Vote set on Brownley’s bill; Romero’s “killed by silence”
Two competing bills shaping the state’s plan for Race to the Top money received positive votes in the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday. But only one will move forward to a full vote of the Assembly, set for today.
Education Committee Chairwoman Julia Brownley’s ABX5-8 was voted 10-6 and moved on. It would have been surprising if it didn’t.
The vote on Sen. Gloria Romero’s SBX5-1 was 6-5. But with six Assembly members abstaining or not present to vote, it was three votes sort of a majority. Romero immediately charged that the “bill was killed by silence.”
It’s far from dead, though. Romero asked the committee for reconsideration. More likely, with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supporting it and criticizing the Brownley bill, pieces may be blended in Senate-Assembly negotiations over the next week.
During an all-day hearing, charter school advocates, parents and civil rights advocates testified in favor of one proposal that Romero is pushing but Brownley’s bill lacks: parental choice. A petition by a majority of parents in a low-achieving school would force the school board to adopt a transformational strategy, whether turning to a charter school operator, hiring a new principal and new teachers or trying other shock strategies.
Currently, a majority of teachers in a school can vote to become a charter school. Making parents the catalyst for drastic change would be a big shift in state policy. Institutional lobbies – the Association of California School Administrators, the California Teachers Assn. and the California School Boards Assn. – are against that idea and a larger parental choice option, also in SBX5-1. It would give parents in bad schools the right to send their children to any school outside of the district, as long as there is space. It, too, has resonated among families trapped in neighborhoods with bad schools.
Whatever merges from conference must move soon. The state’s application for a piece of the $4.3 billion Race to the Top program is due Jan. 19. And districts need to know what state laws will be changed to accommodate it before they agree to pledge their support.