Thursday, March 10, 2005 | In his State of the State address, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger kept his promise to propose reforms that will put California back on track. His message was one of leadership and a willingness to make the tough choices that challenge the status quo but in the long run benefit the people.

Sadly, education leaders geared up their public spin juggernaut and assumed the role of Chicken Little. The sky is falling, the Governor is slashing, kids are at risk, sang the chorus of union leaders and lobbyists.

In California we spend nearly half of our entire state budget, $50 billion, on education. And in 2005-2006, Governor Schwarzenegger increases public education spending by $2.9 billion – by far the largest increase for any budget program. Spending will rise by $362 per pupil in our primary and secondary schools.

However, if we just spend money on schools and say the job is done, we are shortchanging the kids – and our future. A bureaucratic, inefficient and confusing system is the roadblock that prevents many dedicated teachers, principals, superintendents and school board members from succeeding. That is why, even though education spending has increased from $35 billion to $50 billion over the last six years, today 30 percent of our kids do not graduate from high school, hundreds of our schools are failing, and a majority of our kids cannot perform at grade level.

To support the kids and the teachers, we need to do more, and give them every resource and every opportunity to excel. Governor Schwarzenegger’s non-partisan education reform agenda does that.

Rewarding Outstanding Teachers Based on Performance

By linking pay to performance, teachers are rewarded for their hard work. It will allow schools to hire and promote teachers according to student needs, not just seniority. And the Governor’s reforms preserve local control. School boards will work with teachers and administrators to publicly develop a local performance review and compensation system. The process will ensure that good teachers are valued and that our students receive the best education.

New Hope for Struggling Schools

Financial Accountability

Education leaders are partnering with Governor Schwarzenegger to put students and the quality of education first. Jim Kelly, President of the Grossmont Union High School District Board of Trustees; Mark Price, President of the Alpine Union School District and Dennis “Coach” Snyder, Founder of Escondido Charter High School and Heritage K-8 Charter School are official co-chairs of Governor Schwarzenegger’s Coalition for Education Reform. Together we are the voice for student excellence, academic focus, and taxpayer protection. We invite everyone who wants to improve public schools to Join Arnold and make our schools the very best they can be!

Margaret Fortune is co-chair of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Coalition for Education Reform. She is a consultant to the California Charter Schools Association and was superintendent of St. Hope Public Schools in Sacramento.

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