Almost everyone wants more money for schools right now. The debate is over how to get it.

Some San Diego parents are pushing California to change its laws for a shot at a second dose of school stimulus money. Their hope is that if California changes its rules to suit the federal government, it could get as much as $500 million to help plug school deficits statewide. The school board is also interested in more money, but it may push California in another direction, nudging the state to look at new or different taxes.

The split reveals the differing views in San Diego Unified on how the state should ease its budget crisis.

One side is headed by former school board member Mitz Lee and parent leader Debbie O’Toole, both of whom sent e-mails to parents and supporters urging them to tell their legislators to pass a new law. The bill, authored by State Sen. Gloria Romero, would explicitly allow state testing data to be used to pay, promote or evaluate teachers, lift a cap on the number of charter schools statewide and allow students in struggling schools to apply for other school districts. Parents are planning a press conference Thursday to promote the legislation.

State analysts wrote that it isn’t clear whether the legislation is technically needed to apply for the stimulus dollars, called Race to the Top, but doing so might give California a better shot at the money. Its opponents include the California Teachers Association, which has called it an unnecessary law that forces “irresponsible and punitive” changes in how teachers are evaluated for a small batch of money that won’t solve the deficit. San Diego Unified school board leaders Shelia Jackson and Richard Barrera have called the changes a one-size-fits-all strategy without strong evidence.

Instead, San Diego Unified leaders may call for California to reap more revenues by changing its taxes. Tonight, the school board is slated to weigh a resolution that decries “a minority of legislators, opposed to tax increases in ideological grounds, (who) can block the will of the majority and prevent a balanced approach to solving the budget crisis” that includes both progressive taxes and budget cuts.

What do you think? Should California be racing to the top with new laws — or balancing its books with new taxes? Or both? Or neither? Post your thoughts in the Schooled blog if you’re not there already or feel free to send me an e-mail at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

EMILY ALPERT

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