California must participate in the Race to the Top

Ben Austin
Executive Director, Parent Revolution

It isn’t every day that implementing a series of common sense reforms to fix
our schools can also infuse our cash-strapped state with hundreds of
millions federal dollars. President Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative,
however, presents our state with a unique opportunity to not only transform
our antiquated public education system for the 21st century, but also to
have it paid for by the federal government.

The Race to the Top reforms being presented in SB 1 represent an almost
textbook definition of the term “win win,” and our legislature must not
squander this opportunity.

As parents examine the package of reforms being proposed, they will likely
be shocked to find these sensible policies do not already exist in
California. SB 1 would pave the way for Districts to reward their best
teachers, making sure they can stay in the classroom where they are
desperately needed. It would promote the use of student achievement data as
a factor when evaluating teachers, so we can finally know which teachers are
producing the biggest student gains.

It would mandate drastic changes at
our state’s lowest performing schools – far too many of which are right here
in Los Angeles – so that a status quo where 50% of LAUSD students don’t even
graduate from high school is no longer tolerated for generations. And it
would – for the first time in the history of American public education –
give parents direct power to transform their own neighborhood schools rooted
in what’s good for kids, not grown-ups.

These common sense reforms are all crucial aspects of the “kids-first”
education agenda that President Obama has embraced. The past few months
have witnessed thousands of parents standing up and saying enough is enough.
They are demanding that we fix our schools – not in 5, 10, or 20 years —
but now. We can’t wait for pilot programs and half measures – we need
change, and we need it now.

The Parent Revolution stands for a simple yet sadly radical idea: That every
decision about our schools should be made based on what is best for our
children.  These reforms will move us towards that goal, and are an
important step in building a public education system that works for the 21st
century. We stand with parents and bipartisan leaders from across our state
in demanding the legislature pass this crucial legislation.

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