http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/sbelivestream.aspPresident Ted Mitchell leads the State Board of Education meeting Wednesday.
The California State Board of Education is expected to declare an emergency today in 1,000 public schools the state has designated as among the lowest performing in the state.
The emergency declaration, which is Item 32 on the board's agenda today in Sacramento, suggests that students in those schools are at risk of "serious harm," and that their health, safety and general welfare may be threatened by remaining in those schools.
The emergency declaration is necessary because the board, whose members are all appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, wants to accelerate implementation of legislation approved earlier this year allowing students to transfer to higher-performing schools, even to schools in other districts. That options has not been readily available to many students in California until now.
The California State PTA will challenge the board's finding of an emergency at the meeting today. "We are very concerned about the workability of the findings, the alarmist nature of the findings, without giving parents time to understand what it means, what their options are, and find an alternative for their child," said Patty Scripter, an education advocate for the state PTA.
Once the board votes, its resolution declaring an emergency goes to the Office of Administrative Law for review, a process which includes a five-day public comment period (from July 15 to July 20) before the emergency goes into effect.
The law sets out a timeline allowing parents to apply to transfer their children to schools in other districts by Jan. 1 preceding the school year they wish to transfer. But the state board wants the law implemented immediately, to allow students who wish to enrol in other districts by November 1, rather than the fall of 2011, as the law seemed to envisage.
The resolution the board will vote on today states that "an emergency exists" and that faster implementation of the law is "necessary to avoid serious harm to the public peace, health, safety or general welfare, especially for public school pupils" attending the 1,000 schools designated as lowest performing in the state.
Several board members, including Schwarzenegger's most recent appointees, work for charter school organizations or are strong advocates of charter schools. The law specifically excludes charter schools from the list of lowest-performing schools.
Board members were tied up in their meeting in Sacramento yesterday, and did not respond to a request for a comment.
Scripter said the PTA "shares concerns about the achievement gap, and students need opportunities to suceed." But, she said, some of the 1,000 schools on the low performing list are actually making substantial progress, and many schools where test scores are even lower do not appear on the list because of the formula used to draw it up.
She said the board also hasn't sufficiently considered the impact of children transferring to another school eight to 10 weeks into the school year, on both the students who are transferring and on the students in the classes they join – assuming that spaces are available to transfer to. "It is not setting up a child for success by transferring so late into the school year," she said.
You can send comments on the board's emergency findings between July 15 and July 20 to firstname.lastname@example.org.