Will California’s Assembly Say “No Thank You” to Federal Education Dollars?

The deadline for states to apply for federal “Race to the Top” (RTTT) education funding is fast approaching and while other states have their applications ready to go, the California Assembly has not yet passed the measures needed to make sure California is even able to apply for the much-needed money.

Every child has a right to a quality public education. Today, school officials across California are wondering, not about quality education, but about whether they will even be able to keep schools open due to Sacramento’s chronic fiscal crises, deferred education payments and huge cuts (over half a billion dollars lost in Orange County alone). Luckily for California, the Obama administration has offered federal funding opportunities, but with strings attached. In order to qualify for these funds, California must agree to allow the use of specified accountability and measurement tools and develop new reform strategies with a focus on achieving higher academic standards.

California must move to increase skilled teachers and promise to turn around struggling schools. The California Senate has agreed to these rules, stepped up to the challenge and passed SBX5 1 to meet eligibility requirements for RTTT federal funding. The Governor has expressed support for this bill as well. The legislation would make California schools eligible for a share of the $4.3 billion in federal funding allocated for education.

Legislation is never perfect, but the Senate’s bill gets the job done.

Unfortunately, we now wait for the Assembly to act. The business community recognizes that some of the strings may be troubling to public education unions. However, that’s what a fair and democratic process is all about. Start the public hearings, suggest appropriate changes, and for heaven’s sake, get it done. To take little or no action is, in itself, a decision – a decision to say “no thank you” to federal dollars at a time when this state can’t afford to be choosey. And a little more accountability isn’t a bad thing.

Assembly Member Jose Solorio has been a leader in education, trying to make progress here. Let’s get the rest of the Assembly to move as well.

Contact your Assembly Member.

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