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School execs updated on capital issues
Glenn County school officials from Elk Creek to Hamilton City were back in a classroom on Saturday.
The Glenn County Office of Education hosted the day-long training in Willows to update school board members, administrators and educators on potential legislation, laws and Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal, which was released on Thursday.
While the passage of Proposition 30 in November has created a sense of cautious optimism among budget watchers, Brown's proposal does not create a lot of new money for local districts, said education advocate Kevin Gordon.
What is does do, is overhaul the way funding is allocated to schools and how districts may spend certain funds.
"It's still a shell game," Gordon said.
In addition to not having to make the astronomical cuts had Proposition 30 failed, Brown's proposal to drop categorical funding will give schools more discretion about how to spend what had been restricted money they get from the state.
As a result, Gordon anticipates districts will receive added pressure from the unions to restore cost of living allowances and class size reduction programs, but could otherwise benefit from more local control of programs.
Brown's budget also proposes to give more funds to school districts with large populations of students who are English-language learners or who are low-income.
The proposal continues to base state funding on attendance, but districts could receive up to 35 percent more money due to the status of their students, Gordon said.
But it's not just Brown's proposal that is fostering change in California.
Democrats have a two-thirds majority in the Assembly and Senate for the first time since 1883.
That means Democrats will have the power to approve new taxes and get constitutional amendments on the ballot without a single Republican vote and to override any veto, said former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, a surprise guest at Saturday's gathering.
Although Assembly and Senate Democrats have promised not to abuse their new supermajority power, O'Connell said a number of new proposals are already being floated for the November 2014 ballot, including the push to lower the threshold for passage of a parcel tax for education from a two-thirds majority to 55 percent.
Similarly, Senate Democrats are working on a proposition to lower the threshold for passage of parcel taxes and bonds for public libraries, also from two-thirds to 55 percent.
There is also a proposal to raise the vehicle license tax and taxes on gasoline, alcohol and cigarettes to fund universities and community colleges.
"You call that restraint," said O'Connell, a Democrat who served in the Assembly from 1982—94 and the state Senate from 1994 — 2002.
There is also talk of bringing a statewide school bond to the voters for school construction, which O'Connell and most educators find promising, providing the money is available.
"We know we have an aging educational infrastructure," he said.
Educators learned Saturday of other issues that will likely be considered as a flood of new bills make their way to the Legislature by Feb. 22, including issues that deal with school safety, teaches evaluation and dismissal, fiscal and academic accountability and others dealing with education.
"School safety is an issue on the forefront," said education lobbyist David Walwrath. "The biggest question will be how to secure the school site."
Walwrath expects this year's legislative session to include plenty of discussion on funding safety additions such as fencing, limiting access and changes in design and construction.
"It's going to be an interesting year in a lot of ways," Walwrath said.
Saturday's discussion also included increasing test scores and legal issues facing school districts and officials.
Public education attorney Paul Gant briefed the group on Brown Act and other issues.
Although the event went slightly over schedule, those attending, including administrators and school board members from Willows, Orland, Lake Elementary, Hamilton City, Stony Creek, Princeton, and Glenn and Tehama county offices of education said they got a great deal from the presenters, considered to be experts in their fields.
"I'm grateful that GCOE was able to put that together, especially with people of that caliber" said Willows Unified Superintendent Mort Geivett. "I'm glad to have their expertise."
Glenn County Superintendent of Schools Tracey Quarne organized Saturday's training to provide the local school districts with additional information and tools that will help students succeed.
"Success is not an accident," Quarne said.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.