Legislation Update - 08/29/2010

State Budget

The Legislature’s Democratic majority unveiled earlier this month a budget plan that includes significant revenue increases and avoids many of the worst cuts proposed by the Governor. Their proposal would provide schools with as much as $52 billion support next year– significantly more than the $48.5 billion offered by the governor. The Budget conference committee, on mostly partisan votes, approved the package last Friday.

From a K-12 education perspective, the Democratic proposal is good because it rejects all the Governor’s proposed cuts to K-12 education—cuts that total about $275 per student. It makes no changes in the funding flexibility provisions and appropriates funds to pay for all the backlog of K-12 education mandate claims, over a 5-10 year period.

Federal Activity

Congress approved legislation to provide $10 billion in funding to states to restore teacher and other school positions in an effort to stimulate the economy. It is expected to provide about $1.2 billion for California or 16,500 jobs. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan promised to have a streamlined application process in the coming days for distributing to states shares of the new stimulus funding.

One of the conditions for receiving this money is that states must have already an approved application for Phase Two of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF)– California is one of 17 states without approval of their SFSF Phase II application. However, the governor’s Education Secretary released a statement late Wednesday saying they believe the needed approval is coming.

The SFSF money was last year’s major stimulus effort for schools and the second phase of the program included a deeper review by federal officials to ensure states were using the money as Congress intended as well as careful analysis that states were also meeting minimum funding benchmarks for supporting schools with non-federal funds.

I3 Grants

The US Department of Education announced last Thursday that California schools will benefit from close to $127 million in grants from the competitive “Investment in Innovation” or I3 program.

State Board of Education

The State Board of Education (SBE) met last week. After lengthy discussion and public testimony the SBE unanimously adopted the Common Core Standards as revised for California. This action allows California to remain in competition for Race to the Top funding.

The California Department of Education has committed to the Board that it will now begin work to develop a timeline and plan for implementing the standards. The implementation plan will address curriculum frameworks, instructional materials, assessments, and accountability measures.

IB Grant Program

The 2010-11 state budget would make no changes to funding for the IB grant program. That means that districts will receive the same amount they received in 2009-10 and districts would continue to have the flexibility to use those funds for “any educational purpose”.

The Legislative Year Ahead

In February, 2009, the Legislature and Governor responded to the fiscal crisis, in part, by providing school districts with unprecedented flexibility in the use of categorical education funding, including the IB grant funding. The flexibility ends in 2013, and the categorical status of these programs is restored, effective July 1, 2013.

In the 2011-12 legislative session, the Legislature and Governor will debate and take action on a new structure of school finance and categorical education programs to become effective in 2013-14. The policy makers who make these decisions will be very different than those who have been in office for the past four years. With a new Governor, a new State Superintendent of Public Instruction and about one-third newly elected legislators, we expect 2011 to be the beginning of significant state education policy debate.

The problem for IB in such a debate is that it is a small program in a very large education system. For that reason our office and the Board are discussing the advantages of sponsoring legislation in 2011. By the nature of the legislative process, a bill focuses attention on a program.

In many ways, this is a great time to be educating legislators about the value of the International Baccalaureate Program. The focus in terms of education reform has shifted to the high school. A major emphasis of the new federal reforms is on improving high schools as a means to increasing the rate of successful completion of postsecondary education.

A sponsored bill can help us identify the legislative champion(s) that can help protect IB when comprehensive legislation is developed in 2012. Further, a sponsored bill provides a specific reason for policy-makers and staff to meet with us to discuss IB, so that we can educate them about the program. Finally, it provides a specific reason for local educators in IB schools to contact their legislators and begin informing them about the value of IB.

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