Green-tech academies vetoed

“Green jobs”  in conservation and alternative energy will require workers exposed to careers in those fields and trained in emerging technologies. But a  bill  to create  97  green high school career-tech academies was killed last night by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

The academies under SB 675 would have been financed  by diverting $8 million from a small ($.00022 per kilowatt) surcharge on electricity. In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said the bill would set a “dangerous precedent” in funding programs outside of the Proposition 98 guarantee for K-12 schools. He also said that siphoning money from the Energy Resource Programs Account would force the California Energy Commission to increase the surcharge paid by all electricity users and drain money from its purpose: funding  energy-efficiency programs and  licensing renewable energy facilities.

There are currently 475 partnership academies, which are 3-year programs that offer hands-on training in a career area, work internships, and academic courses and supports, such as tutoring. But state funding for many  academies is due to expire within a year, with no money  for creating new ones. SB 675, sponsored by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, would have established academies in the fields of energy and water conservation, renewable energy, and pollution reduction.

Other education bills had their fates decided last night:

SB 1357, which would require that the state collect data on chronic absenteeism and truancy through the state student data system, known as CALPADS, and create an early warning system for districts of students deemed at risk of dropping out. In signing it, Schwarzenegger took a swipe at the Department of Education, expressing “serious concerns about the frustrating delays that schools, teachers, and parents have had to endure”  because of poor oversight of CALPADS by state education officials. He called on the Department and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell to consult with State Chief Information Officer Teri Takai to get the system right.

Implementing the bill is contingent on finding federal funding.

AB 2446, which would have allowed students to substitute a career education course for a year-long course in either foreign language or the arts as a graduation requirement. The bill was supported by industry and manufacturing groups but strongly opposed by language and arts teachers, who expressed anger at dropping courses that develop creativity and prepare students for a diverse world. Scharzenegger vetoed the bill, but not for those reasons. He said he feared the bill would add costs to school districts and possibly create a state mandate to fund additional career education academies.

The bill would not have affected districts that require students to pass all of the A-G courses needed for admission to a four-year state university. Students still would have to take the required foreign language and arts classes. But for other districts, the potential loss of arts and foreign language classes could have limited some students’ access to A-G classes.

Author: John Fensterwald - Educated Guess

John Fensterwald, a journalist at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, edits and co-writes "Thoughts on Public Education in California" (www.TOPed.org), one of the leading sources of California education policy reporting and opinion, which he founded in 2009. For 11 years before that, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire for two decades before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997 and heading West shortly thereafter. His wife is an elementary school teacher and his daughter attends the University California at Davis.

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