Assembly moves instructional materials revision, charter restriction bills

Responsibility for reviewing and recommending new textbooks and other instructional materials for K-8 education will fall to the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction - with greater input from teachers - under a bill passed Monday by the Assembly.

AB 1246, which now moves to the state Senate, would simplify the state's complex process for approving new instructional materials, according to the bill's author, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica.

Meanwhile, the Assembly also approved legislation allowing districts more authority to reject charter school applications based on fiscal impacts.

Brownley's bill is similar to proposals made in the past that have met with resistance from previous governors, who've been uninterested in giving up turf.

The content of AB 1246 was specifically removed from a broader education bill from Brownley last summer to give the author and the administration an opportunity to work on the specifics separately. Some elements of the bill have come at the suggestion of Mike Kirst, Brown's appointed president of the California State Board of Education.

While there may not be a visible commitment from the administration that they support the bill, there's no evidence the governor opposes it either.

The bill faced no vocal opposition on the Assembly floor Monday, receiving 22 no votes and 44 votes in its favor.

This bill authorizes greater participation of classroom teachers in the instructional materials adoption process, and will also result in more instructional materials choices for school districts," Brownley said in pitching her bill to members of the Assembly.

In addition to giving teachers and school districts more say, AB 1246 also changes and aligns instructional materials adoption cycles - currently every six years for core subjects and eight years for other subject areas - to eight years for all content areas.

The bill implements recommendations made in a 2007 report by the Legislative Analyst's Office that called the existing materials adoption process "a complex maze of activities."

Under AB 1246, volunteer review committees comprised of content experts including a majority of classroom teachers will assist the state schools chief in reviewing and recommending appropriate instructional materials to the California State Board of Education for approval.

The Instructional Quality Commission, an advisory body to the State Board of Education on matters related to curriculum, instructional materials and content standards, remains tasked with revising curriculum frameworks and evaluation criteria aligned to the Common Core State Standards for mathematics and English language arts.

AB 1246 continues California's current suspension on the adoption of new instructional materials until 2015-16, giving the state time to both implement Common Core Standards and to develop guidelines for the new adoption policy.

In other action on the Assembly floor, lawmakers voted largely along party lines in moving AB 1172 forward - although it faces an uncertain future in the state Senate and before the governor, who has shown himself to be a strong supporter of charters.

The bill, by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Norwalk, would provide districts the ability to turn down a charter application based on any one of these fiscal issues:

- If the authorizing district has received a negative financial certification;

- If the authorizing district has been given an emergency apportionment or loan and is operating under the oversight of a state administrator or trustee, or

- If the authorizing district has received notice that its finances are in question and due to declining enrollment is in the process of closing a school that a charter school petition identified as its proposed site.