Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sacramento Gets One Right (so far)

Assemblymember Joe Coto, who reps the east 408, has sponsored a bill that makes enormous sense. AB586 calls for the institution of a weighted ADA formula, wherein districts receive 125 percent of pre-existingADA for every ELL or low-SES kid they enroll. Additional provisions weight funding for GATE and SpEd; and call for alterations to ADA based on prevailing economic differences between districts. This bill has the potential to not only dramatically alter the mechanism of school funding, but in so doing, it has the power to affect school change on a wide stage.

If it becomes law, AB586 would provide formal and financial acknowledgement to a reality that informs all the work we do in education. It is not only more difficult, but more expensive to educate an English Language Learner. It is not only more difficult, but more expensive to educate a low-income child. As long as Los Altos spends $11,000 per student while my district spends $6,000, educational equity will remain a pursuit and never a point of arrival.

This is about more than money. Money can be misappropriated, misspent, misapplied. No, what gets me really excited about this bill is the essential principle at its core, the formal, legislative recognition that getting better results for low-income, high-need kids requires something different and something more. Once the essential binary nature of public education is represented in budgetary realities, the way is paved for all manner of reform.

If high-need urban education is enough of a unique species to require alternative funding mechanisms, than it likewise requires alternative...

...scheduling options
...class size
...teacher preparation
...teacher credentialing
...principal training and certification control mechanisms

Make your own list. It's well past the time when recognition of the vast differences within our school system took on a legal, financial, and effective form. Right now that recognition is limited to bad movies and the drunk moron on the bar stool next to yours. We can do better, and passing AB586 into law is an appropriately massive next step.

via: Educated Guess


Anonymous Lori Jablonski said...

This really drew my interest, but it looks like the bill was gutted last week in committee so that it now merely convenes a funding revision working group to develop statutory recommendations for the legislature next year ("working group" translation: let's deep-six this thing). Education is about to take a huge budget hit, even if the Gov doesn't succeed in suspending Prop 98. I suspect this probably translates into strong opposition to so significantly re-vamping per-pupil funding at the same time the state faces a $14 billion deficit (12% of the overall budget). (I'm being charitable here, I suspect this idea would face significant opposition even in rosy economic days.)

Some believe times like these are opportunities for radical priorities shifting and real change. I'm more cynical. The economic reckoning we face is grim and I'm not sure any of us -- our leaders and more broadly, "we the people" --- are yet prepared to face up to it. Without real leadership and a re-engaged citizenry, retrenchment and greater devolution of the public space to the private sphere are likely to rule the day.

Since I teach in a high poverty high school with a large number of EL and special ed students, I obviously see the merit in Coto's idea.

So in the spirit of active engagement, I'm offering my unsolicited advice. As a teacher in his district (this will mean a lot), call his Sacramento office. Ask to talk to the person staffing the bill and discuss what's going on and its prospects. Let them know you approvingly blogged on the measure and are willing to lend a hand -- even coming up to Sacramento to testify if there is any chance its substance might be regained at some point in the process. Tell them you truly understand the need for this "massive" overhaul and want to help keep the idea alive through the dark days ahead.

Let us know what they say. Some of us might be willing to jump in too!

10:41 AM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Hi Lori; good to hear from you.

I was late getting this post up, and you're right, the bill took a hit. I think this one's got a chance, eventually, even with the budget cuts, etc. One, it's just makes too much sense. Two, it does not propose additional funding, but rather cuts the figurative pie in different size chunks. We'll see, but I'm a big fan of the power of inertia -- the more we talk, the more we normalize, and the close we get to the tipping point.

Your advice is well-taken. I spoke personally with the assemblymember's legislative director on this and other matters, so to whatever small extent that helps, I helped.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Polski3 said...

But, will district/school administration use the "additional" monies for the important stuff you listed ?

6:45 PM  

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