Silicon Valley Pushes California into School-Reform Action

By Billingsley, K. L. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 3, 1998 | Go to article overview

Silicon Valley Pushes California into School-Reform Action


Billingsley, K. L., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, high-tech trend setters for national life, are showing their political clout in California by forcing legislators to follow their lead on hot-button issues of school reform.

The California legislature overwhelmingly passed a measure Thursday that would increase the number of charter schools in the state to 250 next year and allow 100 new schools every year thereafter.

Gov. Pete Wilson said he would sign the bill, authored by Redwood City Democrat Ted Lempert, which permits parents as well as teachers to sign petitions authorizing charter schools.

The California legislature, which delayed votes on other charter bills, took its action in the face of a ballot initiative authored by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Reed Hastings and backed by a coalition of high-tech companies concerned that the state's public schools were not providing them with capable employees.

Charter schools are deregulated schools within the public system now authorized in 31 states and the District of Columbia. California previously capped their number at 100.

The Hastings measure would have eliminated the cap entirely and provided for alternate sponsorship, putting the burden of proof on school boards to show why charters shouldn't be granted.

"Over 100 schools are enough to show that charter schools benefit children," said Don Shalvey, superintendent of the San Carlos school district south of San Francisco and a backer of the initiative.

The initiative had gathered enough support to qualify for the November ballot. But after Thursday's passage of the charter school bill, Mr. Hastings said he would take the 1. …

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