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California school boards group snubs state legislators

November 5, 2009 |  6:14 pm

And the winner is ... no one.

That’s right. Nobody won this year’s Legislator of the Year Award from the California School Boards Assn. because schools suffered so much from funding cuts approved by the state Legislature that the group didn't want to single out any lawmaker for praise.

“Sure, there are some legislators who have done good things for education, and others that we admire for their efforts,” Frank Pugh, the group’s president-elect and a board member for Santa Rosa city schools, said in a release. “But for crying out loud, schools have been cut by $2,100 per student.  We’d be nuts to present this award to anybody in a year when the cuts are going to have detrimental effects on an entire generation of students.  We just have to draw the line somewhere.”

The California School Boards Assn.'s snub may not get more than a shrug in the Legislature, but the organization has wielded some clout with strategic moves. The association, for example, has frozen, through the courts, an effort to force all California eighth-graders to take Algebra 1. The association wants to shift the focus to making sure students are prepared to take algebra by the eighth grade, said Executive Director Scott Plotkin.

The Sacramento-based association also is gathering support for a lawsuit over school funding. Its leadership asserts that schools need more money, but also need a reformed funding system, one that gives school districts the same freedoms to manage resources that are enjoyed by charter schools, Plotkin said.

For today, he said, the message is simply: “Bad job, Sacramento.”

“California has to figure out a way to create a system that does more than add layer upon layer of cuts to a public education system that is already woefully underfunded,” said current President Paula S. Campbell of the Nevada City School District. “Until that happens, this association sees no choice but to hold the Legislature accountable for its actions.”

—Howard Blume

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