Sen Liu in vital spot to help guide education legislation

State Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) has been named to three important education-related committees on Capitol Hill, putting her in a prime position as she prepares to guide legislation down winding paths where allies are needed at every curve.

A former public school teacher and administrator, Liu was already chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee before the latest round of committee assignments last week.

While Dan Schnur, director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, said the appointments wouldn’t directly impact the senator’s ability to get education legislation passed, they couldn’t hurt.

“There’s no question that building the relationship that comes with these types of appointments is a real asset to her,” Schnur said. “Every person on every one of these commissions is a potential ally.”

The most important appointment is the 10-member State Allocation Board, which meets each month to distribute funds to school districts. Liu joins several state officials, three state senators, three Assembly members and one gubernatorial appointee.

Liu said the biggest issue facing the board is Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to give local school districts more control over state funding. The proposal would also apportion more state funding to districts based on how many students come from low-income or non-English speaking households.

“My urban districts would love the governor’s budget because it does give them more money, they have more diverse communities to serve,” Liu said. “But my small school district where I come from — La Cañada — would be a loser, so to speak...Good performing schools say, ‘You have to give us something too, because we do a good job.’”

In addition to La Cañada Flintridge, Liu represents Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Glendora, Monrovia, San Dimas, Claremont and Upland.

Liu was also appointed to two advisory commissions. The Instructional Quality Commission advises the state Board of Education on matters related to curriculum and instructional materials, and the School Building Finance Committee works with the state treasurer on state school bond issues.

“The discussion is, [with] the next round [of school funding], do we still have needs? Should we do another bond? If so, how much? If so, how to limit it?” Liu said.

The senator has focused on education issues in the past. Last year, she co-wrote the Student Success Act of 2012, which strives to make community colleges more productive by augmenting services and giving priority enrollment to students with a clear set of educational goals.

This session, Liu has already introduced the Homeless Youth Education Success Act, or SB 177, to help homeless and foster children meet residency requirements and enroll in public schools.

Liu also introduced SB 192, which would amend the California Education Code to declare the state’s intent to develop a high-quality, early-learning system for all children from birth to age 13.

--Daniel Siegal, Times Community News

Follow Daniel Siegal on Google+ and on Twitter: @Daniel_Siegal.

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