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Bill Extending Academic Year for High Schools in Oxnard Dies

Education: Amended legislation to fund pilot program fails to reach Assembly before session ends.

September 04, 1996|MIGUEL HELFT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A bill to fund a pilot program to extend the academic year at Oxnard's high schools by 15 days died after it was amended by the state Senate late Saturday but failed to reach the Assembly in time for a vote.

The $3.5-million bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Nao Takasugi (R-Oxnard), had passed the Assembly with bipartisan support earlier this year. But before approving it on a 28-2 vote at the eleventh hour, the Senate amended the bill and attached other education legislation onto it.

The bill returned to the Assembly too late for a vote before the end of the legislative session at midnight Saturday.

"I am disappointed," said Oxnard Union High School District Supt. Bill Studt, who masterminded the bill. "I hope they would have taken action based on the merits of the bill."

The bill died because legislators lacked time, not because of political maneuvering, said Julia King, Takasugi's chief of staff.

"A lot of the people who did the amendments thought they were adding support for the bill," King said. "But we just ran out of time. No one anticipated the bill would die in that way."

Studt said district officials, who had already secured $1.75 million in the state's 1996-97 budget to fund a seven-day extension of this school year's calendar, would discuss their options in the next few days.

Under the proposed bill, all of the district's students, who now attend 180 days each school year, would have attended classes for 187 days this academic year. During each of the following three years, the students would have attended school for 195 days. The district would have monitored students' performance to determine whether the added class time improved academic achievement.

Anticipating the bill's passage, school officials had planned for this year's extended calendar, said Gary Davis, assistant superintendent. The district needs to decide whether to go ahead with the seven-day extension, Davis said. "Do we want to do it just for one year?" he asked.

But King said Takasugi "has every intention of pursuing this again next year."

Supporters of the bill argued that students in other industrialized countries receive a better education than their American counterparts because their school year is longer. Takasugi said students in Germany have 240 days of instruction each year, and students in Japan have 243. Students in China attend school 250 days each year.

Earlier this year, Takasugi said the annual $3.5-million price tag for a pilot program, which would gauge the effectiveness of a longer school year, was a bargain.

The bill had gained bipartisan support since its inception. Its original version was approved by the Assembly 54 to 12 on May 31. It passed the Senate Education Committee on June 26 in a 5-3 vote. On Aug. 26 it was approved unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

But lawmakers debated hundreds of bills in the final days of the last legislative session of 1996.

Moments before midnight, the Senate recalled the bill to attach an urgency clause to it that would have allowed the Assembly to vote on it after the midnight deadline, King said.

But the Senate failed to return the bill to the Assembly before midnight.

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