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Governor proposes merit pay for educators

August 20, 2009 | 11:21 am


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced this morning a special legislative session focusing on education that he hopes will establish merit pay for teachers, allow students at low-performing schools to transfer to other campuses and use data to track students and educators.

The governor also wants the legislature to abolish a law that bars the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. Under federal guidelines, states that prohibit the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers cannot apply for $4.35 billion in education stimulus money known as Race to the Top funding.

Some California educational leaders have said federal officials are misinterpreting state law, but Schwarzenegger vowed to do everything necessary to make sure California qualifies for the federal funding.

"This is an incredible opportunity for our students and our schools," he said at a press conference in Sacramento.

Not all of Schwarzenegger's proposals apparently would have to be passed by the Legislature to be implemented, but the governor said he hoped state lawmakers could finish their work by early October so the state could meet the deadline to apply for federal funds. 

Several other states, including Illinois and Indiana, have changed their laws or policies to qualify for Race to the Top funding.

The announcement could kick off a contentious fight with the state's powerful teachers unions. Union leaders have already said they are against a state-wide merit pay system and using test score data to evaluate educators.

The reforms could also be difficult to implement.

"They are absolutely sweeping," said Brad Strong, education director for Children Now, a national advocacy group. "But there are political realities and logistical issues ... We need substantially more resources for these to really take hold and be effective. Unless that's part of the conversation, the state will be hard pressed to make much progress."

-- Jason Song and Jason Felch

Photo: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times