Citing a desire to get the business community involved in public education, Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is promoting a bill that would encourage industry to invest in what he's calling "social investment bonds."
Steinberg's SB 594 would authorize California to issue bonds aimed at curbing high school dropout rates by creating programs that train high school students for specific careers. Businesses would be encouraged to put money into those bonds with a promise of a high return on their investment if the program met certain measures of success like graduating more students.
"The principle behind it, which is unique and could be far-reaching in the state and the country, is to say to private industry 'you can do better financially by investing in high schools than you do investing in Wall Street,'" Steinberg said.
The bill would also establish regional trust funds that would be governed by district superintendents, community college leaders and business and industry leaders. Those funds would be used to pay for initiatives like developing new curricula tailored to certain careers and funding fellowship or apprenticeship programs.
Education innovation has been a priority for Steinberg this session. He has joined other elected officials in pushing to expand online education, recently introducing a bill that would allow University of California students to fulfill graduation requirements by taking some classes online, and led senators on a tour of a Long Beach program that uses "linked learning," or career-specific education.
"We have a 20th century [education] model for a 21st century economy and it must change," Steinberg said. "Academic rigor and career relevance cannot be separate goals," he added.
Steinberg said the bill could offset the cost of a bond issue by scaling back tax credits for certain enterprise zones. But skeptics wonder how the career readiness programs would be funded.
"They need to stop coming up with new funds and new schemes paid for by borrowed money," said Kevin Dayton, head of the consulting firm called Labor Issues Solutions. "New things like this are just a big distraction. If they want to do career education they should fund it in the general budget."
PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, seen here on June 21, 2012, wants to encourage private industry to invest in career readiness programs. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli