Tuesday, September 29, 2009

California Assembly on Race to the Top

Hearing today Sept. 29, 2009, at the Capitol . The 5th. Extraordinary Session. Assembly Committee on Education Chaired by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D. -Santa Monica)   considering the Race to the Top Funds of the Obama Administration.
Note; These funds are a part of the American Recovery and Re-investment Act, also known as the stimulus package.
There will be about $5 Billion available. At best California could hope for $1 b. Note, the California Legislature and the Governor cut $6.1 B from the state school budgets this year. Of this. $2.1 was “backfilled” by the federal government stimulus package. Deputy Supt. Of Public Instruction Miller stressed that Race to the top was totally voluntary, unlike NCLB. However, in local districts that have lost up to $35 million dollars, an opportunity to get $5 million back is definitely not voluntary.
It is noteworthy that the same people who made these slashing brutal cuts to education ( the Schwarzenegger admin.) are in charge of deciding how to pursue Race to the Top. Does that make you confident?

The representative from the California Federation of Teachers and Rucker of CTA again made the detailed and appropriate points that the assessment systems being proposed are totally invalid and unreliable. The professional literature on this is overwhelming, but not of interest to Arne Duncan, and apparently Supt. O’ Connell and Governor Schwarzenegger .
Student Data
The California Federation of Teachers believes that student achievement and student growth data may be worthwhile tools in helping to improve school instruction when the data instruments contain information that is useful to the teacher. We do not believe that current standardized tests being administered as part of the No Child Left Behind Act meet those criteria.
School reform will come when we can engage teachers, students and families. We need to engage the teachers in the classroom. It will not come from consultant class. My 35 + years of experience in working with schools convinces me that the political consultants and the bureaucrats may receive the funds, but the solutions will come from dialogues with the teachers, families, and community activists.
The most basic decisions on class size in schools are made by the Governor, the legislature, and the voters. In last year’s budget deal, the legislature and the Governor cut some $6 billion from the k-12 schools forcing lay offs of teachers and increasing class sizes. This cut was forced on California because the Governor and the Republicans would not raise taxes. Many art, music, and career technical teachers will be layed off. Class sizes in high schools will rise to over 40 and the drop out crisis will grow. Did you know that California already ranks 49 out of the 50 states in counselors per student? That is why there are so few counselors in schools. California now has the largest class sizes in the nation. Our Senators and our Assemblypersons voted for this. They argue that they had no choice.
The legislature, enjoys a 16% approval rating from voters. The federal competition for Race to the Top is a distraction from the more basic issues. Until the schools are adequately funded and class sizes reduced to at least the national average- no amount of pubic relations efforts will improve test scores.
At best, the Race to the Top funds would provide $100 per student to work toward reform. The California legislature reduced the per pupil expenditure this year by about $1,400 per student. So, their argument is that reform will come from a competition for $100 per students, but please don’t notice that we have cut $1,400 per student. I guess they think that the public can be distracted from basic realities.
Duane Campbell
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