SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown offered a spirited defense of his plan to overhaul the state’s education system Wednesday and warned Democratic critics of his plan that they were “going to get the battle of their lives” if they attempt to change key parts of his proposal.
Brown wants to direct more state funds to school districts that serve large numbers of poor students and non-native English speakers while giving districts more flexibility in how they spend state dollars. Earlier this week, Senate Democrats released the outline of a counterproposal that would not go as far as the governor in redistributing those funds.
The Senate proposal also calls for waiting a year before implementing the new formula, a move Brown and those education officials with him at a Capitol news conference Wednesday said they opposed.
“This is not an ordinary legislative measure. This is a cause,” said Brown, who was accompanied by 20 California school superintendents. “I will fight any effort to dilute this bill.”
The news conference underscored some of the significant differences that have emerged between Brown and his fellow Democrats on key policy issues, including education, healthcare and water. Those differences are coming into focus as the legislative session moves on and the state’s June 15 budget deadline approaches.
The governor said his education proposal was a matter of civil rights, and was the key to reversing a growing gap between the poor and the affluent in California.
“Increasingly this state is turning into a two-tier society,” he said. “Those at the top are doing better and better and those in the middle and the bottom are doing worse and worse. The very least that we can do is invest in our schools in a way that recognizes reality.
Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said he supported the governor’s central goal of moving more funds to help poorer students, but his counterproposal would move about $2.5 billion less per year to those students than the governor’s plan when it is fully implemented.
Among those who joined Brown in Sacramento was John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. He said LAUSD had already passed its budget for the 2013-14 school year based on the assumption that Brown’s plan would be adopted. If the Senate Democrats’ alternative is adopted, he said, it would mean millions of dollars less for the district next year.