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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    
February 7, 2011

For More Information, Contact:

Phil Yost (650) 688-6384


– “The governor’s budget actually treats K-12 education pretty well,” State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) told an overflow crowd at his annual “Education Update” on Saturday, February 5th. “But ‘pretty well’ is in the context of having been beaten about the head and shoulders the last couple years.”

Speaking to 180 school board members, administrators, teachers and education advocates, Simitian said funding for K-12 schools could remain the same as in the current year only if the revenue extensions that Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed are placed on the June ballot, and if the voters approve them.

If those are not adopted, he said, K-12 education could be facing a cut of up to $5 billion, or roughly $800 per student. “If we don’t have a successful effort in June,” he said, “bleak won’t begin to describe what we’re looking at.”

“Those who care about schools,” Simitian said, “must encourage the Legislature to place the revenue extensions on the ballot, and then must be active in the campaign to get them passed.”

Another priority of Simitian’s this year will be implementing the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, which he authored and which was signed into law last year. The Act raises the age at which children are eligible to start kindergarten, from five years old by December 2 to five by September 1. In addition, it creates a new transitional kindergarten for children with fall birthdays whose entry into regular kindergarten will be delayed.

The Kindergarten Readiness Act recognizes that the children who struggle academically and socially in kindergarten are often the youngest in the class. Under the Act, the cutoff date for kindergarten eligibility will be moved a month per school year, starting in the fall of 2012, when it will be five by November 1. For 2013, it will be five by October 1; then five by September 1 in 2014.

The new transitional kindergarten will provide the first of two years of kindergarten, with an age-appropriate curriculum, for those children with fall birthdays. Simitian said the details of the curriculum and other issues will be addressed in follow-up legislation, for which suggestions from school districts will be welcome and essential.

“There is time this year for questions to be asked and answered,” said Simitian. “One area where there is work to do is having a richer conversation about what is an appropriate curriculum for that first year.” Some districts already have begun similar programs. Palo Alto Unified, for instance, has “Young Fives.” 

At the two-hour meeting in the Board Room of the Palo Alto Unified School District, Simitian, a member of the Senate Education Committee, also surveyed other education issues likely to come before the Legislature and took questions and comments from the audience.

As school districts seek adequate funding, Simitian said that again this year he is seeking to put a Constitutional Amendment before the voters statewide that would enable a parcel tax for schools to be passed with a 55% majority, instead of the current two-thirds. His bill, Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, needs two-thirds approval in the Legislature to reach the ballot.

The amendment, Simitian said, is “a modest measure” under which “local voters could decide how to spend local revenues on local kids.”

On the issue of public employee pensions, Simitian has re-introduced a bill to curb pension-spiking; a similar bill passed the Legislature last year, but was not signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Senate Bill 27 requires that pensions be based on criteria that prevent employees from padding final salaries with one time bonuses, end-of-career promotions, and accrued vacation time. The bill applies to the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and to California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).

Simitian has held “Education Updates” in his district since being elected to the Legislature in 2000. He is a former member and president of the Palo Alto Unified school board, past President of the Santa Clara County School Boards Association and a public schools attorney who represented school districts around the state.



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