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Duncan Visits San Diego, Pushes Education Reform


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is visiting San Diego today but not everyone is receptive to his call for federal education reform.

— U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says the eyes of the nation are on California as Sacramento lawmakers battle to approve legislation aimed at education reform.

Duncan made those remarks during the National Conference of State Legislatures in downtown San Diego yesterday. During his address, Duncan called on legislators around the country to lead education reform by competing for federal education stimulus grants.

States will get the money if they take on reforms outlined by the Obama administration. The reforms include closing struggling schools, lifting bureaucratic roadblocks for charter schools and linking teacher pay to student test scores.

California lawmakers are struggling with the issues, but Duncan says it's time the state find the political courage to fix its ailing school system.

“California is either going to break through and regain its national prominence in leadership in education or it will continue to struggle,” Duncan said. “This is a moment of truth. This is a big, big deal.”

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants more drastic changes than those being considered by California legislators. They include allowing students in failing schools to transfer to any school in the state. Parents would also have the power to force a school overhaul.

But the state assembly wouldn't go along with all of that. The bill approved yesterday lifted the state cap on charter schools and also imposed new rules for charter school regulation.

San Diego Teachers Union President Camille Zombro likes that approach because she says it doesn't rush reform.

“The assembly was taking a more thoughtful approach,” Zombro said. “They (legislators) seem to be figuring out how to meet the basic requirements but without compromising what is working in public schools in California.”

The assembly bill now goes back to the Senate for another vote. But its future is uncertain because the Governor says he'll veto the assembly’s version if it hits his desk.

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