Capitol Alert

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20110831_HA_priority_schools0782.JPGVIDEO: The California Legislature is finally getting serious about investigating the Parks and Recreation Department's hidden funds, but Dan Walters says it's time to take the next step.

FIELD POLL: Gov. Jerry Brown's public approval rating is above 50 percent for the first time since he took office, David Siders reports in today's Bee. Click here to read the statistical tabulations compiled exclusively for Capitol Alert. Find the publicly released poll at this link.

Schools figure prominently today in Sacramento. It's day two of the California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators conference at Sacramento's Sheraton Grand, and state schools chief Tom Torlakson will be delivering remarks at 8 a.m.

Also in attendance will be Seth Galanter, the U.S. Education Department's acting assistant secretary for civil rights, discussing student discipline practices.

Nine blocks away, school officials will be taking a look at more than two decades' worth of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a crucial benchmark for measuring school progress, in the five so-called "mega-states" of Florida, Texas, Illinois, New York and, you guessed it, California.

That event takes place at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza and will feature David W. Gordon, superintendent of schools for the Sacramento County Office of Education; Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics; and Richard Zeiger, the chief deputy superintendent for the California Department of Education. Joining remotely will be Tony Bennett, commissioner of the Florida Department of Education; Michael L. Williams, commissioner of the Texas Education Agency; and Mary M. O'Brian of the Illinois State Board of Education.

The NAEP has taken on a larger role in education policy as schools have increasingly seen their fates tied to test scores, a legacy of the No Child Left Behind law and the zeal for finding new ways to hold educators "accountable," a key watchword of the school reform movement. Many teachers have chafed against the increasing focus on test scores, and California is poised for some changes: Last year's Senate Bill 1458 limits the use of test scores in evaluating schools, and California is preparing new assessments to accompany its adoption of Common Core standards.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, will be continuing his campaign to determine how new Proposition 39 revenue is spent. De León, who has been pushing this year's Senate Bill 39 as accompanying legislation to ensure some of that Prop. 39 money goes to energy efficiency grants for schools, is chairing the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Fiscal Oversight And Bonded Indebtedness from 2 to 5 p.m. at Murchison Elementary School in Los Angeles. De León will be joined by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, representatives of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and officials from labor and green construction organizations.

Leslie Lohse of the California Tribal Business Alliance is speaking on a panel at an Internet gambling conference in Las Vegas. Online gambling is of keen interest to Indian casino operators who could see their virtual casino monopoly disrupted -- Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, has resurrected an effort to regulate online gambling with his Senate Bill 51, which would charge $30 million a pop for licenses. The panel starts at 3:15 p.m. at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino.

PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, shows a chart about testing in California schools on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file, 2011.


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