Thursday, September 15, 2011

Working on Sacramento from Los Altos

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, who represents our district in Sacramento, has created an Educational Advisory Council, made of of Board Members, Administrators, and other leaders in education. I'm honored to be asked to participate. WE met for the first time today and discussed a number of issues facing the education community.

First on our agenda was discussing the impact of the budget, particularly the "handcuffs" it places on local school boards. This year's budget contains a number of triggers that would automatically cut revenues mid-year if certain economic indicators don't continue at the rosy pace they were hitting in May and June. Mid-year cuts aren't new, but this year's budget specifically prohibits local school boards from cutting certificated personnel (teachers) in responser to the cuts. I politely expressed my frustration with this, and told Asm. Gordon that I felt this was an unprecedented (and probably illegal) intrusion of Sacramento into the business of local school districts. Rest assured that the other districts felt equally unhappy with the law. Hopefully if the Assembly is called back into session in December, they'll address this issue.

We also discussed a number of other items folks would like to see improved:
  • Clean up Ed Code 35021. This law makes it illegal to have a volunteer do any job previously held by a district employee. We talked about the inability to have parents supplement in the libraries and in aide positions. This problem is felt across many districts. It isn't my intent to replace our valuable employees with all-volunteers. However, it's hard to explain to parents why it is better to not have a program than to have volunteers help make it more cost effective.
  • One of the other districts also mentioned the entire idea of outsourcing- the fact that we can't subcontract any of the work we have done. Simple examples like lawn mowing came up as areas where we could hire a service to do the work, rather than maintain tractors ourselves.
  • We talked about AB1034, which would require charter schools to make efforts to serve students in under-served groups (such as economically disadvantaged kids, and English Language Learners). See my previous post for more information on this topic.
  • We talked about the impact of redistricting, and the elimination of the Department of Education at the State level.

Overall, I felt the meeting was very positive, but clearly there's a lot on the legislative agenda. I don't know how quickly any of this will pass into law, but it was a great discussion. I look forward to working with the Assemblyman on his initiatives.