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California schools will gasp in 'Race to the Top'

Financial crisis will get worse next year, while schools deal with other issues

California schools will have an uphill slog in the national "Race to the Top," state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, will tell area school officials, teachers and parents Saturday morning in Palo Alto.

At an "Education Update" session, Simitian said he will outline the status of current legislation affecting K-12 schools and discuss the funding outlook for education, which has been bleak to grim in recent years.

Simitian, a longtime leader in state education policymaking, said school finances are still in critical condition.

"We'll be in a tough place next year, but we'll be in real trouble the following year," Simitian told the Weekly.

"Federal stimulus money will all be gone, and special sources of income and the vehicle-license fee will disappear as one-time-only money," he said.

The update session will be held at the Palo Alto Unified School District headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave., 10 a.m. to noon, in the district board room.

Attendees are expected to included school board members, superintendents, teachers, parents and other education advocates, as in past updates. There will be an opportunity for an exchange of views after the update, according to the announcement of the session.

Following a discussion of "Race to the Top" implications relating to the Obama administration's national program to improve education, Simitian will discuss pending legislation that will impact schools.

There are concerns about differences between national standards under Race to the Top versus existing state standards, Simitian said.

Other legislation relates to improving "accountability" in schools, through an "open enrollment" provision that would allow students to switch schools or districts in cases of poor performance of the school or district.

The enrollment provision would likely affect up to 1,000 districts out of 9,000 to 10,000 in the state, he said. But there is concern about the financial and other impacts on districts to which students might want to transfer.

-- Palo Alto Weekly staff

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