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|California State Government||June 6, 2006 Election|
By Deborah V. OrtizCandidate for Secretary of State; Democratic Party
This information is provided by the candidate
Deborah Ortiz believes that every child deserves a quality education and as a past member of the Senate Education Committee, she remains deeply involved in shaping public education reforms.Senator Deborah Ortiz believes that every child deserves a quality education . . . black or white, Latino or Asian, native born or immigrant, prosperous or poor, gay or straight. She is proud to represent Sacramento, home to the nation's most diverse public schools. She understands that in order to give every one of these students a chance to succeed, there has to be extra support for low-performing schools and increased opportunities for higher education. Ortiz knows first-hand the value of a quality education and how it can mean the difference between a life with few options and one filled with opportunities.
Ortiz championed the historic Cal Grant expansion bill, Senate Bill 1644, a guarantee to California students that if they qualify and have the grades, they will receive financial aid to attend college. Ortiz's locally held outreach events became the statewide model for attracting and assisting families through the complicated federal FAFSA college aid process. Scores of multi-lingual volunteers, many of them former Cal Grant recipients, responded to her call and thousands have benefited throughout the state.
This year, she has authored legislation sponsored by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, to ensure Cal Grants are available for high school seniors who have yet to pass the state exit exam needed to obtain a high school diploma.
Ortiz believes that all students who meet course requirements, have at least a 2.0 grade point average and are from poor and working poor families should have the opportunity to pursue higher education despite not having passed the exit exam. SB 531 will create a level playing field so that all students offered the opportunity to attend institutes of higher education are not prohibited from doing so because of a lack of financial resources.
As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Ortiz is was deeply involved in shaping public education reforms. She introduced SB 466 in an effort to improve student achievement in California's lowest performing schools by attracting and retaining credentialed teachers. Provisions of SB 466 were incorporated into the landmark Low Performing Schools Conference Committee Bill, AB 961, signed by the Governor in 2001. More than $29 million has been budgeted for this effort.
To level the playing field for non-English speaking students, Senator Ortiz exhibits unrelenting leadership and support. Her advocacy serves to ensure equal education opportunities for English language learners that allow them to meet academic standards being set for all students.
A vision of after school programs in a safe and supervised environment with educational enrichment led Senator Ortiz to author Assembly Bill 326 to fund the state's first after school programs. In Sacramento, Students Today Achieving Success Tomorrow (START) thrives as a collaborative among local school districts, community college districts, counties, city community-based organizations, non-profits, and the private sector. Motivated by the benefits to the children who participate in these quality programs, Ortiz continues to push for expansion of successful after school programs.
In 1997, when Ortiz was in the Assembly, she authored The Michelle Montoya School Safety Act, AB 1610 and AB 1612, which requires private and public schools to complete criminal background checks on all employees before they are hired. It also prohibits the hiring of anyone convicted of a serious violent felony. Senator Ortiz also worked to fund a statewide electronic fingerprinting system that enables schools to complete criminal background checks in 72 hours.
Due to class size reduction and an increase in the student population, the state is facing a shortage of qualified teachers. A large number of teachers who retired in 1998 or before were excluded from a major increase in STRS retirement benefits that went into effect on January 1, 1999. In an effort to assist those who missed out on the enhanced benefits as well as address the teacher shortage Ortiz introduced SB 833 (1999), SB 1692 (2000) and SB 334, to allow retired teachers to re-enter the classroom, teach for at least two years full-time and then retire again with their STRS benefits recalculated to include all of the enhancements provided to more recent STRS retirees. This proposal sustained two governor's vetoes and took three years to become law. Hard-fought and worth every challenge it faced- today we have qualified teachers with decades of experience re-entering the classroom.
Another approach Senator Ortiz took to help with the teaching shortage was to introduce SB 1694, which allows any member of PERS who becomes a teacher to stay in PERS, rather than being forced to switch to STRS when they enter teaching employment. Before SB 1694 became law, many mid-career adults with previous PERS service were reluctant to begin a new career in teaching, because it meant mandatory membership in STRS. This bill will continue to help alleviate that problem and encourage more PERS-covered public employees to consider entering the teaching field.
Senator Ortiz continues to ensure that all of California's children obtain a quality education. With that they can fulfill their goals and achieve their highest potential. Her contribution toward this end will benefit Californians for generations to come.
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