More than 50 civil rights and education reform groups are using Jerry Brown to remind Jerry Brown of his pledge to help black and Latino students following an interview with CALmatters in which he suggested that disparities will persist despite government intervention.

In a letter dated May 3, dozens of advocacy groups asked Brown to recommit to closing the academic achievement gap for high-need students as he considers an opening on the State Board of Education and a new plan for measuring school performance later this year.

“California’s continued prosperity hinges on how well we educate our students,” the letter reads. “As you’ve clearly stated, the risks of not doing so are far too great.”

Civil rights, education groups respond to Gov. Brown

During his interview, Brown had said he hopes his signature education policy, the Local Control Funding Formula, will help some students improve by sending more money to schools with students who don’t speak English or come from low-income families. But he said, “the gap has been pretty persistent. So I don’t want to set up what hasn’t been done ever as the test of whether LCFF is a success or failure.”

That left many worried that the governor and the people he appointed to the state school board aren’t prioritizing low-income and English-learner students because some are destined to be waiters and window washers.

“We are troubled by the suggestion that achievement and opportunity gaps are acceptable, and exist because of individual differences and meritocracy,” the letter stated.

It was signed by social justice groups like Californians for Justice and The Greenlining Institute, as well as education advocates like Ed Voice and Students Matter pushing for greater school and teacher accountability.

They reminded the governor of his pledge when he signed the school funding overhaul and in his 2013 State of the State address where he warned the perils of failing to educate children: “we will sow growing social chaos and inequality that no law can rectify.”

Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education, recently defended the governor, saying the system-wide transformation is designed to help low-achieving students be ready for college or a career.

“At the core of the change are higher academic standards for all students, regardless of their achievement level, socioeconomic status, ethnicity or family background,” Kirst wrote.

The letter to Brown was organized by The Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based education justice group sponsoring a bill that would require California to use a handful of school performance measures and set up one accountability system to meet state and federal requirements.

The bill, AB 2548 by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, went through a contentious hearing when the chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, a former teacher aligned to the California Teachers Association, breached legislative practice by interrupting Weber’s presentation. He said her bill was “premature” because the state board is developing an accountability plan. The CTA, the state’s largest teachers union, is the bill’s only opponent.

AB 2548, co-sponsored by Children Now and supported by more than 70 organizations, will be heard this week in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where it is expected to be placed on hold pending budget negotiations.

Assembly Education Committee hearing on AB 2548

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Judy serves as hub editor of the California Divide project, a five-newsroom collaboration covering economic inequality. Prior to editing, she reported on state finance, workforce and economic issues. Her...