Faced with the need to hire 300,000 new teachers by 2010 California Gov. Gray Davis used his State-of-the-State speech in January to call the legislature to action. As it turns out, Davis got everything he asked for and then some.
This month, Davis signed a $99.4 billion budget that funds one of the most comprehensive education reform packages in the Union. The $1.35 billion reform plan focuses on teachers, technology and raising student achievement.
"This is the largest and most aggressive package of teacher incentives ever offered by any state in America. This package is more than just a financial statement; it is a value statement. From this point forward, it will be known that California values its teachers, Davis said.
Here is a run down of the major items in the package. For more detailed information go to California Education Budget:
Ann Bancroft, of the California Department of Education said Davis was pleased with the package. "As far as the legislative process goes, things aren't exactly the same as you propose in the end, but he was very pleased with what lawmakers passed," she said.
Item by item, the reform plan appears to copy successful programs tried out in other states. The difference is that California lumped them all into one massive package.
For instance, last year Massachusetts made headlines when it promised a $20,000 signing bonus to any teacher who would commit to teaching in a struggling school for four years. California now offers $20,000 to teachers with national board certification who will teach in a low-income school for four years.
Mike Griffith of the Education Center on the States says it isn't unusual for states to borrow the best programs from each other and create hybrid legislation.
States are always trying new things and getting out in front of one-another, Griffith said. "A couple of states have legislative packages full (of programs) other states have tried," he said.
Griffith says there is nothing groundbreaking in the California plan except that the teacher incentive portion is the most generous in the nation.
Mike Weimer, a lobbyist for the California Federation of Teachers, a state teachers union, disagrees. He says lawmakers didn't give teachers everything they want namely higher starting salaries. Lawmakers raised the teacher starting pay by $2,000 to $34,000 but Weimer says it isn't enough. Pay should start at $36,000 or $40,000, he says. And that isn't Weimer's only concern.
"The proposals tend to tie an awful lot of money up into student performance. Only some teachers are going to get a lot of bonus money, " Weimer complains.
Under the plan, California teachers could be eligible for up to $30,000 in bonus pay, but the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, are adamantly against teacher pay being tied to one item, such as student test scores.
"It is really unfair to base it (pay) on student performance alone. This is one place the teachers don't have any control. They have control over the curriculum but you can't force a student to learn," Weimer said.