Assembly panel OKs union-backed bill aimed at qualifying the state for U.S. education grants


A state legislative committee Wednesday rejected a Senate education bill favored by charter school organizations while approving rival Assembly legislation backed by teachers unions.

The dueling bills were aimed at qualifying California for competitive federal education funding known as Race to the Top grants. Federal officials have estimated that California could qualify for up to $700 million if the state is selected.

States will be judged on a 500-point scale measuring their plans to implement various reforms, including improving data systems and paying effective educators more. States must also eliminate caps on the number of charter schools allowed and link student achievement to teacher evaluations in order to qualify.


California charter schools opposed the Assembly bill, introduced by Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), because they felt it was too restrictive. The legislation would abolish the charter cap, but it also would require that the schools be regularly audited and would make it hard for failed charter operators to open another campus. The bill also did not contain a trigger that would allow a failing school to be taken over if more than half the parents or legal guardians of students signed a petition.

During nearly eight hours of often heated hearings, representatives of the California Teachers Assn., the state’s largest educator union, and United Teachers Los Angeles said they favored the Assembly bill because it was better thought out. The Senate legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), was passed earlier this year before final Race to the Top guidelines were issued.

Romero’s bill contained a parent provision trigger and did not call for similar charter school oversight.

The Assembly panel “has been very wise in taking its time,” said Patricia Rucker, a legislative analyst for the CTA.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been critical of Brownley’s bill and said in a statement: “The Assembly and its leaders let down California’s children, schools and parents.”

Brownley’s bill will be considered by another committee before going before the full Assembly. Romero requested another hearing on her bill, although it is unclear if that will occur.