Governor Schwarzenegger signs Race to the Top education reform

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Shirley Jahad/KPCC

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger talks on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010 to eighth graders during the signing of education reform measure 'Race to the Top' at Mary McLeod Bethune Middle School in South Los Angeles.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed the bill that brings major changes to public schools in California. Advocates say it gives more power to parents. KPCC’s Shirley Jahad was at Bethune Middle School in South L.A. for the event.

The governor, Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, state lawmakers and school board members all congratulated themselves about the “Race to the Top” legislation.

Many of the 8th graders sitting in front at the signing ceremony had a hard time not yawning as they sat through speech after speech.

It might not excite the students, but the reform measures could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money. Even if California doesn’t win some cash, those reforms will stay in place. More than opening doors to the best education, the legislation allows parents to close the doors on the worst schools.

“This means that parents now can take their children out of those low performing schools and take them out of those schools and even to other districts," Gov. Schwarzenegger says. "So this has been a huge victory and a great freedom.”

Parents can also petition to oust the principal and the staff or turn the public school into a charter school. With those reforms in hand, California stands to gain $700 million for education from the federal government — but California schools have lost several billion dollars in state budget cuts.

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