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Can Obvious Committee Recommendations Become Law?

  • 08-10-2012
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Week of Aug. 6-10, 2012

On Wednesday, the California Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, chaired by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Oakland, set forth dozens of recommendations for dramatically improving the education, employment, and social well-being of a very large number of Californians. 

Overall, some of the education recommendations would:

  • Support local efforts to recruit and retain experienced and effective teachers to high poverty schools;
  • Support innovative programs, like Linked Learning, that provide rigorous, college- and career-ready education;
  • Increase overall school funding, and adopt weighted school funding formulas that provide more funds to schools with large numbers of English language learners and students in poverty;
  • Fully implement California’s longitudinal student data system (CALPADS); and integrate CALPADS with postsecondary and employment data.

More specifically, policy recommendations would implement research-based alternatives to suspensions and expulsions from school; prohibit the use of expulsions and suspensions for "willful defiance" and other behavior issues;  provide quality teachers as early as Transitional Kindergarten; revise school testing; create early warning system for students at risk of failing high school exit exam; and more.

The select committee found that in California young Latinos are 40 percent more likely than white men to end up in prison. Fifteen percent of black young men, and 11 percent of Latinos, were unemployed in June. Only 55 percent from both groups graduate from high school (San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune).

With more than 75 percent of Californians under 25 identifying themselves as people of color, the state's success as an economically viable place to live depends on the extent to which young men of color succeed in school and work (San Francisco Chronicle). Too many of these young men currently lack access to quality schools or appropriate and affordable job training. "If we do not do this given the demographics of the state, then we are turning our back on the state's future," committee chair Swanson said (Healthy Cal). 

The committee focused on numerous areas—education, health, employment and juvenile justice—but it paid particular attention to future legislation that would focus on school discipline.  According to a report by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA, the suspension rates for black students (17.7%) were more than twice the state's overall rate (7.5%). More alarming, 28 percent of black students with disabilities had been suspended at least once during the 2009-10 school year (Los Angeles Times, New York Times).

For the most part the committee's recommendations are well supported, have long been advocated, and are backed up with substantial research. That was clear from the consensus in testimony from state officials at Wednesday's hearing (Clear Channel, EdSource Today).

However, even though the committee's efforts were laudable and uncontested, much work remains to get these sensible, just, and economical recommendations passed into law.  If the obstacles weren’t severe, California would have attended to these basic reforms of curriculum, funding and opportunity long ago.

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Each Friday “Themes in the News” explores one of the current week’s “breaking news” topics—selected by IDEA staff and its partners—for summary and reflection.   Hyperlinks of the news stories, which are cited, allow readers to explore the theme on their own.