From the daily archives: Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed California’s Race to the Top Phase Two application which could provide up to $700 million in much-needed funding to our schools through the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act). California’s application was developed by a working group of seven school districts superintendents who are committed to the reforms outlined as part of the Race to the Top goals.

“I support President Obama’s bold vision to reform public education and focus on improving student achievement in every school,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “That is why I am here today, signing California’s application for Race to the Top Phase Two funding, which has the strong commitment of our leading school district superintendents and education stakeholders. This application lays out a roadmap for the future of public education in California.”

In a state as large as California, the working group of superintendents developed the Race to the Top Phase Two application with the knowledge that most education policy is implemented and delivered at the local level. The state’s detailed plan in the application addresses the stated federal goals of Race to the Top applications, including requiring both teacher and principal evaluations to be based in part on student performance, ensuring effective teachers and principals are placed in low-performing and high-poverty schools and using robust data to improve student achievement to turn around low-performing schools.

In addition to the working group of superintendents (San Francisco, Sacramento, Clovis, Fresno, Sanger, Long Beach and Los Angeles unified school districts), California’s application was joined by more than 100 school districts and more than 200 charter schools – representing a total of more than 1.7 million California students.

Joining the Governor in signing the Race to the Top Phase Two application today are State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and State Board President Ted Mitchell. Letters of support for California’s application were submitted by key leaders including, Governor Pete Wilson, Governor Gray Davis, Senator Feinstein, Senator Boxer, Congressman Miller and members of the California Congressional delegation. Dozens of community groups such as the California State NAACP and Families in Schools also pledged their support for the application.

“As Superintendent of the largest school district in California, Race to the Top represents an opportunity for California to demonstrate true leadership and a commitment to working collaboratively in the interest of our students,” said superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District and working group member Ramon C. Cortines.

On July 24, 2009, President Obama and Secretary Duncan announced federal eligibility and competitiveness requirements for states to compete for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding. At the time, California was ineligible to apply. Governor Schwarzenegger took immediate action, calling a special session of the legislature and introducing a bi-partisan legislative package to ensure California could become eligible and highly competitive for this education funding. Since then, Governor Schwarzenegger signed the legislation necessary to make California eligible to apply and then signed historic education reform legislation to ensure California would be highly competitive for up to $700 million in education dollars for California’s schools.

For more information and to view California’s Race to the Top application, please visit: www.caracetothetop.org.

Governor Schwarzenegger created the California Recovery Task Force to track the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding coming into the state; work with President Barack Obama’s administration; help cities, counties, non-profits, and others access the available funding; ensure that the funding funneled through the state is spent efficiently and effectively; and maintain a Web site (www.recovery.ca.gov) that is frequently and thoroughly updated for Californians to be able to track the stimulus dollars.

 

Saying that “disrupting a private funeral with vicious personal attacks goes too far,” California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. has signed a friend-of-the-court brief filed today in a Supreme Court case that will test whether families grieving at a funeral have a right to be free of hate-filled attacks from fanatical protesters.

Brown is one of 48 state attorneys general who gave their support to Albert Snyder in his lawsuit against Fred W. Phelps, Sr. and the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

Near the 2006 Maryland funeral of Snyder’s son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, the vehemently anti-gay Phelps and his parishioners demonstrated and waved signs that said “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and some that employed even more offensive language. Matthew Snyder, 20, was killed in a Humvee accident a month after he arrived in Iraq.

“Free speech is a cherished American right,” Brown said, “but disrupting a private funer! al with vicious personal attacks on the grieving family goes too far.”

Phelps believes that U.S. military deaths represent God’s judgment on the country’s tolerance of homosexuality. He and his church members have staged their hate-filled protests at some 200 military funerals across the country.

Albert Snyder filed a civil suit against Phelps for invading his family’s privacy and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on them. A U.S. district court awarded Snyder $10 million, but a federal appeals court overturned that verdict and ordered Snyder to pay Phelps’ legal costs.

Forty states have enacted “funeral picketing” or “funeral protest” laws regulating the time, place and conduct of demonstrations near funeral services.

The amicus brief, submitted by Kansas Attorney General Steve Six, argues that such laws are necessary to protect the traditional “sanctity and privacy” of funerals and to prevent mourning familie! s of veterans from being “attacked viciously and personally.” ! The picketing, the brief says, “amounts to emotional terrorism” directed at a “captive audience.”

Freedom of speech does not permit hate groups to espouse hate-filled vitriol at a private funeral service for the purpose of intentionally inflicting emotional distress on mourners.

“All we wanted,” Albert Snyder told a reporter, “was a private funeral for my son. They turned it into a three-ring circus.”

The Supreme Court is expected to hear his case in October. A copy of the brief is attached.

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