Print this Article

Senate Education Committee Off to a Cautious Start as Budget Uncertainty Looms Large

By Sean P. Farrell - February 24, 2011

The Senate Education Committee met for the first time this legislative session on the morning of February 16th to review bills and hold an informational hearing on implementing the new Common Core Standards for curriculum. Chairing the committee this year is Senator Alan Lowenthal (D – Long Beach), with Senator Bob Huff (R – Diamond Bar) returning to the Vice Chair’s seat. Click here to view the full Committee roster.

The only bill on the docket was SBX1 1, authored by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D – Sacramento) that effectively reallocates $8 million annually from the Energy Resources Programs Accounts (ERPA) to be redistributed to school districts for the purpose of creating partnership academies. These academies would work in conjunction with clean energy businesses to train California's youth to be proficient workers in renewable and clean energy industries.

Pacific Gas and Electric, the California Federation of Teachers, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and a number of other organizations offered their support of the bill. The debate quickly turned to focus on the economic feasibility of the bill. A representative from the California Energy Commission stated that the ERPA would not be able to sustain the program for the full five years, and that other funding resources would need to be acquired in order to make this bill sustainable. The bill passed through the committee and now moves onward to Appropriations Committee.

Next on the agenda for their first meeting was the implementation of the Common Core Standards, which establish more uniform curriculum standards nationwide, and have now been adopted by a majority of states, including California. Click here for EdBrief’s coverage of the Common Core Standards adoption process last August. California is one of the member states of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which is scheduled to make a presentation to the State Board of Education on March 9th about the consortia’s assessment designs for common core standards.

In February of 2009, the State of California suspended the instructional materials adoption process until 2013-2014 as a fiscal measure, meaning that school districts could continue using outdated materials. The Governor's current budget proposal suggests suspending this process an additional two years, allowing time to flesh out plans to implement the new curriculum frameworks.

Commentary on the issue focused on how exactly the state would go about effectively implementing any new standards. There was, of course, support for updating the standards and the teaching materials, but there were doubts relating to the viability of such action. There are schools districts that don't have the funding or the materials necessary to utilize more modern online systems in the classroom. The California Teachers Association was adamant about getting the resources needed to the teachers and developing a low-or-no cost local implementation plan so that the theory can be turned to practice.

Senator Lowenthal adjourned the hearing following public commentary, leaving the matter of implementation open for future discussion. Watch for more on this subject down the line, as many substantial questions remain unanswered.

Editor's Note:  Sean P. Farrell is the Capitol Reporting Intern for EdBrief.