Public school educators from north Orange County protest to preserve education funding in front of the Fullerton offices of Republican state Assemblyman Chris Norby. Orange County, home to a strong anti-tax contingent, will also have its schools face millions in cuts should Prop. 30 not pass Tuesday.
During the last few months, California school districts have scrambled to prepare budgets and contingency plans for Prop. 30 — in some cases, walking a tightrope between advocacy and education.
But school officials in Orange County have been trying to balance the case for their survival with the fact that their conservative constituents are often ideologically opposed to tax hikes that would stave off more cuts.
This difficult balance is evident at the Capistrano Unified School District, the county's second-largest school district. The district, known locally as "Capo Unified," is located in relatively affluent, majority white, mostly Republican south Orange County. Its student population is 61 percent white and less than 25 percent Hispanic.
The district's students have already lost a week of instruction this year and stand to lose two more weeks if Prop. 30 does not pass. But Capo Unified admnistrators don't talk about that.
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District and union officials have not yet reached an agreement on a teacher evaluation process that includes student test scores as of the first implementation deadline in a judge's ruling on Doe vs. Deasy. (Sept. 4, 2012)
Months after a judge ordered the Los Angeles Unified School District to include student test scores in teacher evaluations, union and district officials have not yet reached an agreement, according to court filings Tuesday on the first of two implementation deadlines.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ruled in July that the district must abide by the more than 40-year-old Stull Act by Dec. 4. The district was required to submit a brief to the court updating it on its progress by Sept. 4.
The update shows that the United Teachers Los Angeles has met with the district 11 times since July 11 — including a handful of meetings prior to the July 24 ruling, and will meet again Thursday. The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles have met with the district nine times since June 29 and will have another meeting Friday.
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LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 14: California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during a news conference about the state budget on May 14, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
It's not an easy time to be in public education in California.
Under a budget agreement reached between legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown, the University of California and Cal State University systems would each lose $125 million in state funds for the 2013-14 year if the systems increase tuition this fall.
And yet, both systems have more than a $100 million hole in their 2012 budgets, primarily due to severe cuts in state funding.
Even more problematic for budget planners: The governor's budget presumes that an initiative to raise sales tax and the levy on higher earners will be approved by voters in November. If not, then both systems would each be hit with a $250 million cut.
"What this is designed to do is to be able to deal with the issue of affordability not in this coming year but in the following year," said H.D. Palmer, the deputy director for the California Department of Finance. "So we can address the issue of affordability that's on the minds of a lot of students and a lot of their parents."
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California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during a news conference on May 14, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Brown proposes $8.3 billion cuts in California to help close a projected $16 billion budget shortfall.
California’s former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell has been traveling the state to brief school districts on the governor’s proposed budget and its potential effects on education. He now works for the educational consulting firm School Innovations & Advocacy.
Here's an excerpt of a brief Q & A with him:
Q: Whats the good and the bad of this budget?
A: The good news for this is we know the budget’s going to pass on time, we know it’s going to be signed, we certainly believe. And I think that might remove some uncertainty. But that uncertainty is going to continue, it’s going to because of the triggers, the potential reductions, based upon the November election.
Q: What does this budget look like compared to others you've seen?
A: This budget contains more major policy initiatives in it than any that I’ve ever seen and I’ve been working on state budgets since 1982. This is a budget that totally rewrites education school finance so that we don’t have money going out the door based upon money for kids in schools at school districts based upon some historical and traditional criteria. It really changes the distribution formula significantly. It proposed to eliminate most of our categorical programs. It proposes to change our mandate program, so it really lets the state off the hook for those school districts that are going to seek reimbursement for maximum remuneration of services that they’re going to deliver.
Attorneys representing eight schoolchildren are suing California because they say the state's laws on teacher tenure, layoffs and dismissal violate students' constitutional right to an education by protecting ineffective teachers.
The suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, is backed by a nonprofit education reform group called Students Matter. It names the state, Gov. Jerry Brown, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the California Department of Education, the state Board of Education, L.A. Unified and Alum Rock Union School District as defendants.
Five of the eight students attend L.A. Unified schools, while the remainder attend schools in Pasadena Unified, Sequoia Union High School District, and Alum Rock Union School District.
The suit blames five California laws, dubbed the "Challenged Statutes," on teacher tenure, seniority-based layoffs, and the dismissal process, for denying administrators the flexibility to staff their schools effectively.