State budget cuts could mean “shrinking” Cerro Coso Community College
Adelanto parents, tired of the fox running their children’s failing education henhouse, last week took aim at being the first national school district to undergo parental-driven reform under the California’s trailblazing legislation known as the “Parent Trigger Law.”
However, parents got return fire from Adelanto Board of Education members, who unanimously rejected a petition to turn Desert Trails Elementary into a charter campus, finding that it failed to win the support of parents representing at least 50 percent plus one of the school’s 642 students, as the law requires. The school has the lowest standardized test scores in Adelanto, with fewer than half the students proficient in math and English.
Petition supporters allege that opponents doctored documents to sink their campaign, and added they would challenge the board’s rejection in court. “While we are disappointed and outraged, we are hardly surprised by the board’s decision tonight to rely on [allegations of] fraud and forgery to defend the status quo,” Doreen Diaz of Desert Trails Parent Union, which launched the petition campaign, told the LA Times.
But Lori Yuan, a parent leader on the other side, expressed relief: “Now we can focus on making actual improvements to the school rather than be distracted by outside issues.”
The 2010 law, authored by State Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), allows parents representing at least half the students at low-performing schools to close their campus, transfer management to a charter operator or change the staff and curriculum. “These are parents who are sick and tired of seeing their schools simply remain on a watch list,” Romero told CBS 2 News LA. “And with all good intentions that may have come from this district, it hasn’t been enough.”
About 50 people attended the special meeting for the Adelanto School District Board, to discuss whether signatures gathered in January for the petition were valid. Signature gatherers told the Board they were out there pounding the pavement and know what efforts were made.
If successful, the petition would make Desert Trails Elementary the first in the nation to force major staff changes and essentially give parents the power to change the school to a charter format.
According to Mono County Superintendent of Schools Stacey Adler, what hasn’t been widely reported is the origin of Romero’s bill. The state had to have legislation in place to allow California to apply for President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top” (RTTT) program funding. Race to the Top provided “competitive grants to encourage and reward states … creating the conditions for education innovation.”
Part of a January 2010 special legislative session, Romero’s bill, SBX 4 or “The Parent Empowerment Law,” was chosen by lawmakers to fill an RTTT requirement calling for some form of parental involvement.
As Adler explained, schools don’t have to be on a “watch list” per se, but can be in “program improvement,” which allows two years of improvement, and another two years of monitoring. Mammoth Elementary School, for example, has recently completed its two years on and is almost done with its “remission” period. If MES meets its education markers this year, it will be removed from “program improvement” status.
“The California legislature didn’t like SBX 4, but it was under the gun and up against application deadlines, and there were a few parts to Race to the Top that went against California’s grain,” Adler commented. She said one of the chief sticking points was tying student achievement test data to teacher evaluations, which was opposed heavily by the teachers union. That, Adler thinks, was a big reason that the state was denied any RTTT funding.
So, are the Adelanto parents onto something, or is this simply a case of reactionary parents running into the barn and grabbing pitchforks? Adler thinks it’s a bit of both. “Parents want the best for their kids, but I can also see the other side, which is they’re not trained educators,” she noted.
Adler is also wary of the bill’s use of the word “empowerment,” which she thinks could have put too much of the “power” part at parents fingertips. Another concern she has is that one of the major support groups behind the parents’ effort is a group that runs charter schools, a scenario she described as being “almost like a PAC (Political Action Committee).”
Meanwhile, Adler said that both the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind and the Obama administration’s RTTT programs have been essentially mothballed, and are not up for renewal. Will Romero’s bill stand as law or be repealed? A lot depends on new programs being considered in Washington D.C., Adler opined. She said the U.S. Senate has issued an 800-page “holistic” bipartisan approach to new education plans, and the House of Representatives has another 3 smaller, piecemeal bills, which are mostly Republican in nature. “There are good things in both, and they’re really not that far apart,” Adler assessed. She’s also watching the upcoming presidential election, which could also have an impact on the Parental Empowerment law, depending on whether Mr. Obama is reelected and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is retained. –LA Times, CBS 2 News LA
Cerro Coso colleges to shrink
Kern Community College District is building a two-year budget that will be as much as $17.8 million less than last year, and will affect all district institutions, including Bakersfield College, Porterville College and Cerro Coso Community College, all of which will face reductions next year. “As a result, you will see Cerro Coso shrink,” said Cerro Coso Community College President Jill Board and Kern Community College District Chancellor Sandra V. Serrano. “Bottom line: Cerro Coso Community College will be doing less with less.”
The litany of budget cuts, including a $313 million hit to community colleges just two months ago, has already taken its toll on KCCD. Recently, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office announced that community college funding is expected to lose another $149 million because the state’s estimates on enrollment fees and property tax revenues were overinflated.
In the past four years, the number of classes open to students has dropped 22%, an equivalent loss of some 700 full-time Cerro Coso Community College students. They also expect little help from Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed state tax hike initiatives on the November ballot. “The measures are billed as a way to increase funds for education. At best, however, they only offset some of the reductions to community colleges,” they wrote.