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Assembly RTTT Hearing Ends in a Massive Bill

By Andrew Keller - December 4, 2009

Wednesday’s final Assembly Education Committee hearing on Race to the Top came to a close with Chairwoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) introducing ABX5 8 as the Assembly’s flagship bill for this fifth extraordinary session.  The hearing and subsequent legislation represent the culmination of a two month effort to solicit input on California’s RTTT application from various stakeholders.

Since the committee’s first hearing on the subject back in late September, dozens of groups have testified about the many merits and potential perils to aligning California’s educational priorities with federal reform guidelines.  The tone of this final hearing was markedly different as most groups expressed overall support for reform efforts, albeit with cautious overtones.

Brownley’s bill takes the next step forward from these hearings and attempts to lay the legislative foundation necessary for California to use the one-time federal RTTT funds as the initial impetus for broader reform.

“AB[X5 8] moves the goal even higher,” said Brownley, “aiming for a transformation of California’s schools that goes beyond one-time funding and builds a long-lasting environment where students and teachers – working closely with parents – can succeed and thrive”

Pending referral, ABX5 8 will be up for a vote along with Senator Gloria Romero’s SBX5 1 at the Assembly Education Committee’s next hearing on December 9th.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made it clear he doesn’t think much of Brownley’s bill. Schwarzenegger said “It has now been 16 weeks since I called a special session of the legislature to ensure California meets the Race to the Top competitiveness requirements outlined by President Obama, and we are running out of time. While (Brownley’s) ABX5 8 attempts to meet these competitiveness requirements, it doesn't completely embrace the reform culture that President Obama has charged states to adopt. With the bill as it stands, the Assembly risks losing hundreds of millions of dollars for California’s school children.”

Schwarzenegger added, “In order to ensure California meets federal guidelines and is highly competitive for funding, this bill would need to include stronger parental rights, including the right for parents to be empowered to require school boards to reform underperforming schools and the right to enroll their child in the school of their choice. In addition, the federal guidelines clearly call for California to allow charter schools to grow and thrive – and for this reason I urge the Assembly to reconsider the overly restrictive charter school language included in the bill."

Source:  Andrew Keller is the Legislative Assistant for Governmental Solutions Group, LLC, a policy consulting and legislative advocacy firm.