A termed-out state senator who’s been a leader on education issues offered advice Wednesday to Gov. Jerry Brown on how to get the Legislature to pass significant school finance reform: Don’t try to jam lawmakers; ally yourself with a respected legislator who’s got more than a couple years left to serve; and implement the reforms gradually, for more buy-in from 1,000 districts that will be asking, “What’s in it for me?”
“Come back through policy process and seek someone (from the Legislature) with a runway in front of them, who can make a commitment over a period of time. That’s a better path to success,” Sen. Joe Simitian, a Democrat from Palo Alto, said at during a panel discussion in Sacramento sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California. Joining him were the architect of Brown’s weighted student formula, State Board of Education President Michael Kirst, and Catherine Lhamon, an advocate for disadvantaged children as director of impact litigation for the Public Counsel Law Center in Los Angeles. Like Simitian, Lhamon praised Brown’s “courage” in proposing an “excellent concept” but also sharply criticized the governor’s proposal for failing to demand that districts show how they’d spend extra dollars on disadvantaged children. She and Kirst also disagreed Wednesday on this point.