Race to Top bill would give parents more power
A majority of parents at a low-performing school could force a district trustees to turn it over to a charter school operator or take other dramatic actions, under an amendment that Sen. Gloria Romero has added to her Race to the Top legislation.
The Assembly Education Committee will take up a competing bill, ABX5-8, sponsored by Chairwoman Julia Brownley, and possibly Romero’s SBX5-1, tomorrow. Assembly leaders haven’t indicated whether they’ll seriously consider Romero’s bill.
They should. Three of the amendments in particular not only would strengthen the state’s application for the $4.3 billion program; they’d be sound reforms in their own right.
- The Obama administration is demanding that states turn around the worst 5 percent of persistently low-achieving schools that have failed for years to make state and federal improvement goals – probably a couple dozen schools at most in California. Romero’s bill would force additional low-performing schools to undergo the same process – if at least half of the parents of students either enrolled in — or planning to attend — demand it.
Parents could request one of several options: close it down, hire a new principal and staff, hand the keys over to a charter school or transform it through a combination of strategies, such as a longer school day. The district could reject the parents’ preference, but would still have to pick another option.
- The final Race to the Top guidelines reward states that give priority to STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – education. The revised SBX5-1 would address the shortage of STEM teachers by encouraging school districts, county education offices and non-profit organizations to create alternative credentialing programs to make it easier for aspiring teachers with technical backgrounds to make a mid-career shift.
- SBX5-1 would also give districts that sign up to participate in Race to the Top flexibility to enact reforms by exempting them from the state ed code. That could entice some wavering districts to sign up.
One provision in SBX5-1 that’s drawn opposition from the state school boards association and others would give parents in low-performing schools the right to send their children to a better school anywhere, as long as there’s room for them. Under current law, which was just renewed, districts can choose to accept students from other districts’ low-performing schools but can’t be forced to.
Open parental choice is sound in principle: Students shouldn’t be condemned by geography to a bad education. But critics have pointed out serious flaws with the proposal. Romero and Schwarzenegger would be smart to drop the idea, for now.