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Groups Call on Brown to Appoint an “English Learners Advocate” to State Board of Education

January 29, 2015

A coalition of groups that have advocated for greater attention (and funding) for the education of students who are English Learners is calling on Gov. Brown to “appoint an English Learners advocate to the State Board of Education (SBE).”

In an op-ed piece published by the Sacramento Bee on January 22 (under the headline “California’s public schools are failing English learners”) Ryan J. Smith wrote:

Although the governor has made the right first step in adopting the Local Control Funding Formula, which provides more resources to districts with higher concentrations of English learners, more must be done. Money alone won’t move the achievement needle for this community.

Worse, the new funding formula can be read to encourage school districts to keep these students classified as English learners longer than necessary to receive more money. The state should remove this incentive by altering the formula to allow districts to continue to receive grants for students at least two years after they are reclassified.

Mostly, however, this issue cries out for leadership. Last week, we joined a diverse coalition of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, the California Association of Bilingual Educators and the California Latino School Boards Association in asking Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint an English learners advocate to the state Board of Education. The governor has the opportunity to do right by the more than 1.4 million English learners by choosing someone with a track record of fighting for these students and who understands the families and communities the students come from.

Smith is the executive director of the Oakland-based nonprofit advocacy group, The Education Trust – West, a post he assumed late last year.

Following his inauguration in January 2011, Gov. Brown moved swiftly to revamp the membership of the State Board of Education. Multiple SBE members who had been appointed by the previous governor, Arnold Schwarzenneger, were replaced by Brown appointees – most notably SBE president Michael Kirst, who had served in the same capacity during Brown’s first terms as Governor back in the 1970s. Kirst became one of the primary architects and advocates of the Local Control Funding Formula, which was adopted by the California Legislature partway through Brown’s 2011-2015 term.

However, Brown never filled all of the seats on the SBE – there has been one seat that has been continuously vacant since mid-2011, and Brown (for whatever reason) has not moved with any haste to pick an appointee. The vacant seat has not really produced any serious problems for the SBE, which has managed to summon a quorum and conduct business over the past four years. But clearly several advocacy groups regard the situation as an opportunity to draw further attention to their priorities by urging the Governor to fill the long-vacant SBE seat with an appointee who would presumably be sympathetic to their agenda regarding programs serving English Learners.

Source:  The Education Trust—West, EdBrief staff