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State Senate passes education measure with eye on federal grants

November 4, 2009 | 11:17 am

Despite opposition from powerful teachers unions, the state Senate today approved a measure to make California more competitive for billions of dollars in federal education grants.

The measure, which now goes to the Assembly, would allow students at poor-performing schools to transfer to campuses in other districts, and would also create a group to study a lifting of the cap on the number of charter schools in the state.

SB X5 1 also would repeal a law prohibiting the use of data on teacher performance and student achievement for the purpose of evaluating and making employment decisions on teachers. The bill would require students' parents and teachers be notified if their schools are identified by the state as among the worst-performing 5% of campuses. Operations at those schools would have to be overhauled.

The bill, by state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) and Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), is intended to make California more competitive for $4.35 billion in federal education grants being offered to states that adopt plans to improve school performance.

“The Senate’s action takes us one step closer toward an historic victory for California’s schools,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who added that "we must do everything in our power improve our schools and secure additional funding from President Obama’s multibillion-dollar national education funding competition.’’

The California Teachers Assn. and United Teachers of Los Angeles said they opposed the bill partly because of the potential cost of the changes and because the federal funds would be a one-time grant.

The group also thinks it is premature to adopt the changes before the federal government finalizes the standards by which grant applications will be judged, CTA spokesman Frank Wells said.

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento