide a measure of excellence regardless of one's skin color, family income or ZIP code," the former governors wrote in a letter dated Friday. "We took a standards-based approach in California because we believe that it set expectations high."
Rancor has escalated in recent months between the Democrats who control the Legislature and the Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor and sets policy for California schools.
After the board voted down a proposal in April for instructional material designed to help English learners more quickly overcome their limitations, Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Whittier, turned to fellow Democrats in the Legislature.
The budget that lawmakers sent the governor last week for his signature contained no money for the board's staff; $1.6 million had been taken out.
"We tried to talk to (the board) and they just say 'no,' " said Suzanne Wierbinski, Escutia's chief of staff. "That's when we said, 'Fine. Here you go.' "
In their two-page letter to Schwarzenegger, Wilson and Davis do not refer to the budget skirmish. But they assert that the standards they fought for are under assault, without specifying the aggressors.
"Some have attacked the standards by arguing the process for creating them was politically manipulated or even hijacked by 'ideologically based scholars' such as 'fellows' at the conservative Hoover Institute," they wrote.
Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, said Democrats have no designs on changing standards.
"This is the same thing that gets said over and over and over -- and there's absolutely no one attacking the standards," Goldberg said.
She said the proposed legislation the ex-governors "are talking about says there is more than one road to meet those standards. That's all its says."
The legislation -- Senate Bill 1769 by Escutia -- would "integrate supplemental instruction into the core curriculum and maintain every state standard," Wierbinski said.
Sabrina Lockhard, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, said the administration received the letter Monday and the governor had not weighed in on the debate.
"(But) the governor believes that English learners do best when they're immersed in the language," she said. "When he came to this country, that's how he learned to speak English."
Lockhard added that the Republican governor "is working with the Legislature" to restore funding for the Board of Education.
Note: from Duane Campbell
The standards should be re-examined. The History/Social Science standards were a victory of traditionalist-conservative forces. And, they fail to help students to understand the present society. They are obsolete.
For more on this see Chapter 12 of my book, Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. ( Merrill/Prentice Hall. 2004)
Also note: Alan Bersin, the California Secretary of Education is on the California State School Board. see other posts in this blog about Bersin and his time in San Diego.