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Governor revs up state Board of Education during funding discussion

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, January 17th, 2014 at 12:44 pm in California Board of Education, Education, Gov. Jerry Brown.

When Gov. Jerry Brown popped in on the state Board of Education meeting Thursday, the public speaker at the microphone said: “I’ve never been more perfectly interrupted.”

Brown showed up to rally those on both sides of a debate over funding regulations around the idea that no matter who would win small victories in language that will guide school districts in spending new money — the real winners will be the students. He reminded the board that the Local Control Funding Formula they were discussing was based on the principle of subsidiarity, or “focusing authority where it can be most effectively exercised … at the lowest, most competent level.”

The family, he said, is the primary institution in society. From there, Brown said, authority goes up to a parish, a city, a school and to other agencies.

“I think we always have to keep in mind when we sit around here, we’re not omnipotent,” he said. “A little humility is in order.”
Brown said regulations created by the board don’t really matter much when a teacher shuts a classroom door and works directly with students.

“And if the parents aren’t doing the right thing, if the teacher’s not doing the right thing, if the principal’s not doing the right thing, if the superintendent at the local school district isn’t doing the right thing and if the elected school board members are insensitive, then it’s highly dubious to think that the people around this table are going to be able to make up for it,” he said. “At the end of the day, we do depend on families, teachers, principals and people spread out throughout the entire state who have responsibility for our 6 million students.”

While acknowledging that the regulations and guidelines to be approved were important, Brown said they should not be “prescriptive commands from headquarters.” Instead, he urged flexibility to allow for different perspectives, with the overall goal of improving student achievement, directing more money to schools with greater challenges and establishing a mechanism for accountability. However, he cautioned that accountability is most effective at the local level.

“The further you get from the classroom,” he said, “the less effective your instruction, your conversation or your command.”

Drawing applause, Brown praised school leaders, education advocates and the California Teachers Association for helping to pass Proposition 30, which he said made the debate over funding regulations possible.

“If we didn’t have the money,” he said, “we wouldn’t even be here fighting over the regulations.”

Brown also received a few chuckles, when he added: “This is not the New Testament. It’s not the law in the prophets. This is just some mundane regulations that are much better because of the participation of the equity groups and others.”

Calling this “a great opportunity to fashion a more effective learning environment,” Brown said he didn’t want to lose sight of the students.

“They have responsibility as well,” he said. “It isn’t like just pouring this noun called ‘education’ into the heads of students. It’s an intransitive verb: I learn. And the ‘I’ that can learn is the student. The teacher can facilitate. The teacher lights the fire. The superintendent, the (local) board, the politicians, the state board here — we create environments, (and) some incentives. But we don’t want to micromanage. We want to give a wide latitude to teach and to explore and to light that fire in every student. And to the extent that teaching becomes a menu and a recipe, we lose that.”

Brown closed by asking the board to simultaneously embrace imagination and rigor.

“If you only have imagination, you have chaos and insanity,” he said. “If you only have rigor, you have paralytic death and rigor mortis. But if you combine rigor and imagination — if you combine flexibility with guidelines and some reasonable accountability — we’ll get the job done. So good luck. And I’m very excited. I’m bullish on California schools.”

Hours later, the board approved the emergency funding regulations, allowing the flexibility that many districts lobbied for, while trusting local officials to do the right thing for their students.

Do you agree with Brown’s statements?

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  • Guy Moore

    The governor’s philosophy of subsidiarity makes so much sense, but the devil is as always is in the details

  • Doctor J

    Job Announcements: MDUSD now seeking Principal pools for High School and Middle Schools — no schools identified. Curious posting for Hidden Valley Elementary Principal continues for “Internal Candidates” only — external candidates are not allowed to apply.

  • Doctor J

    Guy, I don’t believe that the devil is “stricter rules to prevent money targeted for high-needs students going to purposes with little direct benefit for those students, like granting across-the-board staff raises or buying tablet computers for all students”, Guy, don’t you believe that the extra money for high needs students should primarily benefit them ? I haven’t heard how MDEA’s offer to the district will specifically support Class Size Reduction or assist the Title I Program Improvement schools to escape PI ? Please, would you please elaborate ? And thank you for the compliment at the Board Meeting — what a day, being quoted by John Fensterwald and you, both in the same day ! :-)

  • g. de la verdad

    MDEA made an offer to the district? I didn’t see anything but demands. How about MDEA “offers” to make it easier to fire teachers who just don’t cut it, who put videos on — so they can put their heads down for a quicky nap, who let children reach 9th grade with a 4th grade education? How about “offering” to increase the time before tenure? How about…

  • Doctor J

    Ah G, the Devil is in the details: The CTA is number one on the “Billion Dollar Club”, a list of the top spenders in California politics according to the FPPC. The CTA alone has spent more money in California politics than Chevron, AT&T, Philip Morris and Western States Petroleum Association combined. Yet, the rank and file of MDEA doesn’t have the Cracker Jacks to strike. Read this. http://www.fppc.ca.gov/reports/Report31110.pdf

  • Doctor J

    I can’t believe that MDUSD hasn’t been puffing about applying for this grant that has been known since the summer. http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_24959966/state-schools-compete-250-million-job-training-grants

  • Doctor J

    Less than 6 days [including the weekend] before the first Community Meeting and no indication of any effort, let alone extraordinary effort, to ensure all shareholders are being invited to PARTICIPATE — sounds more like another Bryan Richards “Marshmallow Power Point” — will the powerpoint be translated into Spanish also ? More significantly they combined not only the LCAP but also have other major subjects to cover, so LCAP will clearly be diluted. And only one meeting per feeder pattern — it would take several meetings per feeder pattern for college grads to learn about the LCAP, learn about the budget process, and be able to give intelligent input to the LCAP. I fear these meetings will just be a “check the box” for community meetings with no real input received and implemented. There has been no outreach to those parents of “greatest needs” students, who should be targeted to received additional attention and programs. Where this money is spent should not be decided behind closed doors by Bryan Richards, Rose Lock, Julie B-M, and Kerri Mills. There should be community input. FCMAT today referenced an article on Sacramento City Unified that they are on their THIRD meeting already. I loved this quote by one of their trustees — I have yet to hear any quote by any of our trustees or even Dr. Nellie. “Trustee Diana Rodriguez said the district “needs the voice of the parents at every level,” especially in the categories specified for added funding – students in poverty, English learners and foster children.
    “We need the voices of the parents and guardians of those children,” Rodriguez said. “We need to understand where we’re going to direct this money so it better helps the child.”
    WHAT IS MDUSD DOING TO REACH OUT TO THESE PARENTS AND GUARDIANS TO BE INCLUDED IN THE DECISION MAKING OF HOW THE MONEY IS SPENT ?

    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089673/sacramento-city-unified-holds.html#storylink=cpy

  • tmharrington

    Here’s a new PPIC study that compares the rigor of ELL reclassification standards to student achievement: http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1078

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t reveal how individual districts matched up or even list the districts that participated in the survey. It does caution, however, that some districts may be inclined to delay reclassification so they can hang onto LCFF money for EL students. However, it notes that most ELL students are also low-income, so this should not deter districts from reclassification.

  • tmharrington

    I publicized this grant in the fall when I attended an event at De Anza HS in WCCUSD about it: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2013/11/06/hands-on-learning-opportunities-in-high-schools-could-grow-in-state/

  • Doctor J

    As usual Guy Moore doesn’t answer the hard questions.

  • Doctor J

    Why hasn’t Stephanie Roberts given a report on Grants since 2009 ? http://www.mdusd.org/Departments/grants/Documents/grantpacpresentation.pdf

  • tmharrington

    Here’s the SBE’s January meeting webcast: http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/sbewebcastarchive.asp

    Also, the LCFF item 20 and 21 addenda have been added to the agenda at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/yr14/agenda201401.asp

  • Doctor J

    Passionate speech by Assembywoman Dr. Shirley Weber, former San Diego USD Board member, calling for “meaningful enforceable standards” “to close the achievement gap”. She relates she hears Districts say they are going to rebuild their library — Dr. Weber asks, Did that close your achievement gap before ? Answer No. Why ? They didn’t use their library to close the achievement gap. She speaks out against the “risk of dilution of funds” by using the funds district wide that are supposed to close the achievement gap. Hear her at Minute 52. Also passionate speeches by Assembyman Phillip Ting [San Francisco] at 1:00 hour, Justice William Murray, Court of Appeal, at 1:05 and Dolores Huerta at 1:10.

  • Doctor J

    Gov. Brown: 1:36:45 “overall goal is achievement” “the further you get from the classroom, the less effective it is” “Doing the right thing by parents, by teachers, by principals, by Superintendents, by Board members”

  • Doctor J

    Brentwood pays $8 Million for Not Reporting suspected child abuse — common themes with MDUSD Martin case — lets see, $8M x 13 victims = $104 Million. That would certainly put a “Dent” in the coffers and probably squash any raises for a few years. Is this why MDUSD is stonewalling full disclosure in the BANG suit ? http://www.contracostatimes.com/contra-costa-times/ci_24974491/brentwood-school-district-pay-8-million-child-abuse