Calif. lawmakers pass major school-reform package
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The California Legislature on Wednesday sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger landmark education reforms designed to overhaul the state’s worst schools and let parents send their children elsewhere.
“This is about parental choice in public education,” education committee chairwoman Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, said about the compromise she helped negotiate.
Schwarzenegger intends to sign the bills today in Los Angeles.
The reforms will let California compete for part of the $4.3 billion being made available to states under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative. California has the nation’s largest public school system, with 6 million students.
Under the legislation, state officials could close failing schools, convert them to charter schools or replace the principal and half the staff. Parents whose children are stuck in the lowest-performing schools would be given greater leeway to send their children elsewhere and could petition to turn around a chronically failing school.
Schwarzenegger lauded the legislation, saying it contained reform that once seemed impossible. The bills will take effect 90 days after he signs them into law.
The reform efforts were opposed by the California Teachers Association and other groups representing educators. They also divided Democratic lawmakers, some of whom said the measures had too little debate and went too far, or not far enough.
Schwarzenegger has been pushing lawmakers to act since calling a special session in August and saying the measures would ensure California can compete for up to $700 million from the competitive federal grants.