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Feds Withhold $1M Linked to CA Algebra Mandate

California's Department of Education stands to lose about $1 million in federal funding because its eighth-grade Algebra mandate is tied up in court. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis has more.

Feds Withhold $1M Linked to CA Algebra Mandate

California's Department of Education stands to lose about $1 million in federal funding because its eighth-grade Algebra mandate is tied up in court. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis has more.

Earlier this year Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called on the State Board of Education to adopt a mandate requiring all eighth graders to take Algebra regardless of their skill level.

The board – which is appointed by the Governor -- did that and state education groups sued. Critics say the mandate sets kids up for failure. They also say its impossible to get all kids Algebra-ready in just three years.

A judge postponed the requirement for now. But that put California in violation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The law requires states to have some kind of eigth-grade Algebra policy on the books.

State Schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell says he knew the state was at risk, but stands by the legal challenge.

O’Connell: We want all students to know Algebra, but it's a question of, 'Do you just want to do it overnight, or do you build upon those successes?'

O'Connell says there's no money to support such a mandate. He also says the proposal was not property vetted.

His office has 20 days to appeal the loss of money, but O'Connell says his office will most likely take the $1 million hit.

O’Connell: At this point I think we'll let the legal process play out, and we'll just try to do the very best we can. We're working with the federal department, working with the Bush Administration. And I'm certainly looking forward to the Obama administration coming into office in less than two months.

O'Connell says the $1 million will translate into less professional development and assistance to public school districts.

Ana Tintocalis, KPBS News.