Everything you thought you knew about how California schools are governed could change with new legislation giving parents more power and forcing districts to overhaul under-performing schools.
Today's San Francisco Chronicle highlights what is at stake in two bills – both of which seek to qualify California for up to $700 million in federal dollars under President Obama's $4.3 billion education-reform program, commonly known as Race to the Top.
You can watch today's debate of the legislation live or archived at the California Channel.
At issue are two politically dicey proposals: open-enrollment and the parent trigger. Open enrollment would allow a student to leave a school with a low ranking in the state's Academic Performance Index and enroll in a better-performing school anywhere in the state. That would immediately impact roughly 1,000 schools across the state.
The so-called parent trigger would give parents the power to force reforms at an under-performing school. Some of those reforms would include possible school closure; firing of the principal and a big portion of the teaching staff; or turning the school into a charter. To be able to petition for such changes, at least 50 percent of the school's parents would have to support the changes.
Both measures have their share of supporters and critics, including some who worry that schools that serve economically disadvantaged children would be hurt by the new law. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell have both championed versions of the proposed law.
About 800 of the state's local school districts have agreed to accept the reforms so that California can successfully compete for the federal dollars, the California Department of Education announced Monday. The districts have to sign agreements pledging they will implement the reforms, but can choose whether they will limit reform to particular schools or make them district-wide.