California's lowest-performing schools would be targeted for a sweeping overhaul and the state could vie for a slice of $4.35 billion in federal Race to the Top funds under legislation narrowly approved Tuesday by the Assembly.
The plan also would empower parents to force significant changes in failing campuses through signature-gathering drives, and would allow students in 1,000 of the worst-scoring campuses to enroll elsewhere.
"It's bold, it's visionary and it sets the template for reform," said Sen. Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles Democrat who helped push the two-bill package.
But critics blasted the measures as too sweeping, too risky, too divisive and too hastily written in attempting to meet a Jan. 19 deadline for the state to apply for up to $700 million in federal grants.
Opponents include the California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, California School Boards Association and Association of California School Administrators.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signaled Tuesday night that he will sign the package if it is passed by the Senate today, as expected, without major amendments.
"Today we have come together to pass sweeping education reforms to better our children's education, provide more choice for parents and make sure California is highly competitive for hundreds of millions in federal dollars for our schools," Schwarzenegger said in a written statement.
Race to the Top is an attempt by President Barack Obama's administration to squeeze change from crisis by throwing $4.35 billion in federal stimulus funds into a competition calling upon cash-starved states to make dramatic operational changes.
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