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At media meet-up, legislators call for education reform

Republicans, Democrat highlight it as key issue
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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With the eyes and ears of about 100 members of the newspaper industry at attention at a Sacramento conference, California political leaders spoke about what issues they felt were most pressing to the state as it moves forward. 

Both the Republicans and Democrats agreed educational reform is atop their agenda.
 
Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Visalia, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, and Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, were featured at the 16th Annual Governmental Affairs Day on Wednesday.
 
The nonprofit California Newspaper Publishers Association hosted the event.
 
Huff said educational reform is something the Republican superminority can effectively work on. 
 
“Educational reform is something that hits everyone in the state, whether you’re a parent of a child in school or whether your neighbor’s kid is in school, or just a member of society that benefits from having a more educated workforce,” he said “It’s important that we get this done, yet we have some built in barriers for that.”
 
When asked what Democrats priorities are, Yee said education topped his list.
 
“I think there’s a lot of discussion about years of reductions that have been going on and there  is a lot of discussion down in caucus about what are those cuts that we ought to turn around and fix,” he said. “Within that general framework, there are a number of topics uppermost in a number of member’s agendas, I think one is clearly education. How do we reform that, how do we fix that? How do we increase funding for that?”
 
Hoff cited a Stanford study that said the United States could achieve the level of some of the highest performing countries, which are defined as Canada and Finland, if we replace the least effective 5 to 10 percent with just “average teachers.”
 
When a student from Woodcreek High School asked him how he would achieve that, Hoff said the system would be reformed to help develop those low-performing teachers, not just replace them. He said he would also like to see the best teachers receive bonuses.
 
A “more robust” form of teacher evaluation would be required, and it will be interesting to monitor Los Angeles Unified School District’s recently implemented model, Hoff said.
 
Objective measures of public workers, such as determining an educator’s impact based on statistics, can be a “frightening thing,” and is readily opposed by teacher unions, he said.
 
The passage of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 in November avoided trigger cuts of $6 billion at all levels of education statewide, according to the Proposition 30 website.
 
In Placer County, school districts avoided decreases between $440 and $450 in revenue limit funding per student, Placer County Superintendent of Schools Gayle Garbolino-Mojica told the Journal in November. That would have resulted in financial uncertainty for numerous districts.
Conway said legislation will be coming from various members of the caucus related to ensuring the promises made to voters about Proposition 30 are kept. 
 
“We believe what the people were told is that all that money is going to education, and that may not necessarily be where all that money is spent,” she said. “We believe that was a promise made to the voters and we think we should hold the budget, hold folks accountable.”
Conway said that through careful review of the budget, some of the funding increase from Proposition 30 is going to increasing government salaries in “other departments.”
 
“If a promise is made,” she said, “a promise should be kept.”
 
Jon Schultz can be reached at jons@goldcountrymedia.com
Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews