Ca. Gov. Schwarzenegger Signs Historic Education Reform Legislation Making California Highly Competitive in Race to the Top

SACRAMENTO /California Newswire/ — After calling a special session and introducing a bi-partisan legislative package, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday (Thurs.) signed historic education reform legislation making California highly competitive in President Obama’s national $4.35 billion Race to the Top education reform and funding competition. Bi-partisan measures SBX5 1 by Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and SBX5 4 by Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) ensure California can submit a highly competitive application for up to $700 million in much needed funding for our schools by implementing historic and sweeping education reform measures to better California’s education system.

“Today is a truly historic day for children and parents throughout the state of California – and for the future of our state’s education system,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “President Obama called for positive change across the nation and California’s leaders answered that call. Working together we have passed sweeping education reforms to better our children’s education, empower parents and make California highly competitive for much needed federal funding for our schools.”

In addition to ensuring California’s application for Race to the Top is highly competitive, the signing of these legislative measures into law demonstrates California is ready to break away from the status-quo and work to truly improve education for students – as envisioned by President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative. The reforms contained in SBX5 1 and SBX5 4 will change the culture of education in California by empowering parents to have a true voice in making choices for their children and ensuring their voices are heard at every level of their school district. Intended to address Obama Administration competitiveness requirements, highlightsof these reform measures include:

· Implementing bold turnaround strategies in the bottom five percent of persistently low-performing schools.
· Allowing California parents more freedom to choose the school that best serves their children by authorizing open enrollment for students in the lowest-performing schools.
· Enacting new authority for parents to petition and require school boards to fix failing schools.
· Affirming California’s student and teacher data systems may be used by local districts to evaluate teachers and principals, subject to collective bargaining.

“California now has a bold action plan to empower parents, embrace accountability, transform under-performing schools and help give every child equal access to education and to success,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “For years we’ve imagined a day when parents have the right to move their child out of a failing school and the right to make major changes in chronically underperforming schools – in California that day has arrived.”

On July 24, 2009, President Obama and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced federal eligibility and competitiveness requirements for states to compete for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding, the single largest pool of discretionary funding for education reform in U.S. history. On August 20, Governor Schwarzenegger called a special session of the legislature and announced a legislative package to ensure California is eligible and highly competitive for this funding.

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