Sunday, September 24, 2006

STATE SUPERINTENDENT BACKS EDUCATION BILL: O'Connell urges the governor to OK $3 billion to poorest-performing schools, settle teachers' lawsuit.

by Seema Mehta, LA Times Staff Writer

September 23, 2006 - State schools chief Jack O'Connell swept through the Inland Empire on Friday, urging the governor to sign a bill that would provide nearly $3 billion for the state's worst-performing schools, and honoring a Moreno Valley elementary school recently named among the nation's best.

After touring Mountain View Elementary in Riverside, O'Connell extolled the benefits of the Quality Education Investment Act, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign in the coming days. Among other benefits, O'Connell said, "it will lower class sizes in schools that need it the most and provide more counselors."

The legislation would provide nearly $3 billion over seven years to schools that perform the worst on state tests and would settle a lawsuit filed by the California Teachers Assn. against Schwarzenegger over the last two years' educational funding.

Backers say the legislation will improve educational opportunities for students attending schools in low-income areas and calls for an incentive program to draw highly skilled teachers to these schools.

The state superintendent of public instruction also visited Victoriano Elementary in Moreno Valley to congratulate its students and staff for the school being selected as a National Blue Ribbon School.

Victoriano is one of 31 California schools selected by the U.S. Department of Education for the honor, which is reserved for schools ranked in the top 10% nationally, or those with high levels of poverty that show strong student achievement.

"Everyone involved in these students' lives deserves credit for helping them make these gains that we hope will ultimately help students develop the mastery of skills necessary to be successful adults," O'Connell said in a written statement.

Other Southern California public schools to receive the honor include: Bert M. Lynn Middle School in Torrance, Calabasas High School, Clark Magnet High School in Glendale, Dewey Elementary School in San Diego, El Dorado High School in Placenta, Foothill Technology High School in Ventura, Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School in Los Angeles, Hill Classical Middle School in Long Beach, Ira Harbison Elementary School in National City, Lemay Street Elementary School in Van Nuys, Newbury Park High School, Northwood High School in Irvine, Oak Middle School in Los Alamitos, Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana, Redwood Middle School in Thousand Oaks, San Marino High School and Troy High School in Fullerton.

smf opines: One cannot underestimate the importance or the potential impact (and unintended consequences) of this mandate for class size reduction to 25:1 in underperforming decile 1 and 2 schools in grades 4 -12. Those decile 1 and 2 schools are already straining at the seams, overcrowded, short on classrooms, bungalows on the playground, busing students out, on year round calendars, etc.

This reform foretells an inevitable class size reduction across the board at all schools — something that will positively impact student performance, the quality of education and the depth of instruction. It will also impact school budgets, availability of teachers and student housing - keeping schools open and teachers employed at schools and districts that are losing students - and impacting construction and modernization priorities at schools and districts that are overcrowded and/or growing. While those who were building schools have been focused on student "seats", they will now need to prioritize "classrooms". The local school bonds, it must be remembered, pay for buildings and classrooms and furniture: they do not pay for programs or teachers. A districtwide classroom reduction from 32:1 to 25:1 creates something like a 28% teacher shortage.

LAUSD, always unique unto itself, losing population yet hugely overcrowded, faces both challenges.

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